Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review: The Right Design

By Sara Steven

Carrie Newman has everything she could ever wish for, and more. An amazing boyfriend. The perfect job. A close relationship with her sister, as well as her friends. Everything is going according to plan, right up to the fateful moment where she decides to surprise her love with an impromptu romantic rendezvous at home. Only, he’s already started without her. Seeing her boyfriend with another woman completely shatters everything in Carrie’s world.

In The Right Design, we get a good look into a woman’s psyche after she’s been betrayed, and watch as she works on picking up the pieces. Carrie makes tough decisions, moving from Texas to Florida and leaving behind everything she’s ever known. After securing a fantastic job in Palm Beach, it’s time to settle in and look forward to new beginnings. Only, she never imagined her first client, Brad, would be someone she’d picture starting a new beginning with. It’s hard not to. He’s intelligent, good-looking, funny, he’s got a lot to offer a woman, but he doesn’t want to settle down, could care less about being in a relationship and prefers to live life by the seat of his pants, vs. putting down roots like Carrie plans to. What’s a girl to do?

I thought The Right Design was a lot of fun, and easily relatable. Most of us have dealt with a broken heart at one time or another, or have chosen to do some pretty insane things all in the name of love. I’m sure it’s easy to identify with the need to start fresh, and while we don’t always find a Brad waiting for us around the bend, it’s always nice to live within our own anticipations. Having moved thousands of miles for my own loved ones in the past, I understand Carrie’s choices, knowing there will always be pros and cons with every decision made.

Will Carrie and Brad end up together, or will fate throw Carrie another curveball? Have we heard the last of her ex-boyfriend? Isabella Louise Anderson has done a great job of combining all the right elements for this sweet read!

You can also read Melissa A's review over at Goodreads.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

These are a few of our favorite things

Since we were asking authors to present their favorite things "Oprah style," we thought we'd do the same. Some of us have favorite things in common with each other. Do we have any in common with YOU?

Melissa A:

I did a post about my favorite things at my personal blog a few years ago. While some items changed, many stayed the same and I'm sharing a few of them here. I am not listing books here because they're the main reason I'm here at this blog to begin with.

I love Vanilla Almond Special K so much that I  practically hoard it. I buy it whenever it's on sale. I would give someone else a year's supply of this delicious morning treat so they too could experience a good breakfast!

I love movies, so I would share a DVD pack of my favorite movies, including Where the Heart is, Sing, 50 First Dates, and The Princess Bride, along with a box of my favorite movie candy (Raisinets) and a box of popcorn. (All links are to the trailers.)

I also love Broadway musicals and would give everyone vouchers to see whichever Broadway show they desired.

I'm a big fan of mint tea. The best is Tazo Refresh. I stock up on it when it goes on sale at Target. I would give someone a year's supply of Tazo Refresh tea. It's just that good!

Finally, since I'm all about country music, I'd give a country sampler pack of CDs that had all my favorite singers and groups, including Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Sugarland, etc.


Once Upon a Time has been my favorite show since it went on air. Therefore I'd give someone the first three seasons on DVD.

I LOVE country music. That being said I'd make them a mix of some of my favorite country songs, including ones by Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and many more.

I'm a makeup junkie, so what I think would be fun is take someone to some of the departments stores on 5th Avenue in NYC and have a blast shopping at the makeup counters.

Of course I have to include books in this list. That being said, I'd give them a gift certificate to their indie bookstore of choice.

And last, but not least, I'm a chocoholic. Because Harry & David makes the best chocolate truffles, I'd send them a Henry & David gift card.

Melissa P:

This was hard because I had WAY more than five!

Wearing my
favorite scarf
I love anything Lilly Pulitzer, but specifically the Murfee scarves. They are super soft and gauzy and have the signature brightly colored
patterns that Lilly is so famous for. I would give everyone the choice to pick their favorite pattern to suit their personality.

Kate Spade handbags. Although these can be pretty pricey, you can sometimes find them at nordstrom rack or on Rue la la for a fraction of the price. I got my favorite one a few years ago and it has held up really well. They are worth the investment for the incredible quality.

The show Sex and the City. It got me through my twenties and the witty banter and sarcastic comments always made me laugh. I love shows about the power of female friendship and I don't think any show has ever come close. Boxed sets for everyone!

Red Berries Special K bars. I carry one with me at all times. Sometimes I'm out running around all day and don't get a chance to stop and eat for a while, so those tasty little bars come in handy!

Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco. It's inexpensive but delicious whether in a mimosa or on it's own. It's my "go-to" wine to bring when I'm having brunch or dinner at a friends house. I would give everyone a case of this tasty bubbly.


