best books of 2012

Interview & Giveaway with Melissa Francis

DIARY OF A STAGE MOTHERS DA.JPGToday's guest: Melissa Francis Her book: Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

The scoop on it: The Glass Castle meets The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis.

When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world’s most famous primetime soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother, as fame and a mother’s ambition pushed her older sister deeper into the shadows.
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980’s, and also a startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive “tiger mother.” But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it’s a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?

Our thoughts: Completely. Riveted.

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, February 24th after 12pm PST.

Where you can read more about Melissa: Her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


melissa_Francis1. Liz & Lisa: Why did you decide to write this memoir?

Melissa Francis: I started writing Diary of A Stage Mother's Daughter when the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reached critical mass. The idea of parents emulating that model really terrified me. It actually brought me to tears. It was hard for me to get the book and read through it in its entirety because I am the product of an extreme version of a tiger mom. In writing my memoir, I wanted to warn parents that that unrelenting form of parenting may make some children disciplined, focused achievers. As the author herself says, if you ride children hard early, you don't have to come down on them later. But with some kids, as you learn with my story, it can be wildly destructive and truly rob them of them of their confidence, sending them into a spiral of despair. There is no formula about how to be a parent, and when you see this exemplified as in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it doesn't necessarily work. Because all kids are unique individuals, it can be extremely dangerous.

2. L&L: What do you want people to learn from your book?

MF: I'd love for anyone who reads the book to feel that they can learn from a challenged past and whatever has happened to them, and then choose to have a joyous future. I hope that readers realize that a troubled past or a difficult childhood are experiences to draw and grow from later. You know what not to do when you grow up, or you know how you want to live differently. As long as you grab hold of it and take the right lessons out of it, you can decide how to control your own life and your own destiny. You can choose to be happy -- you can choose to have a new life. It is never too late, no matter how old you are. This is the point I make make in the very last scene of the book, where I see a woman I work with crumple into tears -- this incredible, gorgeous, successful woman with a family of her own -- and her mother just reduced her to tears. I said to her, as delicately as I could, "You can be free of that. You're an adult, and it's your choice now." You can choose to be happy and to be joyful and to have a different life. It's not easy, but it's better than the alternative, and within our control.

3. L&L: Do you have a favorite line or passage from your book?

MF: "The texture and color of my love for all three of them has proven to me that I can love, even though I was not ultimately loved myself. It doesn't matter what's come before if I can let go and try to do better. That truth was awakening. My own family is a new beginning."This passage comes at the very end of the book. I cried when I wrote it, and I still cry every time I read the words. I was afraid to have children for so long, because I wasn't sure I could be a better mother. My husband gave me the courage to hope. My family is my joy. And when people ask me why I would show my warts to the world (and they ask all the time), I say that I've broken the cycle and found real happiness, I sincerely want to help anyone else do the same. It is worth it.

4. L&L: As a mom, what have you learned from this experience that helps you be a better parent? (Tell us more about avoiding the "one size fits all, pressure-packed approach that you write about.)

MF: It took me a long time to process and figure out how to parent differently, but the number one lesson was, just because you were parented in a way that didn't work out doesn't mean you have to repeat the same behavior. You also don't have to be afraid to be a parent yourself, which I certainly was for a very long time. I would never tell someone how to parent, but I would suggest that every child is born unique and needs a different approach. Tiger Mothering is extremely dangerous as my story demonstrates. I have two young sons, two and five years old, who respond completely differently to the same type of praise or discipline. They are just hardwired differently. As I have watched them from day one, before I even had a chance to have any impact on them, they were different kids. You can't change that. I think my mom wanted to make both my sister and me into performers and achievers, and my sister wasn't built for that. She had her own fantastic qualities, and, if someone had taken the time to get to know her, could have fleshed out what she would be special and successful at. You have to help children bring out what's best about them and help them manage what's difficult about their own personalities and the way that they were born. Every child has a different path to happiness, and as parents it is our job to help them find their own way.

L&L: What memoir(s) are you reading now?

MF: Not surprisingly, my favorite memoir of all time is the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I've read it so many times for courage and inspiration. We have so much in common: reporting on others as a way to shift the focus from our own lives, a past that is painful but has so much value. Hota Kotb has been a wonderful supporter and I just bought her new book, Ten Years Later. I'm heading on vacation next week and can't wait to start that.

Thanks, Melissa!

Allison Winn Scotch's 5 BEST EVERS

Today's guest: Allison Winn Scotch Why we love her: Y'all know we've loved her for years--since the day Lisa stumbled upon her book, Time of My Life, in Barnes and Noble.

Her latest: The Song Remains the Same (Out in paperback today!)

The scoop on it: She’s a wife, a sister, a daughter…but she remembers nothing. Now she must ask herself who she is and choose which stories—and storytellers—to trust. One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes up in the hospital with no memory of it, or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. Although Nell can’t remember all that came before, something just doesn’t sit right with the versions of her history given by her mother, her sister, and her husband.

Desperate for a key to unlock her past, she filters through photos, art, music, and stories, hoping that something will jog her memory, and soon, in tiny bits and pieces, Nell starts remembering. . . .

Our thoughts: One of Lisa's favorite books of the year was even better the second time around.

Fun fact: Today marks the 6th time Allison has been a guest on CLIND!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, January 6th after 3PM PST.


BEST SONG: Nope, can't do it. Music is my muse, and my "best song" depends on whatever is happening in my life at that particular moment, at that particular emotional need. That said, I think my go-to answer for this, simply because it will never NOT be one of my greatest songs ever, is Read My Mind by The Killers. Everything about the song resonates with me: the beat, the melody, Brandon Flowers' voice, the haunting but uplifting lyrics about perseverance and finding a better life…I don't know. It's just…brilliant. And sometimes it makes me cry and sometimes, it's the background music for a long run. Any time, any situation, it's basically perfect.

BEST BOOK: Oh lord. I can't choose a best book. Seriously. There are too many influences, too many beloved chapters. How about if instead, I offer my best books (that I read) of 2012? My three favorites were WILD (a raw, gorgeous, searing memoir), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (I cannot say enough good things about the genius and emotional poignancy of this book), and BEAUTIFUL RUINS (so clever and creative, and I admired the heck out of what the author pulled off because I don't think I could have done the same thing).

BEST MOVIE: I am a huge pop culture fan, so this is hard for me. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but I'm going to go with Love, Actually. From a writer's perspective, I find the movie genius: the way that all of the plot threads both stand alone and weave together.  And then, from a romantic's perspective, I love the honest, hilarious, touching exploration of love in all its different forms. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching Colin Firth jump into the lake full of eels or Hugh Grant singing Christmas carols to little kids or Andrew Lincoln exposing his inner-feelings on flash cards. It's all just perfect.

BEST MOMENT: Ooh, toughie. Of course, I want to say the birth of my kids or marrying my husband, but honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is turning 30. Which was quite a few years ago. But I remember my parents called me and said, "Wow, can you believe that you're 30? Are you overwhelmed with it?" Or something like that. And I said, "No, actually, I feel like I've earned it. Like I'm finally an adult and that everything that I've done so far has led up to here." My 20s were tumultuous in the way that one's 20s often are – trying to figure out my relationships, my career, all of that. By the time I hit 30, I felt like I had a certain peace with everything, all of the choices I'd made, all of the wrong turns I'd taken. It was sort of this really gratifying moment: okay, I'm here, it's great, I'm happy, exhale.

BEST ADVICE: Don't Quit. Growing up with the last name of "Winn," my father's go-to line was "What's your last name?" What he meant by that is actually the verb version of my last name: win. It wasn't that he expected us to win all the time, but he did expect us to carry ourselves like winners, which translated to the fact that we kept going, we didn't quit, and we always tried our best even if we really, really didn't want to. Now that I'm long past childhood, this message has served me well: in the book world (when my first manuscript didn't sell or when sales from my debut weren't what I wanted and I had to regroup to figure out how to sell my second book) or even in my marriage (when the relationship ebbs into the more difficult moments that long marriages inevitably face). Don't quit. Keep going. There's a lot of wisdom in that simple advice. Quitting never feels good in the long-term, but finding that you have the strength to come out on top – not necessarily victorious but still in a better place than you imagined – is the best reward possible.

