Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: Falling Together

By Denise Keliuotis

This was one of those times where the title of the book truly summed it all up.

When I began reading Falling Together: How to Find Balance, Joy, and Meaningful Change When Your Life Seems to be Falling Apart, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Donna Wilk Cardillo’s work has been classified under the “self-help” genre, so I suppose I expected some life tips, but Falling Together offers so much more. Cardillo has crafted a thoughtful work of – yes – advice, but she has done so in a personal, heartfelt, and relatable way.

Without a doubt, Falling Together could easily be set among the memoirs, as Cardillo spends a good portion of the book sharing stories from her own life, stories from which she learned important and truly life-changing lessons. Working through these experiences, Cardillo found the way to greater happiness and serenity, even in the face of immense stress and self-doubt.

Cardillo’s story begins in the middle, but also at the beginning. She is on the cusp of turning forty when she finds herself stuck in what she labels a “spiritual crisis.” She was in a loving marriage and had a solid career in the nursing field, and yet she truly was not happy. Cardillo faced a choice: she could give in to her existential malaise and keep the status quo, or she could attempt to make a change. She chose the latter, setting out to start her own business as a professional speaker. Taking action worked, and she felt her cloud lift as she began to head down this new path.

But life is funny, and it held other plans for Cardillo. And the curveball it threw – an illness affecting Cardillo’s husband – underlies many of the lessons contained in Falling Together.

With great heart, honesty, and courage, Cardillo shares her journey down her own winding path, one full of life’s ups and downs, one that could have led her to a dark, depressive dead-end but which instead brought her to a place of light, peace, and contentment. Refusing to turn inward, she opted to travel the world and talk about her experiences and the valuable lessons she’s taken away. As she did so, Cardillo met dozens of women who told her how easily they related to her words. It was this discovery that led to Falling Together. Cardillo explains it best:

Over the years I have learned that every woman has a warrior within her, along with unique gifts to bring forward into the world. But often we get derailed on our journey to live an authentic life, one where we come to know ourselves and be true to who we are. My sincere hope is that this book will help you find courage, inspiration, balance, happiness, and meaningful change in your own life, even when it seems to be falling apart, to continue that journey and light up the world in the process.

Cardillo – now a blogger at and lovingly known as The Inspirational Nurse – has divided Falling Together into themed chapters with titles including "Losing Self" and "Making Friends with Fear." My favorite chapter is "Caring for My Most Important Asset – Me," a well-written reminder to women to take care of themselves as they are immersed in caring for others. Each chapter ends with a "Lessons Learned" section, as well as "Recommended Reading and Resources."  Readers will see themselves and their stories within those shared by Cardillo because even though her experiences belong to her, in many ways, they are truly universal.

Falling Together guides the way to finding the good among the bad, the upside of the downside, the opportunity often hidden behind the challenge. Inspiring, it will remind you that it is never too late to be true to yourself, that change is often both scary and exhilarating, that we really do control our own destinies, even at those moments we feel like we are falling apart.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--April 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, fall under our new featuring policy, 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!

Melissa A:




Spotlight and Giveaway: Wedding Girl

Stacey Ballis' latest novel, Wedding Girl, comes out on Tuesday. Thanks to Berkley/NAL, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

You’ve Got Mail meets Julie & Julia in the new foodie fiction from the author of Recipe for Disaster.

Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancĂ© were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…

Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch...

Stacey Ballis is the author of nine foodie novels: Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over, Room for Improvement, The Spinster Sisters, Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, Recipe for Disaster, and Wedding Girl. She is a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly. She was an educator for more than fifteen years in Chicago, including teaching high school English in the Chicago Public Schools and serving as director of education and community programs for Goodman Theatre for seven seasons, before pursuing a full-time career in writing and consulting.

Visit Stacey at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Check out her interview at Jewish Food Experience.

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

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US only. Giveaway ends May 3rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: Where We Fall

Where We Fall by Rochelle B. Weinstein was published last week and we're pleased to share more about it here! Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie, we have FIVE copies for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

By all accounts, Abby Holden has it all. She’s the mother of a beautiful teenager and the wife of a beloved high school football coach. And all it took to achieve her charmed life was her greatest act of betrayal.

Coach Ryan can coax his team to victory, but he can’t seem to make his wife, Abby, happy. Her struggles with depression have marred their marriage and taken a toll on their daughter, Juliana. Although this isn’t the life he’s dreamed of, he’s determined to heal the rifts in his family.