Okay, probably my favorite thing that I'd want to share with everyone is my giant fuzzy zebra blanket. This time of year everyone needs one of these, and it's AMAZING to curl up under because it's really heavy and so warm. If we put this on the bed I don't move at all while I'm sleeping, which is almost never happens. If I could I would want to give everyone one of these to snuggle up with on chilly days.
download (4).jpg

My next favorite thing is a sports bra. I'm not even kidding. The Knockout bra by Victoria's Secret has done ridiculous things for my workout. It's basically 2 bras in has one underneath that clasps in the front and has 2 separate cups, and then a sports layer that you close over top of that and zip up. I've been searching for a good sports bra forever, it feels like, and I can't say enough about this one. I'd give everyone a gift card for $100 to Victoria's Secret, with the stipulation that half of it be spent on one of their sports bras. I'm a fan for life!

Next up would be David's Tea. I cannot get enough of that store: the adorable cups! The delicious teas! The flavored agave nectar! I'd want to give everyone a gift card for $200 just so they could try a bunch of teas, get some cool accessories, and find their perfect mug. Also? One of the girls at David's taught me about the magic that is made from combining different flavours of tea. SO amazing! Current flavour favorites of mine: Cold 911 (intense peppermint and juniper berry), Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait (sweet and tart and delicious), and Chocolate Chili Chai (the sweetness of chocolate, the heat of chilies, and the smoothness of chai).

I would also want to share DVDs with everyone of some of my favorite TV shows and movies. Definite inclusions: all available seasons of Suits, American Horror Story, Friends, and Nurse Jackie. Also: Million Dollar Baby, Pretty Woman, Mean Girls, Blades of Glory (don't judge me!), Happy Gilmore, and a documentary mini-series about the Royal Winnipeg Ballet called Ballet Girls.

My last favorite thing I would want to share with everyone would be books. I love reading, and I LOVE my Kindle, so I think it would be super cool if I could give everyone a brand new Kindle, pre-loaded with a $500 credit to fill it up to their hearts' content. Oh, and a nice cover. Don't want to scratch it up!


One piece of advice new writers are given in trying to describe a scene is to use all five senses. What does the main character see, hear, taste, smell and touch? I decided to use this list to narrow down my five favorites. Otherwise, I’d be here all day.

See. There are plenty of fun things to look at – art, TV, movies, but since this is a book blog, I’ll keep it in the realm of books. And rather than choose just one favorite, I’ll give the device that completely changed the way I read – A Kindle.

Hear. Music has charms to sooth the savage breast, and there’s nothing more soothing than your favorite music. For me, it’s the soundtrack to my favorite movie, Dirty Dancing. Did you carry a watermelon? "Cry to me."

Taste. Hershey’s Kisses. The original, classic kind. Sure, the caramel and cookies-and-crème ones are fun, but nothing beats that thumb-sized chunk of pure chocolate.

Touch. Is there anything better on your skin than a pair of cozy flannel pajamas? Everyone’s getting a pair!

Smell. Good smells make a cold day feel warmer, and nothing’s better for that than a Yankee Candle. Right now I’m burning Salted Caramel, but I would also give away Mountain Lodge and Autumn Leaves.


I love tulips, my favourite flower. To be honest I rarely buy flowers so when i do have some it's a special treat. I bought myself some 'Christmas flowers' last year for the first time and these were lovely to have in the house for a week or so.

I love a good pampering and enjoy a lovely spa day every so often. If I had a magic wand I'd give everyone I know a relaxing spa day for themselves to just chill out and enjoy some time out from the day to day worries of life.

Never underestimate the power of a toasted teacake. I adore these. I like to test ones at different cafes with my mum, the more butter the better! So I'd give everyone a toasted teacake to enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Cadbury's chocolate. Nothing comes close, it doesn't matter what kind of cadbury's chocolate, it's all good, and the bigger the bar the better!

A good book! I love it when I've enjoyed a book so much I have to tell everyone about it and pass my copy on and say "you have to read this."

Book Review: Stressed in Scottsdale

By Jami Deise

Modern day life too much for you? Feeling pulled in all directions by work, kids, a significant other who doesn’t know how to wash his socks? Relax. Take a load off. Maybe escape from it all by losing yourself in a good book.... Unless that book is Stressed in Scottsdale, in which case you’ll end up more frazzled than you were before you sat down. And those emails have been piling up in your in-box!

