Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reader Spotlight: The Cat's Meow

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: Janine is one of the nicest people I know. I connected with her last year when she first started entering giveaways. We have a lot of author interests in common and I've had fun getting to know her better. Her dedication to cats (her own and the ones at the rescue shelter where she volunteers) is amazing.

Name: Janine Rowe

Age: 49

Location: Mesquite, Texas

How did you find Chick Lit Central? 
We have a mutual friend, Marlene. She told me about Chick Lit Central (before she had her own blog, Book Mama). She told me how I could find out about lots of great new books and authors on your site. And she was very right.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time? 
This is a tough one as I have so many favorites. Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter, Lake Como by Anita Hughes, She's Gone Country by Jane Porter, The Lake House by Marci Nault, and In Need Of Therapy by Tracie Banister.

What do you do when you're not reading?
I am a housewife, so cleaning, laundry and cooking are my main priorities. I also enjoy doing fundraisers for a cat rescue in my town. I have had a love for cats as long as I can remember. So, when the chance came to help out, I jumped on it. When my husband isn't working, I like doing things with him and spending time with our three very spoiled cats. When I have a little bit of extra money, I enjoy going shopping.

If anyone wants to contact me through Facebook, they can find me here.

Book Review and Giveaway (Redux): Looking for Me

Looking for Me, by Beth Hoffman, is now available in paperback. To celebrate, we're sharing our review from last year, along with another giveaway.

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop. Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky. It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last. But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep. (Summary courtesy of Amazon.com)

Amy Bromberg:
Looking For Me is such a beautifully written novel. It is the story of Teddi Overman, a woman at a very young age who finds her calling for restoring furniture. Even though her mother wants her to be a secretary, a job that would give her stability, she follows her dreams and eventually owns her own antique restoring shop in Charleston. Teddi is able to see beauty in beaten up pieces of furniture; ones that most people would throw away, and she turns them into beautifully restored antiques.

At the heart of the story is how Josh, Teddi’s younger brother, disappears at a very young age. As you can imagine, this tears the family apart. Unlike her parents and many folks in the community, Teddi always felt somewhere that he was still alive. Teddi took care of Josh ever since he was a baby, so of course she developed a strong bond with him. He loved nature and animals, and spent a lot of time in the woods. Josh finds beauty in feathers of endangered birds and in sticks, etc. He looks at these birds as beautiful creatures where most people would not.

The life Beth breathes into her characters and the story’s settings are just breathtaking. I’ve never been to either Kentucky or Charleston, but I can now imagine what they must be like. I’ve really never had a yearning to visit a farm, but I do now after reading about the times Teddi’s time on her family’s farm both as as a young girl and as an adult. Beth uses such stunning words to describe something "small" like a bird feather to something "big" like a sunrise one would see from the top of a ferris wheel. When I read the word "tangerine" to describe this sunrise, the image it conjures up in my head is absolutely beautiful.

Looking For Me would make a fantastic book club pick. This is definitely one to not miss. Run and get a copy NOW!

Melissa Amster:
It's been five years since Billie Letts last produced a new novel and I've been craving something that gives me the same heartwarming, "comfort food" feel that her books have. I first found a novel earlier this year that Billie would be proud of (and if you can remember which one I'm talking about, nice work with paying attention to my reviews). Currently, Beth Hoffman's latest novel, Looking for Me has taken on the the "title," so to speak.

While Amy has mentioned a lack of interest in farms prior to reading this novel, I feel I should mention that reading it gave me an interest in something I could have cared less about before...antique furniture (and the restoration process). Beth's descriptions of how Teddi lovingly restored furniture and gave it a new style made me want to go antique shopping and add something nice to my home. I also loved that through Teddi's passion came her career. I always enjoy reading about women entrepreneurs and seeing their business take shape.

Aside from the one really mean guy mentioned in the novel (no spoilers as to why), I really liked all the characters Beth introduced me to throughout the story. There were eccentric antique thieves and people trying to help Teddi break into the business. Her family was amazing to read about, as well. I felt like they were sitting in my kitchen having a conversation. I so wanted her to find her brother, Josh, again and felt the same ups and downs she did when she thought she had found a new lead to chase. I can't even imagine, nor would I want to, having a family member disappear like that.

Overall, Looking for Me was sweet, heartwarming and difficult to put down. I even found myself reading it during bouts of heavy traffic on my ride home from work. I wish it had gone on longer, but all good stories have to come to an end at some point or they'll be a million pages!

Thanks to Beth Hoffman for the book in exchange for an honest review. And thanks to Tandem Literary, we have TWO copies to give away to some lucky US readers!

How to win:
Tell us about a piece of furniture that you've had the longest.

One entry per person.

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

US only. Giveaway ends May 5th at midnight EST.

Enter to win at WhoRuBlog, as well. (US only. Ends May 12th.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sarah Pekkanen is walking on air...plus a book giveaway

Sarah Pekkanen really doesn't need much of an introduction these days. From her debut in 2010 to a cozy spot in the chick lit community four years later, she has climbed to the top of the ladder with her warm and relatable novels that speak to women of all ages and backgrounds. While you may not recognize her with her new hair color, you'll know her name from The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls and The Best of Us. She also has three novellas that tie in to one another. Her latest novel, Catching Air, comes out next week. Whether it is your first experience with Sarah or you've been following her all along, you definitely will NOT want to miss this one! She's currently hard at work on her sixth novel and we're already anticipating its arrival on our book shelves!

