best women's fiction of 2012

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



7 Seconds in Heaven with Danny Wallace

Today's guest: Danny Wallace Why we want to spend 7 seconds with him: Charlotte Street is a smartly written romantic comedy. Danny Wallace clearly knows how to write books women love!

His latest: Charlotte Street (Out today!)

The scoop on it: Jason Priestley (no, not that Jason Priestley) is in a rut. He gave up his teaching job to write snarky reviews of cheap restaurants for the free newspaper you take but don't read. He lives above a video-game store, between a Polish newsstand and that place that everyone thinks is a brothel but isn't. His most recent Facebook status is "Jason Priestley is . . . eating soup." Jason's beginning to think he needs a change.

So he uncharacteristically moves to help a girl on the street who's struggling with an armload of packages, and she smiles an incredible smile at him before her cab pulls away. What for a fleeting moment felt like a beginning is cruelly cut short—until Jason realizes that he's been left holding a disposable camera. And suddenly, with prodding and an almost certainly disastrous offer of assistance from his socially inept best friend Dev, a coincidence-based, half-joking idea—What if he could track this girl down based on the photos in her camera?—morphs into a full-fledged quest to find the woman of Jason's dreams.

Our thoughts: He had us at Jason Priestly!

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, October 28th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: It involves Jim Carrey. (See below!)

Where you can read more about Danny: His website.


1. I once founded my own independent state in a one-bedroom apartment in East London and became King Danny I, leader of tens of thousands of citizens of the Kingdom of Lovely.

2. When I was thirteen, a KGB agent broke into the Berlin flat I was living in to find me with a baseball bat. (True!)

3. I am a direct descendant along the paternal line of William Wallace, King of Scotland, aka Braveheart.

4. My book Yes Man was turned into the film of the same name, starring Jim Carrey.

5. I (at first anonymously) founded a good deeds 'cult' called Join Me, encouraging random acts of kindness towards complete strangers each and every Friday.

6. A picture of me and a chimpanzee I innocently uploaded to the internet was stolen and used without me knowing on advertising billboards in a major marketing campaign for Egyptian hotels across the North African region.

7. I haven't been able to have a bath without thinking of Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana since the early 1990s, after hearing him speak about perfect bath temperatures.

Thanks, Danny!


Liz & Lisa

Catherine McKenzie's 5 BEST EVERS

Today's guest: Catherine McKenzie Why we love her: She writes hilarious and smart novels that make us think.

Her latest: Forgotten

The scoop on it: Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead—and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In Forgotten, Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

Our thoughts: From the time we read the premise, we were intrigued. Forgotten turned out to be even better than it sounded. It's now one of our favorite Catherine McKenzie novels!

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm on Sunday, October 28th.

Fun fact: Catherine is also a lawyer!

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


If you’ve read High Fidelity—and if you haven’t how come? It’s awesome—you’ll understand when I say that being asked to choose my favorite anything makes me feel like Rob Gordon trying to pick his top five songs of all time. I love so many songs, books, movies etc. that it’s hard to pick just one. So, with that being said, here are …


1. Favorite Book—Jeez. This is really hard. But I’ve said Pride and Prejudice before, so I’ll stick to that. I came to this book relatively late in life—I was one of those Jane-Austen-What’s-All-the-Fuss people. Then I saw Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the BBC version of the book (2nd runner up in favorite movie category), and I fell in love. After having read the book, it became clear that it was one of those perfect book-to-movie adaptations (as is High Fidelity—see, this is hard!), and that I had long misjudged Ms. Austen. I went on to read all her books, including the unfinished ones, and I read them about once a year.

2. Favorite Song—Oh boy. This one is even harder. Seriously. I can’t choose. So here is some of my favorite music to write by: Bob Dylan’s Biograph, Sarah Harmer’s You Were Here, MoZella’s Belle Isle, Eric Hutchison’s Sounds Like This, Matt Nathanson’s Live at the Point (awesome and hilarious). I tend to queue up one of these albums, or sometimes just one song, and play it over and over while I write. It helps me create a rhythm.

3. Favorite Movie—Did I mention this was hard? I think I’ll pick Bull Durham. I can pretty much quote it from beginning to end, and it makes excellent Movie Night viewing.

4. Life Moment—mmm, personal. But a pretty good one was when I got the call about getting my first book deal. And the funny thing? I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to tell them, which is exactly what happens to the main character in Arranged, a scene I wrote before I got my book deal. Do I have magical powers?

5. Piece of Advice—This one’s easy: Make time for the things you love. People always ask me how I have time to practice law and write books. It’s complicated, but simple really: you make time for the things you love. Don’t you? If not, please start doing so immediately.

Thanks, Catherine!


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

Yona Zeldis McDonough's 5 Things I'd tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Yona Zeldis McDonough Why we love her: In a nutshell, she writes novels that excite us.

Her latest: A Wedding in Great Neck

The scoop on it: An effervescent yet deep story about family and the ways in which the powerful ties that bind us can also cut us off and keep us apart. Taking place in a single day, A Wedding In Great Neck follows the Silverstein clan as they come together for nuptials of the youngest daughter, Angelica. Angelica is the family’s golden girl—intelligent, beautiful and accomplished, she is both everyone’s favorite, and the object of much envy and resentment.  She has planned a fairy tale wedding to her Israeli fiancé—a former fighter pilot—and is determined to have everything go perfectly.  But things do not go according to plan, and there are complications, dramas and confrontations at every turn.

Our thoughts: There's nothing like a wedding to bring out the best kind of family drama. McDonough nails it in this entertaining novel that unfolds over the course of just one day (love that!).

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll select the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, October 22nd.

Fun fact: She also writes non-fiction and children's books. C'mon Yona, you're just making us all look bad here! :)

Where you can read more about Yona: Her website.


1. Stop worrying about your nose/hair/eyes/thighs etc.  Whether you know it or not, you are at the peak of your physical beauty, right here, right now.  Don’t spend a single second of your precious youth thinking you are insufficient because you don’t resemble a highly made-up, superbly lit, airbrushed image of a model.  Don’t just enjoy, but revel in the loveliness that is you.

