Friday, October 31, 2014

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

The Firelight Girls by Kaya McLaren from St. Martin's Press

Say Never by/from Janis Thomas

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah from St. Martin's Press

Ginger Krinkles by/from Dee DeTarsio (e-book)

After by Anna Todd from Gallery Books

Gone Bitch: A Parody of Gone Girl by/from Steve Lookner (e-book, won through LibraryThing)

Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren from Gallery Books


Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand from Hachette

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio from Penguin Random House (Melissa A got this too)


Part-time Princess by/from Pamela Dumond (e-book)


Expecting by Ann Hamilton from Julia Drake PR (e-book)

Just Destiny by/from Theresa Rizzo (e-book)


The Stall of Second Chances by Dana Bate from Little, Brown

A Proper Family Christmas by Chrissie Manby from Hodder and Stoughton

The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan from Sphere

What could be in YOUR (e)mail:

DIY Chick Lit AND DIY Writing Retreat by Alicia de los Reyes

Alicia has TWO sets of e-books for some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

DIY Chick Lit is a beginner’s guide to writing funny, snappy, sucks-you-into-the-story prose about modern women, life and love. Designed for the aspiring novelist, it’s full of tips and techniques, prompts and pep talks that will spark your imagination and inspire you to put pen to paper.

Originally published in 2013 as The Chick Lit Cookbook, this fun, cupcake-themed writer’s road map has been updated as part of acclaimed writing teacher Alicia de los Reyes’ DIY writing series. DIY Chick Lit will take you from start to finish of your first draft in just 13 chapters, each with a short exercise that will get you writing now.

DIY Chick Lit will prove to you that writing a novel can be fun and easy — it’s just like baking cupcakes!

DIY Writing Retreat is a guide to making time and space for you to do exactly one thing: write. With step-by-step instructions to planning and running your own escape, DIY Writing Retreat will show you how to schedule time for your retreat, find a cabin or cabin-equivalent to stay in, and separate yourself from the rest of the world. Then, it will guide you through the entire retreat, from writing prompts to relaxing activities.

Written by the acclaimed author of DIY Chick Lit, this fun guide is sure to motivate writers at every stage, from aspiring authors to experienced novelists. Time to write alternates with fun activities that will energize you and keep you going. A worksheet guides you to reflect on your writing process and set goals for when you return home. There are even (super easy) recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

(Both synopses courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Alicia at her website and Twitter.

How to win:
Since today is HALLOWEEN and we kick off "Celebrity Month" next week, tell us which celebrity you would want to dress as for Halloween (or who you have dressed as in the past).

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 November 5th at midnight EST.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Guest Book Review: Dirty Laundry

By Jacqueline Friedland

Are you a Rules girl? You know what I’m talking about. Dating rules. Strategic tricks for snagging Mr. McPerfect. Let’s see… Don’t call the guy. If he wants to talk, he’ll call you. Don’t be too available. Never accept a date unless you’re asked at least three days in advance. Let the man be the aggressor. Actually, no, let him think he’s the aggressor. Pretend you are hard-to-get, and go ahead, play some good old fashioned mind games. In 1995, Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein published the The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. The book generated strong reactions in the American public. Many readers were scandalized, finding the book’s guidelines sexist, antiquated, too rigid, flat-out ridiculous. Others were inspired, finally having their own how-to guide, a step by step manual on how to land their dreamboat. Seminars popped up across the nation, success stories were shared, and just like that, “Rules girls” were born.

Well my friends, Rachel Naples has given us a new kind of Rules girl with a brand new set of wacky, idiosyncratic, bass-ackward rules. In her new novel, Dirty Laundry, Naples presents Lucy Stars, a relationship expert with her own radio show, a platform where she provides advice to those searching for or struggling to keep their significant others. Lucy is in a great position to provide this advice since she herself is in such a wonderful, blissful relationship. Her husband, Kraft Conroy, is a life coach and also the man of her dreams. Married for ten years, living in a beautiful home, she and Kraft couldn’t be happier. Or so Lucy thinks.

The book opens as Lucy prepares to go on-air for her radio show, which she conveniently conducts from her very own kitchen. As she sets up her laptop and presses all the right buttons to go live, her husband Kraft walks into the kitchen and calmly announces, “I want a divorce.” Lucy is utterly stunned. Blindsided. Hadn’t seen this coming at all. She makes her shock and despair clear to Kraft as she demands answers. Kraft is calm and tight-lipped, simply asking Lucy to return her wedding ring before leaving for work. As one might expect, Lucy completely freaks out on him. Worse yet, poor Lucy is already on the air. Suddenly, this purported relationship expert has bared her soul live on the airwaves, showing her listeners that she may not be such an expert after all.

