Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jen Lancaster is no longer "bitter" a book giveaway

It’s not a secret – I LOVE Jen Lancaster. Even before I ever read one of her books, I could tell from reading her blog she was my kind of person. Funny in a snarky way, isn’t afraid to call out the elephant in the room, and painfully direct. But what I didn’t get from her blog that you immediately find out once you meet her in real life, is that she is one of the nicest people ever. So nice you don’t know why the hell you ever thought you thought she was one of those “mean girls” you did everything possible to avoid in the halls in high school – maybe it has something to do with the snarky and direct nature of her writing.

Since I’ve interviewed Jen before, I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to ask her this time around. So I did something I never thought I would do...I asked her what interview questions I should ask her. Yep, that’s right. In an interviewing first, I asked my interviewee what I should ask them. It happened at a recent book event of hers that I attended and figured since we were chatting maybe she could give me a clue, or two, since I had none of my own. Note: The questions below are not a result of that direct question. But it was fun channeling my “inner direct Jen” for just a brief moment, nonetheless.

If you'd like to connect with Jen or just need a good laugh, visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter

**Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies of Jen's latest book,  I Regret Nothing, for some lucky US readers!**

It's been nine years since your first book, Bitter is the New Black was published. How has your writing process evolved since that first book? How has it stayed the same?
Nine years seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

In terms of process and change, I’ve definitely improved my technical skills. When I look back at parts of "Bitter," I cringe. There’s so much I’d fix if I could, e.g. I’d stop using the same words over and over again. (BUY A THESAURUS, 2005 SELF.)

That being said, "Bitter" was definitely the most organic book. I wrote this with no regard for proper structure and long before there were ever any expectations/sales plans/marketing strategies, etc. (NEXT TIME, GOOGLE THAT SHIT, 2005 SELF.)

Looking back, I realize exaggerated my bad behavior at the beginning of the book, inadvertently turning myself into a caricature. So, people read "Bitter" and came away with an impression of me that wasn’t 100% genuine. Really, it’s like 80 - 85%, as I’ve always been more empathetic/nicer than I portray. (I AM NICE, DAMN IT, WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME?)

Subsequently, now when I paint an accurate picture, I get a lot of snarky Facebook comments saying, “You’ve changed,” and that kind of makes me want to kick a lung out of someone.

Okay, fine. I am mostly nice.

Anyway, my work is much more personal in later books, more introspective, and I definitely enjoy the writing process to a greater extent, having done it so many times. In terms of professional skills, I definitely have a better grasp on time management and deadlines, while paying closer attention to showing and not telling. Though I can likely never recapture the whole let’s-throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks parts of "Bitter" (coincidentally what makes me now cringe), I understand these imperfections are what people appreciated.

tl;dr: I’m a work in progress.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned about the publishing industry?
Publishing is a business and profits and losses are as important as the art. Yes, many writers strive to pen legitimate literature, crafting the kind of prose that high school kids will complain about reading one hundred years from now, not caring if a single copy sells, as having created is its own reward.

For me? I kind of like to buy things, so I hope my work sells.

I’m happy to write light, entertaining stories, even if that means I’ll never be reviewed by the NYT. (At least in a flattering manner.) And hey, that’s cool, because I believe there’s nothing thing wrong with aiming for commercial success. In fact, publishers quite like that. For example, while I’m personally not a fan of the "50 Shades" series, I have such an appreciation what that book did for Random House. Every single employee received a "50 Shades"-based $5000 holiday bonus the year the books came out, from the publisher down to the guys in the mailroom. The success of "50 Shades" allowed Random House to gamble on a lot of unknown authors, which may introduce us to the next Faulkner or Hemingway or Steinbeck, or whomever else high school kids will bitch about reading in the next century. And if my silly stories help pave the way for the kind of authors who’ll create a legacy? All the better.

If you had a chance to go back and rewrite one of your books, which one would you choose and why?
You’d think "Bitter," but actually it’s If You Were Here. This love letter to John Hughes was my first novel. I figured the easiest way to bridge the gap between memoir and novel was to create doppelgangers for Fletch and me, particularly since he and I had just moved to the suburbs, exactly like the characters Mac and Mia. The thing is, after those two got to the suburbs, their story diverged greatly from our own as ours was drama-free. (Which is a nice way to live, but lousy in terms of creating conflict.)

Because we bore such a striking resemblance, the memoir-readers were confused. I was unaware of how frustrating this blurred line could be until I read Bethenny Frankel’s novel and I couldn’t figure out what was fact and what was fantasy. Since then, I’ve worked hard to separate my life and my characters’ lives.

Still, sometimes my characters still sound like me, largely because I’ve created them. And I think that’s okay.

If you were to interview yourself, what is the first question you'd ask yourself? What is the answer to that question?
I’d ask what people don’t know about me, and the answer is that I have an almost pathological need to please others. (See? No one got this impression from "Bitter," yet it’s always been true.) I have a hard time not being everyone’s dancing monkey. I struggle with saying no because I don’t want to let folks down, even when it’s to my own detriment. I’m getting a lot better at saying, “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” but it’s so against my kiss-ass-cheesedog-suck-up nature.

