Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: The Booby Trap

By Jami Deise

**Giveaway is now closed**

Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned romantic comedy? Did it die with Nora Ephron? Because instead of Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and even the mediocre You’ve Got Mail, romantic comedy (or “rom-com”) fans are forced to sit through Judd Apatow’s take on love and marriage, which usually deals with an exceedingly immature man and his constantly nagging partner.

True rom-coms feature both man and woman as protagonists; they each have their own separate goals; they come into the relationship under false pretenses; they have best friends and romantic rivals; they come together at the end. This is the classic structure and what rom-com fans want. I believe the last movie that featured this formula was the Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey film How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

If you miss these movies as much as I do, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of Anne Browning Walker’s The Booby Trap. This book hits all the plot points of the classic romcom. Reading it is like watching a film; I could even see Kate and Matthew in the lead roles

Despite her Playboy Bunny name and body, Bambi Benson is a PhD candidate at Harvard in women’s studies. She’s spent the past year working at the Booby Trap – a “Hooters” copy cat – in order to get close to the waitresses there and report on their lives for her dissertation. Trip Whitley is the scion of a wealthy Boston family, made rich off of a dating agency. A playboy whose efforts at the agency are unappreciated, Trip is infuriated when he’s told to get a girlfriend in order to make the agency seem like the place to go for a real relationship. After meeting Bambi at a bachelor party at the Booby Trap, Trip hires her to pretend to be his girlfriend. He thinks he’s hiring a bimbo in order to infuriate his father – and Bambi agrees to go along with the charade in order to earn money to attend a conference in London, plus teach a lesson to Trip about judging women by their appearances.

The plot unfolds in a predictable but fun fashion. As Bambi and Trip spend more time together on their fake dates, Bambi finds that he’s not the insufferable pig she first presumed. And Trip finds himself drawn to Bambi and starts to suspect she’s not the idiot he first took her for.

The Booby Trap is a fast read and a fun ride. Yes, it’s predictable, but stories like these are meant to have happy endings. If the hero and heroine didn’t get together, it wouldn’t provide the emotional experience this type of book promises.

I did have two quibbles with the story, however. One, I found it unbelievable that owning a dating service could make a family wealthy, and that the paparazzi would find Trip a worthy stalking target. Two, I thought the whole question of whether it’s better to date a beauty or a brain to feel dated. Along with the women’s studies major, the novel felt like it should be taking place in the 1980s rather that present day. I think if Walker had spent more time exploring the question of what makes women work at a place like this; how they view themselves, etc., it would have felt more contemporary.

Still, these are minor points and they do not distract too much from the enjoyment of the novel. If another night at the movie theatre trying to decide between the latest comic book adaptation or the new zombie flick makes you want to scream, staying home with The Booby Trap is definitely an option.

Thanks to PR by the Book for the book in exchange for an honest review.

**We have one copy for a lucky reader anywhere in the world!**

How to win:
Since it's Halloween, tell us something scary that happened to you OR something that you're scared of.

One entry per person.

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

Worldwide. Giveaway ends November 5th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Come Home

By Becky Gulc

Come Home is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Scottoline, a New York Times bestseller. According to her website this is an author who ‘delivers taut thrillers with a powerful emotional wallop.’ This sounded like a perfect read for me in-between a few more typical ‘chick lit’ summer novels. So what’s it all about?

‘Jill Farrow is a typical suburban mom, who has finally gotten her and her daughter's life back on track after a divorce. She is about to remarry a great guy, her job as a pediatrician fulfills her, though it is stressful, and her daughter Megan is a happily over-scheduled thirteen-year-old, juggling homework and swim team.

Jill's life is turned upside-down when her ex-stepdaughter, Abby, shows up on their doorstep late one night and delivers shocking news — Jill's ex-husband is dead. Abby insists that he was murdered and pleads with Jill to help find his killer. Jill reluctantly agrees to make a few inquiries, and discovers that things don't add up. As she digs deeper, her actions threaten to rip apart her new family, destroy their hard-earned happiness, and even endanger her own life. Yet, Jill can't turn her back on a child she loves and once called her own. 

COME HOME reads with the break-neck pace of a thriller, but also explores the definition of motherhood. It asks the questions: Do you ever stop being a mother? Can you ever have an ex-child? What are the limits and love of family?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Lisa Scottoline's website)

This wasn’t the usual type of book I’d read, but it had me gripped from the very beginning. I’ve seen that it's had some negative reviews, but I personally found it to be well written, well-paced and I was literally on the edge of my seat on so many occasions just wondering what was going to happen next. It was the kind of book where you can’t help but constantly try and second guess what happened to Jill’s ex and who was involved in his death, leaving you desperate to find out if you’re right or not (I wasn’t…), but with this being paced just right to keep you guessing until you get to the final chapters.

