Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Little Beach Street Bakery

By Becky Gulc

So there seems to have been, and there continues to be, a bit of a trend for fiction which revolves around the world of baking, perhaps inspired by our love of programmes like the Great British Bake Off (UK). Have we had enough of this trend yet though? In my case, absolutely not! Jenny Colgan’s latest novel, Little Beach Street Bakery, is a stand-alone piece of work which will not only provide you with a great read, but, if you’re like me, it will also leave you very hungry and inspired to bake some bread yourself!

Polly’s world is pretty much crashing down around her when we meet her. The business she runs with her boyfriend has gone bust and they find themselves in a situation where they not only have to declare themselves bankrupt, but they’re also struggling to sustain a relationship which may have been buried as deeply in the sand as Polly’s boyfriend’s head is about the whole situation. So when they have to put their flat up for sale and decide a break apart may do them a world of good, can Polly put her life back together?

With rental prices in their home town of Plymouth beyond the reach of jobless Polly, a low-cost (but pretty derelict) rental above an abandoned shop on a remote tidal island miles away from her friends slowly sounds more and more appealing as she’s keen to regroup. But will this temporary move provide Polly the peace and space she is looking for? Well, it’s not long before she is rediscovering her passion for baking bread, good bread at that, and when word (and smell) gets out, Polly is going to find herself up against the ‘only’ baker in Polbearne, Mrs Manse, and she is not a happy woman...she also happens to be Polly’s landlady. Can Polly challenge traditional ways in Polbearne? And in a small place where everyone knows each other can Polly just be by herself or will she be drawn into local life, with its good and bad points?

Well, I loved this book from start to finish. The sense of place is fantastic and I’m someone who comes from a seaside town and knows of people who’ve experienced some of the same issues as are covered in this novel; sometimes very moving. I had such vivid pictures of Mount Polbearne in my mind from her great descriptive writing. It was so atmospheric at times, particularly with the nighttime descriptions. As Polly is a newcomer, we get to see everything through her eyes and it’s like escapism for us as readers too, as we become part of this community (or try).

It has a great set of characters including, of course, a couple of possible love interests, although I have to say the love story was an enjoyable bonus to a book I predominantly enjoyed on the basis of place/community. It might sound weird but all the characters felt very "normal;" no one is perfect, especially not in this book, but each character in their way is likable. You always understand, or at least eventually, why they are the way they are.

There is even a pet puffin in this book...Neil! So lovable! Although I was on tenterhooks hoping nothing was going to happen to him! Polly as a central character is very warm and likable; she is a strong woman who can be quietly determined when she puts her mind to something.

I’ve been a fan of Jenny Colgan’s writing for a number of years and yet again this is a novel I’d definitely recommend. I did actually order some yeast and bread flour whilst I was reading this novel. With some recipes at the back of the book there’s nothing stopping me having my first attempt at baking my own bread soon. I bet it’s not as good as Polly’s though!

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

More by Jenny Colgan:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spotlight and Giveaway: Skeletons


Jen has discovered a secret. It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

Since she was a little girl Jen always wanted a big, happy family. Being an only child with just her lonely mother for company was too gloomy for Jen. So when she married Jason and became part of the Masterson clan - a family that could easily have appeared in an Enid Blyton novel - she got exactly what she wanted. For years everything was perfect.

But then Jen sees something that she was never meant to see: a scratch on the gloss of her perfect life; a secret that will slowly but surely seep its way to the surface of her world and destroy everything in it. If she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences?

Skeletons is published by Michael Joseph/Penguin (March 27, 2014)

Photo by Lee Carter
Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers and 20 Things to Do Before You're 30. Her previous books include Getting Rid of Matthew, Got You Back, Foursome, and The Ugly Sister. Skeletons is her fifth novel.

Visit Jane at her website, Facebook and Twitter.




Thanks to FMcM, we have TWO books for some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

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

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Worldwide. Giveaway ends April 2nd at midnight EST.


See the blog tour schedule (left) and stop by Chick Lit Uncovered tomorrow!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

1500 Likes Giveaway

Now that we have 1500 "likes" on Facebook, here is the giveaway we promised! Please contact us if you have any trouble using the Rafflecopter. Good luck!

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Open worldwide! Giveaway ends April 6th at midnight EST.

Catherine McKenzie is forever young...plus a book giveaway

She runs. She skis. She’s a graduate of McGill University in History and Law. She’s a lawyer in Montreal, Quebec. Oh yeah, and she’s the author of not one, not two, but FOUR amazing novels. Plus, she mans an active Twitter account, her Facebook fan page, and maintains a group on Goodreads and Facebook encouraging people to read #52booksin52weeks. One can only assume she’s managed to find some loophole that allows her the luxury of 30 hour days. That might explain how she’s managed to accomplish all this and stay looking so young...

Today, Catherine is here to talk about birthdays. Speaking of which, her fourth novel, Hidden (reviewed here by me and on Goodreads by Melissa A), is being re-born as a US novel next week! To celebrate, she has THREE copies to share with some lucky US readers.