2. Learn to save money.  I know, it’s the last thing you want to think about.  But it’s a great habit to develop early and it will last you throughout your life.  Sure it’s fun to spend your allowance or hard-earned cash on pizza and prom dresses, but make sure you tuck a little aside on a regular basis. Set up a saving account and make a pact with yourself not to touch it until you are at least eighteen, or even twenty-one if you can stand it.  You’d be surprised with what you can accomplish with a little fiscal willpower. And when you want to pay for a car or a trip to Europe, you’ll have your stash all ready and waiting.

3.  Explore your creative side to the fullest.  Remember when you were a little kid? You were unafraid to draw, paint, dance, sing and engage in just about any other artistic pursuit you could.  But as we grow older, we grow critical of our efforts, and we gradually lose the habit of creativity. Don’t.  Even if you aren’t an artist/writer/performer, give yourself the gift of creative expression.  Keep a journal or diary. Write poetry.  Take a dance class or sit on the beach with a sketchpad and pencil.  Don’t surrender the joy of expressing yourself through a variety of creative outlets—ever.

4. Get over the mean girl stuff.  Let me tell you a secret: mean girls are insecure girls.  Confident girls have the generosity to be kind and openhearted. Don’t build yourself up by tearing someone else down; it puts you in a bad light.  Focus on your own talents, abilities, goals and dreams; you won’t have the time—or the need—to be a mean girl.

5.  Give back.  By this I mean step outside your world and your concerns and do some small thing to help someone else.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, daycare center or animal shelter.  Help clean up a park or work in a community garden. Adolescence is a particularly fraught time and it’s easy to get caught up in your own life: school, friends, and boys. But when you can step back and help someone else, it puts your own problems in perspective and they may not seem as big or daunting any more.  Added bonus: helping someone else gives you a sense of satisfaction and happiness that just won’t quit—promise!

Thanks, Yona! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa

Photo credit: Keith Price

Lit IT Girl: Debut author Jessica Grose

Our latest Lit IT Girl: Jessica Grose Why we love her: It's the best feeling when we fall in love with a new author's voice and even though we've just discovered her, cannot wait to read what she writes next. No pressure, Jessica!

Her debut: Sad Desk Salad (Out today!)

The scoop on it: As a writer for Chick Habit, an increasingly popular women's website, Alex Lyons gets paid to be a bitch. She's churning out several posts a day, and she saves her juiciest ones for blog prime time, when working women eat their sad desk salads in their offices. Alex tells herself she's fulfilling her dream of being a professional writer; so what if it means being glued to her couch and her laptop from six a.m. to six p.m., scouring the web in search of the next big celebrity scandal? Since Chick Habit's parent company keeps close tabs on page views, Alex knows her job is always at risk.

So when an anonymous tipster sends her the year's most salacious story—a politico's squeaky-clean Ivy League daughter caught in a very R-rated activity—it's a no-brainer. But is Alex really willing to ruin the girl's life by igniting the next Internet feeding frenzy? And what she doesn't yet realize is how this big scoop is about to send her own life spiraling out of control.

Our thoughts: It's smart, funny and juicy--we loved getting that insider feel about the celebrity world! (You know we're celebrity gossip whores!)

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll select the winners on Monday, October 8th after 3pm PST

Fun fact: Congrats to Jessica! She's going to have a baby! See below...

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


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? I was phenomenally lucky to find my beloved agent Elisabeth Weed in my first round of looking. When I was a senior in college, I wrote a series for that caught the eye of a young editor at Random House. I was totally green, and so that editor was kind enough to introduce me to some agents who might be interested in my work. If memory serves, I emailed five or six of them, ended up meeting with three, one of whom was Elisabeth. It was so clear that she got me in ways that the others didn't, and I've been with her for over nine years now.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? I wish I could remember! I think I have a mental block about them in the interest of self-preservation. I do remember a pseudo-boyfriend once telling me in a break-up email that I was too neurotic and dramatic for him. I guess that is my "favorite"?

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Trying to see the process as a learning experience no matter what the outcome was. When I was about half way through, I started panicking—what if I've devoted all this time to writing this and it never sees the light of day? What if it's actually terrible and no one will tell me? I needed to teach myself to feel good about finishing it, regardless of whether or not I sold it.

4. What is the best advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? Find readers who give you feedback that you trust. My book got about 45 times better after I had three exceedingly generous colleagues read the first draft and give me notes. I am so ridiculously grateful to them for their time and care.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? I bought a pair of stupidly expensive Rag & Bone boots that I had been coveting for six months. And I went out to a fancy dinner with my husband.

6. Who is your writer crush? Oh my god, I have a new one every week. Zadie Smith is the one that comes to mind first. She's so smart and talented and foxy. My parents gave me White Teeth as a high school graduation present and Smith just continues to wow me in both fiction and non-fiction. Her recent profile of Jay-Z is one of my favorites of the year. I hadn't heard of Gillian Flynn before reading Gone Girl, and now I am obsessed with her. Same goes for Maria Semple—I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette in one day over Labor Day weekend and just think Semple is so hilarious and bright.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? The book I've probably read the most is Marion Meade's fabulous biography of Dorothy Parker, What Fresh Hell Is This? I love literary biographies and Parker is a heroine of mine. I know it's kind of an odd choice—I bet most people choose fiction--but I find Parker's life story and the relationship to her work endlessly fascinating, somewhat inspiring (and more than a little sad).

8. What's on your iPod right now? My latest downloads are the new albums from The Divine Fits and The Walkmen. Both could be described as "dad rock."

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Usually I would say running. But since I am 7 months pregnant and running is...comical, my #1 stress reliever is napping.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? I just saw the movie Bachelorette and Lizzy Caplan can do no wrong with me.

Thanks, Jess!


Liz & Lisa


Lit IT Girl: Debut author Allie Kingsley

Today's guest: Allie Kingsley Why we love her: We love discovering fabulous new authors!

Her debut: The Liar, The Bitch and The Wardrobe

The scoop on it: If you’re going to step on people on your way to the top, you might as well do it in stilettos . . .

