Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: Astonish Me

By Melissa Patafio

As a ballet dancer, I was excited and intrigued to read Astonish Me, the latest from author Maggie Shipstead. The story is about a young dancer, Joan, in New York who helps a world famous male dancer, Arslan, defect from Soviet Russia in 1975. From there the plot takes many twists and turns as Joan tries to navigate a world in which she knows she will never be a prima ballerina, nor will she ever get Arslan to ever fully commit to her.

When Joan’s world is turned upside down, she has to make choices that will haunt her forever and leave her wondering what could have been if she had taken a different path.

Maggie Shipstead’s writing is new to me. I have not read her other well known novel, Seating Arrangements, and I am glad I gave Astonish Me a chance. You don’t have to be well versed on the ins and outs of ballet to appreciate this one. There is so much drama and heartfelt emotion in the story and I loved every page of it. From the suspense of the night Joan helped Arslan defect to the regret she has later on about keeping secrets, this book was packed with life.

While there are some serious moments and I sometimes wanted to shake Joan and ask her what she was thinking, the story is very well written and Shipstead brings a certain rawness to Joan that makes her lovable. While some may see her as ‘cold’, it is clear that Joan has been taught to harden her heart to eliminate the possibility of feeling pain.

Anyone looking to branch out a little from the stereotypical “Chick Lit”, this is a great place to start.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the "Road" to Reinvention with Claire a book giveaway

It was Thanksgiving 2010.  I couldn't sleep because I had a million things on my mind.  Most of them revolved around where my life was (or for that matter, wasn't) going.  In lieu of sleep, I went into my kitchen to get something to eat while I figured out a solution to my immediate issue - insomnia.  Within moments of entering my kitchen I decided I needed to create a map of where I wanted my life to go and before I knew it my kitchen walls were covered with what I now fondly refer to as "my life road map."

It's now almost four years later and I have stopped following that road map as religiously as I did in the beginning, however it doesn't mean I don't still have some kind of structure that guides me where I wish to take my life.

Today's Chick Lit Central guest, Claire Cook, is also a supporter of having a "roadmap" to take your life in the direction you want it to go.  It is for this reason she is her to celebrate the release of her first non-fiction book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention. She even has one signed and personalized copy to give away! (US/Canada only.) And as a FREE gift to all readers, if you sign up for her newsletter, you can download the Never Too Late workbook!

Prior to writing her first novel, Claire was also a teacher for 16 years where she worked with children in preschool up to middle school.  She is also the author of the popular novels Wallflower in Bloom, Time Flies and Must Love Dogs, which was adapted for the big screen in 2005. You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

So, buckle your seat belt and get ready for the ride of your life with Claire Cook!

After writing so many novels, why did you journey into non-fiction writing?
In all eleven of my novels, reinvention is essentially the theme—the heroine is stuck in some way and has to reinvent her life to get unstuck. I wrote my first book in my minivan when I was 45 and walked the red carpet of the Hollywood premiere of the film adaptation of my novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack at 50, so reinvention is also the story of my own life. Because of that, it has always been the thing readers want to hear about when I'm on book tour, and I've also spoken about reinvention at conferences and festivals internationally.

So it was a pretty natural progression to this book. At one point it just hit me that even if I traveled and traveled, I wouldn't get to meet everybody who needs some encouragement in person, so I decided it was time to share everything I've learned on my own journey might help other women in theirs.

In Never Too Late, I share my own stories, successes and failures, as well as those of other women who have reinvented their lives, plus tips for digging up your buried dream, finally figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, getting a plan, staying on track, pulling together a support system, building your platform in the age of social networking, dealing with fear and the inevitable ups and downs, overcoming perfectionism, and tuning into your authentic self to propel you toward your goals. I also tell the story of how the Must Love Dogs movie really happened as well as the story of my journey to becoming a hybrid author.

This book was such a labor of love for me, and the response has been amazing. Never Too Late is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Women's Personal Growth, and I'm getting tons of email from women saying how it has inspired them and also given them the kick they needed. So I'm really glad I decided to write it!

Which part of non-fiction writing did you struggle with the most and which part did you find the easiest?
I didn't really struggle. I went into it wanting to help other women, so that's what I focused on. When I started writing it, I figured if it didn't feel right, I could always turn it into a blog post and write another novel. But it took on a life of its own right away, so I just kept writing. The interesting thing is that everybody is telling me Never Too Late reads just like a novel, so maybe that's why it felt so natural.

Why the term “Roadmap?"
If there were a secret to personal success, we'd all be following it. But the truth is that nobody really knows how to achieve it. What works for you might not work for me. What works tomorrow might not work the next year, or even the next day. If it were easy to be successful, we'd all be doing it. So you have to create your own roadmap. You have to designate your starting point, figure out your destination, work around the inevitable potholes and traffic jams. It's a huge leap of faith. It's a ton of work. But it feels awesome when you get there.

