Monday, October 31, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--October 2016

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:




(at Merrylandgirl)

"Spooky" Spotlight: The a Halloween treat!

Happy Halloween! Today, we're featuring a ghost story. Get under your covers with your flashlights (and the treats you stashed away) for The Next by Stephanie Gangi. We have a copy for one lucky reader!

Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.

Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right―makes Ned pay―so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

"A profound and provocative page-turner about love and loss, revenge and redemption, this debut novel will stick with you for a long time. Stephanie Gangi is an instant, new favorite."
— Emily Giffin, bestselling author of Something Borrowed and First Comes Love.

Check out a review at Thoughts on This 'n That! (Giveaway has ended though.)

Stephanie Gangi is a NYC novelist, poet, and by day, a corporate communications strategist. She is working on her second novel, and a chapbook of poems, More Than Four. She has been living with breast cancer for 15 years and wrote this first book in her late fifties. Visit Stephanie at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Next is published by St. Martin's Press and part of BookSparks' 2016 Fall Reading Challenge.

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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Giveaway ends November 6th at midnight EST.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: Flight Risk

By Sara Steven

When Aubrey Thomas, a phobic travel writer, must choose between jumping to what she considers certain death from a skydiving static line or sinking even deeper into debt in the unemployment line, she scrambles to find someone—anyone!—who can help her overcome her debilitating fear of heights. Enter John Trelawney, a charming window washer who thinks nothing of dangling by a cable fifty stories up claims he can cure her. Everything about John makes Aubrey nervous... including the way her heart kicks into overdrive whenever he's around. But, at the end of her rope, she takes him up on his offer. Can he really help her get over her fear of heights? Or will Aubrey find herself free falling...possibly even in love with him? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Aubrey is terribly afraid of heights. I can relate, considering my own horrific fear of anything over two stories. Yet for Aubrey, dealing with her fears, or, not dealing with them, is placing a huge burden on her work life. It’s hard for a travel writer to talk about adventures unless they’ve actually lived them, and when one of her assignments is to skydive, she’s nearly ready to throw in the towel and give up. That is, until she meets John Trelawney.

John has guaranteed her that he can cure her of her fears, but he has no clue as to what he’s really getting himself into. Aubrey’s fears stem from deep-rooted issues, ones that a simple shove out of a plane won’t fix. John has to really get inside Aubrey’s head, a difficult task, considering how much she keeps hidden away from him, from others, and how closely guarded she is to the truth. John has his own secrets to contend with. It’s harder and harder to try and maintain a certain persona, especially when he discovers there might be more to Aubrey than what meets the eye.

The "Assignment: Romance" series has always been one of my favorites, which is why I couldn’t wait to read Flight Risk. As always, Valentin puts her own unique spin on relationships, whether it’s between romantic interests, or friendships. While reading about Aubrey and John’s struggles, you also discover what’s going on beneath the surface, especially with the other characters from this series, like Mattie Ross, from False Start, and Claire Nelson, from Help Wanted. They’re all intertwined beautifully, making this such a wonderful, smooth read, from start to finish.

Thanks to Barbara Valentin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Barbara Valentin:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Waking up with Pamela a book giveaway

We have seen Pamela Ford at some other book blogs we love, so we are glad she's stopped by today to talk about her novels from "The Continental Breakfast Club" series: Over Easy and Fresh Brewed. She even has a set of both to give away! The third book in this series, Honey Glazed, is coming out later this year.

Pamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully sighing over the romance; and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-afters with plenty of plot - and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer - and finally author.

Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a National Readers' Choice Awards finalist, a Kindle Book Awards finalist, a Maggie Awards for Published Novelists finalist, and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel. Visit Pamela at her website, Facebook, and Twitter(Bio courtesy of Pamela's website.)

Allie Parker's had enough. Just because she's a dog groomer, her overachieving family of doctors and lawyers treats her like a child. She's convinced that a successful husband is all she needs to change their attitudes.

So when she and her friends come up with a brilliant new way to meet eligible men, Allie squeezes into her sister's stylish clothes and sneaks into continental breakfast at an upscale hotel to find herself the perfect guy.

Before Allie has taken her last bite of syrup-laden waffle, she's met the man of her dreams. But what she doesn't know is that he's a jewel thief who mistakenly thinks she's his contact—and so does everyone else who's after his stash of diamonds.

