Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: The Longest Date

By Jami Deise

As an avid reader who’s been married for 23 years, I’m dismayed that most women’s fiction centers around single or divorced women and their various relationship struggles. We may not believe in happily ever after any more, but surely there’s something worth reading about after one says “I do,” other than ugly divorce tales. Married women have lives, jobs, usually kids, relationships and adventures that deserve to be heard.

While not a novel, Cindy Chupack’s collection of essays, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife, helps fill that void. Chupack, a writer for HBO’s seminal series Sex and the City, along with other TV comedies, is a former sex columnist for magazines and well-known funny person. Unfortunately, as far as the book is concerned, her reputation led me to expect it to have the same tone and level of humor as my favorite Sex and the City episodes (and there are many). Instead, while some of the essays are mildly amusing, others are heartbreaking and a few are annoyingly smug. The writing is top-notch, but none of the stories would make a good Sex and the City episode.

When Cindy meets Ian, he’s a bad boy who warns her he’s not going to say “I love you” and will probably break her heart. Instead, he proposes to her on a beach, riding up on a white horse fully decked out in armor – literally a knight in shining armor. He takes the California bar so he can move for her career; he’s a fabulous cook who throws dinner parties for their friends who used to star on Friends; he dotes on her when she’s sick in bed; he wants to dance with her in the snow. True, that snow was inside their L.A. beach house and it freaked her out, but still, the message is clear – she got her prince. The biggest complaint Chupack has about her husband is that he’s a little untidy and smokes too much pot. Most of the tales she tells are about herself – she’s a clean freak who watches too much reality TV and sometimes has petty thoughts about making more money than he does. At her most annoying, Chupack includes her wedding vows – all five pages of them.

In the last few essays, Chupack throws out any pretext of humor and writes about her struggles with pregnancy and infertility. These are the most moving sections of the book, and the pages in which she is the most sympathetic. Possibly these events caused Chupack too much pain to write further about them, which is understandable.

With Chupack’s credentials, I was expecting a modern-day Erma Bombeck. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t satisfied by the book, or maybe my naturally cynical nature needs something a little more mean. If you’re looking for a collection of essays about a modern-day happily ever after, this may be the book for you. But if the idea of a guy proposing from on top of a horse makes you throw up a little in your mouth, you might want to skip this one and reread The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Septic Tank. I do plan on checking out Chupack’s earlier, pre-Ian collection of essays, The Between Boyfriends Book, and watching a few Sex and the City episodes. The one where Carries breaks out in hives trying on a wedding dress comes to mind.

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

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jessica Gordon is the smoothest person in the a giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

The first time I ever visited Washington DC was in November, 2008. Immediately, I fell in love with it and less than a year later, moved from Northern New Jersey to Maryland (in a town close to DC). Before I moved, I read Sammy's Hill and Sammy's House, both by Kristin Gore. They gave off a great feel for the District and got me even more excited about moving out that way soon. Almost a year after I moved, I read The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen, which also took place in this area allowing me to fall in love with it all over again. A few years later, I was introduced to Becoming Mrs. Walsh by Jessica Gordon (reviewed here). I was thrilled that it took place in DC and that it showed a different aspect of the District that I didn't have much access to. It was also a great story that I still hope will have a sequel someday. Around that same time, I got to interview Jessica Gordon and enjoyed learning more about her. Today, she's back, thanks to Chick Lit Plus. This time, she's sharing about why she set her debut novel in the District. Additionally, Chick Lit Plus has a $25 SpaFinder gift card for a lucky reader in the US or Canada.

Read an excerpt from Becoming Mrs. Walsh.

Visit Jessica at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Chick lit in the District!

I decided to set Becoming Mrs. Walsh in Washington, DC, also known as the District, for a few reasons. The first reason, admittedly mundane, but nonetheless important, I live here. I think being a district resident is important to having a good understanding of life here. When authors set stories in their hometown I get a sense of excitement trying to piece together the author's life. Often times you will find a book set in Boston (or another city) and see that the author and her husband and three cats live in that same city. It is fun to see authors writing about places they know because it is a level of understanding that isn't the same as researching it. Sure, through meticulous research you can certainly set a place elsewhere but something about living and breathing in the town even if you visited there it helps make the story come alive.

I also like the paradox of DC and chick lit. Often chick lit books are set in New York. However, DC has an underestimated but vibrant fashion, culinary, and social scene. The Walsh family's socialite status gives readers an all access pass into the glamorous lives of DC's elite. Many television shows and books center on the 'political' aspects of the city or one finds suspense-induced spy novels set here but you rarely get good chick lit using DC as a backdrop. And because of this I wanted the book to be in DC. I like that the book spans the city and its suburbs (and some other surprise places) because the way the book is written you get a sense of the relationship of DC and its nearby towns.

Having a novel set in DC allows the reader a look into a city primarily known for one famous address, but to see another side of it, with actual people such as Shoshana with a non-political job, family, and life; it introduces the reader to another side of the city. I like that Shoshana is from Iowa and it is her take on the city. Many residents here are from somewhere else, making DC very unique. And the people here are from all over, not just east coast, in fact most people I know are from somewhere other than the northeast or mid-Atlantic.

