Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sarah Colonna brings on the laughs...plus a book giveaway

Photo from Sarah's Instagram
Today we introduce the hilarious Sarah Colonna. Sarah was a popular roundtable regular on the late night talk show, Chelsea Lately. She also served as a full time writer on the show, as well as a producer, writer and star of the show’s spin-off scripted series After Lately. Sarah appeared in the movie Back in the Day, alongside Nick Swardson, Harland Williams, Morena Baccarin and many others. See more of her other TV and movie appearances here.

Her first book, Life as I Blow it, debuted at number five on the New York Times Bestseller list. It was also sold to NBC to be developed for television with producers Happy Madison two years in a row. Sarah continues to tour across the country headlining comedy clubs regularly. She’s appeared on several other TV shows, including The United States of Tara, Scare Tactics, and Monk, and was a semi-finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

Sarah is here on her pub day to help us finish off "Books and Reading Month," and Gallery Books is giving away a copy of her latest book, Has Anyone Seen My Pants? to TWO lucky winners in the US and/or Canada!

You can learn more about Sarah by visiting her at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Synopsis of Has Anyone Seen My Pants?:

How does a gal with a successful career, great friends, and a razor-sharp wit find herself wandering pants-less through the hallways of a casino hotel in Iowa on New Year’s Eve?

Ask Sarah Colonna.

Has Anyone Seen My Pants? is a laugh-out-loud trip around America (and Mexico!) with Sarah as she braves crying in nail salons, mother-daughter road trips, Iowan casinos, and single-shaming resorts. From a fling-gone-wrong to friend breakups and a new romance, Sarah’s signature wit and sharp observations take you on a journey at once so deviously funny and surprisingly compassionate that it might just steal your heart—not to mention your pants.

What book do you think everyone must read at least once in their lives? 
Old Yeller, just to make sure you aren't dead inside. If you don't cry, you have your answer.

If you could only have one book with you on an island, which would it be? 
Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan. It made me laugh so hard, and if I could only have one book, I'd want it to be one that made me laugh a lot.

What book genre would surprise someone if you told them you read it? 
 Medical/Homicide thrillers-(is that an actual genre?) Specifically, Tess Gerritsen. I'm too afraid to watch scary movies, but I love her books so much. And this was before Rissoli & Isles became a TV show, just for the record! I will also read any book about JFK, which I think always surprises people.

What book should be made into a movie? Should never be made into a movie? 
Was She's Come Undone ever made into a movie? I don't think it was-right? And I think it should be. For the latter, I'd say all of the Real Housewives books.

Which book would make a great TV series?
 Has Anyone Seen My Pants? by Sarah Colonna. Have you guys ever heard of her? She's pretty!

Do you read books if you've seen the movie version first?
 I do sometimes. I usually like to read the book first, but I did see American Sniper and still haven't read the book. I know, I know...

Thanks to Sarah for chatting with us and to Gallery Books 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 April 5th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: The Traveling Tea Shop

By Becky Gulc

Belinda Jones is one of those authors I enjoy following on social media, particularly the adventures of her dog, ‘Bodie on the Road’ on Facebook. I loved Belinda’s novel, Winter Wonderland (reviewed here), so I was very happy to review to her latest novel, The Traveling Tea Shop. This was released in the US earlier this month and is Belinda’s 13th book, most of which have been labeled as offering the reader a "vacation-for-the-price-of-a-paperback."

Here is the synopsis:

‘A delectable tale of love, friendship and cake...

Laurie loves a challenge. Especially if it involves tea-time and travel. So when British baking treasure Pamela Lambert-Leigh needs a guide on a research trip for her new cookbook, she jumps at the chance.

The brief:
Laurie and Pamela - along with Pamela's sassy mother and stroppy daughter - will board a vintage London bus for a deliciously unusual tour of the USA's East Coast, cruising from New York to Vermont.

Their mission:
To trade recipes for home-grown classics like Victoria Sponge and Battenburg for American favourites like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pie.

All the women have their secrets and heartaches to heal. As well cupcakes galore, there's also the chance for romance...

But will making Whoopie lead to love?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

A mixture of cake and travel, well it sounded like a combination I would truly enjoy, even if I was on a diet when reading this. I was frustratingly salivating throughout, so the baking descriptions clearly worked for me!

I was so pleased that this book’s lead character (Laurie) is someone I had met and liked during Winter Wonderland; even Krista the lead character from that novel features in this one. I like it when books cross over like this. Laurie is an ambitious, down-to-earth and very likable character, she’ll give as much as gets in any given situation and we see that particularly with her relationship with the ‘stroppy daughter’ in this novel, Ravenna. This is actually my favourite relationship in the book.

