Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meant To Be by Karen Stivali (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Karen Stivali, author of Meant To Be!

Author Guest Post

People often ask me why there’s always so much food mentioned in my books. There are several reasons. One is that I love food and cooking and baking are two of my favorite hobbies. Another is that I love sharing food with people. Cooking for people not only makes me happy, but it’s a unique way of bonding with someone. Taste and smell are powerful senses. They invoke feelings and memories. I can walk into a coffee shop and get a whiff of a certain roast of coffee and in my mind I’m instantly transported to my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a little girl. I love that. And I love when food creates memories for my characters.

In Meant To Be, Marienne does a lot of cooking. One of the first things she and Daniel bond over is her brownies. (The recipe for them can be found on my blog here: ) Food plays a big part in their relationship. As their friendship and their feelings for one another grow and change, food is something they can share in a way that’s not threatening but is still passionate and intimate.

One of my favorite scenes in Meant To Be takes place at Christmastime, when Marienne is baking an insane amount of cookies. It’s a touching moment in her blossoming friendship with Daniel. With the holidays fast approaching I thought I’d share another recipe, one that I’ve shared with friends for years. More than one person has told me that these cookies have magical powers. It’s brought about two marriage proposals and one pregnancy, that I know about---who knows how many others there have been! If you enjoy chewy, rich, delectably chocolate cookies that are the perfect cross between a cookie and a brownie, these are the cookies for you. Bake a batch. Share them with someone. Then let me know what happens.

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies
6 squares (6 oz) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (I usually use semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate)
4 squares (4 oz) unsweetened chocolate (I usually use Baker’s)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Microwave butter and both chocolates in large bowl for 1 ½ to 2 minutes on High. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla.
Add flour, baking powder and salt, stirring just until all white streaks are gone. Mix in chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet (about 1 ½ inches apart).
Bake for 12 minutes (DO NOT OVERBAKE). Let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
When completely cool store in airtight container. Best when eaten within 3 days.
Makes 3 dozen cookies.


About The Author

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. When she’s not writing, she can be found cooking extravagant meals and serving them to family and friends. Prior to deciding to write full time Karen worked as a hand drawn animator, a clinical therapist, and held various food-related jobs ranging from waitress to specialty cake maker. Planning elaborate parties and fundraisers takes up what’s left of her time and sanity.

Karen has always been fascinated by the way people relate to one another so she favors books and movies that feature richly detailed characters and their relationships. In her own writing she likes to explore the dynamics between characters and has a tendency to craft romantic love stories filled with sarcasm and sexy details. 

Karen has published three erotic romances with Ellora’s Cave: Marry Me (June 2012), Long-Distance Lovers (co-written with Karen Booth, March 2012) and Always You (Passionate Plume First Place Novella Winner, RWA 2012).

Karen’s first full-length novel, Meant To Be, released from Turquoise Morning Press on August 26, 2012. Its sequel, Holding On, released on November 26, 2012. A prequel to these novels, the short story All I Need, appears in the Foreign Affairs Anthology (Turquoise Morning Press, August 2012).

Coming in 2013 Karen will have several contemporary romances releasing from Samhain Publishing and Turquoise Morning Press. The first of these, Then, Again will be release from Samhain on May 23, 2013.

Karen Stivali ~ Meant To Be ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

Win An eBook Copy of Holding On
Sequel To Meant To Be

Contest Dates: Dec 10 - 17, 2012

Everyone who leaves a comment on Karen Stivali's Meant To Be Virtual Book Tour Page On Chick Lit Plus will be entered to win a digital copy of Holding On - the sequel to Meant To Be! Anyone who purchases their copy of Meant To Be before December 17th and sends their receipt to, will get five bonus entries.

Book Review

Meant To Be by Karen Stivali
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Publication Date: August 26, 2012 (1st Publishing) / October 29, 2012 
Format: Paperback - 394 pages / Kindle - 799 KB / Nook - 903 KB
ISBN: 1622370279
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction 



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.

When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.

Book Excerpt:

“Wow. You look amazing,” he said.

She blushed under his gaze, and managed a “thank you”, careful not to slip in her stockings. She slid on her high heels and turned to him, noticing that he was staring. “I didn’t leave any tags on or anything, did I?” She turned in a quick circle, trying to look over her shoulder to check.

“No tags.” He smiled. “You’re perfect.”

Marienne made a face. “Okay.” She took a deep breath, feeling ever-so-slightly dizzy again. “You ready?” The dizziness grew stronger, so much so that she grabbed the doorknob to steady herself.

Daniel was at her side, instantly. “Are you okay?” Concern filled his eyes. “You went all pale.”

“I’m fine,” she said, breathing through her nose as she tried to clear her head. He looked ready to catch her, and she found his worrying quite sweet. “I haven’t been eating enough lately, that’s all.”

“Well eat something,” he said. “No sense in rushing to this thing if you’re going to pass out when we get there.”

“I’m not hungry.” She started to open the front door, but Daniel stopped her with his hand on hers.

He was standing so close to her she could smell him, the soapy scent of his skin, the faint sweetness of Coke on his breath, she wondered if perhaps she was developing some superhero-like sense of smell. For the briefest moment she thought he was about to kiss her, and she held her breath.

“Go eat something.” He took a step back as he removed his hand from hers. “We’re not going anywhere until you do.”

My Book Review:

Sometimes things happen for a reason and brings a chance for a once in a lifetime friendship that is simply meant to be ...

Meant To Be is the story of two people who form an unconventional friendship that blossoms into love that only comes when soulmates find each other. It is a story about finding your true soulmate while already in a committed relationship. The story follows the relationship of two couples who become neighbors and the unconventional friendship and love that blossoms between two of the spouses over a span of a few years.

NYU Professor Daniel Gardner and his wife Justine move to the suburbs, and his hope is that the move will be the first step to starting a family. But on the contrary, Justine becomes increasingly more career obsessed.

Marienne Valenti loves her freelance design job, but she is in an increasingly isolated marriage to Frank, who is also career obsessed and shows a growing indifference towards her.

The Gardners and Valentis are neighbors who become friends when Marienne and Daniel first meet while volunteering for a local theater and discover that they have things in common and enjoy each other's company, which leads the two couples to start spending time together. As time goes on, Marienne and Daniel grow closer as they bond over mutual interests, and they begin to rely on each other's company and support as the distance grows between them and their respective spouses. While they share an attraction and blossoming love for each other, they remain faithful to their spouses. This a story of two people whose close friendship evolves into a loving relationship that is simply meant to be.

Meant To Be is a beautiful portrayal of an unconventional friendship between a man and a woman. Written in the third person narrative, author Karen Stivali weaves a subtle tale of romance and love that evolves from an amazing bond of friendship between two people that is genuine and real. Marienne and Daniel's close friendship transforms into a meaningful relationship when the burden of their personal baggage and missing pieces from their respective marriages pushes them together.

I loved the gradual development of Marienne and Daniel's relationship. I was captivated and drawn into their love story. The author does a wonderful job of demonstrating real life in the depiction of how their relationship grows with their engaging dialogue and intimate interactions. I couldn't help but feel for them as they handled the many trials and tribulations that arose, while being able to nurture and grow their bond of friendship.

Meant To Be is simply an amazing story that is heartwarming and genuine, it is one that will make you believe in soulmates, and that some special friendships are just meant to be. Marienne and Daniel's story continues in the sequel, Holding On.



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Samantha! Thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host the virtual book tour event. I loved Meant To Be, can't wait to read the sequel! :)