Chasing waterfalls and documenting their beauty has led photographer Lauren Sheppard all around the world. Now it has brought her back home to the mountains of North Carolina—back to the scene of her devastating heartbreak.

For the first time in seventeen years, a trio of once-inseparable friends find themselves confronting past loves, hurts, and the rapid rush of a current that still pulls them together...

Rochelle B. Weinstein is an author, speaker, and former entertainment industry executive. Her two previous novels include What We Leave Behind, which explores the poignancy of love and the human condition and The Mourning After, a moving story of hope and resiliency. She lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and twin sons. Visit Rochelle at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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 May 2nd at midnight EST.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Nicole Waggoner takes center a book giveaway

We are excited to feature Nicole Waggoner at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her debut novel, Center Ring, which kicks off her Circus of Women series. There has been a lot of buzz about this book and Melissa A is excited to read it soon, now that it has made its way to the top of her TBR pile. Nicole has TWO copies to share with some lucky US readers, but there's a of them will be for the friend of our winner.

Aside from being an author, Nicole is a decorated teacher with 12 years’ experience teaching upper level English and Literary Criticism courses. She is proud to call her husband and children her biggest fans. The other loves of her life include green tea, great conversation over vino, all things theater, skipping the gym, women’s health, and a fanatical commitment to live her belief that love is a verb to be paid forward. Visit Nicole at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (Bio courtesy of Nicole's website.)

Norah Merrit, a dedicated obstetrician known for her bedside manner and service to Doctors Without Borders, walks into girls’ night out with a confession to make―and what she has to say shakes the group to its core. In the aftermath of Norah’s revelation, each of the women she calls her sister-friends―photojournalist Camille, stay-at-home mom Leila, publicist Ellison, and designer Kate―are left questioning the roads they haven’t taken, and revisiting the vastly different choices they’ve made in life and love.

Told in alternating points of view between the five friends, Center Ring is a story about modern women finding balance through action, relationships, and growth in the midst of challenges and change. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

We've heard many great things about Center Ring already! What is the best compliment you've received about it so far?
Thank you! I have been absolutely floored by the reception and am so grateful to the readers and bloggers who have given it their time! The best compliments have been from readers writing me to say that it helped them get through something difficult when they needed an escape. To think my words could make someone's chemo treatment, divorce, or grief even a modicum more bearable is truly humbling.

Which of the women from Center Ring do you relate to the most?
I am all of them and none of them, but "Leila" is definitely the most like me. People who know me in real life as a teacher, friend, parent, wife, etc., or have ever seen me run, pick out our similarities in a hot second!

What is something you wish you knew before you embarked on the publishing path?
That's a hard one. There is still so much I feel I don't know. I will say I never expected to spend so much time at the post office!

If Center Ring were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
What a fun question! Here goes-
Norah: Keri Russell
Cami: Amy Smart
Leila: Ginnifer Goodwin
Ellie: Scarlett Johansson
Kate: Keira Knightley
Patrick Grayson: Henry Cavill
Enrique Orlando:William Levy

If you could take us on a tour of your town, where would we go first?
During this time of year, probably the storm shelter. We call it Harvard. We would go to Harvard :). Just kidding. I would take you on a walk around OU. It is a gorgeous campus surrounded by unique little boutiques and great places to eat/people watch.

Where is your favorite place to spend money?
Bookstores, shock :) Also, Costco because I'm fancy.

Thanks to Nicole for visiting with us and for sharing her book with our readers (and their friends).

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Meternity

By Jami Deise

When women who fake pregnancy end up in the news, it’s usually not a feel-good story. Telling a lie that has spun out of control, these women – few and far between, thank G-d – try to obtain a baby through any means necessary, with tragic and sometimes fatal results.