Thanks to Engleman & Co, we have one copy of Catching Air for a lucky US reader!

Visit Sarah at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

While I understand the reason behind the title of Catching Air now, did you have any alternate titles in mind when you started writing it?
It's funny, because CATCHING AIR is the only book I've titled - my editor thought of the titles for the other four! Titles are usually my weakness, but I knew I wanted a term that related to snow and ski resorts, since my book is set in Killington, Vermont, so I began researching skiing terms. Catching Air caught my eye immediately, because it conveyed hope and could be a metaphor for my characters' struggles. I suggested to my editor that we use it as a placeholder, but she liked it so much she thought we should use it for the actual book!

What is the best compliment you've received about any of your books?
Being compared to Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin is always an enormous thrill! And there isn't anything better than a note or Facebook message from a reader who says my books have touched her. I adore chatting with readers on Facebook and Twitter, so please come find me there!

Now that you've had five novels published and are about to publish a sixth, how do you feel your writing style has changed or developed over the past five years?
I'm still a student of writing, and hope I always will be - one of the greatest things about my job is that there is always room for growth. I think I've gotten better at inserting tension into my plots, and it's a little easier for me to see the entire arc of a book now when I sit down to write. But most days it still feels like I'm trying to wrestle a giant, struggling octopus into a shopping bag!

We had so much fun reading your casting ideas for The Best of Us for ICLM last year, that we'd like to know who you'd cast in a movie of Catching Air.
Kira would have to be played by Reese Witherspoon, who not only looks the part but could channel Kira's whirlwind, type A personality. I'd love Jennifer Lopez for Alyssa, because Jennifer seems to have been through a lot in her personal life, and she could tap into the intense emotions Alyssa goes through during the course of the book. And for sweet, innocent Dawn it would be a dream to cast Emma Stone, who'd be wonderful at showcasing the inner strength Dawn discovers after a shattering experience.


Since your story is about a bed and breakfast, tell us what your go-to breakfast item is every morning.
I make these yummy oatmeal/banana muffins and freeze a big batch, then pop a couple in the microwave with a cup of tea every morning. I use the recipe on chocolatecoveredkatie.com but I add walnuts, flaxseed and cinnamon. They're so delicious and SO healthy! I always have these with a cup or two of English Breakfast tea with a splash of milk and spoonful of honey. Mmm...


I know you are a champion of other authors, just like they have been for you. (We love how supportive the chick lit community is!) What was the last book you read that you would highly recommend?
Isn't it amazing, all these women supporting other women? I love it too. I just blurbed a terrific book called FIVE DAYS LEFT by Julie Lawson Timmer. Initially I was a little nervous to read it, thinking it might be depressing, since it's about a woman who has an incurable disease and decides to take her own life before the disease can claim it. But it was just beautiful, and while there was sadness, it made me more appreciative of the blessings in my own life. And I got a sneak peek at Jennifer Weiner's new book ALL FALL DOWN and it is spectacular. Gripping and visceral, yet funny and relatable.

I'm also going on my first big book tour (starting in my suburban DC home town)- to New Orleans, Lexington KY, Mobile AL, Memphis, Baltimore, Arlington VA, and Chicago - and I'm going to try to shake things up a bit. Instead of reading from my novel, I'm going to tell stories about the writing and publishing process and play a few games with audience members. Winners of the games will be given a book by a new author that I adore! Audience members might win a copy of AFTER I DO by Taylor Jenkins Reid, TILL THE WELL RUNS DRY by Lauren Francis Sharma, and YOUR PERFECT LIFE by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. I'll be handing out one copy of each book at every tour stop (along with a few other surprises). It should be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to promoting these books by such wonderful women writers.

Thanks to Sarah for visiting with us again and to Engleman & Co 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 May 4th at midnight EST.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Overwhelmed

By Jami Deise

I bought Brigid Schulte’s book on modern working motherhood (Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Timewhen it first came out, but it took weeks before I actually had time to read it. This is ridiculous because I’m no longer part of the cohort Schulte examines: I don’t have a paying job and my son is 20 and well past the years when I spent hours in the car driving him to his activities. This may serve as a warning: the “overwhelmed” habit is firmly entrenched in the lives of American women, and even those of us without the 50-hour-a-week jobs find ways to stress ourselves out. For me, it’s an unpaid reading internship at a literary agency, my own writing (marketing one self-published book, trying to find an agent for another, editing a third, and outlining a fourth), reading and writing reviews for CLC, taking a real estate class, taking care of an ill in-law, and trying to get to some of my son’s baseball games. Plus the ordinary laundry/grocery shopping/dog needs surgery/car is making a funny noise detritus of daily life.