DC is also a worldly city with people speaking different languages, beautiful European design throughout the city found in its bridges and older buildings. The city is extremely navigable and has a small town feel though it is such a major epicenter. I enjoy getting the flavor of a place through the everyday resident balancing life, love, work, and family. I hope readers enjoy this too and get to know a little behind the scenes of the district!

Thanks to Jessica for visiting with us again and to Chick Lit Plus for sharing a SpaFinder gift card 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/Canada only. Giveaway ends March 4th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reader Spotlight: About a boy

This year, we're 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!

If you'd like to be spotlighted sometime this year, please contact us.

See our previous Reader Spotlight posts.

Note from Melissa A: I am thrilled to know Kevin, who is a very enthusiastic male chick lit fan. He has his own chick lit blog and has recently been selected as one of the hosts for International Chick Lit Month this year! I know he'll have a lot of fun with ICLM and am excited to work with him on it this year.

Name: Kevin Loh
Age: 20
Location: Malaysia

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
I came across Chick Lit Central a while ago. I think it was back in 2011, during the International Chick Lit Month in May.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
Gosh. This is a really difficult question. I have read innumerable good, scratch that, fantastic books! But if I had to narrow it down and pick five books, then it'd go with:
The Secret Dreamworld of A Shopaholic (published as Confessions of A Shopaholic in the US) by Sophie Kinsella, I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk, Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris and Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood.

What do you do when you're not reading?
When I'm not reading? Oh my. I don't think I'd do anything else! Well, I'm a full-time student, so I guess I should be focusing on my studies (and sneak in a few chapters between breaks..).
I run my own chick lit blog called I Heart.. Chick Lit, which keeps me occupied. I write reviews and all that lark. Ooh, how can I forget? I play tennis too! And binge on chocolate.

Visit Kevin on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Book Review: Saturday Night Widows

By Denise D. Keliuotis

When Becky Aikman was still in her forties, her husband, Bernie, died. A year later, Aikman mustered the strength to attend a widows’ support group. She hoped to find a new start, some camaraderie. She hoped to find hope. Instead, Aikman found almost a dozen older women absolutely stuck in the “anger” stage of grief, women who’d given up on anything remotely resembling hope, women who set their sad, bitter sights on the much younger Aikman, driving her out of the group after one single uncomfortable session.

But Aikman refused to be deterred. She simply would not buy into the shaky paradigm that widowhood just means another kind of death, one reserved for the living. Aikman decided to form her own group, one for widow’s like her, women wanting to live their altered life, whatever form that life might take. A few years later, Aikman’s dream became reality. It became the Saturday Night Widows.

The Saturday Night Widows are six New York-area women brought together by Aikman as she explores the grief of losing her husband after twenty years of marriage. The Widows range in age from thirty-nine to fifty-seven, and they range in lifestyle from stay-at-home mom to polished professional. All begin as strangers but, with Aikman’s help, they come together as friends.

It’s no surprise the women in Aikman’s circle possess varied personalities, a fact true with any group, of course, and one that makes Saturday Night Widows such a rich read. We meet Leslie, the sweet and saucy South African middle-aged mother of two who’s ready to ask her new boyfriend to move in. Then there’s the quiet book editor, Denise, the youngest in the group and the most recently widowed. There’s also Dawn, the petite blond spitfire who’s begun dipping her toe back into the dating pool; and Marcia, the tough corporate attorney who only gradually lets down her guard. We meet Tara, the sophisticated, smoky-voiced mother and philanthropist whose marriage was troubled long before her husband died. And, finally, there’s Aikman herself, the woman who lost her husband of two decades but who gained the impetus to draw her own circle of friends.

Saturday Night Widows follows the women for a year, along a journey that includes hope and heartbreak and humor. The women meet monthly, and each time they participate in an activity. Together, they take a cooking class, visit a spa, and shop for lingerie. Somewhat predictably, they end the year with a big trip to an exotic place, a trip seemingly more suited for Aikman, who chose the locale in part to push the other women beyond their cushy comfort zones. But the predictability of the trip takes little away from the true beauty of this book: Aikman’s careful weaving of five individual stories into one gorgeous tale of friendship, support, and love.

Aikman does an amazing job of capturing the women on the page. Yet, in the end, the woman I felt I knew the least was Aikman herself. Ironically, Aikman organized the group to create a setting where she felt she could fit in, but she often seems – and seems to feel – like a bit of an outsider. With the exception of the times she is telling her own story, Aikman comes across more as an observer, a reporter, than as a participant. It’s hard to tell whether that role was by choice or default, as Aikman touts a long career as a journalist, and she often seems most comfortable in that role. But this distance is a plus; other than the final trip, Aikman never attempts to manipulate any outcome, providing an unbiased glimpse into the women’s hearts.

My favorite chapter comes toward the end, when the now tight-knit group meets up with a handful of male counterparts. The men don’t mind the “widower” label; to the contrary, they find it a “positive” – at least so far as meeting single women. While the men boast of “sympathy sex,” the widows roil and reel and recoil. They literally hiss. The party starts to divide into widows vs. widowers, but only briefly, because when the men finally open up, it becomes clear that widowerhood comes with its own costs. The men gradually reveal their envy of the emotional closeness the women have created in a few short months, something the men find more difficult as a result of their gender. “It strikes me,” one says, “that you women are lucky to have each other.”

