Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review: Solving Shelly


By Sara Steven

With most of her besties (The Sweet Water Circle) in good relationship standing, The Circle spins to Shelly with a long-overdue intervention. It's time for her to find her forever man. Or at least a guy without a foot fetish who doesn't text pictures of himself in his tighty whities.

Shelly wants no part of the dating scene, but no matter what she tries, The Circle is ahead of her, so eventually she relents to the torturous trio of speed dating, online dating apps, and blind dates. Will she find a diamond in the rough or will it just be rough?

Meanwhile, the only Circle member still looking for love, Donna, is back from L.A., divorced and crashing with Shelly. When Donna's new man makes a play for Shelly, it sets off shockwaves that could fracture The Sweet Water Circle's thirty-year friendship, just as Taylor's wedding to billionaire Ben Bach brings the crew from Sweet Water to Ibiza and Paris, not once, but twice. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve read every single book in The Sweet Water Circle series, and this was a great series finale. As mentioned in the synopsis, Shelly’s story has been long overdue, since she’s been content to let everyone else have their turn in finding love while she watches from the sidelines. Given her past, she’s had a tough time with trusting anyone she’s romantically involved with, preferring the safety and security of being alone. 

I liked the prospect of having two best friends (Donna and Shelly) deal with developing feelings for the same man. And the man they’re feeling for did come as a shock to me–he’s been part of the series and readers have learned a lot about his backstory too–but everyone deserves the chance to find love again, and that can apply to all three characters. The bigger question becomes: at what cost? For Shelly, there is nothing that is more important to her than her friendships. The Sweet Water Circle is a tight sisterhood. Should she set aside her strong feelings in order to spare Donna’s, or should she do something that is out of the ordinary and do everything she can to live a happy existence? 

The same quirky group of characters are back for this last hurrah, which was really nice to see. It felt fitting that they’d all gather at Taylor’s wedding, sort of like the perfect ending for everyone. I also thought that the use of a wedding plotline was a great way to bring out the various emotional dramas that I think can often occur at real-life weddings. It can bring out the best and the worst in someone, which was highlighted well for both Shelly and Donna, and those romantically linked to them. 

To say I’m sad to see this series end would be an understatement. It’s been a lot of fun, with a lot of emotional growth. This was Shelly’s story, but it was the Sweet Water Circle’s send-off. A job well done.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Grayson Avery is the author of The Sweet Water Circle Series, a romantic comedy series that focuses on childhood friends in their thirties and forties as they help each other navigate the stormy waters of dating, marriage, divorce, and a whole lot of inappropriate, naughty, and downright hysterical situations.

Visit Grayson online:
Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Spotlight and Giveaway: Community Klepto

Today we are featuring Community Klepto by Kelly I. Hitchcock. It released earlier this week and, while we don't have a review available, you can see how much Annie Cathryn (whose debut novel is releasing next year) loved it on her Bookstagram. Thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, we have TWO advanced reading copies to give away! 

Ann Josephson is a twenty-five-year-old sociopath whose compulsive kleptomania manifests itself in the most unlikely of places: the community center where she works out every day. The walls of the community center insulate her from the terrors of the outside world, which include her freelance work as a graphic artist; her socialite parents, who pay the better part of her living expenses; her therapist, who devotedly punches the clock; and the dark void of romantic relationships.

As Ann battles the inner demons that plague her millennial psyche, she must also battle the fiends that plague her at the gym: the loudly grunting beefcake who can’t be bothered to drop his weights at a reasonable volume, the naked old lady in the locker room using a towel as butt floss, the housewife in yoga pants that obviate the need for yoga wheeling her double stroller up and down the indoor track. Set in suburban Kansas City in the early 2010s, Community Klepto—a droll combination of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Choke—makes incarnate the characters and shenanigans that go on in every gym in the world.

Photo by Danielle Selby
Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author and poet who lives in Austin, Texas. She has published several poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works in literary journals and is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Redheaded Stepchild, a semi-finalist in the literary category for The Kindle Book Review’s “Best Indie Books of 2011,” and Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. Her work has appeared in Clackamas Literary Review and Foliate Oak Literary Journal, in anthologies by Line Zero and Alien Buddha Press, and more. Kelly holds a BA in creative writing from Missouri State University. She has six-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to. 

Visit Kelly online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends June 28th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Book Review: His Other Wife

By Sara Steven

She has my husband. She has my child. She has my life.

I never thought I would end up here. Alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment, only seeing my precious daughter once a week.

Another woman is living the life that was once mine. I wish I was still married to my ex-husband, the love of my life. I dream of tucking my five-year-old child into her ballerina bed sheets every night. I miss living in a beautiful house, the perfect family home, with a winding staircase and a sprawling garden.

