Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Favorites

Most of the ladies of CLC have some favorites from 2014. Are any of your favorites on this list? We'd love to hear what made it to your lists too!

**Book links will be in the reviews, unless a review isn't available from the reader who chose that book.**

Melissa A:
Loved it so much, I gave it a hug!

So many great books read this year and so hard to choose, but I did pinpoint some as definite 2014 favorites.

Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: A great way to start out 2014. This surreal novel was a breath of fresh air and even got me teary-eyed. (Review)

Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck: A fun and quirky tale proving that not all good chick lit novels need to involve romance. (Review)

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel: I love the Sliding Doors aspect and it also has a story line that is very personal to me. I am jealous of Kristin's ability to write something so beautiful and memorable! (Review coming soon...)

Say Never by Janis Thomas: A clever and hilarious story that I couldn't put down. (Review)

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio: I still cry every time I think of this story. If you grew up loving books, definitely check it out. (Review)


Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany: I always look forward to a new Amy Hatvany novel. She paints her characters beautifully and vividly. Safe With Me is a must read. (Review)

Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck: In the last several years I've become interested in historical fiction. Erika Robuck is one of the couple of authors for me who shine in this genre. Definitely give this one a try. (Review)

Tempting Fate by Jane Green:'s Jane Green. No need to say anymore! (Review)

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand: Every summer I look forward to a delicious beach read from Elin Hilderbrand. As always this one completely satisfied. (Review)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to review Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers. However, it's definitely one of my favorites this year. All of Randy's novels are about real people struggling to get through their imperfect lives. And she always discusses authentic issues. I'm definitely looking forward to Randy's next.

Melissa P:

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand: The story was so touching and I've never read a book of hers that doesn't become one of my favorites! (See the review from Amy's section.)

Saving Grace by Jane Green: Well it goes without's by Jane Green!

**Don't forget to enter to win Saving Grace or Tempting Fate, as well as some swag!**


Choosing two favorites – one from the books I reviewed for Chick Lit Central; the other from the books I’ve read on my own.

My favorite to review this year was Ann Lewis Hamilton’s novel Expecting. Told from three points of view, it covers the aftermath of a sperm-bank mix-up. It’s a very modern twist on the age-old “who’s the daddy” conundrum, and feels fresh on every page. Even better, the writer turned her short story into this novel during National Novel Writing Month, inspiring the thousands who take part every year. (Review)

Count me a fan of New York Times’ number one bestseller Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. The Australian author has developed a winning formula by mixing murder with women’s fiction, and Big Little Lies is a wonderful follow-up to last year’s The Husband’s Secret. The novel takes typical school mom cattiness to a whole different level. After reading it, you’ll never look at your friends’ marriages the same way.


What would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy: This author also made my favourite last year (under the name of Juliet Ashton) and she's done it again! If I was to pick my favourite typical 'chick lit' book this would be it, an uplifting book with great characters and a lot of baking involved, perfect! Think this review is still pending posting?

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman: I've enjoyed Rowan's books for a few years and LOVED this book so I was so pleased to see it become a huge success, becoming a Richard and Judy read in the UK it rightly got the publicity it deserved. Covering a family with the Mum facing early onset alzheimer's in her early forties this was a beautifully crafted book covering a difficult subject but doing it oh so well. A very moving but uplifting book. (Review)

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy:  This is just a beautifully written and enticing book, i was gripped by each of the stories of Jessie, Lisa and Cat spanning three very different generations. If you haven't read it you should! (Review)


Sue Watson's Love, Lies and Lemon Cakes:
So far, there's no Sue Watson book I don't like, but I really loved this one! I appreciated the guts and determination main character Faye portrayed. She showed me and everyone else that age is just a number, and life begins when you let go of your insecurities. (Review)

Janis Thomas' Say Never:
CLC's own Melissa A. lent this book to me recently, and I brought it with me while traveling by plane. Two layovers later, I was finished! Even though I brought a few other things with me to bide my time, I couldn't get enough of Meg Monroe.

Tina Ann Forkner's Waking Up Joy:
Such a sweet read. I really enjoyed getting to know Joy and discovering her secrets. There's a classic love triangle, too. The perfect book to get anyone out of their winter blues this season. (Review)


Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster:
Hilarious, witty, and even a little introspective, this 2014 fiction offering from Ms. Lancaster mixed the chance to live in someone else's shoes with the very real feeling of getting lost in a large family very nicely.

Pretty in Ink by Lindsey J Palmer:
This insider's look at the world behind a high-gloss magazine was right on the money. All the different viewpoints kept it fresh and never boring. (Review)

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews:
I love everything by MKA, and this newcomer was no exception. This delightful story of a florist who just wants everything to be perfect for others was completely enjoyable and so much fun to read! (Review)

What were YOUR favorite chick lit novels of 2014?

Have a wonderful new year, filled with great reads!

Book Review and Giveaway: The Rosie Effect

US cover
By Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

Earlier this year, I read The Rosie Project. I had heard good things about it and it lived up to the hype. I reviewed it over at Goodreads, if you're interested in hearing my thoughts. When I found out there was going to be a sequel, I was all over that. So when the opportunity came about to read it ahead of the publication date, I didn't let it slip through my fingers.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they're about to face a new challenge because surprise! Rosie is pregnant.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he's left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Rosie Effect was definitely a fun follow-up to The Rosie Project. I found myself getting into the story easily and there were some reminders from the previous book from time to time. It was nice to learn more about Don as he navigated his way through new territory. I love all the misunderstandings and how he manages to get himself in trouble so easily. And what he does to cover up the problem is even crazier. It was easy to visualize characters and scenery, as well as everything that was going on within the story. I felt genuinely invested in the story and characters, just like in the previous novel.