Magazine editor Liz Buckley, heroine of Meghann Foye’s new novel Meternity, must be unaware of these disastrous outcomes. But she’s all too aware of the preferential treatment given to her mommy colleagues at Paddy Cakes magazine. It starts with the baby showers, goes through maternity leave, and ends up with the moms constantly leaving work early for doctor’s appointments, mommy and me classes, and other child-centered activities. And Liz is the one holding the bag, having to rewrite stories, track down interviews, and stay late to cover for them. Even worse, as a childless woman at a baby magazine, her opinions don’t matter. “Spoken like a woman without kids” is a refrain she hears often. When Liz, who dreams of being a freelance travel writer rather than covering the latest front on the baby-wearing wars, is told to give up a business trip to Paris to cover for an editor who has a family reunion in the Caribbean, it’s the last straw. Her stress-induced nausea is mistaken for morning sickness, and Liz runs with it. She tells her colleagues that she’s pregnant. Immediately, the attention, the accolades, and the questions are all hers. And Liz has every intention of going through with it. At the end of the nine months, she’s going on a “ME-ternity leave,” where she’ll travel, relax, and gear up for a new job. But without a man in her life – and that bump in her belly undeniably fake – how long will Liz be able to pull off this subterfuge? And when she’s caught, will she lose everything?

As a mom who struggled to balance child-care issues with full-time employment when my son was a baby, I found Foye’s premise a little outlandish. Studies have shown that moms who work are penalized for leaving early due to family issues (while the dads in the office are applauded for actually taking care of their own children.) even when they cover all their work responsibilities. And yet Foye is absolutely right that childless workers of both sexes feel slighted by leave policies. They feel that if Jennifer takes off a few hours early to meet with her son’s teacher, they should also be able to leave early for kick ball in the park and happy hour. I have strong memories of arriving at my office at eight am, watching my childless female colleagues roll in around ten, and then seeing them roll their eyes when I left at five.

Fortunately, as Liz’s fake baby bump grows, so does her empathy for the real mothers in the office – especially her self-described nemesis, Alix. As Liz becomes truly attached to her fake baby, these women drop their Facebook-perfect facades of motherhood and clue her into the real stresses. Liz also becomes more likeable – not just because she stops judging the mothers in the office, but because she becomes more diligent about her job. In the opening chapter, she blames Alix for rewriting her copy and demanding last-minute changes, but Liz’s own responses reveal that she hasn’t been keeping her boss in the loop or making changes as soon as they were requested. “I was going to do that when I got back from vacation” is never an answer that a manager wants to hear.

I was expecting Liz to take the easy way out with the traditional soapy fake miscarriage. But Liz falls in love with her fake baby, whom she names Lucie Rose, as well as the benefits of fake impending motherhood. As Liz feels more and more guilty and conflicted, the stakes get higher as her bump gets bigger. I found myself wanting Liz to get away with it, while the same time hoping for a spectacular reveal that forces Liz to eat her baby bump. Kudos to Foye for inducing such conflicting emotions in the reader.

In a way, Meternity reminded me of my favorite Chick Lit Central book review from 2015, Lisa Doyle’s Milked. Both novels masquerade as light-hearted comedies about contemporary motherhood and maternity, while really shining light on pressing problems faced by today’s mothers. In Milked, Doyle explores how the gig economy and the ever-growing gap between the one percent and the ninety-nine percent makes parenthood almost unaffordable for middle-class, college-educated single women living in a major city. Meternity sheds light on the war between parents and non-parents in the workplace, a war exacerbated by meager maternity benefits, unaffordable child care and unrealistic expectations for both mothers and workers.

“Chick lit” is sometimes disparaged as a superficial genre focused on shoes and boyfriends. Books like Milked and Meternity prove that pretty heroines, funny situations and clever dialogue can be found in novels that explore real issues and serious dilemmas.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. It's part of their "It's Raining Books" tour.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis from Berkley/NAL

Baggage Check by M.J. Pullen from
St. Martin's Press

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller from Viking (e-book via Edelweiss)

Relativity by Antonia Hayes from Gallery

Me and My Sisters by Sinead Moriarty from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)

The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer from St. Martin's Press

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)

Finding Fraser by KC Dyer from Berkley

Settling Down by/from Dawn Keable

Blaming the Wind by Alessandra Harris from RedAdept Publishing (e-book)

My Heart Can't Even Believe It by
Amy Silverman from Strategies 360 (e-book)

One Wrong Move by Meirav Oz from Contento Now (e-book)

A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe from Gallery Books


Meternity by Meghann Foye from BookSparks (e-book)

If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (e-book)

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green from Quercus


Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff from Random House (e-book)

Truth or Date by/from Portia MacIntosh

Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan from TLC Book Tours (e-book)

The Cubicle Chronicles by/from
Lynn Brookdale (e-book)

American Babe by Babe Walker from Gallery Books


Sunday's on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly from Simon and Schuster

Book Review: The Big Lead

By Sara Steven

Stella Reynolds is new to the job, new to the state, and new to making mistakes in front of thousands of people, but that’s exactly what she signs up for when she takes a job as a TV reporter in the mountains of Bozeman, Montana. Being on live TV in a small town has never been so funny, until Stella covers the town’s first murders in years.