For Schulte, it’s a full time job at the Washington Post (although she’s on leave to write this book), two young children with multiple activities, and a husband who’s also a Post reporter and whose assignments have him overseas for weeks at a time. With an author who’s as overwhelmed as her research subjects, her inquiries have the urgency of someone who isn’t just studying modern life to have something to write about – she needs answers that can apply to her own life, and fast.

At the beginning of the book, Schulte is already late for a meeting with University of Maryland researcher John Robinson, who wrote the famous study claiming working mothers had thirty hours of leisure time a week. Schulte brings her time diaries to the 70-year-old researcher, who somehow doesn’t have the time to clean his own office. He pronounces her diary efforts insufficient, but not before telling her that the time she spent waiting for a tow truck after her car broke down was “leisure.” When Schulte notes that she was trying to get her daughter to a ballet lesson, Robinson generously changes it to “child care.”

Why are American working mothers so uniquely harried? What do women in other countries have that we don’t? Universal child care and generous maternity leaves are one answer. As Schulte tries to conduct her research while her husband can’t figure out how to operate the dryer, she talks to other working mothers and travels to other countries to talk to parents who have more leisure time than we do. Denmark, for example, is the world’s happiest country and the country where parents have the most leisure time in the world. Not coincidentally, Danish parents do not worship at the altar of the child. They famously leave them outside of cafes in their carriages while enjoying scream-free dining, and they aren’t on the karate/baseball/piano lessons/soccer merry-go-round that most middle-class American parents are forced on as soon as their children are out of diapers. Schulte even talks to Pat Buchanan, who in the 1970s helped kill universal child care, because women at home with their children was best for the country. Buchanan, by the way, has no children.

While Schulte seems without answers as far as ways to change America’s lack of policies toward pre-K education, she does at least get the upper hand and disproves Robinson’s 30 hours of leisure theory. And she’s also able to achieve a small measure of relief on her own home front, by making time for herself, adopting to-do lists, and asking her husband to take responsibility for some household chores. (Although I’d be remiss in not mentioning that women who are able to delegate certain tasks to their husband are still mentally responsible for them.)

Schulte notes that the idea for the book began when the Post asked her to research reasons why women like herself no longer read the newspaper. As a journalism major, reading the newspaper has always been a priority for me, but recently I’ve had to give it up as well. And while it’s been years since I found myself crushed by a 50-hour-a-week job with a two-hour commute, a needy four-year-old and a husband who was only home on weekends, the memories of that harried time (and the extra twenty five pounds it gave me) are never far away. Ironically, the women who really need to read this book are the ones least likely to have time to do so. But it’s an important reminder that “overwhelmed” is not just one mother’s problem – it’s everyone’s.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: A Questionable Friendship

By Melissa Amster

Friendship is a core value for chick lit novels. Most characters have at least one really close friend with whom they can share confidences, a good shoulder cry, a spa day, a night on the town, etc. When a novel centers around best friends, it becomes even more intriguing. Female friendships are so important in real life and we love to see our favorite chick lit authors bring them to life. This definitely applies to Samantha March's third novel, A Questionable Friendship.

Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small café and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

As soon as I heard what this novel would be about, I knew I had to get my hands on it. It sounded like Firefly Lane (by Kristin Hannah) in some ways, where best friends lead two separate lives and try to understand one another. It seems like a common thread in chick lit novels, that one woman has the cozy home life and the other is single or struggling in her relationship. As I started digging in, I felt like Samantha had been spying on conversations between myself and my best friend. I'm not even exaggerating here. Portland said certain things to Brynne that sounded like they were lifted from e-mails my best friend has sent to me. The story felt authentic just in that way, but it also didn't wrap up as neatly as I would have liked, or even expected, it to (there are times when I don't mind that a story ends on a perfect note). The last sentence in the synopsis says just as much, but that's all I can share for now. It just makes me very thankful that even when my best friend and I butt heads over similar things that Brynne and Portland did, we get through those tough spots and bond even more than before.

While this was definitely heavier than most chick lit novels I've read, it was also intriguing and captivating. The dialogue felt genuine and the details made it easy to picture everyone and everything throughout the story. I like that Brynne and Portland took turns narrating, as it allowed me to hear both sides of the story and sympathize with both characters. I think the flashback scenes would have been easier to keep up with if they were separated out from the current scenes, either by italicizing the font or putting lines of blank space before and after each flashback. The only other thing I would have done is research day care and preschool programs, as 32 kids in one class seems rather overwhelming. Maybe that's just me reading it as a parent though...

Overall, A Questionable Friendship explores some interesting issues that can arise between best friends and brings up other questions in the process.  It definitely did not go where I expected it to and I wish it had tied up a different way at the end, but I'm still glad I got the opportunity to read it. Samantha March has a strong writing voice that comes from being a huge fan of chick lit herself!

Of course, I had to cast it as a movie...
Portland: Blake Lively (I thought of her immediately for this part, so it was funny when Portland mentioned Blake Lively later in the story)
Brynne: Lyndsy Fonseca
Darlene (Portland's father's girlfriend): Annette Bening
Aaron (Brynne's husband): Zac Efron
Trent (Portland's husband): Chace Crawford (I saw him on Glee recently and thought he had the right look and personality for this role, based on how he acted in that episode.)