My only critique is that some parts became confusing when it came to dialogue. It was hard to tell who was talking at times and I'd have to re-read conversations to figure out what was happening. I also would have liked some chapters from Rosie's perspective this time around. It would be interesting to see what is going through her mind during the times Don is driving her crazy. I  hope there will be another book about Don and Rosie that picks up where they left off. All good things come in threes, right?

Thanks to Penguin Random House UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks also to Simon and Schuster, as they have two copies for some lucky US readers!

UK cover
How to win:
Please tell us something you're looking forward to in 2015.

One entry per person.

Entries without contact information (e-mail address, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc.) will NOT be counted (and we do NOT count "Google +" as contact information).

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

For another chance to win, visit BookTrib by Friday, January 2nd. (US/Canada.) 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Jane Green's words of a special giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

We have featured Jane Green several times at CLC since we started the blog in 2010. And with her producing two books in one year, we are glad to have her back here so soon! (We just found out about her next novel, coming in June, so we'll be sure to schedule another visit then!) This time, we're featuring some questions from an interview she did with Sarah Hall Productions, along with some links to video clips, so you can listen to her lovely voice as she talks about writing, cooking, and health. 

I read Saving Grace earlier this year, when I received a copy from Pan Macmillan. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be sharing a review soon. However, the icing on the cake (which would be a very delicious one, if Jane had any part in making it) was when I read the acknowledgements at the end and found both my name and Amy's listed there. I have always been a fan of Jane's novels and was not expecting such an incredible thank you message as being mentioned in this way. I literally cried when I saw my name in print. It was like having a favorite actor name me in their Oscar speech, but even better because this is immortalized on paper by an author I've loved ever since I read Jemima J over 12 years ago! In addition, Jane also mentioned me in an interview she did earlier this year for A Drink With. (Although now I feel the pressure to come up with good casting choices for Saving Grace!)

You can find out all you need to know about Jane by reading this interview, watching the videos, and visiting her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Lots of special giveaways going on right here!

  • Thanks to Sarah Hall Productions, we have TWO US versions of Saving Grace. (US/CAN/UK eligible) 
  • Thanks to Pan Macmillan, we have THREE sets of scented candles and hardbacks of the UK version of Saving Grace. (Open worldwide)
  • And as a special treat in honor of the acknowledgement, I'm going to send a previous Jane Green novel to someone who hasn't read any of her books yet. So be sure to answer the bonus question on the Rafflecopter! I will personally choose a winner at random from those who are new to her books. (Worldwide. I will send an e-book outside of US/Canada.)
  • Plus, enter to win Tempting Fate from BookTrib. (US/Canada)

A Conversation with Jane Green

On her new novel, Saving Grace

Where did the inspiration for Saving Grace come from?
Initially from a bookkeeper we had employed who turned out to be dishonest, with a history of stealing we didn't discover until it was too late. I started to think about the assumptions we make that everyone we meet operates under the same moral code, and how betrayed we feel when that isn't the case. This led to creating Beth, who seems like the perfect assistant although Grace has a feeling from the start that she has another agenda, even though she appears so great, everyone thinks Grace is crazy. Including, after a while, Grace herself.

What was it about Grace as a character that intrigued you?
I knew nothing about bipolar disorder until three years ago, and have now learned an awful lot, which I wanted to explore on the page. Also, we have a propensity to repeat the patterns of our childhood; we recreate situations that are somehow familiar to us, and I loved the idea of Grace growing up in a difficult, volatile household, and how this would explain why she would remain married to a man like Ted. Many people reading the book would urge her to leave, but when you understand how walking on eggshells is entirely familiar to Grace, I think it helps you understand why she stays.

What do you hope readers take away from Saving Grace?
Grace's lessons were ones I had to learn the hard way, primarily that we should always trust our intuition; that when that little voice tells us something is wrong, we must listen to it, and that we have to be our own advocates when it comes to our health - do not ever let a doctor or health professional talk you into something you think is wrong, and inform yourself as much as you can. As a friend of mine who is very high up in the medical industry recently said: if a doctor tells you not to look up the medication on the internet, that's the sign of a bad doctor; go and find someone else.

Video: Watch Jane share a sneak peek into Saving Grace.

On Food and Cooking...

How does your love of food and cooking influence your writing?
There's always at least one character who is either a foodie or a cook, and I have included recipes in a couple of the books. I show the people I love that I love them by gathering them in my kitchen and feeding them, so no surprise that most of my characters do the same thing.

Video: Jane cooks a Chess Tart and discusses her love of cooking and food.

On Health…

You revealed in an Op-Ed piece last summer that you’d been diagnosed with malignant melanoma. What made you decide to go public with your personal health information? And what’s the update on your prognosis?
Malignant Melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer in the world, yet one few people take notice of. Breast cancer survival rates are now so much better thanks to people realizing how important regular mammograms are, but few people think about their skin, or understand the importance of having annual check-ups. Malignant Melanoma is the most dangerous of the skin cancers, yet one that can be so easily prevented and treated if caught early enough. If I can help one person, have one person go to get checked who wouldn't otherwise have thought to do so, it has been entirely worthwhile to go public about my story. My own mole was 1mm, with mitosis. I had the wide leg excision surgery, and a lymph node biopsy. Everything came back clear, happily, so I am looking at a future filled with spray tans, and three-monthly check-ups.

Video: Jane discusses her own experience with misdiagnosis, over-medication, and her real-life inspiration for Saving Grace.