Visit Catherine at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

What did you do for your last birthday? 
My last birthday was a big one - 40 - so I had a nice dinner with friends and my sister flew in from out of town which was really nice. Great night.

What do you want to do for your next birthday?
Not sure. I think it's important to celebrate, even if you don't like the number, so I'll probably do something with my friends.

Do you have any birthday traditions? 
Not really, other than my mom's perfect birthday cake - white cake with homemade chocolate frosting. It's divine.

Share a favorite birthday memory. 
Mmm. Weird. Nothing really stands out. My 30th was a big party; the clocks changed that night so we had an extra hour of celebrating. I also once spent a birthday pleading an injunction in Quebec City - I had to drive there three hours in bad weather, plead the thing and then drive back. Long day!

If you could help any one of your characters celebrate their birthday, what would you do with them? 
I think Katie's 30th birthday party in Spin (see chapter one) was probably a good time, even if, you know, it messed up her life.

What significant or insignificant event takes place on your birthday? 
According to Bishop Usher, it's the day the earth was created at 9:00 AM! That always seemed oddly specific to me. Oh, and according to Wikipedia:, in 1958 "The Smurfs, a fictional race of blue dwarves, later popularized in a Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon series, appear for the first time in the story 'La flute à six schtroumpfs,' a Johan and Peewit adventure by Peyo, which is serialized in the weekly Spirou magazine." Ha!

Thanks to Catherine for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction by Gail Allison

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 April 1st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reader Spotlight: A Busy Mom

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 place...to bring chick lit fans together from all over the world! We've made some amazing friends because of this blog and we hope you'll get to do so too!

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

See our previous Reader Spotlight posts.

Note from Melissa A: I've seen Stephanie's friendly face around CLC for quite a while now. I recently learned that we live pretty close to one another, so I hope I'll get to meet her one of these days! I'm sure we could talk for hours about books and our kids.

Name: Stephanie Sabia
Age: 35
Location: Northern Virginia

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
Oh man it's been so long that I don't exactly remember! I'm fairly sure it was through one of the many authors that I follow on Facebook. I think one of them was being featured on CLC so I clicked the link and I've been a faithful follower ever since!

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
This is a tough one. I am a very avid reader so there are so many that I love but I'll try to narrow it down. Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio, Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain (I'm not sure if she's considered chick lit, but she is my all time favorite author), Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison, and Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.

What do you do when you're not reading?
I'm a stay-at-home mom of three kids (ages 10, 7, and 2), so they keep me very busy. If I'm not using my spare time reading, I'm usually catching up on some of my favorite blogs, searching Pinterest for my next recipe to try, or catching up on one of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter!

The Expat Diaries

Michele Gorman’s romantic comedy debut, Single in the City, was a best-seller in the UK, where it was first published by Penguin, but despite being an American author, her books are less well-known in the US. That's about to change...

Notting Hill Press just launched Michele’s series, The Expat Diaries, in the US on March 25th. We're sharing the new covers and previous reviews of the books (all from our review associate, Kathryn) from this series as a way to celebrate!

The Expat Diaries: Single in the City

Take one twenty-six-year-old American, add to a two thousand year old city, add a big dose of culture clash and stir.

To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That's been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England's gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she's supposed to build the life she's dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.


Reviewed here

The Expat Diaries: Misfortune Cookie

Would you move 6,000 miles to be with the love of your life?

Hannah did. Unfortunately her plan isn't going terribly well. What was supposed to be a move to Hong Kong to start a wonderful new life with Sam is turning into a move to Hong Kong to spend occasional weekends with Sam, when he can get away from an unanticipated work assignment on the opposite side of the South China Sea. Still, she's optimistic, if woefully unprepared for the intricacies of Hong Kong. Stumbling through the alien city, which she loves, she starts to build a life for herself. Things definitely look up when she finds a great boss to work for, and her best friend Stacy moves to the city too. But alarm bells ring as Sam seems to be getting a bit too cozy with his boss. And when things start going wrong at work, Hannah can't help but wonder if she's made the biggest mistake of her life.


Reviewed here

The Expat Diaries: Twelve Days to Christmas (novella)

What if his proposal had an expiration date?

Hannah's in a bit of a pickle. In twelve days she flies from Hong Kong to the US with Sam, where he's finally going to meet her parents... and ask to marry her.

Since overcoming a rather rocky patch in their relationship (which was totally his fault), he really is a new man, and they're completely in love. The problem is, she feels panicky every time she contemplates matrimony. Which is perfectly normal, isn't it? Isn't it?! She has no idea but she's got to find out before he pops the question... because she's not 100% sure she's going to say yes. Which will make for a very uncomfortable family holiday. He's got to ask her before they go. So Operation Proposal begins.

As time ticks down to their flight, Hannah realizes that her own secrets are threatening their future. Before she can be happy with Sam, she's got a lot to learn about herself in the twelve days to Christmas.

Reviewed here

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jane Green takes the cake (or at least her books do!)...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Ian Warburg
We are pleased to have Jane Green back for a visit so that we can celebrate the pub day for her latest novel, Tempting Fate. I read it recently and still can't stop thinking about it. (A review is coming soon, I promise!) It proves once again what a fantastic writer Jane is and how her descriptions paint a full picture of the story right in front of my eyes. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

In case you didn't know, Jane was our first nominee for the International Chick Lit Month Hall of Fame back in 2012. We always love having her visit CLC. This time, she's here to talk about birthdays! Her beautiful writing style isn't just reserved for her books, as you'll see in her interview today.