Superstitions - A bunch of garbage or totally real? Why do you feel this way?
I want to say I’m not terribly superstitious, but that’s likely untrue. I don’t fret about black cats or Friday the 13th, but sometimes I have trouble celebrating what’s going well because I’m always afraid that by doing so, I’ll jinx it.

Which is essentially crazy.

I learned that this is a symptom of anxiety and the way to combat it is to keep a running list of things for which I’m grateful. Easier said than done, but I do try.

My all time favorite TV show is:
Really, this depends on my mood, but I desperately and consistently love Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, and Mad Men. I have such an appreciation for shows that reward viewers for paying attention; good writing conquers all.

Thanks to Jen for chatting with us and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

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

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: The Balance Project

By Melissa Amster

If you think I have it all together. I guess I'm a really good actress and should be making an Oscar acceptance speech right about now. The fact of the matter is, as I said in my Balance Project interview with Susie Schall last autumn: "Having it all is overrated. Something has to give in some area of life." I also mentioned wishing that Mary Poppins would come over and snap her fingers so that my home would be organized. However, it's not just my home. My inboxes for my various e-mail accounts are overflowing and I can barely stay focused unless I have a to-do list or send myself constant reminders. So while it may look like I can balance a full-time job, three kids, and a book blog, I am just doing well at making it look easier than it truly is. For that reason alone, I could relate to The Balance Project and even sympathize with Katherine, who was made to be an antagonist at times.

Loyal assistant Lucy Cooper works for Katherine Whitney, who seems to have it all: a high-powered job at a multi-billion-dollar health and wellness lifestyle company, a successful husband, and two adorable daughters. Now, with the release of her book on work-life balance, Katherine has become a media darling and a hero to working women everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and Lucy is the one holding it all together, causing her own life—and relationship with her boyfriend Nick—to suffer. When Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy must decide whether to change Katherine’s life forever or continue being her main champion. Her choice will affect the trajectory of both of their lives and lead to opportunities neither one could have imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Initially, The Balance Project felt like the 2015 version of The Devil Wears Prada, in which a 20-something woman becomes an assistant to a demanding boss and ends up managing their life outside of anything career-related (such as picking up their dry cleaning, babysitting, etc.). Unlike Andrea, who is trying to get her foot in the door to a better career and doesn't hide her distaste for Miranda, Lucy is happy to work for Katherine and has a friendly working connection with her. She likes feeling needed and doesn't consider her own career until other people push her to see otherwise. I could relate to Lucy on that end, in terms of feeling loyal toward her boss instead of getting a job in her career field.

One might think that finding balance is only for women with children. They would be wrong. Ever since reading The Balance Project, I've been encouraging my friends without kids to participate in Susie's interview series. The story allows the reader to appreciate the different facets of finding balance, whether or not someone has kids. Just like for Andrea in The Devil Wears Prada, Lucy's job takes a toll on her personal life, including her relationships with her family, friends, and especially her boyfriend. While the story wraps up neatly, there are a lot of twists and surprises along the way that kept me on my toes and made me nervous for Lucy at each turn of the page. I even got teary-eyed at the end.

Utterly compelling and impossible to put down, The Balance Project speaks volumes about how important it is for women at any stage of life to find realistic and meaningful balance. I hope every woman has a chance to read it and discusses the questions in the back of the book with their friends and/or book club.

Just like Susie did in her interview, I had some fun casting the movie version:
Lucy: Anna Kendrick
Katherine: Naomi Watts
Nick: Chris Pratt
Theo: Mike O'Malley
Ava: Emma Stone

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the book in exchange for an honest review (and blurb). 

Enter to win a copy of THE BALANCE PROJECT, along with an iPad mini and case. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Melissa Baldwin Will Never Go Out of a special giveaway

We always enjoy featuring authors named Melissa at CLC, and our latest guest is no exception! In fact, just by reading this interview, Melissa A found all these things she has in common with her.

Melissa Baldwin graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications; she has always had a love for writing. An avid journal keeper, she fulfilled her dream with her novels, An Event To Remember . . . Or Forget and Wedding Haters. Melissa resides in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and young daughter. She is a master at organization and multi-tasking. Aside from being an author, her daily jobs include mother, chauffeur, wife, PTA President, and Fitness Trainer. When she has free time, she enjoys traveling, fitness, decorating, fashion, and taking a Disney Cruise every now and then. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

Melissa is generously giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

How did you decide to write chick lit novels? 
I have always loved to read Chick-Lit, so it made sense to write Chick-Lit. I have tried to venture out into other genres but always find myself coming back for more. I love the drama, the fun, and those crazy situations that most of us girls have found ourselves in.

In one sentence, please share some advice for future authors.
My advice would be to write because you love it and because it makes you happy, don't try to make everyone else happy.

