Monday, August 31, 2015

Reviews at Amazon--August edition

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!

Jami's review
Jami's review

Becky's review
Becky's review

Sara's review
Sara's review

Sara's review 
(also includes
The 8 Mistakes of Amy Maxwell)
Melissa A's review

Book Review: Play for Me

By Sara Steven

It happens without warning: At a folk-rock show at her son’s college, Lily becomes transfixed by the guitarist’s unassuming onstage presence and beautiful playing—and with his final note, something within her breaks loose.

After the concert, Lily returns to her comfortable life—an Upper West Side apartment, a job as a videographer, and a kind if distracted husband—but she can’t stop thinking about the music, or about the duo’s guitarist, JJ. Unable to resist the pull of either one, she rashly offers to make a film about the band in order to gain a place with them on tour. But when Lily dares to step out from behind her camera, she falls deep into JJ’s world—upsetting the tenuous balance between him and his bandmate, and filling a chasm of need she didn’t know she had.

Captivating and provocative, Play for Me captures the thrill and heartbreak of deciding to leave behind what you love to follow what you desire. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Many of us have delved into the waters of temptation. It’s the “grass is always greener” mentality, where you find yourself wandering into uncharted territories, seeking out whatever you might desire. Often, this comes at a price, and that is what Lily encounters when she leaves behind the security of what she knows, for the excitement of the unknown.

I felt the constant struggle within Lily. Recently an empty-nester, there’s a void within her that she has suppressed for many years. Her son’s new life at college has reminded her of the life she had given up when she’d decided to leave behind her own passions in order to take care of her family. There is something about the music, touching parts of her soul, making it an instant obsession. The reality of what’s right and wrong becomes blurred and isn’t tangible. She has everything to lose, whether she decides to give up the music or hold onto it for dear life.

I felt JJ represented lost youth for Lily. He lives his dream, even when it’s not ideal. A musician’s life can be a very marred, an ugly existence at times. Lily lives comfortably and safe, never pushing the envelope or attempting to achieve her own dreams. She can live vicariously through JJ, enabling an odd connection between the two of them. In his own right, he feels he’s struggling, too, and she’s a life preserver. Normal, and grounded. Will Lily do the unthinkable, damaging everything she’s ever known, or will she break out of her shell and let everything go?

I enjoyed this book immensely, finding it very difficult to put down. There are so many emotions, so many black and white scenarios blurred into a messy gray. Céline Keating knows just how to carry you through a woman’s journey, into what essentially becomes a re-discovery for Lily, and for most of us who have ever teetered on the “grass is greener” fence line of life.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their Summer Reading Challenge (#SRC2015).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: What Comes Next and How to Like It

By Denise Keliuotis

A confession: I struggled in writing this review.

I struggled not because this book isn’t beautiful and honest and well-written – all of which it is. No, I struggled because of those reasons. How could I find the words to describe Abigail Thomas’ wonderful work? How could I talk about someone else’s remarkable life in just a handful of sentences? The task daunted me.

What Comes Next and How to Like It is a singular piece of art; as such, summing it up in a few hundred words borders on unfair. In a mere 219 pages, Thomas manages to capture the almost indescribable emotions she’s experienced over the decades as she’s faced life events that would have brought weaker women to their knees, literally. But not Thomas. Instead, she talks about these experiences – the death of her husband, the ups and downs of a life-long friendship, the complexities of her relationship with one of her children – with an honesty so raw and so real, I actually had to put the book down about two-thirds in and take a break. I needed a breath. I needed time to truly absorb this formidable woman’s life, to truly take in her words. I refused to rush.

Thomas’ book follows her down the road as she navigates life in the aftermath of some major events, tracing what her life looks like after she loses a spouse, after her relationship with a lifelong friend is rocked to its core, after she and one of her daughters almost lose each other – twice. Thomas writes about the jarring and the mundane: the meals, sleeping with her dogs, a phone call with a friend, the sometimes endless lonely hours. But there is nothing mundane about her writing, and her message is always clear: this is what life has dealt me and where it has taken me, and this is how I have learned and continue to learn to be okay with that.