Thanks to Samantha March for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Samantha March:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why we love Lucy Robinson...plus a book giveaway

We proudly welcome Lucy Robinson to our side of  the pond, as she is launching her novels in the US and Canada this month. Both of her novels have received positive reviews from us, so we're glad that more readers will get a chance to check them out.

Lucy Robinson grew up near Stroud in Gloucestershire, in a small cottage that housed an array of delinquent animals along with her family. After studying acting and then working behind the scenes in theatre and television, she was still looking for her "Thing." When she became a writer in 2010, she knew she had found it. She also has found the man of her dreams. Since they're both more suited to country life, they moved from London to Bristol last year. She's now back doing all the things she loved as a kid – riding horses, playing her violin, reading fiendishly and spending a lot of time in wellington boots. She blogs most days and takes a lot of baths, as well.

Today, Lucy is here to talk about male romantic leads in chick lit novels and has THREE print or e-books of A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada. In addition, she has a print copy of The Greatest Love Story of All Time for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Visit Lucy at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Check out the reviews here:
A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger (reviewed by Miriam)
The Greatest Love Story of All Time (reviewed by Becky)

The Men of Our Dreams

What makes for the perfect male romantic lead in a chick lit novel? A smart, preppy, chivalrous man with excellent control of his facial hair and a closet full of designer clothes? A clever and successful businessman with a chunky bank balance and good shoes? Is he tall and muscular and does he have a head of sculpted hair? (Indeed, any sort of a hairstyle at all?) Is he basically PERFECT?

If so, I have failed quite comprehensively with every book that I’ve written. And I will probably keep on failing, because the truth is, I’m addicted to imperfect men. This month sees the US/Canadian launch of A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger and I can’t help but wonder what my readers on that side of the pond will make of its romantic lead. He is totally wonderful, in my opinion, but he’s also one of the most chronically imperfect men ever to exist in a novel. (As the title suggests, he’s a total stranger, apart from anything else.) The romantic leads in my other two novels are just as bad - scruffy and flawed – and, nearly halfway into my fourth book, I can confidently report that the latest romantic lead isn’t any better.

It all began when I was twelve years old and I read Gone with the Wind about four hundred times in one year. I don’t think I have ever fancied someone so much as I fancied Rhett Butler. He was a tyrant! A nightmare! Quite apart from the fact that he had a big black moustache, he was a complete bastard and made Scarlett O’Hara’s life a misery most of the time. But holy cow if I saw him in the street today I would throw him to the ground and snog his face off.

Fast forward twenty-two years and here I am, living with a man who is devilishly handsome but behaves like a ten year-old most of the time and makes more mess than a bomb. He forgets everything and there are holes in his clothes. I love him madly. There is no hope for me!

And this is why I am completely unable to create romantic leads who aren’t, on some level, a bit rubbish. A bit rough round the edges, or a bit scruffy, or a bit damaged. But here’s the thing: it’s my firm belief that the only way to get a reader to fall in love with my male leads is for me to fall in love with them myself. The more hopeless they are, the more imperfect, the more unconventional they are, the more I love them, and by the time I finish writing a book, I’m besotted. I love them so much that boyfriend gets quite jealous and starts snooping in my phone. (That’s not really true.)

For the chance to win a copy, tell me who your "book boyfriend" is from any chick lit novel, and why. Happy dreaming!


Thanks to Lucy for visiting with us and sharing her 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/Canada only. Giveaway ends April 29th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Starstruck

Jen with her "boyfriend"
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I love meeting celebrities. It's like an amazing natural high that sticks with me for years to come. In the past, I've met some celebrities that weren't extremely famous, but still well known amongst the circles I traveled. There have been some really positive encounters (where the celebrity takes the time to take pictures, chat, etc.), some so-so encounters (where you just get their autograph and that's it), and, unfortunately, some negative encounters. One of the more disappointing encounters on the spectrum happened with someone I really admire, so that was a hard pill to swallow. I won't share their name, but if you know me well enough, you know who I'm talking about. However, that moment was balanced out by all the wonderful experiences I've had meeting authors (whom I consider celebrities) in person, such as Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Porter, Sarah Pekkanen, Kristin Harmel, Jodi Picoult, and Wally Lamb. One of the best author meeting experiences (so far) was definitely with our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker! (I talked about this last month, so check out that post if you missed it.) Jen is here today to talk about her experiences meeting celebrities and other people she admires.

We're All Human

Do you ever ponder what it would be like to meet someone you admire or adore? Maybe it’s Captain America (with or without his shirt on; totally optional), an activist or inspirational speaker, or perhaps the person inline ahead of you who paid for your Starbucks and ducked out before you knew a “paying it forward” act hit you. I’ve had that moment. I knew exactly what it would be like to have a face-to-face with Grammy winning rocker, Seal (my boyfriend in our one-sided relationship). I would be eloquent, charming, and so delightfully bubbly he’d have no choice but make me one of his posse. Then it happened. I stood toe-to-toe with him in Siegfried and Roy’s "Secret Garden" at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, and was a complete oaf. Magically, every line I’d rehearsed became lost in translation. Instead, my opener was. “I really like your music.” Yes. You heard me correctly. What a moment in time for us both.