. . . Or so she’s been told. Lucy Butler, former wallflower, lands her dream job working for her idol, world-famous fashion photographer Stefano Lepres. But in a world where getting doused in coffee for not getting the order right is the new normal, she isn’t getting any closer to her ideal of being behind the camera herself.
Then a superstar actress generously takes Lucy under her wing and teaches her the ways of the rich and famous—treating her to racks of designer clothes and introducing her to a life of private planes and penthouse suites. Soon Lucy is dating a rock star, attending the hottest Hollywood parties, and dressing the part.
Lost in the luxury, she loses sight of the things that once mattered most. It’s going to take a hard blow from the high life to send Lucy back to the real life she always wanted.
Our thoughts on it: LOVED this book loosely based on Allie's own real-life experiences in Hollywood. So juicy! You will love it too!

Giveaway: FIVE COPIES. Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3PM PST on Monday, September 10th.

Fun fact: Allie's book is the first ever where the characters have been professionally styled.

Where you can read more about Allie: Twitter, Hello Giggles and Facebook.


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? I was days away from signing with the second agent that I queried not because I felt he was 'the one' but because he was very good on paper and well known in publishing. Then, I happened to have met my agent by chance through an acquaintance. She is also very good at what she does but furthermore, we had a connection and our faith in each other was instinctive and mutual from the start. Things got a little dramatic when I made the (right) choice to go with my (awesome) agent. It was very much like The Notebook. Except it was all done sans pin curls. And via e-mail.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? I know that it's not the type of rejection letter that you're referring to, but my favorite line comes from my Mother. She begged of me last year, "Please don't count on this book-thing happening. Please get a real job..." When she said it, once the sting subsided, it was as if she threw a can of kerosene onto my little bonfire. It was the obvious choice to quote her on my dedication page.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel?  Being a starving artist at thirty is not a good look. In order to give the novel my full attention, I made it my full-time job which made me my own full-time unpaid intern. I made so many sacrifices to keep it moving, ie; sold my coveted black patent peep-toe Louboutins on ebay to cover bills (moment of silence), slept on my friends couches for weeks at a time - countless times - to sublet my apartment, at one point lived on a $5 a day budget in one of the most expensive cities in the world - all while watching my friends excel at their jobs and missing out while they got to do lavish, exciting things. The hardest part about it was not knowing for certain whether it would pay off in the end or not. Everyone in my life thought that I was insane taking the risk. And you know what? It was totally worth it.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? The best advice came from my best friend. She said to me on a regular basis: "Keep your head down", meaning don't look behind you and don't look ten steps ahead either - focus on right where you are in that moment and address what needs to be done today to get you to tomorrow. To this day, I remind myself daily to 'keep my head down' because all of the excitement ahead can feel very overwhelming, daunting even and the best and only thing one can do is to remain present.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? Lots of champagne. Jumped into a pool fully clothed. Got a Penguin tattoo on my forearm. In that order... I think.

6. Who is your writer crush? Hank Moody.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? How to Build A Sailboat Out of Desert Island Material For Dummies

8. What's on your iPod right now? The Doors, Britney Spears, Rolling Stones, Fiona Apple, White Stripes, Jay-Z.  I'm a fan of the random shuffle.

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? The best way I know how to quiet my mind chatter is to plug into a loud playlist and walk around aimlessly, whether along the beach or about the streets of NYC. Well that and black tar heroin.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? My book. And Jesus.

Thanks, Allie! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa

Jane Porter's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Jane Porter Why we love her: Her novels, Flirting with Forty and She's Gone Country are two of our faves!

Her latest: The Good Woman (Out today: September 4th.)

The scoop on it: Is it possible to leave it all behind? The firstborn of a large Irish-American family, Meg Brennan Roberts is a successful publicist, faithful wife, and doting mother who prides herself on always making the right decisions. But years of being “the good woman” have taken a toll and though her winery career thrives, Meg feels burned out and empty, and more disconnected than ever from her increasingly distant husband. Lonely and disheartened, she attends the London Wine Fair with her boss, ruggedly handsome vintner, Chad Hallahan. It’s here, alone together in an exotic city, far from “real” life, that Chad confesses his long-standing desire for Meg.

Overwhelmed, flattered, and desperately confused, Meg returns home, only to suddenly question every choice she’s ever made, especially that of her marriage. For Meg, something’s got to give, and for once in her life she flees her responsibilities—but with consequences as reckless and irreversible as they are liberating. Now she must decide whether being the person everyone needs is worth losing the woman she was meant to be.

Read chapter one and two here.

Our thoughts: Engaging and heartfelt, we hated to reach the final page. But there's good news: This is the first book of three!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll pick the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, September 10th.

Fun fact: Jane also writes romance novels.

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


(NOTE: Photo of Jane as a teen also included! She looks exactly the same!)

1. You are not fat and you do not have a big butt.  In fact, your thighs and butt are the smallest now they will ever be so stop obsessing about your body and enjoy the fact that it doesn’t jiggle and ache.   And while we’re discussing your body, lets talk about something that’s a little nit picky but its been bothering me for awhile:  Please, please stop using flesh colored Clearasil.  It doesn’t look natural and its not invisible and it its obvious you’re trying to cover up a pimple.   You’re not hiding anything, you’re just making the zit look worse.

2. Jane, Jane,’re a swimmer, not a cheer leader, a book worm, not a model.  The football players don’t dig you and you’re never going to be popular.  But that’s okay.  It’s okay to not be popular.  In fact, being unpopular will prove to be very good for you.  It will a) give you stories for the future, and b) help you push yourself harder, dream bigger, and take greater risks because you’ve got something to prove, and you can, because you’re not constantly worrying about what the popular crowd thinks.

3. Those guys that seemed so hot in high school?   A little secret, teen Jane: they’re not so hot later.   Sure, they look great now to your 16 year old eyes because they hit puberty earlier than others, and have been shaving since they were thirteen, but those skinny, short, nerdy guys you don’t even notice right now?  They change.  They become the real heartbreakers.  They’re the hunks of the future, as well as the brainy, cool mavericks who transform the world as we know it.

4. To have the life you want to have, to get to where you want to go, you’re going to have to fight hard.  You’re going to have to work hard.  Really hard.  There will be a lot of obstacles in the way, and a lot of naysayers telling you that you’re wrong, and you can’t succeed, but they don’t know you, Jane.   I do, though, and I’m going to tell you something that’s really important: gird yourself.  Be prepared to take some hard hits on the way.  The hits won’t feel good, but they won’t destroy you.  Some hits will hurt more than others, and you might fall down and cry, but you’re tough.  You’re strong.  Get up.  Shake yourself off.   And keep going.  As long as you’re resilient and tenacious you really can do anything.  You can be anyone you want to be.  It’s your life.  It’s your dream.  Fight for it.  Always.