I enjoyed finding out more about Laurie’s back story and perhaps even wished this was brought into the present a little more than it was, I suppose I felt a difficult family situation for Laurie was discussed in the novel but then quickly addressed in the epilogue. As our main character, it was Laurie I was most interested in so I was keen to learn if and how the situation would resolve itself in more detail, however I understand it would have maybe got in the way of this fabulous trip round the East Coast.

In this kind of novel it’s important to get a good sense of place and Belinda yet again delivers on this. She uses real rather than fictional locations and venues throughout, which I personally enjoy about Belinda’s writing. As the characters are on a tour, factual information is, of course, going to be presented. Laurie is their tour guide, and Belinda herself is a former travel editor and this shone through. I did enjoy much of the information, particularly in terms of film history and the history of some classic recipes, as I enjoy baking myself. However, there was perhaps a little too much factual information at times, sometimes it didn’t feel like it sat naturally, particularly in dialogue, and I’ve gone over this in mind as to why because I knew I was going to be joining the ‘tour’ so to speak. I guess there were just a lot of places covered and several characters were delivering the information at times, it just felt a little forced on occasion, but as I say, overall I enjoyed the factual side of things.

One of my favourite characters in this novel was Gracie, the grandmother. She’s also a no-nonsense kind of woman who has a huge heart and I was sad when events led to her leaving the tour early, as the early chapters of the novel with her in were amongst my favourites. Thankfully Gracie still features in the remainder of the novel and has a little romance of her own.

If you love finding out about new places and have a sweet tooth I think you will particularly enjoy this novel. Belinda Jones is definitely an author I would recommend for taking you on a trip without even leaving home.

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

More by Belinda Jones:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Secrets of Midwives

By Melissa Amster

I've decided several years ago that I'm finished having children. I have three and love them dearly, but that's all for me. Even so, reading The Secrets of Midwives, by Sally Hepworth, reminded me of the joy and beauty of giving birth and, for a few moments, made me want to have another go at the experience. (Then my daughter woke me up at two a.m. the other night and I reverted to my original decision.)


Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden? (Synopsis adapted from Goodreads.)

I absolutely loved this novel and it's already a contender for my 2015 favorites (not sure if I'll put it on my chick lit list or my general fiction list, but it will be there). I've been recommending it to everyone and that was even before I finished. Whenever I had to get back to real life, I missed the characters and yearned to know what was going to happen next. The dialogue was genuine and the descriptions made everything easy to visualize. Sally writes so beautifully and emotionally that you can see why I'd consider having more children while reading it. The only thing I would have done differently with it is write at least one character in third person. Having all of them in first person made things confusing. Even if Neva (name pronounced like "never") and Grace referred to their parents with different identifiers, I still had to go back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was speaking. This did not take away from my enjoyment of the story, however. This would make an excellent movie and I already have some casting ideas...

Grace: Ann Dowd
Neva: Deborah Ann Woll
Floss (2014): Piper Laurie
Floss (1954): Nathalia Ramos
Patrick: Henry Cavill or Chris Riggi (perhaps one could play Sean otherwise?)

I won this book from Reading with Robin. St. Martin's Press has a 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 April 1st at midnight EST.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We're not letting Bethany Chase get away...plus a book giveaway

Bethany Chase and I first connected on Facebook due to our mutual love for chick lit (no surprise there, right?). We also found out that we are both Weird Al fans, but that's another story for a different time. Anyway, I was thrilled to find out that she was publishing a book and eagerly awaiting the day it would be published. Well, that day is almost here, as her debut novel, The One That Got Away, hits shelves on March 31st! It's already generating buzz with rave reviews from Emily Giffin, Allie Larkin, Patti Callahan Henry, and Liz and Lisa...just to name a few. Her writing style is being compared to Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner. Needless to say, her book is next in my TBR pile and I can't wait to dig in (I just hope to not get any matzah crumbs on it).

Thanks to Penguin Random House, FIVE lucky US readers will be in my shoes soon!

You can find Bethany on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Today, she's here to talk about books and reading with us.

Synopsis of The One That Got Away:
Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind. (Courtesy of Random House).



What is your guilty pleasure read?
Dlisted.

Which book do you wish you wrote?
Joshilyn Jackson’s Gods in Alabama is a masterpiece in my opinion. Brilliant plotting, sharply drawn and interesting characters, an authentic and vivid setting, terrific humor—this book just has everything going for it.

What was your favorite book (or series) to read as a child/pre-teen/teenager?
Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. Those series are basically the Bookish Young Girl’s Guide to Life.

What is your favorite book to movie translation?
A Room With a View! It was my mother’s favorite movie, and one of mine as well when I was growing up. Terrific cast, terrific writing, sumptuous settings, wonderful wit, and swoonable romance – I adore that movie.

What book genre would surprise someone if you told them you read it?
Probably fantasy. I don’t read a ton of it, but some of the books on my keeper shelf are Guy Gavriel Kay’s quasi-historical epics and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And as always I love me some Chuck Wendig.