Reading What Comes Next and How to Like It felt a bit like looking into Thomas’ windows – ironic, really, as her favorite hobby is to paint glass windows, most often creating blue skies on the smooth panes. And that’s ironic, too, because events in Thomas’ life are often much less than sunny. Perhaps that is why she creates her own light.

I hesitate to give away too much detail about Thomas’ story, because joining her on her path – complete with surprises big and small – is a huge part of the joy of reading this book. But I will share one passage that, to me, sums up Thomas’ book. It is from the essay Scraping, and Thomas writes: “The first time I scraped off most of a painting I turned it over and saw streaky white trees and a lot of Spanish moss. That wasn’t what I’d planned, it was better than what I’d planned.” Those words apply to Thomas’ life, maybe to all of our lives.

Thomas broke her book into small essays, each of which easily stands alone but which also fit beautifully together. Each essay holds a message, each essay is a piece of a theme. Together, they form a beautiful literary jigsaw puzzle. Hands down, my favorite essay is entitled, Too Much, which is a half-page long and which made me laugh aloud. Not surprising, because one of the ways Thomas has learned to be okay is to find the humor in a not-so-funny situation. (Often, that humor is dark, as in Too Much, which I greatly admire; so few authors truly master that art.)

If you are looking for a light beach read, What Comes Next and How to Like It is not that book. But if you are looking for a thoughtful, well-written, honest look into the life of a talented, loving, genuine woman, I could not recommend "What Comes Next" more. I’m adding Abigail Thomas to my list of authors with whom I wish I could eat lunch, and I’m adding her other books to my “to be read” pile. I highly recommend you do the same with "What Comes Next."

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

More by Abigail Thomas:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elisabeth Egan's "Glamour"-ous a book giveaway

I can’t remember the last time I read Glamour magazine. This may seem like a truly random statement to be starting out the beginning of an introduction, but it really isn’t, since our guest author today is the Books Editor at Glamour.

In addition to Glamour, Elisabeth Egan’s essays and book reviews have appeared in other publications such as Self, O, People, Publishers Weekly, Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune…. just to name a few. Today, she is celebrating the release of her debut novel, A Window Opens. Elisabeth lives in New Jersey with her family. You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

So, without further ado, please give a warm Chick Lit Central welcome to Elisabeth Egan.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy of A Window Opens for a lucky US reader. 

Check out a review by our Author Liaison, Cindy Roesel.

How did being the Books Editor at Glamour magazine impact your writing as an author? 
My job at Glamour made me aware of exactly how many books are published every year. On good days, this gave me hope that mine would be published, too. In low moments, I’d look at the stacks of galleys on my desk and the piles of envelopes waiting to be opened and I felt like I was staring down a long tunnel. Luckily, I’m surrounded by smart, fun colleagues who are the perfect antidote to lonely days of writing—when you’re in my office, it’s hard to feel discouraged for long.

Where does the inspiration for your writing come from? 
From my own life, mostly. Not always from my own experiences, but from conversations I’ve overheard, people I’ve observed at the grocery store, situations I’m curious about. For instance, I grew up near the Thomas Edison Museum and I’ve always loved his mad genius ways—so I had my main character’s mother work at the museum in A Window Opens. This gave me an excuse to learn a little more. For instance, did you know that Edison proposed to his first wife by Morse Code?

What are three things you always have with you when you write? 
My laptop, my red earbuds and (depending on the time of day) a cup of coffee, a can of seltzer or a glass of wine. I used to eat gummy bears but had to cut back.

If money were’t an issue and you had 48 hours to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? 
I’d plan a whirlwind family trip to the Grand Canyon with my family. The itinerary would include hiking, horseback riding, napping on a warm rock and reading. If my personality weren’t an issue, we’d camp under the stars; but in reality, we’d bunk in a luxurious lodge with delicious food and high-end bedding. The soundtrack would be James Taylor meets the Indigo Girls meets 10,000 Maniacs and nobody would make fun of me for listening to music from another century.

What are your three favorite memories from the summer of 2015? 
The time I took a moonlit stroll on the beach with my sister; the time I stayed at the pool until it closed; the time we finished shipping the September issue and I fell asleep on the front porch after dinner.

My all-time favorite meal is: 
Sushi with chocolate cake for dessert.