Suddenly Allie's world is crazily upended. And as she scrambles to prove her innocence and get back to her old life, she discovers happily ever after sneaks up when you least expect it.

Breanna Mitchell is on her way to a relaxing vacation at the ocean. Maybe she'll even have a beachside fling to help her get over a recent breakup. But when a tropical storm makes her destination hotel uninhabitable, a chance encounter at continental breakfast delivers a fabulous option—with a catch.

She and her friends can stay at a privately-owned, three-story oceanfront home—if she pretends to be the girlfriend of the owner's heartbreaker grandson, Ethan. Since he won't even be there, how hard could it be?

Everything is going swimmingly until Bree drinks too much wine and regales the family with romantic tales about her relationship with Ethan. His adorable brother Adam gets suspicious. His marriage-minded grandma gets engagement fever. The beautiful woman next door gets teary-eyed.

And then, Ethan unexpectedly arrives. Suddenly Bree is about to get everything she's ever wished for—but is it what she really wants?

**Both synopses are from Pamela's website.**

Describe your writing in three words.
Fresh, funny, fast-paced

What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
A blogger said in her review that “Over Easy would make such an adorable rom-com movie.” I hadn’t pictured the book as a movie prior to reading that review, but I was very flattered!

What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with aspiring novelists?
Learn the craft. Completing a book gets easier when you understand goal, motivation and conflict; turning points; the black moment; and character arcs—and utilize them in your writing. This is a great book: GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon.

If you could cast Over Easy and Fresh Brewed as movies, who would you choose for the lead roles?
Oh, this is tough. . .and subject to change! Here goes: Allie—Zoey Deschanel, Bree—Emma Stone, Meagan—Rachel McAdams, Jax—Ryan Reynolds, Adam—Ryan Gosling

If you could live anywhere in the world, besides where you’re currently living, where would it be, and why?
There are so many tempting places! I ski—so it probably wouldn’t be somewhere that’s warm all year round. I think I would choose the Seattle area because it has moderate temperatures, mountains (to ski in!), Puget Sound, Lake Washington, is close to the ocean, and just a quick hop to Hawaii.

Who is your current celebrity crush?
Matt Damon’s always my guy. Handsome, interesting, makes great movies, and in real life he gives back—donating time and money to several charities. He’s a founder of which works to improve access to safe, clean water for people around the world. Hard not to love a guy who cares and shares.

Thanks to Pamela for visiting with us and sharing her books 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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Giveaway ends November 1st at midnight EST

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: This Was Not the Plan

By Jami Deise

What is women’s fiction? Generally and broadly defined as a novel featuring a female protagonist in which her relationships are more important than specific goals and outcomes, these books are usually written by women (I think Nicholas Sparks’ books are considered romance rather than women’s fiction) and often lumped in with chick lit and romance. Lately, a lot of women’s fiction novels have featured working women whose lives have hit a road bump, causing them to take a second look at their jobs, husbands, child care situations and other family issues to try to achieve balance once again.

So can a book be considered women’s fiction if the character doing this is a man?

According to Amazon, no. The book-retailing behemoth has categorized Cristina Alger’s This Was Not the Plan as general literature in the humorous/family life genre. But for me, the novel – published in hardcover in February and now out in paperback – is clearly women’s fiction. If for no other reason, because I doubt most men would be as interested in its subject matter as women would be.

Lawyer Charlie Goldwyn was widowed last year at thirty-three, when his wife Mira died in a plane crash. Father to five-year-old Caleb, he’s avoided spending any real time with the boy due to the lucky coincidence of twin sister Zadie, who has no job and no life and has lived in his New York apartment since before the plane crash. Being up for partner means Charlie routinely leaves for work before dawn and comes home after Caleb goes to bed. To settle an important case, Charlie spends three days at the office, then skips an important dinner for Caleb to attend a mandatory party. Exhausted and drunk, he makes an unfortunate “Jerry Maguire” type speech that ends up on YouTube. Instead of making partner, Charlie is shown the door.

At the same time, Zadie has a boyfriend who wants to spend time with her, and Zadie thinks Charlie should use his unemployment to get to know Caleb, an anxious boy who dresses like a girl and frets over natural disasters. Charlie barely knows the boy, is still grieving Mira, and is more concerned about his next job than getting to know his son.