Thanks, Allison! Happy New Year, everyone! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Megan Caldwell's 5 Best Evers

Today's guest: Megan Caldwell Why we love her: Her writing is smart!

Her latest: Vanity Fare: A novel of lattes, literature and love

The scoop on it: Molly Hagan is overwhelmed. Her husband left her for a younger, blonder woman; her six-year-old son is questioning her authority, and now so is she. In order to pay her Brooklyn rent and keep her son supplied with Pokémon and Legos, not to mention food and clothing, she has to get a job—fast.

So when an old friend offers Molly a freelance position copywriting for a new bakery, finding romance is just about the last thing on her mind. But the sexy British pastry chef who's heading up the bakery has other thoughts. And then so does Molly, when she meets the chef's intimidating business partner—who also happens to have a secret that might prevent Molly from getting her own happily ever after.

Our thoughts: LOVED, loved, loved. Best book to give us a jump start into the New Year.

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm on Sunday, December 30th

Where to read more about Megan: Her website


1. BEST HAIR PRODUCT You know those quizzes they ask in women’s magazines where they ask what one beauty product you’d take to a desert island with you? (Like there’s someone to impress there, but whatever.) I would not hesitate a moment, I would take Kiehl’s Silk Groom for my hair. I use this every single day, and I seriously panic if I am close to running out. I really hate wispy, fluffy hair (on me, at least) and the Silk Groom calms it down so I am not fluffy in the slightest. Thank goodness.

2. BEST HISTORICAL MINISERIES: There are a surprising amount of entrants to this category, and I think I might have seen every one. But my favorite, the one that makes my heart ache and skip and flutter every single time I watch it, is North and South, starring Richard Armitage and some lady with big eyes. Armitage has the smokiest, deepest, most luscious voice ever, and he’s tall, and plays such a stubborn alpha male who gets completely thunderstruck when he falls in love. SWOON.

3. BEST NOIR FILM: I love noir, which I know is odd given that I love romance novels so much (Spoiler: Noirs do not have happy endings). One of the most brilliant ones of all time is Double Indemnity, based on a book by James M. Cain and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. It’s a brilliant plot filled with so many double-crosses it’s got hatchmarks, and the performances are excellent.

4. Most HANDSOMEST MAN EVER: It’s not really a controversial choice, given that he is the world’s first male supermodel, but British model David Gandy is by far the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen. Dark hair, blue eyes, height, that body, a scowl, and I’m gone. I can lose 20 minutes at a stretch falling down the Gandy hole, which is when you google image David Gandy and emerge, blinking and lust-crazed, some time later.

5. BEST BRONTE SISTER BOOK: Jane Eyre. I think Jane Eyre began my love of first-person narrative, a chicklit convention, and I wrote Vanity Fare in first person because any other viewpoint just didn’t work. I strongly identified with the plain, unobtrusive Jane who fell in love—and was loved back with fervor—with Mr. Rochester, one of the first Alpha male heroes I ever met. Their dialogue, their courtship, her rescue of him, her strength in resisting him—again, swoon.

Thanks, Megan!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa


Today's guest: Kaira Rouda Why we love her: She writes from the heart! We love that.

Her latest: Here, Home, Hope and All the Difference

The scoop on Here Home Hope: Kelly Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors' seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly's own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan.

From page one, Kelly's witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan--she places Post-it notes all over her house and car--will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will need to keep the tissue box handy, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career.

Award-winning Here, Home, Hope will surely appeal to readers of chick lit and other women's fiction titles who are ready to transition into something new in their own life.

The scoop on All the Difference: From the bestselling author of HERE, HOME, HOPE, comes a novel of suspense and choices, with a nod to the best of Susan Isaacs's tales of suburban murder. Once again, everything isn't what it seems in the suburb of Grandville. ALL THE DIFFERENCE is the story of three Grandville women whose lives become entangled by the choices they make and how, ultimately, one of them turns to murder to achieve her goals. Roommates Laura and Angie couldn't be more different. Laura is a local celebrity, the television anchor who is motivated to move out of small-time media markets and on to the big time, no matter the cost. Meanwhile, Angie, a luckless waitress, spends her time waiting for Mr. Right to save her from temporary jobs and a life spent making bad choices. On the other side of town, Ellen abandons her life as a successful fundraiser for that of an isolated housewife in the country estate she shares with her husband, whose affairs become increasingly hard to ignore. When the city’s gossip columnist, Maddie, and restaurant reviewer, Dixon, become involved in the story, the unlikely duo stir up more than they intended. With her signature mix of compassion and wit, Kaira Rouda once again takes readers on an entertaining journey into the heart of women’s lives in suburbia, this time with a dose of suspense.

Our thoughts: Both of these highly entertaining books are only .99 from now through December 31st. It's a no-brainer!

Giveaway:Two copies of Here, Home, Hope and two copies of All the Difference. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, December 16 after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Another GIVEAWAY ALERT!! Are you feeling Naughty or Nice? Doesn’t matter, with this giveaway, you could win a prize to make both sides happy!

To have a little fun with the holidays, Kaira “asked” a leading lady from each of her two novels what she would pick for a Holiday giveaway prize.  Kelly, the protagonist of HERE, HOME, HOPE, is represented by the “Nice” gifts.  Ellen, one of the stars of ALL THE DIFFERENCE, made the special “Naughty” selections. To win this amazing prize, please visit Kaira’s Facebook author page or her website’s blog and sign up. The giveaway is open to US and Canada residents. Good luck!

Wait, there’s more!

As a special holiday gift for everyone, HERE, HOME, HOPE and ALL THE DIFFERENCE are 99 cents for your eReader now through December 31st so if you haven’t had a chance to read both of Kaira’s novels, now you can!

Where you can read more about Kaira: Facebook, Twitter and her website


Thank you so much Liz and Lisa! I was thrilled to be asked to write about my five favorite things about the holidays! I’m a proudly expressive Christmas celebrator, and I look forward to this month with the glee of a child. Why? Well, I’ll try to keep it to five reasons:

1. Cards. I love to receive Christmas/Holiday cards. It fills me with such happiness when the mail arrives and in it I see festive return labels, red ink addresses and funky, fun-sized envelopes. Every year, since my first child was born and continuing to today (actually last weekend), we make it a family tradition to take photos and come up with themes. Now that the kids are 21, 19, 18 and 16, it’s tougher to be original. We’ve pumped out 20 years of fairly clever, heartfelt cards, if I do say so myself. This year I considered doing Six Shades of Gray….but the kids weren’t too sure about that. (Nothing naughty, simply all six of us wearing different shades of gray!) Instead, I’m working on a different theme and hope to have them in the mail soon. I also hope, even though we’ve moved several times in the past few years, that I’ll be blessed by a burgeoning mailbox!

2. Decorations. I counted 27 green and red plastic tubs in our storage unit just before my husband and I began to cart them out to our car to take home. This year, I’m using about a third of our stash to decorate. When we lived in the Midwest, we had a bigger house. That’s just how it is. Ohio house = 27-tubs to decorate. California house = 9 tubs. My favorite element of the decorations is the Christmas tree itself, and of the ornaments adorning it, my favorites are the ones the kids made through the years. I love opening the ornament boxes and pulling out memories. It’s such a magical feeling. I try to get the tree decorated early, so I can bask in the glow of its lights and memories all December.

3. Good cheer. People are happier. Truly. Ok, not people are miserable at hot, overcrowded malls, but aside from that, the holidays make folks merry and bright. There are more toasts, more parties, more sparkles on women’s dresses and in their eyes. Sure, we’re all extra busy and more exhausted, but somehow, that doesn’t negate the smiles and wishes of “Happy Holidays”. What could be better? Remind yourself if you’re in a grumpy mood to fake it until you feel it. And if you see a grump headed your way, give him a smile. My favorite saying: A smile confuses an approaching frown. It works!