Kudos to her listeners though. People start calling in from everywhere, offering Lucy words of support and encouragement. Before she knows it, Lucy’s listeners are providing advice to her, instead of the other way around. Now Lucy is the student, and her listeners, the teachers. After letting the dust settle a bit, Lucy decides to make the most of her new situation. She will try to use her newfound independence to find herself a better match. Maybe Kraft wasn’t as perfect for her as she thought. Rather than finding someone who completes her (a la Jerry McGuire), she will look for someone who complements her, and she will take her listeners along for the entire journey.

As Lucy considers new men, she ruminates on all of the things about Kraft that she should have seen as warning signs about him from the beginning. For example, he never liked dogs. What Lucy wants to know is: What kind of a good guy doesn’t like dogs?! And so we get Rule #1. Any decent prospect must like dogs. Next problem. Kraft was always buying his toilet paper from Costco. This, Lucy decides, was obviously a red flag that she missed. If he’s cheap with himself, Lucy tells her listeners, he will always be cheap with you. Rule #2. No Costco TP. Kraft was also a little compulsive with hand sanitizer. Germaphobia, says Lucy, is just another symptom of emotional unavailability. Rule #3. No sanitizer. And so it happens that Lucy Stars begins creating her own list of dating rules for herself and her listeners.

As the story unfolds, Lucy becomes a media sensation, appearing on television and signing a book deal. Everyone wants more of the woman whose topsy turvy dating rules are catching on across the nation. Meanwhile, as she continues to share her dating adventures on air, listeners call in to give advice about which dates to accept and how to handle tricky situations. It’s only when Lucy meets a man that she really likes that she begins to question her hard and fast rules. This guy, who seems so great, doesn’t like dogs. He likes Costco toilet paper. Wants to split a pack of it with her! What is a self-respecting "Rules" girl to do?!?

Writing with a fast-paced, witty, and often slapstick prose, Naples shows Lucy trying on various guys for size. There is a fun-loving, self-deprecating, almost stream of consciousness tone to the writing that sucks the reader in and makes Lucy the most lovable of characters, despite her obvious flaws. Naples’ background in screenplays and TV writing is evident in the pages of her novel, as the scenes she depicts come off as perfect for the big screen, an adorable romantic comedy, ready to go.

Despite the obvious light-hearted beach-ready (and yes, predictable) nature of this story, there are clearly some deeper issues that Naples is tackling underneath all the fun. As Lucy navigates the treacherous world of post-divorce dating, she learns a lot about adapting that she passes on to her radio listeners, as well as to the readers. Through Lucy’s ridiculous dates, Naples conveys a story about transformation and personal growth that can resonate with anyone. There are always times in life when we need to take a step back and readjust our previous assumptions. We learn that the rules we were trying to live by are no longer the correct guidelines for our situation. Or even more revolutionary, perhaps the game we are playing simply has no rules at all. Whatever the answer, Rachel Naples will have you laughing your way through this heartwarming antidote to Jerry McGuire and the need for a mate to complete you.

Thanks to Rachel Naples for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Jacqueline Berkell Friedland is currently an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she is studying fiction. She if a former attorney and law school professor. When she is not writing, Jacqueline can be found plowing through novels or chasing after her four young children.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reader Spotlight: Librarian Lavender

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: Suzanne started posting comments on CLC earlier this year and she just seemed really nice. I could tell how much she lives for reading and I even have visited her blog, which is very dynamic. She has a lot of giveaways too, for both books and swag. She usually blogs as Lavender, a fictional character, but sometimes she'll blog as herself too. I also like the name of the city she lives by. ;)

Visit her at Facebook, and Twitter.

Name: Suzanne
Age: 33
Location: The Amsterdam area in the Netherlands. I'm living in a beautiful seaside village.

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
I read about it on Twitter and then started following the website. I love reading reviews and I'm always looking for new book recommendations.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
These are the five chick lit novels that I can read over and over again.
1. Ten Years On by Alice Peterson
2. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
3. The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
4. Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley
5. The French for Always by Fiona Valpy

What do you do when you're not reading?
I try to work on my books as often as I can. I'm currently writing my first book in English, which is a YA novel. I've finished a novel in Dutch and am going to do one last revision before sending it to either an agent or a publisher. I try come up with stories on a daily basis for my blog. I've started this a few months ago to share free fiction with everyone who wants to read it. I also write positive reviews about the books that I love. I studied literature and marketing of books about twelve years ago. My whole life revolves around books which is exactly the way I like it.