I wanted to scream at Jill not to get involved in some parts; she was a likable character and I wanted her to be happy with her new husband-to-be and daughter and not be drawn into Abby’s investigations, but it wouldn’t have made for much of a plot if she didn’t. Abby isn’t that likable (nor is Jill’s ex-husband) and you wonder if you can trust her, but you feel Jill being emotionally blackmailed into getting involved. When she does you have to stick with it and hope she comes out of it okay.

I didn’t always find it believable that Jill would risk everything she had to fully immerse herself into solving this mystery herself. If I ignored those niggles, I did really enjoy being on a roller coaster ride with this plot, particularly when Abby goes missing and Jill’s involvement and need for resolution becomes even stronger.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories which explore complex family relationships and mysteries.

Thanks to Ebury Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lisa Scottoline:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cinderella wears a new kind of shoe....plus a book giveaway

Today, we're featuring Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen. The cover alone is enough to draw us in, with it's fun, chick lit appeal. Entangled Publishing has one copy to share with a lucky US reader!

Synopsis:
Darby Quinn has a bone to pick with Cinderella. Burned one too many times by ex-boyfriends, Darby has lost all belief in the happily-ever-after that the fairy-tale princess promised her. She's sworn off love, Prince Charmings, and happy endings and she's happy about it. Really. Or at least she was...until she met Jake, her gorgeous neighbor and the manager of her favorite restaurant. But Darby has rules about dating, ones she's culled from her years spent with so-called “princes,” and starting something with Jake would break all of them.

Charming, fun, and unwilling to give up on her, Jake doesn’t fit any of the profiles Darby has created from her case studies of ex-princes-gone-bad. Finally presented with her own Prince Charming, can Darby take a chance on a happily-ever-after?

Full of wit and sarcastic humor, Cinderella Screwed Me Over proves that sometimes the perfect love, like a perfect pair of shoes, is just within your grasp.

About the author:
Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children. She is the author of YA novels All the Broken Pieces and Demons of the Sun, bestselling short romance Falling for Her Fiancé and the women's fiction novel Cinderella Screwed Me Over. 

Visit Cindi at her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Excerpt:
Just before we reached the door, Jake turned and wrapped his arms around my waist. “You know, you forced me to watch a horrible movie—which you slept through—and I still had a good time. You know what that means, right?”
I tipped onto my toes and kissed his perfect lips, one kiss to hold onto tonight. Another to get me through the hours until I could see him again. “That pouting works better than I thought?”
Jake smiled, then his expression turned serious. The way his eyes were boring into mine somehow sent both heat and nerves through my stomach. “I want to tell you something, but I’m afraid it’ll freak you out.”
I swallowed, the gesture taking a lot more effort than usual. I suspected it might include the L-word, and he was right about it freaking me out. Things were finally easy between us again, and I didn’t want to step into the dangerous, serious zone. “Then you better not say it.”
He pulled me closer, our hips bumping together, and covered my mouth with his. As tired as I was a few seconds ago, every part of me was suddenly very alert. He slid a hand under my shirt, his fingertips stroking my bare back. I bit lightly at his bottom lip. He groaned and crushed me to him. Then he thrust his tongue in to meet mine, kissing me so deeply the room spun.
I clung onto him, losing myself in the moment, wanting to drag him to my bedroom but knowing I couldn’t yet. For some reason...I was having trouble remembering it right now. I broke the kiss and worked on getting air back into my lungs.
Jake blew out his breath. He raked a hand through his hair, making it messy. He looked so hot I had to work at holding back my surging hormones. “Good night,” he said, his voice husky. Then he shot me a roguish smile that sent desire burning through my veins. “Sweet dreams.”
Oh, I was pretty sure my dreams would be featuring him tonight. And they’d probably be more dirty than sweet.

Thanks to Entangled Publishing for sharing this novel with one lucky winner!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


US only. Giveaway ends November 3rd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Book Review: Tales from the Laundry Pile

By Sara Steven

Claire Jamieson used to be laid back. Then she had children.

In Kathleen Kole’s Tales From The Laundry Pile, we read about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. We also discover just how nutty you can get when you try to maintain a level of perfection that is dang near impossible to achieve.