My biggest question in picking up this book was not whether Charlie and Caleb would bond, or if Charlie would find a suitable replacement for Mira, but whether Alger would write believably in first person as a man. For the most part, I think she does. There were some instances, especially in the beginning, where I felt the sentences and descriptions were longer than male writing tends to be – especially when the man in question is a white-collar lawyer, who tends to be more at home writing briefs than narratives. But overall, Alger convinced me that Charlie was male, especially in the relationship with Caleb. Charlie is bewildered by Caleb in a way that a mother – even a mother with a high-powered job – never seems to be. Even as the two become closer, Charlie maintains a distance from Caleb that mothers – who often say that their hearts grew legs and left their bodies when they gave birth – rarely seem to have. (For a similar book written by a man, take a look at Greg Olear’s Fathermucker, a first-person account from a stay-at-home dad.)

And yet, this book really isn’t about those issues of work-family balance that women struggle with. With Zadie in the house, Charlie never once has to leave a client meeting early to fetch a sick child from camp. He never has to bring a kid along to a work lunch. Still, the best parts of the book are Charlie’s attempts at bonding with Caleb, whose penchant for girls’ clothing has made him an outcast at camp.

The novel has a good pace, and will appeal to readers like myself who enjoy examining work/family conundrums. However, I found myself frustrated as the story played out. The word “transgender” is never used in question to Caleb (concern about sexual preference does come up.), even though transgender children and their parents are becoming more and more visible. Then this plot is dropped almost entirely, as Charlie and Zadie’s back story about their father takes almost center stage. As far as his career goes, after making his “Jerry Maguire” speech, Charlie does nothing Jerry Maguire-like for the rest of the book.

I looked forward to reading a novel about a widowed lawyer juggling fatherhood with an all-consuming career, and I enjoyed This Was Not the Plan. However, the overlap between the two was smaller than I’d expected.

Thanks to Get Red PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Cristina Alger:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

By Becky Gulc

I have loved every book I’ve read by Jenny Colgan and she remains one of my favourite authors so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review her latest novel. Released in the US and Canada as The Bookshop on the Corner, the UK version is entitled The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After.

This book follows Nina, a devoted librarian living in the midlands with her housemate. When the local library service is overhauled, Nina is basically left without a job, with the only opportunity left open to her being to apply for a job which quite frankly is far from what Nina is used to: sharing her love of books with others and matching people to the perfect book for them. Feeling a little lost, Nina needs to re-evaluate and quickly. When she spots an advert for a rather large van up in the Scottish Highlands, a seemingly crazy idea takes formation – could Nina start her own mobile bookshop business? When she accrues the bulk of library stock she certainly has products to start selling! But is it a go-er?

This was another fantastic book by Jenny. The contrasting locations were very vivid in my mind. Nina has quite an unusual way of getting her stock up to Scotland, making the most of new friendships formed with freight train drivers she meets in an eventful situation at a crossing in an outing in the rather large and wayward van. I loved this part of the story, particularly the messages and gifts left on the tree between the characters.

Nina quickly settles into a different way of life and goes with the flow. Having never anticipated staying up in the highlands to run her business, she soon realises that this business is just what is needed in the area! There are some great characters, her grumpy farmer landlord Lennox, the teenager in need, and her brother and her former housemate who comes to stay for an extended period of time. There’s a great sense of place and community in this book and the passion for books and reading is clear throughout, Nina’s enthusiasm rubs off on people young and old, avid and reluctant readers, which I loved to read about.

There is, of course, a romance element, and whilst not wanting to give anything away, I did enjoy these parts of the story, particularly the fairy-tale romance--or so it seems--in the earlier parts of the novel. Overall though, romance was a secondary feature to a novel I enjoyed once more due to its sense of community and place. My only slight criticism is that it felt a bit rushed in parts, for example it seemed as soon as Nina arrives in the highlands she is immediately part of the community without this building or being explained in the narrative, but a minor thing that didn’t bother me.

A real treat of a book, especially for keen book-enthusiasts who love to share the joy of reading with others.

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

More by Jenny Colgan:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review: Lovers and Newcomers

By Sara Steven

Miranda Meadowe has spent most of her late adult life living alone. After her husband passed away, she had a hard time imagining herself with any other man, content to spend her hours within the walls of the home passed down through family lines. While she feels herself rooted to the present, she also finds herself remembering the past, the special relationships she’d formed with college friends decades earlier. Back when she saw the future looming ahead for miles and miles. How did life get away from her?