Thanks to Elisabeth for visiting with us and BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers as part of their 2015 Summer Reading Challenge (#SRC2015).

~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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends September 1st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meet our new review associate!

Introduction by Melissa Amster

We've added on a new review associate. Denise Keliuotis (pronounced Kelly-Otis) has been a guest reviewer over the past year and I've really enjoyed her reviews. I'm excited to have her as part of the CLC team. She likes memoirs a lot, but I know she'll be reviewing fiction too. We'll be posting one of her reviews later this week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a review she did a few months ago.

Denise is a Chicago native who recently relocated to Middle Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, three daughters, and four cats. She practices a little law and is still editing that memoir and volunteering with hospice patients and wondering if the addition of the fourth cat now qualifies her for the title of “crazy cat lady.” Visit her at her blog.

Side note: If you're looking to talk about Bon Jovi, John Hughes films, or chocolate desserts, Denise is your go-to gal!

Name three of your favorite chick lit authors:
Beth Hoffman
Jen Lancaster
Mary Kay Andrews

Which chick lit novel would you like to see on the big screen?
Bitter is the New Black and Such a Pretty Fat, both by Jen Lancaster, would make great comedies. Her dialogue cannot be beat, and the situations she finds herself in are nothing less than hilariously brilliant.

Which chick lit novel has had an impact on you and stayed with you for a long time?
Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding. In my opinion, she created the chick lit genre, and she set the bar pretty high. I still recite lines from the book (and the movie).

What is something about you that would surprise most people?
I scored really well on the LSAT, the law school admission test. Like ridiculously well. And then people meet me and they are all, "You're an attorney? Really?" I'm much more logical than I appear.

What are some of your hobbies?
Reading, of course. I also love to bake (but not cook). I flea market and thrift. I also love home decorating. I do some crafting, mostly upcycling and repurposing stuff I find at the flea markets and thrift stores. I walk almost every day, too.

Where is your favorite place to vacation?
It's a toss up between Savannah, Georgia, and London, England. Two of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

Book Review: Broken Homes and Gardens

By Sara Steven

I have to admit, I initially wanted to read Broken Homes & Gardens because I grew up in Salem, Oregon, located about an hour from Portland, where the story primarily takes place. I found myself feeling quite homesick. Rebecca Kelley is so incredibly descriptive, I felt like I was sitting right there with her, during the drizzly rains and evergreen landscapes. It’s that descriptive quality that brought forth Joanna and Malcolm, two characters who you immediately become attached to. So much so, you don’t want to stop reading, wanting to know where their journey takes them.

After Joanna meets Malcolm at a party, there’s an instant connection between the two of them. She finds herself in a bit of a situation with him, only to say goodbye as he heads off to the Peace Corps for two years. Even though they decide to date separately, no one else can ever measure up to what Joanna and Malcolm have. Even after he returns, and she’s moved on, neither of them can ever move on from one another. It constantly feels as though there’s unfinished business between them.

Malcolm never wants to get serious over someone, and Joanna is afraid to get too close. She’s a product of divorced parents, and doesn’t want to ever go through that again. It’s a lot easier to date someone until it runs it’s course. Malcolm doesn’t want to get tied down, either. What do you do when you find yourself in love, even when you don’t want to be in love? Often, these two run away from it, and hide from their true feelings. It’s safer, but it creates a lot of problems. Not to mention heartache.

My only gripe with "Broken Homes" was the ending. After reading the very last sentence, I felt disgruntled. It was beautifully written, like the rest of the book, yet it left me wanting more. Where do they go from here? What's next? Hopefully, Rebecca Kelley has plans for Joanna and Malcolm, extending on their story. It’s an unconventional romance worth reading and falling in love with.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. See which other blogs are participating in this tour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Jules Moulin stays a book giveaway

We're happy to celebrate the publication of Jules Moulin's debut novel, Ally Hughes has Sex Sometimes. Even though it is her first novel, Jules is no stranger to writing as she has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and spent her twenties writing the Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning series Party of Five (a favorite of Becky and Melissa A's) and The West Wing. She left Hollywood five years ago in order to work as a full-time mom and splits her time between New York City and Pasadena, California.

