Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reviews at Amazon--September 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!

Becky's review
Becky's review

Becky's review
Jami's review

Melissa A's review
Melissa A's review

Melissa A's review
Sara's review

Book Review: Biglaw

By Denise Keliuotis

Sometimes, we connect with a book because we relate to the main character. Sometimes, it’s the plot that hooks us. Other times, the setting feels so familiar, we cannot help but become drawn in. If we are lucky, we relate in more than one way. I was quite fortunate here: BIGLAW ticked off all the boxes for me.

The heroine, Mackenzie Corbett, attended a top-tier law school. So did I. After graduation, Mackenzie began practicing at a large, international law firm (commonly referred to as “Biglaw”). I did the same. Mackenzie worked ridiculously long billable hours surrounded by worn-out, neurotic associates and seemingly sociopathic partners, all in the name of securing a partnership of her own. Me, too! Mackenzie regularly, and with good reason, questioned her own sanity and the sanity of those around her. Also true for me. And then Mackenzie reached a point in her career where she needed to decide how much of her life she was willing to sacrifice in the name of success, a question I also asked and one many of us face as we climb the corporate ladder, only to find that the view from the top might not be what we’d long imagined.

BIGLAW is funny, compelling, and genuine – so much so, I experienced some PTSD-like symptoms while reading the novel. I unconsciously tugged at the skirt of the ubiquitous suit I wore back in my own “biglaw” days; I laughed out loud when Mackenzie explained that she had never, ever used the “f” word until she joined the firm. (I’ve long blamed my ugly tendency to curse on my choice of career.) I was not surprised to learn that author Lindsay Cameron spent six years at a large law firm. Her descriptions were spot on. I could feel Mackenzie’s angst oozing from the pages.

You certainly don’t have to be an attorney to enjoy BIGLAW, nor must you have worked in a large law firm. Cameron’s characters are well developed, and her dialogue feels real. I’ve no doubt that, regardless of your choice of career, you will identify with someone or some situation painted by Cameron. More than once, I found myself thinking, “Oh, I worked with a guy like that!” It wasn’t necessarily a happy memory, but it sure felt real.

BIGLAW is a light mystery, and Mackenzie spends some of the story unraveling a puzzle that affects both her personal and professional lives. I figured out the answer fairly early on, as it was somewhat predictable, but that in to way detracted from the novel, as the beauty of BIGLAW lies not in this curious subplot but instead in the greater mystery that is human behavior. Again and again, as I read, I asked myself: Why do people behave like this? And why do other people put up with it? I never once doubted Cameron’s character and behavior descriptions, even at their most absurd. Verbal abuse? A regular occurrence, in my experience. A partner who throws office supplies? In my world, we call that Wednesday. And much like Mackenzie, I almost always win the “most shocking company holiday party story” contest. (Thus, the PTSD.)

BIGLAW held my attention from start to finish. Entertaining and light on the surface, BIGLAW touches on themes that run through every professional woman’s life: what success means, how it feels, what it looks like, what it costs – and whether biggest and shiniest always really means best.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their 2015 Fall Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: After You

By Melissa Amster

Most people are either big fans of Me Before You or they just couldn't get behind it at all. Trust me, my book club had a huge debate about this novel, so it's definitely worthy of hours of discussion. (Lots of gray area....) In any case, I am in the first group, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of After You and put all other books aside to devour it right away.

Please keep in mind that I can not review this book without giving spoilers for Me Before You, so if you haven't read that one yet, pick it up and then come back here. Or just bypass the review to go to the giveaway for a chance to win this fabulous follow-up!

SPOILERS ahead for Me Before You in the synopsis and review.

LAST CHANCE to turn back!!!