Is there a certain place you've visited that inspires you to write? Or a specific environment you need to be surrounded by for inspiration?
I have a long-standing tradition of getting big bouts of writing done when I am on my annual Florida vacation with my husband and his brother and sister-in-law. I have literally nothing to do all day except write, drink beer and eat, and it is absolutely divine. I have many fond memories of developing good ideas while a half-empty Blue Moon is within hand’s reach. I’ll let you decide if that’s causation or correlation.

Thanks to Bethany for visiting with us and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers. 

~Introduction by Melissa Amster


Aside from our giveaway here, you can also enter to win THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY through Bethany's blog tour (US only, ends 4/16), Confessions of a Bookaholic (worldwide, ends 3/31; also at @jenny_oregan), and Manic Mommy Reviews and Reads (US only, ends 3/29)!


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 March 31st at midnight EST.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What is CLC without readers?

Since we asked authors questions about books and reading this month, we thought it was only fair if we answer them too. Lots of good book recommendations here, so get your spring reading on!

Melissa A:

What is your favorite book that you had to read for school?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I read it before I had to, which helped. I still wish it were a movie!

Where is the strangest place that you've been able to sit and read? 
I've read at baseball games. Mostly when the opposing team was up.

What book were you hesitant to read but then completely devoured?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had to read it for book club and I just couldn't put it down! (See my review.)

What is your guilty pleasure read?
I'd read books for kids around my sons' ages if I had more time. I sometimes will pick up Diary of a Wimpy Kid and laugh out loud. I'd even re-read all The Baby-Sitters Club books if I had time and no one saw me doing it. :)

If you wrote fan fiction for a standalone or series, which would you choose and what is something you'd do for the characters?
I already started fan fiction for The Baby-Sitters Club. I want to write more of it but haven't figured out where I want to go with it yet. I imagine what the girls are like as adults.

What is your favorite book to movie translation? 
Where the Heart Is by the late, great Billie Letts. I loved the movie even more than the book and it's since become my all-time favorite. I can't get through it without crying.


Amy:

When you go to the library or bookstore, which section do you hit up first?
Well, of course that would be the women's fiction section.

What was your favorite book (or series) to read as a child/pre-teen/teenager?
You can make fun of me all you want when I say it was the Sweet Valley High series. I can be such a girly girl. I also really enjoyed The Baby-Sitters Club series.

Where is your favorite place to sit and read? 
Either at a beach or by a pool with the sun shining and the breeze blowing.

What book do you think everyone must read at least once in their lives? 
For every girl definitely Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

Print or digital? 
I will always prefer the real, original form of a book. I only pick up my iPad to watch Good Morning America while I'm getting ready for work in the morning.

Do you read books if you've seen the movie version first? 
Generally I don't.


Melissa P:

What is your favorite book that you had to read for school?
My favorite book that I had to read from school is The Great Gatsby. It also happens to simply be my favorite book of all time. I can read it over and over again.

When is the first time a book touched your soul? 
The first book that touched my soul, I mean REALLY touched my soul was P.S. I Love You  by Cecelia Ahern. I have never bawled so hard reading a book before. It was incredible, I loved that book.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
The last book I read that I would recommend is one I literally just finished called The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. I also just found out they are making a movie of the book starting Keira Knightly!

Print or digital? 
I prefer print. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I see how far into the story I am.

What is your favorite book to movie translation? 
My favorite book that was turned into a movie is The Devil Wears Prada. Although there were some great scenes they left out, the movie is still one of my favorites. Meryl Streep did an amazing job playing Miranda Priestly.

What is your favorite humorous book?
My favorite humorous book would literally be anything by Marian Keyes. Her characters are hilarious and the Walsh parents that reappear in many of her books are the best!


Jami:

How does being an author affect your reading choices/experience?
I doubt I’m the only author who reads a fantastic book and then puts it down, whining, “I’m never going to be this good! Why do I even try??” Waaa. Please excuse the pity party.

For me, being an author means it’s almost impossible to completely lose myself in the world of the book. In the back of my mind, I’m always analyzing how the writer tells her story, presents her characters, and builds her universe. So an experience that should be pure pleasure is also work, but I hope it helps me become a better writer.

It also affects my reading choices. I’m currently writing a mystery taking place in a planned community. The most well-known fictional planned community is the lovely town of Stepford, so I read and outlined that book while working on my own plot points. It’s not something I ordinarily would have chosen, but it was a good story. (I hope mine is, too.) Since I write in a few different genres, I try to read the genre I’m working in while I’m writing. I think this is the opposite of what many writers do – they try not to read similar books out of fear their voice will get contaminated or they’ll subconsciously steal plot points. I do all my stealing consciously! ;-)

Becky:

Which book do you wish you wrote?
Tricky one, lots of books! Quite different authors but I'd be very proud to write the same style of books as either Lisa Jewell or Paige Toon.