Claire tries, though. She strives to keep her home spotlessly clean and her twin boys well kept. She loathes mud and junk food, and backs away from anything that could be classified as over the top. When her family moves to Boxwood Hills, she places even more pressure on herself to be the “perfect” wife, and “perfect” mother. Being put together is of high importance to Claire. Throw in a mother-in-law who has also moved into the neighborhood (and is constantly judging Claire’s parenting), Claire’s own mother, whose disposition is the total opposite of Claire’s (think tasty alcoholic beverages and lazy days), a crazy neighbor who hasn’t seen a lawn mower in years, smokes like a chimney and lives by his own set of rules (her boys adore him), and a beautiful new friend (seriously beautiful) who just can’t identify with Claire’s way of thinking. Panic attack, here we come!

There is no such thing as perfection. When you try to “have it all”, something’s gotta give, as it almost always does. Reading this book was like ripping out a page from my own life story, and I very much identified with Claire, who is learning that you have to let go of the things that are out of your control. I know many women who have gone through similar situations who would be able to vouch for that. Kole provides just the right amount of comic relief, and honesty, and I appreciate how Claire, although trying to be perfect, is far from it. Just like the rest of us.

Maybe you are feeling stuck, and looking for inspiration when it comes to your own “scared mommy” rut . Or maybe it’s time you recognize that even in chaos comes beauty. Even if you are one of the lucky few who has no control issues whatsoever (I wish I could stake claim to that statement) give this book a try. It’s a great read!

Thanks to Chick Lit Plus 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.

More by Kathleen Kole:

Friday, October 25, 2013

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

**Giveaway is now closed**

Melissa A:

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding from Knopf

Save Us a Seat by/from Fletcher McHale

The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon from Paperback Swap

Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren from Gallery Books


Amy:

Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone from Iris Blasi

A Wedding in Great Neck and Breaking the Bank by/from Yona Zeldis McDonough





Tracey:

Divorcing a Narcissist - One Mom's Battle by Tina Swithin 




Jami:

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson from Sourcebooks





What could be in YOUR mail:


Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone
Thanks to Iris Blasi, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

UPDATE (10/28/13): Charles Blackstone has offered one signed copy to a winner that mentions wine in their answer. So now we have THREE copies! If you already answered only a vintage item, but would like to change it to mention your favorite wine, you have until the closing time to do so.

Before Peter Hapworth meets Izzy, he knows the difference between Pinot Noir and peanut butter, but that’s about it. Lonely and frustrated with his academic career—as well as with dating—his life takes a sudden turn one night when he turns on the television. He’s transfixed by the woman staring back at him, a glass of wine swirling delicately in her hand—Isabelle Conway, one of the preeminent sommeliers in the world. There’s something about her. Somehow, he feels like he already knows her.

On a whim, he pitches himself as a guest on her popular TV show, and the two embark on a whirlwind courtship. But relationships require a delicate balance of nurturing and belief, much like winemaking. Hapworth and Izzy must navigate the complex mysteries of wine–and the heart–from glamorous social events and domestic tribulations in Chicago to the vineyards and rocky bluffs of Greece. Vintage Attraction is a rich and insightful novel by a literary talent. (Synopsis courtesy of Charles Blackstone's website.)

How to win:
Please tell us....What is your favorite wine OR what is a vintage item you own?

One entry per person.

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

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




Book Review: Picture Perfect

By Melissa Amster

A while back, I had read and enjoyed Hollywood Ending by Lucie Simone. So when Picture Perfect was published, I was definitely interested in checking it out. And you know what?!? Lucie took her storytelling style up a notch or two!

For Lauren Tate, a high-powered TV producer, sex, lies, and scandal make for a great movie-of-the-week, but when she becomes the target of a smear campaign, even the most salacious of Hollywood’s tales can’t compare to her real life drama. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband leading the effort to sully her reputation, and her former assistant threatening to snatch her hard-earned position at Timeless Television out of her hands, Lauren’s perfectly planned life quickly begins to unravel at the seams.

Clawing her way back to the top of the TV food chain is no easy task, especially in an industry where backstabbing is a sport and gossip is a full-time business. But Lauren learns just how cutthroat showbiz can truly be when the hottest scandal in Tinsel Town turns deadly and the Hollywood hunk who’s stolen her heart is missing in action. Can she salvage her career, her reputation, and her love life? Or will Hollywood be the death of her?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Picture Perfect starts out on an intense note, with Lauren receiving divorce papers that lead to a heated confrontation with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Alan. From there, readers are taken on an adventure that could only happen in Hollywood, climaxing in a dramatic turn that no one saw coming. Toss handsome indie flick actor, Jack, into the mix and the heat is on! Helping along the interesting plot is realistic and intense dialogue and emotions that leap off the pages. The interactions between all the characters contributed to this great dialogue. (Or is it the other way around...which came first, right?!?) As for the emotions, I could practically feel Lauren's emotions, as if I were experiencing them myself. Additionally, the descriptive details made things easy to visualize without taking away from the story.