In my free time I like hanging out with my friends and family. I'm married to my high school sweetheart and we've been together for almost 18 years. We share a passion for good food and great wines and we are the proud owners of the Gault & Millau guides of several different countries. I'm in love with France and that is where we go as often as possible, which usually means a few times a year. I like fashion and beauty and spend a lot of time shopping online to find something great to wear. I've got a pretty good life, there's only one thing that isn't going very well and that's my health.

Book Review: Haunted Ever After

By Melissa Amster

Halloween is coming, which means ghost stories are just waiting to be told. I'm not much for horror, but I like a good Chick Lit ghost story (such as Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella). Thanks to Juliet Madison, I had a real "treat" from reading Haunted Ever After!

When bride-to-be Sally Marsh attends a weekend away with her bridesmaids, the last thing she expects is an uninvited guest: the ghost of her fiancé's ex-girlfriend.

Red is quirky, loud and distracting, and Sally is soon desperate to find the reason behind her presence, so she can rid herself of her embarrassing shadow before the wedding day. Unfortunately, the ghost is reluctant to share the reason for her existence, but very enthusiastic about Ty, the surprise hen’s night stripper who keeps showing up at awkward moments.

Time is running out for Sally, but it’s also running out for Red. By the time all is revealed, Sally will be tested to the limits, and go above and beyond everything she’s ever believed in order to ensure not only her own happy-ever-after – but Red’s as well.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I've enjoyed everything that Juliet has written in the past two years, and Haunted Ever After is no exception. Honestly, I went into it expecting a book version of Over Her Dead Body (this Eva Longoria movie that I never even watched but knew enough of from previews). However, Juliet goes above and beyond the story of a dead girlfriend who haunts the new woman in her boyfriend's life. Especially since that isn't Red's mission. Haunted Ever After might start out a bit silly, but it has a lot of substance that I didn't see coming. I just thought it was going to be light and funny because of the bachelorette party, with a touch of sexiness courtesy of the stripper. There's so much more to it than that and it makes for a bittersweet and emotional story.

I don't understand much about ghosts, but I happened to read two ghost-themed stories around the same time and both had the ghosts making physical contact with the living and their objects. (Ex. Red is able to blow out candles and grab Sally's arm.) I can't wrap my head around how that is possible, but I guess that's the way it works in books? I haven't really watched any ghost-themed movies in a while as most are horror-based. Also, the cover art didn't seem to work for the story. It has a romance novel feel while I think having a woman look in the mirror and see herself with another woman next to her would be more relevant. (Or something along those lines.)

Overall, Haunted Ever After is a great read, whether it's around Halloween or any other time of year. (It takes place in Australia's winter, which is summer for other countries.) I applaud Juliet's writing once again and look forward to her upcoming novels, including more in the "Tarrin's Bay" series. She recently posted a cover picture and synopsis for her upcoming holiday novella, 12 Daves of Christmas. And what do you know...there's a ghost involved!

I had a difficult time casting this story in my head (at least for the lead roles), but Juliet had some great ideas and shared them on Pinterest. Definitely check them out! I could actually see Wendi McLendon-Covey as Georgie and Ellie Kemper as Mel, two of Sally's friends who share in her Bachelorette Weekend (both were in Bridesmaids). Come to think of it, Maya Rudolph might be good as Lorena.

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

More by Juliet Madison:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Where I Found You

By Becky Gulc

‘Maggie Carter knows Victoria Park like the back of her hand. She can tell you what time of year the most fragrant flowers bloom; she knows which paths lead you to the bench by the lake. The park is her safe place – because outside it, expecting her first baby, Maggie has started to wonder whether she’s going to be able to cope.

One woman who can’t escape her past

Elsa, too, is expecting her first child, and alone and without anyone to support her, she is terrified that her child will be taken away. But all is not as it seems: the secrets of sixty years ago are haunting Elsa and they won’t let her rest…

Bound together by the present

Struggling under the expectations and intentions of others, Maggie and Elsa’s chance meeting on the park bench offers them each a lifeline and a friend. As they reveal their hopes and heartaches, can they see themselves – and each other – clearly enough to help, before it’s too late?’ (Synopsis courtesy of HarperCollins UK)

This synopsis appealed to me; two women with very different circumstances but both expecting their first child, drawn together through a timely meeting on a park bench. It would be quite hard to write a review of this book without mentioning what the synopsis doesn’t divulge, that Maggie is visually impaired, and Elsa is in fact in her eighties but suffers from dementia, with her mind taunting her, increasingly taking her back to a very difficult time in her life.

I was surprised to learn of both these revelations as they just weren’t what I was expecting. I thought the build up to Maggie’s visual impairment being revealed to the reader was very clever, making it clear that in so many respects someone with such a disability will go about their day to day lives, and have the same day to day worries much the same as everyone else, I didn’t see this reveal coming. Once informed, I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised to be reading a book with a lead character with such a physical disability, I can’t recall any other books I’ve read with such a lead character so for me it offers something different for the reader.