Marcia Fine’s Stressed in Scottsdale stars one Jean Rubin, a grandmother who consults part-time, helping companies with diversity. That doesn’t really sound like the recipe for a stressful life, does it? But add in a mother who needs constant tending, a daughter who thinks Mom is her own personal on-call babysitter, a son who thinks his parents should spring for his wife’s fertility treatments, and a husband who thinks Jean should devote all her time to helping the local Green party candidate get elected … well, these aren’t the golden years anyone expects. Jean’s husband Maury tries to help her get control of her schedule by buying her a Treo to replace her written planner, but that only makes things worse. And Maury’s relationship with a young campaign volunteer, Starr, also sends Jean’s stress levels into the stratosphere.

Fine is a terrific writer, and her first-person account of Jean’s life immerses you completely into her problems. She’s also very specific in her descriptions of Scottsdale, which sounds like New York City meets Boca Raton in the desert, only without so many people. The details of the political campaign, and Jean and Maury’s passion for and knowledge of politics, were also engrossing. My only quibble is that the plot is paper-thin; leaning more toward Jean’s day-to-day crises rather than an overarching problem that has a beginning, middle and end. But truthfully, while that structure is what we expect as readers, life really is more about those day-to-day crises that never end than the huge problems that we somehow manage to solve.

I read Stressed in Scottsdale while I was on the treadmill, and the resultant rise in cortisol levels helped me increase my speed by a half mile. It also got me wondering about the nature of our lives here at the beginning of the twenty first century. I’d always assumed, deep down, that when I got to be Jean’s age, working part time and with my son permanently out of the house, that the pace of my life would slow down enough that a book and a walk on the beach would become a daily part of it. But Fine’s book makes me think that somehow we’ve been conditioned to all this activity, all this stress, all these commitments. Is Stressed in Scottsdale a look into the future for all of us who carry around planners and constantly update our to-do lists? I’d think about this some more, but I’ve got too much to do.

Thanks to Marcia Fine for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Marcia Fine (Jean Rubin series):

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Things and a giveaway

Jen with one of her close friends
Introduction by Melissa Amster

When our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, sent me her column for "Favorite Things" month, she gave me some food for thought. "Things" don't have to be about the material goods. She differentiated this by calling it "stuff." She got me thinking about what I enjoy that money can't buy. Since I'm sharing a top five list of favorite material things tomorrow, I'm also going to list a few concepts/activities that always make me happy.

1. Shabbat: I enjoy the quality family time, as well as getting to unplug for a day. The rituals are really nice and there's good food to be had.
2. Google Hangouts with my BFF. We do them once a week and it's like we're in each other's living rooms. Our chats have brought us even closer and we have a fun way of ending them each time, as well.
3. Hearing someone sing really well. It always brings tears to my eyes. You should have seen my reaction to Ariel's voice at a local production of Disney's The Little Mermaid musical this past year.
4. Blogging: Whether it's for CLC or my personal blog, I love when a post just comes together and even enjoy looking back on posts from past years.
5. Laughter: If a day goes by where I didn't laugh at all, it never happened. I love finding things to laugh about.  My husband and kids usually make me laugh the most.

Check out Jen's favorite things and stuff and then enter to win her giveaway!

Just Enough Stuff

If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, and maybe an up-and-coming talk show host named Oprah, you might know they have something in common; favorite things. While Julie Andrews crooned about visions and experiences that made her feel not so bad, Oprah gifted tangible goodies audience members could wear, drive, or sell on eBay. Favorite things recognized and shared in very different ways.

When Melissa asked me to share my favorite things with you, the “stuff” I love versus the “things” I love clashed for my attention. Never fear! Since I couldn’t decide whether to focus on the happy thoughts or the happy stuff, you get both! Just as fun as finding new car keys under your audience seat, right?

Jen’s Favorite Stuff
1. Hope in a Jar- My favorite Philosophy brand skincare product. It’s going with me on a desert island.
2. Dark Chocolate- It completes me. Milk chocolate is okay in a pinch. White chocolate? Is that even chocolate?
3. Cozy Socks- I have chronic cold feet, yet a warm heart. There’s nothing like toasty socks to cover my popsicle toes.
4. Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss-I’m nondenominational when it comes to color. I love them all!
5. English Breakfast Tea- A devoted morning tea drinker, this is my favorite brew. I’m not a coffee drinker, which surprises people since I run on high octane. Leaded tea is my morning caffeine fix.

Tracey made these socks!
And my photo with Seal is here too...