Bringing to fruition a special plan put into place so many years ago, by the very circle she trusts her life to, she invites her cronies to live with her, on the mass amount of land that surrounds her beloved home. There’s Sel and Polly, intent on sprucing up the barn house, living out the rest of their lives within walls they remodel with their own bare hands. Amos and Katherine want to start from the ground up, creating a custom design fit for a king, and queen. And then there’s Colin, content to stay with Miranda when the mood suits him. When the six of them are together, there’s nothing they can’t achieve.

And nothing that remains unchanged.

With close friends often comes closely-guarded secrets, a lifetime of skeletons better left buried in a closet. First loves, lost loves, infidelities and lies, bubbling to the surface, threatening to damage the very foundation this special friendship was built on. Self-discovery and the constant reminder that time can only move forward, never backwards, only adds to the pressure and pain brought to light. Throw in an Iron Age princess burial ground spanning thousands of years, an unforeseen diversion from what’s really going on within this dynamic group, and you’ve got yourself a beautifully-written phenomena.

I could really feel the struggle within every character, even the ones I knew were meant to be the antagonists. You don’t want to root for them, but given the backstory, the reasons why they are the way they are, you can’t help but want to see them rise up. On the flip side, protagonists were very flawed and very real. I could see the connection between each and every friend, every dynamic working wonderfully to create a story about friendship and love, the foundation to Lovers and Newcomers. I got the feeling that in the end, Miranda wouldn't be who she is, or where she is, without the support of those who know her, inside and out.

While the friend dynamic is less than perfect, just like what most of us would encounter in real life, I couldn’t help but want a close tie like that with my own friends when I’m nearing my golden years. Most of us could only be so lucky to have relationships span as many decades as this group has, and whether or not those relationships are meant to continue on past the drama and chaos remains to be seen. It won’t hurt to try. Or maybe it will.

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

More by Rosie Thomas:

Friday, October 21, 2016

What's in the Mail

Melissa A:
The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner from Touchstone (e-book via Edelweiss)
It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany from Atria  (e-book via Edelweiss)
Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries by
Helen Fielding from Alfred A. Knopf
This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger from Touchstone
I See You by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley
The Slow Waltz of Turtles by
Katherine Pancol from Penguin Random House
Hot Flash Holidays by Nancy Thayer from Random House
The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman from Thomas Dunne
The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman from William Morrow

Melissa A and Amy:
First Light by Bill Rancic from Putnam

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams from HarperCollins

To Catch a Cat by/from Heather Green

I See You by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

The Christmas Cake Cafe by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book)
Licking Flames by Diana Kirk from
MindBuck Media (e-book)
Amour Anarchy: A Memoir by/from
Maura Stone
Seed of the Sunflower by/from Lisa Edwards (e-book)

Guest Book Review: The Littlest Bigfoot

By E.Z. Amster

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The Littlest Bigfoot is truly inspiring to me. It teaches me about friendship. When Millie, of the Yare, meets Alice, the human or no-fur as the Yare called them, they begin a friendship that no one could ever make as beautiful as theirs. They were very lonely children so it was such a miracle for them to find each other from two different sides of Lake Standish. I would recommend this book to all of my friends in my grade (80 students!). I give this book five stars for its beautiful story of how the lonely children make a friendship. I hope Jennifer Weiner will write more books for kids my age.

P. S. The cover is beautiful!

E.Z. is Melissa Amster's older son. He enjoys reading, cooking, playing clarinet, and drawing pictures. The Littlest Bigfoot was published on his birthday. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jacquelyn Middleton's bridge to a book giveaway

We're pleased to introduce Jacquelyn Middleton and feature her debut novel, London Belongs to Me. Upon seeing her photo, Melissa A immediately introduced her to our Chick Lit Cheerleader, as they look like they could be sisters. They hit it off right away!

Jacquelyn is an award-winning freelance writer with articles published by several of the most popular magazines, newspapers, and websites in North America including Canadian Living, Best Health, National Geographic Travel, The Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest, Chatelaine, Today’s Parent, and Flare. She previously worked in television broadcasting for Chum Television (Citytv and MuchMusic), and Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting (Discovery Health Channel, Slice and National Geographic Channel), and lives in Toronto.