I enjoyed the character of Maggie, a very strong and likeable character who experiences many of the same fears as anyone who is about to become a parent. However, when it becomes quite obvious to Maggie that her mother-in-law doesn’t believe she can be a ‘normal’ parent, Maggie’s inner qualms about her own ability to be a good parent surface and she questions herself repeatedly. I thought the attention to detail and internal dialogue surrounding Maggie’s fears were very strong.

In terms of the reveal of Elsa being in fact in her eighties, well, I didn’t feel it likely that Maggie (who is very independent and intuitive) would actually mistake a woman in her eighties for a young woman. So for me my ‘buy in’ to the novel was lost a bit at this point, but I decided to put that niggle to one side and just continue with the novel (this happens early on). I found Elsa’s story very moving and interesting and enjoyed Maggie’s involvement in trying to be a friend to Elsa and helping her solve the mystery surrounding the time she was pregnant with her first child.

Admittedly I found the book a tad repetitive in parts and in this sense I felt it could maybe have been a little shorter. Overall I enjoyed the style of writing and felt the scenes in the park in particular were very atmospheric. Where I Found You was an enjoyable read; a book I would recommend, particularly if you enjoy quite a moving novel.

Thanks to Harper Fiction for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Amanda Brooke:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: The Tail of Augustus Moon

By Sara Steven

Augustus (Gus for short) is independent. He’s prone to late night strolls and can be very territorial over his home and the most cherished possession and love of his life, Maisie. He stands his ground at all costs, and won’t take no for an answer.

Not surprisingly, Gus is a cat.

In The Tail of Augustus Moon, we are given insight from a feline’s perspective. Left behind after his prior owners skipped town, Gus had been on his own and fending for himself before Maisie moved into the neighborhood. Knowing it’s time to settle his paws and plant roots again, Gus sets out to woo Maisie into adopting him. It’s no easy task. Maisie is set in her ways, too, having lived a rather lonely existence that includes a string of broken romances. She wanted to escape to the country for peace and in pops Gus, ready to spoil all she’s set out to do. Really, she’s more of a dog person.

“So she fell for it and here I am, about to live in luxury again. In the end it was so simple. All I had to do was turn up a few times, tell her my sorry tale and miaow my way into her life. Oh yes, and put my paw out and touch her hand. That always works a treat….”

Thus begins an "Odd Couple" relationship. Gus gets angry when Maisie goes out without him. Maisie gets annoyed when Gus gives her one of his special “presents”. Anything with a tail and resembling a rodent should be off limits. Over time they form a very special bond built on trust and mutual respect, only to have it potentially shattered by another man, and not of the feline variety, either. Gus has no room in his life for competition, especially where humans are concerned. Gus is number #1, and that’s it. End of story. For Maisie though, it's a tough choice to make. If the two men she loves most in life can't get along, what is she to do?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that is written from the human and feline perspective. I was surprised to find that it’s a unique twist, and cleverly done! Melanie Whitehouse has created a sweet tale (or is that tail) about the bond between pets and their humans. Throw in some drama, and it’s a really cute read. It really makes you think about what’s really going on inside the mind of your furry friend!

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Double Feature Book Review: Better Late than Never!

By Melissa Amster

I haven't done a double feature review in a while, but wanted to do it again for some books I enjoyed but have been slow to review for some reason. Maybe it was a matter of finding the right ways to say how I felt about the books. In one case, the review notes I had written got erased and I had to start over while trying to remember all the details. (I have learned to make a second copy of my review notes since then!)

In any case, both books are by authors I respect and whose voices have a similar feel to the point where I think they should write a book together. Also, both books have some similar themes running through them.

Both synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall

Meet Grace, who is actually excited about turning 40 in a few months, that is, until her job, marriage, and personal life take a dizzying downhill spiral. Can she recover from the most devastating time in her life, right before it's supposed to be one of the best? Fans of Emily Giffin will love Susie Orman Schnall's debut, which is all about rediscovering yourself--with grace--well after you think it's even possible anymore. On Grace deals with themes such as divorce, infidelity, re-entering the workforce after children, breast cancer, and of course, turning 40. 