4. Lights. We are so lucky to live in Laguna Beach, a resort town that goes all out to celebrate the season. Santa’s Beach House opens in the village the first Friday of December and a big party celebrates his arrival. Stores and restaurants stay open late and the happy energy is tangible. I love the bee lights decorating almost every tree and store front. The entire village looks like a postcard of the perfect Christmas town, minus the snow, thank goodness!

5. Time together with our family’s traditions. The best thing about the holidays is the luxury of time with my family. We have such a blast – playing board games, sharing meals, opening gifts, telling stories, hugging, teasing each other. Well, you know. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

I know you have your own list of favorite things about the holidays! Remember, even with the bustle, to stop and appreciate the moments.  In the end, those special memories are truly the gift of the season.

Thanks, Kaira!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Lisa's Favorite books of 2012

Echoing what Liz said yesterday, there have been so many awesome books this year. In fact, let's have a round of applause for the fabulous novels and memoirs we were so lucky to devour! But because there was such a long list of exciting reads, selecting only a handful of my favorites was so not easy. (It made the past two weeks of dealing with my sick toddler waking up at all hours suddenly seem like a cinch).  So here goes...

And hey, we want to hear what books you LOVED in 2012.  Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know!

1. The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch I instantly fell in love with Nell, who loses her memory after being one of two survivors of a horrific plane crash.  She must then attempt to navigate the stories that her loved ones are telling her about herself and her past--stories that aren't exactly adding up.  Nell not only must figure out who she was, but who she is going to be as she moves forward. The Song Remains The Same (coming out in paperback on December 31 with this fabulous new cover) is my fave from Allison thus far, a sparkling page-turner that I was not able to put down.


2. Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio  This is not only one of my favorite books of the year, but it's also my favorite Sarah Jio book so far (she's written two others). It's a powerful and emotional story of two women who've never met, but are connected in unimaginable ways. In 1933, single mother Vera Ray loses her son the night of late-season snowstorm in Seattle--a cold-weather phenomenon called Blackberry Winter. Almost eighty years later, Seattle Herald reporter, Claire Aldridge, is assigned to cover a similar snowstorm that hits in May and learns of the unsolved abduction of Vera's son. She vows to find out what happened... Warning: Once you pick it up, will not be able to put this New York Times bestseller down. As you turn the pages, it's one unexpected twist after another right up until the shocking ending. (PS: Jio's upcoming novel, The Last Camellia, is out May 28, 2013. I cannot wait to read it!)

3. Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster This is hands down, Lancaster's funniest memoir yet. Not to mention the most hilarious book I read this year. (And yes, I'm more than a little in love with her sense of humor!) From the full title of her book alone,  Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult's Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It's Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner, you know it's going to be a highly-entertaining page-turner. But it's the comedic tales she shares that suck you in for a wild ride as you hungrily devour chapter after chapter of her witty moments. This book appeals to all, but in particular the Gen Xer (ahem, me!), who will laugh and relate as Lancaster explores what it means to finally decide to grow up — sort of. I particularly enjoyed the stories about perimenopause and a home waxing kit. (PS: I've already read Jen's upcoming novel, Here I Go Again, out January 29, 2013, and it's fabulous!)

4. These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen Ah, Sarah Pekkanen. Where do I begin? Her books always top my favorite lists because she is such a brilliant writer. I swear she can give you the full picture of who a character is in just a few words. That's talent! So not surprisingly, what I love most about These Girls are the three main characters, roommates Cate, Renee and Abby. Cate has just been promoted to the editor of a fashion magazine but quickly realizes her new job comes with as many problems as perks. Renee, who is vying for a promotion of her own at the same magazine, turns to a bottle of diet pills after she overhears snide comments about her weight. And Abby is their newest roommate who is tight-lipped about what caused her to flee her nanny job in the suburbs. And as these girls help each other bring their truths to light and overcome their personal battles, I was reminded of the power of female friendships.  (PS: I've just finished Sarah's next book, The Best of Us, coming out April 9, 2013, and she nailed it--uh gain.)

5. Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany This is one of the most moving and thought-provoking books I read this year. Hatvany is a beautiful writer and proves her skill, once again, at tackling tough subjects. In Outside the Lines, Eden searches for her father who left her two decades before, when she was just 10 years old.  After a series of failed romances and health scare from her mother, she knows it's time to face the emotions she's had bottled up all this time. Her journey to find her father, who she isn't even sure wants to be found, had me on the edge of my seat as I flipped the pages wondering how the story would end. (PS:My next read will be is Amy's upcoming book, A Heart Like Mine, out on March 19, 2013! The buzz? It's sensational!)

Man Candy bonus pick!

The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Because we read great books by men too!) This book is a complete departure from the novels I usually gravitate toward.  In the vein of John Grisham's The Firm, I was gripped from page one and felt more like I was watching an action movie than reading a story (in a good way). Mike Ford lands his dream job at Washington's most powerful consulting firm which turns out to be a world filled with lies, cheating and stealing. While rubbing shoulders with "the 500," the group of elite men and women who really run Washington, Ford is expected to join in on the fun. But even though he comes from a world of con men, he isn't sure he's cut out for the job. Can't wait to find out what's up next for this debut author.

xoxo, Lisa


Liz's Favorite books of 2012

There were a ton of great books in 2012.  So many, in fact, that Lisa and I had hard time narrowing them down, not to mention the fact we had a good ol' girlfight over who got which ones! (She'll share her 2012 faves tomorrow...) Besides the bestselling authors we already know are wonderful, I also chose three debuts that you may not have heard of.  Because who doesn't love discovering a fab new author?!

The books listed here are the ones that I couldn't put down, that I couldn't wait to get back to, that had characters that I was thinking about(and in some cases dreaming about!) long after I was finished.  These books were my favorite of the year. And girlfrin', I read a lot!

And hey-we want to hear what books you LOVED in 2012.  Don't forget to leave a comment and let us know!



1. Ten Girls to Watch by Charity Shumway Not gonna lie--Shumway had me from page one with her fresh and dynamic narrative.  This could have been just another story about a girl trying to make it in the Big Apple, but she made it an engaging page turner about Dawn. When she's tasked to track down the past winners of Charm Magazine's Ten Girls To Watch, she ends up discovering a few things about herself through the exceptional women she's researching. And don't even get me started on how she got the job in the first place! (her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend gets her the gig...) Do yourself a favor and pick up this lovely debut!




2.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn So, I almost didn't put this one on the list.  Not because it wasn't effing fantastic(because it was!), but because it's already received so much press this year and topped so many "best of" lists.  But, there was just NO WAY I could skip highlighting this haunting tale about two of the most effed up people you will ever meet.  Gone Girl, which is about a woman who goes missing on her five year wedding anniversary, is absolutely brilliant.  I couldn't get the book out of my head for days after finishing(and even had a few nutty dreams about it...) If you haven't read it yet, you need to RUN, not walk to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy. Seriously.




3. I Have Iraq In My Shoe by Gretchen Berg Attention, my fellow SATC fans.  You are going to love the sh*t out of this memoir! When Gretchen, a shoe-loving fashionista gets a job teaching English in Iraq to pay off her mounting credit card debt, she has no idea what she's in for. Berg had me cheering her on as she navigated a completely new culture that didn't seem to wear deodorant or appreciate her keen sense of style. SO smartly written and freakin' hilarious, I promise that you'll fall in love with Gretchen on page one. Sometimes, memoirs can lose their steam in the middle, but I Have Iraq in My Shoe had me engaged from beginning to end.



4. Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro Another fresh debut! I loved the sparkling narrative in this novel about four Midwestern friends who are each trying (and in some cases failing) to navigate the online and social networking world.  Kate's realizing that online dating might not be all it's cracked up to be. Anne is stalking her possible sperm donor. (long story!) Maxine obsesses over celebrity gossip to distract her from the cracks in her marriage. And Claudia resents the hell out of how much time her husband spends on Facebook. What makes this book special? The way Shapiro weaves their stories beautifully with her sharp writing.  I couldn't put it down!