When Jacquelyn is not writing, you can find her hanging out in London, waiting in a comic con line with her husband, or chasing after her bossy Schipperke. Visit Jacquelyn at her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy of London Belongs to Me to give away. This book is also part of their 2016 Fall Reading Challenge.

Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being 21-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When it teams up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is for her.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
Publishing London Belongs to Me was the realization of a life-long dream.

How did you decide to write chick lit?
To me, Chick Lit is the most enjoyable genre to read and it has so much heart. My favourite books are stories about love, friendship, and overcoming great odds to become the woman you are meant to be. Everyone can relate to yearning for someone, or something, and the struggle to be understood. The best chick lit stories always have a large dose of all those ingredients. With London Belongs to Me, I basically wrote the story that I wanted to read.

Which authors have inspired you?
My favourite book growing up was E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. It's the most beautiful story about friendship that I've ever read. And that last paragraph … makes me cry every time I read it. I also find Karen Swan, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Karma Brown, and Mhairi McFarlane incredibly inspiring. I devour their novels.

A brilliant American writer named Helene Hanff is a huge inspriation to me. In her memoirs, I found a kindred spirit. She loved London like I do. She wrote two memoirs that I highly recommend: 84 Charing Cross Road, and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I'm also very fond of Susan Allen Toth. She's an author of several memoirs about England. I naturally drift to people who love London, and the UK like I do.

If London Belongs to Me were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I love this question. I definitely have certain people in mind for my characters. In some cases, they're an amalgamation of several people, while others are just one person. Many of the early readers of London Belongs to Me have told me who they see for Alex, Lucy, Freddie, etc., but rarely do their choices match mine. I like the idea that readers will visualize their own cast, and I would hate for my casting to sway how they might feel about the characters, so I'll leave you guessing!

What is the strangest or craziest date you have ever been on?
My craziest date is straight out of a chick lit novel. It took place in NYC with my now-husband. I lived in Canada. He lived in the UK. We met the night before at a concert by an Irish band, and we were both leaving to fly home to our respective countries the next day. Maybe I'll turn our story into a novel one day.

What is your favourite weekend activity?
Weekends are usually devoted to plenty of walks with my dog, watching Manchester United play, or the latest British TV series with my Brit husband. The weekend gets bonus points if it involves a meal out for Italian or Indian, a leisurely stroll around our favourite bookstores, and a film. And there has to be British chocolate, but that's a daily thing. Why wait until the weekend?

Thanks to Jacquelyn for chatting with us and to BookSparks 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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Giveaway ends October 26th at midnight EST

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Every vote matters

Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker is not here to tell us how to vote next month. Instead, she has a sweet and heartwarming story about her daughter's campaign for Student Advisory Council. This sounds like it would be much more fun to follow than the real election.

Take it away, Jen!

The Campaign Trail

“I’m going to run for Student Advisory Council,” my daughter, Gracie, announced while haphazardly rifling through her purple Trapper Keeper. I wasn’t quite sure I heard her correctly. This is my child who loves the path of least resistance; loves a sure thing. Her safety net usually consists of steering clear of anything that might involve rejection, conflict, or opening up to others. I know this well because she is the younger version of me. I’m not certain what the catalyst was that changed my inhibitions years ago. Perhaps series of small steps of confidence, a giant leap—who knows? If only we had Marty McFly’s Back to The Future DeLorean, we could check it out together. Somewhere along my journey through life I made the choice to not let fear of anyone, or anything, hold me back and that’s something I want not only for my children, but for others as well. Fear can be gripping; paralyzing, and keep you from what your heart desires.

Gracie handed me the paper to sign. The one that sealed her fate as a nominee once I gave my permission for her to run. How interesting in this 2016 election season, right?

The time had come to get down to brass-tacks. “So we’re going to need to talk about your platform,” I advised. She stared at me with the face of a lost soul, to which I quickly countered, “What matters to you? What do you want to see changed at school? What would you like to see happen to make your fellow students and community happy?”

The lightbulb moment.

“I want to make sure we have more playground equipment because not all kids get to play at recess. I want my school to work with others in the community to help raise money for causes; veterans, animals, and kids who are sick.”

And away she went filled with ideas, dreams, and plans.