5. Lastly, Jane, you don’t have to please everyone.  In fact, you don’t have to please anyone as long as you’re happy with you.  (Hard to believe when you’re a pleaser, but it’s true).   But how to be happy with yourself?  Stop apologizing for being yourself.   There’s nothing wrong with you.  Sure, you’re geeky and emotional and socially awkward, but that’s part of your charm.   It’s who you are, and your real friends accept the real you.  So stop looking outward for truth, and those answers you think everyone has.  (They don’ least, they don’t have the answers you want for you.)  It’s time you realized you have the answers already.  They’re there in your head, and your heart, and lucky you, it’s a good heart.   And it’s a heart that needs to be protected.  So protect yourself, and your heart, and be the person you want to be because that’s the only way you’ll ever be happy.  Loving yourself will allow you to love everyone else and you’ll have the happy ever after you’ve always wanted.

Thanks, Jane! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa

Author photo credit: Kira Stewart Photography

Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Kristyn Kusek Lewis

Our latest Lit IT Girl: Kristyn Kusek-Lewis Why we love her: Her writing is heartfelt and real.

Her debut: How Lucky You Are (September 4th!)

The scoop on it: An engaging and moving novel about three women struggling to keep their longstanding friendship alive. Waverly, who's always been the group's anchor, runs a cozy bakery but worries each month about her mounting debt. Kate is married to a man who's on track to be the next governor of Virginia, but the larger questions brewing in their future are unsettling her. Stay-at-home mom Amy has a perfect life on paper, but as the horrific secret she's keeping from her friends threatens to reveal itself, she panics.

As life's pressures build all around them, Waverly knows she has some big decisions to make. In doing so, she will discover that the lines between loyalty and betrayal can become blurred, happy endings aren't always clear-cut, and sometimes you have to risk everything to gain the life you deserve.

Our thoughts: As lifelong friends, we loved and appreciated this heartwarming and authentic story about the complexities of female friendship.  (Side note: We also love the charming cover!)

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on September 10th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Before writing her novel, Kristyn was a writer and editor for many major magazines including Glamour.

Where to read more about Kristyn: Facebook, Twitter and her website


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? About 25. I made a massive list of agents by finding out who reps authors I love, surfing sites like AgentQuery, and, in a couple of cases, asking for referrals from author friends. The whole process took about six months. I’ll never forget getting the voicemail from my agent saying that she loved my book and would like to represent me. It was a moment that I’d dreamt about for years.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? I wish that I had a good, juicy story but my rejections were actually pretty standard “thanks, but no thanks” letters, and in the cases where agents asked to read the manuscript and ultimately declined, they sent some surprisingly lovely letters. It’s of course a bummer to get a rejection but I just kept reminding myself of Stephen King’s famous story about how, when he was first starting out, he got so many rejections that he hung them on a wall with a metal stake.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Not knowing whether I’d eventually sell it. I took a break from magazine writing, the career I’ve had for the past fifteen years, to focus on the book and I definitely had days when I wondered if I was wasting my time. I’d already written another novel and scrapped it because I just wasn’t in love with it, and I really wanted this one to work. I was ready.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? I didn’t get any horrible advice but the best that I got was to take the “long view.” In other words, don’t let the day-to-day stuff get in the way of what you ultimately want out of a writing career. This is a business that is completely subjective and constantly changing, and you can’t get yourself down if you have one bad day of writing or get a single rejection or bad review. There are always going to be highs and lows.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? Champagne, of course! But I’d just had my second child three months earlier so I’m fairly certain that I had a glass and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Glamorous, I know.

6. Who is your writer crush?
 There are so many! Right now, I’d say Gillian Flynn. I’m reading Gone Girl and it is blowing my mind that she managed to write something that is simultaneously smart, funny, and terrifying. But my ultimate is Nora Ephron. In my twenties, I lived a few blocks from her building in New York and there were so many times when I wished I could just pop in and hang out with her. She managed to write about relationships in such a smart yet relatable way.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? Only one?! Probably Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Unoriginal, yes, but there’s good reason why that book makes every “best books about writing” list, and her advice about life in general is just so terrifically down to earth.

8. What's on your iPod right now? A bizarre mix of music—Willie Nelson, Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, The Band, Beyonce, that Taio Cruz “Dynamite” song, Dolly Parton, Fugazi, Led Zeppelin. And “Dora the Explorer Party Favorites,” of course (my daughters are 4 and 2).

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Running. My dad was a big runner and I spent a good part of my early childhood standing on the sidelines of various road races, passing out orange slices to the runners. It definitely rubbed off. That said, I’m a sucker for a spa treatment.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Can I say the entire Bravo network? My addiction to their lineup is embarrassing—I just can’t get enough of those damn “Housewives.”

Thanks, Kristyn!


Liz & Lisa


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









Thérèse's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Thérèse Why we love her: She wrote the perfect end of summer read.

Her latest: India's Summer

The scoop on it: It's the story of India Butler, single and about to turn forty, who travels from London to LA to reinvent herself. In a world illuminated by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi, she discovers the true meaning of “having it all’ while spending the summer with her sister Annabelle, a famous Hollywood actress, and her brother -in -law, a legendary rock musician.

They welcome India into their opulent, fast-paced lifestyle, whisking her from fabulous fundraisers to parties each more opulent than the last. This does nothing for India’s confidence and she maintains a wry detachment until she begins dating Adam, a gorgeous A- list actor. In an attempt to appear more successful she lies to him about her career.

Disaster strikes and India is drawn behind the veneer of Hollywood glitz and glamor and into Hollywood’s private lives. As her illusions about the perfection of their LA lifestyle fade away, India has an epiphany about her own real talents. .

India is in her element until her new life in LA unravels.

Our thoughts: We love a character we can root for. We were with India every step of the way.

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: Orlando Bloom, Goldie Hawn and Jane Green have all praised India's Summer.

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


1. Pay more attention in your French classes because one day you will fall in love with Paris and be embarrassed that you can’t speak the language properly. This will lead you to be rendered speechless in case anyone suspects. You look French. You have a French name. You like French food and French style, so learn the language why don’t you.