5.  The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner Oh, how I loved this book! When Ruth(who headed to LA six years prior with her sassy grandmother in tow) hits the Hollywood lottery and gets the green light on the show she's written, she can't wait to become the next Shonda Grimes.  But when the reality of how things really get done in Tinseltown sets in, she realizes that she may be in over her head. And did I mention she has a huge freakin' crush on her boss? I loved the insider details Weiner included, having just come off her own Hollywood story. This story leaped off the page and I raced to the end.  For me, this was my favorite of hers since Good in Bed. (Which, for the record is on the short list for my ALL-TIME fave books!)



YA Bonus Pick!

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman  I was on a business trip when I opened this book on my iPad.  THREE hours later, I had the run the battery down devouring this charming tale about Audrey, a witch-in-training who has to get it together when her mother goes missing under mysterious circumstances.  Audrey has her own teenage problems to deal with as she attempts to get her powers up to speed before everything is destroyed by someone from her mother's past.  Fun, light and absolutely addicting, I can't wait for the next book in this series!




xo, Liz

Sere Prince Halverson's 5 BEST EVERS

Today's guest: Sere Prince Halverson Why we love her: She's a beautiful writer who inspires us to up our game.

Her latest: The Underside of Joy (Now available in paperback!)

The scoop on it: To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow, California, with her husband Joe and his two young children. But one summer day Joe drowns, leaving Ella alone with Annie and Zach—until his ex-wife, Paige, shows up at the funeral. For three years, Ella believed that Paige had selfishly abandoned her family. Yet—as the custody fight between mother and stepmother ensues—Ella realizes there may be more to the story than Joe ever revealed.

The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of step-motherhood, pitting good against evil, but a captivating story of two women who both claim to be the mother of the same two children.

Our thoughts: A riveting debut novel that kept us guessing all the way until the end.

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Just leave a comment to be entered. We'll select the winners this Sunday after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Contest alert! Win a picnic for your bookclub! Just contact Sere by January 7th. Click here for the deets!

Where you can read more about Sere: Facebook, her blog and her website


BEST SONG: I know you all understand this: I have hundreds of favorite songs. So on this day, at this moment, I’ll say that my favorite song is…(drawing from a hat)…”2000 Miles” by The Pretenders. Reminds me of a road trip to Washington with my sons.

BEST BOOK: Same caveat as above. Today, my best book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Or maybe Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Or maybe…

BEST MOVIE: I also have many favorite movies, but my all-time favorite, the one I’ve seen a bazillion times and never get tired of, the one that makes me break out in song and break out in tears (yes, watching it with me is an experience in of itself) is The Sound of Music. It was the first movie I ever saw. I was four years old. I remember getting dressed up for a special night with my parents while my little sister stayed home with the babysitter. I remember a red velvet curtain and sitting between my parents in big plush seats. And I remember crying at the end, saying, “I want to go with Maria and the kids.” Ha! That must have made my parents feel great. I love this movie so much that it even worked its way into The Underside of Joy.

BEST MOMENT: I’m not just saying this because it’s the expected answer: The moment I became a mother. I was in a traditional hospital with a traditional doctor, but he asked me, right before my son was born (though I didn’t know if he was a son or a daughter at the time), if I wanted to help deliver him. I reached down and pulled him onto my stomach. I looked down into his squished, pure angel face and fell in love. I said, “Hello sweet baby. You’re so beautiful, but are you a boy or a girl?” Because I’d delivered him, the doctor hadn’t held him up and declared, “It’s a boy!” We had to turn him over and check for the evidence ourselves.

BEST ADVICE: “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” This came from a dear family friend who’s like a very cool aunt and wise big sister wrapped up into one. Sully grew up in the fifties and early sixties and was considered “a career woman” who married later. She gave me this advice in the mid-nineties. I’d married young and had a couple of little kids at that time and was sort of floundering in my career and going through a divorce.

But I know lots of women who have great careers and marriages while their kids are little. It’s not just about that. It’s about the ins and outs and ups and downs, the phases of life, and how there’s always something challenging or missing and there’s always something miraculous going on too. She was advising me to not miss the miraculous while pining for the missing piece. Because the missing piece could very well show up later down the road, but the miracle at hand will soon only be a memory.

It goes something like this: The kids fill my life and heart to overflowing but I have no me time. I have tons of me time but I miss the kids. The bank account is fine but the relationship is not. The relationship is wonderful but work is not. The house is a mess and everyone’s coming over. The house is clean! Hey, where is everybody? The childhood dream finally comes true. But my dad doesn’t live to see it happen.

But when I look at the whole sprawling miraculous picture? It’s all there. My dad is there, big as life itself. And so are his grandkids, in all their different glorious ages, and me in all mine.

Liz and Lisa, thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog. So appreciated!

Thank YOU! xoxo, Liz & Lisa



Heather McElhatton's 5 BEST EVERS

Today's guest: Heather McElhatton Why we love her: We first fell for her when we read her novel, Pretty Little Mistakes and have been fans ever since

Her latest: Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Married

The scoop on it: Sometimes tying the knot just means getting strangled

Not too long ago, Jennifer Johnson was stuck in a cubicle, lovelorn and addicted to Cinnabon frosting. Now she's married to her Prince Charming—the handsome, wealthy son of a midwestern department-store magnate. But the grass on this too-manicured other side is not as green as she'd thought.

After a honeymoon from hell at a gated Christian resort in the Virgin Islands—bought and paid for by the in-laws and complete with alcohol-free drinks, curfews, and Satan-free yoga—Jennifer is beginning to have her doubts about the whole "happily-ever-after" thing. Soon she finds herself organizing Valentine's Day abstinence dances with her mother-in-law's church committee and dining with the ladies of the country club, who have their own theories about how to hold on to their men.

Is this really all there is to married life?

Our thoughts: A LOL story to which we can all relate!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. Winners will be selected after 3pm PST on Sunday, November 18th.

Fun fact: Her first novel, Pretty Little Mistakes is an adult choose-your-own-adventure!

Where you can read more about Heather: Twitter, Facebook and her website.


1. BEST SONG: "Don't Rain on My Parade" by Barbara Streisand. Fabulous song from the movie, “Hello Dolly.” I listen to it anytime I'm mad at someone or I’m just down.

2. BEST MOVIE: "Auntie Mame." It's a 1950's movie starring Rosalind Russell and it's about a wildly wonderful woman who 's strong, smart, inventive and excels at living life on her own terms and inb her own very original way, her motto: "Life is a banquet and some poor suckers are starving to death!"

3. BEST BOOK: My father’s thesaurus. A red leather-bound edition of March’s Thesaurus, published in 1925. The soft pages are filled with handwritten notes, poem fragments and even a partial grocery list. I love this book because inside resides all books. All books that were ever or ever will be written. All you have to do is string the pearls and the pearly-words are all lined up like soldiers waiting to be called to duty. The book is filled with lovely memories, besides my fathers notes and my own are artifacts of old. Pressed in between the cotton paper pages are faded flower petals, paper bookmarks, old notecards, ripped theater stubs and there’s a large moth in there that  I killed one night when it persisted in fluttering on the page I was trying to read. I killed him by flomping the heavy  book shut. (NOTE: I didn’t want to kill the moth. At all. I turned off the lights, opened the window, and asked it to leave several times, shooing it away with my hands but in the end my deadline won the battle, I had to get my pages finished and I needed the thesaurus to do this. I always use it when I’m writing, I lug it around with me everywhere. So the moth had to go. I felt very sorry afterwards and decided I would leave him there pressed between the pages, as a memorial bookmark. Later I wrote, “I did not want to kill this moth....” in the margins beside is decimated corpse. Interestingly, his brief life ended in between “Protocol” and “Proverb.”)

4. BEST PIECE OF ADVICE: My father told me “Always carry a knife, always have plenty of cash on hand and always wear sturdy shoes that you can run in.”  I’ve followed this advice all my adult life, to the letter. Another favorite piece of advice came from my mother, who said: “Honey, it takes two people to write a book. One to write it and one to shoot him when it’s done.”   Unfortunately, I have not followed this advice very often, opting instead to struggle with ending my novels in my own time, rather than allow a shadowy doppleganger to explode my head and shoot me with a book-ending-bullet. I will admit though, at times it might’ve been helpful. Lastly, my friend Lilly Cardenas supplied me with a real gem last year. She told me:  “You want it? You got it. Go get it.”