I always think of myself as the nerdy girl with lipstick streaks on her teeth. The one who drives her kids to school while wearing mismatched pajamas. Last but not least, the woman with swagger who transformed from country mouse into city slicker last summer while strutting her stuff down the streets of New York City during Book Expo America, only to have her dress blow up around her ears Marylin Monroe style as she strode over an air vent, during rush hour, on jam-packed sidewalks. My finest moment you could probably find on YouTube, unfortunately.

When I have the opportunity to meet gracious readers, I often wonder if they know it’s truly my honor to spend time with them because the girl I described above is whom they’re hanging out with. Full of imperfections, carefree and giggly while full of angst for her father battling cancer, and often wonders why no one in her home can change the empty toilet paper roll. Your kindness and sincerity brings me joy, and at times even to tears. When you ask about Gracie’s mad love for Matt Lauer, or if Jack, my television watching golden retriever, is enjoying the new season of Mad Men, I feel like we’re kindred. You could spend time reading anything you choose, and the girl who never lacks for a one-liner finds it hard to express what that means to her.


With Amy in 2013
Social media brings us together like never before. I can’t thank Mark Zuckerberg enough for providing a vehicle through which I’ve met lovers and composers of books. Without him, I would’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with some of the greatest ladies of Chick Lit Central. Tracey Meyers and I had a fantastic slumber party (We really did sleep. According to my BFF, Nancy, I’m somewhat Amish due in part to my 8:00PM bedtime.). I tried to put Amy Bromberg in my pocket and take her back to Indiana while at Book Buzz NYC 2013; she’s adorable. Recently, I laughed over burgers and fries with Melissa Amster and her sweet family. I think we ate the restaurant out of sweet potato and shoestring French fries. This time, I tried to put her children in my pocket and take them with me. No luck. These women work tirelessly to give lovers of all things chick lit an environment where we can gather together, create lasting relationships, and bond over the genre we can’t get enough of.


Trying to fit Melissa A's daughter in my pocket!
I’m still unpacking from a weekend at The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, in Dayton, Ohio. It’s my opportunity, every two years, to meet new friends while seeing ones who are golden. Where else in the world could I have sat next to the screen writer for Home Improvement and Bosom Buddies, while a legend whose book was brought to the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron was on my other side? Our biggest topics of conversation revolved around if any of us had brought a flask to the session to share, and how both native New Yorkers, with me, the Midwestern girl betwixt them, created the most interesting sandwich cookie. Although I was my effervescent self, the nerdy girl who can’t seem to get that lipstick on straight was having a moment where she couldn’t believe of all the seats in the joint, she happened to pick that one. Just as I bond with readers who “get” being a married-single parent, or loving a child with special needs, the three of us got to the core of what puts us on the same playing field; being human beings just trying to make it through another day. It sounds simple, right? Yet it’s true.


With PHIL DONAHUE at EBWW this month!
I encourage you to say hello to authors and bloggers when you have an opportunity. Connect with other readers and attend functions where some of your favorite people will be attending or speaking. And no matter how your heart might race, or if the words may not come like you rehearsed, smile and say hello. Authors write because that’s how we connect and communicate; it’s who we are. Yet readers complete the circuit when we shake hands, or even hug, and we find those words of common ground.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Book Review: The Girl Who Came Home

By Amy Bromberg

Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home is the poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard RMS Titanic—a seamless blend of fact and fiction that explores the tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants.

Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Like many others I loved the movie Titanic. What’s nice here is that, in a way, the story with Maggie mimics that of Rose, where it takes place on the Titanic. And then like Rose’s granddaughter, Grace’s story plays out in a time more in the present. What’s unique here is that Grace goes through a similar emotional experience, one that makes her retreat and shut out all that went on in her life prior to another heartbreaking event.

You really can tell that Ms. Gaynor conducted an in-depth amount of research for this novel. She brought her interest in the Titanic to life in the pages of a book. She took a story we’ve heard countless times and gave us a new perspective, one that was authentic and engrossing. She also brought the characters to life, with wonderful use of imagery and description. I felt like I was there with Grace and Maggie experiencing all of the things that they went through.

The only negative aspect I experienced was that it was slow for me in the beginning, but then all of a sudden it picked up and I couldn’t put it down.

If you’re a historical fiction fan, and/or interested in a romantic story about survival, love and self-discovery, then definitely take a chance with The Girl Who Came Home.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Time Traveler's Boyfriend

**Giveaway is now closed**

Today, we are featuring The Time Traveler's Boyfriend by Annabelle Costa. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one e-book for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Claudia’s geeky boyfriend Adam has just invented a time machine.

No, really—he has. She doesn't believe it either until Adam provides her with definitive proof that he does, in fact, have a functioning time travel device sitting in the living room of his Manhattan brownstone.

But instead of getting ready to accept the Nobel Prize, Adam has very different plans for his groundbreaking invention. He wants Claudia to use the machine to travel back in time and stop the accident that landed him in a wheelchair over a decade ago, and prevent the trajectory of events that he believes ruined his life.