Though the underlying subject matter is heavy, Saturday Night Widows didn’t weigh me down. Aikman sets out to tell a story of hope, not hurt, and she succeeds. Her narrative flows smoothly and her writing style is both straightforward and sweet. You certainly don’t need to be a widow to enjoy or relate to this book. It’s enough if you’ve ever loved and lost – or even if you’ve ever just loved. And it’s enough if you’ve ever had the luck of being a piece of a group, part of a relationship bigger than yourself. If you haven’t, you will close this book wishing with all of your heart that, someday, you will be as lucky as the Saturday Night Widows.

Denise De Fabio Keliuotis is a Chicago native who lives in the ‘burbs with her husband and three daughters (one of whom is off at college – gasp!) She’s a licensed attorney but is not currently practicing, instead spending her time writing a memoir, volunteering at a hospice, and wondering just how many more cats she can rescue before she qualifies as the “crazy cat lady.” You can find her at her blog.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Listen up!

Want to have your favorite chick lit novel read to you while you're on the go?

Look no further than! They have more than 40,000 incredible audiobooks
that will take you anywhere you want to go.

Listen to an example of a current chick lit novel: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

“Chic” List: Top 10 chick lit and women's fiction audio books:

Can You Keep a Secret? By Sophie Kinsella
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
One Day by David Nicholls
Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner Wants to give you a FREE Audio Book (or credit  toward one)! 

How to Win:
Add @Audiobooks_com on Twitter and Tweet them your favorite book of the month. Include #bookreport #givememybook @Audiobooks_com and be sure to mention where you read your Book Report.

Don’t have Twitter? Like their Page on Facebook and include them in your page post! Be sure to include #bookreport #givememybook @Audiobooks_com don’t forget to mention where you read your Book Report.

**This is NOT a giveaway through Chick Lit Central so please participate only by following the above instructions. Thanks!**

Double Feature Book Review: About Time

By Melissa Amster

One story is about sharing one month with someone special. The other is about going back to a simpler time in life. Of course, both would make for great chick flicks, if only I could figure out how to cast them!

Both synopses are courtesy of Goodreads.

February or Forever by Juliet Madison

Yoga teacher and single mother, Chrissie Burns has a plan: move into the rundown beach house left to her by her deceased aunt, renovate it, sell it, and move on. The scene of a terrible accident years ago, the house needs to get out of Chrissie's hands as soon as possible.

But Tarrin's Bay, where the house stands, has more to offer than bad memories. The town is lovely, the people friendly, and even Chrissie's young son finds friends and begins coming out of his shell. Employed at Serendipity Retreat as a yoga instructor, Chrissie is shocked to be given the role of private teacher to Drew Williams, Australia’s top singer/songwriter for the month.

Relationships between instructors and clients are strictly forbidden, but Drew draws happiness out of Chrissie with his down-to-earth nature and sense of humour. Days of stretching and bending may bring Chrissie unexpected peace and strength, but she knows that this interlude must end, and there's no pose or position to aid her when Drew walks away and leaves her broken-hearted.

I already know that Juliet Madison is an excellent writer, so this was just the icing on a delicious cake. Juliet takes us back into the setting of The January Wish and since it is still summer down under, she's able to work that into her romantic story. Overall, it was very sweet with sympathetic characters, good build-up to dramatic moments, and descriptions that make you feel like you're right there with the characters. It's a very easy read to cozy up to during this everlasting winter (or autumn, since that's starting in Australia soon). Her style for the Tarrin's Bay series reminds me of Katherine Stone, who is my favorite romance novelist. I hope she keeps going with more months, as I'd like to see what she does with July. I had some casting ideas in mind that I shared with Juliet (and she gave me some ideas too), but I'm still mulling it over. If Hollywood wanted to make the characters 10 years younger, Teresa Palmer could play Chrissie and Dean Geyer would be Drew.

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

A Mother Dimension by Mink Elliott

Kate O’Reilly, mother of three on the cusp of her 45th birthday, has got a thing about the past. Her husband, Seamus and long-standing best friend, Georgia, both call her chronic nostalgia an obsession – but Kate sees it as her safety harness, her private Prozac, her coping mechanism of choice. Because when being a wife and mother is weighing her down, making her feel trapped and overwhelming her, all Kate needs to do is take a quick trip down memory lane - to where the music was better, her social circle was wider, her self-esteem higher, her hair thicker and her waist much, much thinner - and voila! All is right with her world again.
But when a freak electrical storm propels her back in time to 1996 for real, Kate can’t believe what’s happening. Soon, however, she’s elated, because this is the moment she’s been waiting for all these years – her chance to re-live those good old days and actually do all those things she’s been fantasising about. 

Armed with little more than the optimism of youth, the benefit of hindsight, a taut-again tummy and just the one chin, Kate sets out to discover what might have happened if she’d only done things a little bit differently. And why some things really are best left in the past...