5. BEST LIFE MOMENT: The moment I received that first phone call from Harpercollins and I was told that they wanted to publish my book....that was an amazing moment. I was at Ikea shopping for a Wok, which I’d found and was carrying around with me as I wandered, completely lost, through an endless menagerie of room displays....complete living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens...all decorated to resemble actual rooms in real houses, the sets detailed and complete with open magazines on the coffee tables, shoes lined up in closets, an apple and gleaming paring knife resting on a wooden slicing board in the kitchen.  I was just wondering if a person could hide and live in Ikea undetected, using the various room displays to eat, sleep and read in.... when my phone rang and a lovely voice on the other end said, “Heather McElhatton? This is Alison Callahan at Harpercollins. I have to tell you I’m in love with your book and I want to publish it, but first I need to know if you’re willing to write more of them.”

What? I stood there speechless, holding my Wok as the world whipped around me. I couldn’t hear the woman on the other end of the phone anymore...I was having a mini-seizure/heart attack/muscle cramp/orgasm-spasm and could no longer hear, think or speak. Then someone bumped into me and I snapped out of my daze. I hurried into a nearby office set with a large executive desk, a rolling wingback chair, several green bankers lamps and a wrap-around wall of bookcases, filled with empty books. (Irony!) I commandeered the room as if I was actually in my office at home and  quickly pushed an end table next in front of the executive office’s door, so no one could come in.  I sat down at the desk and said, “Alison? Could you repeat what you just said? I couldn’t quite hear you...”

Thanks, Heather! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Stephanie McAfee's 5 BEST EVERS

Today's guest: Stephanie McAfee Why we love her: Two words: Ace Jones

Her latest: Happily Ever Madder: Misadventures of a Mad Fat Girl

The scoop on it: Diary of a Mad Fat Girl’s plus-sized spitfire Graciela “Ace” Jones returns in a hilarious new adventure from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie McAfee.

Ace has left the tiny Mississippi town of Bugtussle for the palm fronds and mojitos of Pelican Cove, Florida. She’s finally opening her long-dreamed-of art gallery, is kick-starting a life with her fiancé, Mason, and has vowed to leave her straight-talking, sassy ways behind her. From now on, she’s going to be as sweet as sugar. Unfortunately, something comes along to sour her plans.

That something is Mrs. Lenore Kennashaw and her coterie of crones. They’re a bunch of snippy, snarky, and just plain mean ’ol ladies who aren’t quite as smart or rich as they’d like to think they are. But that doesn’t stop them from treating everyone else like second-class citizens. And when Ace inadvertently takes some of the steam from Mrs. Kennashaw’s stride, she becomes their #1 enemy. But with the support of a new group of fabulous friends, as well as her friends from Bugtussle—and her always-faithful chiweenie Buster Loo—Ace will find a way to make it, even if she has to throw some weight around…

Our thoughts: We hope she continues writing about Ace Jones. She's so much fun. (We hear there's another book coming in June..)

Giveaway: FIVE COPIES! Just leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll select the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, November 11.

Fun fact: She self-published her debut novel, Diary of a Mad Fat Girl as an e-book and made the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists where it stayed there for nine weeks straight!

Where you can read more about Stephanie: Twitter, Facebook, her blog and her website

Where you can read more about Ace: Follow her on Twitter.

CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...STEPHANIE MCAFEE'S 5 BEST EVERS 1. BEST SONG: Roll On by Kid Rock. It’s the official theme song of my life. Plus I have a thing for Kid Rock.

2. BEST BOOK: It’s a tie between The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. What can I say? I’m a fan of Robert Ludlum.

3. BEST MOVIE: It’s a tie between Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, and Ocean’s 13. What can I say? I’m a fan of that whole entire freakin’ cast.

4. LIFE MOMENT: Well, I have a three year old so, of course, it would be the day he was born. Coming in second would be the day I found out Diary of a Mad Fat Girl (my little rag-tag self-published version) was on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists.

5. BEST ADVICE: “You might be happy for two months or you might be happy for twenty years. Either way, that’s time you’ll spend being happy.” Relationship advice from my uncle Mike (AKA Dr. Raines) in 2005. I married the guy we were talking about. That was nearly seven years ago and I’m still pretty happy. I guess we can chalk that up as good advice.

Thanks, Stephanie! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

10 Questions for Alison Pace

Today's guest: Alison Pace Why we love her: Alison's books are charming and completely unique.

Her latest: You Tell Your Dog First (Out tomorrow, November 6th! Pre-order it here.)

The scoop on it: You Tell Your Dog First… About the date you just had…about the questionable results of a medical test…about the good and the bad…about everything.

For years, award-winning author Alison Pace was a dog person without a dog. And then, she got Carlie—a feisty and fluffy West Highland white terrier. She could weed out bad boyfriends with a sniff of her button-black nose and win the hearts of lifelong friends with an adoring gaze. Suddenly, Alison had a constant companion and confidante, who went with her on long morning rambles in Central Park, on trips to the country and the beach, and on her search for inner peace, love, and happiness. Through Carlie, Alison found herself connected to the world as never before.

Our thoughts: The essays are funny, heartfelt and so much fun!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll pick the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, November 12th.

Fun fact: Check out Alison's Tumblr account where she often posts fun pics of her dog Carlie--of course!

Where you can read more about Alison: Facebook, Twitter, and her website


1. The title of your book is You Tell Your Dog First. What are some "secrets" you've told Carlie before anyone else? Hi Liz and Lisa! Well, I am a person who talks a lot to her dog so I imagine Carlie is privy to a lot of information before many other people in my life.  One of the things about living with a dog is they do see you at all times, your best, your worst.  They kind of know everything.  I’ll tell Carlie news before I tell anyone else and if something is getting me down, she might be the first to know that, too.  I do spend a lot of time talking to people, of course, but Carlie, by virtue of her constant company is usually, as I say in the title, first.

2. On that note, what's the story behind the title of your book? The title actually comes from one of the essays in which I was having a bad dating experience and found myself checking in with Carlie about it fairly frequently, sort of in a thinking out loud way, and how I sensed she had a better idea about this person than I did.  She was not a fan from the start.  And while the book is about a lot more than dating (there’s New York, friendship, career, family, real estate!) that essay really got at something, sort of what we just talked about in question 1: dog as not only companion but confidant.

3. How did you find your dog, Carlie? How did you know she was "the one?" I got lucky. Carlie was a former show dog who needed a home and I happened to randomly get connected to her breeder as I was looking for a dog.  As with so many things in life, it was just really good timing.  As you’ll read in the book, Carlie was just especially lovely from day one.  I think it is different with dogs than it is with people in terms of “the one.” I never really thought of it like that, but yet, of course she is.

4. You've written several fictional books about dogs. But this is your first memoir about them. Why now? I’ve spent so much time writing about fictional characters and their dogs and so much of that has been inspired by my own relationships with dogs and my somewhat unique upbringing with dogs that I thought it would be fun and a new challenge to turn the lens around and write about all the things that had inspired me to put dogs at the center of so much of my fiction.  And it was fun, and it was also huge challenge.

5. Do you have a favorite essay in the book? Well, of course I love them all, right? But if I had to do, let’s say, a top 5 as I know you ladies are fans of the top 5, I’d go with: “The Hotel Upper East Side” about searching for a dog-friendly apartment in New York City; “Swim, Doggie, Swim” about my try-out to be a monitor at a dog pool; the aforementioned “You Tell Your Dog First”; “On Bright Green Shirts and Jack Russell Terriers” as it touches on friendship and family and dogs and “Fabio” which is about Carlie’s dog walker.  Yes, Carlie’s dog walker is really named Fabio.