If your books were made into movies, who would you cast as Sienna and Madison? What about Luke, Ace, and Cole?
Since I first started writing the "Event to Remember" series I have always pictured Amy Adams cast as Sienna and Cameron Diaz as Madison. I would cast Bradley Cooper as Luke, Ryan Gosling as Ace, and Jason Bateman as Cole. On my Pinterest page, I have a board with my entire dream cast for both of my novels.

Who is your favorite celebrity named Melissa?
Probably Melissa McCarthy. She's so funny and down to earth.

If you could take us on a tour of Orlando that didn't touch on the obvious places, where would we go first?
I'm a huge Disney fan, so of course we would go there--but that's pretty obvious--as well as Universal Studios and Sea World. Otherwise we would probably go to International Drive- lots of great restaurants and entertainment.

What song do you get in your head the most often?
My eight year-old daughter is always listening to Taylor Swift, so chances are it would be one of Ms. Swift's latest hits.

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin for visiting with us and sharing a gift card with our readers.

~Interview by Melissa Amster

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

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Open worldwide. Giveaway ends May 3rd at midnight EST.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Game of Scones

By Becky Gulc

‘Growing up, Pippa Pattinson’s summers were spent in the idyllic Greek island fishing village of Taxos. There she spent many long hazy days determinedly ignoring thoughts of the life her parents had mapped out for her (a dreary-but-secure accounting job and obligatory sensible husband!) Instead she daydreamed of running her own tea shop – serving the perfect scones – with mocha-eyed childhood friend Niklaus by her side…

Arriving back in Taxos for the first time in years, with suave boyfriend Henrik, Pippa barely recognises the tired little town – but is relieved to catch glimpses of the quaint, charming village she’s always loved. Together Niklaus and Pippa put together a proposal to save Taxos from tourist-tastic ruin, and at the heart of their plan is Pippa’s dream project: The Tastiest Little Tea Shop in Taxos. It’s time for Pippa to leave her London life behind and dust off her scone recipe that’s guaranteed to win over both locals and visitors. And amidst the rolling pins and raisins, it seems romance is blossoming where she’s least expecting it…’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Game of Scones is an e-book only publication from Carina Press and is Samantha’s fourth novel. This was my first introduction to Samantha’s writing and I liked the synopsis, I’m always happy to be taken on holidays through books and I do love baking too, so it sounded like a great combination!

It doesn’t take long for us to be transported to Taxos and for Pippa to be reacquainted with the Greek family she knows so well from the many summers she had spent on the island with her parents while growing up. With this being her first visit as an adult, it’s a risk that she’s become distanced from the family, but this isn’t the case at all. In fact, Pippa sees some things a lot differently in these people as an adult. This is a place with which Pippa has strong ties; she loves the island and the people on it, so this is one young woman who will fight for the future of the island when it’s threatened, even if this creates difficulties in her relationship with Henrik.

I particularly enjoyed the Greek family in this novel: Niko, his parents and the lovely Grandma (who was a great character and had a lovely relationship with Pippa). This is a very loyal and tight-knit family who you feel for when their island is under threat from unwanted development. The community spirit is also a very uplifting part of the novel, these islanders are not going to be pushovers by any means!

I perhaps would have liked more build-up in the novel before Pippa heads to Taxos, and I sometimes felt like Pippa’s internal questioning of her relationship with Henrik became a bit repetitive at times. I would have liked to see an epilogue as the ending felt a bit abrupt and I wanted to know more about what happened next, but these are small qualms overall, and maybe there will be a follow-up!

Game of Scones is an enjoyable light read with a good story and characters. The baking element of the story is also an enjoyable aspect, it doesn’t overly feature just when pertinent to the story. I certainly enjoyed the descriptions of the various types of scones Pippa makes and in fact I’m going to make some scones this afternoon! An enjoyable read for summer.

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

More by Samantha Tonge:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: Office Girl

By Sara Steven

Something I’ve been struggling with lately, is my lack of a college education. I never intended to stray from the four-year plan. I wanted to be a teacher. I attended a solid community college to save money, ready to transfer to a teaching college in Nebraska when the time came. Unfortunately, a lot of chaotic life experiences got in the way, and my goal of becoming a teacher fell by the wayside.

Reading Carey RavenStar Robin’s memoir, Office Girl: A romantic comedy and true story about the terrible jobs one reader and writer suffered after majoring in English, I wonder if those chaotic life experiences may have been a blessing in disguise for me! For Carey, after majoring in English, obtaining a teaching certificate, an extra year of undergraduate credit, a paralegal certificate and 24 Master’s credits in English, she can’t seem to get a job! Not a very good one, anyway. You’d think with credentials like that she’d score something big. Instead, she’s a secretary, where she’s very much underutilized. Or a desk clerk for a motel. When she breaks into teaching, she’s barely scraping by with low-wages and non existent health care, not to mention the odd-ball coworkers who love to undermine Carey at seemingly every chance they get! With job prospects like this, who needs a career?