When is the first time a book touched your soul?
I read Marley and Me when it first came out and I had my first Labrador at the time so I would cuddle him when I was laughing and crying at this book which was just a wonderful book. If only I'd written "Rooney and Me" first, I definitely had similar cheeky tales to tell!

What are your favorite snacks/drinks to have while reading?
Aero Bubbles dipped in hot chocolate mmmm.

Print or digital?
Print, I've owned a Kindle for a couple of years now and have still only read a handful of books on it, I just prefer holding a 'proper' book. I don't care how heavy my suitcase is when going on holiday, I'm taking print books!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I would recommend lots of books that I read to others but sometimes there are stand out ones that I've heard little about that I feel deserve greater recognition. Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy is the last book I read which I felt this strongly about. Wonderful book. (Reviewed here.)

What book are you looking forward to reading this year?
We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Sara:

What was your favorite book (or series) to read as a child/pre-teen/teenager? 
Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series

Print or digital?
Print, hands down

Sci fi or fantasy?
Sci-Fi

Do you read books if you've seen the movie version first? 
I do. I find the book is almost always better than the movie

Which book would make a great TV series? 
Kim Harrison's The Hollows series. I could see it on Fox, or the WB. Or even on the big screen

When is the first time a book touched your soul? 
Stephen King's The Stand. I was 16. I read the novel in one day

Guest Book Review: Deathbed Dimes

By Michelle Drodge

When the opportunity to read a book penned by a writer in my city arose, I jumped at the chance. For whatever reason, it’s rare to come across a writer from Toronto reaching out to Chick Lit Central for a review. Hailing from Toronto my whole life, I was excited to see what our local talent could do.

I am here to report, us ‘Torontonians’ do not disappoint.


Naomi Elana Zener’s novel, Deathbed Dimes, was a fun take on what can happen when life throws you lemons. The novel starts out with Joely coming home to find her apartment empty at the hands of her fiancĂ©, who has up and left her (and wants the ring back!). At the advice of her best friend Coco, a fellow lawyer whom she’s known since law school, she throws herself back into her work, only to be repeatedly ‘sandbagged’ by her nasty colleague, Chip – one who must have bribed the professors into granting him his law degree. Upon a sudden decision by the partners at her firm, Joely walks out and must make a new life for herself.

Fleeing to her parents in LA (famous Hollywood actress mom Sylvia, and washed-up TV director Armand), Joely has a chance encounter with Etsy, the niece of her former client who was entitled to a hefty inheritance, but whom no one could locate – until now.

With the help of Coco, and her other long-time lawyer friend Ethan, who come to her side in her time of need, they develop a plan to open their own firm and represent Etsy to get her the money was supposed to inherit. Unfortunately, proving that the questionable second Will executed Aunt Ivana’s nurse Mandy, which conveniently left Etsy nothing and Mandy everything, complicated matters.

Of course, no chick lit novel would be complete without a knight in shining armour, but this love triangle is best left for the reader to enjoy, as the triangle of affairs is rather complicated and will keep you guessing where Joely’s loyalties lie. In addition to her own love life, someone close to her reveals a secret that will keep you laughing throughout the book, but also make you shake your head at the capabilities of some (albeit fictional) characters!

On the whole, Deathbed Dimes was an entertaining, light read, and I am proud to say that Naomi Zener has done us Canadians proud – I definitely look forward to reading more from my fellow Torontonian in the future!

Thanks to Naomi Elana Zener for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Michelle Drodge is 29 and lives in a small town north of Toronto in Canada with her daughter, who is five going on fifteen. She works in Restaurant Development during the day, but moonlights as an aspiring writer after her daughter goes to sleep. One day she hopes to see her own book on the shelf alongside her favourite Chick Lit authors!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Bedside Manners

By Jami Deise

If the age-old question men ask about women is, “What do women want?” then surely the age-old question we ask about ourselves is, “Why do we keep falling for jerks rather than the nice guys who want to date us?” It’s a scenario that even the smartest among us can’t avoid … even someone as smart and level-headed as fictional “Breakup Doctor,” the relationship therapist Brook Ogden.



We first met Brook in Phoebe Fox’s debut novel The Breakup Doctor (reviewed here), in which strong and solid Brook dissolves into a hot mess when her boyfriend dumps her after asking her to move in. Now starring in her follow up, Bedside Manners, Brook is again firing on all cylinders. Her radio show is doing well; her newspaper columns are highly regarded. And she’s even started a therapy group for men and women going through a break up (or just anticipating one.) Her personal life is also smooth, with best friend Sasha dating her brother Stu, and her own new relationship with good-guy Ben coming along nicely.

So naturally some kind of bombshell has to go off.