Visit Jane at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

What is a must-have for your birthday cake? 
It used to be the seven layer caramel cake from www.carolinescakes.com, but I gave up sugar in November so no cake for me anymore. I thought I would miss sugar tremendously, but after the first couple of weeks I stopped thinking about it. Luckily, I have never been a huge cake lover, so suspect I won't terribly miss the birthday cake, although a candle stuck into an apple doesn't feel quite the same...

What did you do for your last birthday? 
Around 14 close friends came over and we had a wonderful dinner on the terrace in the garden. We strung tiny lights across the pergola above, and lit candles everywhere, and it was sheer perfection - my favorite people in my favorite place - it doesn't get better. I always cook, but on my birthday I had it catered, and had people help serve and clear up. It meant I was truly a guest in my own home, and didn't have to worry about anything burning.

Share a favorite birthday memory. 
I loved my fortieth. We had forty friends at home for a party, everyone dressed up, and we had a gorgeous dinner outside (clearly, outside eating is a theme for my birthdays). I wore a hot pink and orange chiffon full-length dress that was very 70's retro - it sounds awful but I felt beautiful. I have never worn it since, but am desperate to - it is perhaps my most favorite item of clothing. My parents and closest friends from England flew over, and it was, truly, the most glorious birthday I have ever had.

Where is your favorite place to celebrate your birthday? 
Home, clearly, and more specifically, my garden. A May 31 birthday makes that a regular option, thankfully. Our stone terrace has a wisteria-covered pergola over it, with lanterns hanging from the beams - it feels more like Tuscany than Connecticut, and the magic of eating out there never fails to amaze me.

When was the last time you had an actual birthday party for yourself? Tell us something unique or memorable from that party.
My husband was still my boyfriend at my fortieth, and no-one had brought up the subject of marriage, even though it was clear to us, and to all who knew us, that this was clearly on the cards. One of our friends, in fact, the man who introduced us many years ago, stood up to make a speech, and kept repeating how wonderful it was to be here at our wedding...I mean, oops, Jane's birthday...and should he invite the judge in now...it was hilarious, and mostly because it did in fact feel much more like a wedding than a birthday party. Given that we never had an engagement party, and in fact did get married ten months later, I like to think of that as our unofficial engagement. I think everyone else thought so too.

If you could help one of your characters celebrate their birthday, what would you do with them? 
I think I might have them do something I would never do - perhaps a surprise trip to a fabulous destination in the Caribbean...

Thanks to Jane for a wonderful visit and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers. Thanks also to Sarah Hall Productions for their help with this interview.

~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/Canada only. Giveaway ends March 30th at midnight EST.

Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Birthdays with CLC

Melissa A:

Which celebrities do you share your birthday with?
Judy Greer, Josh Holloway, Natalie Wood, Julianne Hough and Sandra Oh. And for all you Sherlock fans, Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly one day older than me.

What did you do for your last birthday?
It was on Shabbat and we had some friends over for lunch. The next day, my husband and I went out for a nice dinner and then got frozen yogurt afterward.

What is your astrological sign and do you feel that it describes you?
Cancer. I am the epitome of my birth sign, even with being on the cusp of Leo.

Have you ever been surprised on your birthday?
My 30th birthday party, July 2006
I am really hard to surprise. My husband and some friends threw me a 30th birthday party. I knew it was happening but I didn't know what the actual plan was. My husband even chose what I should wear! The best surprise that night was the cake that had a picture of me doing a Hula dance. It was a Hawaiian theme, but my husband tricked me into thinking it was an 80s theme by telling me to do the "Thriller" dance. There was a move that made me look like I was dancing the Hula and it worked.

If you could help a chick lit character celebrate their birthday, what would you do with them?
I'd take Becky Bloomwood on a shopping spree, of course. But it would be at my favorite thrift store. I think it would still be a total blast because you can get TONS of stuff for your money and they carry a lot of name brands. Then we'd go to lunch and catch a chick flick afterward.

What significant or insignificant event takes place on your birthday?
The first moon landing was on my birthday, but seven years before I was born. (Josh Holloway was born that exact same day though.)

Amy:

What is a must-have for your birthday cake?
Well this is a no brainer....CHOCOLATE! Enough said!

Which celebrities do you share your birthday with?
Kristin Davis, Billy Zane (he was in Titanic) and Steve Jobs.

When is your birthday?
February 24th

What did you do for your last birthday?
I went to brunch with my family to Old Man Rafferty`s. They have the best Sunday brunch. They're known for their delicious desserts. No surprise why I like this place.

Do you count down to your birthday?
I used to start counting down starting on my dad's birthday, which is December 24th. But that has stopped since I turned 35.