What is the life lesson you hold dearest to your heart?
"It's never too late to be what you might have been." It's my favorite George Eliot quote and it inspired the title of my new book. And it's just so true! Back when I was afraid to go after my lifelong dream of writing a novel, I wish I'd known that. So if you're reading this now and wondering if it's too late for you to do what you've always wanted to do, take it from me, it's not!

What do you want your legacy to be?
I brought two amazing kids-turned-adults into the world. My twelve books—and counting—have been translated into fourteen languages and read by women all over the world. I think that's a pretty good legacy!

If I had 24 hours to do anything I wanted (money isn't an issue), I'd:
Do exactly what I'm doing. That's how you know you've found the thing you were born to do!

Thanks to Claire for the new lease on life and for sharing her book with our readers!

~Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

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 September 3rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reader Spotlight: First a reader, then a writer

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: When Gail approached me about participating in the reader spotlight, I had no idea she was also an author. By the time she got back with her answers and mentioned her debut novel, I didn't want to begrudge her the opportunity to participate because as she said: "I've only written one book, but I've read thousands! I guess I would say I'm a reader first!" 

Name: Gail Ward Olmsted
Age (or age range): In my 50's
Location: Western Massachusetts

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
I found Chick Lit Central on Facebook when trying to figure out how to promote my new novel, JEEP TOUR.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
The Wildwater Walking Club, The Sock Wars, Blame it on the Fame, The List Trilogy and Summerland.

What do you do when you're not reading?
When I'm not reading, I am writing or teaching or hanging out with my family and friends or traveling someplace fun. Find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Book Review: One Plus One

By Melissa Amster

This past spring, I had my first experience with a Jojo Moyes novel. Everyone had been recommending Me Before You, so I finally picked it up and then completely devoured it (see my review). So when I was given the opportunity to review her latest novel, One Plus One, I had some high expectations in place. I'm glad to say that Jojo surpassed these expectations...and then some!

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. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Right from the beginning, I was completely drawn into the story. The characters were so compelling and I love that it shifted between viewpoints, even giving us access to Tanzie (math whiz) and Nicky's (teenage stepson) minds. Jess's life seems like a total mess in the beginning, but she's tough and I love that about her. And Ed just seems more human than Jess is initially willing to give him credit for. It's easy to get emotionally invested in the lives of all the characters and feel their highs and lows. The dialogue and interactions are genuine and fit really well into the concept of the story.

The only thing I had trouble with was that the timing of events became confusing since there was so much going on during each day. There also seemed to be an excess of vomit during the road trip, which was unsettling to visualize.

One Plus One was a memorable story that was incredibly hard to put down once I got going with it. I have been recommending it to everyone and will continue to do so!

I recently found out that New Line picked up the rights to adapt this fabulous novel into a movie. I hope their casting director is reading this review because I have some suggestions!

Jess: Emily Blunt
Ed: Hugh Dancy
Nicky: Jonah Bobo or Ezra Miller

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

More by Jojo Moyes:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dani Atkins tells a fascinating story

Dani Atkins was at CLC last winter to talk about holidays with us, and I fell in love with her debut novel, Fractured (reviewed here), known in the US as Then and Always. Naturally, I was thrilled to find out that she had another novel coming out this summer. I'm glad to have her back here to talk more about her writing and her latest novel, The Story of Us.

Visit Dani on Facebook and Twitter.

What inspired you to write The Story of Us?
I wanted to write a book which touched on real themes which as many readers as possible could relate to. Although at its core there lies a romance and a love triangle, The Story of Us is every bit as much about the love that ties you strongly to both your family and your friends. I wanted to write a story where these ties are pulled and tested, by tragedy and betrayal, and where brave, bold and life changing decisions have to be made between your head and your heart.

Which authors were role models for you when you started out?
It might be a little surprising for someone who is writing in the genre of women’s fiction, but one of my literary role models is most definitely Stephen King, who I feel is one of the greatest storytellers of all time. I read my first of his books thirty years ago, and was instantly hooked by his astounding ability to breathe life into every character, even minor ones, while never losing pace in his narrative.

And, for his ability to tell wonderful stories of enduring love, often against the odds, without necessarily ending with everyone “living happily ever after”, I have always been drawn to and inspired by the novels of Nicholas Sparks.

In one sentence, tell us what the road to publishing was like for you.
To borrow the title of a famous Beatles song it was most definitely The Long and Winding Road! But like all journeys that take a little longer than you would have liked, it was definitely worth it in the end.

If The Story of Us were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is an easy one to answer, because all the way through writing the book I already had a particular actor in my head for the character of Jack, and that was Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide in True Blood, who I think is quite possibly the fittest man on the big screen or small at the moment. For the role of Richard, I can see a young Aaron Eckhart, and for Emma – and not just because they share the same name – I would cast Emma Stone. (By the way this was a fun question to answer – I wish it was for real!)

What is the best compliment you received about your writing or books?
I have been very fortunate and have received many lovely compliments from readers via reviews for Fractured and also for The Story of Us. I think the one that sticks in my mind was paid to me only recently when a reader wrote: “I always feel sorry for the book you read AFTER you read a book as good as this, because it simply can't match up.” That is truly humbling.