In Brook’s case, it’s in the form of ex-patient Chip Santana, with whom Brook got in a wee bit o’ trouble last book around. But Chip swears he’s changed, and he only wants to see Brook to get some coaching on how to apologize to his ex-girlfriends – especially the one he attempted to strangle. But Chip has always sent Brook’s hormones racing … even though she knows Chip is no good for her – or really for any other decent woman in the state of Florida. But as Chip continues to make inroads, Brook finds herself questioning her rock-solid relationship with Ben, and everything else she believes in.

When I reviewed The Breakup Doctor last year, I found Brook’s breakdown to be absolutely hysterical and I was happy to see that the book was the first in a series. This second book, however, while very well-written and nicely structured, just doesn’t have that LOL funny of its predecessor. Part of the problem is that Brook has recovered nicely from her post-dump breakdown, and she’s very thoughtful and logical about her conflict between Chip and Ben. That’s all well and good, but it’s not exactly funny. Most of the humor derives from the members of Brook’s therapy group, which is limiting, as the group doesn’t appear that often and its members don’t really develop beyond their individual problems. Still, the opening scene – where Brook helps a shy client find her way out of an S&M bar – is very amusing.

As the series progresses, author Fox may want to take her cue from private detective series. By concentrating on her crazy clients and keeping Brook’s dilemmas as a subplot, Fox can maximize the humor and minimize the internal teeth-gnashing. She might also want to take my advice about having Brook take on writers who are dejected by rejection from agents and publishers. I’m still getting those “no thanks” letters, and I could really use some help!

Thanks to Phoebe Fox for the book in exchange for an honest review. She is giving away an e-book set of The Breakup Doctor and Bedside Manners to a 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 March 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: The Tea Chest

By Becky Gulc

Whilst I don’t think ‘extras’ that accompany books for review are necessary, they can undoubtedly help generate excitement regarding an upcoming release, particularly in terms of less well known authors. When I received The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon (not an author I’d heard of), the book arrived along with a lovely tea towel, teabag and postcard which I thought was great marketing; and yes I happily use my tea towel! But what is the book itself about?

‘Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.

Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to move on.

When Kate's, Leila's and Elizabeth's paths cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's vision of the newest and most delectable tea shop in London, The Tea Chest. But with the very real possibility that The Tea Chest may fail, the three women are forced to decide what's important to each of them.

An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I have to say I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the cover or title, although the description did make me slightly more interested in it. This initial lack of appeal probably has more to do with me having read quite a few food/tea based books lately and maybe feeling the market has been a little over-saturated with them; many have been excellent, some not quite working for me. However, I loved this book from start to finish and didn’t feel it was anything like the books I’d already read.

This novel is very strong on character development, I warmed to all three leading characters immediately and they are all introduced to the reader quite quickly. They were all interesting characters and my interest in all three of their stories was maintained throughout the book. I loved how these women came together and how they move from colleagues to friends and essentially become what felt like family to me. The bonds were so tight at points, aided by the fact that Kate and Leila are both away from their home of Australia. I also enjoyed how the narrative was interspersed with the back story of Judy (the not so nice co-owner of The Tea Chest) as all the stories came together and were nicely interwoven with clear resolutions by the end.

I enjoyed the rich descriptions in the novel and felt like I was a fly on the wall of The Tea Chest, right from its starting point of being a building in disrepair to the grand opening and challenges in running the business. I also enjoyed how Josephine drew on topical issues, such as the London riots to further develop the story.

This book had lovely descriptions, rich characters, humour, romance and sadness with several interesting twists and turns along the way. This was a book that warmed my cockles and I’d personally love to meet these characters again in future novels, I thought there was scope for all of the characters to crop up again.

Time for a nice cup of Yorkshire tea!

Thanks to Allen and Unwin for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, March 20, 2015

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Searching for Beautiful by Jennifer Probst from Gallery Books

Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen from Astor and Blue

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster from Penguin


Amy and Melissa A:

Has Anyone Seen My Pants? by Sarah Colonna from Simon and Schuster

Amy:

Dear Carolina by/from Kristy Woodson Harvey

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon from HarperCollins

Jami:

Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin from Penguin Random House (e-book)

Becky:

The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Arguing by Melissa Kite from Corsair

Sara:

The Good, the Bad, and the Furry by Tom Cox from St. Martin's Press

The 8 Mistakes of Amy Maxwell and Amy Maxwell & the 7 Deadly Sins by/from Heather Balog (e-books)

All Because of You by/from Vivian Brooks (e-book)

Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde from BookSparks PR (e-book)

Book Review: The Marrying Type

By Sara Steven

Having read and reviewed Laura Chapman’s Hard Hats and Doormats, I was honored and very excited to be given the opportunity to read her latest novel, The Marrying Type.