When the prime suspect’s girlfriend enlists Stella to help clear his name, she uncovers another shocking crime that could expose a handful of powerful insiders.

Who is honest, who can’t be trusted, and who committed the murders? Stella is on a tight deadline to find out. Can she help free an innocent man, or will the real culprit get away with murder? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

One of my favorite things about The Big Lead would have to be the incredible characters who make up Bozeman, Montana. Stella suddenly finds herself amidst some really interesting coworkers and even neighbors, lending in to the perfect chick lit mystery. Whether she’s dealing with her super obnoxious, Oscar the Grouch-like neighbor, Janet, or the beautiful, acerbic co-anchor Vindi, Stella attempts to take it all in stride. Even when John, her hunky competition, shows interest in her, she tries hard to fight against what her heart is telling her, choosing to follow her head, instead.

If only it were that easy, after the murders occur. There’s no clear-cut evidence to point to any one person, especially not the man who Stella feels has been falsely accused. Soon, she sets out on a wild goose chase, only leading her further into danger. There’s a lot more behind the little town of Bozeman than meets the eye, much to Stella’s chagrin. She wants to do the right thing, yet she’s thwarted at nearly every turn!

I had such a fun time reading The Big Lead! It’s not often a mystery can stump me, leaving me wondering who the culprit is. I really was guessing until the very end, only adding to the intrigue. That is a true testament to how well this novel was written, completely keeping me on the line from page one!

Thanks to Libby Kirsch for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Forty is the new twenty for Liz and a book giveaway

This is the year I turn the big 4-0, and it started off with a fabulous early birthday gift....seeing my name in the acknowledgements section of Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's latest novel, The Year We Turned Forty (reviewed here), which publishes on April 26th.

Today, I'm turning to them for insight on turning forty and they affirmed how I already feel about it. Only three more months to go...

Thanks to Atria, we have one copy of The Year We Turned Forty for a lucky US reader!

To learn more about these wonderful women, visit their website, which also contains their blog. Then visit them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for some more fun!

If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently?

This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.

Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.

Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.

But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…. (Courtesy of Liz and Lisa's website.)

Forty vs. Twenty

We’d pick forty over twenty any day

If forty and twenty got into a brawl, forty would definitely win. While many people might think twenty would be victorious because it’s younger, we don’t agree.

Forty might be older. But forty is smart. Forty is secure. And forty looks pretty darn good. (If we do say so ourselves.)

The year we turned forty was a good one. (We published our first novel, Your Perfect Life!) We decided to embrace our new age bracket. Because, what was the alternative? To cry into our overpriced anti-aging creams and wax nostalgic over the days when we could survive on two hours of sleep? Not our style. We realized turning forty was inevitable, so we agreed, why not welcome it with a big fat kiss? Or for Liz, with a big ol’ party with friends and family that included a food truck and a band that covered Bon Jovi and Pink. And for Lisa, a trip to Paris where she toasted the big 4-0 with a glass of champagne atop the Eiffel Tower.

The reality is, we couldn’t have done these things at twenty. We could barely afford boxed wine or a meal that we didn’t charge on a credit card. But at forty, we can do special things because we’ve worked hard for the past twenty years. We’ve settled down with our families. And we’ve started to learn what really matters. Hint: It isn’t being wrinkle free. (Although we aren’t averse to it!)

But that being said, it’s not like we have it all figured out. We still consider ourselves works in progress. And know we always will be. And maybe that knowledge is what comes with age—understanding that each mistake or misstep is a learning opportunity, that the soft spots within us that we tried so hard to hide in our twenties and thirties might actually be the best part of ourselves.

Thanks to Liz and Lisa for the motivational "speech" and to Atria for sharing their book 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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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Bonding time

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Recently, my older son and I have become enamored with the Broadway musical Hamilton. We hang out together to watch videos and learn the words to all the songs. It's these times when we don't worry about homework, chores, what's for dinner, bedtime routines, etc. We're just bonding over a musical we can only wish to see. 

Our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, is here today to tell us how she bonds with her the most surprising of ways!