When Claudia reluctantly agrees to become the first human time traveler, she knows she’s making a big gamble. If she succeeds, she could have the happy ending with commitment-phobic Adam that she’s always dreamed of. But if she fails, it could mean the end of the universe as she knows it. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Check out an excerpt from the book here!

Annabelle Costa is a teacher who writes in her free time. She enjoys the wounded hero genre, involving male love interests with physical disabilities, who don’t follow the typical Hollywood perception of sexy.

Visit Annabelle at her blog.





Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sharing this book with our readers!

How to win:
Please tell us: If you could go back in time to change one thing in your life, where would you go and what would you do?

One entry per person.

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

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends April 27th at midnight EST.

Annabelle Costa’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 31st:  Book Marks the Spot
Wednesday, April 2nd:  Bound by Words
Thursday, April 3rd:  Luxury Reading
Monday, April 7th:  Reading Reality
Wednesday, April 9th:  Time 2 Read
Thursday, April 10th:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, April 14th:  The Written World
Tuesday, April 15th:  The Reader’s Hollow
Tuesday, April 15th:  Simply Stacie
Wednesday, April 16th:  Cupcake’s Book Cupboard
Thursday, April 17th:  Bibliotica
Monday, April 21st:  Stuck in Books
Tuesday, April 22nd:  Chick Lit Central 
Wednesday, April 23rd:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, April 24th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, April 24th:  Melody & Words
Monday, April 28th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, May 2nd:  Peeking Between the Pages

Visit TLC Book Tours on Facebook

Friday, April 18, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:


Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen from Engleman (Amy got this too)




A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews from Little, Brown







Best Supporting Role by Sue Margolis from Penguin




Melissa P:


Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead from Knopf






Amy:


The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand from HBGUSA (Melissa P also got this)

Gail:


Pretty in Ink by Lindsey Palmer from Kensington






Jami:


The Breakup Doctor by/from Phoebe Fox

Carole Matthews is at home with chick lit....plus a book giveaway

We are so glad to have Carole Matthews back at CLC today! She's been here before to talk about chocolate and romance. This time, she's talking about writing and some other fun topics.

If you haven't read a Carole Matthews novel yet, you definitely should get started! She has over 22 of them now, covering a whole range of topics. My first novel of hers was For Better, for Worse. It was the perfect dose of chick lit and full of delightful humor. I started binge reading her books after that! The Chocolate Lovers' Club is definitely my top favorite of hers. Wrapped Up in You (reviewed here) is also very sweet and charming. Her latest novel is A Place Called Home and I look forward to reading it soon.

Visit Carole at her websiteFacebook, and Twitter. We also have a chance for a lucky reader anywhere in the world to win a surprise novel of hers. Whether it is your first or 21st, we hope you will enjoy it!

You've written over 22 novels in 16 years. Which was your favorite to write and which was the most challenging?
My favourite has been the two Chocolate Lovers’ books - The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet. The ‘research’ was amazing! I enjoyed them so much that I’m currently writing a third in the series.
The most challenging has been the book I’ve written for this Christmas. It’s my 25th novel and I’d just written two quite emotional books - including the current one, A Place to Call Home. I felt that I didn’t have the stamina to write another heart-rending book, so I went for something much lighter with some elements of slapstick. As I do two books a year I think it’s sometimes a good idea to go for something a little different.

If you could bring any one of your main characters to life and meet them in person, who would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Dominic, my hero from Wrapped up in You. He’s a Maasai warrior who has such a warm heart and a great sense of humour. He can wrestle lions and cook a mean roast dinner. Not your average romantic hero. All of my readers were a little bit in love with him.

In one sentence, share the most important piece of advice you have with someone looking to write their first novel?
Make time for yourself to write. I get many, many emails and messages from people looking for advice and, without exception, they complain that they don’t have time to write. This is what sorts out the men from the boys! Only those who find the time ever get their novel finished. If it’s really what you want to do, then block out at least half an hour a day and put that booty on the chair. It’s the only way to develop your voice.

If A Place to Call Home were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I think Parminder Nagra from ER would be great for Ayesha Rasheed, my heroine. So talented and beautiful. For Hayden, I’d like to see Alexander Skarsgård. He is just so mind-numbingly handsome and has the right amount of inaccessibility to play a tortured musician. I adore him in True Blood. He needs many, many more film roles.

What was the most creative cake you've baked and what was the occasion?
I baked a Christmas cake taking elements from the cover of my book - With Love at Christmas. I was pretty pleased with that. I’ve just been asked to do the wedding cake for my partner’s son and his fiancée. First I was really thrilled. Now I’m terrified.


What was the last movie you saw in the theater and would you recommend it?
The last film we saw was Gravity in 3D. I sort of liked it. The special effects were amazing and Sandra Bullock is looking hot for 50. But despite that, I felt she spent far too much time huffing and puffing around in little more than her pants - which is, of course, what all women would wear in space. There simply wasn’t enough story for me and I don’t think it deserved all the hype it got. I also can’t stand going to the cinema now as everyone is either texting or on their iPads. Watch the flipping film!

Thanks to Carole for chatting with us and Little, Brown for coordinating the interview.