What is your theme song?
I actually don’t think I have a single song as my own personal theme. There are songs which are themes for certain areas of my life: Even Now by Barry Manilow (no judging now) for my relationship with my husband and In Your Eyes by George Benson for my role as a mother. Something that does most definitely have a theme song is The Story of Us. I pretty much played this track on a loop when writing the book and when I hear it I can actually visualise scenes in the book being played out like a film. The song is Arms by Christina Perri.

Thanks to Dani for visiting with us again!

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cassandra Dunn wonders "What if?" a book giveaway

I recently was introduced to Cassandra Dunn by Jenny O'Regan from Confessions of a Bookaholic. She shared the book on her page for a giveaway and after I commented about it, she immediately sent us an e-mail to connect us. I'm so glad she did because Cassandra is so sweet and her debut novel, The Art of Adapting, sounds intriguing. I have it in on my TBR shelf and am excited to check it out soon.

Cassandra received her MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers, and a finalist for Clapboard House’s Best of the House. Her stories have appeared in All Things Girl, Midwest Literary Magazine’s Bearing North, Read Short Fiction, Literary House Review, The MacGuffin, 322 Review, Fix it Broken, Clapboard House, Every Writer’s Resource, Rougarou Fiction, and Sand Canyon Review. Aside from writing and editing, she is the mother of two girls. (Bio info from Cassandra's website.)

Today, Cassandra is here with a guest post to talk about how she came about writing her novel. Thanks to Simon and Schuster, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Visit Cassandra at her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

What If?

I started out as a nonfiction writer. The focus of my MFA was creative nonfiction, or memoir. I enjoyed writing stories about actual, believable people, about the real relationships I struggled with and learned from, my personal triumphs and failures. But there are limits to memoir. For one, if you hope to publish, the people you’re writing about have to be okay with it. Most of my immediate family knew that I used them as subjects and were fine with the notion, but I had friends and exes who I suspected might object, so I felt limited in the scope and depth of stories I could tell. I also felt like I had a finite number of tales in my arsenal, the kind of life-altering moments and connections that warranted an essay or a chapter. After devoting a piece to musing on these events, what else was there to say about that particular incident or relationship? After years of exploring my own life through memoir, I began to feel a pull toward fiction. Maybe I just needed to get my own story out of my system first, or maybe I was just practicing the craft of writing within the safety of writing what I already knew. In comparison, fiction actually felt like a challenge for me, making up characters and settings and scenarios, and making them feel as real to me as the true stories I’d been writing. I started out with short stories, taking a pivotal moment in a character’s life and embedding it in the everyday world I built around them. And as soon as I switched to writing fiction, I found what was really magical for me about fiction vs. nonfiction: the concept of what if. What if I had not left home when I did? What if I had been a boisterous and outgoing person instead of a shy and reserved one? What if I had gone right instead of left?

My debut novel, The Art of Adapting, is another what if story for me. There are elements of the story that come from my life. The story is set in northern San Diego, where I lived for five years. Lana’s new journey into single motherhood coincided with my separation from my husband. And Matt, Abby and Byron’s uncle who has Asperger’s, was inspired by my own uncle who had Asperger’s. But the similarities end there. Because this isn’t my story. This is my "what if" story. My children were rather young at the time, but what if they’d been teenagers? My career became a serious focus as I started over, but what could have filled my days if I hadn’t been looking to launch a new career? What if I’d jumped back into the dating game? What if my reclusive uncle had been taken in by someone who could have helped him stay sober, and offered him a safe space to simply be himself? Fiction is a fun way to look at all the roads I didn’t take, all of the developments that didn’t happen, all of the problems that could’ve been solved a different way. And once I give my characters their own paths, their own actions, their own self-doubts and areas of confidence, they develop into people who feel as real to me as my memoir subjects.

And that’s the real fun of fiction for me. Beyond the idea of shaping situations and characters to my own whims, there comes a time when the scenes start coming on their own, situations that can push and deepen and stretch the characters, and I’m following their lead instead of crafting it for them.

Thanks to Cassandra for visiting us today and to Simon and Schuster for the books for our giveaway.

~Introduction 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 September 1st at midnight EST.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: Peace by Piece

By Jami Deise

One of the oldest themes in literature is that of the wicked stepmother. Snow White and Cinderella come from fairy tales that originated centuries ago. The conflict between the budding, pretty young girl and the matron who fears growing old and ugly underscores many of these stories. In reality, though, females seem hard-wired to love and care for children to whom they did not give birth. Ask any teacher, any babysitter or pediatrician – any woman who routinely care for another woman’s children – falling in love with them is just part of the job. Even Hollywood is finally catching on, as Angelina Jolie’s Malificent proves.