I love time travel books and reading about a mother of young children who gets to go back to the 90s is an added bonus. The build-up to the time travel part was good and I liked how the concept was worked in throughout the story. I found it interesting that she chose 1996, in particular. I was in college that year, so I couldn't really relate to the adult world as much during that time. Still, it was fun to read about a simpler time before iPhones and Facebook came about. The level of suspense is great and there were a lot of twists throughout the story. The only thing that didn't work for me was the British slang and references, which had me confused most of the time and made the story a bit hard to follow. I also would have liked some background as to what happened after a certain spot to get from point A to point B. Overall, it was a fun escapist read, full of pop culture and humor.

Thanks to Mink Elliott for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Juliet Madison and Mink Elliott:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Catching a chick flick with Victoria Van a giveaway

Chick flicks and chick lit go hand-in-hand. So many movies have been made from chick lit novels such as Bridget Jones's Diary, The Devil Wears Prada, Something Borrowed, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and In Her Shoes. We know more will be made in the future and I love casting each book I read, in hopes that Hollywood will be paying attention. A while back, Melissa P. and I talked about some of our favorite chick flicks, as well as which chick lit novels should be considered for the big screen.

So when Victoria Van Tiem came to us about her debut novel, Love Like the Movies, which features situations from various chick flicks, we were instantly sold!

In this irresistible romantic romp, movie fanatic Kensington Shaw is thrown into love—Hollywood-style—when her gorgeous ex presents a series of big screen challenges to win back her heart.

What girl wouldn’t want to experience the Pretty Woman shopping scene? It’s number two on the list. Or, try the lift from Dirty Dancing? It’s number five. One list, ten romantic movie moments, and a handful of shenanigans later, Kenzi has to wonder . . . should she marry the man her family loves, or risk everything for a love like the movies? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Victoria Van Tiem is an American author, as well as an artist, black belt, mom of two, wife of one, and resident caretaker of her family zoo—including their beloved, pot-bellied pig, Pobby. You can find her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

We're thrilled to have Victoria here on her pub day to talk about--what else--chick flicks! She even has an e-book of Love Like the Movies for a lucky US reader.

If Love Like the Movies was made into a movie itself, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Great question! When writing this, my muse for Shane was a combination of a younger Hugh Dancy and James Marsden. They both have that wonderful disheveled hair, just blend James’s feral smile with Hugh’s speech mannerisms and you have my Shane. Bradley was always a blond and broad Paul Walker, Tonya has to be a young Judy Greer type, and Kensington? I never really had a muse because she’s you, the reader, and hopefully the story is experienced as if you’re in her head. But right, casting for a movie… I do love Emma Stone. Think she’d do it?

Do you feel like the style of chick flicks has changed from the 80s to the 90s to now?
In general, they have. In the 80s we had Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, and Dirty Dancing. They were focused more on teens and young adults. The 90s gave us Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. The stories grew up with older leads and adult situations such as divorce and single parenthood. Now? It’s a wide gamut. Love Actually crosses many generations. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Rom-Com formula. It works. To quote LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES, “It’s the magic of boy meets girl, the angst of catch and release, the serendipity of meant-to-be. It doesn’t matter if a romantic comedy follows a predictable course, we respond because it’s rooted in truth.” And the truth is, well, regardless of the age of our hero and heroine, love is funny.

What is the most chick flick-like romantic thing your husband has done for you?
Oh my gosh, you’re gonna get me in trouble! When we were dating, he invited me in after dinner, and inside, taking up an entire wall in his apartment, was my digital painting. He had printed it out and tiled it together. Now, this was before people had home computers and printers, so I thought it was really cool. Plus, it showed he got me, and this actually inspired a scene in LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES between Shane and Kensington.

What chick flick is most like your life?
Wow, yeah, my life tends to fall somewhere between Bridget Jones's Diary and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

What is your favorite soundtrack from a chick flick?
Sleepless in Seattle would be solid first with Jimmy Durante’s "As Time Goes By," Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Harry Connick, Jr with "A Wink and a Smile." This soundtrack helped carry the entire movie. Loved it.

What chick lit novel would make a great chick flick?
Can I say LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES? Yeah, I have to say LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES. And I’d be a complete loopy mess on set, just like Honey in Notting Hill when she meets Anna Scott, Julia Roberts’ character. When Honey meets her, she says, "Oh God, this is one of those key moments in life, when it’s possible you can be really, genuinely cool, and I’m failing 100%." That’d be me, and, just like Honey, I’d probably follow everyone into the loo.

Special thanks to Victoria for visiting with us today and for sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

E-book giveaway is US only and ends March 2nd at midnight EST.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What's in the a giveaway

**Giveaway is now closed**

Melissa A:

Desperately Ever After by/from Laura Kenyon

The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller from Penguin/NAL

A Questionable Friendship by/from Samantha March (e-book)

Brooklyn Girls: Angie by Gemma Burgess from Quercus


Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller from New Harvest (Amazon)


Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan from Sphere

Mother of the Year Karen Ross from Ebury Publishing

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon from Hodder and Stoughton

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber from Random House UK

The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne from Quercus

The Sweetness of Liberty James by Janey Lewis from Book Guild Publishing

What could be in YOUR mail:

Thanks to Penguin, one lucky US reader has a chance to win The Last Letter from Your Lover AND Me Before You both by Jojo Moyes.

