Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Goodnight June

By Melissa Amster

It takes a lot for me to cry from a book. I didn't cry from The Fault in Our Stars and thought something was wrong with me. However, Sarah Jio manages to have this powerful effect on me. The first time was with Blackberry Winter and now with her latest novel, Goodnight June.

June Andersen works for a bank in New York, repossessing properties that have defaulted on their loans, no matter how personal these places were to the owners. After experiencing a health scare, she receives a letter saying that her great-aunt Ruby has passed away and that she now is the owner of her beloved children's book store, Bluebird Books, in Seattle. June has to drop everything to fly cross-country and settle Ruby's estate. While trying to figure out what to do with the store, June comes across a series of letters between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon. Each letter reveals some secrets, leading up to something powerful that could change June's life and affect the future of the store. And soon she finds herself in the shoes of those whose dreams she used to crush.

Where do I begin? I loved everything about this novel! It's the first of Sarah's stories that doesn't involve a murder mystery, which is a refreshing change. Sure, there are mysterious elements, but nothing to be nervous about! Also, in previous novels, the story lines are entirely fictional. This time, she incorporates some history by making Margaret Wise Brown into one of her characters and sharing pieces of her life through her letters. The letters between Margaret and Ruby were so comforting to read and the tone and feel of them reminded me of e-mail exchanges with an author friend of mine. Even when I thought I might know what would happen next in the story, Sarah manages to throw in some curve balls and surprises.

My only complaint is that the story wrapped up too perfectly, although I was glad for the escape. Getting to that point was a rush of emotions that I was glad to experience because it reminded me that there's nothing wrong with a good cry over a beautifully told story. Goodnight June is now my number one favorite of Sarah's books and is a possible contender for my 2014 favorites list.

I didn't have a lot of casting ideas for this book, but I was able to see Kate and Rooney Mara as June and her sister Amy, respectively.

P.S. My mom didn't cry for The Fault in Our Stars, but she also sobbed from Goodnight June.

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

More by Sarah Jio:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Love Me For Me

By Kathryn Hamilton

How do you define success? Is it the amount in your bank account, the label on your clothes, or the size of your house? Is it a high paying job? Status? Or is success found in the happiness and love of being around family and friends? Libby Potter was groomed by her mother Celia to think bigger than the small town of White Stone, leaving for New York at age 18 and never looking back. Until, that is, her life is turned upside down when she loses her job and her fiancé, and Libby finds herself face-to-face with the past she couldn’t wait to run away from. Will Libby take the opportunity for a second chance to make amends? Or will she return to the life she carved out for herself in New York once things are sorted out?

From the opening scene, I knew Libby was going to be a character that I wouldn’t be able to identify with instantly. I’ve never heard of Tory Burch, and certainly don’t know the label from Louboutin (I’m surprised I spelled that name correctly without Googling). In many ways, I represent the small town that she loathes. However, it quickly becomes clear that the protagonist in Jenny Hale's novel, Love Me For Me, is more than a superficial New Yorker. She carries burdens on her shoulders and many regrets in her heart. Chief among these regrets is the way things were left with ex Pete Bennett, who she immediately crosses paths with once back in White Stone. Libby desperately wants Pete to understand her point of view. As a potential love interest, I found myself torn with whether or not I wanted to see Libby with Pete because he was so judgmental at times (in all fairness, he did have his legitimate reasons). I certainly felt that he was just as guilty himself of some of the things that he accuses Libby of and I wholeheartedly hoped that she would point this out. Ultimately, their resolution is true to both characters and does not feel disingenuous.

Libby’s return to White Stone is an opportunity for her personal growth and long overdue realizations. I was pleased by the way things progressed; Libby developed as a character instead of remaining stuck. I did feel that her “a-ha” moment regarding her mother came too quickly while she was frustratingly slow to have other revelations (there were many, many times where I wanted to reach through the pages to shake Libby and tell her to wake up). I wasn’t entirely sure how she came to the understanding that she did regarding her mother. That is my one small grumbling point.

Ms. Hale does an excellent job of creating characters that readers are invested in. She utilizes the supporting characters to add depth to Libby by creating an understanding of how she came to be the woman she is. Libby finds herself surrounded by strong personalities and soft shoulders. The most memorable characters for me were Pop and Jeanie, in large part because of Libby’s relationships with them. These two in particular were so endearing, and I loved the sentimentality and emotion they added to the story.

The title of the book is very apropos as it applies to more than the main character. In life, we are molded by many factors, primarily our parents and where we grew up. Often we blindly carry on through life guided by truths that do not necessarily resonate. Lucky are those who take opportunities to discover new ways of thinking and connecting with others. We all want to be understood, but most of all be loved for who we are, regardless of how we fit into someone else’s view of how we should be. Be sure to add this delightful novel to your collection today!

Friday, June 27, 2014

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell from St. Martin's Press

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon from Berkley (Penguin)

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon from HarperCollins


Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me by Rachel Bertsche from Random House


The Witch of Belladonna Bay by Suzanne Palmieri from BookSparks PR


What a Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk from HarperCollins UK (e-book; Becky got this too)

Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd from Rock Star PR & Literary Consulting

Walking on Marshmallows by/from Janey Edkins

What could be in YOUR mail:

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon

HarperCollins has THREE copies for some lucky US readers!