What is your astrological sign and do you feel that it describes you?
It's Pisces and definitely, 100% yes! Since I was a little girl I've always loved anything water...swimming, water sports, and the beach. When I was in day camp everyone called me fishy because I was always
under water when we had swim. Pisces women are said to be sensitive, have strong emotions and easily are hurt. This explains me to a T. In one particular article I found, this sentence is exactly me: "When Pisces is hurt, she will build her own version of the world to protect herself, preferring to live in a world of dreams until she feels she is ready for re-entry into reality."


Melissa P:

A favorite birthday memory for me was just this past October, when I turned 35. I had just moved to Denver and the guy I am dating took me to the ballet and to a nice dinner  We just went to a really nice Italian restaurant for dinner, which is my favorite cuisine. We then took the train downtown to the Ellie Caulkins opera house where the Colorado Ballet performs.

The Colorado Ballet did a fantastic adaptation of Giselle (my favorite ballet). I was blown away. The costumes were beautiful and intricate and the orchestra didn't miss a note. The dancers were better than I have seen in many other professional casts and they didn't make any mistakes that I could tell (and I'm a ballet dancer!).

Then we went to a little place called Rioja in Larimer square in downtown Denver and had champagne. It was the perfect way to end the evening.

Jami:

What is a must-have for your birthday cake? 
It's been awhile since I had a birthday cake, but my mom used to make me an angel food cake with chocolate frosting. So good!

Do you like having people sing to you at restaurants for your birthday?
Yes, I am an attention hound, so please all eyes on me! Ha ha.

Which celebrities do you share your birthday with?
Sting and Gandhi!

What did you do for your last birthday? 
My best friend took me out for dinner, which was great because not only was my husband out of town, he completely forgot it was my birthday! He was working on some state implications of Obamacare, so it was understandable, but still annoying.

What is your astrological sign and do you feel that it describes you?
I am a Libra, and we're supposed to be rather indecisive but very concerned about fairness. The latter describes me to a T, but I've never had any trouble making decisions.

Share a favorite birthday memory. 
My husband proposed on my 22nd birthday, so that would be my favorite!

Kathryn:

I love my birthday. It's the one day of the year that I can unabashedly spoil myself. Oh, and of course the cake! When I was younger, my mom decorated fantastic cakes for my birthday. My favourite was my 4th because I actually got two cakes: Big Bird for nursery school (and I got to wear a crown too) and Strawberry Shortcake for my party. The birthday that really sticks out for me is my 6th. We put on this really cool shadow show where all my party guests participated in acting out nursery rhymes AND the boy I had a crush on came. He gave me this cute little necklace that I still have.

As I got older, my birthday became just as much about my mom as it is about me. I was born at 9 p.m. so if I wasn't already with my mom, I'd call her at that time. We had this running joke where I would ask, "So what were you doing such-and-such years ago?"

Age has never been an issue for me so I don't buy into the 29 and holding thing. I know some people dread their birthday but I think it's best to embrace the celebration! It's your special day where it really is all about you! Happy Birthday!



Becky:

My favourite birthday so far has to be my 30th which I spent in New York. I am a huge fan of Sex and the City and I'd been on the tour the day before my birthday, I knew they were filming the first film at the time but the tour guide didn't even mention it so I didn't think there was much chance of me catching any filming whilst on my trip. Anyway, on my actual birthday I was queuing for a tour of Fox Studios in the Rockefeller Centre and noticed a bit of a commotion outside Christie's auction house opposite..and then I see Kim Cattrall briefly, well I jumped out of the queue I was in pretty quickly and then spent a good couple of hours watching all four of the stars filming one of the opening scenes of the film. I couldn't have been given a better present!


Pictures of SATC ladies:



Book Review: Fallen Beauty

By Amy Bromberg


Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future...

That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will...


Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life. 
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Erika develops her characters beautifully, using stunning description and emotions. Sometimes I liked Millay’s dangerous side, but other times she went too far and was a drama queen. She is definitely passionate, all right. On the surface, Millay seems to have it all, money, a successful writing career, a beautiful mansion, friends, parties galore, and just a grand old life. What she doesn’t have is the reciprocation of love from one man for whom her heart can’t stop beating. True love is ultimately what everyone wants. All of the other things in life mean nothing without it. In this sense, Millay is a fallen beauty.

Now, Laura has quite the opposite, ever-so-different life. Due to the outcome of a wildly romantic and carefree night, she has been shunned from her community, raising her daughter all on her own. She receives pity and dirty looks from the women of the community. She stays strong though, and ultimately takes a job offer that goes against all of her moral standards. If I was in her shoes, I don't think I'd have the courage that she has. Laura's story tugged at my heart, and she's another example of a fallen beauty.

Even though these two women are complete opposites, they bring something into the other's life that they desperately need. It’s almost like they complete one another.

While I did enjoy Erika’s previous two novels, Fallen Beauty by far is my favorite. Packed with intense emotions, the reader REALLY feels them. I promise you will devour it. For the entire duration of the novel I was sucked in. I think this is another one of my 2014 favorite reads.