Always the wedding planner, never a bride, Elliot Lynch is famous for orchestrating the splashiest weddings in Charleston, South Carolina. When her father’s sloppy management practices leave them on the brink of bankruptcy, Elliot will do whatever it takes to save the family business. When asked to appear on “The Marrying Type,” a reality TV show about the people behind the scenes as couples exchange I dos, she says yes to the invasion of privacy (and the hefty paycheck that comes with it).

With a camera crew capturing every detail of her life, Elliot faces her most challenging contract yet: planning a wedding where her ex is involved in every part of the process. Add in a lazy assistant, liquor-loving bridesmaid, and rival planner encroaching on her turf, and Elliot’s wedding season goes from high-end to high-stress.

Forced to confront her past, Elliot must live out her troubled present on national TV if she has any hope of saving her future. (courtesy of Amazon)

I am a huge reality TV buff, and I felt I received a back-stage pass to a lot of the drama and chaos that ensues for Elliot while she attempts to save her family business, one bride at a time. She is constantly putting out fires, including her own. Then there’s the ex. Eric Warner had been “the one” for Elliot, years ago, before she ended things and not amicably, I might add. Who would have ever guessed that one of the brides-to-be who Elliot will work closely with, would end up being Eric’s sister?

I felt emotionally invested in Elliot. It’s a testament to how well Chapman has breathed life into her characters. It made it difficult to put the book down, because I wanted to know what would happen next, and if Elliot would ultimately have the happy ending she desperately wants and deserves. I found myself rooting for her and cheering when she stands up for herself in various pivotal scenes, or getting misty-eyed when things aren't going according to plan. True to Chapman fashion, this book was an enjoyable read and a total page turner, every step of the way!

Thanks to Laura Chapman for the book in exchange for an honest review. For more fun with Laura, read her "12 Things" post over at Book Mama Blog and her "5 Things I Can't Live Without" lists over at Whitney Dineen's blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Confessions of a speed reader

Introduction by Melissa Amster

When my family and I first moved to the DC area and started settling into our new neighborhood, we went out for dinner at the local pizza place. Almost immediately, we were greeted by one of the friendliest women in the community. I'm not even exaggerating. She was just so nice and she even called me the next day to invite my sons and I to meet up with her and some friends at a local park. A few years later, I joined a book club and she happened to be one of the members. While it was taking me a few weeks to finish the books our group had chosen each time, she would breeze through one in a matter of hours. This is on top of working all day at the local preschool, studying for her Masters in Education, and raising FIVE kids--one being a toddler. How is that even possible, you ask? Well, this friend of mine is a speed reader.

Meet Ruchel Green. Ruchel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and five children. In her "free time" (ha! ha!) you will find her reading (a.k.a. browsing educational material online for the graduate degree shes working on) baking (a.k.a. cooking dinner or packing lunches), or exercising (a.k.a. running after her toddler or up and down the steps with the laundry). She's here today, during "Books and Reading month," to tell us what speed reading is really like.


Why and how did you learn to speed read?
I am not really sure when I noticed I read fast. I remember in High School a teacher gave us a passage to read and an assignment to complete when we were finished. When I went up to the teachers desk to get the assignment my teacher looked at me puzzled and said “did you finish the reading yet”. When I read up on speed reading I learned that for most people who speed read it comes naturally. There are many books and workshops on Speed Reading but most teach something called “Skimming”. I once took a workshop in college on skimming which teaches you to look for the main ideas quickly. This was helpful as a college student because one can get through large amount of reading quickly. When reading for pleasure or when you need more than the “main ideas” this is not a useful method.

What is the quickest amount of time you've been able to finish a large novel? (500 pages or more.)
Honestly, I’m not sure. Quickly.

How many books are you able to get through on a week when you're not too busy with work, school, and household responsibilities?
I spent my childhood with massive stacks of books next to my bed and flashlights for reading under the covers! I would finish stacks of books each week! These days I don’t have much time for reading but when I have a few hours to myself…I read a few books!

How are you able to understand what is going on in the book and retain little details when you're finished?
People have told me that “speed reading” is always “skimming”. Maybe in some ways they are correct because you don’t focus on each word but rather the whole sentence when “speed reading” but for me it hasn’t impacted my comprehension.

If someone wanted to learn how to speed read, what is the first thing they should try doing?
They should try to read words in groups. Less eye movement helps with speed. Some speed readers use a pencil to keep their place while reading. Also, pay close attention to each word to help with comprehension and avoid having to re-read text.

What is a book you've read recently that you'd recommend?
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Heartbreaking, but a fabulous read. I read it in 40 minutes.

Thanks to Ruchel for visiting with us and giving us insight to speed reading. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Mysterious Ways

Introduction by Melissa Amster

When I was ten years old, Carolyn Keene came out with a series called The Nancy Drew Files. It was a Nancy Drew series for the 80s and Nancy was all stylish, like right out of Seventeen magazine. She solved the toughest mysteries and even had a hot boyfriend named Nick. Who wouldn't want to be in her shoes? While I'm not as much into mysteries as I was back then, I still have a fondness for Nancy Drew and feel all nostalgic whenever I see one of those 80s style books about her. I also just came across this hilarious fashion analysis for this series.