Jen’s Favorite Things
1. Just Enough- Just enough gas in the tank, just enough milk for a recipe, just enough time to make it to the movies before the previews air. I’m a huge fan of having just enough.
2. Happy Accidents- Loose change in the bottom of the washer, finding the cardigan you haven’t seen in ages, bumping into a friend you haven’t seen in ages who’s been on your mind.
3. Quiet- Like Depeche Mode recommended, “enjoy the silence.”
4. Love- I can’t hear it enough nor say it enough.
5. Cuddles- Snuggles with my children, affection from my hubby, golden retrievers who warm my feet fill all my heart.

My daughter and our dogs, the latter not normally allowed on the bed!

In honor of a new year, and my thankfulness that CLC decided to let me hang around for another year, I’m so excited to send one lucky reader in the continental U.S. some of my favorite stuff! Simply share with us some of the "things" that make you smile for your chance to win. I promise I won’t be regifting my Christmas haul to you.

May 2015 bring you sweet blessings and moments to appreciate the things, rather than the stuff, life brings your way.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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Continental US only. Giveaway ends February 3rd at midnight EST.

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: Now That I’ve Found You

By Becky Gulc

I very much enjoyed Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty a couple of years ago so I was quick to say yes to the request to review her latest novel, Now That I’ve Found You. I finished the book recently, and I’m so sad that I did! I adored this book and will miss the characters so much. Dare I say I enjoyed it even more than "Lifesaving," but what’s the book about?

‘Forty-two-year-old Vinnie knows lots of things.

He knows new books and school shoes are expensive. He knows his teenage daughter keeps getting into trouble and he knows his seven-year-old has wet the bed every night for over a year.
What Vinnie doesn't know is whether his wife is coming back, or if he will ever get better at single fatherhood.

Ellen knows that what happened in the accident was all her fault. She knows she's too scared to get behind the wheel of a car ever again and she knows that some scars are harder to hide than others.
What Ellen doesn't know is how to move on. And she doesn't know anything about Vinnie, the taxi driver who drives her to physiotherapy every week.

And neither of them knows they're going to change the other's life forever.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Vinnie, he’s simply adorable I could gush about him all day. He’s someone doing his best to raise his children not knowing if his wife is ever going to return. Paula has bi-polar disorder and was struggling with family life, so after a very difficult period for everyone she simply left one day and told Vinnie not to try and find her. Despite being a family man through and through he did as she wished, but he didn’t feel able to move on particularly either, neither did her children Finn and Kerry who each clearly struggle with her departure in their own ways.

Although it’s a dual narrative, switching between Vinnie and Ellen, I felt we get to know Vinnie a lot more than Ellen. Ellen’s narrative is presented to the reader through letters she has written to her husband Neil. With each letter we learn a bit more about this woman who has largely closed herself off to the world, the troubles she faces, the glimmers of hope for the future as they slowly emerge. I thought it was a clever way of presenting this character, I was intrigued by her, kept guessing for quite a while as to what had happened to her in the past, I liked her very much.

This book has not just two lovely characters you will champion but several: Vinnie’s children, his Mum, his work colleagues and good friends Kenny and Janine – I loved them all. The book contains colloquial language (based in Ireland) and I thought this just added to its charm. Vinnie was such a distinctive character who I warmed to straight away, although I found it hard to picture him until we learn someone compares him to John Cusack, that suited him!

Ultimately this is a book about two good people who face difficult circumstances, two people who come into each other’s lives just at the right time for both of them. I felt it was a very ‘grown up’ exploration of difficult situations through these characters, and a gentle reminder of how important our family and friends are.

This book made me laugh, made me cry (more than once) and whilst it left me wanting more I felt a sense of satisfaction at how it ended, I just wasn’t ready to let go of these characters I’ve adored spending this time with.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the book in exchange for an honest review. See what Ciara's favorite things are.

More by Ciara Geraghty:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The world according to Mike a book giveaway

Photo by Pamela Einarsen
We're pleased to have Mike Greenberg back at CLC to promote his sophomore novel, My Father's Wives. He was here almost two years ago with the soundtrack to his debut novel, All You Could Ask For (reviewed here). This time, he's talking about his favorite things.

Mike Greenberg is the cohost of ESPN's Mike and Mike, the highest-rated sports talk program in the United States, and the author of the New York Times bestselling books All You Could Ask For, Why My Wife Thinks I'm an Idiot, and Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a native of New York City. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter.

Thanks to HarperCollins, we have THREE copies of My Father's Wives for some lucky US readers!