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Now that I've shared some spoilers for Me Before You, I will not do the same for After You, which makes it hard to discuss one aspect of the story. However, it's worth the chance to be surprised. I can tell you this...I really enjoyed it. I found myself laughing out loud a bunch of times and cheering Lou on throughout the story (even when her own family wouldn't). She reminded me of myself in some ways. While I had never been through a tragedy like hers, I came close to it at one point in my life and that did a number on me and how I view life. While we get to see a different side of some characters from Me Before You, we also get to meet some new and interesting ones. The members of the Moving On group, for starters. They're quite an interesting bunch, especially Fred and Daphne. There were some interesting stories and group dynamics and Jojo gives us the chance to get to know everyone better and feel sympathy toward them.

While it feels like most of the synopsis unfolds in the first few chapters, there's still a lot in store for Lou. I love the relationship she develops with the person from Will's past and we learn more about that person from their side, as well. Overall, it's a strong sequel and I definitely recommend it to fans of Me Before You. (And even to those who weren't fans, as you might have a different perspective this time around.)

Since Me Before You is already being made into a movie, it's hard not to think of other casting ideas in my head, at least for Lou. Everyone else was not really imagined as a celebrity in my head, but maybe there will be a movie for After You, as well.

Thanks to Viking for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for 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 October 6th at midnight EST.

More by Jojo Moyes:

Friday, September 25, 2015

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain from St. Martin's Press

Star Craving Mad by Elise A. Miller from BookSparks

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh from Book of the Month Club
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling from
Penguin Random House

The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman from
St. Martin's Press

Dear Internet: It's Me, Avery by/from Jennifer Ammoscato (e-book)

Before We Were Strangers by/from Renee Carlino, won from Great Thoughts' Great Readers

Melissa A and Amy:

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth La Ban from Lake Union Publishing


Whistling Women by Kelly Romo
from Lake Union Publishing

Melissa A and Jami:

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain from St. Martin's Press and BookSparks (respectively)


Biglaw by Lindsay Cameron from BookSparks


Meet Me On The Beach by Hilary Boyd from Quercus

Tremarnock by Emma Burstall
from Head of Zeus

The Twelve Dates of Christmas 
by Lisa Dickenson from Sphere

What could be in YOUR mail:

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Courtesy of Penguin Random House, we have one copy for a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

From the author of the beloved New York Times bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the creator and star of The Mindy Project comes a collection of essays that are as hilarious and insightful as they are deeply personal.

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

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. Giveaway ends September 30th at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: It Started With Paris

By Caryn Strean

Cathy Kelly's writing reminds me of Maeve Binchy in the sense of being part of these characters' families in Ireland. She can write about their days and make you feel like you are a part of it. I've read a few of her books and this is now one of my favorites.

It Started With Paris tells the story of Katy and Michael, a couple newly engaged at the Eiffel Tower. What I love about this story is how the book tells this couple's story through those closest to them. There's Leila, Katy's best friend and a workaholic nursing a broken heart after her husband dumps her for a younger woman. Grace is Michael's mother, a school headmistress trying to figure out where her marriage went wrong. Birdie is Katy's mother and is still trying to figure out her place in her marriage. And Vonnie, the town wedding cake maker extraordinary, deciding if starting a new relationship is wise after becoming a widow. Through all their back stories, we follow the wedding planning as these characters are there to assist and listen, but mostly learn more about themselves.

I thought it was very clever to tell the story of a wedding through other characters rather than straight on. It added so much depth and allowed us to get into the heads of others, letting the reader determine if they thought correct decisions were being made or not.

This is the perfect read during wedding season, whether you are a part of one, a guest, or related to a bride or groom. Fans of Marian Keyes and Cecelia Ahern will definitely get swept away in this story.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Caryn Strean is a mom by day and reader by night. Asking her to name her favorite book is like asking her to choose a favorite child. Her friends call her The Book Whisperer. Caryn can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

More by Cathy Kelly:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: We Are All Made of Stars

By Becky Gulc

I just loved The Memory Book (a.k.a. The Day We Met) by Rowan Coleman last year, a book that definitely deserved success. So when I received We Are All Made of Stars a while back, I was intrigued to see where Rowan’s writing would take her next, along with her avid readers! You can hear Rowan give an overview of the novel on her website. Otherwise here is the synopsis:

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved… Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…’ (From Rowan Coleman's website)

Last year Rowan was on a mission to send a handwritten letter to someone each week, I was a lucky recipient, and now I know why as letter writing is a fundamental part of this novel. I thought the use of letter writing was just so beautifully and poignantly done in this novel, Stella writes these letters for people who are experiencing their last days in the hospice where she works as a nurse. I enjoyed how the letters were interspersed throughout the novel, some were from characters we grew to know, others we never knew at all, just their final messages. I enjoyed the little insight into these character’s lives, what their final messages would be when a relative stranger, Stella, offers to write these letters for them. Whilst many are very moving, there are funny ones too, I found it all quite thought-provoking.

Our main character is Stella, a woman struggling in her marriage to a man changed by fighting in Afghanistan, I really felt for her. She was literally running away from what seems to be an impossible situation every day; an incredibly sad situation that neither party are really confronting as they don’t know how to confront it. I felt the tension, the hope, and the helplessness for both Stella and her husband Vincent.

Then there is another key character in Hugh, a single man who lives with his rather special cat. A man who keeps himself to himself, until his new neighbour’s move-in, that is. It’s quite a while before there is any link between his story and Stella’s and I felt intrigued as I knew a connection would be coming, it was interwoven so well and I wasn’t disappointed. I definitely had a big soft spot for Hugh.

Then there are the characters at the hospice itself. Cue waterworks but happy as well as sad tears. Probably my favourite characters were Hope and Ben, Hope has always been ill (she has Cystic Fibrosis) and is constantly on edge expecting to get worse, more existing than living. I loved her and Ben’s relationship and how that evolved throughout the novel.

Again this is a book from Rowan which covers a tricky subject but it’s done in an uplifting and incredible way. Another book that will stay with me. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Thanks to Ebury Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Rowan Coleman:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Karma Brown's fabulous fictional a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Karma Brown visiting with us today, as we've heard rave reviews (the first being from Liz and Lisa) of her debut novel, Come Away with Me, and can't wait to dig in. Thanks to Mira, THREE lucky readers from the US and/or Canada will have copies of their own soon. 

Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer, who probably spends too much time on her laptop in coffee shops. When not writing, she can be found running with her husband, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, or baking yet another batch of banana muffins. Karma lives just outside Toronto with her family. Visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. She's here today to tell us about her literary best friends. 

Synopsis of Come Away with Me:
An unexpected journey leads one woman to discover that life after loss is possible, if only you can find the courage to let go…

One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime.

From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

As a writer I spend a lot of time thinking about characters – and not just my own. It’s nearly impossible for me to read a book these days without considering what inspired a particular character, or noticing a quirky trait and wondering if it’s shared by the author, or getting lost in a blooming relationship between main players. Characters make the story for me. So to that point, here are the Top five book characters I’d be tickled to be friends with in real life:

1. Elizabeth (Lou) Luella of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert.
Lou can cook (she’s the owner of a struggling restaurant in Milwaukee, who meets a food critic who will change her life…) and is a caring soul who bravely follows her dreams – all things that would instantly endear her to me. But I think it’s her Coconut Cake (which she would, of course, make me every year for my birthday) that would likely bind us as forever friends.

2. Claire Waverley of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.
This is one of those stories I would like to live inside for a while, and Claire is definitely part of the reason for that. From the curious backyard tree that bears fortune-telling fruit, to the complicated family past, to the mystical culinary abilities, I would just sit in awe watching Claire create her dishes (like rose geranium wine that conjure fond memories), wishing some of her skill – and magic -- would rub off on me. A best friend who makes magical food? Count me in.

3. Madeline Martha Mackenzie of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with, and with a motto to ‘never forgive and never forget’ she’s the sort of friend you want by your side when things go sideways – as they inevitably do in life. Plus, she wears 50s-style cocktail dresses, is just the right mix of sweet and snark to make life interesting, and is refreshingly honest.