6. Where's the most interesting place you've traveled with Carlie? Ah, that’s actually covered in an essay called “Carlie is Ready for her Closeup” in which Carlie and I roadtripped to the Berkshires for a photo shoot.  We also went on a hiking trip together which was adorable if only for the special hiking harness Carlie had to wear:

7. What are some of your favorite books about dogs? I loved You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam, Walking in Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe (that book had me at the title, such a good title), Sighthound by Pam Houston (I studied writing with Pam Houston and I think she writes about dogs so brilliantly), and Roger Rosenblatt’s Lapham Rising and not just because it’s narrated by a talking Westie.  I also loved Marley and Me but it broke my heart a little bit at the end. Oogie was so touching. Books and dogs: my two favorite things. I could go on and on.

8. What are your favorite things about having a dog? Any downsides? (Be honest!) I love how cool dogs are and how kind. I love the myriad charming things they do and how they each really do have their own unique “personalities.” I love how smart they are, how wise. I love meeting other dog people and I love seeing the positive effects dogs have on their people.  I love the bond I have with my dog.  The downside: guilt! It doesn’t take a lot for me to feel guilty but I feel guilty when I leave Carlie alone.  I feel guilty that she doesn’t have a yard.  This translates into a tremendous amount of time walking in Central Park so maybe it all evens out.  But I hope that at some point in her life, Carlie gets a yard.

9. Any thoughts of getting another dog? (Or is that like asking if you're going to have another baby?) Ha. I’m certain that I will always have a dog, hopefully more than one, so, yes: many thoughts. Right now though, I don’t have any immediate plans.

10. Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it? I am! I’m back to fiction now and I’m working on a novel that’s actually a little bit of a departure from what I’ve been doing up to this point.  It’s a bit heavier and I’m looking at some subjects I haven’t touched on yet, but then there is still romance, New York City and dogs.  Likely with me, and books, there will always be romance and New York City and dogs. Not a bad thing.

We agree! Thanks, Alison.


Liz & Lisa

Karen Bergreen's 5 BEST EVERS

Our guest today: Karen Bergreen Why we love her: She is freakin' hilarious, that's why!

Her latest: Perfect is Overrated

The Scoop: Think you want to be the perfect mom? Think again…..

Kate Alger has finally found the cure for her post-partum depression.  After years of suffering, all it takes to bring this mommy back to life were a few gruesome homicides!  When someone starts offing the alpha-moms from Kate’s daughter’s preschool, Kate—who worked as an Assistant District Attorney before she had Molly—realizes it’s time to get out of bed, dust off the skills and find out who is killing all the mommies she loves to hate.

Wickedly funny and slightly twisted, Perfect Is Overrated is a romp through the life of one very needy mom, her cockeyed family, gorgeous ex-husband, and the entire insane, entitled, over-dressed , over-zealous, eternally jealous parent body at The Hawthorne Preschool.

Our thoughts: We LOVED it-this one will totally relieve your Mom stress!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Just leave a comment and we'll choose winners on Sunday October 21st after 6pm PST.

Fun Fact: Karen is also a stand up wonder we think she's so funny!

Where to read more about Karen: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Best Song:  This is muy hard (I try to use a Spanish word at least once a day to show my worldliness), But I am going to have to go with Looking at You by Cole Porter. I am obsessed with Cole Porter, and in reality, it may not have been his best work, but it was my first dance at my wedding and I’m trying to suck up to my husband as our tenth anniversary approaches. I’m hoping for a pony.

Best Book: Again, a difficult one, but I love Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One.  I love coming of age stories. I love the theme of the triumphant underdog, in this case the protagonist, Peekay. (PK is a term of endearment for his real name, Pisskop, Pisshead in Afrikaans.). The book is a good old fashioned sage, set in South Africa during the rise of Hitler.  We get to hate Nazi kids and love quirky characters.  The book, I recall, was long, but when it ended, I felt a sense of loss.

Best Movie: Can we have a tie between Tootsie and The Shawshank Redemption? I love Dustin Hoffman so.  When I was in ninth grade, I found his number in the telephone book and called it and hung up.  It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  Tootsie made me realize that my love for him transcended his appearance –I would have dated him as woman.  The movie is hilarious-my favorite moment is when a depressed Tootsie tips over the mime in Central Park.  The song Something’s Telling Me it Might Be You is nice and sappy, the way I like em. I like the Shawshank Redemption because I like revenge. I’m very angry. Could someone hold me?

Best Moment: I wish I could say when my kids were born, but I was nervous and bloated. Maybe when I got engaged, but the happiness was mixed with relief.  I know. It was when I was sitting at a callback interview for a prestigious law job (I used to be a lawyer before becoming a comic). The interviewer was describing what my potential job entailed and I interrupted her and said, “Excuse me, I am so so  sorry to have wasted your time, but I am going to withdraw my application here so that I can be a stand up comic.”

Best Piece of Advice: This is the easiest one and it relates to Best Moment.  I had been in therapy when I decided to switch from law to comedy and the only thing holding me back was my fear of disapproval.  I remember asking my therapist, “What will people think?” And she said, “Why would you care?” I felt liberated.

Thanks Karen! xoxo, L&L

Emma & Nicola's Top 5 Reads for the Heartbroken

Today's guests: Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus Why we love them: Hello, Nanny Diaries anyone?

Their latest: Over You

The scoop on it: When seventeen-year-old Max Scott got her heart broken she didn't just sit at home sobbing into her ice cream and obsessing over her ex, Hugo's, latest Facebook postings. Well, actually she did. But she also decided that no girl should have to be tortured like that, so she read through all the psych books, Oprah transcripts, and historical precedents she could get her hands on and came up with a foolproof program to get over being dumped.

These days, Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when Hugo shows up in her neighborhood, suddenly Max is so busy trying to avoid her own ex that she isn't able to help anyone else with theirs. As Hugo invades her life all over again, Max's carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients' hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over her ex once and for all.

Our thoughts: Loved. Who hasn't had her heart stepped on, crushed and then thrown away? I think we all wish we could've hired someone to help us get over him. (Liz definitely could've used some assistance--more than once-- when Lisa was bawling over some jerk while clad in her fattest of fat pants!)

Giveaway:FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3PM PST on Tuesday, October 2nd.

Fun fact: Ever wondered where they write their books? Check out their workspace.

Where you can read more about Emma & Nicola: Facebook, Twitter and their website.


We’re so happy to be back—did you guys have a great summer?  Did you miss us?  No, you’re not having déjà vu.  Yes, we did just have a novel, Between You And Me, out in June, but we have another book out!  Over You is the story of Max Scott, a seventeen year-old breakup coach who can get any girl over any guy in four weeks or less.  And she’ll keep you from texting a picture of your boobs to your ex while she’s at it.  She is our fantasy ideal of who would be standing over you at the moment of impact, handing you chocolate and a stiff something, disabling your Twitter, and directing all your phone calls to his number into her inbox.

And, what’s even cooler is that Estee Lauder has made an Over You Look, available exclusively at Nordstrom nation-wide.  We will be visiting a different store every weekend.  Check out our website ( to see when we’ll be in your area and come say hi and tell us your worst break-up story.  We’ve been there and that’s why we invented Max!

XO, Nicola & Emma

Okay, here are our Top Five Books to Read When You’ve Been Dumped:

1.    Heartburn by Nora Ephron is a classic for so many reasons.  Not only is it charming, funny and peppered with mouth-watering recipes, this novel—which we consider the original Chic Lit—was made into an amazing film starring a young Meryl Streep, with a killer soundtrack by Carly Simon.  It delivers one of the most accurate portrayals of how the female brain works through the misery of a slow-kill rejection as the protagonist realizes that she can take control back by letting go and moving on.  Entertaining and comforting!

2.    It Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies is her endearingly honest book about the four months in her life between having what she thought was the perfect marriage and being legally separated.  She beautifully narrates the shocking experience with such humor you feel like you’re sitting across from a friend you love, hearing her catch you up on the break-up to end all break-ups.  Even though you know where the story is going it’s a total page-turner.