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

(Both summaries are courtesy of Goodreads.)

How to win:
Since we're getting closer to March and we're SO over winter already, tell us something you enjoy doing in springtime.

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 February 26th at midnight EST.

Book review: Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy

By Becky Gulc

Lucy-Anne Holmes has written one of my favourite novels from the past couple of years, Unlike a Virgin, so I was so happy to receive her latest novel, Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy, for review. Here is the synopsis:

''My love story may not be the sort you read about in books or see in films . . . Love stories have glorious highs and ghastly lows. But when it comes to my own life, I'd have to say, you can keep your fabulous highs and I'll happily steer clear of the terrible lows.'

After a rocky start in life, Jenny Taylor, 27, star receptionist at the local doctors surgery, has things all worked out thanks to a list of ten daily things she must do to keep the blues at bay. But her life is turned upside down when she meets aspiring musician Joe King. And reliable boyfriend Matt proposes. And then her mum leaves her dad and moves into Jenny's flat determined to 'bond'.

Hilarious, honest and heartbreaking,
Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy is an edgy modern love story that will make you look at your own love story in a whole new way." (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK)

Just like in Unlike a Virgin, this novel has a fantastic central character to whom I warmed immediately. Jenny (known as Fanny) is sweet, funny, a good friend, and someone who has been through difficult times. When we meet her, she feels real and someone to whom you can easily relate. I was only a few pages in when I knew it would be one of those books I would be excited about picking up each day.

Although engaged, Jenny's love life is far from straightforward in this novel and there are various twists and turns relating to this that I felt weren't predictable and in that sense were a welcome change to a usual "will they, won't they?" saga. The dilemma of wanting security or holding out, and even whether to believe in spine tingling love (or bit twitcher!) are written so well I felt every emotion with Fanny; when she falls in love you feel like you are falling in love too.

Fanny has some great relationships which are a real strength of the novel. Everyone would benefit from a best friend like Philippa, who helped Fanny through a low period and suggested a daily list of things she should do to try and keep depression at bay, which lends itself to some very sweet and comical moments in the novel. The core group of friends, which includes housemate Al, also go on 'musketeers missions' together whenever any of them face a problem..again there are some very funny moments and I felt like I was part of these missions when reading about them.

Fanny has a difficult relationship with her parents and when her mum comes to stay with her it's not always straightforward, but I loved 'watching' this relationship develop and there were some very emotional moments involved. There's also a bit of a mystery in figuring out exactly how her mum knows the delectable Joe King.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to smile, possibly shed a tear and feel like you're on a pleasant emotional rollercoaster ride.

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

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Partying with Rachel Hollis!

Are you ready to party?!? If so, you might want someone like Rachel Hollis to plan your next big shindig!

Rachel Hollis is the founder of Los Angeles-based event planning firm, Chic Events. In 2009, she was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30.” She has designed and produced fabulous parties for many of Hollywood’s elite, including Bradley Cooper, Al Gore, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ivanka Trump, Jaime King, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (just to name a few). Most recently, she planned the nuptials of actress Sara Rue’s wedding, which garnered national coverage in magazines such as People and US Weekly.

With all this party planning experience under her belt, Rachel decided to channel it into a chick lit novel! Party Girl made its grand debut last week and has already received a bunch of great reviews on Amazon. It's like The Devil Wears Prada for the party planning industry.

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

What insight do you hope readers will gain from Party Girl
Oooh, I love this question! First and foremost I hope that readers enjoy the book. I hope they laugh and have fun because that’s ultimately what books are for me, a little escape. Beyond the entertainment value, I hope they’re inspired. Landon isn’t a real person but her experience is completely based on my own life. I grew up on a street called Weedpatch Hwy (no joke!) and I found myself thrust into this glitzy glamorous world of celeb parties. 10 years later I’ve created the life of my dreams... Anything is possible if you work hard enough!

What was the biggest challenge with writing a novel? Biggest reward? 
Finding the time! I have three boys (ages 7, 5 and 18 months) and a company to run, so finishing this meant getting up at 5:30 every morning so I could write before they woke up. Biggest reward? The pride in having finished it! I think every would-be author starts and stops a thousand times but to actually finish the manuscript is incredible. I have a bracelet on my wrist that I never take off, it has “81,311” engraved on it which was the word count of the first draft of this book. Even if no one buys it but my mom, no one can ever take away the fact that I wrote that many words down in coherent sentences!

If Party Girl were made into a movie, which celebrities would you cast in the lead roles? 
This is SO tough because I can’t figure out who would play Landon! I take the southern aspect really seriously so I’d want someone who could get that... I haven’t figured out an actress yet that makes sense. Best guess, I thought Teresa Palmer was really cute in Warm Bodies. Brody is based on a model named Devin Paisley (yum city!) and Taylor was based on Dave Franco (equally yum city!). Selah Smith was based on Rose Byrne who would be SO good as the evil boss. As for everyone else, I’m not sure.

What chick lit novel that you've read recently would you consider to be "chic?" 
Wow, tough question, too many to choose from! I haven’t read it recently, but I absolutely LOVED Unsticky by Sarra Manning. It’s hilarious and such an unexpected wonderful love story. I adore that book!