We are in the market for a new home. With one son closing in on 20 years of age, another looking at colleges, and one baby bird left in the nest, it’s time to downsize. Not tiny house downsize—that’s too much togetherness for me. It doesn’t interest me to have the opportunity to wash dishes while I shower. Sunday afternoons are spent looking at lots for sale and inspecting an ever changing inventory of homes on the market. It’s our new normal and I love every minute of it. Another new normal for me is the evolution of my sweet little Gracie blossoming into a young lady (may the Force be with me). She’s traded in television shows such as My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop for the moniker of HGTV addict.

Her favorite series? Fixer Upper. She admires Joanna’s flair for design and giggles at Chip’s antics. She wonders aloud what life on their farm would be like, how they remember all the names of their cows and goats, and if they might be trying to contact her for a play-date, because, why wouldn’t they, right? Gracie’s favorite new vocabulary word she’s picked up while watching? Shiplap! Gracie muses, “Mom, I think Joanna would rather win a house-full of shiplap than Powerball.”

From their sweet family to the farmhouse chic the couple from Waco, Texas is famous for Gracie devours each and every episode. She’s also their fiercest advocate. No other famous home improvement couple stands a chance in her eyes. I won’t mention any names, yet when my precocious one sees previews for another show, her one-liners fly:

“Mommy, that lady doesn’t even dress for the job site like Joanna does. Why would she wear heels when she knows that house has no floors?!”
“Mommy, that lady can’t even pick up a hammer. Joanna can, you know.”
“You know; Joanna picks out every single design thing in the houses she fixes. That girl can’t even pick out paint!”  
Joanna knows what looks good together—like a boss! That lady? No. Just no…”

Rest assured, there is much conversation with my daughter about how we all have different skills, talents—things we bring to the table in different situations. We can’t all be Joanna, right? Yet she is pretty adamant in her hero worship. “If you don’t want to mess up your manicure and makeup, don’t do fixer uppers, people!”
I look forward to watching each and every episode with Gracie. It’s a way to spend time with her when I’m not as cool as I once was, when I put down the discipline hammer and she isn’t speaking to me, or when I’m a “fashion don’t” in her eyes because leggings with puppy selfies splattered all over them isn’t my thing. We still have the Gaines bringing us together. I’ll take that precious time with her any day of the week.

As I attempt to quell her need to fly to Waco and stakeout the Gaines’s Magnolia gift store parking lot, waiting for Chip and Joanna to arrive so she can pounce on them, she’s noticed another home renovation power duo films a lot closer to home. Good Bones is an HGTV show featuring the mother-daughter company Two Chicks And A Hammer in Indianapolis, Indiana. “You realize, Mom, we could go find them, then take them for lunch and then they might let me help pick out tile! They would love me!”

“Yes, baby, we could and I’m sure they’d love you,” I assure her. “Yet chasing people down like that is called stalking and could lead to us ending up in the pokey.”

She considers this a moment. She replies, “Yeah, but you, Dad, and brothers did that in Georgia looking for The Walking Dead cast! You drove all over Senoia looking for them!”

I smile. “That’s different, Gracie, because Norman Reedus would totally love me.”

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: April's Glow

By Melissa Amster

Distracting herself from a string of bad luck and a disastrous love life, bubbly April Vedora throws herself into her new business —April’s Glow, a candle store in seaside Tarrin’s Bay — the enchanting scents and colourful atmosphere provide a safe haven. But outside business hours she’s clueless about her personal life.

When a mysterious loner moves in next door, she can’t help but become intrigued, and ex-soldier Zac Masterson is equally fascinated by April. But both have sworn off relationships, and while April avoids her emotions by keeping busy and sociable, Zac hides away from the world — and his past.

As the pair chip away at each other’s facades and secrets are revealed, April fears that the man she is unwillingly falling for could represent everything she’s worked so hard to avoid. Or could they be just what the other needs?

They’ve shared their secrets over the back fence, but resolving the past is going to mean opening the doors to their hearts — and letting each other in.
(Synopsis courtesy of Juliet Madison.)

I am really enjoying the "Tarrin's Bay" series and wish I didn't have to wait so long between books. They're short, but incredibly sweet and lovingly written. I always know I'm in for a treat, and a few teary moments, with each one. April's Glow is no exception. Aside from the tears, I also laughed and smiled quite a lot. The dialogue is so genuine and the story focuses more on thoughts and interactions than descriptions. However, it is still easy to visualize people and places without needing much to go on. I was able to relate to the way April felt at various times, Also, the romantic scenes left me feeling fluttery.