Our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, also has a girlcrush on Nancy Drew. She's here today to talk about that delightful detective. (Maybe she and I will watch the Nancy Drew movie from 2007 the next time we hang out...)


What would Nancy Drew do?


Channeling my inner child
I can’t remember a time when books weren’t a part of my life. As a curly headed tot, I sat on my mom’s lap as she’d read Where the Wild Things Are, Hop on Pop, and The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, escaping into the pages of things that roared terrible roars, fathers who doubled as trampolines, and the perilous world of someone who’d dare to steal all the sprinkles from sweet little children. Who would do such a thing, right?


Around the age of ten, I discovered the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories penned by Carolyn Keene. The teen sleuth who solved mysteries before Unsolved Mysteries and Dateline NBC was a thing. I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch those shows. I cringe, believing those criminals are hiding in my barn waiting to get me. I’m not a paranoid person, so I’m not sure why the fear. Nancy Drew would tune in, wouldn’t she? No—she’d be the host and investigative reporter, I’m sure.



What endeared these books to me as a preteen was reading about a girl whose sense of adventure and righting wrongs drove her. She was an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances. She didn’t need ninja skills, super powers or weapons of mass destruction to avenge the innocent and catch bad guys. She used her noggin. Sometimes she was described as a “strawberry blonde” and at other times, a “titan blonde”. Regardless of the hue of her highlights, she was crafty.

I often think about Nancy at times I should feel brave. WWNDD? I’ve asked myself when there’s a foreign noise coming from downstairs and I’m the only parent present, at 2:00AM, while my husband travels for work. She would put on her big girl bloomers and investigate. If Nancy lived at my house, with flashlight in hand and fearlessness abounding, would tiptoe downstairs, listen closely for a few moments as her heart raced, then realize it was just her golden retrievers snoring. Me, on the other hand, would quietly tiptoe from my bed to the bedroom door then quickly lock it. “I’m the bravest girl of the bunch,” said no Jen Tucker ever.

My Nancy Drew novels rest on a bookshelf in my office. I only own six, yet read the entire series back in the day via the library or borrowed copies from friends. My daughter, Gracie, has not yet read them. I’m thinking it might be time to dust them off and introduce her to Nancy and the gang while reintroducing myself to some of my favorite titles: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Clue of the Velvet Mask, and The Sky Phantom just to name a few. I’m curious about some of your favorite books when you were younger or the first series you remember diving into as a young reader. We’d love you to share those titles with us here at CLC. You might mention some that many of have forgotten we loved too. Remembering those loved books, buried deep in the grey matter, is a wonderful thing.

Gracie (left) and her friend


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 and Giveaway: The Girls of Mischief Bay

By Melissa Amster

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time.

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all.

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

This is my first experience with a Susan Mallery novel and I already know that I want to read her previous books. I really liked how The Girls of Mischief Bay was written. I instantly felt like I was having lunch out with three girlfriends whom I've known forever. Pam, Nicole, and Shannon were all easy to relate to and sympathize with in various ways. The dialogue felt genuine and there was a lot of humor mixed in with the sincerity and sensitivity that the women injected into their friendship and conversations. It didn't matter that Nicole was ten years younger than me or that Pam was ten years older. I felt connected to them just as much as I did to Shannon, who was closest to my age and reminded me of my sister. The descriptions made everyone and everything easy to visualize and I was even taken on an armchair adventure at one point.

There's one part of the story that was emotionally heavy, so I want to warn everyone to have a lot of tissues on hand. It's a topic that has come up in previous novels I've read and I handled it okay in the past. However, the way the character handled the situation felt more raw in some ways. I liked how things were resolved later on, but for a while, I was overwrought with emotion for this character. I cried for her a bunch of times, as well as for one of the other characters (but for different reasons). Susan Mallery handled the topic in a sensitive way that didn't condescend to her readers, but it still felt darker to me than how this situation has come up in other novels I've read. Maybe because I felt like the character and I had some things in common and that she was like a book version of me? That I'd possibly react to the situation the same way she did?

Overall, I was very impressed with Susan's writing style and the way she drew me in right away and didn't let me go, even after I put it down. I already can't wait for the next Mischief Bay novel to come out. I'm thankful to Marlene at Book Mama for recommending it to me. (See her review.) This is one of those books I want my mom to read.

Naturally, I was casting it in my head the whole time...
Nicole: Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting
Shannon: Christina Hendricks
Pam: Julie Warner
John: John Corbett
Adam: Scott Weinger
Eric: Dustin Milligan

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for a lucky reader in the US or Canada! Learn more about Mischief Bay here.

