Best Women's Fiction of 2011

Best books of 2011 by Lisa

Like Liz mentioned in her best books of 2011 post, we read a f*ckload of books this year. And deciding which books made our favorites list was almost harder than deciding which movie Ryan Gosling looked hottest in this year. (For the record, after careful consideration, I've decided on Crazy, Stupid Love.) And even though it has NOTHING to do with this post...


Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

One more little thing before I get to my list o' books...what kind of end-of year post would this be without another AWESOME giveaway? (Liz gave away ten yesterday so of course I will too!)  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a BUNDLE O' BOOKS that includes novels from Meg Mitchell Moore to Kristin Hannah to Jackie Collins to Meg Cabot!  Check out the picture below to see all TEN books the winner will receive. We'll choose the winners on Monday December 26th after 6pm PST.

So without further adieu, here's my list.  And don't forget to tell me what YOUR fave novels of 2011 were!


1. The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore You know that feeling you get when a book sucks you in so hard and so fast that you think about the story and the characters when you're not even reading it? That's what happened to me when I devoured Meg Mitchell Moore's debut novel. I found her book about what happens when all of the children come back home to their parent's house at the same time so engaging and powerful that it resonated with me long after I finished reading it. So much so, that I knew it would make this list long before I ever officially created it. The Arrivals makes the perfect gift for any book lover who likes to dive in and barely come up for air until she's reached the last page. (PS: It also has one of my favorite covers of the year.)


2.  A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story by Isabel Gillies  When I wrote about Isabel Gillies just last month, I was crushing hard. Swooning. In love. All of the above. And let's just say, the crush has only deepened since. (I've re-read the book since writing that post and have to say it was even better the second time.) It's a beautifully written true story about the deep pain and loss of heartbreak and divorce and the deep resilience and sense of humor of love. Ladies, if you haven't yet read this memoir, treat yourself to a copy this Christmas.
3. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio  We named Sarah Jio our Lit IT Girl for a reason. I was so engrossed in this novel about riding a high for ten years and then having to start over that I could not put this debut novel down. And when I say couldn't put it down, that's not an exaggeration. I carried it with me everywhere and, at one point, was reading it while feeding my daughter. This novel makes a perfect gift for anyone who loves a good mystery and a good love story all rolled into one. (And BTW, Sarah Jio isn't done wowing us for 2011, she has a second fabulous novel, The Bungalow, coming out on December 27th. Yes, two in one year! Be looking for her 5 Loves and a Dud and, of course, a chance to win one of 5 copies of The Bungalow later this week!)
4. It's Hard Not to Hate You by Valerie Frankel   In a nutshell, I had a baby at the beginning of this year so I needed a damn good laugh (or a thousand million!).  And with this memoir, the hilarious Valerie Frankel may have just given me the best baby gift of all (sorry, Mom!) In a nutshell, after a health crisis and unlocking years of pent up rage, Frankel discovers that your Bitchy Twin might just be your funniest, most valuable and honest ally. One of the funniest books I read all year (and that's sayin' a lot because there a lot that had me laughing), there was no question this book was going to make my list. Put it in the stocking of anyone who needs a good, healthy LOL.
5. If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster  When one of my favorite authors of all time made her fiction debut, I felt like one of those crazy people that lines up for the latest Apple gadget or to try out for American Idol. I might as well have stayed up all night and slept in the rain on the sidewalk as I waited for this book to come out. And once I got my little mitts on it, I was over 'da moon (me and her million other fans!). It's a story that asks- can your marriage survive a DIY renovation? It follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) as they go through the  funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John Hughes’s movies made famous...and a lot more! The John Hughes references alone make this novel a must-read!
And one biography pic!
Y'all may not have known that, in addition to being a memoir whore, I'm also a biography whore!
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. In a word, fascinating.