Juliet also addressed a topic I wouldn't have given much thought to, and I thought she did it in an interesting and sensitive way. There was another issue that was also handled really well throughout the story.

Overall, this is another great story that I enjoyed thoroughly. I await the characters I'll get to meet in the May book, although I hope Juliet writes more about some of April's friends in future novels from this series.

Of course, I had to cast this for Hollywood's consideration:
April: Hayley Atwell (Who happens to be born in April!)
Zac: Michael Fassbender (He also was born in April!)

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

Other "Tarrin's Bay" novels:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laura McNeill is like a sister to a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Laura McNeill here to celebrate the publication of her second novel, Sister Dear. The last time she was at CLC, she went by the name Lauren Clark. She has several chick lit titles under that name, including Pie Girls. However, as Laura McNeill, her books have a dark side to them. Sara and Melissa A loved Center of Gravity (published July 2015) and reviewed it recently.

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura’s writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer award. She currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. Visit Laura at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Laura has a copy of Sister Dear for a lucky US reader!

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows. But Allie’s return to Brunswick, Georgia, sends earthquakes through the small, coastal community. Even her daughter Caroline, now a teenager, challenges Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a campaign for the truth, digging deep into the past. Her investigation threatens her parole status, her own safety, and the already-fragile bond with her family. What Allie uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom. (Courtesy of Laura's website.)

How does writing a novel compare to being a broadcast journalist? What are the similarities and differences?
Initially, when comparing the career of a novelist and a journalist, it is easy to say that the two professions differ greatly. The novelist tells stories; tales containing fictional characters who live in worlds that only exist in the mind of a writer. In contrast, the journalist goes after the facts of each story, tracking down the “who, what, when, why, and where” from credible sources.

As a journalist, daily deadlines are required. Most of the time, the story assigned in the morning must be written and turned in by late afternoon. There is also a significant constraint on story length, as most news stories are thirty seconds to a minute and a half in length.

In contrast, a novelist has a much greater amount of time to write a story, though they may have a deadlines set forth by a publisher. This means many months or more than a year to write a story. And while a journalist may have one editor read his or her work, it is likely that a novel will go through the editorial process three, four, or more times. And though novels don’t have video clips or voiced tracks like news stories, book trailers can be used to convey a message or share a theme.

The similarities between the two careers are simple—telling the stories well enough to make people care, and getting people to wonder what will happen next. In both a novel and a news story, the author (or journalist) attempts to grab a reader’s attention, then proceeds to offer up description, dialogue, details, and conflict in order that his or her audience stay engaged and interested. In a news story or novel, if the writer can leave the reader satisfied, stimulated, and thinking about the story long after it’s finished, then both the journalist and novelist have done a good job.

What is your approach to writing – do you outline first or just start typing?
I am definitely a writer who enjoys outlining. In my first attempt at writing a manuscript, I tried to sit down and type without planning first, and it ended up being a little short of a disaster! Since then, I’ve begun every story with a “what if” idea, and then fleshed out the structure of the novel from start to finish. Even now, I don’t even begin the first page without having at least a few sentences in place to describe each chapter. I generally know the ending of the story, though some of the characters and conflicts along the way might change and grow.

What drew you into writing a novel?
I was first drawn to novel writing after spending six years as a TV reporter and anchor for two CBS affiliates. I came away from that job with so many stories—ranging from really funny to very serious and compelling. I had observed criminal trials, watched as houses burned to the ground, talked to politicians, interviewed physicians, and walked fields with farmers. My first novel, Stay Tuned, published under the pen name, Lauren Clark, was a fictional account of my time in TV news.

On your website, you say you’re a runner. What is the longest distance run you’ve ever completed?
I’ve recently moved and changed jobs, so I’ve taken a break from running for a few months, but I do find it to be excellent stress relief and a time to get away from the world and think, if just for thirty minutes. The longest distance I’ve ever completed is a little over six miles.

If money and time weren’t a factor and you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to visit Greece, and specifically, the Greek Isles. I fell in love with the idea of visiting Santorini after reading the second novel in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. From the photographs that I’ve seen, the crystal blue water and rocky landscape seem idyllic. I love Mediterranean food, as well, so I’d definitely want to visit and explore for at least a month!