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 March 24th at midnight EST.


Visit the other blogs participating in the review tour:

Monday, February 23rd: The Romance Dish
Monday, February 23rd: A Bookish Escape
Tuesday, February 24th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, February 24th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Wednesday, February 25th: For the Love of Words
Wednesday, February 25th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, February 26th: Read – Love – Blog
Friday, February 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, March 2nd: Luxury Reading
Monday, March 2nd: As the Pages Turn
Tuesday, March 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, March 4th: Always With a Book
Thursday, March 5th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, March 6th: Not in Jersey
Monday, March 9th: Drey’s Library
Monday, March 9th: BookNAround
Tuesday, March 10th: Book Mama Blog
Wednesday, March 11th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thursday, March 12th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, March 16th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, March 17th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, March 18th: Mary’s Cup of Tea


Purchase THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY:

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Do you want to join a book club? Enter "Reading With Robin's" book giveaway!

I am proud to say that I'm now in two book clubs. One is a local club in my neighborhood that meets once a month or so and discusses various literary fiction novels. The other was recently started by Robin Kall and meets via Facebook, where readers can interact with authors of the books we're discussing. It's a great place to make new friends who have the same book interests and also learn about books you might not have thought to pick up before.

Robin Kall is Rhode Island’s own book maven. From author interviews to events with best-selling authors, Robin shares her love of books wherever and whenever possible. You can connect with Robin on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, or on her website is updated constantly with all new author interviews and bookish information.Her Well-Read column on GoLocalProv.com runs twice a month on Saturdays. Reading With Robin is on AM790 Fridays from 4-5pm and on I Heart Radio. Robin has a special giveaway right here to go along with her April book club selections. 


Amy and I are proud to share acknowledgement space with Robin in Jane Green's latest novel, Saving Grace, which was the February book that kicked off Reading With Robin's Book Club 411





Who is in a book club? Who’s in more than one? I know there are a lot of book club junkies out there so here’s a new one for you-Reading With Robin’s Book Club 411. RWRBC411 will provide info on today’s biggest books. Ten years of on-air author interviews and hosting author events have allowed for relationships with many of your favorite authors. RWRBC411 is an extension of Reading With Robin radio allowing me to connect readers and writers in a more intimate setting. I am passionate about sharing the books I enjoy and I love gathering readers. 

We kicked off our first meet-up with Jane Green’s Saving Grace. I announced the title at the beginning of February and we met on the Facebook page at the end of February to discuss. Many club members participated either by posting their questions ahead of time or joining in live while Jane was on the Facebook page. All had a great time. If you’ve already read Saving Grace and want to check it out (warning –spoilers) the conversation is still posted on the RWR Book Club 411 page. I’ve been to many book clubs where someone refuses to allow the ending to be discussed. It’s baffling to me that groups will bend to the will of one or two non-finishers, but it happens.

With Jane Green in Providence


Here are some FAQ:

Why do I want to join another book club?

The more the merrier. If you like the book we’ve chosen or have already read it, it’s another place to join in a discussion. If you’re a “book-person” there can never be too much of that.

Do I have to quit my present book club?

That’s up to you. If you’ve been thinking of making a move this just might be the time to break away. I hear from many readers whose book clubs no longer serve them but they see no way out. If you are happy with the book club(s) you are in stay put. You can also encourage your book club(s) to read along with us once in a while and make the RWRBC411 selection your club’s pick.

What happens if I don’t finish the book?

There are no judgments in RWRBC411. You just might not want to join in the Facebook discussion at the end of the month.

Will you be offended if I don’t enjoy the selection?

If I were offended every time someone didn’t like one of my picks, I wouldn’t have lasted in the book world as long as I have. No offense will be taken. 

RWR’s Book Club 411 is truly a no-pressure book club. Each month I will announce the title that I am highlighting. You can pop in and out as you like. This month's title is The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth, which will be discussed on March 26th from 4-5 pm EST. 

The RWRBC411 readers are enthusiastic and are such voracious readers that I’ve added in a second book for April. We’ll be chatting with Marisa de los Santos about The Precious One on April 23rd from 4-5pm EST and with Robin Antalek about The Grown Ups on April 30th from 4-5pm EST. I am giving away BOTH  novels to TWO lucky readers in the US or Canada. You can enter the giveaway with the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

The people who have joined RWRBC411 are engaged, interesting and thoughtful readers.  In the short amount of time that the site has been up titles have been shared and conversation around our mutual passion for books. There will be book giveaways and incentives for bringing in new club members. I hope you’ll join us.

Thanks to Robin for visiting with us and sharing her April picks with our readers.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

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

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends on March 22nd at midnight EST. 

For another chance to win The Precious One, visit Confessions of a Bookaholic (@jenny_oregan on Twitter) by March 23rd.