2. This is not an appropriate age to go steady. Why have you become so attached to one boy? You should be out dancing not sitting at home playing Scrabble. Dancing is legal at all ages- but ‘dirty- dancing’ looks ridiculous at a certain age. You’ll know what that age is when you reach it.

3. Don’t listen to those nuns. They haven’t been out in the world for years. What would they know? One day a woman called Madonna, (the one who is not the mother of Jesus)  will make you feel a whole lot less guilty about not being a Catholic.

4. Neon is not a fashion forward choice at any age. White pants only really work in denim or linen and only then if you have a change of clothes in your purse.

5. Good girlfriends will last a lifetime. Pick wisely. I know you will.

Thanks, Therese!


Liz & Lisa

Erin Duffy's 5 Do's and a Do-Over

Today's guest: Erin Duffy Why we love her: She wrote one of the juiciest books of 2012. Speaking of...

Her latest: Bond Girl (Out in paperback now!)

The scoop on it: While other little girls were fantasizing about becoming doctors or lawyers, Alex Garrett dreamed of conquering the high-powered world of Wall Street. Now she's grown and determined to make it big in bond sales at Cromwell Pierce, one of the Street's most esteemed brokerage firms. Though she's prepared to fight her way into an elitist boys' club, she starts out small, relegated to a kiddie-size folding chair with her new moniker, "Girlie," inscribed in Wite-Out across the back.

Always keeping her eyes on the prize (and ignoring her friends' pleas for her to quit), Alex quickly learns how to roll with the punches, rising from lowly analyst to slightly-less-lowly associate in no time. Suddenly she's being addressed by her real name, and the boys' club has transformed into forty older brothers . . . and one possible boyfriend. But then the apocalypse hits, and Alex is faced with the most difficult choice of her life: to stick with Cromwell Pierce as it teeters on the brink of disaster . . . or to kick off her Jimmy Choos and go running for higher ground.

Our thoughts: We loved it just as much the second time around. Click here for our thoughts when we hosted her on our site when Bond Girl was released in hardback. (Then add even more gushing and oohing and ahhing!)

Giveaway: 5 copies of the paperback! Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners after 3pm PST on Sunday, August 5.

Fun Fact: Duffy used to work on Wall Street and wrote Bond Girl after being laid off after a decade long career. Way to make a come back!

Where you can read more about Erin: Facebook


Well this is a first for me! It’s not often that I get a forum to blog about Dos and Do Overs, mostly because no one seems to ever really care what I think about, well, anything. Typically, when I give my thoughts to friends or family I’m greeted with polite smiles, not-so-polite eye rolls, and then I’m entirely ignored. It’s hard for me to be surprised by this, because Lord knows, I never really take my own advice, either, so I guess I can’t blame them.  I will say though, that I’m beginning to wish that I could sit down with the younger version of me and smack her in the face before imparting these brief words of wisdom. Writing Bond Girl has been an amazing experience, proven by the fact that I get to be on Chick Lit Is Not Dead! I don’t know that writing it makes me qualified in any way whatsoever to give my thoughts to other people, so I promise if you all want to skip over this entry, I’ll forgive you. But, as I’m trying to think more positively these days, I’ll at the very least give it a whirl. In no particular order, here they are!

1. DO save your money. I’m thirty-four now and I wish I had been a bit more frugal in my twenties then I was. Here’s the thing about recessions: you don’t really appreciate what the word means until you live through one. Maybe you lose your job, or maybe you take a pay cut, or maybe you watch friends struggle to find work month after brutally long paycheck free month, but whatever is, you realize you’re your money can dry up fast! I myself have yet to find my money tree (but I’m still looking, really hard, and I’ll report back if I find one), and I want to kill the younger, dumber Erin for taking a steady paycheck for granted. If I had gotten up a little earlier and had time to take the subway to work instead of a cab over the years, I’d have more money saved and maybe wouldn’t worry quite as much about having to move home to my parents to avoid paying rent. Basement living isn’t really my thing. And at thirty-four, if I’m going to cohabitate with someone,  I really prefer it not be with my mother. No offense, Mom.

2. DO think long and hard about dating guys who already have loads of baggage in their twenties. Relationships are hard enough when both people’s crazy quotients are within the realm of reason. I can’t tell you how many girls I know who invested years of their lives with guys who due to any number of unfortunate life events, were simply too crazy to possibly be considered good dating material. I can’t think of a single instance in this case where things ended well, or where the girl wasn’t left saying to herself, “what was I thinking?” The answer is, she wasn’t, (and in the interest of being honest, yes, ladies, I’m one of them), so this one I would like to stress. I’d put this whole paragraph in capital letters to prove that point but then it would look like I was screaming at you.

3. DO spend quality time with your girlfriends. One of the worst parts about getting older, aside from wrinkles, sagging boobs, and a slowing metabolism, is that your friends will inevitably get married, move away, have babies, and begin their own busy lives. It becomes harder and harder as time goes by and life gets in the way to maintain those all important female ties. Sometimes, it seems easier to let weeks go by without checking in, but thanks to facebook, emails, texts, and various other forms of electronic communication, it’s infinitely easier than it used to be. You will need your girlfriends at times in your life, and when you do, make sure you know where to find them.

4. DO take time to take care of yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up jobs, families, friends, ect that we can forget to take a few minutes to make ourselves presentable to the outside world.  I once went an entire week running around like such a lunatic that I actually managed to go four days without brushing my hair and the resulting self-loathing was strong enough to crush an elephant. Now, let me be clear here, no one is talking about being Marcia Brady and brushing your hair 100 strokes a day while gazing fondly at your appearance in the mirror, but a multitude of sins can be cured with a hairbrush and a hot shower.  If nothing else, it will help your mental state to know that worst case scenario, if you do end up in the emergency room somewhere, your mom will be proud to know that you are, in fact, wearing clean underwear.

5. DO take some chances in life. I worked in finance for twelve years before I published Bond Girl, and sure, there are days that I am terrified that switching careers was maybe a bad idea. The truth is, if you don’t at least try new things, and work hard at something that you love, you’ll never know what you are capable of achieving. No one is saying to start walking tightropes over highways or swallowing fire or anything, but a few well thought out risks in life will make you a braver, and I’ve found, happier person. And hey, if things don’t work out, you probably will at least have some really funny stories to tell your kids one day.