Synopsis of My Father's Wives:
Jonathan Sweetwater has been blessed with money, a fulfilling career, great kids and Claire, his smart, gorgeous, sophisticated wife. But there is one thing Jonathan never had: a relationship with his father.

Percival Sweetwater III has been absent from his son’s life since Jonathan was nine years old. A five-term U.S. senator, now dead, Percy was beloved by presidents, his constituents, and women alike, especially the five women who married him after Jonathan’s mother.

Jonathan hasn’t thought about Percy or the hole he left in his life for years. Dedicated to Claire and his family, he’s nothing like his serial monogamist father. But then Jonathan discovers evidence that everything in his marriage may not be as perfect as he thought. Hurt and uncertain what to do, he knows that the only way to move forward is to go back.

On this quest for understanding—about himself, about manhood, about marriage—Jonathan decides to track down his father’s five ex-wives. His journey will take him from cosmopolitan cities to the mile-high mountains to a tropical island—and ultimately back to confront the one thing Jonathan has that his father never did: home.

If Mike Greenberg did his own "Favorite Things" show...

1 - Everyone would get a copy of The World According To Garp, by John Irving. It changed my life. And it might change others' too. I find it the most accessible, readable, easily devourable work of great fiction I have ever read. In my case, it inspired me to write. When I finished "Garp," I thought to myself I was either going to be a writer or I was going to be nothing at all.

2 - Everyone would get a copy of the Paul Simon album, Graceland. A quarter of a century after it was released, every song still sounds like you are hearing it for the first time. I am a fan of poets and lyricists, and Paul Simon is both. The imagery in the writing on Graceland is epic. "The way we look to a distant constellation that's dying in the corner of the sky..." He's a genius.

3 - Everyone would get an iPad. I genuinely have no idea how I lived without mine, which, by the way, I am using right now to write this. And when I am done I can use it to listen to Graceland and read Garp, along with about a trillion other uses.

4 - Golf clubs. I love golf about as much as I love anything or anyone I am not related to. And the game is struggling in our country, fewer people are playing, courses are closing left and right. To me this is a tragedy. Golf provides fresh air, green grass and a lesson in patience: three things all of us surely need.

5 - A new car. Doesn't even really matter which kind. It's just that I was raised on game shows, and there was never anything more exciting than when a prize was revealed and the announcer would shout: "It's a new car!!!!" Just once in my life, I'd like to do that.

Thanks to Mike for sharing his favorite things with us and to HarperCollins for sharing his book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cover reveal and giveaway: The Balance Project

We enjoyed Susie Orman Schnall's debut novel, On Grace (reviewed here), last year. So we were thrilled to find out that she's publishing her second novel, The Balance Project, this spring. Susie has a blog series, also titled "The Balance Project," and Melissa A. was a guest over there last year. Other interviews include chick lit novelists, celebrities, bloggers, and women with some fascinating careers. You can see the entire line-up here.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have your exclusive cover reveal right here AND they're offering an ARC to one lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Katherine Whitney has it all. She’s married, has two daughters, is the COO of a multi-billion dollar company, and with the release of her book on work-life balance, she is not only a media darling but she is a hero to working moms everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and her loyal assistant Lucy Cooper is the one holding most things together. But when Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy is faced with a difficult decision. THE BALANCE PROJECT: A NOVEL (SparkPress April 28, 2015) is a story of loyalty, choices, and most of all balance as it explores the hot-button issue that all women struggle with.

Here is the beautiful cover we've been waiting for! (The cover we originally saw on Amazon was darker and just had a red baby carriage surrounded by greenery. While it was cool, this official one is so much better!)

Susie Orman Schnall is the author of the award winning novel On Grace, named Kirkus Best Indie Book of 2014. She is the founder of The Balance Project popular interview series about the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Times of India, The Nest, Glamour, Mind Body Green, Westchester Magazine among others. Susie graduated the University of Pennsylvania and now lives in New York with her husband and their three boys.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends February 1st at midnight EST.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

30 First Dates by Stacey Wiedower from Gemma Halliday Publishing

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins from Confessions of a Bookaholic

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery from Mira

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand from Hachette (paperback edition)


Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer from William Morrow

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley from Confessions of a Bookaholic

Melissa P:

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick from BookSparks


Dangled Carat by/from Hilary Grossman

Milked by Lisa Doyle from Simon & Fig

The Secret Life of Book Club by/from  Heather Woodhaven

Bedside Manners by/from Phoebe Fox

I Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korson from Wunderkind PR

**All are e-books**


Just a Little Crush and That Old Black Magic by Caroline Fardig

If We Lived Here by Lindsey Palmer from Kensington


Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe from Transworld

As Good as it Gets? by Fiona Gibson from Avon

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis from Hutchinson (See Author Liaison Cindy Roesel's review at her blog.)