What was the most unique party you've ever had to plan? 
A Bar Mitzvah that cost more than the annual budget of a small island nation! It was at an airport... Helicopters were involved. Gloriously over the top!

What is your must-have for each of the following: party food item, party music, and party decoration? 
I like to say that the things that made a party great 100 years ago are the thing that make a party great today. Delicious food, excellent cocktails, and great music... Spend your money on those three things and a clean house is the only d├ęcor you need ;)

Thanks to Rachel for visiting us today! Party Girl is now available for purchase!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: It's just a little crush!

Me at 14...note the banana clip
Introduction by Melissa Amster

When I was 14, I went to a Jewish overnight camp. My first week there, I met one of the counselors from the boys' cabins. His name was Neville and he was tall, dark and handsome. To top it off, he was from South Africa and had a gorgeous accent. It was an instant crush for me. There was a time when we were all in the canteen and "Nothing Compares to You" by Sinead O'Connor was playing. I immediately made that "our song" (not that I'd tell him that). Our other song was "The Rose," which I taught him the words and melody to. He would sing that song whenever he saw me. I made the mistake of telling my mom about him in a letter. Of course, she couldn't read my handwriting and asked her friend if her daughter knew anyone named Neil at camp. Then her friend's daughter (who I was friends with) asked me who Neil was. Embarrassing!!! My crush dissipated when I found out that he left behind the beaded necklace I gave him. He also never replied to the letter I sent him. Oh, and when I met Scott when we were both in the same high school play....

Our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, decided to explore first crushes, since we're on a Valentine's Day buzz. (Of course, that could be from the excess amounts of chocolate and candy hearts!)

Jen Tucker at 17
Shaun Cassidy’s face, and feathered hair, was plastered front and center on a shirt I begged my mom to buy me while back-to-school shopping in the mid 1970’s. "Mr. Da Doo Run Run" was the first heartthrob’s image I recall proudly wearing on my apparel. My best friend, Nancy, begs to differ. She swears on a Pet Rock that Count Chocula was the first man I was in love with immortalized on my clothing. Later, my affections fell upon Shaun’s mystery solving partner, Parker Stevenson, his dreamy The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries costar. That’s the thing about puppy love. You fall fast and hard and then when the newness wears away, you trade that clunker in for a newer model, right?

Curious about other women’s memories of first loves, crushes, and cupid’s arrow striking, I sent out an APB looking for tales to share with you. Authors, bloggers, readers, and even a few friends of mine have chimed in to share their thoughts on first loves. Enjoy!

Nicky Wells: There was this boy called Alex. He went to my secondary school (aka High School) and he was four years older than me. He had this delightful 'Human League' style floppy hairdo, brown hair teamed with blue eyes, and he sang in a band. Being the nerdy girl in class (glasses, braces, and straight A's all the way through), I was also a bit of a laughing stock for having a crush on the coolest guy in school.

However, my Cinderella moment wasn't too far round the corner. I started taking ballroom dancing classes, and danced on all the way until the final ball. I turned up at the ball, in a proper dress with black patent heels, and I danced, and I had fun. I sat at a table on my own, just for a moment, to rest my feet and have a drink. And Alex sat down beside me. Oh no, hang on, not Alex--but as close a lookalike as you can imagine.

'Hi,' he said, almost by the way. 'I'm Danny.'
Danny. Instant swoon. He was like straight out of a movie.
'I'm Nicky,' I managed to reply just.
'Wanna dance?'
Did I want to dance?

We danced all night. We exchanged telephone numbers.

Danny and I went out for four whole weeks. But then...(Dang-Dang-Daaaaaang!) Danny just disappeared from my life. Just like that. One day we were dating, the next day he didn't call. End of story. I cried the proverbial rivers. Eventually, I moved on. The memory of those four weeks of dating Danny... well, it still makes me smile.

Lucie Simone: My first crush is, well, a little embarrassing. I was eight and had somehow gotten my hands on Barry Manilow's hit album, Tryin' to Get the Feeling, which I played on my hand-me-down record player over and over for weeks. I'd hole up in my bedroom, strap on the industrial-sized headphones that were way too big for my child-sized noggin, and belt out the lyrics to "I Write the Songs" until my voice was hoarse. I never paid much attention to Mr. Manilow's actual appearance. I was seduced by his voice. And, you know, it was the seventies. An era when sex symbols were all shag-haired and skinny with bad teeth. So, as far as looks went, he wasn't all that bad in comparison! But it wasn't long before my fickle heart moved on to Leif Garrett and then Shaun Cassidy. But Barry, he will always be my first love. Still today, if "Copacabana" happens to be playing within earshot, I can't help but sing along, tap my toes, and wiggle my hips in time with that peppy disco beat. Ah, if only all my loves could be remembered so fondly.

Theresa Crowell: Oh, my first crush! His name was Ryan and he was my dad’s best-friend’s oldest son. I have known him my entire life. He really is the first boy that I remember being a part of my life that wasn't family. He was kind, sweet, and very smart. I am not really even sure when I first started to notice him as something other than as one of my buddies. But, one day, I looked at him and saw this really cute, tall, blonde boy. It took me a while to figure out that to him, I was just a little “sister” type girl. He was always very sweet though, and never made me feel stupid for my bumbling attempts at flirtation. We remained only friends as we got older and are still friends to this day. The day of my wedding, we all had a big laugh when I introduced my very first crush to my very last crush!