And last but not least, here is my do over…drum roll, please? Thank you.

DO NOT beat yourself up over every mistake you make. There are enough people in this world who will relish the chance to make you feel like an idiot at every possible opportunity. You don’t need to join them, they’ll do just fine without you, trust me. I wish I had been a little easier on myself at certain times over the last few years, and didn’t punish myself whenever I failed to do something perfectly. (Or at least, as close to perfect as I can possibly be. The truth is, I’ve accepted the sad reality that perfection is something that will elude me for the rest of my days on this earth.) I don’t care what Dr. Oz or anyone else says, ladies, if you ask me, sometimes it’s okay to lie on your couch, eat pizza, and watch bad reality TV for eighteen hours a day. Think of it like a reboot for your system. I think there’d be a lot less neurotic people running around out there if they would just take a day to chill out!

Well, it seems that that’s all the time we have for today. Thanks so much ladies for letting me blog today, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! I have to run, there’s a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon starting, and my pizza just got here.



Thanks, Erin!




Kathleen McCleary's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Kathleen McCleary Why we love her:  Her writing is honest and heartfelt. We've all been where her characters have been. We love that we can relate.

Her latest: A Simple Thing

The scoop on it: When Susannah Delaney discovers her young son is being bullied and her adolescent daughter is spinning out of control, she moves them to remote, rustic Sounder Island to live for a year. A simple island existence—with no computers or electricity and only a one-room schoolhouse—is just what her over scheduled East Coast kids need to learn what's really important in life. But the move threatens her marriage to the man she's loved since childhood, and her very sense of self.

For Betty Pavalak, who moved to Sounder to save her own troubled marriage, the island has been a haven for fifty years. But Betty also knows the guilt of living with choices made long ago and actions that cannot be undone. The unlikely friendship between Susannah and Betty ignites a journey of self-discovery for both women and brings them both home to what they love most. A Simple Thing moves beyond friendship, children, and marriages to look deeply into what it means to love and forgive—yourself.

Our thoughts: A moving story about friendship and forgiveness.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, August 5 after 3PM PST.

Fun fact: At age 12 she was briefly considered for the lead role in “The Exorcist,” until her mother found out what the movie was about. (Her mom had a friend who was a casting agent.)

Where you can read more about Kathleen: Twitter, Facebook or her website.


1. No one is really paying that much attention. Do you know how self-conscious you feel? How shy? Let it go. Really. Everyone around you is busy thinking their own thoughts and worrying about the minutiae of their own lives. They don’t notice your pimples (well, okay, maybe that one giant one in the middle of your forehead) or your bad hair days or your bowlegs or that stupid thing you said at a party three weeks ago. And if they do notice all that stuff and tell you about it, they’re not worth your notice. Let them go.

2. Hang on to that friend. Your girlfriend across the street, the one you share most things with, including your biggest crushes, a love of Motown music, and your first taste of alcohol? She’s a keeper. She’ll be the maid of honor in your wedding; you’ll care for her oldest daughter while she’s in the hospital giving birth to baby number two, she’ll cry with you when your father dies, and you’ll still laugh so hard every time you get together that your face hurts. Friends like that don’t come along too often. When you run across one, hang on to her as though your life depends on it. Someday, it will.

3. You get better with age. I’m not kidding. That baby fat will drop away. You’ll lose those chubby cheeks and that awkward way of standing with both arms crossed over your stomach (which believe me, is flatter than you think). You’ll figure out that you are at least as smart as everyone else. You won’t be afraid to express your opinions, to admit it when you’re wrong, or to apologize. You’ll be great at things you never dreamed you’d be good at, like soothing a fussy baby and writing and doing handstands (no kidding!). You’ll learn to love your body for what it can do, and not hate it for what it doesn’t look like. You’ll laugh more easily and without self-consciousness. You’ll understand with your whole being how important it is to be kind. You’ll understand that this is what true beauty is about.

4. It’s okay to be a book nerd. Keep reading. I know you spend a lot of time alone in the library. You know what? One day, you’re going to write books that will sit on those shelves. It’s your little shot at immortality. Grab it.

5. You are worthy. Of attention, of respect, of love, of understanding, of forgiveness—from yourself most of all. You’re a keeper, too. Take care of yourself. Be kind.

Thanks, Kathleen!


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,


Beth Harbison's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Beth Harbison Why we love her: We love her plots, her characters, her book covers... We just love on her, K?

Her latest: When In Doubt, Add Butter (July 17)

The scoop on it: As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full.

There’s Lex, the fussy but fabulous department store owner who loves Oysters Rockefeller and 1950s comfort food; Willa, who needs to lose weight under doctor’s orders but still believes butter makes everything better; a colorful family who may or may not be part of the Russian mob; an überwealthy Georgetown family; the picture-perfect Van Houghtens, whose matriarch is “allergic to everything”; and finally, a man she calls “Mr. Tuesday,” whom she has never met but who she is strangely drawn to.

For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes an unexpected turn on a road she always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and move on in ways she never would have imagined. Because sometimes in life, all you need is a little hope, a lot of courage, and---oh yes---butter.

Our thoughts: We are suckers for a great story about the search for true love.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 22 after 3PM PST.

Fun Fact: Beth's daughter, Paige Harbison is also an author!

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


1. Invent the iPod.  Not the first click wheel one, skip straight to the iPod Touch and reap the rewards of essentially having invented the iPhone at the same time.  Or think of another way to earn money, because financial independence will buy you a lot of peace of mind in your life.  You never, ever want to be dependent on anyone else for anything...and you especially don’t want to be dependent on anyone else for everything.

2. Don’t do things you know are wrong. Even from a young age, lingering regret is possible.  Your parents can’t save you from bad decisions.  No one can.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And don’t drink and drive.  Had I done the former more often I’d be happier today and had several people I know done the latter, they’d still be alive.

3. Don’t Imagine You Can Save/Tame/Rescue Someone Else.  That’s not you being altruistic, that’s you being a control monkey.  If you find yourself spending a lot of emotional cash trying to fix someone else, ask yourself if you’re doing it for them or if you’re doing it for some sense of accomplishment for yourself.  Then, no matter what your answer, tell yourself to shut up and live the best life you can and let others take care of themselves!