The only thing that didn't work so well for me was that I felt some things went unexplained. However, I can't say what those were as to not spoil anything. I just wish she took her time connecting some of the dots instead of skipping ahead and expecting us to know how everything came about. Some things just hit me out of left field and I ended up wondering how they came to be in the first place.

When I wasn't reading Picture Perfect, I found myself thinking about it and wondering what would happen next. I even tried to solve the big mystery in my head. It was very entertaining and I could definitely see it being produced for Hollywood (oh, the irony!). I even liked most of Lucie's casting choices (a girl after my own heart and I'd love to see her cast other books too). However, I pictured Jeremy Jordan as Jack and Alec Baldwin as Alan.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Everything's coming up roses for Colleen Oakes....plus a book giveaway

I'm not sure why I don't like admitting this, but I'm totally a girl who loves to get flowers.  I also can spend a sizable amount of time just staring at them.  You know the saying, "Take a moment to stop and smell the roses?"  That's me... literally!

Flowers are used as part of the central theme of the novel, Elly in Bloom written by our guest today, Colleen Oakes.  Colleen was born and raised in Denver, CO and graduated from Concordia College in Bronxville, NY.  Prior to writing her first novel, Colleen was a wedding florist.  However, though she found success as a florist, she could not deny her love and talent for writing.

So please take a moment to "stop and smell the roses," as we welcome Colleen Oakes to Chick Lit Central!

You can connect with Colleen on Facebook, Twitter, and her Website. Thanks to BookSparks PR, we have TWO copies of Elly in Bloom for some lucky readers in the US!

Have you read Elly in Bloom since it was published? If so, are there things about the book you wish you had done differently? If not, why not?
I have read it since it was published, and it was an interesting experience. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. As for things I would have done differently, I maybe would have lightened it up on the flower descriptions. While I can get wrapped up in them like I’m falling into a lush field, not all readers have felt that way. For the sequel, I tried to keep the flower descriptions lighter and added the extra depth to the characters.

Why do you think your characters resonate with readers?
Elly, of course, is absolutely my favorite character to write because she is an embodiment of my own heart, my own insecurities, and the combined personalities of several extraordinary women in my life. She is a woman who struggles with her appearance, her weight and the way she wishes that she came across to people. I hope that my characters resonate with readers because they see themselves in Elly. It isn’t the gorgeous, successful magazine editor that they are reading about, it is a chubby, clumsy and sometimes socially awkward florist who has no clue how to dress. I think we all feel a bit more insecure than we let on.

How many drafts does it take for you to feel like a manuscript is in its best possible form?
"Elly" had three drafts before it went to my test readers. After that, it had one more draft before the final copy was ready. Even after that it went through another edit to make sure everything was perfect. So I would say about six drafts before I was completely comfortable with the manuscript.

If the courtship with your husband were to be made into a Chick Lit novel, what would be the storyline be?
My husband and I met at a Lutheran summer camp, and our story would make a fabulous chick lit adventure that included meaningful candy exchanges, withered flowers left on cabin doorsteps, notes written on camper napkins and midnight kisses in the middle of the woods. Oh also, a TON of unattractive sweat in a Nebraska humidity.

What's your all time favorite candy bar?
It’s not a bar, but M&M’s are about the most perfect thing man has ever invented.

At one time you were a wedding florist. What was your favorite part of that adventure?
I loved designing. I loved getting up early, pulling up my hair and going out to my studio to work. I would turn on show tunes ridiculously loud and get to work. I loved everything about designing; the smells of the rich blooms, the way a flower draped against another, the collision of colors that was almost too beautiful – the richness at times would make my heart feel weepy. I miss designing all the time. I will never stop loving flowers with a passion that would embarrass most people. The greatest adventure was seeing new arrangements come together in my hand and knowing that no one on earth had ever made this exact arrangement, ever.

On your website you describe yourself as a "pop culture nerd". What is the most obscure piece of pop culture knowledge you could share with our readers?
That the ship from Firefly makes an appearance in the pilot episode of the relaunched Battlestar Galactica. My husband has turned me into a huge nerd, but seriously? It’s like the best show ever.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Such an interesting question! I have a couple of friends that saw their spouse and said “this is the one.” At the same time, I was friends with my husband for a few months before we got together, so I believe that a great love can be slow to develop. I think Elly experiences both of these situations: an intense connection at first sight, followed by a relationship that grows over time. I hope readers have fun determining which one is the right man at the right time for Elly. She needs the one to make her bloom – don’t we all?

~ Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

Thanks to Colleen for chatting with us and BookSparks PR for sharing Elly in Bloom with our readers.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends October 29th at midnight EST.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The stories not found in books

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I've recently read some novels that involve the grandmother and granddaughter relationship. I even reviewed one such novel last week. This got me thinking about my relationships with my own grandparents and all the fond memories I have of them. Back in the beginning of 2010, I wrote a blog post about my grandparents who had passed away, the most recent (at the time) being my paternal grandfather. It's one of my favorite posts that I've written and I still look at it from time-to-time. Shortly after my daughter was born, I wrote a post about my late maternal grandmother and what it would be like to get another day with her.

So when our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, asked me if she could write a post about her grandparents, I was all for it. I love reading what she has to say about them and I hope you will too!

History Becomes Her Story

I miss my grandparents. I miss them very much. My father’s parents were very dear to me, yet June and Ernie Ponicki, my mom’s parents, were tops in my book. As a little girl, I would migrate to their home in Kalamazoo, Michigan as often as possible. Vacations with them couldn’t last long enough.


With my grandma on Thanksgiving, 1975

There were trips to The Chicken Coop for a bucket of fried, juicy yumminess that we’d take to Milham Park. Grandma always saved the heels from a loaf of Hillbilly Bread for me to feed the ducks after I climbed the rocket ship jungle gym. I’m convinced it was laced with lead paint. I’m sure that explains a lot about me, right? My grandpa drove me to the shores of Lake Michigan where intensive rock skipping tutoring commenced. Fridays meant a trip to the beauty parlor. For years, Grandma loved to tell the story of six-year-old Jenny who hopped into the hairdresser’s chair in the small salon, saying, “I’ll just have the usual.” And I wonder where my daughter gets her vivaciousness.


My grandparents at the Dunes, 1938

From time to time, something will spark a memory of them. Sometimes the pictures in my head bring smiles and laughs. Sometimes tears fall. Seeing images out of Washington DC lately have made me sad. Lines of World War II heroes whose pilgrimages to visit the memorial in our nation’s capital have been well documented in the news. When I saw the frail men and women, who fought for our country as babes, denied access to outdoor monuments, I wept. Not only for the veterans before me, but for the ones who’d never make the journey, like my grandfather.

My grandpa never spoke about being stationed by the Navy in Hawaii. For many years his curious children asked him questions, only to be shooed away by their mother, saying, "That’s private," or, "You shouldn’t ask questions like that!" Things such as service to your country were not talked about in their family. Simply put, "Daddy went away and now he’s home;" that should be enough.


My grandpa serving in WWII
Holding his newborn great grandson must have changed something for Ernest Ponicki in 1996. It was the day he opened up. The day he spoke about serving his country. What it was like to leave his wife and young son to go to war, all while holding my son, Wil, close to his chest. The beautiful thing is that it all unfolded on camera. Mike was taking his new camcorder (remember those?) for a spin, and captured the moments on film. What a treasure for me, but especially for my mom. All the years she wondered about what happened to her daddy while he was away were revealed.

You might be thinking, Jen what the heck does this have to do with anything chick lit? Are you getting political on us? Did you really eat lead paint chips as a child? I’m definitely not using this as a platform for anything other than chatting up the beauty of life even after death. Isn’t it amazing a scent or song can transport you back in time? Maybe for you, it’s decorating for the winter holidays that reminds you of your grandmother. Perhaps it’s a trip to the shores, searching for Petoskey Stones, sea glass or even seashells with your children, that makes your heart swell with thoughts of your gramps. Every time my daughter, Gracie, crushes on NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer (yes, Matt Lauer), I reach for my phone to tell my friend Trish, who loved Matt Lauer almost as much as Gracie did. Trish died after a brave battle with cancer a year and a half ago. I hope I never stop reaching for that phone when I think of her.