Things aren’t going well in Carey’s love life, either. Divorced, she’s come up with a scoring system of men she’s run into, based on their potential for loss of time and energy, self-esteem, etc. I was laughing at the similarities of some of the “winners” I’ve dated in the past, easily fitting my own experiences into each category Carey has conjured up. I love the humor and easy-does-it approach she uses when it comes to her love life. Really, what other choice does she have?

Carey is a very candid and funny storyteller. Just when I thought things were going to look up for her, something else would happen that would knock her back a step or two, but she keeps coming back, swinging and fighting even harder to achieve success in her life. There is a lot Carey identifies with from her past, parallels she drudges up and it’s obvious she doesn’t want to make the same mistakes she’s seen others in her life make. I know that scenario all too well, making it easy for me to relate with Carey.

Will I ever get back into the college game myself? I decided after having my own children that teaching wouldn’t be the best fit for me. I just don’t think I’d have the patience for it, not anymore. I’m still open to college, however. There are other passions in my life I can pursue, too, and where there is passion, there is hard work and a rollercoaster ride of achievements and failures. Office Girl is a true, honest, enjoyable testament to that!

Thanks to Carey RavenStar Robin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting inside Andrea Lochen's a book giveaway

We're glad to have Andrea Lochen back at CLC after her first visit two years ago when she debuted with The Repeat Year (reviewed here). Her latest novel, Imaginary Things, sounds intriguing and we can't wait to dig in!

Andrea earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was a Colby Fellow. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Fiction Editor of The Madison Review, a nationally-distributed, student-run literary magazine. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and was recently awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and infant daughter and is at work on her third novel. (Bio from Andrea's website.)

You can find Andrea at her website and on Facebook. She has a copy of Imaginary Things for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

What is the best compliment you've received about your writing? What is a piece of constructive feedback you received for The Repeat Year that you used for Imaginary Things?
I've heard from several people that they devoured The Repeat Year in a weekend or a single day! But probably my most meaningful compliment came from a young woman who had tragically lost her sister to cancer. She told me that she understood the challenges Olive faced while trying to get used to the idea of having a stepfather after her dad passed away, and that it actually helped the young woman come to terms with seeing her own sister's husband start dating again and eventually remarry. It was a really humbling experience for me to learn that my writing could help someone cope with something in their own life.

When The Repeat Year came out, the fun (and somewhat apt) comparison was often made to the movie Groundhog Day, since it's about a woman who wakes up to discover she's reliving a year of her life (similar to Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over). So when I set out to write Imaginary Things, I knew I wanted to use a magical premise that no one had ever used before (at least not that I'm aware of): a mother who can see her child's imagination come to life right before her very eyes!

How did you decide to take on a surreal aspect with your novels?
I love writing about the surreal! It's so much fun for me to dream up a magical premise and then imagine how everyday people would react to it. I think a lot of people read to escape reality, so I like to give readers something a little out of the ordinary. Whenever I’m coming up with a new novel idea, I always start with a “what if?” question. In the case of The Repeat Year, my question was: what if a person was granted a second chance to relive a year of their life? With Imaginary Things, the question was: what if a mother could see her child’s imagination, and what if it suddenly turned threatening and dangerous?

If you were to cast Imaginary Things as a movie, who would you choose for the lead characters?
The young and lovely AnnaSophia Robb for Anna, Taylor Lautner (of Twilight fame) for Jamie, Alex Pettyfer for Patrick, Susan Sarandon for Duffy, Harrison Ford for Winston, and some adorably mischievous, precocious little boy for David.

Melissa A: If David can be a few years older in the movie, I nominate my younger son. :)

What is something funny that happened to you recently?
I'm a new mom with a two month old daughter, and basically everything she does cracks me up from her happy little grins to her coos and babbles to the way she can wiggle out of any swaddle blanket like a little Houdini. Recently, my husband and I took her to church, and when he knelt down with her to pray, she spit up a small waterfall over the pew in front of us. Thankfully, the couple in front of us were also kneeling, so it missed them, but it dribbled down the back of the wood pew and onto the seat cushion! Yuck! We quickly tried to clean it up as best we could with a burp rag and the poor people in front of us were never the wiser! (Although the folks behind us were silently shaking trying to hold in their laughter at our little performance.)

What is the last movie you saw that you'd recommend?
I loved Boyhood with its coming of age story and the neat concept of following the same actors over the span of twelve years. At times humorous, at times bittersweet, it intimately depicted the struggles of a single mother trying to do the best for her children and make something of herself. I found myself really connecting with the characters.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Thick crust or stuffed crust pizza—the more cheese, the better! Hey, I am from Wisconsin, after all!

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

~Interview by Melissa Amster

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

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends April 28th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Where there's a bookstore, there's a Jen

Introduction by Melissa Amster

How many people can say that they get to spend their entire day hanging out with books? I know that would be a dream come true and I'd even have a blast recommending books when I didn't have my nose buried in one. 

Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker has a lovely story about her friends opening a bookstore and what happened when it switched owners and locations. If you cried for Goodnight June by Sarah Jio, have some tissues nearby for today's real life offering.