Thanks to Dutton, we have TWO copies of Ally Hughes has Sex Sometimes for some lucky US readers!

Visit Jules on Facebook and Twitter.

What was it like to transition from writing for TV series to writing a novel?
Writing for TV is a much more collaborative process. Novel writing is much more solo, until the editing begins -- but even then, it was just the book’s editor and myself working together. We didn’t have other writers, producers, a director, the studio, network executives and the cast getting to add his and her two cents to our story. It was me and my publishers at Dutton, and that felt wonderful.

What was your inspiration for writing Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes?
Honestly, my main inspiration: bills. I wish I could say I had the overwhelming need to impart some kind of profound wisdom to the world, but no. It was really about the electricity bill, because I live in California where it’s hot all year and our AC is pretty much always cranking…

As a newly published author, what are you doing to celebrate?
Someone sent me a bottle of champagne when I sold the book -- that was almost a year ago, and it’s still sitting on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Honestly, I’ll probably just send gifts to my agents and the amazing people at Dutton who made the book really happen after I made it sort of happen.

If you could cast your novel for the big screen, who would play the lead roles?
Thank you! My favorite question ever! One of my best friends is a casting director, Mary Margaret Kunze. We should ask her. But here are my two cents: Tina Fey as Ally, Josh Hutcherson as Jake, Blake Lively as Lizzie. Or…Reese Witherspoon as Ally, Ian Somerhalder as Jake, Dakota Fanning as Lizzie. Or... Julia Roberts as Ally, Rupert Grint as Jake, Jennifer Lawrence as Lizzie.

What was the last book you read that you would recommend?
Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson. It won the Pulitzer.

Which character from Party of Five was your favorite to write scenes for?
I liked writing scenes for Matthew Fox’s character, Charlie Salinger. Matthew is such an amazing and passionate actor. It was always a thrill to watch him bring a scene to life.

Thanks to Jules for a lovely interview and to Dutton for 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends August 31st at midnight EST.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Legacy of Us

Liz Moretti thought she knew almost everything about her grandmother, Ella, from her love of The Golden Girls to the perfect pound cake recipe. But when Ella passes away and Liz finds a cameo locket with a marriage proposal engraved inside (from a man who was not her grandfather), she realizes that sometimes a person's secrets are discovered only after they're gone.

On top of losing Ella, Liz's career as a jewelry designer is stagnant and her love life lacks sparkle, too. When she reconnects with the one who got away, Liz thinks maybe things are finally starting to look up. But after a few drinks and a trip down a flight of stairs, Liz wakes up to realize the cameo is gone. Her ex offers to look for it, but so does Justin, the intriguing new guy in her apartment building.

While dealing with her feelings for two very different men and generally trying to reinvent her mess of a life, Liz finds answers and solace in Ella's diary. The story of the cameo, and the relationship between her grandmother and great-grandmother, an outspoken socialite from Italy, inspires Liz to grow up and accept responsibility for her missteps. Eventually she must choose between the life she thought she wanted and the promise of something better.

Kristin Contino grew up in a world of writing and reading, which evolved into a career as a freelance writer, editor and women’s fiction reviewer. Kristin enjoys spending time with her family and loves travel, photography and dreams of moving to her favorite city, London. The Legacy of Us is her debut novel. Visit Kristin at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to share with a lucky US reader!

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 August 30th at midnight EST.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Satisfaction by Andee Reilly from BookSparks

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross from Gallery Books

Put a Ring On It by Beth Kendrick from Penguin

While You Were Gone by Kate Moretti from Sage's Blog Tours (e-book)

Come Away with Me by Karma Brown from Mira

Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter by
Louise Pentland from Gallery Books

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan from BookSparks (We'll be featuring this next week!)


All the Difference by Leah Ferguson from Penguin

What a Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk from HarperCollins


Mamarazzi by/from Brooke Williams

Play for Me by Celine Keating from BookSparks (e-book)

Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer from Gallery Books


The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo from David Ratner PR and Consulting

Surface by Stacy Robinson from BookSparks

The Black Velvet Coat by Jill G. Hall from BookSparks (e-book)

A Proper Family Adventure by
Chrissie Manby from Hodder & Stoughton

The Beachside Guest House by
Vanessa Greene from Little, Brown

The Good Neighbour by Beth Miller from Penguin Random House

Book Review: The Status of All Things

By Melissa Amster

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke made it to my favorite books list in 2014 with Your Perfect Life. This time, they're back with another imaginative story involving a popular social media site.