I’d do anything to be with my family again. To start over and prove to them that I’ve changed, that I won’t lose control like before.

But when I get my second chance, the vicious messages come. The noises at night. The feeling of being watched. It’s happening all over again. I know I’m not going mad, but no one will believe me. I don’t know if I even believe myself.

All I wanted was my life back. But now my life is under threat – and my darling little girl is in danger…(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Nicole Trope does something magical with her storytelling. It’s subtle and smooth, providing day-to-day insights for all of her characters, and while weaving tales that so many of us can easily slip into, she begins to add in suspenseful elements that gradually raises your blood pressure, putting your guard on high alert, until BAM! The unexpected happens. 

That’s how I felt while reading His Other Wife. Sarah is the ex-wife, the reflective voice in the synopsis. Someone who has battled a lot after dealing with a terrible tragedy, often feeling as though she can’t seem to get over the past and all that she’s lost. It has manifested into hearing noises, especially at night–one voice in particular that continually haunts her. The way it’s written gave me chills. I can’t even imagine dealing with something like that, imagined or not. 

Then you have Gideon, Sarah’s  ex-husband, who is trying so hard to do all he can for Sarah and for their daughter, Emily. He wants to believe Sarah. He wants to trust in what she tells him, but everything she tells him seems so far-fetched and not real. Not to mention that Sarah could be potentially providing an unsafe environment for Emily. 

Charlotte is the new wife who can’t help but feel insanely jealous about the relationship Gideon and Sarah still have and their bond with Emily. There are so many deep-seated reasons as to why she feels so strongly against Sarah, many that stem from her own past, with the constant feeling that she will never be enough for Gideon or for anyone, really. She doesn’t feel she’s allowed to be.

All of this blends together into an insanely psychological thriller–from the get go, I wanted to try and figure out on my own what would happen, who would be the culprit, or whether there really was a culprit at all. It was one of those experiences where you really can’t put the book down because you need all of the answers, and once discovered, you’ll end up shaking your head in disbelief. It was that good. I could not get enough of it–a definite five-star read!

Thanks to Bookouture for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase links:
Amazon * Apple * Kobo * Google


Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- 'It's not meant to be a story.' She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters' degree in Children's Literature.

The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story. She went on to publish a further five novels in Australia before joining Bookouture in 2019. She is a USA Today and Amazon bestseller in the USA, UK, AUS and CAN.

She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

Visit Nicole online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Lauren Ho's romantic new novel...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Marvin Kho
We're pleased to welcome Lauren Ho to CLC today. Her sophomore novel, Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic, releases today and she's here to talk about it and share some other fun things about herself. Melissa has Lucie Yi in her five book pile and is excited to read it soon, as she enjoyed Last Tang Standing back in 2020 (reviewed here). Thanks to Putnam, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Lauren Ho is a reformed legal counsel who now prefers to write for pleasure. Hailing from Malaysia, she is currently based in Singapore, where she’s ostensibly working on her next novel while attempting to parent. She is also the author of the international bestseller, Last Tang Standing.

Her mother still wishes Lauren had gone to medical school, though.

Visit Lauren online:
Website * Twitter * Instagram * TikTok

Synopsis:

Management consultant Lucie Yi is done waiting for Mr. Right. After a harrowing breakup foiled her plans for children—and drove her to a meltdown in a Tribeca baby store—she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. She signs up for an elective co-parenting website to find a suitable partner with whom to procreate—as platonic as family planning can be.
 
Collin Read checks all of Lucie’s boxes; he shares a similar cultural background, he’s honest, and most important, he’s ready to become a father. When they match, it doesn’t take long for Lucie to take a leap of faith for her future. So what if her conservative family might not approve? When Lucie becomes pregnant, the pair return to Singapore and, sure enough, her parents refuse to look on the bright side. Even more complicated, Lucie’s ex-fiancĂ© reappears, sparking unresolved feelings and compounding work pressures and the baffling ways her body is changing. Suddenly her straightforward arrangement is falling apart before her very eyes, and Lucie will have to decide how to juggle the demands of the people she loves while pursuing the life she really wants.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

“If Jane Austen and Kevin Kwan had a love child, it might well be Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic. Lauren Ho’s most recent novel sits delightfully at the juncture of modern fertility, modern women, and modern romance.”  
—Jodi Picoult, author of Wish You Were Here

“After Last Tang Standing, my expectations were unreasonably high, but Lauren Ho somehow managed to exceed them with Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic. Prepare yourselves for a heroine who is laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly savvy. Lauren Ho is an auto-buy author for me!” 
—Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A For Aunties

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 
The best ones are always the ones that say I made their day somehow, that I made them laugh and reflect. Both my novels, Last Tang Standing and now Lucie Yi Is Not A Romantic, feature so-called 'messy' (or maybe let's call them 'realistic!) women from this part of the world (South-East Asia), and explore intergenerational conflict, complex family dynamics, and the search for identity in the face of cultural and societal pressures, even as they shine a light on uncomfortable truths . I use humour to approach difficult subjects tangentially. 