4. Vivien Lowe of The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood.
Vivien is a fascinating character, so layered and complex and determined. Plus, she has an uncanny ability to write beautiful stories about people she doesn’t even know (she’s an obituary writer in 1919), always finding the perfect details and words to comfort their grieving families. And as someone who misses the art of letter writing (my Nana used to write me the most lovely notes), I can only imagine the letters Vivien would write to me if we were BFFs way back when.

5. Bernadette Fox of Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.
If books became reality, I’m certain I wouldn’t be nearly quirky enough to catch Bernadette’s interest, however it’s fun to imagine the kind of friend she’d be. As an agoraphobic and brilliant architect, she designs history-making buildings but naively gives her virtual assistant in India full access to her credit card. I suspect a day with Bernadette would be an experience to remember.

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

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

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends September 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: The Plate Spinner Chronicles

By Sara Steven

I’m currently a stay-at-home parent, a hard job that can feel overwhelming at times. I’ve been on the other side of the coin, however. The parent who not only has to parent, but is holding down a job outside of the home, too. The one who rushes her child to preschool, praying she’ll make it to work on time, only to take her lunch break in order to pick said child up from preschool and to the sitter, then back to work, then back to the sitter again, heading home with just enough energy to prepare dinner, get a bath ready, a book or two (sometimes three), only to fall into bed to prepare for it all again the next day. It’s overwhelming, on hyper-drive!

Barbara Valentin has put together a collection of articles from her bestselling "Assignment: Romance" series, which speak to the hardworking parents out there, the ones who continually feel as though they are spinning numerous plates at once. I loved the various tips and pointers Barbara offers up, ways to avoid dinner drama meltdowns, or a checklist for those who have a business at home, trying to juggle family life with work life. The thing is, her suggestions can apply to everyone, not just the ones who have careers outside (or inside) of the home. There are time saving tips, along with money saving suggestions, too. It works for all of us, no matter where we are in life or what path we’ve chosen to go on where our families are concerned.

I’m a big fan of the "Assignment: Romance" series. False Start and Help Wanted (reviewed here) are two of my favorite reads, and The Plate Spinner Chronicles is such a great addition to the family. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you have to keep going, spinning those plates as best you can, trying hard to prevent any from falling through the cracks. And if one does? You have to let it go. There’s only so much you can do while you’re spinning the plates of your life.

Thanks to Bridging the Gap Promotions for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: First and a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Harper Duquaine comes from a family of football enthusiasts. Problem is, she never paid much attention to the ins and outs of the game. In an attempt to play nice and gain acceptance from her co-workers, she joins their fantasy football league, only to find out that it’s not nearly as simple as she figured it would be. Who knew the intricacies involved with choosing a lineup? Taking into account real-life player’s stats, not to mention the role fate plays during any given game, there’s never a sure guarantee. It’s a gamble from one lineup to the next! What did she get herself into?

Harper doesn’t like to gamble. Not with her stats, or her heart. When she finds herself falling for Brook, a high school football coach who has a heart of gold, she knows she needs to put her feelings in check and keep her eye on the prize. He’s a fellow league member. It’s not a good idea to get involved with your competition, especially the guy who has a winning streak. It’s best to keep things as professional as possible. If only her heart would obey!

I have to admit to something. Me, personally? I’ve never been a fan of football. I didn’t grow up around football enthusiasts. No one in my family ever took in a game, we never got excited over throwing the ol’ pigskin around, or had a favorite team we rooted for. I catch the occasional Super Bowl while chowing down on chips and dip, but that’s about it. Laura Chapman has done a phenomenal job creating fun, realistic characters that you will easily identify with and fall for, no matter your football background. After reading Harper's experiences, I’ve had a major change of heart. I want to sign up with a league myself!

It takes a lot of guts to play in what might be considered a “man’s game.” First & Goal proves to all of us that it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl. All that matters is whether or not you’ve got your head in the game.

Thanks to Laura Chapman for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has a $20 Amazon gift card for one lucky reader anywhere in the world!