Kate is a 35 year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history.

Kate's two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate.

Just like with Your Perfect Life, The Status of All Things involves an element of magic. I thought it was creative how Kate was able to time travel through her Facebook status updates, as well as change things in the actual moment. (She can conjure up a new hairstyle and wardrobe right away!) The story speaks volumes about what we share about our lives on Facebook, showing how not everything is what it seems. Liz and Lisa even had a #reallife "campaign" on Facebook this past spring, asking readers to show their true selves and write about what is really happening in their lives...the good, the bad, and the ugly. While some parts seemed a tad predictable, Liz and Lisa were still able to keep me guessing up to the very end. I still marvel over how two individuals can share one brain the way they do!

I included this whimsical and refreshing novel in my list of favorite time travel books over at Julieverse. It was an easygoing story that I could have read in one sitting if I had the time. I could see myself being friends with Kate if forces of magic could take her out of the book and put her in my neighborhood (or even in the Facebook world).

Of course, I just had to cast this as a movie. It would be a great chick flick, along the lines of 13 Going on 30.
Kate: Ellie Kemper
Courtney: Jennifer Morrison or Larisa Oleynik
Jules: Taylor Schilling
Liam: Ryan Gosling
Max: Matt McGorry (I think I was watching Orange is the New Black while casting this book!)
Ruby: Thandie Newton

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: Top Dog!

Today we're featuring two dog themed novels that came out this past summer. Plus, we have a giveaway with FOUR chances to win one of these books. See details below.

Stepdog by Nicole Galland

Sara Renault fires Rory O’Connor from his part-time job at a Boston art museum, and in response, Rory—an Irish actor secretly nursing a crush on his beautiful boss—throws caution to the wind, leans over, and kisses her. Now Sara and Rory are madly in love.

When Rory’s visa runs out on the cusp of his big Hollywood break, Sara insists that he marry her to get a green card. In a matter of weeks they’ve gone from being friendly work colleagues to a live-in couple, and it’s all grand . . . except for Sara’s dog, Cody, who had been a gift from Sara’s sociopath ex-boyfriend. Sara’s over-attachment to her dog is the only thing she and Rory fight about.

When Rory scores both his green card and the lead role in an upcoming TV pilot, he and Sara (and Cody) prepare to move to Los Angeles. But just before their departure, Cody is kidnapped by Sara’s ex—and it is entirely Rory’s fault. Sara is furious and broken-hearted. Desperate to get back into Sara’s good graces, Rory takes off and tracks Cody and the dog-napper to North Carolina. Can Rory rescue Cody and convince Sara that they belong together—with Cody—as a family? First they’ll need to survive a madcap adventure that takes them all across the heartland of America. STEPDOG is a refreshing and hilarious romantic comedy that asks: How far would you go for the one you love?

NICOLE GALLAND is the author of five previous novels, including The Fool’s Tale and Revenge of the Rose. A native of Martha’s Vineyard, she graduated from Harvard University and studied Dramatic Literature at UC Berkeley, then divided her time between California and New York City for many years, before returning to the Vineyard to stay (except for when she’s somewhere else, like Boston). She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities. Visit Nicole at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to Beverly Bambury Publicity, we have TWO copies to share (US only).

Lawyer for the Dog 
by Lee Robinson

One of the sharpest attorneys in Charleston, S.C., Sally Baynard isn’t your typical Southern belle. She’s certainly not what her mother hoped she’d grow up to be, especially since she divorced her husband, a family court judge with an historic family as well as historic wealth. Maybe Sally was never going to be a proper society lady, but her success as a public defender and family lawyer have been enough for her. She’s represented murderers, burglars, and drug dealers and has taken on some of the thorniest divorces, closing all her cases with her special blend of wit, charm and brains.