On Writing…

Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Sometimes, but usually only a visual snapshot, or the idea of someone I know. Within a couple of pages the characters have always taken on their own attributes and characteristics, and of course behave in ways the people you thought they were based on would never behave.

Video: Jane shares her real-life inspirations and influences on her writing.

You’ve written fifteen New York Times bestselling novels. What’s the most important advice you’d offer to an aspiring writer?
That writing is your job, and has to be done every day, whether you feel like it or not. That the most important requirement is discipline; that you will be hit with writer's block over and over, and the only way to break it is to keep writing anyway. I would also add, write the story you need to tell rather than the one you think will be a bestseller.

Video: Jane discusses working in her "writing room" and her favorite writing spots.

Thanks to Jane Green for making us feel loved and for the lovely interview she did with Sarah Hall Productions that we were able to share on our blog. Thanks to Sarah Hall Productions, Pan Macmillan, and Tandem Literary for sharing Jane's books and prizes with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worldwide (see Rafflecopter for eligible locations per prize). Giveaway ends January 4th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Resurrection of Tess Blessing

By Jami Deise

Like no other generation, modern parents are expected to put their children before anything else. While members of Generation X were dubbed “latchkey kids” because they went home to empty houses as mothers entered the workforce in droves, their children are enrolled in numerous sports, arts classes and other enrichment activities after school. And their parents are supposed to drop everything to attend their children’s basketball games, art shows, school Halloween parades, and Fiddler on the Roof productions. We do their homework with them and sacrifice our own social lives to facilitate theirs. We even use their photos as our Facebook profile pictures!

For all this, is the next generation any more grateful to their parents than those who were left alone watching He-Man cartoons? Of course not.

Tess Blessing is definitely a modern parent. Although her children, college freshman Haddie and high school junior Henry, are past the age where they need a mommy to wipe their butts, she still puts their needs first, and is devastated when they blow her off. Haddie, who has a serious eating order, is particularly hard to reach, and Tess blames herself for not letting her quit college when Haddie got homesick. Even her husband Will, who runs a diner in their postcard small town of Ruby Falls, takes Tess completely for granted.

This is hard enough for Tess to begin with, as she suffers from such a severe panic disorder, she’s limited to the parameters of their small town. But when Tess’ mammogram shows a lump in her breast, her first instinct is to protect her children. She can’t tell Haddie because of her eating disorder, and Henry’s too young. Will is worried, but pre-occupied with the diner and maybe his old girlfriend Connie. Tess’ sister Birdie hasn’t spoken to her in years.

Luckily, Tess has Grace, who is the actual narrator of the book. Who is Grace? Grace is Tess’ imaginary friend. And she’s there during Tess’ most difficult times, and helps her through them.

Written by Lesley Kagen, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is hard to classify. Although the book doesn’t take place in the south, it has a southern feel that reminded me of books like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Tess has a tragic backstory, feeling responsible for her father’s death when she was 10, and having been raised by a verbally abusive mother. There’s humor, and Grace certainly loves Tess dearly. But Tess is such a damaged character, it’s difficult for the reader to identify with her. Still, she’s a character who presses on, even coming up with a to-do list in light of her maybe impending death from breast cancer. (Item #1: Buy more broccoli.)

Personally, I found the narration by Grace to be a little off-putting, although she is responsible for some of the southern flavor. Tess’ favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, and she carries a copy around with her as a talisman, constantly reading from it in moments of stress. Tess modeled Grace on Scout’s African-American nanny, and she does come across that way. But because the story is a first person narration from Grace’s point of view, the reader never gets inside Tess’ head – we only get Grace’s description of what’s in there.

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing should appeal to readers of Jodi Picoult – especially readers who don’t think Picoult’s protagonists have enough drama in their lives. I felt overwhelmed by everything Tess had to deal with; others may feel inspired.

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

More by Lesley Kagen:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: It Must Have Been the Mistletoe

By Becky Gulc

‘Thea’s parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea… even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea’s boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can’t decide whether or not she minds.

There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach. If it seems an odd way to celebrate the final break-up of a marriage and the Moving On to new partners, no- one is saying so. But then no-one had anticipated that the new partners might actually turn up to complicate the sleeping arrangements.

As Cornwall experiences the biggest snowstorm in living memory, the festive atmosphere comes under some strain. Will Thea manage to find some happiness for herself? Will the mistletoe work its magic on them all?’
(Synopsis courtesy of Random House UK.)

It’s a couple of weeks since I finished reading this book now and it makes me feel warm inside just thinking about it. I’m sure most of us would agree that Christmas is about family spending time with one another, and even though we might not see each other that often in the year it’s a time to come together, to reaffirm relationships, this book has at its core the family unit and I loved it for that. No, the family unit might not be as tight as it once was with these particular parents (Anna and Mike) declaring they’re going to get divorced, but this made it all the more interesting, they are on good terms after all so why not spend one last Christmas all together?

It wouldn’t be a Christmas book without snow, and lots of it, and it certainly delivers on that front! I loved the sense of place in this book, the family rent a house in Cornwall for the festivities and I felt transported there, along with the snowy treks to the local pub and being snowed in. Very atmospheric.

Character wise, I enjoyed each one, particularly Thea and her parents. I wasn’t so sure about Emily (Thea’s sister), she seemed very downtrodden and whilst I thought there might be a reveal which would explain this by the end, the one which was didn’t seem to quite fit with what I was expecting and that part of the story I wasn’t so sure about. Other than that I loved the different dynamics at play between the different family members, the different generations involved and of course the impromptu guests and lovely neighbours to mix everything up a bit. Let’s be honest, if you’ve just found out your parents are splitting up you wouldn’t exactly be that keen to suddenly meet your dad’s new ‘squeeze’ and your mum’s new ‘friend’ would you? Never mind spend Christmas with them! But somehow, it’s such a positive book, positive and quirky characters in the main. A bunch of people I was very happy to spend a fictional Christmas with.