3.    Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.  This isn’t a novel.  But it can transform your relationship with suffering.  Tara lived in a Buddhist monastery for years until she had an epiphany and left.  She became a PhD in psychology and then she merged her Buddhist scholarship with her knowledge of how the brain works and holds trauma.  The combination is a unique—and radical—worldview.

4.    A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford is an awesomely juicy read.  An oldy but goody about a woman who works as a maid for a grand aristocratic family.  She has an affair with the son, gets pregnant and he disavows her and the child.  She is left destitute in post-war London.  But he grossly underestimates her and by the end of her life she owns his ass.  If you love Downton Abbey (and who doesn’t?) you will LOVE this.

5.    No list like this would be complete without Eat Pray Love.  If you are that one person on the planet who hasn’t read it yet treat yourself.

Thanks, Emma & Nicola! xoxo,


Laura Lippman's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Laura Lippman Why we love her: She's simply the best.

Her latest: And When She Was Good

The scoop on it: When Hector Lewis told his daughter that she had a nothing face, it was just another bit of tossed-off cruelty from a man who specialized in harsh words and harsher deeds. But twenty years later, Heloise considers it a blessing to be a person who knows how to avoid attention. In the comfortable suburb where she lives, she's just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses a soccer game or a school play. In the state capitol, she's the redheaded lobbyist with a good cause and a mediocre track record.

But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the area, she's the woman of your dreams—if you can afford her hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise has believed she is safe. She has created a rigidly compartmentalized life, maintaining no real friendships, trusting few confidantes. Only now her secret life, a life she was forced to build after the legitimate world turned its back on her, is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can't be trusted. One county over, another so-called suburban madam has been found dead in her car, a suicide. Or is it?

Nothing is as it seems as Heloise faces a midlife crisis with much higher stakes than most will ever know.

And then she learns that her son's father might be released from prison, which is problematic because he doesn't know he has a son. The killer and former pimp also doesn't realize that he's serving a life sentence because Heloise betrayed him. But he's clearly beginning to suspect that Heloise has been holding something back all these years.

With no formal education, no real family, and no friends, Heloise has to remake her life—again. Disappearing will be the easy part. She's done it before and she can do it again. A new name and a new place aren't hard to come by if you know the right people. The trick will be living long enough to start a new life.

Our thoughts: She made us care about a suburban madam. That takes serious talent!

Giveaway: FIVE COPIES. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, August 27th.

Fun fact: She wrote her first SEVEN books while working full time at The (Baltimore) Sun.

Where you can read more about Laura: Facebook and her website.


1. Stop dieting. Stop right now. Read about mindful eating (Geneen Roth and Martha Beck). Read Susie Orbach's "Fat is a Feminist Issue." Read Caitlin Moran's "How to be a Woman." Sorry to pile on so much homework, but you'll need all this and more. Eat exactly what you want to eat, when you want to eat and stop when you are full and you really will end up at a healthy weight. Do not describe food as "bad." Do not describe your own eating habits as "bad." Do not say "I hate my [fill in the blank]." Do not say anything about your body that you would not say to a beloved. Listen to it. Learn to identify physical hunger, ponder the emotional hunger when you recognize it, try to figure out what it really means. Wanting more is the human condition.

2. Practice being a gracious loser because you're going to get lots of opportunities to trot this skill out. Besides, if you know how to lose graciously, you'll also know how to win graciously.

3. Learn to take a compliment. It goes like this: "Thank you." Not -- "Oh, it wasn't really much of anything, anyone could have done it." Not -- "Well, the others who worked on the project deserve credit, too." Or, even: "I made so many mistakes at first and I really screwed up and I thought I would never finish." Again, this is how you do it. "Thank you."

4. Find a physical activity that you love, preferably one that takes you outside, and do it. Long, slow walks count.

5. Resist the urge to be cruel to others. Years later, of everything you have done, nothing will horrify you more than the tossed-off sarcasm you wielded against others like a weapon. Put it on paper. Keep notes. Use it against imaginary foes. Because, in the end, almost all your foes are imaginary.

Thanks, Laura!


Liz & Lisa

Photo credit: Jan Cobb

Fiona Neill's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Fiona Neill Why we love her:  She's written a standout book, one that will stick with us for a long time.

Her latest: What the Nanny Saw

The scoop on it: It’s the summer of 2008. For the past decade Nick and Bryony Skinner and their four children have ridden high on the economic boom, but their luck is about to run out. Suddenly, the privileged family finds itself at the center of a financial scandal: their Central London house is besieged by the press, Nick disappears, and Bryony and the children become virtual prisoners in their own home. And Ali, their trusted nanny, watches it all. As the babysitter, she brings a unique insider-outsider perspective to the family, seeing far more than even the family itself is capable of. But when a reporter with a personal connection to the story comes asking her for the inside scoop, will Ali remain loyal to the family who never saw her as anything other than the help? Or will she tell her side?

Our thoughts: It's a novel that demands your full attention- in a good way. It's incredibly well-written, the scenes so realistic that you can envision yourself smack in the middle of the story.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm on Monday, August 27th.

Fun fact: Her first novel, The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy has been optioned to be a TV series in the US.

Where you can read more about Fiona Neill: Her website.


1. Wear a bikini. Youth is lovely, beautiful and effortless so make the most of it. I look back at photos of myself as a teenager and can’t believe how critical I was about my appearance. Teenagers have wonderful bodies in all shapes and sizes. Appreciate it and don’t over-analyze tiny flaws. And be kind to your hair. I had a perm. It looked terrible and required too much upkeep.

2. Parents are mostly right. ‘You’re wearing too much make-up.’ ‘Thirteen is too young to see the Sex Pistols live, even if it might be their last concert.’ ‘I’m picking you up at midnight even if the party is meant to end at 3am.’ ‘Your grandfather’s long johns are not a good look.’  I grew up on a remote farm in rural East England with fairly strict Scottish parents. My friend’s parents were all very laissez faire and Bohemian and I resented the way my parents interfered in my life. I now realize that they prevented me from developing many of the vices that have plagued the lives of some of my contemporaries. They also made me work in the holidays from a young age, which engendered a good work ethic.

3. Don’t burn your diaries. Sometime in my late teens I re-read the diaries I had assiduously kept on a daily basis since I was eleven and decided to destroy them. Obviously they were a testimony to the mood swings and utter self-absorption of adolescence and had no literary value. But now that I have teenage children and am writing teenage characters in my novels, I wish that could read through them to remind myself how it all felt. I would like to pick up the threads of who I was then to see how it impacted on who I am and what I do now.

4. Don’t give up sport. This isn’t post-Olympic euphoria. Until I was sixteen, I played sport six days a week at school. Then when I had the choice to give up, I abandoned it in a fit of pique and stopped taking regular exercise for the next two decades. It has taken me years to make the association between exercise and emotional and physical wellbeing and I wish someone had pointed this out for me before I became a couch potato. Now I am fitter than I have been since I was eighteen.

5. Stop obsessing over Mark Robbins (not his real name). Your friends are right. He is taking up too much headspace and you would be much better off reading even more books, playing sport, writing about subjects other than him in your diary and wondering if your saggy knees (I know) might be putting him off making a move.  He is now a very over-weight, bald middle-aged man who sells industrial storage space.  Don’t waste time on people who don’t make you feel good about yourself and sidetrack you from the things that you are really interested in.

Thanks, Fiona! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa









How to Be a Woman's Caitlin Moran: Giveaway and excerpt

Today's guest: Caitlin Moran Why we love her: She's been called the UK version of Tina Fey and we couldn't agree more. So, what's not to love?

Her latest: How to Be a Woman

The scoop on it:  Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism.

With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

Our thoughts: Witty and funny, it's a book for every woman!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm on Monday, August 27, 2012.

Fun Fact: She's the oldest of eight children!

Where you can read more about Caitlin: Twitter and her website.


I have no idea what to wear to a strip club. It’s one of the biggest wardrobe crises of my life.

“What are you wearing?” I ask Vicky on the phone.

“Skirt. Cardigan,” Vicky says, lighting a fag.

“What shoes?”

“Boots. Low heel.”