Office Girl by/from Carey RavenStar Robin

Revenge of the Cube Dweller by/from Joanne Fox Lewis

Double Feature Review: Sweet, Sweet Fantasy

By Melissa Amster

I read two very sweet and romantic stories this past winter and only really have good things to say, so I figured I'd keep the reviews simple and to the point, while also singing praises for these novels. Since both have surreal elements, figured the heading for this review post was fitting. (Of course, I have a Mariah Carey song in my head now!)

Both synopses are courtesy of Goodreads.

The Life Intended 
By Kristin Harmel

After her husband's sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she's planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn't she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she's really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband's hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

There's a reason The Life Intended made it onto my 2014 Favorites list. Everything about it is fantastic. It's a beautifully written and incredibly powerful story throughout. I've seen authors being asked (during interviews) what book they wish they had written. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the book I would have answered with. I also felt a personal connection to this story because of the hearing loss aspect, as I have two children who were born with hearing loss and wear cochlear implants. Kristin mentions cochlear implants, so it was exciting to see that aspect included in a story. I won't say why or how, as to not spoil it! Of course, this would make an awesome movie, and here's who I'd cast.

Kate: Elizabeth Reaser
Patrick: Eric Bana
Dan: Peter Sarsgaard
Andrew: Nathan Fillion

Thanks to Gallery Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.

The Look of Love 
By Sarah Jio

Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed.

This is different from Sarah Jio's usual fare, but I still enjoyed it and couldn't stop turning the pages. The stories of Jane's friends were so compelling and some were even heartbreaking. However, I didn't feel as emotionally overwhelmed (to the point of tears) as I have from her previous novels.  The novel had a Love, Actually feel and since I enjoy that movie, this is a good thing for me. Even if you've never seen this movie (or didn't enjoy it as much as I did), I think you'll still like The Look of Love a lot. I was even casting it as a movie in my head the entire time. Here are the ideas I had for some of the characters (as there were a lot).

Jane: Yael Grobglas
Cameron: Brandon Routh
Lo: America Ferrera
Flynn: Adrian Grenier
Katie: Michelle Monaghan

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

More by Kristin Harmel:

More by Sarah Jio:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tracie Banister has "piqued" our a special giveaway

I have a confession to make (I have these a lot)...I haven't read a book by Tracie Banister until now. And, of course, I had no idea what I was missing either! I have only heard good things about Tracie's previous novels, Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy (links are to past reviews), so I decided to dig in with Twin Piques, her latest novel. I am more than halfway done and enjoying it a lot so far. I keep finding posts, articles, and videos that are related to what Tracie mentions in the story and sending them to her.

This past year, Tracie started watching The Mindy Project and then convinced me to watch Jane the Virgin, so we dish often about such fun, chick-lit themed shows. And in doing this post, I sent her an example of what I did a few years ago and we found out that we share a love for Broadway musicals too!

Tracie was recently at CLC to help us celebrate celebrity month. Her fun answers to our themed questions were enjoyable to read. This time around, she's sharing her favorite things and we think you'll enjoy what she has to say.

In honor of Twin Piques taking place in San Francisco, Tracie is giving away one of our favorite things to a lucky US reader... CHOCOLATE! She will send a Cable Car Gift Tin w/17 Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares to the winner of our giveaway.

You can find Tracie at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Synopsis of Twin Piques:

Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common.

How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. Although she’s been looking for “The One” for what feels like forever (A teenage marriage to a French mime and dating a guy named Spider seemed like good ideas at the time!), optimistic Willa refuses to give up on love. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head?

Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job, where she uses her gift for numbers to take down slimy embezzlers and asset-hiding spouses. When she’s assigned two high profile cases, Sloane feels confident the promotion she’s been angling for is within her grasp. But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore?

To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?

Playing Oprah on Chick Lit Central today feels like a strange sort of kismet as it was O’s “Favorite Things” show back in 2008 that introduced me to the Kindle, the clever, little device that would go on to change my life as both a reader and a writer! I don’t know if I’ll be setting any trends with the items on my Favorite Things list, but all these goodies have certainly brought joy to my life!

Kate Spade Shanghai Deco Dot Scarf – Having been obsessed with polka dots since I was a child, my eyes lit up like a pinball machine when I saw this scarf. It’s black with white dots, which is très chic, and I love that Kate Spade New York is spelled out on the scarf with pink stitching. So fun, so girly; it’s the perfect fashion accessory for this winter.