No matter what triggers the images of those I’ve loved and lost, they’re a gift. Little blessings in disguise. For me, it’s a way they remind me they’re always with me in spirit. So to those veterans who sojourned to Washington to breathe in a part of history; their history, I’m so sorry you got the appalling runaround. Seeing your story gave me a moment to reminisce and connect to one of the greatest people I was lucky enough to know who served alongside you. The man who carried me everywhere even after my toddling days were long over. The one who let me eat Cool Whip for breakfast. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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: Christmas Carol

By Miriam Plotinsky

Over the years, several witty parodies of Charles Dickens seasonal favorite A Christmas Carol have made the rounds. One of the best I’ve encountered was part of an episode of Animaniacs, a cartoon that should have had a longer and more prominent life, but I’ll have to take that up with Steven Spielberg. In any case, it would be hard to top some of the riffs on Dickens’ theme given the large number of takeoffs that exist, but Michele Gorman gives the story an adorable new treatment in her novella, Christmas Carol.

Aptly named protagonist Carol finds herself in a comedy of errors when her family, along with several ex-boyfriends, all reunite in Scotland for her older sister Marley’s wedding (in this version, Marley is not a ghost but a very real human being). The wedding is held amid a blizzard that conveniently strands all of the characters in the same place until Carol can work out the ghosts of relationships past. Though she is by no means a Scrooge, Carol is a work-oriented woman who claims to lack some of the more natural instincts attributed to womanhood, like openness and vulnerability. I would never see these deficiencies as a serious problem, but apparently, Carol needs to be fixed.

In due time, Carol gets in touch with her feelings and the book proceeds in true romantic comedy form. However, her supposed character flaws aren’t really that clear, except perhaps toward the end of the novel when Carol makes a conscious effort to be a better girlfriend. Until then, the book’s direction is somewhat unclear, as is the parody element of Dickens’ work. Still, there is enough cute interplay between characters to make the story enjoyable.

This fluffy replaying of A Christmas Carol may not be the most clever take on the original out there, but it’s a lot of fun. The characters are appealing, the pace quick, and the dialogue witty. Gorman’s book is a pleasant way to kick off the Christmas season. Now all I have to do is try to get Animaniacs reruns back on the air so that I can watch Wakko, Yakko and Dot work their magic on the literary classic.

Thanks to Michele Gorman for the e-novella in exchange for an honest review. You can connect with her at Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

United Authors of Chick Lit


Fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position. Over the next few days, some of your favorite Chick Lit characters will be jetting across the Atlantic to visit with fictional friends on the other side of the pond.

The event kicked off yesterday, October 21st. 

On Tuesday, October 22nd, read about Stella from Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and Chloe from Lying to Meet You as they travel across the Atlantic to visit each other.

On Wednesday, October 23rd, it’s time to discover what happens when Emma from The Pollyanna Plan and Kim from Blogger Girl meet.

On Thursday, October 24th, Izzy from Izzy’s Cold Feet and Jamie from Finding Lucas will be taking you on a trip alongside their characters.

And on Friday, October 25th, Kate from Sealed with a Kiss and Pilar from In Need of Therapy will be chatting about their overseas experiences.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the fun, frothy books and sassy gals featured in our international promo, all of which are priced at $3.99 or less:

Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey – Daytime talk show producer Jamie Ross is beyond fed up with her toxic bad boy turned metrosexual boyfriend. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she goes on a hilarious, at-times disastrous, and totally life-changing hunt to track down the ”one who got away.” But are some loves best left behind? Available on Amazon.comAmazon UK  and Kobo. Check out the review from CLC.
In Need of Therapy by Tracie BanisterHandling the problems of hysterical hypochondriacs, lovelorn neurotics, and compulsive man whores is all in a day’s work for super-shrink Pilar Alvarez. But can she deal with her crazy Cuban family, a trio of unsuitable suitors, and a threat to her practice without ending up on the couch herself? Available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK and B&N. Check out the review from CLC.
Lying to Meet You by Anna Garner – Overworked New York fashion girl Chloe Lane has no time for a real relationship, but when her childhood pal asks her to play the part of his girlfriend in order to test a theory, she decides to go for it. The lies start piling up and things start getting crazy. Will Chloe be able to keep it together? Available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK and B&N.
Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas – Kate breathes a sigh of relief when she's dumped at her best friend's wedding. When she takes a job on the island of Auchenmor, she's determined to have a year off men, but that's before she rescues Flora the seal pup with the help of Roddy, her mysterious new boss... Available on Amazon.com and Amazon UK.

The Pollyanna Plan by Talli RolandEmma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé, Emma makes a radical decision: from here on in, she'll attempt to see the upside, no matter how dire the situation. Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea? Available on Amazon.com and Amazon UK. Check out the review from CLC.
 
Blogger Girl by Meredith SchorrKimberly Long has two passions: her successful chick lit blog and Nicholas, her handsome colleague down the hall. But when her high school nemesis pops onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book and eyes for Nicholas, Kim has to make some quick revisions to her own life story. Available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK B&N and Apple iTunes. Check out the review from CLC.
 