It Must Have Been the Mistletoe is a perfect book to enjoy with a lovely mug of hot chocolate!

Thanks to Bantam Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Judy Astley:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reader Spotlight: That's Entertainment!

This year, we've been doing "Reader Spotlight" posts on a bi-weekly basis. We want to feature readers who have been actively following CLC for a while. We're hoping you can get to know some new friends this way. One of the joys of having CLC is that readers have connected with each other, as a result. That's one of the reasons it was started up in the first bring chick lit fans together from all over the world! We've made some amazing friends because of this blog and we hope you'll get to do so too!

See our previous Reader Spotlight posts.

UPDATE: This is our last (but certainly not least) post in the Reader Spotlight series. Thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who commented on the posts. We enjoyed learning new things about each participant and we hope you've made some new book loving friends in the process!

We're always looking for new ways to include our readers. You're welcome to write guest posts/reviews and we're even considering some reader assistance with our interviews, to get in new and interesting questions. There may be more surveys coming, as well. In the meantime, we have a giveaway going on for those of you who take our current survey about themes for 2015!

Note from Melissa A: I connected with Suzy after seeing all her comments on our various giveaways. She's just as sweet as can be and I love chatting with her about books. I hope you will take the time to get to know her, as well! Follow her on Twitter.

Name: Suzy
Age: Never ask a girl her age
Location: Southern California (The OC)

How did you find Chick Lit Central? If my memory serves me well, I believe it was via Twitter. I saw various people I was following mention it or retweeting information, so I started following as well.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
Being an avid reader, it’s so hard to pick only five books, but here goes…

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman
Emily & Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch

What do you do when you’re not reading?
When I’m not reading, I’m usually at work. My background is in entertainment public relations. I did PR for TV and film in Los Angeles for over 8 years. I got out of it for a while, but I’m now back into it doing freelance PR for authors, DJs, etc. In my free time, I love going to the movies, watching TV shows - especially dramas, going to concerts, seeing Broadway musicals, visiting museums, and attending author signing events. I am basically a lover of the arts.

Guest Book Review: A Leg to Stand on

By Denise Keliuotis

For the first seventeen years, Colleen Haggerty’s life was, for the most part, what one would call “normal.” Regular. At times, even prosaic. Yes, she’d lost her father a few years earlier – and much too young – and though sad, Colleen had continued on, indulging her love of theatre by trying out for the school play, researching colleges, and dreaming of the day she’d marry and have a large, tight-knit family like the one to which she belonged.

And then Colleen was struck by a car, and her left leg was torn from her body. And then nothing was ever really the same again.

Colleen’s book, A Leg to Stand On: An Amputee’s Walk into Motherhood, traces her journey from life as an average teenager in Washington State to life as a mother of two tackling motherhood – a job that is hard enough for those of us with two legs.

Although the title of the book places great emphasis on Colleen’s role as a parent, much of the book is dedicated to time between her accident and the time when she becomes a mother. Not surprisingly, Colleen’s road is rocky and often exhausting, both physically and emotionally. But Colleen’s challenges aren’t always predictable. In fact, Colleen only briefly discusses the expected physical difficulties connected to her recovery, choosing instead to focus upon the emotional battles she waged – often with herself.

At first, and most understandably, Colleen wanted to hide from the world. She struggled resuming her regular activities, like school and the play, in which she’d won a featured role. Her mother and teachers pushed her to resume some sense of normalcy with an urgency that would later come to haunt her. Though she grumbled and resisted, Colleen caught back up with her life and even excelled, and then in a move that surprised me, she switched tracks and began to seek out almost unfathomable adventures: downhill skiing and field soccer alongside other amputees. Colleen’s choices of activity reflected less her deep craving for adventure or even normalcy and more her desire to connect with others who had lost limbs and kept going.

But more than anything else, Colleen wanted to be a mother. She feared her sometimes limited mobility would make that difficult, if not impossible. And yet, in the end, what complicated motherhood most wasn’t Colleen’s physical limitations, it was those inside her own heart and head. A Leg to Stand On allows the reader to follow Colleen as she comes to terms with the fears that chased her from an icy highway in Washington and dogged her throughout her life, until she finally faced them head on.

Interwoven in Colleen’s painfully honestly tale is a thoughtful subplot regarding her relationship to her God and her religion, one that took a big hit after her accident and which continued to suffer for years. But my favorite part of Colleen’s story centers around her relationship with Harvey, the man driving the car that struck her when she was just a teenager. Colleen’s relationship with Harvey is moving, if not unexpected and, in the end, it ends up being perhaps the most important one of her life.

A Leg to Stand On is about choices: the ones we make and the ones made for us by others, or even by circumstance. It’s about survival – but it’s also about so much more. It’s about falling down – sometimes literally – and getting back up and walking onward, ever forward, no matter how difficult, no matter how much we may not want to.