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. Giveaway ends September 23rd at midnight EST.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ella Carey always has time for a book giveaway

We're pleased to introduce you to Ella Carey today. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy of her debut novel, Paris Time Capsule, for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second home. She has been studying French since the age of five, and she has degrees in music and English. Carey’s work has been published in the Review of Australian Fiction. She lives with her two children and two Italian greyhounds in Australia. Visit Ella at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Synopsis of Paris Time Capsule:
New York–based photographer Cat Jordan is ready to begin a new life with her successful, button-down boyfriend. But when she learns that she’s inherited the estate of a complete stranger—a woman named Isabelle de Florian—her life is turned upside down.

Cat arrives in Paris to find that she is now the owner of a perfectly preserved Belle Époque apartment in the ninth arrondissement, and that the Frenchwoman’s family knew nothing about this secret estate. Amid these strange developments, Cat is left with burning questions: Who was Isabelle de Florian? And why did she leave the inheritance to Cat instead of her own family?

As Cat travels France in search of answers, she feels her grasp on her New York life starting to slip. With long-buried secrets coming to light and an attraction to Isabelle de Florian’s grandson growing too intense to ignore, Cat will have to decide what to let go of, and what to claim as her own.
(Courtesy of Ella's website.)


I have to confess that I love the word friendship. It conjures up all sorts of warm images for me. I have always preferred it to the word ‘relationship,’ which seems to allude to a far murkier sort of connection. Friendship is ultimately a happy word, a word that is classic, that we can return to again and again with a sense of lightness- the same feeling we have when we meet up with a friend.

But what is it that turns this word, and indeed a friend, into a classic?

I have no doubt that friendship starts with some sort of unseen connection, a recognition from the outset that there is something there between you and the other person. I have read that we have a sort of sense with these things, something is triggered within us when we transfer from acquaintance to friend. How, when, why that happens can be a beautiful mystery- but I know that it does. It just exists.

I have many friends with whom I’ve shared fun times, crazy times at university, friends who have shared the ups and downs of adulthood, the raising of children, all the steps along the way.

But let’s take this a step further- let’s come back to the word classic, which means of the first or highest quality- what makes a friend cross the border into this territory? Certainly, it is something very special indeed.

Is it a shared sense of humor? Is it that you laugh at the same things? That can be immensely powerful. I have several close friends who share my quirky sense of humor. I love that our conversations and often texts can go towards all sorts of mad destinations!

Or is it that you have similar interests? Does that make or break a friend? I love my friends who enjoy the same films, books and so on as I do. A real bond can happen when you are both sobbing at the same storyline…

What about developing a friendship over similar life circumstances? What about that. The fact that you both might have children growing up together, meet partners together, or even do something like buy your own first apartments at the same time can give you a real sense of friendship. It’s great. With these friends, you have something to talk about!

All these things are wonderful, and terrific friendships can be formed out of all these circumstances. But what else? There is more. What turns a fun and happy friendship into something else, into something of the highest order, that will probably last a lifetime, that is, in all sense of the word, classic, and that is, undoubtedly of the very highest quality.

I’ve just learned what it is. I’ve just had an experience where I can tell you that friendship is probably the most valued relationship (there it is, that complex old word) that we can ever have in our lives.

I can tell you that the best thing in my life right now are my five oldest and best friends- and I can tell you what has done it- the answer is easy- they have been there for me during a really rough time. And that, quite simply, is what makes them classics. Of the highest quality, of the best class, unchanging.

And that, in life is one of the best things that you can ever have. So, here’s to friends- and if there was a golden measure that could tell us which of our friends are going to become classics, then we would treat them with the utmost care, love and attention from the word go, but in the meantime, go on out there and make lots of friends. Enjoy friendships- because they can become something that can be so much more, so enduring, invaluable.

Thanks to Ella for sharing her thoughts on friendship and TLC Book Tours for sharing Paris Time Capsule with our readers. Visit all the blogs participating in this tour for more chances to win!