It was easy to get into On Grace and stick with the story throughout, as it was engaging and comfortable, like chatting with a close friend. The story and the way it was written reminded me of Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda (also the author of the book sharing this review space). The dialogue felt genuine and flowed nicely. I liked the interactions between Grace and the other characters in the story and felt I could easily visualize them. The only thing that didn't work as well was that I had a hard time feeling sorry for Grace since she seemed to have a lot of money and friends in high places. She was still a sympathetic character overall, but sometimes she had it a little too easy. If I were to cast the role of Grace for a movie (as it would be an awesome chick flick), I'd go with Gwyneth Paltrow or Cameron Diaz. Both women could add their own flair to Grace's personality and I'd have a tough time deciding between them. Then again, one could play her best friend, Cameron (maybe Ms. Diaz to make things less confusing?) and I think they'd portray a convincing friendship.

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

In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life - head on. But while she's busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

I think part of the delay in reviewing this is that the subject matter was rather heavy for a mom, such as myself, to think about. So even revisiting it after I finished the story felt daunting. I even wrote a blog post that touched upon certain feelings this story brought up, and that was before I even read it. Having said that, I was impressed with Jenn's need to embrace life while knowing it could quickly come to an end. One of the main focuses of the story is that Jenn is planning a party for herself, but it's not so people can feel sorry for her. It's just one more way for her to embrace life and all the people who have touched hers in some way. Throughout the story, it's interesting to ponder how we see things at the end of our lives and the choices we make when we have the luxury (or doom) of knowing we'll be meeting our maker soon. Kaira's characters are all strong and well-developed and I enjoyed seeing them interact. I would have loved more history between Jenn and her sister though. The only things that didn't work so well for me were Jenn calling her father "daddy" while she's an adult and some parts seeming a bit far-fetched. It was a good story overall and went along at a nice pace, never feeling like it was stuck at all. If I were to cast In the Mirror as a movie (you'd need to bring a box of tissues though), Rachel McAdams would play Jenn.

Thanks to Kaira Rouda for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jessica Barksdale Inclán bakes *with* a a book giveaway

Today we are pleased to have Jessica Barksdale Inclán at CLC to talk about her baking experiences when she tries out all the recipes in her latest novel, How to Bake a Man. Thanks to Ghostwoods Books, we have TWO copies for readers in the US or UK!

Jessica Barksdale Inclán is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including the bestselling Her Daughter's Eyes, The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. She has also published several e-books and a women's studies textbook. Her work had been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech.

Ms. Inclán teaches composition, creative writing, mythology, and women’s literature at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, as well as online novel writing courses for UCLA Extension. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and is currently at work on a young adult novel.

Visit Jessica at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

When Becca Muchmore drops out of grad school, all she has left to fall back on is her baking. Ignoring her mother's usual barrage of disapproval and disappointment, she decides to start a small business hand-delivering her wares. A friend introduces her to an office of hungry lawyers, who agree to give her a try. Her lizard-booted neighbor Sal is happy to help out when he can, and almost before she knows it, Becca's Best is up and running.

Before she can settle into a routine, things get complicated. The office ogress could easily be Becca's sister and has absolutely no patience with cookies or other frivolities. Even worse, her boyfriend is the man of Becca's dreams--kind, funny, successful, and brain-meltingly gorgeous. As the dark undercurrents threaten to pull her down, Becca swiftly finds herself neck-deep in office politics, clandestine romance, and flour. Saving her business (and finding true love) is going to take everything she's got, and more.

Test Kitchen

The task? Bake all the recipes included in my novel How to Bake a Man.
The objective? Make sure the recipes are locked down and clear, as some of them go back over one hundred years, back to my great-grandmother. She, my grandmother, and mother wrote down directions in an almost shorthand, their beautiful cursive fading on the 3 X 5 cards and sometimes a bit terse.
The bakers? My husband Michael and me.
The location? Our kitchen.
Ready, set, go.
Of course, I’d been eating and baking these delicious treats most of my life, but I wasn’t going to unleash bad math and chemistry out into the world. So Michael and I started in.
“How much all-purpose flour do we have?” Michael called out from the kitchen, where he was making Honey Nuts.
“How much do you need?” I asked.
“All of it. And more.”
A drive to the grocery store and six cups of flour later, we had the full recipe chilling in rounds in the fridge.
We peeked in. “How many will it make?” Michael asked, fear in his voice.
I shook my head. “Grandma never said.”
About 100 cookies later, we’d figured it out. Suffice to say the recipe is spot on math wise, but cut it in half. Or wait till Christmas to make them.

We gave them to our dog sitter.
Next up? Sand tarts. Delicious. We ate them all.
“No more until I lose five pounds,” I said to Michael.
“No time for that. Go buy some yeast.”
Three batches of cinnamon rolls later (two delivered to our beloved next-neighbors, who stopped answering their doorbell after that second batch) we knew the recipe was perfect. We added a bit more butter, though I still think nuts would be a good option.