The Little Bookstore That Could

It’s no secret I’m head over heels in love with my Kindle. I can read it during road trips whereas print books make me a tad queasy. If you ask my engineer minded father, he’ll lecture in his professor voice that it’s the way my brain processes the contrast of the colors due to the blah, blah, blah versus the blah, blah, blah of the brain digesting book print. From time-to-time an insomniac invades my body in the wee hours of the night (Who’s with me? Anyone?), and reading by the light of my Kindle let’s my hubby continue to saw logs while I remain in bed with a good book. Yet there’s nothing like a good book, a good print book, right? You hold the weight of it in your hands; smell the freshly printed ink or perhaps the scent from years tucked away on a bookshelf and get lost inside its pages. Books are beautiful. The stores that lovingly stock them are beautiful too.

I spent part of my Saturday morning helping a friend move her bookstore. Robots & Rogues Books is a gathering place for avid Sci-Fi enthusiasts, lovers of zombies, and for those who shop local. It’s also my favorite place in town to meet readers, sign books, and hold owner Tricia’s little boy, Mal. Tricia and her buddy, Kevin, opened the store together when our local Borders closed and left them wondering what was next after their employment there ended. “I so didn’t want to get a ‘real’ job. I just wanted to play with books all day,” Tricia once shared with me. And that’s how "the little bookstore that could" was born. At a time independent stores seemed all but a fond memory, Kevin and Tricia made it happen.

Caffeinated, I carried shelves down the street to Robots & Rogues new home just a block away from the old store. I walked in and spotted Tamzin. She’s the new key holder and owner. A fantastic woman, lover of books, and she directed my son, Ryan, in a youth production (13) at our local civic theatre. So she’s a wrangler of teens which puts her tops in my book.

“Jen Tucker!” Tamzin said. She smiled as I crossed the threshold fumbling with a wire book rack. We exchanged big hugs, I gave my hearty congratulations, and Tamzin walked me through how the warm brick walls and whitewashed tin ceilings would transform into Main Street Books, a place where book lovers will fall head-over-heels for a new read just as they did down the street. Tamzin will expand the store’s genre offerings, yet is keeping the niche alive that Kevin and Tricia created for their loyal patrons. I love that.

As Main Street Books prepares to open its doors, I’m excited for what is to come. There be a bookstore remaining in downtown Lafayette, Indiana and that’s golden in my eyes. Books will depart Tamzin’s tender loving care and make their way into a reader’s hands. What a beautiful thing.

With Robot’s and Rogues closing its doors for the final time, I feel a twinge of sadness. A brightly painted store filled with fantastic people who welcomed this inside-out panty girl into the fold as an author and friend.

Kevin, I’ll always remember you asking me, “Now, is this your first signing you’ve ever done?” If I laughed at you, I’m so, so sorry because you know I meant it with love. We are the book dinosaurs who strolled down Waldenbooks memory lane together.

Tricia, I don’t have words. So strange for this extrovert, right? I have messy tears though and I already miss holding Mal with one hand and signing books with my Raspberry colored Sharpie in the other.

 Tamzin, thank you. Thank you for taking the leap of faith, grasping the bookstore’s keys into your sweet hands, and believing in the little bookstore that could.

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: Dog Crazy

By Amy Bromberg

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I think it was meant to be that I read Dog Crazy while we were moving into our new place. You see, the main reason we moved is to get a dog. I think it's a shame that it's quite difficult to find apartments that are dog friendly. Well, we finally did! Also, I can’t resist any book with puppies on the cover.

We had to put down Shaina, my mom’s dog (I felt like she was mine) last October. I’ve never experienced such heartache and grief before. This being said, I can 100% relate to how Maggie’s patients (and herself) felt. Dogs become part of the family, so losing one is just like losing a family member. Maggie truly cared about her patients and really helped them overcome their sadness. However, it seems a little strange that she was a therapist but had a heavy issue of her own to deal with. As the story moved on though, I was rooting for Maggie to overcome her own demons, along with helping Anya find her dog, while everyone else felt that wasn’t possible. Of course I also enjoyed the romance that developed between Maggie and her love interest.

Whether or not you are a dog lover, if you are interested in a light and quick read, then you should definitely get yourself a copy of Dog Crazy.

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

More by Meg Donohue:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


By Melissa Amster

You may be wondering why I'm writing about a TV show at a book blog. Well, I recently found out that the fabulous and iconic comedy series, The Mindy Project, is on the bubble. This means that its fate hasn't been sealed on the renewal list and the viewer count isn't up to FOX's standards. Since the show has such a chick lit feel to it and I mostly talk to my some of my favorite chick lit authors about it on a weekly basis, I felt that CLC would be the best forum for appealing to FOX to give it another season (or two...or three...)

For those of us die-hard fans who have been watching the past three seasons, we were left with a cliff hanger a few weeks ago. And before the IMDB article came out, I had been hearing buzz about it being in renewal limbo. Two other shows I love were also cancelled by FOX early on. Arrested Development didn't get to finish its third season and Firefly only got one season and that was it. Both shows still have a huge fan base and Arrested Development was recently brought back to life through Netflix, with the promise of more shows on the way. I've also heard that Community was picked up by a different station after an outcry from fans over being cancelled too early. This gives me hope that even if FOX chooses not to renew, another station will snap up The Mindy Project immediately. How could they not, after all?