Carol Fragale Brill’s novel, Peace by Piece, explores the consequences of that love. Maggie is a children’s librarian whose heart never recovered from breaking over Thomas in college. When eight-year-old Izzie walks into her library after school one day, Maggie quickly grows attached to the girl. Izzie’s mother deserted her, and her father Donald is a typical early-1980s-type father. The two form an intense bond, and Donald encourages them to spend time together. Soon, Donald decides he’d like Maggie for himself. Maggie finds him reserved and authoritarian, but her love for Izzie is overwhelming. Wanting to be Izzie’s mother more than anything else, Maggie marries him.

Peace by Piece explores the question of whether security is a strong-enough basis for a marriage. With a broken heart, an eating disorder and a distant relationship with her troubled parents, Maggie sees Donald as a port in the storm, and Izzie a lighthouse. But as the months and years go by, Donald’s reserve hardens into distance and his authoritarian behavior becomes dictatorial. It’s easy to see why his first wife left. But if Maggie leaves too, she’ll lose Izzie as well.

Maggie is a highly sympathetic character, and the reader roots for her to spread her wings even while Donald actively tries to clip them. She has a surprisingly warm relationship with her mother-in-law, Nan, which echoes the theme of women loving children they did not carry. All the characters in the book are wonderfully complex and multi-dimensional. The only aspect that occurred to me as missing was Izzie’s birth mother. As Donald showed his true colors, it became more plausible that he had forbade her from ever seeing Izzie again, rather than having the woman casually desert her child. I was expecting her to show up peeking around a corner at Izzie’s school, and for Maggie to have to decide what was best for Izzie. When that did not happen, I was disappointed.

What readers love about women’s fiction is its strong attention to the tiny emotional details that make up a life. It’s centered around relationships, and explores who women are in them and outside of them. Who am I if I am not a mother? Who am I if I am not this child’s mother? They may seem like small stories, but they are not to the people who live them, who write them, who read them. Peace by Piece is a fine addition to the genre, and Brill a strong writer from whom I hope to see more.

Thanks to Carol Fragale Brill for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

When We Fall by Emily Liebert from First to Read (e-book)

Friday a la Mode by/from Karen Lenfestey (e-book)


The Fall of Our Secrets by Tracy Gardner Beno from DJC Communications

Getting Even by Sarah Rayner from St. Martin's Press


An Imaginary House by the Sea by/from Cecily Gates (e-book)


Bad Bridesmaid by/from Portia MacIntosh (e-book)

Maybe Baby by/from Kim Golden (e-book)


I'm Still Here by/from Kathryn R. Biel

Book Review: Love, Lies, and Lemon Cake

By Sara Steven

Last year, I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Sue Watson’s Younger, Thinner, Blonder. It’s a fantastic book, one that I enjoyed immensely. When I was asked to review Love, Lies, and Lemon Cake, I knew I was in for a treat (and I’m not referring to the lemon cake!).

Faye Dobson is our sweet heroine. She’s in her 40s and unhappily married to a man who prefers tinkering with toilets over tinkering with her. (He’s a plumber by trade). She’s had just about enough, and the vivid fantasy life she conjures up with famous hot studs like Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling will only take someone so far. It is fantasy, after all. What about her dreams? Traveling abroad, having dinner on a rooftop in New York City and making love under the stars were just a few items on her to-do list. Nothing has been accomplished. Life has gotten in the way and her husband hasn't been supportive of her, not in a good many years.

When Faye meets the handsome (and much younger) Australian deli worker, she can’t help but feel as though there’s something to look forward to. She can live vicariously through his stories of a life unscripted, yearning to throw caution to the wind and explore the uncharted territory of who she used to be. Faye finds it very hard not to fall for a man who actually listens and pays attention to her, making her feel appreciated. But does he feel the same? What would a tanned blond God see in an aging, washed-up woman like Faye? Is she willing to give up everything she has and take a chance on an unsure thing?

I had a hard time putting this book down. There’s a beautiful build-up to everything for Faye, and for the supporting characters. I was laughing out loud a lot of the time, and my husband would look at me like I’d gone nuts. It’s not often a book gets to me like that, but Watson is a great writer with fantastic comedic timing. Even if you’re not going through a situation like Faye's, you can certainly identify with her. So many of us have our own dreams we’ve left on bucket lists, locked away in a storage box or crumpled up in the corner of a dresser drawer. Maybe it’s time to brush away the dust and check off a few of the items.

And, a bit of a warning: If you have any kind of sweet tooth, you’re in big trouble. I found myself practically salivating when reading about the various foods and desserts Faye picks up from the deli. I had a lot of cookies and treats while reading this book, but it was well worth it!

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jenny Colgan offers up some a book giveaway

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Today, Jenny Colgan is here to tell us how she writes two characters in two different timelines. Her novel, Sweetshop of Dreams was published in the US earlier this month by Sourcebooks and they have a copy for someone in the US or Canada!