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne aspires to the American Dream, yet feels as if she's been sleepwalking through life. Caught between her family's old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career, she cannot seem to find her place.

Only her beloved grandmother on Erikousa, a magical island off the coast of Greece, knows her heart. Daphne's fondest memories are of times spent in the kitchen with Yia-yia, cooking and learning about the ancient myths. It was the thought of Yia-yia that consoled Daphne in the wake of her husband's unexpected death.

After years of struggling to raise her child and pay the bills, Daphne now has a successful restaurant, a growing reputation as a chef, and a wealthy fiance-everything she's ever wanted. But across the ocean, Yia-yia can see through the storybook perfection of Daphne's new life- and now she is calling her back to Erikousa. She has secrets about the past to share with her granddaughter- stories from the war, of loyalty and bravery in the face of death. She also has one last lesson to teach her: that security is not love, and that her life can be filled with meaning again.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

How to win:
Please tell us your favorite memory of your grandmother OR your favorite Greek food.

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 (and we do not count Google + as contact information).

US only. Giveaway ends July 2nd at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: The Idea of Him

By Karen Waskewich


Allie Crawford has the life she always dreamed of—she's number two at a high-profile P.R. firm; she has two kids she adores; and her husband is a blend of handsome and heroic. Wade is everything she thought a man was supposed to be—he's running a successful newsmagazine and, best of all, he provides the stable yet exciting New York City life Allie believes she needs in order to feel secure and happy.

But when Allie finds Wade locked in their laundry room with a stunning blonde in snakeskin sandals, a scandal ensues that flips her life on its head. And when the woman wants to befriend Allie, an old flame calls, and a new guy gets a little too close for comfort, she starts to think her marriage is more of a facade than something real. Maybe she's fallen in love not with Wade—but with the idea of him.

Captivating and seductive, told in the whip-smart voice of a woman who is working hard to keep her parenting and career on track, The Idea of Him is a novel of conspiracy, intrigue, and intense passion—and discovering your greatest strength through your deepest fears. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

My Thoughts:

The Idea of Him is the perfect ‘beach read’…it’s full of excitement, romance and yes, woman power. This book was a real page turner and I finished it in just a few days. The story centers on Allie, a woman in her mid-thirties who is seems to have it all – a gorgeous and high-powered husband Wade, a job at a widely known and successful PR firm, two adorable children and a snazzy apartment in Manhattan. However, behind closed doors, Allie is near her breaking point and throughout the story, the reader really starts to feel for the protagonist and hope everything turns out okay for her in the end.

The book takes you on Allie’s journey to discovering the truth about her husband, her boss Murray and her new acquaintance Jackie, who is Wade’s ex-mistress. While she unveils her husband’s lies and infidelities, Allie also pursues her lifelong dream of becoming a screenwriter and through her classes, she meets another man who helps her pursue her passion. The plot is full of unexpected twists especially in the last half of the book…I promise it will keep you on your toes.

I am sad to say that I had never heard of Holly Peterson before this book but I’d love to go back and read her first book, The Manny. The Idea of Him is the ideal book to read while you’re at the beach or at the pool; it is a perfect escape into Allie’s story of heartbreak to redemption. As I finished the book, I was really hoping they would make this into a movie – I would love to see this on the big screen!

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Karen Waskewich is a fiancé to a wonderful man and a mom to a beautiful brindled boxer in Rockville, MD. When she's not working as an IT consultant, she opens up a good book (or turns on her Kindle) or makes her way into the kitchen to cook for her family and friends. Find her at her blog. You can also learn more about her from our very first reader spotlight post!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Glynis Astie takes us to a book giveaway

I recently met our featured author, Glynis Astie. We were at BookBuzz 2014 together. Sadly, we didn't get any pictures of the two of us, but we did get to chat for a while and our friends also connected with each other for networking purposes. (And just ask anyone else who attended the event if you still don't believe me.) Like all the attendees at BookBuzz, Glynis is as sweet and friendly in person as she is via e-mail. I enjoy chatting with her about having young children and how life can get pretty crazy as a result! I also love her name. It has a musical feel to it. Glynis is here today to talk about her TWO novels, French Twist and French Toast. She even has a set of both books for a lucky US reader!

Glynis grew up as the youngest of three children in Rockland County, New York. Her mother remarried when she was six and she gained not only an amazing father, but three wonderful sisters. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern University and worked in Social Service for two years before transitioning to Human Resources. After thirteen years in HR, she decided to make good on her promise to write a book. Rather than detailing the years of bizarre employee relations issues she had encountered (as this may land her in more than a bit of trouble), she elected to write the story of how she met and married her husband, Sebastien, in six short months.

Glynis currently lives in Westchester, New York with her incredibly romantic husband and two angelic sons. When she is not writing she is usually rushing to the gym, wracking her brain to remember third grade math to help her son with his homework, rescuing toys from certain destruction down the toilet and keeping a tenuous hold on her sanity by consuming whatever chocolate is in the vicinity. (Bio courtesy of Glynis' website.)

Visit Glynis on Facebook and Twitter.

What inspired you to write French Twist and French Toast?
Sometimes that fact that I have written two books still seems bizarre to me! I never had aspirations of being an author, but my new journey began with the decision to stay at home with my two sons. It took a year for me to adjust to this new life (which was MUCH harder than I thought it would be), but once we had a routine, I found myself in need of a project. A few weeks later, I had a dream that I wrote a book about how my husband and I met. It had been a popular story over the years and I had often thought that it would make a good movie, but I wondered if I had the talent to write a book.