One case she’s never successfully closed, though, is her marriage. And when Judge Joe Baynard assigns her to one of his divorce cases by appointing her as the lawyer for the couple’s dog – Sherman, a miniature schnauzer—she’s forced into close quarters with him again. As Sally investigates Sherman’s relationship with both the husband and wife, she knows she must ultimately determine who would be the better guardian for the dog—a task she soon finds is far more complicated than one would think. Juggling the needs of the dog, the angry, divorcing couple, her amorous but uncommunicative ex-husband, her aging mother, and the expectations of the court is more than Sally could have imagined. But as rascally Sherman digs his way into Sally’s heart, he also helps her make some important decisions about her own life.

LEE ROBINSON practiced law for over 20 years in Charleston, S.C., where she served as executive director of a legal services agency and later worked in private practice, concentrating on family law. She was elected the first female president of the Charleston Bar Association and received the Bar Association's award for her work in public interest law. She lives on a small ranch in the Texas hill country. Visit Lee at her website.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to share (US/Canada).

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.
Each winner will receive only one of the books. (Winners in Canada will only get Lawyer for the Dog.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only for Stepdog
US/Canada only for Lawyer for the Dog
Giveaway ends August 25th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Going bananas

Today, Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker has a special challenge for you. Can you make her laugh? If so, there's a $10 Starbucks Gift Card in it for you!

My Minion

“Mom, you should write about bacon,” Gracie mentioned.

“Why should I write about bacon?” I asked. Chilling under my favorite blanket, writing from the comfort of my own bed, we were discussing what I should write about for Chick Lit Central this month. Food is always a popular topic in my home. One growing daughter on the cusp of entering fourth grade and two teenage sons, or nematodes, if you will, constantly devour the groceries. Five minutes after I return from the store, the food has disappeared. Sound familiar?

“What about pancakes? You should write recipes for the people about pancakes.” Gracie is raised in a home where no matter the time of day, there’s nothing like getting your breakfast on. “You should talk about how you sneak things into our pancakes like apple sauce and bananas and we don’t know the healthy stuff that’s in there.”

Her little elfin magic smile appeared. Looking at her, with my nose pointing downward, so I could see her green eyes over the rims of my glasses, I said, “If you know I put bananas and apple sauce into the pancakes, and then I tell everyone about it, it’s not a secret anymore. There will be anarchy over this, I can just feel it.”

She circled back to her original thought. “Bacon is better. Write about bacon—no, wait!”

And just like that, we shift gears again.

Enjoying a big cookie at Starbucks

“Write about the giant banana you saw driving around in a pickup truck the other day.”

I took off my glasses to see her clearly. I wear prescription lenses. I need them to see things in the distance yet do not require them to focus on things close. And no, I’m not getting bifocals yet, however I do appreciate the suggestion. “Gracie, bananas can’t take driver’s ed.,” I snickered.

Unfortunately, she didn’t think I was as funny as I thought I was. That happens a lot. “Mom, I’m talking about that banana you saw when you were driving around and it was in the back of a truck.”

Avoiding the crushing blow of telling her that sounded like the most ridiculous thing to write about was difficult. Do you all really care about a banana statue? I mean really?! No offense to the local management company who has adopted the tropical fruit as their mascot, or my daughter, but come on. This isn’t a Food Network blog, or Guy’s Big Banana Boat Race or whatever new show he hosts each week on television. That was until Gracie gave me a little stroke of brilliance.

“Mommy, here’s what you do. You know how people take those pictures and put funny sayings with them? Well, you should do that with that banana photo you took the other day that was in the back of the truck. Then you can give away a surprise to whoever makes up the funniest one!”

She’s one smart cookie! And little did she know that Melissa A and I have been planning a giveaway for you all, too.

So caption this photo, my friends! If you do, you’ll be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card from me. Bring out your funnies, get spunky! I can’t wait to read these little ditties! And for those who need to know why someone would possibly want to drive around with a massive banana in the back of their truck all day long, you can read about the hullabaloo this little artwork caused in West Lafayette, Indiana right here.

And I’ll even get you started! Below is my Instagram photo and caption. Let’s have fun, keep it somewhat clean, and may the banana force be with you!

You heard the lady! Comment below with your caption for this photo and include your e-mail address in order for your entry to count. (Open to anyone in the world with a Starbucks nearby, as it will be sent online.) Good luck! Enter by August 24th 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.

