Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review: Three Days Missing

By Melissa Amster

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing--vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Three years ago, as well as this past summer, my daughter wandered off in a crowded space for a few minutes. The panic at not knowing where she was felt overwhelming. Thankfully, we found her quickly and she was even more upset than we were. Having shared this, I can't even imagine what it must have felt like for Kat to not know where her child was for THREE days! Scratch that...I can imagine that it must have felt like the world was ending.

Three Days Missing is the second novel I've read by Kimberly Belle (the first being The Marriage Lie, which is being made into a movie) and I am still very impressed by her writing style and her ability to keep me guessing each time. I was in suspense from the moment it was revealed that Ethan was missing and I had no idea where the story would lead. There were so many twists and turns! It was definitely a page turner that was difficult to put down. I just had to know if Ethan would be okay....or not. Kimberly uses a lot of detail that makes the story come to life without the descriptions taking away from the narrative. This situation is hard to read about as a parent, but Kimberly handled it in a sensitive way.

The only issue I had was that some of the political discussions during Stef's scenes got confusing. I also think the story could have used an epilogue to see how things were going for the characters a few months later.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a powerful mystery/thriller.

Movie casting suggestions:
Kat: Claire Danes
Stef: Michelle Monaghan
Andrew: Alexander Skarsgård (reminded me of his character in Big Little Lies and I kept picturing him)
Lucas: Josh Holloway
Mac: Cole Hauser
Sam: Sam Page
Josh: Ethan Suplee

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

More by Kimberly Belle:

Friday, November 16, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt from Viking
My Virtual Life by Sharon Dempsey from Bloodhound Books (e-book via NetGalley)
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella from The Dial Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
An Impossible Thing Called Love by Belinda Missen from HQ Digital (e-book via NetGalley)
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner from Berkley (Amy won this from Goodreads.)

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)

Not Just for Christmas by Natalie Cox from Orion Publishing

There's Something About a Cowboy by Rich Amooi from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
The Military Wife by Laura Trentham from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)

Book Review: A Christmas Gift

By Becky Gulc

‘Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I’ve known of Sue Moorcroft for years but have somehow only just read one of her novels after receiving A Christmas Gift for review. The book promises to appeal to fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley and I definitely agree with that, there’s a warmth to it that resonates with the work of these popular authors. Whilst I haven’t read any previous work, I know this novel is based in the same fictional location of Middledip as some of Sue’s previous novels, with some previous characters making cameos. I always find this appealing in novels, so I’m sure this will delight existing fans.

For me this book has lots of positives – strong sense of place and community, strong leading characters in Georgine and Joe, and lots of chemistry in the build up to Christmas! There’s also a lot of kindness which is always good especially this time of year. I loved how the character’s backstories were very contrasting but complimentary to one another; some serious issues are covered whilst remaining a light-read, a good balance.

Personally, I think I would have felt even more invested in the characters if the narrative was switched up a bit to relive some of the character’s history and their connection in ‘real-time’ rather than discussing it in retrospect; a minor thing that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment. I also felt I could have had greater connection and investment in the Christmas production element of the story. I felt more interested in everything else, which was a shame as this did feature quite heavily.

All in all I think this is a great novel that would be great to read any time of year. I’d happily read more novels set in Middledip and would love to see these characters pop up again!

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the other stops on Sue's tour.

More by Sue Moorcroft:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

With a dreamy far off look, and her nose stuck in a book....

By Melissa Amster

I am sharing this post that I wrote a long time ago for my personal blog. I felt it worked well for this theme month and I was thinking about it after taking my kids to a production of Beauty and the Beast this past week.

I kept this month's theme open to all Disney and fairy tale characters because I didn’t want to limit it to just the “princesses.” However, there is no one I can relate to more than Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

Picture from Look Magazine

The first reason is really obvious. She loves books!!! That was the first thing that I loved about her, aside from her beautiful singing voice. Her passion for books is so strong that she’ll read the same book twice and she’ll walk through the streets while focused intently on the story in her hand. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the Beast gives her his library. Such a romantic gesture! It reminds me of how my husband supports my love for books and built bigger shelves so I could display more of them. (And I still keep running out of room!) He is also supportive of my blog and everything surrounding it, such as going to meet authors. The gesture also reminds me of the first time I went to the used book store at the library. There must be millions of books there! I felt like the Beast had given me his library by showing me this store.

Another reason I’m like Belle is that I look for inner beauty. Sure, I can recognize if someone is physically attractive. However, if they are ugly on the inside, I want nothing to do with them. (It’s the same way that Belle felt about Gaston.) A person’s true beauty reflects through when they are kind and loving. Looks will fade over time but treating others as you would want to be treated is an eternal value.