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – which social media site are you most addicted to?
If there was a “chocolate and coffee” social media App, I’d be a big fan! That said, I’m fairly active on Facebook and Twitter, but I do like Instagram and all of the filters and features the best. I do have a lot of fun with the Instagram Layout App when I have a lot of photos from a family gathering or a fun event. I also adore looking at friends’ accounts, checking out their photos, and keeping up on their lives!

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

~Interview by Tracey Meyers

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Dinner Party

In a few days, Jewish families everywhere will be sitting around their dining room tables reciting blessings and telling a well known story from long ago while drinking four glasses of wine (or grape juice) and eating matzah. The Passover Seder is the setting for Brenda Janowitz's latest novel, The Dinner Party. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers! 

This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

Brenda's Seder table

"THE DINNER PARTY is everything a reader wants in a novel: guests with a knack for inspired conversation and family drama swirling both above and below the table. A truly entertaining read!" - Elin Hilderbrand, author of THE RUMOR

You think your family is chock full of quirky personalities? Pull up a chair for a holiday meal with the Golds of Greenwich! The vibe is hilarious with a side of heartfelt (but never corny); and the guests are as relatable as they are occasionally appalling. Brenda Janowitz works the room with sensitivity and humor. Thanks to her consummate hostessing, The Dinner Party is a satisfying, delicious meal that sticks with you long after it’s over. – Elisabeth Egan, author of A WINDOW OPENS

“In her funny and smart novel, THE DINNER PARTY, Brenda Janowitz tells a story of transformation and hilarity. With an acute eye for complicated family dynamics, Janowitz takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters at a holiday dinner. In great bursts of laughter and solemnity, we meet and love family members who are all trying to find their way both in the world and also in their family. As with any good dinner party, it’s a pleasure spending time at Janowitz’s table.” – Patti Callahan Henry, author of THE IDEA OF LOVE

“Don’t miss a seat at this table! Brenda Janowitz’s THE DINNER PARTY charms and delights with a story of the time-honored struggles between parents and grown children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters as unconditional love bumps up against unmet expectations. Laugh-out-loud funny with the biggest heart, you will fall in love with this family.” - Jamie Brenner, author of THE WEDDING SISTERS

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Lonely Hearts Club and Recipe for a Happy Life. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, the New York Post, Publisher’s Weekly, PopSugar,, Hello Giggles, Writer’s Digest Magazine,, and xojane.

Brenda attended Cornell University and Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review. Upon graduation from Hofstra, worked for the law firm Kaye Scholer, LLP, and did a federal clerkship with the Honorable Marilyn Dolan Go, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York.

You can find Brenda at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. Also check out Melissa A's interview with her at The Jewish Food Experience.

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 25th at midnight EST.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review: Choose Your Own Love Story

By Sara Steven

Face it––love is a crap-shoot. Say no to one guy and you might miss out on your soul mate. Say yes to another and you might find yourself in the middle of the world’s most awkward threesome. This book grants you the ultimate dating fantasy: a do-over!

Choose Your Own Love Story puts YOU in the driver’s seat and lets you make over 50 choices and pick from 20 possible endings. Will you make out with sexy, brooding Zack, the mayor of red-flag island? Or will you settle down with Anthony, a gentle plumber with restless leg syndrome? If you don’t like where you end up, go back and start again!

How will your story end? Are you ready to find out? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

One of my favorite genres, when I was a kid, were the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. I loved having the power to go whichever route I chose to, even if that meant an utterly disastrous ending, which I had quite a few of those experiences. Not knowing what the outcome would be was one of the perks.

That’s the sort of premise you’ll find with Choose Your Own Love Story! Cleverly executed and very unique, this book allots for any and all scenarios when it comes to matters of the heart. For my own journey, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pursue one of the bad boy characters. Since it’s totally fictional (I mean, I am a happily married woman), why not go down a darker, crazier road than you’d ever entertain in real life? I have to say, I was surprised by the outcome I had. I totally thought one of my decisions would end up entirely different than it had! That’s a large part of the appeal. You never really know what’s going to happen, even when you think you’re choosing the “right” option, or the “wrong” one, for fun.

And, unlike real life, if you goof up the first go around (or multiple go-arounds), you can always start over and try a different adventure, no harm, no foul! There are so many options to choose from, too, which certainly keeps things interesting. You can take the road less traveled, or choose a more straight laced approach. The best thing is, it’s entirely up to you.

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