The Mindy Project S1/S2 DVDs & Mindy’s BookThe Mindy Project is TV Chick Lit, and I can’t get enough of it! I want everyone to watch this show and love it and quote it as must as I do, so I am giving my faux audience the first two seasons on DVD, which I recommend you marathon in one weekend. And since money is no object in this scenario, I’m flying Mindy Kaling in to sign copies of her very funny book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, for all of you.

Fitbit – We all start out the new year making resolutions to lose weight and get on a regular exercise routine, right? The Fitbit can be a big help with that as it tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned all day long. I absolutely love the one I received this Christmas. It helps me to set different exercise goals for myself every day, and it’s super motivating to see those stats on my wrist. Bonus: The Fitbit comes in ten different colors, so you can choose the one that suits your style best. Mine is classic black, and I love how sleek it looks.

Coconut Body Butter by The Body Shop – This smell of this product is divine; it always makes me think of suntan lotion and the beach. I have super dry skin (as most of us do at this time of year), but this body butter keeps my skin soft and hydrated all day long. Love! Since this is a fantasy giveaway that will cost me nothing, I’m giving you all a year’s supply of this yummy body butter, which made Nylon’s 2014 Beauty Hit List.

Tiara – I am of the firm belief that every woman should own one of these so that she can feel like a queen at all times. I received a beautiful, rhinestone-encrusted tiara with a heart design from a dear friend of mine, author Kathleen Irene Paterka, who shares my love of royal-watching. She actually works at a castle (Castle Farms in Charlevoix, MI) and my tiara came from the gift shop there, so it’s legit! I like to wear it when I’m writing, taking a bubble bath, even when I’m doing chores around the house. I would gift everyone with their own tiara and then conduct a class on how to do a proper royal wave (As you can see from the picture, I practice mine on my neighbors quite a bit.)

Thanks to Tracie for sharing her favorite things with us and giving our readers a chance to win chocolate!

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends January 27th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cover reveal and giveaway: Those Secrets We Keep

We love Emily Liebert. Not only is she a great writer, but she's also incredibly sweet. So we were over the moon when she asked us to exclusively reveal the cover for her upcoming novel, Those Secrets We Keep! It's publishing in early June from Penguin Random House, but we have your chance to win some ARCs right here. See below for details....

Emily was last at CLC in September, when she did a fabulous interview with Jenny O'Regan from Confessions of a Bookaholic (@jenny_oregan). You can read it here if you missed it.

Three women. Three lives. Three secrets.

On the surface, Sloane has the perfect life—an adoring husband, a precocious daughter, and enough financial security to be a stay-at-home mom. Still, she can’t help but feel as though something—or someone—is missing…

Hillary has a successful career and a solid marriage. The only problem is her inability to conceive. And there’s a very specific reason why…

As the wild child daughter of old family money, Georgina has never had to accept responsibility for anything. So when she realizes an unexpected life change could tie her down forever, she does exactly what she’s always done. Escape.

When these three women unite for a three-week long summer vacation in beautiful Lake George, New York, even with the idyllic location as their backdrop, the tensions begin to mount. And they quickly discover that no secret can be kept forever…

Here's the cover you've been waiting for. Isn't it gorgeous?!? We love the pink and purple tones.

And that's not all....coming in Spring 2016 from Penguin Random House, Emily's next novel will be called...
Some Women

Now for the most exciting part....
You can enter to win one of two ARCs of Those Secrets We Keep OR one Skype chat for your book club. Each winner gets signed bookplates and bookmarks, as well!
**Both giveaways are US/Canada only.**

To be eligible for the Skype chat, you must pre-order the book (orders outside of Amazon are fine, as well) and send proof of purchase to chicklitcentral (at) gmail (dot) com.

To be eligible for the ARCs, use our Rafflecopter and follow the instructions for sharing. Facebook and/or Twitter shares count. (In case you don't use both.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends January 25th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ciara Geraghty puts on her red shoes

Photo credit: Doreen Kilfeather
Ciara Geraghty’s new novel Now That I’ve Found You is out now in the UK, published by Hodder & Stoughton. We are glad to be one of the stops on her blog tour and have invited her to share some of her favorite things with us. This is Ciara's first visit to CLC, but we have reviewed two of her previous novels, Finding Mr. Flood and Lifesaving for Beginners.