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

More by Erika Robuck:

Friday, March 21, 2014

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

**Giveaway is now closed**

Melissa A:

Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline from Paperback Swap

In the Mirror by/from Kaira Rouda (e-book)

Here and Again by Nicole R. Dickson from Penguin

Amy:


From Penguin:

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck

Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses




From HarperCollins:

Vintage by Susan Gloss

The From-Aways by CJ Hauser

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor


Becky:

Carry You by Beth Thomas from Avon

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley from Avon

The Country Escape by Fiona Walker from Sphere

Turning Thirty and Turning Forty by Mike Gayle from Hodder and Stoughton




What could be in YOUR mail:

Visible City by Tova Mirvis

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we have THREE copies for readers anywhere in the world!

For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Allegra Goodman, Tova Mirvis’ VISIBLE CITY is an intimate and provocative novel about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change.

Nina is a harried young mother who spends her evenings spying on the older couple across the street through her son’s Fisher-Price binoculars. She is drawn to their quiet contentment—reading on the couch, massaging each other’s feet—so unlike her own lonely, chaotic world of nursing and soothing and simply getting by. One night, through that same window, she spies a young couple in the throes of passion. Who are these people, and what happened to her symbol of domestic bliss?

In the coming weeks, Nina encounters the older couple, Leon and Claudia, their daughter Emma and her fiancé, and many others on the streets of her Upper West Side neighborhood, eroding the safe distance of her secret vigils. Soon anonymity gives way to different—and sometimes dangerous—forms of intimacy, and Nina and her neighbors each begin to question their own paths.

With enormous empathy and a keen observational eye, Tova Mirvis introduces a constellation of characters we all know: twenty-somethings unsure about commitments they haven’t yet made; thirty-somethings unsure about the ones they have; and sixty-somethings whose empty nest causes all sorts of doubt. VISIBLE CITY invites us to examine those all-important forks in the road, and the conflict between desire and loyalty.


How to win:
Since it is still Birthday Month, please tell us what age you'd like to live over again if you were given the chance.

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

Worldwide. Giveaway ends March 26th at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: Diary of an Unsmug Married

By Sara Steven

Have you ever wondered what would have happened to Bridget Jones, if she married the love of her life, Mark Darcy? Settled down, had a couple of kids?

Wonder no longer. Read Diary of an Unsmug Married.

Molly Bennett (who reminds me of an older Bridget Jones) is married to Max (her Mark Darcy), and they have two children who were once adorable, but are now in that obnoxious teenager/almost adult stage of their lives. Molly feels mildly mediocre; in her marriage, as a mother, and with her career. She just can’t get it together, and it doesn’t help that Max seems to have more interest in their hot sexpot next-door neighbor than in his own wife.

He’s off on random business trips and stays out late, only adding to Molly’s insecurity. The cherry on top, is when Molly decides to play nice, and take the trash out for Max. Max objects, but Molly wants to do this. She wants to be the good wife. Image her surprise when she finds the sexpot neighbor stark naked in her living room window. No wonder Max conveniently manages to take out the trash at the same time every night. Ahem. When a former boyfriend re-connects with Molly on Facebook, showering her with attention and demands to see her assets, what other choice does Molly have?

In Diary..., Molly fights against the mediocrity. She fights against the guilt, the guilty pleasures, and the need to do the right thing, even though the right thing seems to be the last thing she wants to do. She’s unhappy, and it’s hard to express that to Max, who seems to have accepted the mediocrity, which in a sense means he’s checked out. Right?

Often, the truth is never pretty, and the way something appears isn’t always what it seems to be. Out of chaos comes healing. Very true with fiction, and even truer in real life. I enjoyed this book, for it’s candor, and it’s ability to deal with real-life issues that crop up on even the least suspecting among us. Sprinkle in the comedic timing necessary to lighten the mood, and you’ve got Diary of an Unsmug Married.

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

Sara Steven is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two rambunctious boys in Bellevue, NE. When she’s not running marathons, or working on her novel, she takes a break and opens up a good book (or turns on her Nook). Find her at her blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Isabel Wolff's "freaky" Friday...plus a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Isabel Wolff back at Chick Lit Central. I've really enjoyed her recent novels, A Vintage Affair and The Very Picture of You. I'm excited to read her upcoming novel, Ghostwritten, as well. It will be published in the UK in one week from today, and then released in the US next year with a different title and cover. In the meantime, Isabel has THREE signed copies to share with some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

Isabel was born in Warwickshire, read English at Cambridge and after spells in the theatre and in advertising, got a job at the BBC. For twelve very happy years at BBC World Service radio, she was a producer and reporter in the Features department and in Current Affairs. She also wrote freelance articles for magazines and newspapers such as The Spectator, The Evening Standard, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph who, in 1997, commissioned her to write a humorous girl-about-town column called "Tiffany Trott." Within a month of the first column appearing, she was commissioned by HarperCollins to turn Tiffany's adventures into a book, which turned into a whole set of books! Isabel currently lives in London, very close to Portobello Road, with her partner Greg, their two young children and her two teenage stepsons. In her spare time, she plays table football (soccer, for those of us in the US).

You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. She's here today to talk about birthdays!