After a couple of weeks of jotting down notes, I had an outline and three months later, I had completed the draft of French Twist. Since there was still so much more to the story, I decided to write a trilogy. French Twist chronicles how I met and married my husband in six months. French Toast delves into the difficulty of the first year of marriage - coupled with planning our second and third weddings. (Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?) I am currently writing the last book in the series, French Fry, which will cover an unexpected twist in our lives.

And the best part is that after twelve years and two kids, my husband and I are still like giddy teenagers. (When we are not fighting, that is!)

What has been the easiest thing about writing your novels? Most challenging?
The easiest thing, hands down, has been that my novels are based on my life. Although, I will admit that the further into the series I have gotten, the more fiction I have added. The characters are without a doubt based on my family and friends, but the storylines have been condensed, character traits have been exaggerated for comedic effect and a few events have been added for continuity. My favorite parts are the dialogues involving my parents. They both passed away before any of my books were published and writing in their voices makes me miss them a little less.

The most challenging thing has been deciding how much of myself and my family to share with the world. I was a little more careful with my family members – painting them in the best possible light – but was fairly honest when it came to myself. I have spent years being the consummate worrier and decided to finally put this “talent” to good use. Sydney is extremely high-strung and spastic, but she is also kind, compassionate and funny. I think that I have been able to create a neurotic, yet lovable main character. The comments about how CRAZY Sydney is sting just a little, but the amount of laughter that has resulted from her antics makes it more than worth it to me.

If you could cast the lead characters of French Twist and French Toast in a movie, which actors would you choose?
I love this question! I have given it a lot of thought and have decided that I would choose Anne Hathaway to play Sydney Bennett. She is admittedly far more gorgeous than I am, but this is a fantasy, right? She would need to sport long flowing tresses, so I guess we would need to supply her with a wig since her hair is now in a very short pixie cut. But she has the height, the gorgeous brown eyes and the charm that I am able to project to the rest of the world.
She would be perfect for this role since she is intelligent and funny, but also very adept at playing awkward. Believe me when I tell you that I am awkward with a capital “A.” She would not be fazed by the babbling, pratfalls and absolute lunacy that I tend to showcase. You would have to be a talented actress indeed to make those traits appear endearing, as I hope that I have accomplished in both French Twist and French Toast. You will have to be the judge!

To make things a little more fun, I let my husband choose his own actor. He went with the gorgeous Jason Statham to play his alter ego, Louis Durand. I heartily approve of this choice. Mr. Statham is charming, funny and extremely engaging, just like my husband. And he has just the right amount of attitude! Though he may not be from France, I am sure that he could do a wonderful approximation of my husband’s accent – which is actually not a classic French accent, but more of a European mix. People often have trouble placing where he is from when they hear him speak. They most often guess Germany!

What is the most French thing you've done?
I ate snails while visiting my husband’s family in the south of France. Snails! My husband promised me that I would love them -and I almost believed him since pretty much anything doused in garlic and butter is good, but no. Just NO. The slime factor is just way too high. I redeemed myself in my husband’s eyes by trying the frog legs, but I’m not going to lie to you; they weren’t that much better than the snails!

Now that you've experienced BookBuzz, what would you tell authors and readers so that they would attend in the future?
I had such a wonderful time at BookBuzz! I would tell anyone who will listen that this event is not only a whole lot of fun, but also a wonderful opportunity to meet so many of the writers, bloggers and readers that you have been communicating with through social media. You have the chance to get all dressed up, head out to a fun venue, meet fabulous people, have scintillating conversations AND buy books. Not to mention the tasty hors d'oeuvres and the giveaways. What more can you ask for?

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
These days, most funny things in my life involve my boys. However, this time, I managed to do something funny all on my own. My family and I attended a party given by some friends of ours whom I consider to be rather talented hosts. They always have delicious food, enticing music and fun activities. About halfway through the party, I set off in search of a snack and made a stop at the barbeque to check out the available options. I picked up a skewer of what I thought was sausage and popped a piece in my mouth. My host smiled and me and asked what I thought. After I told him that I thought it was delicious, he laughed and told me that he was pleased with my appreciation for chicken hearts. (Chicken hearts!) I started laughing with him and was secretly glad that he hadn’t told me what I was eating beforehand, since I most likely wouldn’t have tried it. Oh, the interesting things that I have eaten...

Thanks to Glynis for visiting with us and sharing her books 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.

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US only. Giveaway ends July 1st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reader Spotlight: All About a Book

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: Cindy reached out to me a while back asking for tips for her blog. She seemed very friendly and I enjoyed connecting with her over our mutual love of chick lit book blogging. Her blog is very impressive, so I encourage you all to check it out!

Name: Cindy Servattalab
Age: 52 years old---yikes
Location: Hopkinton, MA-outside Boston

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
I found Chick Lit Central on the internet -just googled chick lit bloggers

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
Stacey Ballis-Out to Lunch
Jane Green-Jemima J
Madeleine Wickham-40 Love
Claire Cook-Best Staged Plans
Sophie Kinsella-Remember Me?

What do you do when you're not reading?
When I am not reading, I volunteer at Danforth Museum, take care of my demanding but lovable Maltese, go running and drink wine with good friends. I also bother my 2 daughters as much as I can.