A former columnist for The Guardian, Jenny Colgan contributes regularly to national BBC radio and is the author of more than eleven bestselling novels, including her recent international bestsellers The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris published in 2014 and Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the 2013 Romantic Novel of the Year award from the Romantic Novelists Association. She is married with three children and lives in London and France. You can visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

How do you balance writing between two timelines in Sweetshop of Dreams? Did you find it difficult to switch between Lillian and Rosie?

Actually it wasn't my intention to switch timelines at all. It was Rosie's story really, I just included a flashback to Lilian's past to give her some context in terms of the type of woman she was.

Then, I got really caught up in her story, I loved writing it and just adored the romance. It is slipping out of living memory, the Second World War; the stakes were so much higher then. So it was fun, plus I really enjoyed Lilian's cranky voice when she's talking about contemporary candy- I like her absolute refusal to have chewing gum in her sweetshop because she thinks it's vulgar!- so I just put more in.

It also, I hope, contrasts nicely with Rosie who, although she is a lot younger, obviously is much more conventional than her great-aunt; she's a nurse, so she's always trying to be sensible and look after people. I really like their dynamic. I do think people who look after the elderly well are just about the best people on earth. It's rewarding to look after a baby; to help and be kind and sweet and patient with people at the other ends of their lives is much harder.

To get back to the book, that's the fun of writing too: you can always have a shot at trying something new, and seeing if it works or not. I remember the first time I ever wrote a flashback, about ten books ago, and sending it to a writer friend of mine, saying, 'does this work?' and her saying, 'why on earth do you think I know what I'm doing either?". Which made me feel a lot better! And that's why it's always worth giving everything a shot...


Rosie Hopkins's life is...comfortable. She has a steady nursing job, a nice apartment, and Gerard, her loyal (if a bit boring) boyfriend. And even though she might like to pursue a more rewarding career, and Gerard doesn't seem to have any plans to propose, Rosie's not complaining. Things could be worse. Right?

Life gets a bit more interesting when Rosie's mother sends her out to the country to care for her ailing great aunt Lilian, who owns an old-fashioned sweetshop. But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what's comfortable might not be so great after all. (Courtesy of Sourcebooks.)

Buy Links:
Amazon * BAM * B&N * IndieBound * Indigo * Kobo

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 August 27th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Make no bones about it... (plus a book giveaway)

**Giveaway is now closed**

This month, our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, has decided to take a turn in the interviewer's chair. She invited one of her favorite authors, Eileen Goudge, to be the interviewee. Eileen is offering up THREE   e-books of her mystery novel, Bones and Roses, to readers anywhere in the world! (Such a rock star!)

Take it away, Jen!

Eileen Goudge is back in a big way.  Her newest page-turner, BONES AND ROSES, is a cozy mystery brimming with plot twists and turns.  No, she hasn’t walked away from women’s fiction for something darker.  Plenty of love interests, best friend issues, and hilarity abound in this novel for the fans who know and love her richly detailed novels.  Penning a mystery is something Eileen has wanted to explore for some time.  After writing 32 books for young adults (including several in the SWEET VALLEY HIGH series), and 15 in women’s fiction, I’m giddy she has finished the first installment in the Cyprus Bay Series.  Truly, she has written a gem.  Here’s the book description via Amazon:

Welcome to the northern California seaside town of Cypress Bay, where the surf's up, the sixties live on and long-buried secrets are about to surface.

From home invasions to cheating spouses, Rest Easy Property Management owner Leticia "Tish" Ballard thought she'd seen it all. Almost four years sober after flambĂ©ing her real estate career in an alcohol-fueled blowout, she's finally in a good place in her life when the discovery of skeletal human remains rocks her world and plunges her headlong into solving a decades-old crime. Now she must delve into the darkness of her own past, including the one-night stand gone horribly wrong with Spence Breedlove, who happens to be the lead detective on the case. 

When the truth comes out at long last, Tish finds herself pitted against an enemy who will stop at nothing in a fight for her own life.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

In all transparency, I’m a lucky duck to know and love this amazing lady.  We text many mornings while sipping caffeine laced tea in respective zip codes.  She’s someone I turn to in the midst of bad days and her wisdom and wit inevitably take the weight of my world off of my plate.  We’ve decided we could room together in the old folks’ home one day, and that’s saying something!  Whether Eileen is a new author name to you, or you’ve loved her previous books, she’s excited to give you all an opportunity to win a digital copy of BONES AND ROSES!  Here she is, New York Times Bestselling Author, Eileen Goudge.

You took big leaps of faith with your new novel, BONES AND ROSES.  Tell me why you chose to pen a mystery after making your mark in women’s fiction.

It was a genre leap, but I didn’t go from women’s fiction to hard-boiled crime, so it’s not as big a leap as you might image. I think the fans of my other novels will find Bones and Roses (Book one of my Cypress Bay mystery series) similar in many ways. My heroine, Tish, not unlike the heroines of my women’s fiction titles, is flawed but has a good heart. She’s plucky and tries to do the right thing, though she occasionally puts her foot in it.  Bones and Roses is a mystery, sure, but it’s also about friendship and family and the dramas therein—plot elements that are my trademark.    