Synopsis of Ghostwritten:
Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Do you like having people sing to you at restaurants for your birthday?
I absolutely hate having people sing to me in restaurants for my birthday and I would run a mile outside screaming. Fortunately it's not really a custom in England so it's not likely to happen (it's really not done here unless it's because someone is proposing!), but I would find it extremely embarrassing.  But if I simply HAD to sit there, then what would I want them to sing to me? My favourite song in the world, 'From a Distance' by Nanci Griffith.

When is your birthday? 
May 13th

What animal represents your birth year on the Chinese calendar? Do you feel it describes you?
I was born in the year of the rat - rat girls are said to be very tidy in the home, which is definitely not me though. I'd like to think that the sign of the Rat suits me quite well as their traits include a 'rich imagination' and 'sharp obsevation'. Because of this their recommended careers are, amongst other things - 'broadcaster' and 'writer'. Shakespeare was born in the yea of the Rat, as was Winston Churchill, so I'm in excellent company!

What do you want to do for your next birthday?
My birthday is in mid May and all I want to do is spend it with my family and our new cocker spaniel puppy Alfie.

Share a favorite birthday memory.
A favourite birthday memory is from last year, when my children brought me a birthday breakfast in bed.

Tell us a fun fact about your birthday.
I was born on Friday 13th - like the heroine of Ghostwritten, Jenni. Because of this I am extremely superstitious!

Thanks to Isabel for chatting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

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

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Worldwide. Giveaway ends March 25th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: A birthday and a half!

Introduction by Melissa Amster

After over two years of talking via e-mail, text, and Skype, I finally got to meet our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, in person! To say she is exactly as she comes off online is an understatement because she's even MORE wonderful in person! We had such a great time chatting and it was like old friends meeting up for a reunion. We both brought our families along, so it was a fun crowd of 10. Jen and her husband are so cute and sweet together. Her kids are very nice, which is to be expected from two great people. Her younger son won over my three year-old daughter almost instantly. Her daughter brought presents for my kids, the ones for my sons being from her own collection of toys. And her older son is as charming as can be, so it's no wonder he has been employee of the month at his job twice already. Needless to say, it was a wonderful meet-up and I hope we can have more of them in the future. I miss her already!

In honor of birthday month, Jen is here to talk about half birthdays. Interestingly enough, her birthday is 10 days before my half birthday and my birthday is 10 days after her half birthday. Just some fun trivia for you!

Half the Birthday, Twice the Fun!

I love my birthday. I celebrate it 364 days a year, so gifts are never tardy, and there’s a reason for daily cake intake. I know not everyone has warm fuzzies about blowing candles out from year-to-year; I totally respect that. Birthdays are not everyone’s Pin the Tail on the Donkey. For this Capricorn, they are golden.

I remember the year I decided it was time to celebrate half birthdays. Mine, of course. It was the summer of 1977 and I’d been enjoying two weeks of vacation at my grandparents’ home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I’m not sure how the epiphany arrived inside my six-year-old-brain, yet I felt like it was a wonderful moment of clarity. I remember bouncing into the kitchen for breakfast (I’ve always been a morning person) and announcing to my grandmother, whose curlers were still pinned in her locks, “I think we need a party!”

Time to celebrate!
The conversation that followed is foggy. Once I made my half birthday celebration proclamation, I recall laughter from her, and my grandfather snickering too while he read the sports section of the paper in his boxer shorts. My guest list was short and sweet; my grandparents couldn’t miss this event along with several of the children living in the neighborhood I’d become friends with over the years. Carefully, I considered menu options. Since processed foods and sugared, day-glow beverages were all the rage then, I opted for Hawaiian Punch and Cheetos. This was high class! Hurriedly, I threw on clothes and ran down the street, knocking on a neighbor’s front door at an ungodly early hour of summer. When Karen and her sister Kristy came to the door, I told them I was having a birthday party and they were invited. I seem to recall a conversation about gifts. And if memory serves, I’m positive I declared presents mandatory.

Dixie cups were filled with lip staining drinks, paper napkins held perfectly proportioned Cheetos servings, and Grandma let me wear her coral lipstick. It was party time! The doorbell rang and I ran to welcome my guests. I ushered them towards the table. My agenda dictated we move quickly from snacks to gifts.

I remember Karen’s little sister, Kristy, handing me a weathered, brown lunch sack. I quickly peeled back the crumpled paper, scrambling to get to the opening. I vividly remember my eyes looking inside and seeing something prized and cherished. Kristy’s one and only Barbie doll. I wrinkled my nose and knew this gift was not for keeps. Even at the ripe old age of 6 and a half years, I felt guilty my acquisition of Barbie’s was immense and Kristy’s was a collection of one. She gifted it wearing a sincere smile on her face. I took Barbie out of the bag and told the girls to follow me up to my room to play. Digging through my Barbie paraphernalia, I found a dress that my grandmother had lovingly stitched. Grandma frequently made little outfits for my dolls with leftover fabric. I stripped Barbie down to her skivvies and snapped the yellow sundress around her figure. I brushed her golden main, gave her one final inspection, and then handed Barbie back to Kristy. “I forgot to tell you that when you come to my party, you get a new dress for your doll. That’s the gift.”