Aside from being hilarious, The Mindy Project is about a strong female character who holds her own in her relationships and friendships, while also not being afraid to show her girly side. Mindy Lahiri is one of my favorite television lead characters. There's something so endearing about her. Even though we're at different places in our lives, I can still relate to her and feel an emotional connection. Besides, she can rock out to the Rent soundtrack! The show plays out like a Nora Ephron movie with all the romantic highs and lows, as well as the comedic situations that take place each week. It's like Friends meets Sex and the City.

I wrote a whole tribute on my personal blog after watching only a season and a half! And it got even better after that! There were some episodes, and even just scenes, I'd watch over and over.

Watch at your own risk if you're new to the series:
*Scene from season two Christmas episode.
*One of the best kissing scenes ever, from later in season two.

All I know is that The Mindy Project makes me laugh consistently, and even knocks my socks off when it throws in a game changer that I didn't see coming. The supporting cast is a lot of fun and I can imagine them all (including Mindy) hanging out and joking around together while not on the set.

Also, there's my crush on Chris Messina, but that's another blog post in itself! When I first found out he was going to be on the show, I didn't know what to expect, since he seemed to have these minor roles in the movies I've seen him in. However, his character, Danny, is a strong lead and he does an amazing job in this role. How can you not get all emotional when he looks all intense with his deep brown eyes?

Anyway, if I haven't convinced the executives at FOX to renew The Mindy Project, maybe some of my friends can help....

"I knew The Mindy Project was going to be my favorite show, and that Mindy Lahiri was my spirit guide, early in the first season. She described a recent Saturday night: "I fell asleep watching the movie Amelie. And when I woke up, I had spilled so much red wine on myself I thought for a second I had been shot." Oh, girlfriend, I have been there. I’ve been hooked ever since, because like Mindy, I’m on a seemingly never-ending quest for self-improvement. While our adventures and experiences are totally different, there’s a comfort in seeing another young, professional woman trying to get her life together, even though it’s really hard. When I laugh at Mindy’s world, I’m able to laugh at myself. And I need that."
~Laura Chapman, author of The Marrying Type

"The best thing about The Mindy Project, while no offense to the remarkable Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), is Mindy, both Kaling and Lahiri. Mindy is a hot mess, but she’s also intelligent, successful, lovable, funny. For so long, it has been acceptable on television for male characters to not be completely put together all the time but still successful, but not so for women. What woman out there doesn’t see a little bit of herself in Mindy? She shows us that it’s okay to enjoy fashion and pop culture and still be a bad-ass doctor (or lawyer, or stay-at-home mother, or whatever else you want to be). With Liz Lemon and Carrie Bradshaw off the air, we NEED Mindy to fill that role. We WANT Mindy to fill that role.

And the Mindy behind the scenes is just as amazing. How many other Indian-American women are the creators, executive producers, and head writers of television shows? Diversity on television is more important now than ever, but Mindy never uses her ethnicity as a fallback or a joke. She is who she is. She is trying to show us that it shouldn’t be a big deal - because it isn’t.

Please renew The Mindy Project, television will not be the same without it."
~Rachel Lynn Hamm, author of Honor's Lark

"Smart, sassy, whimsical, and hilarious - there's nothing else like The Mindy Project on TV. It's a show I can laugh about, quote, and swoon over with my girlfriends."
~Tracie Banister, author of Twin Piques

Losing The Mindy Project would mean women losing a role model who is much needed today. Mindy (Lahiri) Kaling represents a strong, independent, flawed woman and shows us it’s more than possible to be intelligent, funny, beautiful, and your average woman. I love seeing such a powerful woman on television who isn’t striving to be a be a size 0 – she embraces and loves herself – a rarity these days.
~Tracy Krimmer, author of Caching In

"It needs be renewed because it made me laugh when my husband was deployed. I need laughter!"
~Amber Myers, author of The Swimmer's Assistant, guest reviewer for CLC, and blogger at Airing My Dirty Laundry

If my friends and I have convinced FOX executives to renew (keeping fingers and toes crossed here), I'd recommend that Mindy has some girlfriends in season four. I miss her girlfriends from season one. I also hope they scale back on Morgan's buffoon side and allow him to be genuinely funny in the dorky way he knows how. (He just became too much and it was over the top after a while.) I definitely want Rhea Perlman to stick around as Annette. She's hilarious! Finally, I'd love to see something happen between Jeremy and the tough financial executive, played by Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother.

FOX, the ball is in your court now. Please don't let Mindy's fans down....

The script I won from @MindyProjectFox

Susie Orman Schnall is balancing it a book giveaway

With only one week to go until her sophomore novel, The Balance Project, is published, Susie Orman Schnall is here to tell us more about it. 