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Worldwide. Giveaway ends April 23rd at midnight EST.

Don't miss out on the other blogs Carole is visiting or has already visited!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Book Review: Brooklyn Girls

By Karen Waskewich

I was thrilled to receive the two Brooklyn Girls books and after finishing the first, I can’t wait to immediately jump into the second. Brooklyn Girls is a fun and sassy novel – it’s Sex and the City meets Gossip Girl but with more action and characters who are much more down to earth and relatable to the average young woman.

Fantastically funny, fresh and utterly relatable, Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess is the first novel in her brand new series about five twenty-something friends—Pia, Angie, Julia, Coco and Madeleine—sharing a brownstone in hip, downtown Brooklyn, and discovering the ups and downs and ins and outs of their “semi-adult” lives. The first story belongs to sophisticated, spoiled, and stylish Pia, who finds herself completely unemployed, unemployable, and broke. So what is a recent grad with an art history degree and an unfortunate history of Facebook topless photos to do? Start a food truck business of course! Pia takes on the surprisingly cutthroat Brooklyn world of hybrid lettuce growers, artisanal yogurt makers and homemade butter producers to start SkinnyWheels—all while dealing with hipster bees, one-night-stands, heartbreak, parental fury, wild parties, revenge, jail, loan sharks, playboys, karaoke, true love, and one adorable pink food truck. And that's without counting her roommates' problems, too. Gemma Burgess has captured the confusion, hilarity and excitement of the post-graduate years against a backdrop of the pressures and chaos of New York City life, with heartfelt empathy, fast humor and sharp honesty.

A charming debut series about five twenty-something girls and the humor, heartbreak, and drama that bring them together.
(Synopsis from Goodreads.)

Brooklyn Girls centers on Pia, a recent college graduate who moved to New York City to start out her life in the ‘real world.’ To an outsider, Pia seems like the typical spoiled rich kid who jumped between boarding schools and spent a lot of her teenage years hopping around to different destinations at the expense of her parents. What you don’t realize until you dive into the book is that Pia is a strong woman and one most girls can relate to. She spends her first year out of college partying and making bad decisions yet gets her act together and opens up a food truck called SkinnyWheels.

The book follows the life of Pia and her roommates who all are struggling to find their way in the adult world. All of these women who share the same Brooklyn brownstone are wildly entertaining and I loved each and every one of them. They are all different in their own ways and I am hoping (praying!) that Gemma Burgess writes a book on each of them – she has already released her second Brooklyn Girls book called ‘Love and Chaos,’ which centers on Angie, one of Pia’s best friends.

I’ve already recommended this book to a few of my friends. The girls’ stories are so entertaining and relatable and very similar to what my life was like when I started out after college. I know exactly how the young women are feeling when they seem lost and unsure of themselves.

Brooklyn Girls is a fresh take on the lives of new adults and has everything you could want in a book – drama, romance, friendship and humor. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this one and I hope the second one is as good as the first!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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

More by Gemma Burgess:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Lilac House

By Jami Deise

While women’s fiction and chick lit tends to be dominated by American and British writers, the themes the genre explores are global: love, relationships, parenthood. More specifically, one thread that writers turn to time and again are the casual, cruel ways men treat the women in their lives. India, the setting for Anita Nair’s complicated novel The Lilac House, is a country in which this cruelty is built into the very fabric of the nation. Female fetuses are routinely (if illegally) aborted; female babies smothered at birth; widows were once expected to throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre; gang rape is common and only just starting to be protested. It is ironic that a country where men outnumber women treats them so poorly.

Nair covers many of these subjects in The Lilac House, through two protagonists experiencing this cruelty first and secondhand. Meera, a 44-year-old mother of two and author of The Corporate Wife’s Guide to Entertaining, is suddenly deserted by her husband Giri, who blames her for his dissatisfaction with his life (and refusing to sell her family’s home, the Lilac House, so he can use the money to start his own business). Jak, a cyclone professor, has returned to India to care for his catatonic 19-year-old daughter Smriti and to try to uncover the truth about the accident that left her that way. When Meera’s publishing company rejects the premise of her latest book, she takes a job as Jak’s secretary, and helps him investigate the days leading to Smriti’s accident.

Meera is a tragic heroine. Although Giri is a self-centered jerk, she constantly blames herself for his actions and hopes for his return. Her own college-aged daughter blames her as well. She lives in a society where a woman is faulted for not being able to keep a man around and happy. In this way, she is similar to Jak’s mother, whose husband left her to live in an ashram. Jak himself is not without fault. Divorced, he seduces his colleagues’ married wives for sport. When he was younger, he froze his mother out of his life for getting married a second time. Yet the reader will root for these characters to come together romantically.

The Lilac House is a difficult novel to get through. It’s densely written and complicated, with myriad points-of-view, back stories, and flashbacks. I had trouble keeping track of who everyone was and how they were related to each other. Jak goes by several different names, which adds to the confusion. Meera has a habit of comparing herself to the Greek goddess Hera, and goes on long internal monologues referencing specific Greek myths. But the mystery at the core of the story – what really happened to Smriti – is compelling enough that it was worth working through those complications to get to the end.