Visit Cindy at Facebook and Twitter!

Book Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant

By Amy Bromberg

I had the pleasure of meeting Beatriz Williams last year, both during BEA and at Beach Reads (at Princeton Library). Since then, I devoured her debut, Overseas, as well as A Hundred Summers (reviewed here). Her books are always on my must spring reads list.

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Madison Avenue world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Beatriz is one of those authors who is excellent at developing characters. Vivian cracked me up with her dry sense of humor and witty one-liners. I wish I was able to think of comebacks as quickly as she does; they just fly off her tongue. Beatriz must have had a ball writing this character. I admire Violet’s bravery for traveling to Europe to follow her dream to become a scientist. And on top of that, she’s pursuing a career in science during a time period where barely any women are working.

The one element that I didn’t like was all the science. I know this was Violet’s vocation, but because I hated science growing up and all the way through college, it bored me. But for all you science lovers, I’m thinking you’ll enjoy this part.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is a story about passion, secrets, second chances and taking risks. Definitely a great summer read.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest post from Talli Roland, along with review and giveaway of "The No-Kids Club"

Talli Roland has been a regular visitor at CLC since she first came onto the chick lit scene. Her books are charming and humorous. Since she practically needs no introduction these days, Melissa A. will be sharing her thoughts on The No-Kids Club and then Talli will be sharing how she came up with the idea, as well as giving away TWO print copies to some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

Review by Melissa Amster

At almost forty, Clare Donoghue is living child-free and loving it.

Then her boyfriend says he wants kids, breaking off their promising relationship. And it's not just boyfriends: one by one, her formerly carefree friends are swallowed up in a nonstop cycle of play dates and baby groups. So Clare decides it's time for people who don't have children to band together. And so the No-Kids Club is born.

As the group comes together--Anna, who's seeking something to jumpstart a stale marriage, and Poppy, desperate for a family but unable to conceive--Clare's hoping to make the most of the childless life with her new friends.

Will the No-Kids Club be Clare's route to happiness, or will the single life lose its sparkle? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Like all of Talli's novels, The No-Kids Club was cute and entertaining throughout. There were some warm and fuzzy moments, as well as humor. Talli created three characters who were relatable and sympathetic in different ways. I wasn't sure, however, if Anna's decision to not have kids was passive in order to go along with her husband's wishes or if she truly didn't want them either. I'd love to read a sequel focused mainly on her, while also following up with Clare and Poppy. Although the ending wrapped up too neatly and seemed cliché, Talli still makes her readers think twice before judging someone who doesn't have kids.

Of course, I cast the movie in my head...
Clare: Kate Beckinsale
Anna: Amy Nuttall
Poppy: Jenny Wade

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

My Inspiration for The No-Kids Club

When I first had the idea for The No-Kids Club – about a group of women who form a club for people with a child-free life – I was firmly a member of the club myself. Approaching my late thirties, I was oblivious to any ticking clock or aging eggs, and the most maternal instinct I ever experienced was relief when a baby next to me stopped crying. Happily married with a great husband, I was busy enjoying life in one of the world’s greatest cities, along with building a career as a novelist. As I watched my friends morph into mothers, I could sense the unasked question: when would I become a mother, too?

My answer back then would have been ‘never’. I wasn’t against children per se, although I’d never been one to coo over babies. It was what they represented: continuous responsibility and constant demands. Basically, a life sentence of worry. Gradually, my formerly carefree friends’ Facebook pages changed from showing boozy nights out to early Sunday mornings with the little ones, and it became harder and harder to organize any kind of meet-up. Our lives were on two different paths, separated by the great divide: offspring.

I have to admit, I did once wonder what parents did all day. Why couldn’t my friends meet me for lunch? Surely their toddlers could be jammed into a highchair for an hour without crying! And for goodness sake, couldn’t that baby wait an hour for its nap? The world wouldn’t end if it didn’t sleep on time, would it?

Now that I’m on the other side – a member of the Kids Club, with an eighteen-month-old in tow – I cringe at my former attitude. But the truth is, until you have children, you can’t comprehend what a huge life adjustment it really is. Yes, it’s hard, often tedious, and anxiety-inducing, but nothing prepares you for how much you love this little human being.

Having been on both sides of the chasm, I do wish there was more understanding between the two camps. Often, women who have kids are seen as succumbing to societal pressure, while those that don’t are labeled selfish...vastly unfair and hurtful if someone can’t have children. The differing and often judgmental attitudes between these two groups inspired me to write The No-Kids Club. While my infant son napped, I detailed the journeys of three women, each of whom didn’t have kids for their own reasons. While the novel is obviously about children, it’s also about acceptance and making the choice that is right for you and your relationship.

I’m not a member of The No-Kids Club anymore, but I respect those who are...and I hope my honorary membership is still valid!

Special thanks to Talli for visiting with us and sharing her latest novel with our readers!

Talli Roland was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. By age 13, she’d finished her first novel and received very encouraging rejections from publishers. Talli put writing on hold to focus on athletics, achieving provincial records and becoming a Canadian university champion in the 4 × 400 meter relay. After getting her BA, she turned to writing again, earning a Masters in Journalism. A few years later, she left Canada behind and settled in London, where she now lives with her husband and their young son.

Talli writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women’s fiction.