You may recall that we featured a cover reveal earlier this year. At the same time, I got to read The Balance Project in order to blurb it! All I can tell you for now is that you'll want to get your hands on a copy and it made me cry. This is what I had to say about it:

"Utterly compelling and impossible to put down, The Balance Project speaks volumes about how important it is for women at any stage of life to find realistic and meaningful balance."

The Balance Project is already generating some "buzz" by being featured in "The Ultimate Spring Book Guide" on BuzzFeed.

Susie Orman Schnall is the author of the award winning novel On Grace (reviewed here), named one of the Kirkus Best Indie Books 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.

Visit Susie at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. Also, visit her Balance Project blog, where she interviews authors, celebrities, bloggers, entrepreneurs, etc. I was lucky enough to be featured last year and one of my close friends was recently featured, as well!

Thanks to BookSparks PR, we have ONE copy of The Balance Project to give away to a lucky US reader! For another chance to win, visit Confessions of a Bookaholic (@jenny_oregan). Her giveaway is worldwide!

What was your favorite part of writing The Balance Project? What was the most challenging part?
My favorite part was exploring the issue of work-life balance from the perspectives of both Lucy, a single, 25-year-old woman, and Katherine, her married, mother-of-two, highly successful, 45-year-old boss. Work-life balance is something most women struggle with in some capacity and it was interesting to see how two very different women, in two very different places in their lives and careers faced similar challenges. The most challenging part was balancing the love/hate relationship I want readers to have with Katherine.

What is the best compliment you've received on your writing? What is a piece of constructive feedback you've carried over from On Grace to use in The Balance Project?
The best compliment I've received was that I was able to articulate what a reader was feeling but what she couldn’t put into words and that readers were able to relate so much to my characters. As for constructive feedback for On Grace, some readers thought I spent too much time in Grace’s mind (whereas for other readers, that was their favorite part!). I did that less in The Balance Project, while still giving readers insight into what the main characters are experiencing.

If The Balance Project were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
There are so many wonderful actresses who could portray Lucy and Katherine so well but if I had to choose:
Lucy: Shailene Woodley
Katherine: Reese Witherspoon
Nick: Channing Tatum
Theo: Tony Goldwyn
Ava: Zosia Mamet
Evan: Neil Patrick Harris
Brooke: Kristin Chenoweth
Matt: Patrick Warburton

Please share something important that stood out from one of your Balance Project interviews (a piece of advice, a motto, etc.).
This wasn’t actually in one of the interviews but was in an email an interviewee sent me after she completed answering the questions. It validates why this is such an important topic to discuss and why we need to change the conversation to acknowledge the fact that idealizing the ideal of the superwoman is unrealistic and eventually damaging to women. Here’s what she said:
"It was a challenge to put my thoughts into words. In doing so, it also became abundantly clear to me how out of balance my life really is!! To my friends and co-workers it may appear on the surface that I have my s%*t together, but I make major sacrifices to keep up with my kids and my very stressful and demanding job. The sacrifice I most often make is my own well-being. Participating in the Balance Project was a big wake-up call for me. I need to take better care of myself and make myself a least some of the time. If your goal is to show how women who we think are doing “it all,” really aren’t, I'm your girl! I love and greatly appreciate that you want to steer the conversation more toward that reality than toward the myth. When I first had my children and was really struggling, I searched high and low for answers, some secret formula. Not only did I fail to find any helpful advice, but I was very frustrated to find interviews with successful women I looked up to, which were clearly framed through rose-colored glasses. Thank you for putting the reality out there for so many women to see."

Which TV show(s) do you enjoy binge watching?
Scandal, Orange is the New Black, and Downton Abbey.

What was the last nice thing you did for yourself?
Recently I bought a beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips that I set on my writing desk next to my computer to bring a little spring into my life. It's still very rainy and dreary in New York, but these tulips make me smile!

Thanks to Susie for chatting with us and to BookSparks 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. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Haven Lake

By Jami Deise

One of the most popular tropes in literature is the person who’s healed by nature. Perhaps it’s due to our country once being a nation of farmers, but there’s something romantic about the idea of burrowing into the land, be it the woods, the beach, the mountains, or a farm, working with one’s hands, finding one’s soul and healing one’s heart.

Of course, sometimes those bucolic settings can hide nightmares.

In Holly Robinson’s Haven Lake, 16-year-old Dylan Katz is running away from home – from memories of his dead mother, from the expectations of his surgeon father, and from a very angry lacrosse player who wants to make Dylan pay for hooking up with his girlfriend. Caught in a thunderstorm as he attempts to hitchhike from Massachusetts to Seattle, Dylan decides to call his soon-to-be stepmother’s estranged mother, Hannah, who runs a sheep farm called Haven Lake. But as it turns out, Dylan is not the only character who’s running away from something.

The story is told from three points of view – Dylan’s, Hannah’s, and Hannah’s daughter Sydney. Sydney had all but grown up at Haven Lake, which in the 70s was a hippie commune filled with draft dodgers. As a teenager, she left to live with her grandparents after her boyfriend drowned and her father, a troubled Vietnam vet, shot himself. With Hannah unable to take care of her, Sydney felt abandoned, and their relationship had been troubled ever since. Now a psychologist, Sydney is preparing to marry Dylan’s father Gary – but her love for him may be based more on a need for security than passion.