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/Canada only. Giveaway ends September 21st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Girls with curls

We were photobombed
by Francine LaSala
This really needs no introduction. But... *BLUSH* (Don't worry, Jen, you'll get your own tribute one of these days.)

My Curly Haired Sister From Another Mother

So, she’s going to think I’m sucking up and I’m totally OK with that.

I have adored Melissa Amster since the very first time I laid eyes on her e-mail. In a world where were connected globally like never before, I like to think that we’ve moved away from thoughts like, “You can’t meet friends online! They’re all creepers!” That is, unless, you’re totally into creepers. Who am I to judge?

Melissa and I are kindred spirits who just happen to be opposites in a select few ways. I made a little chart for those who crave data on how these differences compare. I’m an engineering professor’s daughter, so I get it.

Stays away from bacon
Considers bacon a food group
Night Owl
Keeps Amish hours
Has a seriously crafty hubby
Has a “James” on speed dial
Reads two books each week
Reads two cereal boxes each week
City Girl
Country Mouse
Mastered the D.C. Metro
Survived being the girl on the train in D.C.

If I were to draft another list on how much we are alike, we would be here all day.  From chocolate and 80s music, to being former Chicagoland dwellers and moms to daughters that have more drama in their little fingers than we can comprehend, we click together just like that.

Going au naturel
One thing I love we have in common is our curls. Melissa’s are beautifully coiled and springy while mine resemble either sexy beach hair locks, or a bird’s nest depending on the humidity. We belong to a group of curly haired clubbers who love sending articles, jokes and images amongst ourselves. Before you say anything, yes I know I straighten my hair on many occasions. Yet as I age, I appreciate more and more the hair I’ve been given versus the hair I work to maintain. Plus, all the time I spend drying it with a round brush, layer by layer, and then flat ironing it? I can never get that time back in my entire life! Never, ever!

As I reflect on Melissa and the woman she is, there are many things I want to share with you as she listens in on our chat. Melissa--Melly to me--is one of the most generous, kindhearted, loving people I’ve had the pleasure to call my friend. An amazing wife and mother, she is passionate and fearless with the softest of hearts. Yet she’s one tough cookie and I always want her on my side in dark alleys. I love her children like my own. I’ve even been known to lick a dinner plate clean so her daughter wouldn’t be going at it alone.  

Plate lickers unite!

She would never tell you all this, so I’m going to brag about her a little bit. She’s a talented writer who has some amazing stories to tell. I’ve had the honor of peeking at her work and it’s wonderful. Not only is she amazing at her day job, she is über amazing right here at CLC. Along with the entire fantastic team, she tirelessly provides authors, bloggers and readers with a place to gather, in a positive atmosphere, to talk about the genre we all love. She’s in constant contact with our community and I know how deeply she cares about you all and the little family we’ve made across the corners of the globe.

Melly, I’m eternally grateful for you. When we Skype and visit each other, it feels like zero hours have passed by since the last time we hugged. You have cheered me on at my highest highs, and held me up during some low points when I needed your ear desperately. I don’t want to think what my world would be like without you in it. You sweetly deemed me “Chick Lit Cheerleader,” yet that’s exactly what you are! I’m just the JV squad alternate. May you always know how loved you are in this world, in my world, and in our little chick lit corner of the world.

All my love,
Jen Jen

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: Surface

By Jami Deise

Thanks to the recent Ashley Madison hack, adultery has been in the news in a big way. Not only have the email addresses belonging to famous Christians been caught in this web, but hundreds of addresses belonging to government employees and politicians have also been discovered. Who hasn’t been found there? Women. Even the hackers are quick to say that ninety-five percent of the profiles belong to men, and the few profiles of women were almost certainly fake. At a time when more women are cheating than ever before, why aren’t they going on Ashley Madison? Is it something about the web site’s questionnaire – which focuses more on the type of sex the wannabe-adulterer wishes to engage in than the type of person he/she wishes to engage with – that turns off women? Or is it that women aren’t supposed to go out looking for extramarital sex? That women only cheat because they want love, not sex? If so, then what happens when a woman cheats like a man? That’s the subject author Stacy Robinson explores in her novel Surface.