Her debut novel, THE HATING GAME (reviewed here), was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK's Festival of Romance, and her second, WATCHING WILLOW WATTS (reviewed here), was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite. 

Talli can be found at her website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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

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Open worldwide. Giveaway ends June 30th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with Jojo Moyes and giveaway for "One Plus One"

Photo by Charlotte Murphy
In honor of Jojo Moyes' latest novel, One Plus One, publishing on July 1st, Viking/Penguin did an interview with the author. We're sharing some of it here, along with a giveaway of TWO copies for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can't afford to pay for. That's Jess's life in a nutshell--until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess's knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

Your characters are fun and quirky and so real. Tell us a little about where your ideas for your characters and their stories come from.
Thank you! Most of my books are inspired by different snippets of things, whether they be news stories or things people have told me. In the case of ONE PLUS ONE I’d wanted to write a road trip for ages—and then when I started thinking about the differences between today’s haves and have-nots, it suddenly seemed like the perfect thing to put some very different people together. Anyone who has sat next to a stranger on a long haul flight knows that there’s no better way to really find out who someone really is than to be shoved together in close confines travelling for any length of time.

ONE PLUS ONE is a novel in a contemporary setting, just like Me Before You and some of your other novels are historical, such as The Girl You Left Behind. Do you prefer writing one over the other? How do you decide where and when to set your books?
I often write one in reaction to the last. So The Girl You Left Behind was a huge, sprawling romantic epic that crossed a century and took all sorts of historical research. After that I just wanted to write a tight little emotional comedy set in the modern day with very little research in it.  It’s entirely possible that in a book or two I’ll be back to doing something on an epic scale again.

Like Me Before You, ONE PLUS ONE has a love story between two people of very different socioeconomic backgrounds. What draws you to explore that disparity?
Well, Me Before You was basically about class and aspiration. Lou came from a background where you were encouraged to have little of either. ONE PLUS ONE, on the other hand, is simply about money. I’ve been watching the difference between rich and poor in society grow ever wider, and with ONE PLUS ONE I guess I wanted to ask: what happens if you have the aspiration, or the talent, but simply don’t have enough resources to be able to climb up to the next rung of the ladder? We’re always being told you can have anything if you work hard enough. Well what if the deck of cards is really stacked against you? Does that truism still stand?

ONE PLUS ONE has such a cinematic feel, it would translate really well to film. You wrote the screenplay for Me Before You. Did that experience change the way you write novels? Do you imagine how they would work as a movie as you write?
It certainly made me realize how much slack we leave in them! I have always written ‘visually’—i.e. I have to play a scene out in my head, almost as if I’m acting it, before I write it, to see if it works. I don’t think the way I write books has changed, as I still do the same thing, but I do perhaps make every scene work a bit harder—asking myself: does it move the story forward? Does it tell us something about the character?

There are some steamy scenes in ONE PLUS ONE! How do you approach writing sex (or near) scenes?
Well, if my editor had got her way, they would have been a fair bit steamier. I do struggle with sex scenes, mostly because of the language. Either you employ biologically accurate terms, which tend to pull the reader up short, and can sound a little startling, or you go with awful euphemisms that make your toes curl. I’m getting a little braver with every book—but it’s hard when you live in a small village. Everyone assumes that you base the scenes on your own life… weirdly. they never do that with anything else I write about.

What do you hope readers will take away from ONE PLUS ONE?
Firstly, as with all my books, I hope it just gives them a few hours’ escape to somewhere they hadn’t expected to go—that’s certainly what I want from a book. I hope very much it makes them feel something, whether it’s laughter or tears. On a wider note, perhaps they might not judge or dismiss those around them quite so swiftly—I heard a really good saying the other day, along the lines of “be kind, for everyone is battling something you don’t know about.” And I suppose I’d like my books to have a similar message. Although saying my books should have a message makes me sound unbelievably pompous. So maybe just a good read….

Thanks to Viking/Penguin for sharing their interview and the book with our readers.

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

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends June 29th at midnight EST.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: The Curvy Girls Club

By Kathryn Hamilton

I was recently watching a popular dance competition show. One of the girls auditioning told the story of how she had taken two years off to go to rehab for an eating disorder. In response to this emotional story, one of the judges whispered, “I hate this. Being a girl is so hard.” How true that is. This sentiment no doubt resonated with any girl or woman watching. Women in particular are pressured not only by the media but also by society to fit into a narrow idea of what their bodies should look like (men have pressure as well; I would never deny that). However, the majority of women do not “fit a fashion model size” (in the words of the late Maya Angelou) and the average size has increased over the years. We are constantly bombarded with new and fantastic ways to shed those pesky pounds. There are demoralizing stereotypes for those who are overweight. It is a struggle for most women to feel happy with their bodies, regardless of their weight. These struggles are very poignantly explored in Michele Gorman’s thought-provoking new novel that follows Katie Winterbottom and her three best friends in The Curvy Girls Club.

Katie, Ellie, Jane, and Pixie met at a weight loss group (something akin to Weight Watchers) where they fast became best friends. Pixie’s frustrations with the program cause her to quit and suggests that the four women meet weekly for social outings where the focus isn’t on weight. Word of the fun outings begins to spread and The Curvy Girls Club is born. This is a social group where men and women of a larger size can feel comfortable in outings, where they can feel “normal.” Amidst the success of the club, the four friends must deal with secrets, complicated love lives, and decisions that may tear them apart.