Over the next few days, her campaign team (read: me) went to work helping design posters, prepping her speech, and keeping morale up. It also led to discussions about the season our nation is in. One where we as a nation are on the precipice of electing new officials into office. The revelation to my daughter that once upon a time, women and minorities couldn’t cast a ballot. I hope I impressed upon her the clear truth that every voice, and every vote matters.

I'd like to thank Pinterest for helping me
NOT reinvent the campaign poster! 

So she campaigned. She made crazy cool posters. She delivered a speech filled with her hopes and wishes for her classmates. Then the scariest thing of all happened—she left her fate in the hands of the voters.

I picked her up after school on election day. Gracie’s head hung as she walked to the car. Her lip quivering as she closed the car door. “I didn’t win.”

My heart sank. “Baby, I’m so proud of you for running…”

Before I could go on with the “atta girl” pep talk, she interrupted. “Just kidding! I won!”
“You booger!” I laughed. I threw my arms around her. “Way to go!”

“Mom, I just hope I can do the best job possible to make my fifth grade class proud,” she remarked on the quick trip home.

I paused and thought about my words before offering advice. I mean, I was now Chief of Staff for Gracie Tucker. Kind of a big deal. “Gracie, as long as you follow your heart, do the right thing, listen to others and work with your peers to make positive decisions for others, it’ll be a great year.”
“Mom, I think you should tell the same thing to the two running for president because I hope they think about those things.”

And this is why I’m thankful to be Senior Advisor for my daughter and not for anyone on a larger scale. This little corner of the world, this young student council member whom I’ve been given the charge to raise, is all the political pull on a member of office I desire.

When she came home and celebrated her win
with her best four-legged friends. 
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.

Release Week Blitz and Giveaway: Mixing It Up

We're excited to feature Tracie Banister's latest novel, Mixing It Up! Gail enjoyed Tracie's debut, Blame It on the Fame. Melissa A included her previous novel, Twin Piques, on her 2015 favorites list.

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Manhattan upper-cruster Cecily Sinclair now uses that pricey utensil to dish up fancy French fare on her cooking show, Serving Romance. When there’s an executive shake-up at the network, she’s not worried. Not much anyway. Her show’s a hit after all. Why would the new CEO want to mess with success?
The driving force behind several buzzed-about networks, Devlin Hayes is considered to be a wunderkind in the television industry. Although his plans to rebrand CuisineTV and make Serving Romance more Millennial-friendly don’t thrill Cecily, her charming, blue-eyed boss is a hard man to say “no” to and she really wants to keep her jobeven if that means sharing screen time with a loathsome blast from her past.   
Mercurial Italian chef Dante Marchetti a.k.a. “Il Duce” was once Cecily’s boss, and she has the PTSD to prove it. Now the owner of one of the hottest restaurants in town, Dante’s egomania knows no bounds and his constant attempts to provoke and upstage Cecily make her want to conk him on the head with a sauté pan. She thinks they’re toxic together, but viewers love their chemistry and clamor for more.
As Cecily battles to maintain the integrity of her show, she finds herself scheming and manipulating right along with Dante and Devlin. Is she fighting a lost cause? Does she really belong on TV, or would her culinary talent be better served elsewhere? And could one of the men who makes Cecily’s blood boil ignite a passion in her for something other than food?

Purchase a copy of Mixing It Up between October 19th, 2016 and October 25th, 2016 and you could win this fantastic prize pack inspired by the book’s heroine and her love of French food!

This prize pack includes:
Garnier-Thiebaut Oh, La La, Chéri French-themed 4-piece Kitchen Linens Set
(Apron, kitchen towel, pot holder, and oven mitt.)

Kate Spade Deco Dot Recipe Box with 8 tabbed dividers and 40 recipe cards

The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano

To enter this giveaway, simply e-mail the author at with your proof of purchase. Entries will be accepted until midnight on October 26th, 2016 when a winner will be selected via random drawing. This is an international giveaway, so anyone who buys Mixing It Up within the allotted time frame is eligible to win. Good luck!

An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play she penned. (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she also starred in and tried to direct the production.)
Tracie’s dreams of authorial success were put on the backburner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills. Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for 12 years. When it ended, she decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time. Mixing It Up is her fourth Chick Lit release, and in it Tracie finally got to live out her fantasy of being a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

Author Newsletter – The Banister Buzz