Spotlight: The Callahan Split

The Callahan Split: No one knows you better than your sister.

In tennis, as in life, nothing ever goes truly to plan.

Samantha and Annie Callahan are successful doubles champions — the toast of the Olympics, Wimbledon, and Flushing Meadow. But their winning partnership spirals out of control when Annie’s new boyfriend announces their engagement at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Bear, the sisters’ coach, guides Annie as much as she’ll allow. But when she insists on dropping Samantha in favour of a singles career, her game and rankings plummet.

Samantha is left floundering. Disillusioned, her only sweet spot is the growing passion between her and Bear. Amidst rising anger and betrayal, Samantha completely changes both their destinies when she does the unthinkable after a devastating Wimbledon loss.

The sisters are driven to create new lives by confronting the past and taking control of the present. But can Samantha and Annie both win?

About the author:
Once upon a time, Lisa Heidke made a New Year’s resolution to write a book. Like most people, she woke up on January first with a headache. Unlike most people who’d made resolutions the night before, she took two painkillers and started writing.

The result was Lucy Springer Gets Even (2009), followed by What Kate Did Next (2010), Claudia’s Big Break (2011), Stella Makes Good (2012), and It Started With A Kiss (2015), all published by Allen & Unwin.

Lisa blogs about writing at her websiteShe also teaches workshops on writing popular women’s fiction at the Australian Writers’ Centre, Sydney.

You can follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sue Watson offers up sweet a book giveaway

I'm a HUGE Sue Watson fan. It all started with my guest review of Younger, Thinner, Blonder. It was one of the first novels assigned to me, and I absolutely loved it! I've read nearly all of Sue's books, looking forward to the zany characters and fun plot lines that only she can conjure up. Not to mention the delicious sweets and treats quite frequently featured in her writing. I've learned to always keep a brownie close at hand, when I'm reading a Sue Watson book.

Sue started out as a journalist, working for various tabloids and women's magazines, which parlayed into a TV Producer position with the BBC. After much soul searching, she left her job and wrote her first Kindle bestseller, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes. For her latest endeavor, Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams, we read about a woman's journey from the couch to the dance floor, going from one disastrous Zumba class to a National Dance Festival. Will she be able to follow her dreams and make life happen? It's the central theme to all her books, making it hard not to be a fan and absolutely adore her! A big thanks to Sue, for sharing her thoughts on writing with us, today. It comes from the heart, with lots of love. And desserts!

Visit Sue at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to Bookouture, we have TWO e-books of Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams for readers anywhere in the world! (US and Canada winners have the option of a print copy.)

I love the various characters in your novels. I feel as though they are real-life people! Where do you draw your inspiration for creating such amazing characters?
Thank you! Sometimes my characters are based very loosely on people I know or have known – they start out as pretty ordinary characters but like in real life there’s always something that makes a character different or special. Mandy the ‘vajazzling’ beauty therapist in ‘Love, Lies and Lemon Cake,’ came to me from reading an online blog written by a girl who enjoyed a party lifestyle and didn’t apologise for it. I just thought ‘you go girl,’ and Mandy was born.

What is your favorite compliment, as well as your most helpful constructive feedback you've received about your writing?
The nicest thing a reader can say is that my books have inspired them. I get so many lovely messages on FB and Twitter from women who have taken on new challenges after reading ‘Love, Lies and Lemon Cake.’ And readers are now making contact to say they thought they were too old/too fat/ not fit enough to change their lives and when they read Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams, they felt inspired to put on their dancing shoes. The dancing is of course metaphorical – it can be about anything, I just want women to feel empowered by my stories and know that you can do anything if you try... except of course, zumba!

Playing off your title... do you have your own dance aspirations?
Sadly I gave up ballet dancing having attended classes from being 3 to the age of 13. I became a little chunky and the tutu didn’t look so cute anymore so I abandoned dance to enjoy teenage pursuits like boys and parties. But writing this book has definitely made me think about dancing and the passion and possibilities of dancing the Argentine Tango on a hot Latin night with a sizzling man. Not sure what my husband would say though... ;)

So many of your novels are written deliciously; I'm always craving desserts! What is your absolute favorite dessert, hands down?
Oh why stop at one? Peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake, Black Forest Gateaux would all be on my lifetime list of delicious desserts... but quite honestly I’d eat pretty much anything if you threw warm salted caramel or hot fudge sauce over it.