You made the decision to self-publish your new title after an established career with traditional publishers.  Why was the time right for you to make this move professionally?

I felt I’d hit a brick wall with traditional publishing. The triple whammy—recession, dwindling sales for all but front-list print books, and general atmosphere of caution that had publishers loath to go out on a limb for established authors who’d hit a career lull— more or less flattened me. Like in the Road Runner cartoons except I couldn’t peel myself off the wall, at least not in traditional publishing. That’s what made indie publishing so attractive – I could get a fresh start and be judged (by readers) solely on the merits of my work and not my prior sales figures.    

Where did the inspiration come from regarding the bug sculptures created by one of the characters in BONES AND ROSES?  It reminded me of the white mice Steve Carell’s character collected and—should I say—refurbished in DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. 

My artist friend, Lisa Wood, was the inspiration for the character of Ivy in Bones and Roses.  She makes these amazing insect dioramas that you are like nothing you’ve ever seen. What might sound kind of icky is actually strangely beautiful, and of course utterly unique and as eccentric as Lisa herself.  One reader expressed a desire to own one. Well, guess what? You can purchase them if you live within driving distance of San Francisco, where her curiosity shop is located. Last I heard she doesn’t ship, due to how fragile her dioramas are.

The love and devotion you share with your husband, entertainment reporter, Sandy Kenyon, is such a lovely thing to see.  I know he’s your biggest cheerleader.  What’s it like being married to someone who’s been immortalized on an episode of South Park, and whose face pops up on TV screens, in New York City cabs, sharing the latest movie reviews?

Very cool, because he doesn’t let it go to his head. He enjoys interacting with fans who come up to him on the street, but that’s only because he’s a people person and loves to tell his stories.  The other day, a young man on the subway asked if he could take a selfie with Sandy. Sandy was happy to oblige, and the young man missed his subway stop as a result. “Totally worth it,” he declared cheerfully as he got off at the next stop.  What I like most is that my husband is totally not in awe of the celebrities he interviews, which includes glamorous actresses who are among the world’s great beauties.  Afterwards he always says to me, “She’s not as pretty as you.” The best part is, he’s not just saying it. He truly believes it. God bless the rose-colored glasses of love!

You’re planning a dinner party at your home.  If you could seat anyone around the table, living or no longer with us, who are the lucky invitees and why?  *Jen crosses her fingers she makes the cut*  

You totally make the cut, Jen! Place of honor for my girl!  All the Beach Babes would have to be on the guest list: you, me, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Meredith Schorr, Francine LaSala and Julie Valerie (so named due to an infamous girls’ weekend at the beach where wine flowed & secrets were divulged that shall not be revealed – except maybe in the pages of our novels, and then heavily disguised so as to protect the identities of the real life people involved).  I would also invite Stephen King so he could entertain us with ghost stories.

The ultimate dinner party! (L to R: Jen, Julie, Meredith,
Eileen, Francine, Samantha)

What will readers see coming from you next?
Book two of my Cypress Bay mystery series, Swimsuit Body, in which Tish Ballard’s adventures and misadventures continue.

New York Times’ bestselling novelist Eileen Goudge wrote her first mystery, “Secret of the Mossy Cave,” at the age of eleven and went on to pen the perennially popular GARDEN OF LIES, which was published in 22 languages around the world, and numerous other women’s fiction titles. BONES AND ROSES is the first book in her Cypress Bay Mysteries series.  She lives in New York City with her husband, television film critic and entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon.  Visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Thanks to Jen for putting this interview together for us and to Eileen for sharing her book with our readers!

How to win:
Tell us three guests (living or dead, famous or not) who would make for a memorable dinner party.

One entry per person.

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

Worldwide. Giveaway ends August 26th at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: Fallen for Rock

By Bethany Petty

Ah, classical music. Beethoven, Bach, Mozart...does it get any better? Such is the opinion of Emily, bank associate and girlfriend of hard rocker, Nate. Emily just doesn’t understand her boyfriend’s obsession with rock music. It’s loud and angry and not “music,” according to Emily.

Differences arise in her relationship with Nate, and Emily decides to call it quits. Soon after the relationship ends, Emily receives backstage passes to a rock concert by Nate’s favorite band, MonX. As she ponders their relationship more and more, she realizes what a horrible mistake she has made and desperately tries to win him back.

Can Emily deal with Nate’s rock music affection, or is their relationship too broken to mend?

Fallen For Rock takes the reader on a wild ride as Emily falls out of and back in love with her rocker boyfriend, hangs out with a rock band, and really “gets to know” the lead singer of Nate’s favorite band. At one point in the book, I couldn’t decide which relationship to root for and who I wanted Emily to become! When I finished the book...and the wonderful epilogue that accompanied it...I found myself begging for more of Fallen For Rock!

Any Chick Lit fan will LOVE Fallen For Rock! Sequel! Sequel!