Where's our cake?!?
I remember playing with Karen and Kristy for many years. As I became older, we spent less and less time together. When I turned eleven, they no longer ran down to visit the moment they recognized my parents’ car parked in the driveway. I stopped anxiously knocking on their door once my teen years arrived. My grandparents downsized, selling their modest home in the mid 1980’s and I never saw the girls again. Yet I do remember this. Kristy gave me a token on that half birthday I cherish to this day. She set an example to me of giving selflessly. She gifted me again as her face lit up receiving a new dress for her doll freshly returned into her small hands. I’m no longer big on busting out a piñata on my half birthday. They seem so unnecessary when you’re willing to blow out candles and make wishes at a moment’s notice any day of the year, don’t they?

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: Made in Essex

By Becky Gulc

Last summer when I reviewed Laura Ziepe’s debut novel, Essex Girls, I concluded that it was a ‘surprisingly refreshing read’, despite it being a book that is probably not aimed at someone in their mid-thirties who has never watched TOWIE/Jersey Shore or other scripted reality TV shows. So with Made in Essex being the follow-up novel, I was happy enough to review it and re-enter the world of Jade, Kelly and Lisa, and this time, these ladies are back on home turf, Essex.

At the end of Essex Girls, best friends Jade and Kelly (who are in their early twenties) are both happy in their new relationships and are contemplating starting up their own bikini design business,. In Made in Essex it’s all about the follow-through, them getting their business (Vajazzle My Bikini) up and running. If anyone wants to know what ’vajazzle’ means look here!

It wouldn’t be a novel if everything was smooth running though would it? Enter Adele, someone who had done their best to ruin Jade’s relationship in the past and who can’t stand anyone else being happy. She is determined to steal their business idea and ruin relationships left, right and centre, but will she succeed? Well, she certainly does her best!

I have to say I enjoyed this book even more than the debut and for anyone who hasn’t read Essex Girls, you don’t need to in order to enjoy this novel as there are enough recaps to understand what’s gone on in the past. Obviously I knew what the style would be like and the characters and I took the novel for what it was. It’s full of the typical language you’d hear in TOWIE, (e.g. using ‘babe’ frequently’) and full of sparkle and things can be a bit far-fetched, but who cares when you want a bit of escapism?

I thought the character of Adele was fantastic as she made my blood boil more than most ‘villains’ in novels of this genre. What she gets up to also steps up a gear from the first novel; one of the most manipulative characters I’ve seen in a novel and I loved it! Only thing is I would have liked to see the inevitable comeuppance be a bit more severe!

As with the previous novel, we also get insight into the thoughts of a range of characters through their internal dialogue. It does go from one character to the next quite quickly sometimes, but this didn’t bother me.

Whilst this wouldn’t be a book I would choose to read normally if I wasn’t reviewing it, I did enjoy it. If you want a light escapist read you might very well enjoy this book too, perhaps particularly so if you enjoy the types of programme this style of book is based on.

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


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Book Review: Pack Up the Moon

By Karen Waskewich

I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Pack Up the Moon and I hope everyone goes out and picks up a copy, as it was published earlier this month. This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster from the first page until the last, with characters that will touch your heart and stay with you well after you’ve finished the book.

A poignant novel about loss, lies, and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Three years after a horrible tragedy took her son and tore her family apart, artist Kate Monroe is beginning to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. At a gala showcasing her triumphant return to the art world, Kate’s world is rocked again when the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-two years ago introduces herself.

Pree is the child Kate never knew and never forgot. But Pree has questions that Kate isn’t sure she’s ready to answer. For one thing, she never told Pree’s father, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband, Nolan, that they had a daughter. For another, Kate hasn’t spoken to Nolan for three years, not since the accident which took their nine-year-old son from them. But to keep Pree from leaving forever, Kate will have to confront the secrets that have haunted her since her son died and discover if the love of her family is strong enough to survive even the most heartbreaking of betrayals…
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The story centers around Kate, a well-known artist who is trying to pull her life back together after a tragic accident, which left her son Robin dead and her ex-husband Nolan in jail. At her return gala, she meets Pree, her 22 year-old daughter who she gave up for adoption the day she was born and the two begin this journey of getting to know each other and where they came from, sharing stories and heartaches along the way.

The characters in this story will edge their way into your heart and make it hard for you to let go. The way Herron writes will make you laugh and cry at the same time and I’m sending you a warning now: be sure to have a box of tissues ready. The relationships between the different characters are captured so well and Herron strips down each individual so you see who they really are and what they are feeling; the author isn’t afraid to leave anything out.

Pack Up the Moon raises some very difficult questions including "how far would you go to end your child’s suffering?" "What would you do if you were pregnant in high school, with no one to support you?" Herron paints a powerfully emotional picture of a family in turmoil with secrets that have shaped their lives forever. This book has it all: love, family, suspense and excitement…I couldn’t put this one down until I reached the last page! Great job Rachael – I can’t wait to see what you come out with next.