Although Dylan, Hannah and Sydney are each separate and distinct characters, they are all haunted by events in their pasts and how those events affect their present. Robinson does a terrific job distinguishing among the three in her narrative. This is a very internal book, with the main characters spending a lot of time in their heads, but each one felt unique. At the same time, the scene work is very clear, allowing the reader to see beyond the characters’ own impressions. As such, I was torn between wanting Sydney to realize she was marrying Gary for the wrong reasons, and wanting her to stay with him because of the positive influence she and Hannah provided to Dylan.

As the book progresses, the events surrounding Sydney’s father’s suicide come into question, and Sydney starts to investigate what really happened the night her boyfriend drowned. This subplot added a welcome dash of mystery and a firm connection between past and present.

However, there were some subplots that were more of a distraction. Haven Lake runs a little long, and would have benefited from the removal of a few characters. Ironically, there is one character who should have had a much stronger presence throughout the novel when all is said and done.

But these shortcomings are small, and did not take away from my enjoyment of the novel. With three well-rounded main characters, a compelling plot mixing past and present, and a rich rural setting, Haven Lake is a respite not just for Hannah, but for readers as well.

Thanks to Over the River Public Relations for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Holly Robinson:

Friday, April 17, 2015

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews from Tandem Literary

The Pink Suit by Nicole Kelby from Little, Brown

Summer Secrets by Jane Green from St. Martin's Press

Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff from BookSparks PR

Those Secrets We Keep by Emily Liebert from Goldberg McDuffie

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison from St. Martin's Press

The Secrets We Keep by Stephanie Butland from Sourcebooks

Truly, Madly, Greekly by Mandy Baggot from Bookouture(e-book)

I Take You by Eliza Kennedy from Penguin Random House


The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand from Hachette

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck from Penguin


Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden from Nero Books

Ashes of Life by  Erica Lucke Dean from Red Adept Publishing (e-book)

When Your Mother Doesn't by Jill Kelly from Skyhorse Publishing


Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde from BookSparks PR

You Look Like That Girl
by Lisa Jakub from Midpoint Trade Books

Life is But a Dream by/from Andrea Nourse (e-book)

Second Chance Friends by Jennifer Scott from Penguin Random House 


Always The Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk from HarperCollins UK

Game of Scones by/from Samantha Tonge (e-book)

Last Chance in the Pyrenees by Julia Stagg from Hodder and Stoughton

If you'd like this many books, you could always become a book blogger or enter our huge giveaway on Facebook!

Book Review: I Don't Have a Happy Place

By Jami Deise

As a child of the 1970s and 80s, I grew up coveting the Barbie Townhouse, Baby Alive, and whatever toys were sold during Saturday morning cartoons. Coming home in middle school to an empty house, I flipped between General Hospital and Guiding Light, while my younger brother whined that I didn’t let him watch He-Man. My Jewish mother made our Christmases magical. All this I have in common with author Kim Korson, who chronicles a neurotic childhood and adulthood in a series of essays in I Don’t Have a Happy Place.

Kim might not have a happy place, but she’s a talented writer and her narratives are funny and warm. She starts in childhood, envying a perfect neighbor who has a ton of Barbies and that magical Baby Alive (I never got one either, Kim!) and a babysitter who drowned right in front of her. The essays cover high school, college, first jobs, marriage and kids. Along the way, Kim finds out about the perilous mental health of many family members. The grandfather who always seemed out of sorts? Turns out he was heavily medicated for paranoid schizophrenia. And when her grandmother dies, he stops taking his pills.

The book summary describes Kim as a malcontent, but she’s really not as unhappy as she thinks she is – at least the writing doesn’t come across that way. She’s not a depressed, woe-is-me type person – she’s just very aware of the bad things that can happen when you’re anticipating a happy event. She actually has a great life, and if the writing were as negative as she seems to think it is, it would be very difficult to identify with her. But it’s not – she’s wry and observant, cynical in a way that’s nearly required to cope with life today.

And maybe it’s something in the genes. Recent research has shown that memories can actually be passed down through DNA in some way – that people who’ve undergone trauma pass on those traumas to their descendants. So if you’ve descended from a persecuted minority, it makes sense that you’re always anticipating the worst, because the worst happened to your ancestors – and they survived at least long enough to pass on their genes to you. So we’re not cynical because we’re ungrateful. We’re cynical because thousands of years of people trying to kill us has taught us at the cellular level to always have a bag packed, or at least to be prepared to be miserable at Disney World.
So don’t cheer up, Kim … your writing is perfect just the way it is. Plus, if we’re ever hit with a killer flu or zombie apocalypse, I have a feeling your Vermont home already has a basement filled with bottled water and canned goods.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review. Stop by Kim's interview to enter our giveaway. (US only. Ends April 19th.)