Thanks to Nicky Wells for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Bethany Petty is a mother, wife, full time high school social studies teacher, educational technology nerd, reader, runner, blogger, and more! Bethany holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Missouri - Columbia. She enjoys reading a wide variety of books, and is excited to pass her love of reading on to her two young daughters. Bethany maintains two blogs: Teaching with Technology, in which she discusses educational technology topics as well as their classroom uses, and My Eclectic Bookshelf, where she reviews awesome books and posts recipes, apps, ideas, and anecdotes for mommies!

More by Nicky Wells:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Laura Kenyon has her own "happily ever after" a book giveaway

Laura Kenyon was here in the beginning of the year to introduce her debut novel, Desperately Ever After (reviewed here), which is the kick-off to her three-book series. She's back now to take us deeper into the woods with book two, Damsels in Distress. Since her last visit, she became a mom for the first time and while she's not getting much sleep at the moment, she's really happy with her little "princess."

Today, Laura is here to talk more about her "Desperately Ever After" series and she has a copy of Damsels in Distress for a lucky US reader (winner's choice of print or Kindle). You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

What inspired you to write the "Desperately Ever After" series?
The idea actually came to me decades ago (the result of a Disney-obsessed kid growing up) and was continually fueled by life experience and shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. I loved the happily-ever-after Disney films, but couldn’t stand how quickly the characters always fell madly in love. The implication was that because they were physically attracted to each other, they were perfectly matched in every other way…and their lives were going to be filled with butterflies and rainbows and infinite happiness forever after.

Real life just doesn’t work that way. So I began to imagine what happened next. I wanted the untold story. Would Cinderella be happy ten years down the road, when she had four kids, could no longer fit into her ball gown, and was responsible for running a kingdom? How long would it take “Beast” to go right back to his old, selfish ways after Beauty broke his curse? And for Book Two, how would Sleeping Beauty fare being uprooted from the life she knew, tossed centuries into the future, and ushered into marriage with a stranger who went about kissing comatose women in the woods?

You feature a lot of authors at your blog. What is something you learned from one of them that you could apply to your writing going forward?
Despite my initial fears that this industry would be filled with cutthroat competitors only looking out for themselves, I've found nothing but encouragement and guidance from the authors I've met. Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home, is truly my inspiration because she turned a self-published book into a reprint-plus-one deal with HarperCollins. She also gave me loads of wonderful advice while I was gearing up to publish Desperately Ever After--including the importance of making your product as professional as possible, connecting with other writers, being proactive about spreading the word, and never ever ever giving up the dream.

What is the best compliment you received about Desperately Ever After?
One reader said she smuggled the book into the bathroom at work because she couldn't wait to find out what happened to Belle. I thought that was fantastic!

With all this Frozen craze going on, do you think you'll get on board to feature the Snow Queen in a future book in the series?
Right now I intend to end the main series with Book Three, and I want to focus on developing the characters I already have. But it will be hard to let go of this world entirely, so I've planned a few DEA novellas (the first spotlights the "witch" who kept Rapunzel in that tower), and there are tons of spinoff options. So there's always a chance you might see a modernized take on The Snow Queen ... but it would draw from Andersen's tale, not Disney's.

Now that you're a mom, what is the first fairy tale you plan to introduce to your daughter?
Oh this is a fun question! Well, I loved the Little Mermaid movie, but the actual story by Hans Christian Andersen is just horribly depressing--and the message isn't all that great either, now that I think about it! Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, teaches some very valuable lessons about the importance of inner beauty, the dangers of vanity, and the eventual rewards of humility/sacrifice. I think that will be her first.

How did the name "Skipping Midnight" come about for your blog?
Thanks to Cinderella, midnight has come to signify the end of the fairy tale--whether that's the quest to marry a prince, win the NCAA tournament, or achieve a seven-figure publishing deal (hint hint). It's the moment when reality sets in and all the magic/hope comes to an end. In Book One, the fear of this is a recurring theme, but there's a key scene in which one of the characters (I'm being vague to avoid spoiling!) realizes her fairy tale isn't over after all. The metaphorical midnight never came, and she can't imagine it ever will. I really liked that sentiment. I named my blog "Skipping Midnight" because I never intend to give up on my dream. I never want to reach midnight. It's also the name of Book Three, by the way, which will come out in 2015.

Thanks to Laura for visiting and sharing her book with our readers!

~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

US only. Giveaway ends August 25th at midnight EST.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The price is right for Karin a book giveaway

Almost 13 years ago my mom gave me her mom's cedar chest. I always knew I'd get it one day as an inheritance, however my mom decided she didn't want to wait until then.  She wanted me to inherit it while she was alive so she could see me enjoy it.  I appreciated my mom doing this for me.  I had spent many years as a child admiring this piece of furniture and its history.

Today, we talk to Karin Tanabe whose latest novel, The Price of Inheritance, focuses on the history of an item and the impact it has on someone who isn't necessarily the one who was next in line to get it.

Karin is a graduate of Vassar College and currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband Craig.  She's a former reporter for Politico  and made frequent appearances as a celebrity and politics expert on television, including on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, and CNN.