“Stick to the recipe,” Michael said. “Onward.”
The rum cake was perfect, as always, so delicious that we ate half of it for dinner.
“Who needs broccoli?” Michael said.
“Bring the second half next door,” I said.
“What second half?” Michael said, his mouth full.
The brownies—the recipe I made throughout my sons’ childhood—magically vanished. I’m still not sure who ate them. Cheesecake, sugar cookies, pumpkin muffins, chocolate chippers, we baked late into the nights. Sometimes I thought I heard Michael upstairs at 2 am, the glug of milk into a glass. In the morning, crumbs on the counter.
By the end of all the baking, we were sugar high and slightly plump. But the good news is that all the recipes Becca makes in How to Bake a Man you can make, too. Trust me, we’ve tested them all. Now, off to the gym.

Thanks to Jessica for an entertaining guest post and to Ghostwoods Books for sharing the book with our readers.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US/UK only. Giveaway ends October 28th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Little Free Library

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I love sharing books with people, whether it is friends, co-workers, or e-mail pals. Some people consider my house to be a library. One of my friends bought me a stamp that allows me to emboss my name in all my books. It even implies that I have my own personal library. I've even participated in Paperback Swap from time to time.  At work, I started a program where people could exchange books every so often. This was inspired by the times I'd go into Starbucks or a train station and see bookshelves encouraging people to take and leave books. Now that our office is in a new location with a bigger breakroom, I asked the facilities manager about adding in a bookshelf so that we could take and leave books whenever we wanted, instead of having days designated for this activity.

I've seen pictures of Little Free Libraries, but haven't encountered one in person. I'm sure that my bookshelves would be begging for mercy if I ever did happen upon one! Therefore, I'm jealous of our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, who was invited to be the guest of honor at a Little Free Library dedication!

From the Library of....

One of the things I love about living not too far from Indianapolis, Indiana, is discovering the cozy suburbs surrounding the capital city. From artsy to industrial, great places and spaces abound. One of my favorite little burbs is Zionsville. Fine cuisine, art galleries and quaint shops line the downtown streets. It’s one of my favorite halfway points to meet my friend, Christy, for dinner. One night after chowing down with our hubbies, we strolled along the sidewalks admiring the rows bungalows. Perched in the front yard of one was something I’d never seen before. At first, I thought it was a birdhouse, yet as we moved closer, I realized this small wooden structure had a window paned door with a little sign above it. I had just been introduced to my first Little Free Library.

This movement to provide a place for neighbors to swap books was the brainchild of Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. Bol was looking for a way to honor the legacy of his mother; a retired teacher who was passionate about reading. Brooks was investigating ways to make a social impact through enterprise. Together, they set out to create a non-profit organization setting a lofty goal, inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s financial backing of 2,509 libraries across the country at the turn of the century, to match that number in Little Free Libraries being created around the world. They surpassed it. Today there are over 15,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide with thousands in the process of completion.

I had no idea how this little book swap box came to be when I snapped a photo of the one I was so taken with and shared it on Facebook. After posting the photo, I received a message from a reader I’ve had the pleasure to get to know via social media. Jane Cook, who lives in Westfield, Indiana, broke the exciting news to me that she was in the process of having a Little Free Library built in her neighborhood and asked if I’d be willing to donate a book. I excitedly packed up a box full, eager to help. I asked her to let me know when it would be finished, that I would love to see it. Jane so graciously invited me to be the guest of honor at the dedication. Believe you me, I was the one honored to see how a woman rallied her community to install this treasure trove of literacy.

Jane and I spent time together in her home before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Being the curious girl I am, I asked her about how her love of books developed. She shared with me she grew up on a farm, an only child, and books became her friends. She traveled to many lands, met many interesting people, and experienced things beyond compare while delving into the pages of novels. That passion for reading followed her into adulthood yet came to a halt after the death of Jane’s husband. For hours, she’d tenderly read to him while he was ill in the hospital. Once he passed away, books were too painful to open.

Through the connectedness of the internet, Jane shared with me she noticed people discussing books they enjoyed. She began reaching out to authors whose work spoke to her. Slowly, she began turning pages again. Another step in healing from her loss was dreaming of a place, a Little Free Library, where children and adults could share books with one-another.

And it has come to pass. And it’s beautiful.

The big picture is what a team of people can accomplish when they share a mission, a passion, a drive to make something better for others. The power of one is strong. The power of many is a force to be reckoned with. No goal or ambition is too big when you dream dreams. Not to get all science fiction geek on you, but as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” And that’s exactly what this little band of book lovers did. They made the Little Free Library so. Again, pardon the Captain Picard sidebar.