Jackie Collins' 5 Loves and a Dud

Jackie Collins is an author who needs no introduction. She's Jackie. Freakin'. Collins. 400 million copies selling, New York Times bestselling (twenty-eight times over), play writing, movie directing, talk show hosting, Collins.  Ok, so maybe that was an introduction. But, c'mon, she's Jackie. Freakin'. Collins. *Drum roll please*

Calling all Jackie Collins lovers (and if you're not yet in love, you will be...) Lucky Santangelo is back!

In Goddess of Vengeance, Lucky (easily the most iconic heroine in many of Collins' novels) returns in a ferocious new novel that not only shows off the explosive, sexy glitter of the Las Vegas highlife but also introduces readers to a new generation of Santangelos ready to step into the limelight: Lucky’s sexy son, Bobby, and 17-year-old daughter, Max, whose youthful escapades will excite both longtime fans and those who have yet to discover the irresistible Santangelo Family appeal.

One word: Juicy.

Want your own copy? We bet you do! Put your name in the hat to win one of five copies by leaving a comment. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, September 18th after 6pm EST. In the meantime, read a chapter from Goddess of Vengeance here. And be sure to check out her campaign, Girls Can Do Anything, where Jackie asks fans to post to her Facebook page videos, stories and photos of extraordinary women in their lives. Love it!

And now we couldn't be more thrilled that Jackie is sharing her loves and a dud!



I freaking love chocolate.  It has to be milk chocolate and Reese's peanut butter cups rule!

I love driving my sports Jaguar while listening to Drake and Amy Winehouse at full volume.

I love my Twitter followers and Facebook fans!  Smart, fun and full of wisdom and wit.

I love writing.  It is my passion, and there is nothing better than creating interesting, sexy and diverse characters.


And my dud for the day would be married CHEATERS - men and women.  The smart way is to be faithful - make marriage count or get a divorce.  Role playing can be much more satisfying!

We couldn't agree more!

Thanks, Jackie!

xoxo, L&L

To find out more about the fabulous Jackie Collins, visit her website.


Liane Moriarty's 5 Loves and a Dud

It's a party! We're so excited the fabulous Liane Moriarty is our guest on CLIND! Cue the streamers, balloons and the big band! We've been a fan of this international best-selling author since we read her novel, Three Wishes. And we are majorly in love with her latest, What Alice Forgot, a story about what happens when you're visited by your younger self and get a chance at a do-over. How many of us would love that?! Here's the skinny on What Alice Forgot:

Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and discovers that she's actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.

A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes who she's become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.

Sounds fabulous right? If you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win one of five copies. We'll randomly select the winners after 6pm EST on Monday, September 12.



Am I meant to be writing about my relationship history here? In which case, I would need to change it to:  25 Duds and FINALLY, just when I was about to give up, a Love.  But perhaps ‘loves’ can mean whatever I want it to mean?  I’ve got that panicky exam question feeling, as if I’m about to miss the whole point. I may be overthinking this.  I’m the eldest child. We like to get things right.  Well, here goes:


1.     Books, books, books.  From the musty-smelling classics with yellowing, delicate pages at Grandma’s house to the chunky, racy, paperbacks in my Dad’s study, I’ve always loved them with an obsessive passion.   The only time I’ve ever opened a gift and literally screamed with delight was when my sister gave me a new Anne Tyler book for Christmas and I didn’t even know she had a new one out.

2.     That first glorious hit of caffeine.   Fellow coffee addicts will understand. I guess I wouldn’t kill for my morning cup of coffee. I might steal. I’d definitely lie.

3.     Readers who write to me. I don’t know why I still haven’t written to any of my favourite authors now I know how wonderful it is to receive letters and emails from readers.  When I finish a book I love, I just greedily reach for the next one, whereas some people take the time to write and say what a book meant to them.  It’s the ultimate in good manners, and I’ll never take it for granted.      