As has been the case while reading other Michele Gorman novels, I could not and did not want to put it down. Ms. Gorman has a way of storytelling that draws the reader into the world of the characters. Readers understand the characters because they are thoughtfully and realistically developed throughout the novel. Although told from Katie’s point of view, each character has the opportunity to give her own backstory, allowing readers to understand how she came to be in the present. If one has any preconceived notions about those who are significantly overweight, I recommend reading this novel. Ms. Gorman permits the reader to get inside the minds of these women without judgment. I felt their heartache, desperation and frustration, while also celebrating their successes.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the cast of characters. The one exception is Pixie. Although I was empathetic to her situation, I found her to be too abrasive and hypocritical. At one point, Pixie leads an attack on Katie that I felt was unfair although I did understand one aspect of the argument. Katie, on the other hand, is a wonderful protagonist. I believe every reader will find something about her that they can identify with, even if it is the fantasy of being with the one man who doesn’t seem to know you exist. I found myself really liking Jane and Ellie as characters as well, and could see myself being friends with them.

I can’t say enough about this novel. When dealing with weight and body image, it can often be a delicate issue. Ms. Gorman is not preachy or judgmental, and gives the women a voice. She sensitively and respectfully addresses the topics of weight, self-judgment and prejudice. However, one does not need to be obese to identify with the characters. At the heart of this novel is the desire for acceptance and a sense of fitting in, but ultimately learning to love yourself regardless of the outer shell. Cheers to Ms. Gorman!

Thanks to Notting Hill Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. To celebrate the US and Canadian launch of The Curvy Girls Club, Notting Hill Press would like to offer Michele’s short story, Weightless (reviewed here), for free (it’s on sale on for $1.99). You can simply email and they’ll get membership to the real Curvy Girls Club* along with Weightless for their eReader (any device). Also join them on Facebook for daily doses of positive inspiration!

*No need to be curvy - it's a daily dose of loveliness for everyone!

More by Michele Gorman:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Linda Francis Lee "knows" what her readers a book giveaway

When I read Emily and Einstein a few years ago, I knew Linda Francis Lee had something special to contribute to chick lit. So I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Glass Kitchen, not only for the beautiful cover art, but also for a delicious sounding story about a woman with a special "gift" when it comes to cooking. I'm currently devouring this novel and it is as decadent and enjoyable as I was expecting. I love the whole concept of "the knowing" and even had an experience with it recently, but with books instead of food. Linda, herself, is a real treat to know. She's so friendly and she does lots of fun book giveaways at her Facebook page.

Linda Francis Lee is a native Texan now calling New York City home. Her writing career began when her article was published in her university’s quarterly magazine. But she got sidetracked from writing when she started teaching probability and statistics. Later she found her way back to writing, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution called her breakout novel, Blue Waltz, “absolutely stunning.” Currently, Linda is the author of twenty-one novels that are published in twenty countries around the world. Two of her most recent novels are in development for feature films.

When Linda isn’t writing, she loves to run in Central Park and spend time with her husband, family, and friends. She loves to hear from readers, so visit her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies of The Glass Kitchen for some lucky US readers! There's currently a sweepstakes going on until June 30th where you could also win this book...or the grand prize of a KitchenAid stand mixer.

What was your favorite thing about writing The Glass Kitchen?
I loved writing the Ariel scenes. When I plot a book I try to have a character that doesn't have to edit what he/she says. They get to say whatever comes into their brain. In Emily & Einstein, it was Einstein. With The Glass Kitchen, it was Ariel. There is something freeing about not thinking about "nice" or "sweet" or some heroic way of being when the character isn't a villain. Of course that takes set up so that the reader can still love the character despite them getting to say whatever they want. But with most protagonists a writer doesn't have that freedom.

Which authors or books have inspired you to become a writer yourself?
I think I was initially inspired to tell stories by seeing The Sound of Music for the first time. Actually, it was the first movie I ever saw; my grandmother took me to it. Kid's books hadn't brought such a gigantic world full-blown into my head in the way that the movie did. I was sucked in. It was after seeing the movie that I started making up stories in my head.

If The Glass Kitchen were made into a movie, who would play the lead characters and why?
That is so hard! I keep thinking different people. But I think for Gabriel and Portia, the intensity of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook. Her personality in Morning Glory. In looks, perhaps a bit of David Gandy for Gabriel?

What is the best thing about your kitchen?
The best thing is probably also the biggest challenge: the marble countertops. I adore them. I walk into the kitchen every morning and want to hug them. A friend told me that the litmus test to kitchen countertops is that you want to hug them every morning! As a result, I spent months searching for the perfect slab of marble. It drove the contractor crazy. But in the end, I found it. That being said, marble is not the hardest stone in the stone yard – so to speak. So it takes a lot of upkeep.

What meal or dish do you consider yourself "famous" for making?
When I was writing The Glass Kitchen, we were going to a lot of dinner parties. All our friends are great cooks. My first dinner party in NYC wasn't a gigantic success – at least food-wise – and our friends tease me about it to this day. So for the next party we hosted, I had something to prove. I spent a week preparing, then made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon. To this day when we talk food and any of my meals, first comes the teasing about my strange chicken, followed up by my heavenly Beef Bourguignon. It came out really well – thankfully! (And I haven't made it since.) Second place, something I could make in my sleep, would be oatmeal cookies. I have been making them forever. My secret? I microwave the butter instead of just letting it soften. But I love a moist, chewy cookie.