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

Denise De Fabio Keliuotis is a Chicago native who sometimes lives in Tennessee with her husband and three daughters and sometimes lives in the Chicago suburbs (it’s a long story). Since her last guest review, she has added a new cat to her already alarmingly large collection, bringing the total to four. She’s still licensed to practice law, and she’s still editing that book she’s been writing. You can find her at her blog.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kristin Harmel's wonderful "life" a book giveaway

I have a confession to make: I am jealous of Kristin Harmel. And it's not because she lives within spitting distance of the Magic Kingdom and goes there almost all the time. (My kids would be jealous though!) What I'm jealous of is the fact that she can write an amazing novel that just takes my breath away and makes me wish that I could write even half as beautifully. And I'm also jealous of anyone who is reading her latest novel, The Life Intended, because they're getting to experience for the first time what I'm already done experiencing. I have to live vicariously through their reading to get these same feelings back. Needless to say, The Life Intended has earned a spot on my list of top five favorite chick lit novels of 2014. I will be reviewing soon, but I needed you to know this fact in advance.

Kristin was last at CLC in 2012 (and you'll notice that blue really is her color), shortly after I met her in person for the first time. Since then, we met again during my family's trip to Disney World. My mom felt like she was meeting a celebrity and could not stop singing her praises. I felt bad that Kristin had to put up with my lack of a voice at the time, and that we got lost on our way to meet her and she had to wait longer than expected. She was really nice about it and I definitely appreciate that. About a year after our last meeting, she got married and will be celebrating her first anniversary in a few months! Before she does that, she has a big date coming up, as The Life Intended is being released on December 30th! Thanks to Gallery Books, THREE lucky readers in the US and/or Canada each have a chance to win this novel, along with a copy of her 2012 sensation The Sweetness of Forgetting! That's double your reading pleasure to start off 2015!

Visit Kristin at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

What did you learn about yourself from writing The Life Intended?
That’s a great question. I think I learned more about my own feelings about motherhood – one of the themes that’s explored in the book. I also dug into some of the choices I’ve made over the years with the realization that, like the main character Kate, I didn’t always choose happiness in the past because deep down, I didn’t always feel I deserved it. In writing each of my novels, I’ve explored some of my own issues, and I think The Life Intended really helped me to grow in some ways.

There is a lot of focus on hearing loss in The Life Intended. What inspired you to write about this topic?
I know this sounds crazy – especially since the book is about vivid dreams -- but I honestly woke up with the basic outline for this novel in my head one morning a couple years ago. I jumped out of bed and began scribbling madly in order to get as much of it as I could down on paper before the thoughts flitted away. Hearing loss was a piece of this from the beginning, as was Kate’s career as a music therapist, largely because I liked the idea that she had spent her whole career helping other people heal by using sound – and suddenly, she was being faced with a situation in which sound was a bit trickier to use. She basically had to learn a new skill set –which I liked as a platform for character growth – and in the midst of all that, she also had to finally learn to turn her therapist eye inward and help herself too.

What is the best compliment you've ever received about any of your books? What is the most helpful constructive feedback you've received?
I think one of the most interesting compliments I’ve ever received was from a woman who called me after reading The Sweetness of Forgetting and told me that when I wrote about the Albanians helping German Jews escape persecution in World War II, I had essentially captured her own family’s story perfectly. She said it was like reading her own history. That really blew me away. I also received letters from several readers who said that The Sweetness of Forgetting had helped them to open up a discussion with their own mothers or grandmothers, and that they felt their relationships had undergone a major change for the better. I love knowing that something I wrote had the power to spark a positive change in someone’s life.

Constructive feedback: I started off a decade ago as a chick lit writer (now I write women’s fiction that’s deeper and more mainstream), and when I wrote my first novel in 2003, I was 24 years old, had no idea what I was doing, and assumed I had to include a sex scene because a lot of the chick lit I was reading at the time included some pretty racy stuff. So I awkwardly fumbled my way through penning a sexy interaction between the main character her love interest, and when I got my first round of edits back from my very lovely editor, Amy, she had a lot of kind words to say about the book in general… but I believe her words about the scene in question were something along the lines of, “Please don’t ever do that again.” Ha! Honestly, I think it was just because I was only 24, and I wrote the whole scene thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh! My mom’s going to read this! My dad’s going to read this! My grandparents are going to read this! I’m mortified!” Also, it wasn’t really intrinsic to the plot; I had added it in only because I felt I had to, and I’m sure it read awkwardly. Still, more than a decade later, I still think of that constructive criticism – if you could call it that – and laugh!

Do you have any winter holiday traditions that the season will not be complete without doing?
There’s a movie from the early 1980s called The Night They Saved Christmas that has been my favorite holiday movie since I was a little girl. It’s a little cheesy, but I absolutely love it, and it’s always how I visualized Santa Claus when I was younger. It’s never really Christmas until I’ve pulled that out and watched it! Beyond that, I just got married this year, and my husband and I just bought a house together, so we’ll begin establishing our own traditions, starting now!

Since you got married recently, what is your favorite memory from your wedding?
One of my favorite moments from the wedding was the moment that the door to the chapel opened and I saw my husband-to-be standing on the altar and many of my closest friends and loved ones sitting in the room. I immediately teared up; it was just such an awesome moment to think of all the love in that room, and to think of the fact that I was about to walk down the aisle to the absolute love of my life.

We were also fortunate enough to end our wedding with fireworks at Disney’s Epcot. They have a French pavilion there, and since my husband proposed in Paris, it was really amazing to end our wedding celebration in Orlando’s version of Paris, under a starry sky with fireworks overheard. It was truly memorable.

What is one of your goals for 2015 (doesn't have to be writing-related)?
One of the themes of The Life Intended is that we have the right – and the responsibility – to choose happiness for ourselves instead of settling for less. So that’s one of my resolutions for 2015: to choose to be as happy as I can be by making good, self-respecting choices. I also hope to finish my next novel and to finally learn to write a screenplay!