4.     Google.  How in the world did we live without Google? I just Googled that question and wasted half an hour discovering that no-one knows how we lived without Google.  The other day a bird flew into my house and got trapped in the living room. I was panicking. The bird was panicking. His friends gathered at the windows, tapping their beaks against the glass, chirping, GET OUT, GET OUT! My children were thrilled, running about, flapping their arms. What did I do? I googled, ‘bird trapped in house’ and within seconds, I had a solution. (Google it if you want to know.)

5.     Listening to my children make each other laugh.  I had a lot of trouble getting and staying pregnant, and for many years I thought I might have to accept that I wouldn’t ever be a mother.  Now I have a 3 year old son and an eighteen month old daughter, and their wicked laughter is the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. I wish I could send it back through time with a message to myself, “Listen to this.  It’s all going to be worth it.” Maybe the message got through and I heard them laughing in my dreams.   (Lucky I didn’t send back the sound of their tantrums.)

and a DUD

This whole horrible aging business.  From what I understand, every day that goes by, I’m going to look and feel just a tiny bit worse.  Shouldn’t someone write a letter of complaint about that? Why haven’t we lobbied and legislated against it? (Yes, yes, I know the alternative is worse.)

That seemed like a really depressing note on which to end, so I turned to trusty Google and found this quote:

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming…suddenly you find – at the age of 50 say, - that a whole new life has opened before you.” Agatha Christie.

So maybe aging won’t be such a dud after all.  Thank you, Agatha, and I sure hope you’re right.

Thanks, Liane! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

To find out more about the lovely and talented Liane Moriarty, visit her website.

Claire LaZebnik's 5 Loves and a Dud

It's a new month. A new season. And before we know it, it will be a new year (WTF?).  So as much as we (and you!) loved our feature 5 Do's and a Do-Over, we've decided it's time for something else new. So-Beyonce style-let's get up on stage, shake our asses and reveal our newest feature...

5 Loves and a Dud!

Your favorite authors will be dishing about the things they can't live without and the one thing they can do without-- forevuh.

And we couldn't be more thrilled that Claire LaZebnik is the first author to take the plunge and share her list (a must-read. We especially love the bit about sleeping with a dog!). Claire has written several fabulous books including Knitting Under the Influence, If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now and the just released Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts - a hilarious novel about a quirky family...

Keats Sedlak is the sanest member of her nutty nuclear family, but that isn’t saying much. Even though she’s in her twenties, she’s still constantly being summoned back home to help out her brilliant and eccentric parents.  Her two genius siblings are useless: her older sister’s long gone, and her younger brother hasn’t left the house in years.  The one constant in her life is her devoted long-term boyfriend, Tom, who provides a safe port during every familial storm.

Keats always knew that her parents’ marriage wasn’t ideal, but they’d managed to coexist in misery for so long that she assumed they’d stay together forever, so she’s pretty stunned to find out her mother’s filing for divorce and putting their beloved old house on the market.  Even more of a shock is the discovery that her mother has already plunged headfirst into the midlife dating pool, with three different men in her rotation and an unnerving tendency to stay out until the wee hours of the morning.

As her family falls apart, Keats has to reevaluate everything she’s ever assumed about her parents, her siblings, the life she’s made apart from them all, and, most importantly, the kind of love she wants for herself

Sound like a book you'd love? Well, lucky you! Because we have five copies to give away. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the 5 winners on Tuesday, September 6th after 6pm EST.  And now on to Claire's loves and a dud...



1. PRETZEL M&Ms.  You've got your salt, you've got your sugar, you've got your chocolate--all of life's essentials in one round, crunchy package.  I buy them in bulk, which is thrifty, and then I eat them in bulk, which is probably a mistake.  But if loving them is wrong, I don't want to be right.

2.  PANDORA: I'm still amazed at how the little people in my computer can read my mind once I load Pandora.  All I give them is one little song--one tiny clue to my taste--and then they play hour after hour of music I like.  The rare clunker only makes me appreciate how often they get it right.