What did you do for your last vacation and what is a favorite memory from that time?
Our last trip was to the Caribbean. Business for my husband, but we had enough time to ourselves that we turned it into a mini-vacation. The best part about it for me was that we had just finished the renovation of our apartment, and we had a room overlooking the ocean, and while he was in meetings during the day, I sat in the room at a desk facing the water and wrote. After nearly a year of being consumed by renovation, I could sit with nothing competing for my attention other than the characters in my head. Heaven.

Thanks to Linda for visiting with us and St. Martin's Press 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.

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US only. Giveaway ends June 24th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The Land of Koalas

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I have a confession to make: I have read parts of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Dog Days) and laughed out loud. Okay. I feel much better now! (Then again, I also laugh out loud reading Amelia Bedelia books to my kids.) Along those lines, I also read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and loved it so much that I not only told my older son to read it, but also told our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, to do the same! However, Jen is no stranger to books for young adults (or even kids), as she is also a mom of three. She's here today to talk about why we should NOT feel embarrassed to read YA books.

If You're Young at Heart...

I’m fond of sending books as gifts to friends.  Whether they’re in need of encouragement or inspiration, getting lost in words can speak volumes (pun totally intended).  My favorite book for friends going through difficulties is filled with brilliance, sage advice, and the narrator really hits the mark when it comes to describing bumps in the road of life.  Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day has moxie and grit.  I mean, who can’t relate to the desire run away and to move to Australia when the going gets tough, right?  Although I’ve added different genres to my eclectic reading list, I was moved this little boy and his do-over of a day as a child, and it’s stuck with me all these years.  

Three years ago, my son, Wil, was given a reading assignment.  His teacher sent out an email I wished hit my spam folder rather than my inbox.  Her class would be reading The Hunger Games.  I’d done a fantastic job up until that point avoiding the book.  My book worm buddies shared with me how much they loved this book and that I just had to read it.  My response?  “I just can’t read a book about children getting shipped off to fight to the death.  Nope!” 

Yet there I was, best mom ever, running to the bookstore to purchase a copy.  I read 150 pages the first night and couldn’t put it down.  This book did for me what I want all books to do.  Take me away to a world beyond the print on the page and make me feel invested in the life of the characters.  Daily, I looked forward to Wil coming home from school and talking about what they read in class.  Lively debates, animated agreements and great discussions flowed that would’ve never occurred if I hadn’t opened this book.  I crave stimulating conversations with my teens that move beyond, “Can we go to Taco Bell?” and, “Drop me off at the party and then you can just go, okay mom?  No offense.”

None taken.

If I hadn’t unlocked my stance to reading a book on my “No way, José!” list, I would’ve missed out not only sharing the experience with my son, but also my personal introduction of the Young Adult (YA), or Teen genre.  I must’ve been living under a rock, right?  What’s funny is I had no clue while reading The Hunger Games it was categorized with the younger crowd in mind.  The only thoughts preying on my psyche while reading were, “Katniss, run from the Tracker Jackers!” and that I’m totally Team Gale. 

The Fault in Our Stars, written by fellow Indiana native, John Green, is another YA book that has crossed category boundaries.  I read it while flying home from California in January.  Do you know how hard it is not to sob uncontrollably on a plane?  It’s epically problematic and they should give gold medals for the accomplishment.  The story of two teenagers battling cancer while finding their place in this world with the time they have remaining hit me hard from several angles.  I saw it through the lens of a 43-year-old woman who remembered what it was like to be teenager with angst and love in her heart.  My other looking glass was that of a mother who cannot imagine the pains of watching her child suffer and battle a terminal illness.  I also saw this story through the eyes of someone who loves a warrior against cancer.  I’m a daughter whose father has courageously battled cancer for the past ten years.  Every day is a stolen moment with my dad.  Cancer sucks, my friends.  This book hit all the high and low notes I’ve felt in my life.       

If we define what we’re interested in reading by genre only, what stories would we miss out on experiencing?  Rather than discount a trilogy’s importance because it contains sparkling vampires (nothing but love for Stephanie Meyer), shouldn’t we instead revamp our thought to be one of gratitude that an author’s work is birthing legions of readers the perhaps lost the loving feeling somewhere into their journey to adulthood, or never had the zeal to read until Bella and Edward came along?  A study conducted in April of 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, states 32 million adults in the United States alone can't read.  21 percent of adults in America read below a 5th grade level. Lastly, 19 percent of high school graduates can't read while 63 percent of prison inmates are also illiterate.  When I read pieces by writers fired up that grownups should shun books spun for the teen crowd, I want to stop for a moment and scream we have bigger fish to flambé when we see statistics like that, don’t you?