It is not giving away too much of the novel to reveal that Smriti’s story touches on the suffering of Indian women in every way. The fact that Smriti herself was an American of Indian background, returning to her father’s home country with the idealized dream that she could make a difference, makes her tragedy a universal one. The Lilac House is not just a story about what happened to an Indian wife and an Indian daughter. Smriti is everyone’s daughter, a constant reminder that over half of the population is not safe simply because of her gender.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: Undertaking Love

By Gail Allison

Imagine a little white wedding chapel in a charming, sleepy British town. Now imagine that it’s run by Marla: a love-phobic wedding director who has no plan to settle down herself, but is completely committed to helping her clients have their own Happily Ever After moments. And then plunk a funeral home next to it, right where Marla expects a bakery – the perfect complement to her little wedding chapel – to settle in. Naturally chaos is about to ensue, especially when the funeral director comes over to introduce himself. All sparkling eyes, black hair, and Irish brogue, Gabe has gone into the family business of funerals, and doesn’t see a problem with settling in next to Marla’s homegrown business. And the fact that Marla is completely adorable doesn’t escape him. Throw in an over-the-top wedding planner who is as flamboyantly gay as he is loyal to Marla and her business and a scheming assistant at the funeral home who wants nothing more than to have Gabe all to herself, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Can the two clashing businesses (and their respective owners) find a happy middle ground, or are they going to divide the town in two with their turf wars?

Undertaking Love, by Kat French, was a fun book with a few laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout, as well as some moments that really tugged at the heartstrings. I found that one of the best points of this novel was the fact that the secondary characters were very well fleshed out. Nearly every member of the supporting cast had their own backstory, their own issues, and their own drama. It made for a much more interesting story than simply having one-dimensional characters that are just hanging around to support the main story line. The well-developed characters did add some confusion to the mix, though. I found that there were so many characters, all with their own problems and partners and issues that the novel tended to get a bit muddy at times. It made it tough for me to pick up again after I had put it down, as I generally had to go back a page or two to figure out who we were dealing with and what was going on, exactly.

That being said, this is a nice, easy read, and if your life is slightly less chaotic than mine and you can commit a few days to a novel, I’d recommend Undertaking Love to you. It’s a lot of fun, and the situations brought forward in it really do run the gamut from tear-jerking to snickering out loud. Honestly, the only issue I had with this novel was the fact that there were so many characters and situations that I’d lose track of who was doing what if I put it down for a few days. The volume of detail, combined with my habit of reading no less than five books at a time, combined to muddle the details in my head at times. But maybe that’s just me.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Best Thing I Never Had

By Becky Gulc

**Giveaway is now closed**

The Best Thing I Never Had by Erin Lawless is another fantastic debut novel by an author I'd happily read further novels from in the future. But whats it all about?

This book is about seven University students who couldn't be closer in their university heyday in 2006/7. It's about bonds developing and breaking, and asks whether broken friendships or relationships can ever be repaired later in life.

The novel starts in the present, 2012, when two of the friends, Nicky and Miles, announce their engagement and we are shown the different reactions to the upcoming wedding by the other five friends. To say there is some apprehension about all getting together again after five years is an understatement. With the apprehension building up, the questions surrounding what went on between this set of friends to break some of the bonds allow us to go back in time to 2006/7 for the first half of the novel.

Here we learn what university life was like for this set of four female and three male friends. With one couple in love, a couple of cases of unrequited lust and love, and an awkward developing romance that could fracture long-standing friendships, there is a lot going on.

Without wanting to spoil what goes on, needless to say I was intrigued to see how the wedding in 2012 would pan out following what is basically a big messy fall out amongst several members of the group at the end of University. What happens in 2012 is covered in the latter part of the novel.

I enjoyed the narrative and was drawn in immediately, wondering why each character had so much angst about attending their friend's wedding, and it worked well by having a good chunk of the novel set in the past and later the present, without constantly flitting between the two.

I found the number of characters confusing for quite a while when reading this, but my head soon got around who was who, and who felt what about whom else, but I did keep having to do a little recap in my head initially. It wasn't long before I felt strongly about what I wanted to happen/not happen between the characters and who I felt was in the right/wrong when events unveil themselves. Because I felt so strongly, I was almost shouting at the book at some points when I could see where it was frustratingly going. I think i would have found it a little less frustrating if Leigha's feelings for one of the friends had been covered in more detail in the early parts of the novel; this seemed minimal, so I had little empathy to her feelings for the most part though.

Overall, I thought there was good character development, particularly for those whom I considered to be the more central characters of Harry, Adam, Leigha and Johnny. By the end of the first half, I couldn't wait to find out what happens in the present and whether my hopes for the characters were realised. I was very happy with how things were tied up at the end, it felt realistic rather than contrived.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. If you want to be reminded of University days and how happy yet complicated friendships can be (in a more care free time in someone's life as well as when older), this may be the book for you. I'd love to see some of these characters feature in Erin's future work.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have TWO e-books for some lucky readers anywhere in the world! 

How to win:

Please tell us about someone from your past you'd like to reunite with.

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.

Open worldwide. Giveaway ends April 16th at midnight EST.