Meredith Schorr: My first crush was in the first grade. His name was Eric Grand. I formed a group called the "kissing girls" and we chased the boys around the school yard at recess trying to kiss them. Unfortunately, while I was the second fastest female runner in my class, Eric was the fastest boy and I never caught him. Even sadder, I'm not nearly as aggressive with men today as I was in the first grade.

Michelle Radtke: David J. (because, as we know EVERYONE in preschool goes by their first name and last initial) was the man for me. One day after lunch we were heading to the red reading carpet when my teacher reminded me that I forgot to push in my chair. I ran back to take care of it, hit a puddle of milk that someone had spilt, and bashed my head on the corner of the table. Five stitches later…

Our class was scheduled to take a field trip the next day, and my mom kept me home. Suddenly our doorbell rang, and it was David J. standing on the step with a flower for me. Our entire class was lined up behind him, and there was a big school bus blocking the street, but all I saw was his dark brown eyes and wavy brown hair (I think may have also heard harps). I don’t even know that I ever paid any attention to him before, but I was definitely swooning that day. His mom told my mom that the side trip to my house was all his idea. Our “romance” continued for the rest of the year. Every day after lunch he would push my chair in for me so that I wouldn’t get hurt again. I still have the scar above my right eyebrow and a little bracelet he made and put in my cubby to welcome me back to school the following week.

Samantha Stroh Bailey: I will always remember my first crush, Scotty, of the red hair, freckles and adorable smile. I fell in love with him in kindergarten and dreamed he would be my boyfriend until I was in the sixth grade. If only he weren't in love with Laura Kay. I was convinced he only loved her because she had the very same crimson hair and copious freckles, and I would have taken a Sharpie to my face to create those delectable dots. Alas, I didn't, and I finally had to give up on Scotty. But I never forgot him.

Eileen Goudge: I met Tim my freshman year in high school, at an outdoor dance at Lake Pinecrest where my family camped every summer. I thought he was pretty cute, loved the "Beach Boys" shirt he wore and that he rode a motorcycle. What other criteria does a 14-year-old girl need? I knew nothing about boys. I'd never been kissed. My dad wasn't too keen on the motorcycle, so we arranged to go on a double date with a friend of his who had a car and my friend Mary. I don't remember much about the date, but I DO remember my first kiss, with Tim in the backseat of his friend's bitchin' wheels. It was WET! All I knew about kissing was from watching movies - especially old movies where there was absolutely no tongue was involved. I was so unbelievably grossed out I instantly decided it was OVER with Tim and me (it took a while for him to catch on because I was so lame at breaking up). Years later when Mary came out as a lesbian, I wondered if she'd had a similar experience in the front seat with Tim's friend. Lucky for me and the guys I subsequently hooked up, I eventually learned that French kissing could be fun and lead to other fun things.

Julie Valerie: When I was in kindergarten, I made a new friend (a boy) and was so fond of him I asked him to come home with me after school to play. I'm pretty sure his name was Terry and as it turns out, Terry was fond of me, too. We walked from school to my house, taking our time, being kids, you know . . . we threw rocks, pretended sticks were swords, avoided stepping on cracks in the sidewalks so we wouldn't break our mothers' backs, that sort of thing.

Turns out, you don't need cracks in a sidewalk to upset a mom because when we arrived at my house, my mother was quite upset.

She didn't know I'd be walking home without an adult, let alone bringing a (boy) friend home with me. In fact, no one knew of our arrangements except us. We simply walked off school campus then headed to my house about a mile away. Turns out, Terry's mom was quite alarmed when he didn't get off the bus at his house that afternoon. So Terry's mom called the school. And the school called the police . . .

Thank goodness my mother had the good sense to also make a phone call. She called the school, but by then, it was too late; Terry and I were in BIG trouble. His mother arrived at my house moments later in a cop car and ran up the steps of our porch, crying hysterically. She grabbed Terry in her arms and started kissing and hugging him.

Like most young lovers, we had no idea the implications of our actions. We simply acted on our affections, never thinking there'd be consequences.

After all that hula-ba-loo, I stopped bringing boys home with me and instead concentrated on learning how to read. Phonetically speaking, Cupid should be spelled: Q-pid. Rhymes with: Stu-pid.

Karen Chilton Forber: It was a carefully-folded piece of notebook paper with selected lyrics from The Cure’s song, “Just Like Heaven” copied neatly at the top of the page, and a few lines about the beauty of my smile beneath. Given the date scrawled on the back, I had to both laugh and question the author’s sincerity: at that point in time, I was fourteen years old, and my smile was obscured by a small fortune’s worth of orthodontia. I’d come across it in the course of fall cleaning (which should give you some idea of how far behind I am on certain chores; most of the memorabilia in this box dated from 1989), and the funny thing was how fully and instantly it took me back to moments I’d otherwise forgotten.

PJ Schott: At some point in time I decided I would be my own Valentine. I mean, really. Who's my best friend? Who do I love the most? And who more fun to be with than ME?!!