Claire Montgomery’s life looks perfect from the outside. With her husband Michael, she’s half of a wealthy, powerful Denver couple. Their seventeen-year-old son Nick goes to Andover and is looking at Ivy League colleges. Her friends are the rich country-club set, and Claire spends her time organizing fundraisers around her passion for art. The only fly in the ointment is that Michael isn’t very attentive -- preoccupied with work, he’s dismissive of Claire’s art interests. When Claire impulsively joins Michael for dinner with his prospective business partner Andrew Bricker, she is immediately drawn to this younger man who shares her love for New York City and MOMA. When Michael goes out of town, Claire impulsively calls Andrew and invites him over. Andrew brings cocaine – enough for two – and while Claire is momentarily thrown at the offer (and turns it down) and at Andrew’s initial pass, it doesn’t stop her from having wild sex with him in the first floor guest room of her house. Even knowing that her son Nick, who already interrupted them talking in Michael’s office, is at a party nearby, doesn’t stop Claire. After Andrew leaves, Claire hops in the shower, then heads to the guest room to clean up the evidence. There, she finds Nick on the floor, convulsing and bleeding, having overdosed on Andrew’s cocaine.

(It doesn’t give away too much to reveal this, as these events all occur in the book’s first few chapters. But the summary on the back of the book is vague, using terms like “one impulsive indiscretion” and “recklessness” to backpedal from Claire’s behavior.)

After rushing Nick to the hospital, Claire calls Michael. As Nick fights for his life, Claire – to her credit – tells Michael the entire sordid story. Claire wants to put the entire episode behind them and unite in order to help Nick. Michael, however, can’t easily do that. As the focus turns from Nick’s survival to his long, hard road to recovery, Claire is bewildered why Michael can’t forgive her. Eventually she starts to wonder if her husband is keeping secrets of his own.

It is easy to root for a mother doing everything she can for her child, and the sections dealing with Nick’s brain injury and recovery are meticulously researched and compassionately detailed. At no point does Claire or Michael ever blame Nick for taking the cocaine, as if he were a three-year-old who couldn’t help putting strange objects in his mouth or up his nose. But Claire can’t understand why Michael just won’t forgive her. She fessed up. She feels awful about it. They need to present a united front for their son. So why can’t he just get over it?

Truthfully, I wouldn’t be able to get over it either, and I think most people would have a hard time forgiving as well. Claire’s lack of empathy for her spouse makes her a difficult character to fully care about. And yet, had Claire’s adultery been more traditionally female – a drawn-out attraction with a co-worker or old boyfriend – I might have been more on her side. Rather than realizing Michael (and many of their friends) have a right to be disgusted, Claire blames Michael’s lack of attention for her affair and Andrew for Nick’s overdose. Although Claire finds herself wondering if Michael has a girlfriend, she never asks herself how she’d feel about her husband if the situation were reversed.

And maybe she could have forgiven him. Maybe men, with their Ashley Madison accounts and their powerlessness over their all-consuming sex drives, are expected to be helpless to resist the attractive near-stranger offering wild passion. Women, however, should only cheat out of love, not horniness. Surface challenges this conventional wisdom, but most of the people in Claire’s life are not ready for it.

Surface is a very well-written book. Its portrayal of Nick’s brain injury is fascinating, and the domestic drama a customary plot for fans of women’s fiction. Still, Claire is an unusual heroine for the genre, which generally does not feature meaningless adultery from a woman’s point of view. My inability to get over Claire’s actions may say more about me than it does about her.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Go-to-Gay: Leading Ladies

Where else but Chick Lit Central for Go-to-Gay Gary Edwards to give a shout-out to his female friends?!? Take it away, Gary...