Thanks to Kristin for a lovely chat and an unforgettable novel. Thanks to Gallery Books for sharing this novel (along with "Sweetness") with our readers.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends December 28th at midnight EST.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Home for Christmas

By Becky Gulc

Back in 2011 I reviewed Cally Taylor’s romantic comedy novel Home for Christmas and I just loved it.

‘Beth Prince has always loved fairy tales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

When given the opportunity to view the film version of the novel I jumped at the chance. I’d followed Cally’s Facebook posts regarding the production of the film and the fact that it was made by a small independent film company and financed through crowdfunding/an auction night (as well as private funding) made it all the more intriguing and I was rooting for its success.

Here is the trailer:

When you’ve loved a book so much you always wonder if a film version is ever going to live up to your expectations. To be honest I also wondered if it was going to appear low-budget on screen, I really hoped it wouldn’t. I’m pleased to say I enjoyed the film very much.

I was admittedly a bit unsure about the casting of Matt when I first heard who it was (I used to watch Emmerdale and remember his character as being moody so I was basing it purely on this!), but I have to say Karl Davies who plays Matt won me over very quickly. He lights up on screen when interacting with Beth, I could see Matt falling for Beth, lovely chemistry. April Pearson who plays Beth was also great.

I haven’t got the best memory in the world so I was never going to recall all the details of the novel to know what had changed or stayed true to the novel so instead I referred back to my review. All of the things I loved about the book which I noted in my review were also featured in the film. It made me laugh, it made me cry, just as the book did, what more can you ask for? I also loved the soundtrack to the film and it felt very contemporary and quirky throughout.

There were recently screenings taking place at Picture House cinemas across the UK. Unlike regular cinema screenings this is an 'on demand' way of getting independently made films out there i.e. they'll only be screened if there's enough interest and pre-bookings. You can now pay to watch the film online (provided it is available in your region), if you missed the showings but like the sound of it.

Thanks to Our Screen for the opportunity to watch the movie in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Katie Jansson Shahin's new book makes sense to us all

Introduction by Tracey Meyers

Recently, I told someone that my favorite part about getting to know people is when I find out about the struggles they've faced.  This may seem odd, but we've all had something happen that had a significant impact on our lives and defined us--for better or worse--as a person.  That, in my opinion, is when you truly get to know someone.  However, many of us don't go around sharing that thing--or things--freely...myself included.

Author Katie Jansson Shahin is not a stranger when it comes to keeping to herself the big things that have happened in her life.  She's also not a stranger to writing.  Born in Sweden, Katie moved to California in 2010 and currently resides in North Bay.  Most of her writing career has been spent working on screenwriting.  When she's not writing, Katie is a Human Resources and Recruiting professional.  Her debut novel, One Day This Will All Make Sense (December 4, 2014; also available on Amazon UK) is heavily inspired by her experiences moving from Sweden to Los Angeles. 

Now, please give a warm Chick Lit Central welcome to Katie Jansson Shahin! 

How Releasing My Debut Novel Helped Me With My Anxiety
By Katie Jansson Shahin

A few years back, I took a short story creative writing class. We were supposed to write a scene from our experience and it had to be true. I wasn’t comfortable with that. So I emailed my professor and asked him, “does it have to be all real? I don’t know if I want to do that. If the other person in the scene sees it, they will know what my opinion of that situation is.”

He responded that I would have a hard time ever becoming a writer if I wasn’t willing to open myself up and sharing my own experiences. But he let me decide for myself what to write.

I couldn’t see why on earth a writer had to be an open book regarding his or her own life in order to ever become a good one. I was even a little offended that he didn’t believe I could be a writer without sharing too much of my own experiences. As if my vivid imagination wasn’t enough. Wasn’t writing fiction all about telling a made up story? At least the word “fiction” implied so.

For years I attempted to write my first novel. Usually I didn’t get further than an rough bullet point outline. I had no idea what I was doing. I could write screenplays and TV scripts with no problem, and I had gotten good at it. But novels were a whole new territory where you didn’t just type what was seen or heard on the screen.

As it turns out, it wasn’t until I went through one of the most difficult times in my life, that I was finally able to start writing a novel. And it wasn’t until I was willing to pour my heart and soul into it, share my inner most secret feelings and thoughts with no censorship, that it got any good.

I am an introvert with social anxiety, which currently seems to have been “cured.” I am also Swedish. (Ever seen Welcome To Sweden? We actually do hide from our neighbors. Embarrassing, I know.) So you can imagine it wasn’t easy sharing. I many times found myself makings changes, trying to downplay certain feelings or reactions. I was terrified of people reading it. But eventually I managed to convince myself that the raw reality was what would make this novel. Without it, it was just another story about a girl trying to make it in Hollywood.

Although not everything in One Day This Will All Make Sense is real, most of it is. There are things in there I never told even my closest friends. They called me after having read half the book, feeling terrible for not knowing all the things that I was now sharing. Some felt they had failed me as a friend by not knowing how bad it was or not being able to help. There were two reasons I didn’t tell them. I wanted my conversations with them to be happy ones, not another chance for me to dwell on my current situation. But mainly, I simply didn’t want them to know. And then I went ahead and put in a novel. Slightly contradictory, isn’t it?

And now One Day This Will All Make Sense is out. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Not only was it cathartic to write it—it’s helped a lot with my social anxiety as well. After having shared what’s in the novel, I feel I have nothing to hide anymore and it doesn’t matter a whole lot what people think or know of me. In comparison to what I share in my novel, few things can be too difficult to tell people or worth keeping secret. If they want to judge me or have an opinion about me, they can. But at least now they have all the information. It is such a freeing feeling.