How is Lucie similar to or different from you? 
Whenever I create a character, I draw inspiration from people around me, and sometimes my own experiences. I would say that with regards to Lucie, we are very different. She's the put-together, career-minded version of me that my mother would have adored.

If Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?  
Fiona Xie as Lucie Yi, Lewis Tan or Manny Jacinto as Collin, and Chris Pang as Mark

What TV series are you currently binge watching? 
Stranger Things, Season four

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see? 
I would take you to see the Botanic Gardens of Singapore, Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Zoo. 

Tell us about your best or worst date ever. 
Do date nights after ten-plus years of marriage and 2 kids under 5 count? My best dates these days involve going out for a quick drink or two at the local wine bar, after we slump in front of whatever is trending right now on Netflix, silently enjoying each other's company.

Thanks to Lauren for chatting with us and to Putnam for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends June 26th at midnight EST.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Book Review: The House Across the Lake

By Jami Denison

Grieving single woman? Check.

Alcoholic? Check.

Spying on the neighbors? Check.

Convinced she’s seen a murder? Check.

No one believes her? Check.

Huge secret she’s hiding? Check, check, check.

These questions could describe dozens of books published since Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train came out in 2015. The elements are so well known that earlier this year, Netflix ran a very popular parody series, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. Starring Kristen Bell, its critics complained that it hewed so closely to the genre that the satire was too thin. 

But it is possible to still wring surprises from these tropes, as proven by Riley Sager’s latest thriller, The House Across the Lake. 

In this case, the grieving drunk protagonist is Casey Fletcher, a C-list actress still mourning her husband’s drowning death fourteen months ago. After a drunken escapade costs her her Broadway role and leaves her on Page Six, Casey’s mother banishes her to the family lake house in Vermont—which also happens to be on the same lake where her husband drowned. Not surprisingly, Casey can’t stay away from the bourbon, nor the binoculars her husband left behind. She passes her time spying on the house across the lake, a glass monstrosity recently purchased by tech millionaire Tom Royce and his model-wife Katherine. After Casey saves Katherine from drowning herself, the two women become friends. Casey, however, continues to spy on Katherine, and she’s concerned about the relationship between the Royces. When Katherine disappears, Casey is convinced that Tom had something to do with it.

Because these details are so familiar by this point—and Casey’s constant descriptions of bourbon (sometimes vodka) were tiresome—I found The House Across the Lake somewhat hard to get into. But it’s a fast read, with lots of action, quick descriptions, and short chapters. 

And then, three-quarters of the way in, there’s a twist so fantastic that I literally gasped when reading it. 

Do not put this book down if you think it’s predictable or boring. It’s not. Stick it out for this twist!

The sleight-of-hand Sager pulls here is masterful. A few years ago, another domestic thriller writer tried something similar (I won’t give away the name as it might reveal too much), and the author was criticized for breaking the genre rules. That book became a Netflix series, and the same criticism occurred all over again.

Sager probably won’t get the same critique. From the get-go, he lays out hints about the type of story he’s really telling, but drops them so casually and buries them so carefully that the reader won’t pick them up. When he finally reveals his true game, the reveal feels earned, not gimmicky. By that point, it’s a wild ride till the end, flying down the hill of the world’s tallest roller coaster.

The House Across the Lake is Sager’s sixth book, and while it’s missing some of the character depth of earlier books, it may be his biggest yet. 

It might even earn him a Netflix series.  

Thanks to Dutton for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Riley Sager:

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Friday, June 17, 2022

What's in the (e)mail...plus a (print) giveaway

Melissa:
Stuck with Him by Danielle Owen-Jones from Bookouture (NetGalley)
And Then There's Margaret by Carolyn Clarke from Black Rose Writing (NetGalley)
One Last Gift by Emily Stone from Ballantine (NetGalley)
The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul from William Morrow (NetGalley)
The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss from Dutton (NetGalley)
When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee from Pitchlit (NetGalley)
Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun from Atria (NetGalley)
The It Girl by Ruth Ware from Gallery (NetGalley)
Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade from Avon (NetGalley)
The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle from Park Row (NetGalley)
Sara:
The Baker and the Badge by Tracy Krimmer from Booksprout (ebook)
Dog Friendly by Victoria Schade from Berkley (NetGalley)
Where Wild Peaches Grow by Cade Bentley from Amazon Publishing (NetGalley)
Cop a Plea by/from Hilary Grossman (ebook)
After Everyone Else by Leslie Hooton from Wunderkind PR (ebook)
The Accidental Pinup by Danielle Jackson from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Other Girlfriend by Alex Stone from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Scandalized by Ivy Owens from Gallery (NetGalley)
Addicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie from Berkley (NetGalley)

Jami:
The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher from Wunderkind (ebook)
The Second Husband by Kate White from Wunderkind (ebook)
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn from Berkley (NetGalley)





What could be in YOUR mail:

Gilt by Jamie Brenner

Thanks to Putnam, we have FIVE copies to give away!

One perfect diamond is all it takes to divide a family. Could one summer be enough to fix it?
 
The Pavlin family built an empire on love. As the first jewelers to sell diamond rings exclusively for proposals, they started a tradition that has defined engagements ever since. But when an ill-fated publicity stunt pits the three Pavlin sisters against one another for a famous family jewel, their bond is broken. No ordinary diamond ring, the Electric Rose splinters the sisters, leaving one unlucky in love, one escaping to the shores of Cape Cod, and the other, ultimately, dead. 
 
Now, over a decade later, Gemma Maybrook is still reconciling the reality of her mother's death. Left orphaned and cast out by her family after the tragic accident, Gemma is ready to reclaim what should have been hers: the Electric Rose. And, as a budding jewelry designer in her own right, Gemma isn't just planning on recovering her mother's lost memento, she's coming back for everything.
 
From Manhattan’s tony Fifth Avenue to the vibrant sands of Provincetown, Gilt follows the Pavlin women as they are forced to confront the mistakes of the past if they have any hope of finding love and happiness of their own. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

"I completely lost myself in Brenner’s blissful, heartfelt novel, centered around a family curse and a luscious pink diamond. A joyous story about shifting family dynamics, self-discovery and the power of forgiveness. The perfect summer read." 
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

Gilt is a dazzling page-turner. Family intrigue, sparkling gems, long-buried secrets, juicy twists and turns…what more could you ask for in a novel? Jamie Brenner is my go-to author for my beach bag!” 
–Elyssa Friedland, author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends June 22nd at midnight EST.

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Book Review: Scotsman in the Stacks



By Sara Steven

Paige wants two things: to land a full time librarian job and find the man of her dreams. On the cusp of thirty, she finds herself suddenly single and working part-time in a Michigan library. A handsome patron with a delicious accent appears at the reference desk, inadvertently sparking an idea that might help her land the promotion she so desperately needs. But that's not the only thing he sparks.

James is in town from Glasgow, Scotland, on a summer artist residency. Luckily, the trip got him away from the pressure he feels to take over his uncle's river tour business. He only wanted to clear his head and make his art in peace, but he wasn't counting on finding an attractive librarian to fill his days.

With only eight weeks before James goes home to Scotland, Paige knows she should protect her heart. After all, she already wasted years with her commitment-phobe ex. But the more she gets to know James, the less she can stick to her plan to just be friends. Is she just wasting her time again, or can they bridge the ocean between them to find a happily ever after of their own? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

There were two important relationships within Scotsman in the Stacks: the one between Paige and James, and the one between Paige and her best friend, Kayla. The best friend relationship is a focal point, because it serves as a major catalyst for the decisions Paige makes when it comes to James. 

Given her recent break-up, Paige wants to be careful. While it would be nice to find a man she can develop the perfect relationship with–the kind Kayla has with her husband, Eric–Paige still feels as though it’s best to put her guard up, particularly where James is concerned. He might check off a lot of her boxes, but given he’s only in town for a short time, she doesn’t feel it would be practical to allow herself to fall for him. 

Yet, what she wants to do is best in theory and really hard to put into practice. The way she feels about James is a total contradiction to what her brain tells her to do, and it’s obvious the chemistry between them is a two-way street. I thought the author did a great job of highlighting that; the hesitant, careful steps that both characters take towards one another, almost shy and awkward, much like you’d expect from the newness of potential love, with a gradual progression into trust and allowing those walls to come down. But when tragedy strikes, leaving uncertainty, Paige wonders if the choices she’s been making have been the right ones or if she’s acted too impulsively, with the potential for heartbreak.

I really liked this couple. From the get go, I could appreciate their sweet budding relationship, and I liked how Kayla rooted for them, too, which attributed to Paige’s decisions when it came to her own matters of the heart. And while I also appreciated the conversation, there were some tough moments when reading through James’s dialogue. Given he’s from Scotland, he had a Scottish dialect to him, but it didn’t always read well on the page and could be heavy-handed. Aside from that, though, I had no troubles with falling into the relationship between Paige and James, and much like Kayla, I found myself rooting for them and hoping for their happily-ever-after. 

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women's fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

Visit Alana online:



Visit all the stops on Alana's blog tour:

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