Jane, this column is dedicated to you and all those making a difference in literacy each and every day across the globe. You saw a need in your community, you acted upon it with a team of volunteers and friends, and you’ve left a lasting imprint. You are a treasure. I’m proud to call you friend. Thank you for allowing books to pick you up and sweep you away once again. They never left you. The pages held fast waiting until you were ready to turn them again.

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: Love Me or Leave Me

By Becky Gulc

I’ve been lucky enough to review a couple of Claudia Carroll’s novels now and have enjoyed each one, particularly Me and Youwhich is just a wonderful story. Needless to say I was very happy to review Claudia’s latest novel, Love Me or Leave Me. Here is the synopsis:

‘Chloe Townsend was dumped at the altar. But now she's landed an incredible new job.

She’s running a pioneering boutique ‘divorce hotel’. It will make every aspect of breaking-up pain-free – all in a single weekend.

No one is better qualified than Chloe to deal with relationships at crisis point, but, with three unhappy couples needing her help, she's forced to tackle her own secret heartbreak.

Can she hold it together and prove that she's over it and up to the job?

The opening weekend approaches, and it soon becomes clear that some endings can be VERY exciting new beginnings…’ (Courtesy of HarperCollins UK.)

Whilst the premise for a ‘divorce hotel’ made me go ‘really?’ to begin with, if I’m honest, such a thing does actually exist and I thought it sounded like an interesting concept for a book. I thought the introductions to each character were great. We feel for Chloe and like her immediately, and we get a real sense of the dynamics at play for each of the three couples at the centre of the book by way of seeing their wedding invitations, completely different couples.

Even though there are three different couples as well as Chloe (the only one in first person narrative), I never found it confusing to keep up with who was who, Claudia’s characters are all very distinctive. Whilst Chloe is keen to vet everyone staying at her hotel to make sure it’s fairly amicable between people and they’re sure divorce is right for them, it would be too easy wouldn’t it if it were this straightforward?

I enjoyed all the couples’ stories, we slowly find out more and more about their histories. I particularly warmed to Jo and Dave as characters, even though Jo appears uptight, much of what we learn of the relationship is through seeing their quite harsh email exchanges. I felt like as a reader her defences were slowly broken down and of course we learnt more about what had happened in their relationship to bring them to the hotel, I was really routing for these two.

My only criticism, and this is very minor, is that some of the logistics didn’t seem to stack up or weren’t explained fully, but apologies if this is just my interpretation or I missed something. It was explained that Chloe interviews everyone personally before agreeing to them staying at the hotel, with a lot of guests from overseas (who were supporting rather than main characters). I didn’t see how this would have been possible, and skype or telephone interviews weren’t mentioned. I also wondered about the practicalities of Chloe taking the second weekend off that the hotel has been open especially if the emphasis is that the divorces are sorted out over a weekend. These things didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all, but I did wonder about them.

Overall I loved this book and it was a book I got through quite quickly as I was keen to see what happened to all the couples. A great book and I look forward to the next one. When I think about which author’s books I would actively go out and buy, if I weren’t reviewing Claudia’s would definitely be on that list.

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

More by Claudia Carroll:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A star-studded shopping trip with Sophie a book giveaway

I can't decide if it's a good thing or not that Sophie Kinsella is in New Jersey today and I live four hours away. The not-so-good thing is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet one of my all-time favorite chick lit authors. On the other hand, if we were to be in the same room, I probably would be all star-struck and not have a single witty thing to say to an author whom I consider as more of a celebrity.

If only I were like Becky Brandon and could easily schmooze with my favorite celebrities (or authors, in my case) the way she does in Shopaholic to the Stars, Sophie's latest novel in the popular series. I read it recently (review coming soon) and it's hilarious, as always. Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Sophie is here today to talk about shopping (what else?!?)....and to get us psyched up for next month's theme, which is CELEBRITIES!

Tell us about a memorable purchase or shopping trip.
I remember once I had told my whole family to leave me in peace to write. I decided to pop out for coffee... saw an amazing evening dress in a shop window... and found myself edging in to try it on, even though I had no idea where I'd ever wear it. Then my husband phoned: 'How's the writing going? Can I do anything to help?' I couldn't tell him I was in a changing room with one foot in a sequinned evening dress! (But I did buy the dress. And I did wear it!)

If you were to take Becky on a shopping spree, what three stores would you HAVE to visit?
Ooh, very tough! Anthropologie for sure, it's such a feelgood place. Liberty because it's a wonderful old store with a great atmosphere. And Jimmy Choo, because Becky loves her shoes!

Which celebrity would YOU like to style?
I love Lupita N'yongo, she's absolutely gorgeous, and I would be very happy dressing her up.

What is the best deal you ever received on a purchase?
I was once in a charity shop and found a Moschino skirt for ten pounds. It was the most beautiful red pure wool skirt, with a heart shaped button - for a mere ten quid! I couldn't believe my luck and I wore it to death.