Synopsis of One Day This Will All Make Sense:

In the three years since Emma, Human Resource professional by trade and writer at heart, moved to Los Angeles from Sweden it has been anything but smooth sailing. When she was offered a new job Emma thought she had finally found the security she’d been looking for since moving to the city of her dreams.
The bliss is short-lived as Emma struggles to adjust in her new role and environment. She fails to learn how to play by the unwritten rules and office politics of corporate America, leaving her defenseless against a new boss who soon makes it clear that he wants her gone. After having put her writing before her HR career for so long, Emma knows it was just a fluke when she was hired and is determined not to let it slip away. But she cracks under the pressure and is ultimately fired. Will she be able to dig herself out again? Or has she peaked at 27? More importantly, will she survive in the city that represents everything she has dreamt of becoming?

Check out an excerpt.

Thanks to Katie for inspiring us to write outside of our comfort zones.

To learn more about Katie and her novel, visit her at her blog and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Things are gonna get ugly

Introduction by Melissa Amster

It's no secret that I LOVE going to the thrift store. I could get "lost" in there for hours. At times, I've come across the most atrocious looking shirts and would stare at them, wondering who in their right mind would be caught in such an embarrassing item. (I'm a snob, what can I say?!? ;) ) Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for me, I've never been invited to an ugly holiday sweater party where I could justify buying such shirts. (Some of them aren't really holiday themed, but I'm sure I could glue fake coins or candles to them for a festive Hanukkah feel. Today, Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker takes us behind the scenes of a such a party and gives us the good, the bad, and the--um--ugly about her experience.

Twice as "nice"

I’m ├╝ber competitive. I might nonchalantly mention rivalry isn’t a big deal. I’ll even laugh it off as unimportant in my crazy world. I’m lying. Don’t buy it for a second. The person I’m most cutthroat with is me. Over the summer I began swimming laps three days a week when our local YWCA indoor pool reopened. Swim teams were my life growing up and I couldn’t wait to dive back in the water. My vocabulary has changed a bit since hitting the lanes. When Mike asks, “How was your swim today, Jenny-fish?” I answer, “I did 50 in 28 minutes and 6-100 sprints.” His eyes glaze over while nodding and smiling yet I know, in his mind, he’s already moved on with his life. You swimmers feel me though, don’t you? I’m always racing against my personal best, and for the love of the gold medal I imagine waiting for me once I break my record.

My quest for the gold found its way into my soul a few weeks ago after receiving an invitation to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. The thrill of having the most gaudy, glittered, unique outfit speaks to me. Last year, Mike and I won at a different gathering, thanks in part to googly eyes and foam stickers. This year, I wanted to turn it up a notch and really bring home the prize.

Tiffany and I as conjoined twins!
The epiphany for my killer outfit struck while hanging with my friend, Tiffany, in her kitchen. She was also going to Jill’s party as well and I asked her if she’d plotted out her ugliness yet. I remember having a moment of brilliance, angels sang and my mission became clear. “We should go as conjoined twins!” I screamed.

Tiffany cocked her head to the side, thought for a moment, and unconvinced replied, “Okay?”

I sensed she needed some prodding. “This will be the blue ribbon winner, I’m telling you! Trust me! We got this, girl,” I assured her.

Tiffany was buying into my madness as I narrated the use of jingle bells on a big shirt, pompoms attached via staples or craft glue, whatever it took. My arms furiously flailed about like I was landing a plane at O’Hare. She was in. I had her at pompoms.

Secret Keeper is my middle name. There was no squealing to a soul about our plan. What if conjoined triplets showed up? That would be anarchy—and cheating—just saying. We were so cloak and dagger, we hid behind my van while our hubbies tied us into our shirt before heading inside. It’s all about making an entrance.

We maneuvered the front steps, turned awkwardly to walk through the front door, and there before us was a plethora of ugly sweaters, holiday getups, and some true works of art. I noticed none of the other contenders for top prize considered using dental floss to stitch jingle bells onto their shirt like we did, and since two party goers work in dentistry, I felt this upped our chances to earn their votes. There was a whole hullabaloo of creative genius going on in that room. I knew the competition would be fierce. I thought we had a fighting chance. That was, until I saw my friend, Staci.

Staci crafted a work of pure brilliance. Her ugly sweater contribution? A mantle complete with all the fixings: stockings hung by the chimney with care, a roaring fire, holiday greetings from loved ones near and far, and a framed photo of Jesus. You bring Him into the equation, and you’re opponents are toast. Isn’t she adorable? She should’ve won simply for the serious biceps and triceps you must acquire to hold your arms outstretched like that to preserve the outfit’s integrity. Staci swept the congressional votes. Her prize was a chocolate Advent calendar which she quickly opened and let those of us she left in her faux snow dust have a nibble. She’s the best.

Staci's mantle sweater that won the coveted prize

Gathering with those I hold near and dear during the busyness of the holiday season always brings a smile to my face. And although Tif and I didn’t bring home the gold, we did represent and bring the ugly to the best of our ability. For now, I’ll take my dark horse-self back to the pool and duke it out with the time keeper on the wall saving all my energy to battle for the win next year. If you have any holiday themed parties you’ve thrown or attended, we’d love to hear all about them! I promise I won’t lift any of your ideas, as far as you know.

Happiest of Holidays to each and every one of you from our family here at CLC!

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: Snow Angels, Secrets, and Christmas Cake

By Sara Steven

The Angel sisters are as different as night and day. Sam is down-to-earth and believes in working hard to achieve her dreams. Tamsin has a maid for that. Sam owns her own bakery and puts in long hours. Tamsin has top-notch chefs on speed-dial. While one wouldn’t be caught dead in anything without a designer label, the other wears overalls and prefers to walk in flip flops, even in the winter. It’s truly bizarre that these two come from the same gene pool, let alone had the same upbringing.