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

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

More by Rachael Herron:




Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Safe with Me

By Amy Bromberg

The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)


I can’t say enough positive and glowing things about how much I heart Amy Hatvany and her novels. Ever since I read her debut, Best Kept Secret, I’ve been hooked. Every time I finish one of Amy’s books, I can’t wait to get my hands on her next one. You can say in between her novels I go through “Amy Hatvany withdrawal.” Let me tell you, it’s not fun.

Right from the get go, I was transported into the lives of Hannah, Olivia and Maddie. I felt crushed after reading that Emily, Hannah’s daughter, dies, right in the beginning of the story. Even though this is a sad way to start a book off, it’s also refreshing. It makes the story more real. This is in fact one of Amy’s strengths in developing her characters. I literally felt Hannah’s grief and intense sorrow when she had to decide if she would donate Emily’s organs. I can’t imagine a parent having to go through this.

I was livid while reading the abuse that Olivia endured from her husband. I wanted to jump into the pages and strangle him. I can’t imagine having to endure this type of pain and misery. For a fifteen year old girl, who was sick most of her life, Maddie has courage, strength and guts. Yes, she is scared at times, but with the life she’s lived so far, anyone would be scared. She is the driving force for the Hannah’s and Olivia’s friendship.

Safe With Me is a story that will tug at your heart way after you put it down. You’ll want to read this while cuddling up in front of the fire in your favorite chair or couch with some hot chocolate. Oh, and don’t forget some tissues. The emotions you will experience are overwhelming.

Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Amy Hatvany:




Friday, March 14, 2014

Guest Book Review: The Wedding Bees

By Connie Fischer

Sugar Wallace has just moved into an old apartment building in an charming, yet older neighborhood of Manhattan. The small penthouse on the fifth floor with a large terrace and gorgeous view which is perfect for her. This is the latest of an annual move she has made since fleeing her wedding at the altar. Some years ago, she had been a debutante and daughter of wealthy parents in Charleston preparing to marry a very handsome guy. However, his arrogant, bossy and violent personality had just come to a head which is the reason Sugar fled. As a child, Sugar had loved spending her time with her recently deceased, yet beloved grandfather from whom she gained her knowledge and love of beekeeping. When she left Charleston, she took her bee hive with her and it has been with her ever since. In each town she has lived in, she has made her living by selling honey and other bee-related products. In addition, her friendly, kind and helpful personality has won her many friends.

As Sugar gets to know her new neighbors, she uses her happy ways to bring them all together. The completely different personalities of her neighbors make for some lovely, funny and bittersweet stories. When Sugar meets Theo, a lawyer from Scotland, they are intrigued by each other, but incidents happen that make their relationship appear that it is not to be.

Sugar's bees play a huge part in this book and her current queen bee is named Elizabeth the Sixth, descended from her original queen, Elizabeth the First. The book imparts a fascinating lesson on bees: raising them, their personalities, what they do and do not like, and, of course, the delicious and highly versatile honey they produce.

I read The Wedding Bees in a day and found I couldn't put it down. The characters make you laugh, make you think and make you want to have them for your own friends. I highly recommend this book as one that will stay with the reader for a long time to come.

Thanks to Sarah-Kate Lynch for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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

More by Sarah-Kate Lynch:




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guest Book Review: The Story of Us

By Sara Steven

Reading a good book is like a mini-mental vacation for me. It’s all about finding myself in another world, or within someone else’s shoes- an escape if you will, and let’s face it. We all need an escape from time to time.

The Story of Us took me on a mini-mental vacation, and it was just what I needed. Nestled within the imagination of Ellen Faith lives Alexandra “Lexi” Jones, a soon-to-be 30 year-old who is living in England with her rich, handsome fiance. She’s due for a promotion at work any day now, and is truly content in the life she’s leading, until she loses the promotion, and discovers her fiance at home early one afternoon, in the shower. With his secretary. Not only that, but her ex-boyfriend who she has been in love with since high school comes knocking on her door, expressing a lot of interest in picking up where they left off. Lexi has always viewed him as her long-lost soul mate. The problem? He’s currently engaged to someone else.

When Lexi’s best friend books a flight to San Francisco for a work assignment, Lexi decides to tag along. She’s always wanted to visit California, and she wants to forget the drama and not deal with the reality of her life. She soon discovers she’s traded one drama for the next. A new potential love interest in the form of a gorgeous man enters stage left, and he’s nothing like anyone she’s ever known before. Is she falling for this
man? Should she return to London, or stick around and see where her future lies? And what about the ex-boyfriend, who hunts her down, ready to give up his own engagement for a new beginning with Lexi?

This was a sweet, easy story, and one I could fall right into and not put down. Although a few of the twists and turns were predictable, I very much enjoyed living vicariously through Lexi. She tells it like it is, and has an enviable spirit. Most of us have been in a position where we feel we have to make a tough call in life, and this made Lexi a very believable character.

It was the perfect escape during this bitterly cold winter, and I could practically feel the warm sunshine on my face when reading about San Francisco, a place I’ve never been to, but a place I’d love to visit someday. After reading The Story of Us, maybe I will!

Thanks to Ellen Faith for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Sara Steven is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two rambunctious boys in Bellevue, NE. When she’s not running marathons, or working on her novel, she takes a break and opens up a good book (or turns on her Nook). Find her at her blog.