What is your favorite thing to buy when you go shopping?
I used to say shoes, but I have noticed that my new tendency is coats. I think it's because I can just swing them over whatever I'm wearing.

If you could go shopping in any city in the world, where would you go and why?
I'd go to Melbourne, as I've never been to Australia, and I've heard Melbourne is a fabulous shopping mecca, so I'd be killing two birds with one stone!

Thanks to Sophie for a fun chat and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends October 26th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Book Review: Driving with the Top Down

By Amber Myers

Road trip!

Who doesn't love a fun road trip?

Colleen was looking forward to one. She finds antiques and other old things and turns them into something fantastic. She was planning on searching for antiques on her road trip while her husband and son go on a boy only trip.

But then her husband asks if she'll take their 16 year old niece, Tamara, with her. Tamara has gotten in trouble. A lot. It's probably because her mother died and she was put in the charge of a father who did not want a kid. (It's called a condom, dude.)

Colleen agrees to take her and they begin their trip. Colleen makes a stop in her old college town and while in a diner she used to frequent, she runs into Bitty, an old friend. (Bitty is not an old lady. I thought so because I immediately thought of "old bitty" which I know is probably rude of me. No, Bitty is called Bitty because she's tiny.)

Bitty has her own share of problems. She ran away from her marriage. Her mother raised her to be a creepy lady (meaning, she wasn't supposed to eat much. Hence why she's Bitty.) Bitty even debates killing herself. But then she sees Colleen and agrees to join in on the road trip.

All these women have their own set of problems. Will the problems be solved on the road trip? Or will they explode?

I enjoyed the friendship and the fact that they all helped each other in a way. Driving with the Top Down had me rooting for everyone. With all the depressing stories in the news, this was a nice escape. And yes, it made me want to go on a road trip. I also wanted to stick my feet in the air like on the book cover, but then I'd frighten those around me. I don't have the prettiest feet, after all.

Amber Myers is a military wife and mom to a son with Aspergers and a daughter who is dramatic. She blogs over at Airing My Dirty Laundry, One Post At A Time and loves to read and write when her children allow it.

More by Beth Harbison:

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel from Gallery Books

Walking on Trampolines by Francine Whiting from Gallery Books

A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill from St. Martin's Press


Saving Grace by Jane Green from Sarah Hall Productions

The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen from Random House


Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney from Penguin/Berkley (e-book)

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen from BookSparks PR (e-book)


Snow Angels, Secrets, and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson from Bookoture (e-book)

Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner from BookSparks PR (e-book)

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


It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley from Bantam Press


The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman from Notting Hill Press

Book Review: Bad Bridesmaid

By Sara Steven

When I was asked to review Bad Bridesmaid, I immediately accepted. I loved MacIntosh’s How Not to Be Starstruck, so it seemed fitting that I check out her latest novel.

Formerly pudgy and plain, Mia Valentina (who used to be Mia Harrison; she wanted something a little more spectacular in the last name department) has a bad rap. She moved from England to get away from her overly-critical family and after planting roots in sunny L.A., she lost weight, worked hard to have the body she always wanted and made a name for herself in the movie industry. She figured this would at long last bring her the respect she’s always craved from her family, but it doesn’t play out that way. When she’s invited back to England as a bridesmaid for her younger sister Belle’s wedding, everyone expects the absolute worst from Mia. After unintentionally injuring the groom, finding herself in bed with one of the groomsmen and constantly placing herself in uncompromising positions, Mia finds herself alone and disliked. Well, that’s not entirely true. Her pre-teen cousins absolutely adore her, especially after she allows them to watch Pulp Fiction. This doesn’t go over well with Mia’s aunt. Not after the boys walk around quoting various phrases from the film; the ones that contain the most swear words, of course.

I found myself annoyed with Mia’s family. Even when she tries her best, they constantly negate her which only facilitates and feeds into the bad behavior. And Belle blames Mia for everything that is going wrong with her wedding, even the stuff that has nothing to do with Mia and is out of her control. I wondered if this train wreck of a family would ever right itself back on track or if Mia would be able to stick it out until the big day. Sure, she’s rough around the edges but you can tell she’s got a heart of gold. She has to, in order to put up with her jerky relatives.

True to MacIntosh’s style, there are a lot of comedic moments, a lot of “Oh wow, did that just happen???” situations that made it very hard to put this book down. There’s also a sweet little twist at the end, too. I was emotionally invested in Mia, the proverbial underdog. It’s hard not to be, and I appreciate that MacIntosh’s characters always show growth and development, never stagnant. Never one dimensional. A great read!

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review.