Tamsin didn’t start out pampered and pristine. Both women saw the same dark childhood and dealt with skeletons in their family’s closet, although Tamsin bore the brunt of it. For most of her life, she’s been trying to run away from the past. When her husband suddenly disappears without a trace, leaving her thousands in debt and without a penny to her name, she turns to Sam for help. Sam has her own heartache, having lost her husband too young and raising a son alone. She has a hard time letting go of what was and embracing the future. The Angel sisters hold onto one another for dear life, weathering the storms and finding their way through tragedy, and healing.

I’ve read nearly all of Sue Watson’s books, and Snow Angels, Secrets, and Christmas Cake is by far the most touching and engrossing I’ve had the privilege to review. It wouldn’t be a Watson book without her signature humor, and you get that in spades. New, though, are the deeper elements, the story line that really humanizes the characters. Sam and Tamsin are very flawed and very real, each dealing with their own conflicts and painful pasts, and each showcasing the ability to grow. Towards the end of the book, there is a surprise, and I won’t lie; I got a little teary-eyed, which isn’t like me. I’m not one to get sentimental while reading a book, but I did with this one.

Don’t let the wet eyes fool you, though. There are a lot of funny scenes, especially with Tamsin and a potential love interest. Lots of zany, interesting characters who provide the comic relief, balancing the emotion in this book to perfection. When I said you’d get Watson’s signature humor, I wasn’t kidding. A must-read for the holidays!

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

More by Sue Watson:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Light the Menorah with Meredith an e-book giveaway

It's time to revive Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song, but maybe he could list some famous Jewish authors. Meredith Schorr would be up there along with Jennifer Weiner, Stacey Ballis, and Dana Bate. And she definitely deserves to be, as her novels are fun, entertaining, humorous, sexy, and romantic. The perfect beach read...or something to curl up with in front of a fireplace (or a menorah) on a cold day.

Today, Meredith is here to celebrate the recent release of her fourth novel, How Do You Know? which is first in a new series she is starting up. She's also helping us bring in Hanukkah at CLC, by sharing some special memories. Finally, she has something else to celebrate along with Hanukkah...her upcoming birthday next week! And for a gift, she has one e-book of How Do You Know? for a lucky reader anywhere in the world! I just finished reading it the other night and gave it FIVE stars on Goodreads.

A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hard-working trademark paralegal and her still single (but looking) status. Meredith is also the co-founder of BookBuzz, a live author/reader event held annually. She is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. To learn more fun facts about Meredith, visit her at Whitney Dineen's blog, where she's talking about the things she can't live without.

Visit Meredith at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Nosh on this!

My family is not religious, but being Jewish is a big part of what keeps us close. The holidays are when we come together for family dinners. Although members of the family have come and gone for various reasons (divorce, death, etc.), the holiday menus have not changed all that much throughout the years. We have matzo brie during Passover; brisket and matzo ball soup on Rosh Hashanah; bagels and cream cheese to break the Yom Kippur fast; and latkes—fried potato pancakes—for Hanukkah. Latkes are neither low calorie nor healthy, but they sure are yummy!

When my maternal grandmother (“Nanny Tessie”) was alive, she was the master of the latkes. I remember the smell of the pancakes fresh from the frying pan—piping hot and the perfect combination of soft on the inside and crispy on the outside—wafting into the kitchen, and running circles around Nanny Tessie waiting for samples. Even into her eighties, Nanny Tessie refused to use a food processor to grate the potatoes because she said they didn’t taste as good. Instead, she worked tirelessly all afternoon, grating each potato by hand. As she got older and her arthritis intensified, she called upon her granddaughters—Melissa, Marjorie, and Meredith (me) to help. Even though it was hard work, I loved taking even a small amount of credit for the resulting deliciousness. (And assisting Nanny Tessie meant more samples for me…)

I’m not a good cook. At all. Though I’m a foodie and have a strong palette, I am much better at eating food (and getting it all over my clothes) than preparing it. Each member of my family is expected to supply something edible to our holiday gatherings. Through the years, my contribution has tended to be something store-bought, like a bottle of wine or dessert from a bakery. My family has always accepted this. They never questioned it or expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement and it never bothered me either—that is until I turned forty.

When I reached the big 40, I decided it was time to do some heavy lifting. I wanted to prove to my family and to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to—even cook. I put very little pressure on myself, choosing a single side dish and usually one with a very simple five ingredients or less recipe.

Most recently, I made the stuffing for Thanksgiving—a side dish that my family all but gave up on after Nanny Tessie, the queen of stuffing, passed away. Mine wasn’t nearly as good as Nanny Tessie’s, but it was passable. I’m also the go-to person for charoset on Passover. With Hanukkah approaching, I might tackle latkes. And just like Nanny Tessie, I will grate the potatoes by hand. But not because it will taste better—because I can’t figure out how to use my food processor…

I’m not a good cook and I’m also not good with electronic appliances. :)

Happy Hanukkah!

Did this leave you craving latkes? If so, visit our holiday post from a few years ago, where Melissa A shares a recipe.

Synopsis of How Do You Know?:

What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn't look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary "break" from her live-in boyfriend results in a "break-up," Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn't always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.

Read an excerpt over at Book Mama Blog.

Thanks to Meredith for sharing her memories, as well as her latest book!

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worldwide. Giveaway ends December 21st at midnight EST.