Izzy’s Cold Feet by Sarah Louise Smith – Izzy is engaged to Greg, who is everything a girl could want. The trouble is – all she can think about is the men she loved before she met him. In the week leading up to her wedding day, Izzy is forced to ask herself who she loves the most. And, given the choice, who would she want to spend her life with? Available on Amazon.com, Amazon UKB&N and UK Nook.

Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson – TV Producer Stella is over worked, over weight and under fire battling to balance family, career and those weighing scales. In the past she’s always found comfort at the bottom of her mixing bowl but now the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting has no effect. However, life is about to get even tougher... and Stella has to face some truths about herself, her life and her future. Available on Amazon.com and Amazon UK. Get to know Sue Watson here.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

Tuesday, Oct. 22:
Stella will be on Anna Garner’s blog and Chloe will be on Sue Watson’s blog.

Wednesday, Oct. 23:
Emma will be on Meredith Schorr’s blog and Kim will be on Talli Roland’s blog.

Thursday, Oct. 24:
Izzy will be on Samantha Stroh Bailey’s blog and Jamie will be on Sarah Louise Smith’s blog.

Friday, Oct. 25:
Kate will be on Tracie Banister’s blog  and Pilar will be on Rachael Lucas’s blog.

Jill Knapp-Zitron is the next Carrie Bradshaw and has a book to give away

We are pleased to introduce you to Jill Knapp-Zitron. It looks like she has brought a visitor to CLC, as well. Her adorable little dog, Brownie! How she gets any writing done with her around is beyond us! If her other dog is this cute, she must have to do her writing outside of her home.

Chase is Jill Knapp-Zitron's debut novel. A Native New Yorker, Jill spends her time blogging for The Huffington Post, writing about New York City, dating, and relationships. She also holds an M.A in Psychology and taught at the college level for over three years. She is a graduate of Kean University and also holds a Master of Arts from The New School for Social Research. Fun fact: Jill is a seasoned figure skating coach, and skated competitively herself for TEN YEARS! Jill currently lives on the east coast with her husband. You can find Jill at her website and on Twitter. She has one copy of Chase for a lucky US reader.

More about Chase:
The question that 23-year old Amalia Hastings desperately wants the answer to is: What happens to men when they move to Manhattan? While tackling a master's degree at NYU, life in the new city gives Amalia a ride she is not expecting. As she tries to find her way on the little island that never sleeps, she discovers she has a harder time navigating through love then she does the streets of Greenwich Village and finds herself truly lost in the complex world of men. (Synopsis courtesy of Jill's website.)

What is the inspiration behind Chase?
A lot of things inspired me to write the novel, Chase. First, was living in NYC at the time and taking everything in around me. One thing is true about New York, the energy can be very inspiring. Secondly, I was going through a pretty difficult time in my life, and I needed somewhere to channel my thoughts. Thirdly, music and television shows have always inspired me to dream, and create stories in my mind. The song "Face Up" by Lights inspired a part of what I wrote in Chase. The quote, "The city's shining bright, but you don't see the light. How come you concentrate on things that don't make you feel right?" had an impact on this story. A few more songs are currently inspiring the second Chase book.

What made you decide to become a writer?
I've always enjoyed writing, ever since I was younger. But what made me decide to pursue it, was my husband. He stood by me with my decision to change careers and gave me the support I needed to take a leap.

If you were stranded on a dessert island, what would be your three must haves?
My husband, and my two dogs!

What is something you love? Hate?
Something I love is that feeling you get the first true day of fall. It reminds me of going back to school, which while I dreaded the assignments, also filled me with hope for a new beginning. I look at fall as the beginning of a new year, not January 1st.
Something I hate is how much people rely on Social Media to stay in touch with each other. You don’t notice how much time passes when you’re not seeing someone face to face. I want to be friends with you, not your avatar.

In one sentence, what was road to publishing like?
Extremely difficult and long!

Since we're entering Fall, tell us a favorite autumn memory.
My favorite fall memory has to be the first semester of my freshman year of college. It was the first time I was ever on my own, and everything felt so exciting and new. I went to my first, and pretty much only Halloween party, which is disappointing because I love Halloween! I met so many new people, and had so many new experiences.