4. Remember What Makes You Happy.  It’s not always possible to “follow your passion” or “do what you love” for a living, especially right off the bat when you’re starting your adult life.  If you’ve always love ventriloquism or - shudder - clowning, that alone is not a guarantee that you’ll make your fortune at it.  But there is no greater treasure than having private hobbies that reliably give you pleasure even when the rest of the world lets you down.  For me this was always reading.  Or writing.  Or painting a room (which I invariably do badly but enjoy nevertheless), or completing some other crafty project (ditto on the sloppiness).  If your Friday Night Date(less) Frenzy can be quelled by a few hours with a good book, you are far less likely to make foolish mistakes in the name of desperation.

5. Do What Makes You Happy.  It isn’t enough to know or remember what makes you happy, you have to do the thing.  Too often, especially as we get older, we hold off pleasure as a “prize” for after we achieve drudgery.  Well, a life of drudgery doesn’t have a lot of room or motivation for pleasure.  Balance your “musts” with your “wants” and if you run out of “wants” don’t feel guilty about finding more!  A truly great life is made of many small happy moments, snapshots along the way, not just big, rare masterpiece moments and prizes.

Thanks, Beth! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa

Gigi Levangie Grazer's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Our guest today: Gigi Levangie Grazer Why we love her:  We fell in love with her after we read her fabulous New York Times bestselling debut, The Starter Wife.

Her latest: The After Wife (July 10)

The scoop on it: L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.

Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.

One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.

Our thoughts: A hilarious page-turner. It's perfect to take on your vacay this summer.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment to be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 15 after 3pm PST.

Fun fact:  She's written numerous screenplays including Step-mom starring Julia Roberts.

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


(She sent 12 and we loved them all!)

1. That cute, sexy surfer dude you have a crush on who ignores you will have a beer belly, three ex-wives and still be wearing Hawaiian shirts when he’s 40.

2. You will always have a soft spot for Justin Bieber, as I always have for Michael Jackson; your first crush fades but never goes away.

3. Finish college; you are smarter than you think you are.

4. Be fearless when it comes to your dreams; if you don’t feel confident, pretend until you do.

5. Work out regularly. Take a walk. Get outside. Breathe. Eat right 75% of the time, but always have chocolate on standby.

6. 15 is closer to 40 than you think.

7. You will like your looks better as you age – do not waste time lamenting your height, weight, chubby cheeks, bowl legs or curly hair.

8. That mean guy will never change – never will that nice guy, either.

9. It’s all going to be okay. Truly.

10. Don’t be distracted by bad boys, alcohol or drugs. All of them are addictions, and all wreak havoc on your skin and your life’s purpose.

11. Nothing is the end of the world. The end of the world is the end of the world.

12. Your parents were right.

Thanks, Gigi!


Liz & Lisa


Pamela Ribon's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Pamela Ribon

Why we love her: She's hilarious- not just in her novels, but on her blog.

Her latest: You take it From Here

The scoop: Just because you’d give your best friend everything doesn’t mean she has to take it.

On the heels of a divorce, all Danielle Meyers wants is her annual vacation with sassy, life-long best friend, Smidge—complete with umbrella cocktails by an infinity pool—but instead she’s hit with the curveball of a lifetime. Smidge takes Danielle to the middle of nowhere to reveal a diagnosis of terminal cancer, followed by an unusual request: “After I’m gone, I want you to finish the job. Marry my husband. Raise my daughter. I’m gonna teach you to how to be Smidge 2.0.”

As Danielle wrestles with this major life decision, she finds herself torn between being true to her best friend’s wishes and being honest with herself. Parenting issues aside, Smidge’s small-town Louisiana world is exactly the one Danielle made sure to escape. Danielle isn’t one for playing the social butterfly, or being the center of attention. And when your best friend tries to set you up on a date night with her husband, it might be time to become the bossy one for a change.

In the spirit of Beaches and Steel Magnolias, You Take It from Here is an honest, hilarious, and heartbreaking novel that ultimately asks: How much should we sacrifice for the ones we love the most?

Our thoughts: We love Beaches (c'mon, the ultimate BFF movie!) and Steel Magnolias and her novel definitely has a flavor of both. It's the perfect blend of humor and heart. PS: We love the cover & for that matter, love all of her book covers.

Fun Fact: She's a TV writer too. She wrote for one of Lisa's favorite shows, Samantha Who?

Giveaway: 5 copies of You Take it From Here. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 8 after 6PM PST.

Where you can read more about Pamela (Pamie): Facebook, Twitter and her website.

1. You’re right. Nobody understands you. And they won’t for a very long time.  Not until you learn how to stop feeling everything at once and learn how to accurately describe what you’re feeling.  Right now all you’re feeling are feelings, and they don’t really have anywhere to go, nor can you do anything about them.  Life is completely unfair and will be for a while longer, so go ahead and keep crying into that notebook.  It’ll come in handy in fifteen years when I need strong comedic material for my blog.


2. Stop with the boxer shorts. I don’t know where you saw a girl wearing boxers underneath her baggy jeans, but you obviously found it sexy and I need to tell you right now that you don’t look like whatever model you saw in Rolling Stone or maybe it was a TLC video or something, but listen: just go put on some girl underwear. I remember one pair of those boxer shorts had glow-in-the-dark polka dots and I don’t think those chemicals should be near your very new ladyparts.

3. If he’s got a girlfriend, you need to stop trying to be so great of a best friend to him.This isn’t a romantic comedy; this isn’t how you’re going to find a soul mate.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Either you are going to fall in (what you think is) love and waste months upon months waiting for this guy to feel the same way about you, or he is going to keep using you as his girlfriend Fairy Godmother, who keeps making him a better boyfriend by telling him how you wish he felt about you. Also, his actual girlfriend? Hates you so much right now.  Not to mention, all that time she’s got on her hands because you’re off with her boyfriend?  Right now she’s using it to make everyone else hate you just as much as she does.  Go find some nice girls to hang out with until you find a cute, single boy who wants to play video games with you and only you.

4. Make your dad teach you how to cook like he does.  I know he’s not very friendly in the kitchen, but the man knows how to cook, and one day he’ll be gone and it’ll be too late and you’ll be craving his steak and Caesar salad and there will be nothing you can do and nobody will ever make this meal as good as he did for the rest of your life and it will be one of your biggest regrets.