To celebrate the recent publication of The Price of Inheritance, thanks to Karin we have THREE copies to give away to readers located in the US.

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

What are the top three things that make writing difficult for you?
1) Social Media. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but man oh man does it become my black hole of procrastination. “Ou! New friend request. Oh look! She had a baby. It’s so cute. There’s a video of him eating macaroni through his nose! Wait, is my ex-boyfriend on Instagram? Is he married?!” You know how it goes.

2) Reading a book that is insanely good. I absolutely love to read a great book. I’m sure every reader here does! But there are certain ones that you finish and you’re like, “Wow! I could never ever pen anything this good. Might as well stop trying.” Sometimes I can get intimidated and that will slow my writing down.

3) FOMO, better known as Fear Of Missing Out. All the writers out there know that the hardest part of writing a book is writing a book. There are a lot of days where I have to hide in my cave of loneliness and become one with my writing, but I know my husband or friends are out doing something super fun. I’ll sneak glances at the aforementioned social media and just get jeal-ous. “Look at them drinking! Wine! And laughing! And I’m alone in my pajamas and I’ll probably get one million varicose veins from being glued to this chair, and this computer is making me blind and just…wah!!” And I’ll forever complain about it, but it’s still totally worth it to me. Because they get hangovers and I get a book!

On average, how long do you write each day?
I’m pretty good with my word count discipline. When I have a project, I keep a very strict 10,000 words a week rule. Ideally that means 2,000 words every weekday with weekends off, but sometimes I will goof around on a day and be like, “I work from home! I’m driving to the beach, getting tan and eating all the things!” and then I get stuck writing 5,000 words in one day.

Where is your favorite place to write and why that location?
I do a lot of writing in my bed (Don’t judge! Edith Wharton did too), but I also love to write in the Kogod Courtyard at The National Portrait Gallery. It’s such a gorgeous space, there is wifi, a cafeteria, empty tables, and if you’re a good enough sleuth, even power outlets. Plus, you can procrastinate by going to look at masterpieces. My favorites are the portraits of writers. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, Henry James, Louisa May Alcott—all chilling in those halls.

What do you consider your greatest asset?
Since we are talking about writing, I will say that my best assets for writing are discipline and passion. Whoops that’s two. Clearly my asset isn’t humility! I am pretty decent at getting the job done. I think the grind of writing isn’t for a lot of people, but I enjoy the journey and I can sequester myself with my computer every day and still manage to be pretty sane. And then there’s passion. I just straight up love the written word.

My dream vacation would be to:
Go off the grid in France! I am a huge Francophile. As in I would like to name my firstborn child France, but my husband will have none of it. So I would have to say an entire month in Provence with magical money for me to spend and lots of theatre, museums, shopping and endless rosé to drink. And truffles. Copious amounts discovered by one of those enterprising pigs.

If I were ruler of the world, I would:
Abdicate and go back to writing books. After I cured AIDS/Cancer/Famine/Ebola/Illiteracy and all those other pesky things, of course.

Thanks to Karin for visiting us and sharing her book with our readers!

~Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review: Gravel On the Side of the Road

By Kathryn Hamilton

How do you define extraordinary? What do you consider ordinary? When it comes to life experiences, many of us would say we lead ordinary lives that are really "nothing to write home about." After all, most of us are not journalists who have gone to war zones or worked with the FBI. Kris Radish has done all that and so much more, creating the foundation for remarkable stories. Gravel on the Side of the Road is a collection of moments/experiences/anecdotes that Ms. Radish has written throughout the years and put together in this memoir that stays with you long after you turn the last page.

I'll be the first to admit that initially I was unsure how I was going to review this novel as it is written in a style I am not used to and does not have the elements that I typically discuss. Each "chapter" is a separate memory that is not connected to the next. My poor organization-obsessed brain struggled to find the reason it was ordered the way it was (it is not chronological or thematic). Eventually, I had to force my mind to abandon this need and simply read.

Ms. Radish is an exceptionally talented writer. She is also compassionate, brave, insightful, and given her career choice in journalism, a definite adventure seeker. She has the ability to write with such detail and emotion that the reader gets a sense of being in each situation. For me personally, this meant that while reading two of the stories, I had to physically put the novel down and walk away because Ms. Radish had so poignantly expressed experiences that took me right back to a very emotional place. This is by no means a criticism; it takes a special kind of writer to be able to describe something in such a way that the reader is transported to their own experiences. She is so eloquent and beautiful in her craft that I am in awe. If I'm honest though, I found myself in awe of her simply because of the person she is. Readers immediately get a sense of this woman from the first paragraph and she is nothing short of fabulous for many reasons.

Despite her insistence in the introduction that many of her experiences have been ordinary, to the reader, it doesn't seem like this is the case. However, I do appreciate the message: there are extraordinary moments in all of our lives and we need to learn to revel in those as well as appreciate them for what they are. It is these moments that shape our lives and give them meaning.

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

More by Kris Radish: