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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Appetites by Karen Frankola (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Karen Frankola, author of Appetites!

Author Guest Post

What is a Jersey Girl?

When I moved to New Jersey about 15 years ago, I was a little frightened. Even in that pre-Snooki era, the stereotype of a Jersey Girl was big hair, big attitude, and mostly likely, big cleavage. But I soon learned that’s a caricature which doesn’t do justice to the millions of women who make New Jersey their home. For example, this blog’s wonderful painting of the woman reading on the beach brings back so many happy memories for me. The Jersey shore wasn’t never about partying for me, but digging my toes into the sand as I devoured the latest bestseller. 

My novel, Appetites, is about two sisters living in northern New Jersey, about ten miles west of Manhattan. Sarah and Max are very different women, but they share an environment which has a huge impact on their lives. 

So, in hopes of providing a more well-rounded view of Jersey Girls, here’s a look at what it’s like to live in the northern part of the state, and how it influences my two central characters. 

1. You get no respect (the Rodney Dangerfield effect). 

Jersey Girls often feel like they don’t get the respect they deserve because they live just outside of New York City. If a Jersey Girl works in Manhattan, she has to schlep in on a bus or train or ferry every day. It’s hard for her to even enjoy Manhattan after work because the commute is so long. She tends to rush home to avoid waiting an hour at Port Authority because she just missed catching a late bus. 

The Jersey Girl is always jealous of the girl who lives in Manhattan, even if that girl is sharing an apartment with five other women. And the Jersey Girl who works in Jersey is jealous of the girls who work in Manhattan because they usually get paid more. Not to mention, they spend their days walking up Broadway or 32nd Street or Houston instead of driving down the Garden State Parkway. When you live in northern New Jersey, “the city” is Manhattan, not God forbid, Newark or Hackensack! 

So it’s not surprising that the dominant emotions Sarah and Max feel toward each other are jealousy and resentment. Each thinks the other’s life is better in so many ways. Sarah resents the way Max attracts men and eats whatever she wants without gaining weight. Max is jealous of Sarah’s great job in Manhattan and salary that comes with it. 

2. You have to fight for yourself every day. 

When a Jersey Girl tries to merge onto Route 3 with no acceleration lane, or move over three lanes in a hundred feet to get on 280, she can’t expect the other drivers to let her in. She has to force her way and take honking horns in stride. There are so many people and so much congestion that she always has to be aggressive. A Jersey Girl plays the lite version of the Hunger Games all day, every day, from the time she shoves her way onto the PATH train to figuring out if she can get in the Shop-Rite express line with two more items than allowed (because everyone else has at least five more!) 

Since Sarah and Max spend every day fighting for the little things in life, they are very skilled when it comes to battling for what they really want. So when both of them lust for the same perfect man, they automatically fall into competition mode, and one of them decides to fight very dirty. 

3. You share other people’s lives, whether you want to or not. 

There is not a lot of privacy in northern New Jersey. It’s expensive, so Jersey Girls either have a roommate or live on top of the person next to them. Max’s inability to hold onto a roommate is essential to the plot of Appetites. Sarah thinks Max’s vacant basement is the answer to her inability to stop binge eating, but as soon as they begin sharing the same roof, things go downhill. 

In Jersey, you also intrude on other people’s lives almost everywhere, from sharing a seat on the bus, or worse yet, standing on the bus for half an hour, hoping you don’t fall on the people surrounding you when the driver slams on the brakes. When you go to a restaurant, you’re usually sitting inches away from the next table and can barely manage to have your own conversation. Sarah is an introvert and imagines she’ll like the solitude of living in the basement, but soon feels panicked about being alone all the time. She also thought Max would want to hang out with her, but Max is so wary of her big sister’s disapproval that she avoids her. 

Thanks to Kathleen for inviting me here today and for helping to show the more thoughtful side of Jersey Girls.

About The Author

Karen Frankola wrote Appetites to explore the hard choices women make in love and work. Karen spent much of her career writing very short stories at news organizations like CNN and MSNBC, so creating a novel was challenging. She now does a variety of writing for corporations and nonprofit organizations. Karen is lucky enough to work mostly from home, with her dog Rascal curled up under her desk.

Karen grew up near Pittsburgh, where she spent much of her childhood reading books in the cemetery that bordered her family’s backyard. Karen moved to nine different states and England. Some of her favorite jobs were teaching journalism at the University of Missouri, working as a television news director, and handling video shoots for Deloitte around the world. She also spent a summer repairing motors at a steel mill and hopes to soon publish a coming-of-age memoir about that experience.

Karen and her husband Troy now reside in Durham, North Carolina, where they enjoy watching deer in the woods behind their house, lots of live music, beautiful biking trails, and great neighbors.

Karen is working on a sequel to Appetites and would love to hear what you think of it.

Appetites by Karen Frankola ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review

Appetites by Karen Frankola
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 23, 2013
Format: eBook - 261 pages / Kindle - 474 KB 
Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Appetites

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

Book Description:

When Sarah suddenly hears from Harry, the Brit she almost married twenty years ago, she decides now is the time to change her life. Sarah has a great job in Manhattan, but she considers herself too fat to have a boyfriend. Harry is visiting New York in four months and she wants to turn back into the girl he fell in love with. Since she can never stick to a diet, she comes up with a drastic solution.

Sarah asks her sister Max to lock her up in her basement and feed her nothing but healthy meals. Max, a struggling waitress, agrees begrudgingly. She's skinny, but has her own set of appetites—for drink, drugs, and great-looking losers.

Sarah thinks a summer in Max’s basement will give her a new body, a chance to reconnect with Harry, and the friendship she’s long craved from her sister. But things quickly go wrong. Max's drinking leads her to neglect Sarah, who figures out how to get out of the basement. Sarah develops an obsession with Max's boyfriend and manages to fulfill a sexual fantasy by pretending to be something she's not.

Can Sarah turn back time with Harry or will she and Max kill each other first? Can either sister ever learn to say no?

Book Excerpt:

Sarah took a few licks of her cone and began walked quickly back to the office. As she rounded the corner of 8th and 52nd, she grazed someone coming the other way. It was Elisabeth.

Sarah couldn’t help but see herself through Elisabeth’s eyes—face flushed, jacket left behind at the office, and of course, the tell-tale cone.

“Ach mein Gott!!” she exclaimed. Elisabeth normally spoke flawless English, but being nearly run down by a chubby flunky was apparently sufficient excuse to revert to her native tongue. Sarah felt like she was a 12-year old who had just been caught playing hooky.

“Sarah, I’ve been looking for you for awhile,” Elisabeth said. “I have to speak at a dinner tonight, so I’m heading home. But Paul has a request we need to take care of, so you have to make sure it gets handled immediately.”

“Sure, I just saw your email and was heading back. I’m on it.” Sarah had lowered the cone as much as she could, so that it was parallel to her waist. But now she was worried it was starting to drip. Should I raise it to my mouth and lick it?

“Good,” said Elisabeth. “But next time you go out in the middle of the day for ice cream, you should IM me first so I know you’re not available.” She said “ice-cream” like a “shot of vodka” or “hit of cocaine.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Sarah. It was stupid to ignore her cone since Elisabeth obviously knew it was there. But she didn’t want her boss to watch her lick it, in the same way she wouldn’t want to be seen getting high.

“I had just finished editing the review and felt like I needed some fresh air,” said Sarah. “And then it felt so much like summer, I couldn’t resist some frozen yogurt.” She wanted Elisabeth to realize it wasn’t actually ice cream. Maybe Elisabeth eats it herself?

Elisabeth nodded and walked away impossibly fast in her two-and-a-half-inch heels. Sarah stood watching her for a moment, while she pulled the cone to her mouth to take a big lick. But as she did, chocolate began dripping onto her hand. She quickly put the cone in her mouth and her tongue swept quickly in a circle, lapping up the melting remains. She continued watching Elisabeth, who looked just as good from the back—her long blond hair bouncing; her size four skirt so tight and smooth that she had to be wearing Spanx underneath.

Sarah turned away and began walking back to the office, chewing her cone. How did I end up working for that German bitch? Why didn’t I get promoted instead? Is it my weight? My lousy clothes? She didn’t ask to be considered because she thought they would be looking for someone with more experience. Everyone was shocked when they hired Heidi Klum’s slightly older sister.

By the time Sarah returned to her office, three people had told her that Elisabeth was looking for her. She ended up staying until nearly eight to get everything done. She contemplated getting takeout delivered, but instead she bought a Snickers bar and a chocolate chip cookie for the bus ride home.

Sarah was exhausted by the time she got to her condo, but decided she had waited long enough to reply to Harry.

Your apology means a great deal to me. It’s pretty much what I imagined had happened, but there was a part of me that thought perhaps you wanted to hurt me in the way I had hurt you earlier. And I can never forget how you more or less hung up on me when I called you.

I wanted a life with you and when you decided you didn’t, I thought I at least deserved an explanation. Closure, they call it.

And you should know when I looked you up all those years ago, I did NOT expect you would still care for me. I expected you would be in love with someone else, but I just had to find out.

The important thing is, in hindsight, I think you made the right decision. I know it would have been very hard for us—especially for me to uproot from my family, friends, and country. And, of course, now you have a great marriage. There are a lot of different paths in life and we’ll never know what would have happened if you had told me to come back.

And I would never have thought that you have been pining for me after all this time. I just wanted to know why you made this effort to reach out now. I too have thought about you at times, but believed you would never want to hear from me.

Sarah thought for the longest time about how to end her email. Should she describe what she was expecting from him? What she wanted? But she had no idea what that was. Her final line was just three words: So what now?

My Book Review:

Appetites is an interesting story about two dysfunctional sisters who both have internal struggles with addictions: one is overweight and binge eats, while the other uses alcohol and drugs. Written in the the third person narrative, the reader follows sisters Sarah and Max as they struggle with their inner demons and appetites for food, alcohol, drugs and men.

When Sarah hears from her ex-fiance Harry and his impending visit, she comes up with a drastic diet plan to lose weight and get herself together before he arrives. Sarah's zany plan calls for her to be locked in Max's basement so that she'll be forced to follow the diet plan. But when Max's drinking problem causes her to forget about Sarah, Sarah finds a way out of the basement and slips back into binge eating and starts to obsess over Max's boyfriend. Sarah and Max are total opposites and have had a difficult relationship, but can they work together to overcome their addictions, or will their inner struggles to quench their appetites send them careening out of control?

In Appetites, author Karen Frankola tackles the issues of food, alcohol and drug addiction and interestingly interweaves it with the dynamic of a troubled sisterly relationship. This story captivates the reader's attention as they follow the changing relationship development between the sisters as they battled their addictions and learn to work together to overcome their inner struggles. Even though I thought both Sarah and Max are just plain crazy, I found myself relating more to Sarah, but I couldn't help but pull for both of them as they worked to overcome their addictions.

Appetites is an enjoyable and fun story that has a quirky cast of characters who are realistic and flawed; an engaging dialogue and humorous interactions; an interesting storyline that deals with very real personal issues; add in a little romance and some naughty graphic sex scenes that will make you blush; and you get one heck of an entertaining read!

The author is currently working on the sequel to Appetites.


Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card

Contest Dates: May 6 - June 1

Everyone who leaves a comment on Appetites by Karen Frankola ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of Appetites before June 1 and sends their receipt to, will get five bonus entries.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

May 6 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
May 9 – Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews – Excerpt
May 11- Lavender & Camomile Press – Excerpt
May 14 – Live Read Breathe – Review
May 16 – Storm Goddess Book Reviews – Review & Q&A
May 16- Chick Lit Goddess – Review
May 17 – Life, Love & Music – Q&A
May 17 – The Autumn Review – Review 
May 18 – A Blue Million Books – Guest Post, Q&A & Excerpt
May 23 – Ai Love Books – Review & Excerpt
May 24 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews - Review, Guest Post & Excerpt
May 27 – Samantha March – Q&A & Excerpt
June 1 – Chick Lit Club Connect – Guest Post


  1. I had a great time reading this, thanks for sharing!

    1. This was an interesting story to read. The Guest Post was geared more towards North Jersey, I'm from South Jersey and we're a just a tad different from the North Jersey Girls! lol ;p

      Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event.