“Oh, I was going to wear boots, low heel, too,” I say. “We can both wear boots, low heel. That’s good. We’ll be matchy.” Then a bad thought occurs to me. “Actually, maybe we shouldn’t both wear boots, low heel,” I say. “If we look too matchy, people might think we’re an act. You know. Like a lesbian act. And try and touch us.”

“No one would believe you’re a lesbian,” Vicky sighs. “You’d make a terrible lesbian.”

“I wouldn’t!” I say indignantly. This offends my can-do nature.

“If I wanted, I could be a great lesbian!”

“No, you couldn’t,” Vicky says. “You’re offensively heterosexual. You fancy Father Christmas. By no stretch of the imagination could Father Christmas be construed to have Sapphic androgyny. He wears Wellington boots indoors.”

I can’t believe Vicky is doubting my ability to be a lesbian, if I really wanted to be. She’s seen how versatile I can be on a night out. Once, when we went to Bournemouth, we blagged our way backstage of a theater and convinced the star of the show—a legendary sitcom actor—that we were prostitutes, just to see his reaction. He said, “Blimey!” in a very edifying manner. My capabilities are endless. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

“Maybe I’ll wear sneakers, instead,” I say.

Vicky has asked me if I want to join her for a night out at Spearmint Rhino, on Tottenham Court Road. It’s the year 2000, and strip clubs—for so long regarded as the holding pen for the last few sad, sweaty fucks on earth—have become acceptable again.

In Britain, the mid-nineties have been all about the rediscovery of the British working class’s monochrome tropes—pubs, greyhound racing, anoraks, football in the park, bacon sandwiches, “birds”—and strip clubs come under this heading. “Ladettes” now enjoy a night out in the classier strip clubs of the metropolis. Various Spice Girls have been pictured in strip clubs, smoking cigars and cheering the acts on. Titty-bars are being marketed as an exciting, marginally loucher version of the Groucho Club—just somewhere for anyone who liked to start a night out at 1 a.m.

Partly out of journalistic hunger to cover the phenomenon, and partly because newspaper editors are invariably excited by pictures of female hacks in a strip club, the Evening Standard has asked Vicky to go spend an evening in the Rhino in order to see what all the fuss is about.

“It’s against every single one of my feminist principles. These are arenas of abuse,” I said when she called.

“The manager is giving us complimentary champagne all night,” Vicky said.

“I will meet you there at 9 p.m.,” I said, with all the dignity I could muster.

Thanks, Caitlin!


Liz & Lisa


Kitty Pilgrim's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Kitty Pilgrim Why we love her: She's an incredible talent we wish we'd discovered sooner!

Her latest: The Stolen Chalice

The scoop on it: The black-tie gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art promises to be a star-studded evening. Cordelia Stapleton and John Sinclair have flown in from Alexandria, Egypt, to help celebrate ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian culture with New York’s elite. The influential crowd of artists, collectors, scientists, and New York society dine and dance at the museum’s historic Temple of Dendur, unaware that terrorists are planning to attack. Fortunately, museum security and police stop the terrorists, but the evening is a disaster.

The next morning, Cordelia and Sinclair learn that an art theft ring struck New York while they were at the museum. All over the city, pieces of Egyptian art have been stolen. Ted VerPlanck—a pillar of New York society whom Cordelia met the night before—discovers that his penthouse apartment was robbed and the legendary Sardonyx Cup, an ancient Egyptian chalice, is missing. Ted asks John Sinclair to help him recover his precious artifact.

Despite Cordelia’s objections, Sinclair calls on his old flame the Egyptologist Dr. Holly Graham to help find the chalice. They discover the stolen art is being sold on the black market to fund an international terrorist group. The group’s leader, a sinister Egyptian anarchist, and his aristocratic British partner, Lady Xandra Sommerset, are planning a biological-weapon attack to topple the major governments of the world.

Aided by British and American security forces, Sinclair sets out to find the missing art, which holds clues to where and when the attack will take place. Pieces of stolen art are scattered around the world. The action moves from a sprawling ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to a castle on Scotland’s rugged coastline, a beautiful two-hundred-foot yacht in the Mediterranean, the mysterious canals of Venice, the premier beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and ultimately Cairo. Romance sizzles as Sinclair, Cordelia, and Holly Graham are caught in a love triangle, distracted by their emotions, and unknowingly moving closer to mortal danger.

Superstition and science meet head-on. And one question remains unanswered—does the Sardonyx Cup have special powers?

Our thoughts: So unlike anything else we've read in a while- we found this novel completely refreshing!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 29 after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Before becoming an author, Kitty was an anchor and journalist for CNN.

Where you can read more about Kitty: Twitter, Facebook and her website.


1. Don’t worry about your personal style – It develops as you go. For many women, a lot of time goes into figuring out “who am I?” in terms of style.  For me, the love of ultra feminine things– tea parties and tutus, seemed to contrast with the explorer who wanted to ride elephants though jungles and don arctic gear. Over the years I learned there is room for both without having to undergo a personality morph.  Don’t limit yourself to one style.  Let your personal flair develop naturally.

2. Wing it!  It seems a lot of time and effort goes into being in the “right field” or in the “right school”.  Too much time is spent on strategizing with the goal of finding the optimal situation.  But in reality there are many ways to succeed.  Most of the famous and accomplished women did not have a “game plan”.  (Madam Curie, Gertrude Bell, Eleanor Roosevelt) They simply followed their instincts and interests with their full energy, and ended up being luminaries in their fields.

3. Seek out people who are different from you.  If you run with a pack of clones, how will you really know what you think and what is group-think? Seek out new people, new cultures, new places and you will grow in experience as well as confidence.

4. Don’t exercise.  (I’m joking -sort of!) Don’t destroy your soul with mind-numbing exercises with the intent of dropping down a dress size. Of course you shouldn’t be a couch potato. Be active!  But do stimulating things that also feed your brain and sense of adventure. Take a walk through a new neighborhood, a museum or a new city – more fun than a treadmill.  Swim at the beach, ski a new trail, bike with a friend, or learn to do the tango. Do interesting things that you enjoy and you will always be fit.

5. Breeze past the negative  - Don’t take negative comments to heart.  Forget the snide school lunchroom comments about your big feet, your crooked nose, or stringy hair.   As a teenager I took too many critical comments seriously.  Your life is not up for review by others. Plug your ears, and look out at the world and dream of what you want to accomplish.

Thanks, Kitty! xoxo,


Jill Conner Browne's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Jill Conner Browne Why we love her: What's not to love? She's the Sweet Potato Queen!

Her latest: Fat is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Coping With (the crappy parts of) Life

The scoop: Her father taught her there are very few situations in life that we really and truly cannot change, and it is up to us to figure out how to either make fun OUT of them — or make fun OF them. And fortunately for the rest of us, Browne is well equipped for both. Including the exploits of the Queen contingent and her family, she delivers applicable tidbits like:

* Thinking or talking about watermelon can save any negative situation.

* If you get drunk in Scotland, you can’t have your cow with you.

* When sanity and reason fail, you can always cheerfully resort to ridicule.

* Denial means that every situation is perfectly perfect.

Our thoughts: Just when we thought her books couldn't get any funnier, she writes this one (this is her ninth)! Thanks for the serious LOL's, Jill!

Fun fact: There are over 6,000 Sweet Potato Queen chapters around the country.

Giveaway: 3 copies! Just leave a comment & we'll randomly select the winners after 6pm PST on Monday, April 30th.


1.  No tanning beds and no drinking from straws:  See "alligator hides" and "purse mouth"--no cure for either and you will have both before you can blink.

2.  Get in shape NOW and STAY that way--playing catch-up is endless and agonizing.

3.  Do not waste your tears on someone who makes you cry.

4.  A Boyfriend Who Sucks is NOT better than No Boyfriend at All.  He's a boyfriend--who sucks! (Same applies to "Girlfriends," naturally.)

5.  Do what you will WISH you had done when you're 50--which you will BE before you can believe it.

Thanks, Jill! xoxo, L&L

To find out more about the fabulous Jill Conner Browne, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.