Hope you had a great Valentine's Day! May all the chocolate you consumed (or continue to consume) be calorie free and fabulous!

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: The Dr. Pepper Prophecies

By Jami Deise

Jane Austen has been called by some (including me) the mother of chick lit, and Bridget Jones’s Diary is supposedly based on Pride and Prejudice. I say supposedly because I never saw the comparison. Bridget is nothing like the cool-headed Elizabeth Bennett and there’s no P&P equivalent of the Daniel character. Bridget may have been wrong about Mark Darcy being a snob, but in my book, that’s not enough for the comparison to hold weight.

If you like the idea of modern-day Jane Austen updates, however, you should enjoy Jennifer Gilby Roberts’ novel The Dr. Pepper Prophecies. Whether she’s intended to or not, Roberts has done an admirable job of updating Austen’s classic Emma for today’s chick lit sensibilities. (Important disclaimer: Everything I know about Emma, I learned from watching Clueless.)

Melanie Parker has just about the worst life imaginable. Her job is a mindless bore. Her ex-boyfriend is her new boss, and micromanages her down to the paper clips. Her parents constantly compare her to her sister, a stay-at-home mother and wife to a doctor. The only good thing in her life is Will, who’s been her best friend since she was in nappies. In light of all this misery, Melanie decides to bring light to others, by setting up her friends on blind dates and otherwise interfering in their lives. As the Dr. Pepper commercials ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s a question she soon learns not to ask. The answer is never good.

The book starts out with one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say I learned something about female anatomy and what can and cannot be seen from the mirror in an airplane bathroom. The scene sets a high bar for the rest of the book, and it most cases, it delivers. The passive-aggressive relationship between Melanie and her new boss/ex-boyfriend Martin, for instance, is hysterical, and I laughed through all their scenes together.

When an author references the movie When Harry Met Sally in the novel’s first sentence, it’s pretty obvious that the spine of the book will be whether two opposite sex friends end up together. While Melanie and Will don’t have the verbal chemistry that made Harry and Sally such a hit, they do have a Greek chorus of family and friends (excluding Will’s posh girlfriend Natalie) who think they should get together. As such, the book’s plot points are rather predictable – but this does not make the story less enjoyable.

My only complaint is that the book feels overly long. Melanie isn’t a rocket scientist; she’s a bit of a klutz who doesn’t learn from her mistakes. I felt a little exasperated with her by the end, which probably would not have happened had there been fewer pages and hence fewer mistakes.

On the whole, though, the book is a lot like the beverage for which it’s named – sweet, fizzy and fun. Just don’t drink Dr. Pepper while you’re reading it, because you might end up with soda coming out of your nose.

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

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guest Book Review and Giveaway: The Curl Up & Dye

By Connie Fischer

**Giveaway is now closed**

LilyAnn Bronte is a sweet, young woman who goes through life on autopilot. She has spent all of her life in the small town of Blessings, Georgia, where everyone knows everyone else. When she was in high school, she was the most intelligent, lovely, and popular girl and with her equally popular, steady boyfriend, Randy, her future looked bright. However, after the horrific events on September 11, 2001, Randy was one of the first to sign up to go to Afghanistan. Sadly, a month later he returned - in a casket. For years, LilyAnn mourned him, wearing black and making daily treks to his grave.

 Today, she works as a clerk in the local pharmacy and lives alone in the house she grew up in. Her Mama and step-father have moved to another city. Her routine is always the same with the one bright spot of the week being getting her hair done on Fridays at The Curl Up & Dye Salon. The gals who work there are great friends and a lot of fun. They always seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the gossip in town as well.

Next door to LilyAnn lives Mike Dalton. He and LilyAnn has been friends since childhood. His parents have also moved away leaving him to live alone in his home. Mike has always loved LilyAnn but she only looks upon him as a friend. It saddens him to see that she has gained weight and doesn't seem to care much about her appearance.

Enter bad guy, T.J. Lachlan. New to town, he is a cocky, self-assured jerk who thinks he can woo all of the women around and take advantage of them. Surprised and pleased that she can still attract men, LilyAnn decides it's time she looks into getting a makeover to bring her out of her funk and to improve her own self esteem. When T.J. tries to "hit" on LilyAnn and she ignores him, he is furious and out for revenge. What happens next is shocking.

There are lots of great characters in this book with all kinds of local gossip. I laughed and I had tears in my eyes as I read this book and could not put it down until I had finished it in one day. Don't think that this book is a just another gentle, small town story. There are some events that will show you otherwise. I'm betting readers will be telling their friends that The Curl Up & Dye is one they really need to read….just like I'm telling you.

Connie Fischer is a retired office manager from NASA. Loved books from the time she could read. Spent childhood summers in her front yard tree reading Nancy Drew books and biographies. Loves historical and contemporary romance novels, chick lit and anything British. Is a reviewer for the blog, bookworm2bookworm. Her goal for 2013 on Goodreads is to read and review 100 books and she's way ahead of schedule. Lived in Paris, France for a number of years. Living now in southwest Florida. is good!

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

How to win:
Please tell us about the bright spot in your week or something you look forward to doing each week.

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/Canada only. Giveaway ends February 24th at midnight EST.

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