5. Don’t tell everyone your secrets.  Listen, I get it.  You’re just looking for someone who will rage against the world with you, but not everyone is worthy of your deepest confessions.  Some people won’t understand their currency, and will be so careless with your heart.  Don’t always be the first to yearn for the strong connection, don’t always be the first to hand over a mix tape.  Yes, every single human is special and wonderful, but they’re not all going to be special and wonderful back at you.  Quit setting yourself up for a heart-smash.  I know it’s hard to comprehend, but not everybody is thinking about you nearly as much as you are.


Thanks, Pamela! xoxo, Liz & Lisa



Jennifer Weiner's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Jennifer Weiner! Why we love her: Too many reasons to count! (#5 of the "5 Things" she'd tell her teen self is yet another reason.)

Her latest: The Next Best Thing (July 3)

The scoop: Actors aren’t the only ones trying to make it in Hollywood.…At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders left her childhood home in Massachusetts and headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to make it as a screenwriter. Six years later, she hits the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the showrunner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on her boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.

Set against the fascinating backdrop of Los Angeles show business culture, with an insider’s ear for writer’s room showdowns and an eye for bad backstage behavior and set politics, Jennifer Weiner’s new novel is a rollicking ride on the Hollywood roller coaster, a heartfelt story about what it’s like for a young woman to love, and lose, in the land where dreams come true.

Our thoughts: LOVED. She just keeps getting better. How does she do it?

Fun fact: She mentioned us when she delivered the opening keynote ay BEA’s 2012 Bloggers Conference! We haven't been this excited about anything since Spanx or Lasik eye surgery or Phillip Phillips...

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners after 6pm PST on Sunday, July 29.

Want to see Jen on tour? Check out her "Cupcakes Across America" book tour schedule.








1.    It gets better. No, really, it does. If I tell you how much better, you won’t even believe me. So just keep reading; keep writing stories, and some day, all those guys who were mean to you in Mr. Hallas’s American History class are going to ask to be your friend on Facebook. (Never mind what Facebook is. Just trust me – they’re going to want to be your friends. It’s going to be amazing).

2.    Just because it’s your wedding doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to start magically behaving themselves. In fact, it is far more likely that they will magically become even more awful/clinging/self-involved/horrible versions of themselves. Just roll with it. Also, enjoy the appetizers, because you aren’t going to be eating any dinner.

3.    You are not fat. Not even close. In fact, you are never going to be thinner than you are right now. Enjoy it.

4.    It’s all material. Your dad is going to abandon you and your siblings. Your mother’s going to come out of the closet and start dating a woman who wears her wallet on a chain. Your father is going to die, and you’re going to learn about it because the police will call you, and you’ll try to use your Amex to pay for his funeral because you need the miles. It’s all going to be heartbreakingly sad…but it’s going to make you and your siblings so close. It won’t kill you. It will make you stronger. And, someday, you’re going to write about it, and some of the people who read it will feel less alone in the world.

5. Having a book turned into a movie, or hitting the best-seller list, feels wonderful. But nothing feels better than helping someone else’s book take off and find its audience. The sooner you figure that out, the happier you’ll be.

Thanks Jen! xoxo, L&L

To read more about Jen, you can also go to her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Kristina Riggle's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Kristina Riggle Her latest: Keepsake (Out tomorrow- June 26)

Why we love her: In every novel (this is her fourth) she creates characters we care about.

The scoop: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn't perfect. She's divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn't pristine. But she's got all the important things right and she's convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It's at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she's always hoped wasn't true: that she's living out her mother's life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish's oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish's disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

Our thoughts: Both neat freaks, we were intrigued by this plot. And the book far surpassed our high expectations.

Fun fact: She dabbles in musical theatre!

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 1st after 6PM PST

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


First of all, teen-agers know everything, so they don’t listen to anyone, even time-traveling older versions of themselves. Especially an older self, because this older self has given up on current Top 40 music (mostly, Adele excepted) and drives a minivan, and thus would have no street cred at all with Teen Kristina. My husband, when I said this out loud, replied that “If any teen-ager would have listened to an adult version of themselves, it would have been you.” Come to think of it, I did have (for a teen) a healthy respect for authority. To that end…

1) Dear Teen Kristina, stop trying so hard to be perfect all the time. (Hmm. Adult Kristina needs to remember this one, too.) Seriously, if you get a B+ instead of an A- on that test, I promise you the earth will not crack under your feet and swallow you whole. And guess what? Once you’re out of high school, no one gives a rotten egg what your GPA was.

2) Dear Teen Kristina, try lots of different stuff. Yes, I know that you decided at 14 years old to be a journalist and that pursuing journalist-like activities in high school and college is worthy and important. But your single-minded, laser-like focus on this ambition keeps you from other interesting pursuits, like musical theater, or studying Italian abroad. If I told you that eight years after college you would no longer even be using this degree you busted ass for, would you believe me? No? Why are you curled into a fetal position? No, really, it all works out anyway, I promise….

3) Dear Teen Kristina, don’t spend time with people who make you feel like crap. I know, you think it’s your fault for being too sensitive, and if you were only cooler, prettier and more stylish then you wouldn’t feel bad. But you know what? It doesn’t matter why. If you feel bad around certain people, go find other people. You’re actually well liked. No, really. It’s true.

4) Dear Teen Kristina,  boys are attracted to confidence more than physical beauty. Remember when boys flirted with you right after you got your contact lenses, and you thought, “Ah ha, I knew I’d be pretty when I got rid of my glasses.” No, they flirted with you because you felt pretty without your glasses. Teen boys themselves wouldn’t be able to articulate this, but it’s true. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen women you would never, ever see on a magazine cover attract guys like electromagnets all because of a sizzling and irresistible confidence. By the way, that magical vision-fixing surgery you dreamed of? It exists, but it’s expensive and you are afraid to let someone laser your eyes. Yes, laser. Anyway, by now you can throw away contact lenses so it doesn’t matter if you lose one.

5) Dear Teen Kristina, college is just as awesome as you think it will be. When you’re not making yourself sick with stress, that is. Remember to enjoy those four years, because you’ll never experience anything like it again. p.s. Pay careful attention to that guy you meet on New Year’s Eve, 1991. Trust me.

Thanks, Kristina!