3. THRIFT STORES.  Going to a thrift store is like going on a treasure hunt:  you hunt through racks and racks of stuff and suddenly stumble on something valuable.  Nothing costs more than a few dollars, even the good stuff, and what little money you spend goes to a good cause.  My all-time favorite is the OUT OF THE CLOSET chain.

4.  REREADING A FAVORITE OLD NOVEL.   I can't tell you how often I'll start a new book with high hopes only to give up halfway through.  When I start to wonder whether it's me--whether I just don't like to read anymore--I head to my bookshelves and pluck out an old favorite, something romantic and engrossing and inspiring.  And then I lose myself in it and remember that reading can be a pure joy.

5.  SLEEPING WITH A DOG.  And, no, I'm not talking about my husband.  I have two very sweet pups, a big gentle labrador and an energetic little poodle mix.  The big one's a good companion when my husband's out of town and I need someone of (almost) comparable size to take his place next to me, but the little one sleeps with me every night.  He curls up with his back against mine and that cozy warmth helps me drift off to sleep.


L.A. TRAFFIC.  Such a bummer.  The traffic on the West Side is like this BEAST in our lives.  It's like the troll who lives under the bridge--you know you're going to encounter him and you know that when you do, it's going to go badly for you, but sometimes you have no choice: you just have to cross that freakin' bridge and pay the freakin' toll.

To find out more about the funny and talented Claire LaZebnik, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. And if you're a YA fan, definitely check out her debut YA novel, Epic Fail.

Thanks, Claire!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa



Mary Kay Andrews' 5 Do's and a Do-Over

We're beyond excited to have the fabulous New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews on CLIND today! *cue bells, whistles and music*

Her latest novel (this is her eighth!), Summer Rental is the perfect beach read that we suggest you snap up immediately before summer ends. Because we don't know about you, but we're clinging to summer as long as possible! Just read the description of Summer Rental and you'll be wanting more...

Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she’s made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds–has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can’t hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life.  And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he’s hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he’s ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.  Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs?

Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

We told you it's a great novel! Just leave a comment for a chance to win one of five copies! We'll randomly select the winner after 6pm EST on Sunday, August 28th.


1. Dream big. Your reach should always exceed your grasp. Don’t hang around waiting for your ship to come in. Swim out and drag that sucker back to the dock!

2. Invest in your dream. Whether your dream is to start your own business, leave your day job, become a painter, or write the great American novel, you’ll need the proper tools. I didn’t have a computer at home when I started writing my first book, and I had to sneak back to the newspaper I worked for to use their computer, until I talked my husband into buying me my first home computer. Now, I don’t hesitate to budget money that will further my career, whether it’s buying a decent digital camera to use for blogging, or hiring a marketing professional to help spread the word about my books. Mama always said you have to spend money to make money.

3. Follow your passion, and figure out a way to make a living doing that. When I started college, my father wanted me to get a teaching degree, so I’d “have something to fall back on.” I stubbornly insisted on getting a journalism degree. I never expected to make any money at writing, but I knew I’d at least enjoy the work. And when journalism became drudgery, I made the jump to fiction, again, following my passion. I’ve never regretted any day I spent writing.

4. Be flexible. If you bump up against a brick wall in your career, back up and find a new path. I was heart-broken when I finally figured out my 14-year journalism career was going nowhere. It wasn’t until I sold my first book that I discovered I hadn’t failed at journalism at all---I’d just had a really long internship as a novelist. Now, I wouldn’t take anything for the lessons I learned as a big city newspaper reporter.

5. Be nice! You’ll always catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So say pretty please. Admit when you’re wrong, and keep it quiet when it turns out you were right. It’s just as easy as it is to make a friend as it is to make an enemy, so why not make a friend? And always, always, write thank you notes.


I wish I’d had more time with my parents. My mom has been gone almost seven years, my dad died five years ago. In what turned out to be the last years of their lives, I was so focused on my children and my career, I didn’t get to spend quality time with them. Now I so wish that I’d asked them more questions, listened more closely to their answers, and let them know how much I appreciated all the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings.

To learn more about Mary Kay Andrews, visit her website, stop by her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter. (Or all of the above!)

Thanks, Mary Kay!


Liz & Lisa

Lit It Girl: Debut Author: Meg Mitchell Moore

Congratulations to Meg Mitchell Moore on writing such an engaging and relatable DEBUT novel about the power of family. We can't say enough good things about The Arrrivals...or its author and that's why we chose her as our latest Lit: It Girl. So, forgive us, but we demand that you to buy it- and then start reading it-stat! And then start reading her list of answers to our Q's about how she made it in the publishing biz. It's an inspiring story for all of you aspiring authors out there or those just curious about the literary world. It can happen! But first, here's a taste of what The Arrivals is about... It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Vermont comes to an abrupt halt.

First, their daughter Lillian arrives, with her two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely when Jane ends up on bed rest. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood - only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.

By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family - and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true

And if you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win one of five copies of The Arrivals. We'll randomly select the winners after 6pm EST on Sunday, August 7th.



How many agents did you query before you found "the one"?

I don't know the exact answer to this question. Just for fun, I took a peek at my old "query" folder on my desktop and I quickly found 25 rejections. I know there were more that came through the mail, but don't know how many, and there may have been emails I deleted. So I'm guessing somewhere between 30 and 40. I'm sure there were some I sent out that never answered at all. I got every kind of rejection possible: the polite form rejection, the personalized but immediate rejection, the "I'd love to see the first chapter" followed by rejection, the "I'd love to see the whole manuscript" followed by rejection. Now that I understand how much agents do each day for their clients I am amazed anyone is able to write a personal response at all.

What was your rock bottom moment during the process? There was a time, about two months before I found my fabulous agent, when I had a few "almosts" in a row--each time, I thought I was going to get an agent, and each time it didn't work out. At that point I thought maybe this was not the right book to try to start off with. I remember going for a walk with my husband and telling him I was thinking of giving up the querying. He encouraged me to keep going.

How long did it take to write your book? First draft: about six months. Time to find an agent: another six months. Revising with agent after: six months. Time to sell once it went out to publishers: a little over a week.

What did you do to celebrate your book deal? I bought a beautiful Nespresso machine I'd had my eye on for some time. When I sold the book my husband was doing a program at Harvard Business School where he lived on the campus six out of seven days a week for two months. I was home with the three kids, and teetering on the edge of sanity. (Did I mention the littlest one was going through toilet training?) The book sale (and the Nespresso machine) helped my outlook tremendously.

Knowing what you know now about publishing your first novel, what would you have done differently? Let's see. I think I would have started earlier (I mean years earlier) making sure I had a manuscript that was ready to find an agent. I worked for a long time as a freelance writer and while I always had confidence in my writing ability it took me a while to gain confidence in my fiction writing ability.

Who is your writer crush? This doesn't have to be a male, right? I love Elin Hilderbrand. I was lucky enough to have her blurb THE ARRIVALS and have had some communication with her since then. I would love to have a drink with her at one of those glamorous Nantucket locations she's always writing about and pick her brain. I have a list of questions ready to go in case that ever happens.

What's your biggest distraction or vice while writing? This is so lame and boring, but it's hard for me to write when there's a mess around me (and with three kids, there is always a little bit of a mess). I have to stop putting things away and make myself sit down. An unorganized drawer is like a siren call to me--if I know it's there, I'm drawn to it.

GNO drink of choice? Winter: cabernet sauvignon Summer: gin & ginger

Favorite trashy TV show? I have occasionally been known to tune into Real Housewives.

What celeb would you love to have a Twitter war with? I would not like to have a Twitter war. I am a pretty private person and I'd feel embarrassed. Not saying that's normal, but there you are!

To find out more about the fabulous Meg Mitchell Moore, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Also, The Arrivals was just announced as the latest SheKnows book club pick! Click here for details!

Thanks, Meg!


Liz & Lisa