Tell us about your writing process. What rituals and habits help you to stay focused?
I have to confess I am, on the whole a disorganised, rather unfocussed person which isn’t ideal for a writer. You need to be self-disciplined and have lots of will power which I just don’t (my greedy consumption of warm salted caramel sauce is testament to this!) But once I begin a novel and become involved with the characters I have to see it through. I want to know where their story will take them and who and what we’ll meet along the way. So my only ritual is to spend the first couple of days at my computer with copious cups of coffee - and once the characters emerge the book kind of writes itself.

Of all the characters you've created, which one do you most identify with most?
So far I think I’ve identified with all my main characters at some level as I’m with them every step of their journey. Sometimes at the end of a day writing my latest book I would feel physically exhausted like I had actually been leaping around a dance floor... as if! I particularly related to Laura in Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams, because she’s in her forties, she doubts herself and feels it’s too late to change herself or her life. I was in my forties when I gave up my job as a TV producer with the BBC to chase my writing dream, so mine and Laura’s lives are parallel in some ways. I also loved the way Laura’s emotional and physical self is altered by her new passions - and I would love that kind of ‘makeover,’ particularly a leaner, fitter body!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! I loved your questions and now I’m off to dance... or perhaps I’ll just throw some warm caramel on a dessert, sit on the sofa and eat that instead!

Thanks to Sue for chatting with us and to Bookouture for sharing her latest novel with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Sara Steven

**For some fun dancing inspiration, check out this video of Ansel Elgort taking us through the past century.**

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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Worldwide (print option for US/Canada). Giveaway ends August 23rd at midnight EST.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Just the Facts

By Jami Deise

I knew at a young age that I wanted to write fiction. I loved to read, watch and tell stories. Plus, writing was the only thing I was any good at. But it wasn’t until high school that I realized no one was going to pay me to sit in a corner and try to write the Great American Novel. I majored in journalism, which lead to another realization: interviewing people in order to write a story was not my strong suit, either. I went into public relations and spent the first ten years of my adult life writing press releases, speeches and editorials, which were closer to fiction that I had first thought.

This career trajectory is similar to Nora Plowright’s, heroine of Ellen Sherman’s debut novel, Just the Facts. It’s 1978 and Nora has just graduated college with an English degree. Wanting to write a novel but needing a real job, she takes an entry-level reporting position at a tiny paper in rural Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Her work consists of reading the police blotter every morning and writing quick paragraphs about the most unusual crimes. But when she’s sent to cover a community meeting about a proposed new highway, she unwittingly stumbles onto evidence of government corruption. Nora is torn between her desire to write fluffy feature articles or follow the trail to a bigger news story. And while her personal life heats up, the corruption trail may also lead to personal danger.

Just the Facts is written in a very straightforward style, and every chapter leads off with one of Nora’s funny police blotter stories. It starts a little slow, as the corruption story doesn’t really take off in a big way until the second half of the book. Nora also juggles a personal life with various boyfriends and roommates. Its 1978 setting means Nora has none of the tools that has changed journalism in the past twenty years – without the internet, there’s no crush for the hour’s next headline; there’s no email, cell phones or even fax machines. Strangely, there’s also no sexism, even though journalism was a notoriously sexist field in the 1970s (Nora does have to face some antisemitism, though.) It’s curious why Sherman chose to set her story in this decade. Although some of Nora’s coming-of-age decisions are timeless, journalism in 2015 is so different from 1978, the story feels way too specific to the time period to resonate with modern readers. Furthermore, the government corruption centers on the placement of a new highway, which isn’t the sexiest (but certainly very realistic) scandal to investigate.

As someone who grew up in Maryland, though, I enjoyed the setting, and the story made me wonder whether there really was some chicanery around those highways near Glen Burnie. And reading the details of Nora’s job convinced me that I made the right decision eschewing reporting for other kinds of writing. Reporters and authors may both be writers, but their motivations and interests are not the same.

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