Wonderful Women

We all have friends and need them to share our lives with. They are there for the good and bad. I have always had a group of leading ladies as friends. My whole life I have had wonderful friends that have been there for me. I am so blessed to have them. I always stay in touch with most of them. Some were there for a period of time in my life when they needed me or I needed them. Many times when I needed strength or times when I needed to laugh.

With Carel

I think friends show up in time when you need them and also when they need you! A friendship is not about me it is about we! They are always there and so are you. You may not always be in the same town or see each other often but when you do you pick right back up where you were. If there is a crisis you are both there to offer unconditional love and random acts of kindness. Sometimes you grow in different directions. When that happens you still have a smile and think of them fondly, remembering some goofy thing they did.

With Gina

As I write this one friend comes to mind. Someone I met online via Wade. She has helped me on so many levels and I always hope that I help her. We laugh and leave goofy messages on each others phones to brighten the day. But it is more than that, she is one of my biggest go to people I have. My life line emergency contact. We have brainstormed about life, about how to market and create the writing workshops I help host for Wade. She was the person who told me I could quit my job and help Wade. That it was going to be okay and that life was going to be okay. She is a giver and is a genius at figuring out life. Really she should be a shrink or life coach, she will call you out and also point you in the right direction. She just gets it and can see the forest threw the trees. We both talk a lot but also listen. But, for all the fun, laughter and guidance she has given me, I sometimes think she forgets to give it to herself. She is at that place in life I was a few years ago. She is high up on the diving board ready to jump ready to dive. What she doesn’t know is that her gift, her talent is real. That with her life experience, her business experience and that the advise she gives really, really works. That she spends so much time helping others that it is ok for herself to give her own self permission to jump. To officially do what is become a life coach! To build a platform of people to guide on a spiritual & professional level. Suzanne has overcome and beat all odds. So Suzanne this blog is for you. A thank you for all you do for who you are and to know it’s your time. Go for it, the sky is the limit. I know this is the advise that you would give me. So I hope you hear me and that reading this will cause you to make the jump, to go for it.

With Suzanne

As I said I believe friends are there and it is all about destiny and timing. I can think of my friend Laura, the first person I ever told I was gay. I don’t think I would be here had she not been in my life. We have not seen each other in years but we still talk and I am so happy to also see the life she has created. My friend Julie who was my rock and there for me when I stopped drinking. I have so many special leading ladies in my life! I am so grateful and hope they all know how much I love them!

With Rose

Oh, and Suzanne call me and let me know how the water is once you jump off the diving board. I hope you do a canon ball and make a huge splash! I love you my friend!!

Here is a shout out to some of my favorite leading ladies that have helped shape me to be me!

XO to Aunt Ellen, Laura, Cammy, Angie, Beth, Laurie, Amy, Ann, Bernadette, Sintra, Susan, Ruth, Lynn, Heather, Maureen, Jill, Julie, Q, Charlee, Nicole, Linda, Carol, Carel, Rene, Sue, Trish, Lauren, Annette, Kathy, Nancy, Molly, Sally, Dora, Becky, Rose, Leslie, Glo, Annie, Kristen, Jody, Mary, Wendy & Shari. You are just a few of the wonderful friends I have that help me be me. There are more, including Melissa and Tracey from Chick Lit Central! So don’t kill me if I didn’t give you a shout out. I feel like I just made a bad academy award speech and I’m sure I forgot to thank the producer! I really just want to say thanks to you all for making my life a brighter place! Suzanne you got this!!!!!!


What are some things you wish and hope for your best friends? Who would you like to give a tribute to?

Gary Edwards is the marketing and events manager for bestselling author Wade Rouse. Edwards arranges Rouse’s tour schedule, speaking engagements as well as coordinates and facilitates his writing workshops and retreats.  Additionally, Edwards has helped market and promote all five of Rouse’s books. Edwards also has a background in hospitality, and sales as well as design.   With his vast professional background and a love to listen and help friends he is a perfect storm of love and nurture. Edwards is Martha Stewart meets Dear Abby with a dash of Mrs. Doubtfire.  For more, please friend him on Facebook and Twitter.