How did you get into the world of blogging? What are some topics you blog about for The Huffington Post?
I got into it the same way anyone else does, I suppose. I sent out writing samples until I got a bite. And believe you me, I sent them out to a bunch of sites! Unfortunately, most of the time you don’t even hear back.
When I write for The Huffington Post, I mainly stick to women's issues and relationship issues, but I like to mix it up sometimes and talk about entertainment. Dating is my favorite thing to write articles about. Although I haven't been on a date in a few years, I definitely went on enough bad dates before then to keep me with material to write about for a long time.


Can you share any advice for future writers?
I can certainly try! My first piece of advice, is to write what you want to write. Don’t let your story be steered by what you think people want to read. For instance, if two characters genuinely don’t work out together, don’t have them get back together in the end just because it’s what people expect. Don’t write a happy ending, if you don’t believe your story should end happily. Essentially, write what you love. Remember the story teller is you, the reader is the audience.
My second piece of advice, is to try and imagine how you want the book to end before you get to the halfway point. Try to make sure the end of what you wrote ties up nicely with the beginning of the story.

~Interview by Amy Bromberg

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

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

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Book Review: No Kidding

By Sara Steven

Kate Martin. Editor for U.S. Water Works, a trade magazine you’ve never heard of. Happily married to Joe, a man who looks good in his package delivery uniform. Mother to three furry dogs. A nice, uneventful, simple life. Everything like clockwork, until her period was not. Not only is the pregnancy unexpected, but her employer is restructuring various positions, which means Kate may find herself without a job. Knocked up and laid off? Could this get any worse?

Romi Carrell Wittman’s novel about a potentially downtrodden mother-to-be was a hysterical read! I know, that sounds like an oxymoron of sorts, but trust me, this book is a bonafide page turner. Kate plays first time pregnant lady to a T, full of concerns and angst when it comes to changing poopy diapers, and don’t even get her started on breastfeeding. How does that work, again? Lending comic relief is her extended family; a mother whose biggest concern is having an open bar at her anniversary party, sisters who get Kate’s goat and won’t let up, a father who sits idly by and watches the drama with a smile on his face. What you’ll discover, though, is an undercurrent of love. No matter how crazy they make each other, there is a whole lot of love.

An added bonus: politics in the work place. No Kidding touches a bit on this, when referencing Kate’s pregnancy and how this pertains to her job security. Is that why her job is in danger? Can an employer let someone go due to familial status? Isn’t that illegal? Brace yourself for the stand-off between Kate and U.S. Water Works.

Wittman has comedic timing. This shows not only in the story, but also in the way she’s written her characters. Kate says what’s on everyone’s mind (even if we are too afraid to admit to it). If you want a fun read, I suggest you give this book a try.

No kidding!

Thanks to Romi Carrell Wittman 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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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: The Blasphemy Box

By Jami Deise

As I mentioned in my review of Sophie King’s Divorce for Beginners (now titled Falling in Love Again), divorce rates for first marriages peaked at 40 percent in 1980 and have been declining ever since. But it is still a popular topic among writers and readers of women’s fiction. In fact, The Blasphemy Box is the second book I read in a single week that featured a middle-aged woman who was dumped by her cheating husband in favor of his pregnant girlfriend. Clearly, this particular plot is a horror movie for those of us who are getting older, perhaps have put on a few pounds, and maybe have given up our careers rather than hand over our entire salary to day cares and nannies. But the ubiquity of the topic requires the writer to go beyond the usual clichés to give the reader a unique experience. While The Blasphemy Box is well-written, I’m not sure that author Mandy Behbehani achieves that goal.

The box in question is a wooden box that sits on Maddy’s kitchen table in San Francisco, California. Put there by her husband Steven, she’s required to deposit a quarter every time she swears. Since Steven announces he’s leaving in the beginning of the book, Maddy has quite a few reasons to swear. She has three children, a back-burnered career as a journalism, and 30 extra pounds around the middle. As soon as he leaves, Steve fights her about the house and the amount of money he’s required to pay for Maddy and the children. Although at first nearly paralyzed by grief, Maddy soon takes action, starting a blog about the divorce process and going to the gym. Eventually, she even tries dating.

The only aspect of the story that I found original was that Maddy is from England. She moved to the United States to be with Steven, and her parents and best friend Suzy came over as well. If Behbehani had spent more time, say, on the different between divorce in the U.S. and the U.K. – assuming there is one – the book might have been able to stand out more. I also felt the ending was too happy.

While The Blasphemy Box does not stand out from other women’s fiction novels on divorce, it is a fast, engaging, well-written read. And it serves as an important reminder to those of us who abandoned our careers to concentrate on our children – one day we too may be abandoned.

Thanks to Mandy Behbehani for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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