Everyone in the town thought Belle was a bit peculiar and that she didn’t fit in with the people in the town, despite her inner and outer beauty. (It seems like they had a problem with her desire to read all the time. If that makes her odd, then that makes a lot of people in this world odd!) I believe that I don’t completely fit in to any one group in particular. I have friends and I get along well with people individually. When it comes to social situations, I tend to stand on the sidelines or on the outskirts of a group. Either I have nothing to say about the topic or I just look like I’m trying to blend in. I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. I didn’t cave into peer pressure when I was younger and wasn’t much of a wild party girl in college. (I even waited till I was 21 to drink alcohol.) I still do other odd things like reading during social situations (such as at baseball games, during my lunch break at work or even when people come over to visit and play games), singing out loud at random times, spacing out (going off into my own little world), etc.

Belle seems to talk about wanting more than a provincial life. She lives in a small town where the routines are the same every day. I live in a suburban area, but in a small town within that area. I love where I live, but I also feel like there's a sense of routine in my life. I try to rise above just going through the motions. While I'm extremely happy with my husband and kids, I also seek out things that make me an individual, as I don't like to lose myself by just being a wife and mother. (I am not one of those moms from 1950's television shows!) A while back, I read a book called "Here, Home, Hope," by Kaira Rouda, that voices aloud the things I'm usually thinking. I feel like I have done that with my book blog, while fostering my love for books at the same time. I'm sure Belle would have a book blog if she were a real person living in the 21st century. :)

There are a few other ways I am like Belle, such as being loyal to and protecting my family, having a stubborn streak, and talking to inanimate objects (just kidding about that last part). Overall, she is my favorite Disney character of all time and I’m proud to have so much in common with her!

"For once it might be grand, to have someone understand...I want so much more than they've got planned."

Picture from

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Review: Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop

By Sara Steven

Ivy loves Christmas. As owner of Christmas Every Day, the year-round festive store, you'd expect nothing less!

The only thing missing in Ivy's life is a dash of romance – something her twin sister Holly will not let her forget…

When her mother passed away, Ivy vowed to take over the running of her mother’s store and keep the Christmas spirit alive in the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

But all this changes when an enigmatic businessman moves to the town, threatening to bulldoze her beloved shop to make way for holiday complex.

Can Ivy save her shop before Christmas? Could there be a different side to the newest resident of Marram Bay that would make all her Christmas wishes come true?
(synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Nothing thrills me more than having the opportunity to go back to a great place within the mind of an author’s story. Marram Bay is that story. Having read Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli (reviewed here), it was so much fun to see the town from another perspective, from Ivy’s point of view.

Set within this idyllic location, you get the feeling that those who live in Marram Bay are encased in a bubble, where time slows down and the bigger cities and associated fast paced lifestyle has no place here. Ivy has become one with her town, running a Christmas-themed store that has been a fixture for generations, feeling settled within the day-to-day operations that come from owning a business. This doesn’t allow for much else.

When Seb, the enigmatic businessman enters her store, he represents much more than a hindrance to her way of life. He represents all that she has tried desperately to steer clear of, like the future. Going beyond the old-fashioned ways that she has held steadfast to, he pushes her into taking steps toward finding other methods of survival, for her business, and for her own livelihood. I appreciated how we can slowly see the growth and change that happens for Ivy, expanding on the list of what’s most important to her, fighting against the need to stay put in her comfort zone, while tentatively sticking a toe outside of it. There is a lot of push-pull that happens between Ivy and Seb, adding a nice layer of romance to this Christmas story.

Portia has a way with creating characters who fill you with light and joy. You find yourself imagining what it would be like to be neighbors with those who bring back a simpleness to what often feels like a chaotic world. Marram Bay finds a special place in your heart, with characters who are fun and unique, spanning from book to book, with special cameos and glimpses into the different viewpoints that make up what this town is all about. It truly is the perfect holiday read!

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review. Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop can be purchased here.

More by Portia MacIntosh:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lauren Clark knows how to be a book giveaway

We welcome Lauren Clark back to CLC today. The last time she was here was in 2016, as Laura McNeill. No matter which name she goes by, she's a sweetheart and we're glad to reconnect with her. Lauren is here to talk about the Disney character she is most like, going along with our theme of Disney and Fairy Tales. She has TWO copies of her latest novel, The World Breaks Everyone, to give away (one print, one e-book).

Lauren Clark is the author of several award-winning novels, including Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stardust Summer, and Stay Tuned. She also writes suspense under the name Laura McNeill. Center of Gravity and Sister Dear have been published by HarperCollins. Visit Lauren at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Every day, I wake up certain of only three things:

I am responsible for my mother’s death.
My father has vanished.
Someone wants me dead.

I’m on the run. It’s me against the world.

I cannot let it break me.

When sixteen-year-old Olivia Jacobs and her celebrity chef father are brutally attacked after his French Quarter restaurant opening, the shell-shocked Olivia finds herself on the run on the streets of New Orleans.

Who wants her dead? And why?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Be Brave! Merida: The Disney/Pixar Character Most Like Me

From the first moment feisty, headstrong Merida appeared in Brave, I loved the 16-year old Scottish princess. She is anything but a stereotypical royal—athletic, bold, brave, and daring—never a damsel in distress.

Much like me, Merida holds much curiosity about the world around her. She is a bit of a dreamer and often thinks about the legends and myths of her kingdom. I always loved to discover new places as a child, similar to Merida, who enjoys the outdoors. In the movie, you can tell that she loves spending time exploring the forests that surround her home. I probably would not have scaled Crone's Tooth and tried to drink from the fire falls, but I definitely cheered her on as she attempted what only the bravest kings have done.

One of my favorite games as a child was playing hide and seek, which we see Merida enjoying in the movie. She is very fond and protective of her younger triplet brothers, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. Like Merida, I also had younger brothers (not triplets, thank goodness!). She also shows her softer side with her horse, Angus, preferring to care for him herself.

Photo credit: Disney Wiki
Merida is devoted to her archery skills and though I have never found a loophole in an archery competition to “shoot for my own hand,” I do love playing sports and the challenge of friendly competition. I played soccer, field hockey, and softball in high school, and still enjoy swimming, though at a more leisurely pace!

Merida showed part of her tenacious personality when her cake spell went awry. When her mother turned into a bear, Merida didn't rely on anyone other than herself to fix it. I prefer to solve my own problems, as well, and tend to be stubborn and don’t want to ask anyone for help!

I could relate to Merida being often irritated with her mother; seeing her instructions on how to be a "proper" princess tedious and boring. Rather than following social etiquette and good manners, Merida takes control of her own destiny, despite her mother’s warning that her actions could harm the kingdom. I definitely saw my teenage self in Merida’s behaviors. While I was (overall) a well-behaved daughter, I did have some moments I look back on and wonder what in the world I was thinking!

Merida stands apart from many other Disney/Pixar heroines, as she made clear she wasn't interested in suitors. She even says, "I may never be ready for this." The final scenes of the movie, rather than centering on a love story, focus on her relationship with her mother—exemplifying that families can be repaired and strengthened through patience, bravery, and love.

I had such fun watching Merida grow and change throughout the movie. She begins the film, Brave, as a rebellious and impulsive girl but soon learns to become more understanding and open-minded. I definitely see my younger self in Merida—and I also see 16-year old Olivia Jacobs, the heroine of my new novel, The World Breaks Everyone. Both Olivia and Merida stay true to their core values and temperament throughout, remaining brave and loyal to those they love most.

Thanks to Lauren for visiting with us and 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

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Giveaway ends November 18th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: The Stranger in Our Home

By Jami Deise

The evil stepparent has been a trope of fiction throughout the history of literature, and from a biological basis, there’s good reason. With an evolutionary compulsion to promulgate one’s genes far and wide, it only makes sense to funnel resources to a biological child over a new partner’s. If that means leaving them in the woods to be eaten by a witch, so be it.

In Sophie Draper’s debut The Stranger in Our Home (published in the UK as Cuckoo), she brings this trope back to the beginning in what can best be called an adult fairy tale in the Brothers Grimm tradition. After the death of her stepmother Elizabeth, Caroline (Caro) moves back into the remote English farmhouse where she and her older sister grew up after the death of their father. Homeless after a painful break-up, Caro, an artist, plans to use the move to illustrate a gruesome book of adult fairy tales. But the memories of her punishing treatment by Elizabeth, odd coincidences, the isolated setting of the farmhouse in late fall, and the cruelty of the villagers (who refer to Caro’s sister as the flashy one and Caro as the crazy one), drive Caro to distraction. Why did Elizabeth hate her so much? Why do the villagers treat her as a pariah? And who is this boy popping into her mind whom she can’t remember?

Seeped in its gothic setting, Stranger is not a supernatural story, but its tone delivers that experience anyway. Although Caro is a passive protagonist and a bit too fragile, her personality works for the novel. The pacing does lag a bit at times, as the action unfolds over several months, but it never comes to a complete stop. With only a few characters, the reader feels just as isolated as Caro does, and that also works to the story’s advantage.

Stranger is a strong debut, especially in a marketplace where stories like The Haunting of Hill House get so much attention. My only real quibble is with the publisher’s decision to rename the novel for American audiences. Cuckoo has a sly double meaning that is only apparent at the end of the book, and it gave me even more appreciation for the author. Perhaps they thought that Americans don’t know as much about birds as we should.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.