To learn more about Ciara, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Synopsis of Now That I've Found You:
Vinnie Boland is a single father who is struggling to raise his teenage daughter and his young son on his own, with insistent help from his elderly mother. Vinnie’s wife – his childhood sweetheart – left the family over a year ago. One day, Vinnie has a panic attack while driving Ellen Woods – one of his regular taxi fares – to her weekly physiotherapy session. Ellen reluctantly drives Vinnie to the hospital. It’s the first time she has driven a car since a horrific car accident over a year before. This simple act, getting behind the wheel again, releases something in Ellen. The panic attack – its causes and its consequences – forces Vinnie to stop and think about his life. The pair embark on a cautious friendship. (Courtesy of Ciara's website.)

To hear Ciara talk about her latest novel, check out this video.

A few of my favourite things

My favourite book:

Anne Of Green Gables by LM Montgomery made a lasting impression on me. My mother recommended when I was a child and she took real pleasure from me reading it. She’d say ‘which bit are you at now?’ When I walked into the kitchen that day, she said, ‘He died, didn’t he?’ And she was right. Matthew had died. And I mourned his passing like he was a real, live person whom I had known personally. That’s the moment when I realised the impact books could have. The realness  of them. How they made you care. Empathise. Grieve. And I grieved for Matthew. I still do. I don’t think I’ll ever get over him.
My favourite quote:
“Ever tried? Ever failed? Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
I love this one. Failure is seen as such a disaster. And yet, the way Beckett puts it, its just another way of persevering. So, thats what I do: I try to fail better.
My favourite film:
Shirley Valentine. I love the way Shirley talks to the wall and the rock, the fact that her friend is a hooker instead of the glamourous air-hostess Shirley always supposed her to be. The way she runs away and doesnt come back, a notion that many of us – secretly – harbour. It makes me laugh every time. I feel better about the world afterwards.
My favourite - funeral - song:
“Lets Dance” by David Bowie. I love dancing, I love red shoes, Im not all that fond of funerals, especially my own, so the idea of people swaying in the aisles in red dancing shoes distracts me from the fact that I will, in fact, be dead.
My favourite smell:

Fresh cut grass. Its so sweet, that smell, like cake. It reminds me of the beginning of the summer holidays when I was a kid and the summer stretched before me and seemed endless and full of possibilities.
My favourite piece of furniture:

My wooden rocking chair. My husband bought it for me when I was pregnant with our first baby, Sadhbh. I sat on it and rocked and placed my hands across my bump and entertained fanciful notions of what it might be like to be a mother. I fed each of my babies on the chair, rocked them in my arms when they woke in the night. Its like a time machine. When I sit in in, I remember the past and imagine the future.
My favourite photograph:
There is a photograph of my husband a couple of days after our first baby was born. He is exhausted looking, sort of draped along the edge of the crib, as if hes wishing he could take the baby out and climb in himself. The photograph makes me laugh, while also sending a pang through me, when I remember how young and hopeful and clueless we were.
My favourite piece of clothing:

The Aran cardigan I have that my great-aunt Una knit for my mother in 1965. My mother gifted it to me about ten years ago but she made me promise NEVER to wash it. I have to give it to her when it needs to be cleaned. She doesnt trust me with the washing machine. And I cant blame her; there have been laundry fatalities on my watch….
My favourite gadget:
My iPhone. It sort of changed my life, although Im aware that that sounds a bit dramatic. But it narrowed the gap that had been growing for years between me and technology, because it was so easy to use and made social networking - an unknowable land beforehand - accessible to luddites like me.  My family laugh when I am looking for my phone because I never say, ‘Has anyone seen my phone?I say, ‘Has anyone seen my iPhone?I still say that. After all these years. 
My favourite possession:
My violin. It belonged to my grandfather and its reputed to be over a hundred years old. Its a beautiful piece of wood and the sound it emits is so mellow, as if the years have smoothed and rounded it, been kind to it.
My favourite / death-row meal:
My mothers lasagne. And baked Alaska – a feat of baking wizardry (you see, the icecream is INSIDE THE MERINGUE, like an unexpected ingot of gold. Last attempted in home economics class in Manor House School, circa 1985. Result: it perhaps lacked the finesse of presentation of many of the other offerings but it tasted like I imagine sophistication and intrigue might taste. I ate it with a teaspoon on the train home.
My favourite animal:

My dog Heidi. We adopted her when she was three (shes six now). I call her our recession dog because her family emigrated to Abu Dhabi at the height of the recession and they couldnt take her with them. She is possibly the only mammal in the world who loves me unconditionally.

Thanks to Ciara for visiting and to Hodder and Stoughton for including us on this blog tour. See below for all the stops.