I recently asked via Facebook what people thought about reading books that are categorized as YA.  Many felt YA books tackle tough issues without the flamboyance adult fiction brings with it.  Some even said they loved reading books marketed to teens because although their carefree years might be a few decades behind them, they relate and feel maybe they find a tad of their teen self still roaming around in there somewhere. It gave many an opportunity to bond with children as I did with my son.  Pop culture even made it as a reason to jump in the pool. Yet there was one response that really stood out for me, and no, nepotism wasn’t the reason. My niece works as an oncology nurse at Riley Hospital for Children.  I remember when Lindsey was offered the job fresh from college.  Her excitement outweighed the fear of working with children who might die on her watch.  The heartbreak of losing a patient she played foosball with or watching parents spend final moments with their child felt like it might be too much for her sweet soul to bear.  Two years after her first day on the job, she cannot imagine doing anything else with her life.  Her fear replaced with devotion to her patients.  Her trepidation was nixed with confidence she’s been placed in the right field and love for everyone she cares for, including my little friend Eli battling brain cancer.  She has great days and heart wrenching days watching babies through teens fight to live.  Lindsey read The Fault in Our Stars because, in her words, “The subject matter hit close to home for me and I wanted to see how the book portrayed teenagers living with cancer…it received high praise from other…nurses and survivors.” In her eyes, it was spot on.

No matter what we choose to read, we’re choosing to read.  That’s the overarching point in my eyes.  If you stopped by my house today, you’d find my Kindle currently parked halfway through an anthology (shout out to my A Kind of Mad Courage fellow coauthors), and a Jodi Picoult short story.  On my night stand is a book on teens and the holocaust.  If I have a rough day, I’m going to reach for my favorite fiction like I always do.  The one with pictures of a little guy who desperately wants to relocate to the land of Koalas after a very bad day.    

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 One & Only

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Amy Bromberg:

I have to admit that I have a huge author crush on Emily Giffin. I met her two years ago at a Barnes and Noble in New York City, for her Where We Belong tour, and I went a little gaga. Therefore I always get excited when she has a new book coming out. I'm assuming many of you feel the same way.

Unfortunately, I basically have no interest in football (okay I'm not a sports person at all), so it was little difficult for me to get into the story. However, once I got past this minor issue I thoroughly enjoyed it. The setting is a college football town, and Shea's life revolves around the team and the coach, Clive Carr. On top of this she's best friends with his daughter, Lucy, whose mother, Connie, is like another mother to Shea, and is Shea's mother's best friend. Talk about a mouthful, right? But these relationships and characters make the story that much more juicy and enticing.

As always Emily's books flow beautifully and entertain, and the characters she develops are multi-dimensional. Shea is without a doubt one of these types of characters. She's struggling in her career, in
her love life, and in her family relationships. While I don't agree with some of the choices she made, I was rooting for her and was hoping she would find some insight and clarity in her life. Readers should be warned that there are some delicate subject matters that not everyone will be comfortable with. But sometimes reading about a subject matter that you might not be at ease with is a good thing. It makes you think about other points of view on the subject matter and realize that not everything is always black and white.

The One & Only is a light-hearted story that explores love, friendship and loyalty. Definitely add it to your summer reads list!

Melissa Amster:

Back in the year 2000, I was out with my parents and sister and they wanted to see Remember the Titans. I was hesitant to see it because it was a "football movie." (I'm not into football AT ALL.) However, I ended up loving it and crying through the end. When we got back to my sister's apartment, she was e-mailing with my gay best friend and told him we saw Remember the Titans. He replied back with "Melissa saw a FOOTBALL movie?!?" Needless to say, when he saw that I read The One & Only and looked at the synopsis, he commented on Facebook reminding me about when I saw Remember the Titans. Although that movie and this story only have football in common, both were very easy to get into and enjoy the entire way through.

In regards to The One & Only being labeled as a "football book," I was recently discussing with other chick lit readers and they thought the book was too heavy on the football talk and didn't have enough chick lit elements. I disagreed with this after finishing the story. Sure, there are a lot of football references, but I didn't feel overwhelmed by this or that they took away from the heart of the story. Shea's love for and obsession with football reminds me of my love for chick lit. It also reminded me of how I am with movie trivia. Shea's party trick may be knowing who won each football championship and the year it happened, whereas my party trick is telling you what year a movie came out and which actors were in that movie, which branches out into what other movies each actor is in. My movie knowledge probably doesn't hold a candle to her football knowledge, but I could definitely relate to her in terms of knowledge and obsession.

The story was very well-written and characters seemed to leap off the page. I kept forgetting that I was actually reading a book. The emotions Shea was feeling felt genuine in regards to the situations she was placed in at various points in the story. She was just a very likable character and I felt like I knew her really well by the time I turned the last page. The dialogue was fabulous throughout and it was like listening into real conversations, almost like eavesdropping. There were also some laugh-out-loud moments that I did not see coming.

However, I felt like the synopsis was misleading. I don't want to say why as to not spoil things, but I felt like I was waiting for something to happen that didn't actually end up happening. Two other things threw me off a bit, as well. One was that Lucy would call her father "daddy," as that never seems to jive with me when it comes from an adult. The other is that Frank Smiley's name made me think that he was happy all the time. I couldn't mesh his name with his personality.

Overall, The One & Only was a strong story and while it had things that other people didn't agree with, those things didn't bother me as much. I'm always glad to discuss it with anyone who is interested!

And since it would be great on-screen, I came up with a cast...
Shea: Cobie Smulders
Lucy: Judy Greer
Coach Carr: Patrick Warburton
Shea's mom: Connie Britton
Ryan: Chris Hemsworth
Miller: Ashton Kutcher

Thanks to Random House and BookSparks PR for the books in exchange for an honest review.

More by Emily Giffin: