Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: Wake-Up Call

Sarah Winslow wakes up with a terrible hangover…and a kid in her boyfriend’s bed. She makes the horrifying discovery that, due to a head injury, it’s not a hangover. She’s got memory loss. Overnight, five years have disappeared, and she’s no longer the hard-living, fast-track, ad executive party girl she thinks she is. Now, she’s the unemployed, pudgy, married, stay-at-home-mom of three kids under five, including twins.

As she slowly pieces together the mystery of how her dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely in five short years, she finds herself utterly failing to manage this life she can’t imagine choosing. When Sarah meets the man of her dreams, she realizes she’s got to make a choice: Does she follow her bliss and “do-over” her life? Or does the Sarah she’s forgotten hold the answers to how she got here…and how she can stay? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Sara Steven:

Wake Up Call really spoke to me. There were so many scenarios and situations I could relate to and identify with, having been a freewheeling, single career woman myself at one point at time, as well as a married stay-at-home mom of two boys. I loved the honesty of the characters. There were times Sarah would say something that would make me cringe, because it was oh so painful, but oh so real. Often her thoughts reflected what so many of us have locked up tight inside our own minds, afraid to unleash those proverbial demons.

What I appreciated most was the sharp shift of realities for Sarah. In such a short amount of time, so much can happen that will change who you are as a person forever. I experienced that myself after my firstborn had been placed in my arms after he was born. I had so many ideas on how I would live the rest of my life and I truly felt his arrival wouldn’t really change the direction on how my life was headed. Yet once his beautiful brown eyes found mine, I found a new normal. I couldn’t even imagine going back to the woman I’d been before him.

This is a story that is a voice for every woman, not just for those who know what it’s like to walk in Sarah’s Croc encapsulated footsteps. Ultimately, whatever road we choose to travel on is a worthy road, and sometimes we need to reconnect with who we were before life’s biggest changes, to really find what’s most important.

Melissa Amster:

As soon as I started getting into Wake-Up Call (which was very easy to do), I knew Sara had to read it too. I described it to her as What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty) meets Say Never (Janis Thomas).

I'm always up for a good amnesia story and I like how this one was told. There wasn't too much time gone, but enough to be a huge shock. Sarah has gone from career girl to stay-at-home mom and she doesn't recognize her life at all. I can't even imagine what that would feel like. Thankfully, she was still with Kofi. She had started dating him in her late twenties, so her mind was back to what he was like before parenthood took over. It was still a strange shift for her to see him all worn out, trying to provide for his family. I enjoyed watching Sarah try to navigate her "new" life and see her children in a new light. She also had a great support system of friends that she was in denial of needing in her life, instead trying to reconnect with her friends from her twenties, who had changed a lot.

My only two issues where that time sometimes went by really fast throughout the story and I wasn't sure what the deal was with Troy (another man in Sarah's life) which made things confusing later on.

Overall, Wake-Up Call was engaging, funny, thought-provoking, and even somewhat sad at times. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Movie casting ideas:
Sarah: Rachael Taylor or Taylor Schilling
Kofi: Malcolm Barrett
Elaine: Rachel Boston
Troy: Christopher Russell
Celia: Jaimie Alexader

Thanks to Amy Avanzino for the book in exchange for an honest review. Check out her second novel, From the Sideline.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Susan Schild's newsworthy year...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Susan Schild to CLC today, as part of BookSparks' Wintervention. BookSparks even has a copy of her latest novel, Sweet Southern Hearts, to give away!

Susan Schild has an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree (MSW) from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has used her professional background as a psychotherapist and corporate trainer to add authenticity to her characters.

Susan is a wife, a stepmother, and a dog lover. She and her family live near Raleigh, North Carolina where she is busy finishing up the third novel in the Willow Hill Series.

Visit Susan at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Synopsis:
When it comes to marriage, third time’s the charm for Linny Taylor. She’s thrilled to be on her honeymoon with Jack Avery, Willow Hill’s handsome veterinarian. But just like the hair-raising white water rafting trip Jack persuades her to take, newlywed life has plenty of dips and bumps.

Jack’s twelve-year-old son is resisting all Linny’s efforts to be the perfect stepmother, while her own mother, Dottie, begs her to tag along on the first week of a free-wheeling RV adventure. Who knew women “of a certain age” could drum up so much trouble? No sooner is Linny sighing with relief at being back home than she’s helping her frazzled sister with a new baby…and dealing with an unexpected legacy from her late ex. Life is fuller—and richer—than she ever imagined, but if there’s one thing Linny’s learned by now, it’s that there’s always room for another sweet surprise… (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Something new I did in 2016:
I started taking Pilates and can’t believe how exercises that look so graceful and non-strenuous can cause me to gimp around the whole next day.

Something new I want to try in 2017: 
I want to plan my writing better so deadlines aren’t so hectic. It’s simple math: decide how long your book will be, and dividing the number of pages by days will give you how many pages you need to write per day. That’s been too sensible for me up until now, but that’s my 2017 plan.

A new restaurant I ate at recently: 
Chapman's Food and Spirits in Southern Pines, NC . Excellent mac and cheese and fish tacos in a friendly setting. We took a one night family holiday/mini-getaway and enjoyed exploring the small Sandhills town of Southern Pines. Chapman’s was an unexpected treat.

A new TV series I started watching: 
My latest favorites: Life in Pieces, American Pickers, Hotel Impossible, and the tiny house shows.

The newest thing I bought: 
A small, quiet room humidifier that eases my allergy symptoms in winter.

A new place I want (or plan) to visit soon: 
I want to take a train adventure. The Rocky Mountaineer? The Trans-Canadian Railway? Am picturing sitting on a red velvet seat, gazing out the train window at the coastline or soaring mountains….

Thanks to Susan for visiting with us and to BookSparks 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

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Giveaway ends January 24th at midnight EST.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: So Glad They Told Me

By Sara Steven

When I had my first son, I had all sorts of ideas and opinions on how my pregnancy and his upbringing would go. I’d done my research. I’d purchased a plethora of childcare books, the ones guaranteeing a healthy pregnancy, others focusing on that pivotal first year, and even a few guiding me on how to ensure a happy, healthy baby through toddlerhood and beyond.

I’m a habitual planner. I feel calm when I can be the one in control of my own destiny. I figured childcare would fall easily in line with all the notions I’d read, all the guides and outlines, calendars and note keeping. Everything would go according to plan.

My son was an awesome baby, an easy baby, for the most part, but I often felt lost in translation. He didn’t do anything the books told me he’d do within a certain time frame. A friend purchased a sleep training guide in an effort to help me get him on some sort of sleep schedule, which didn’t work. Still others told me to “do this”, or “don’t do that”. I didn’t have as much of a support system as I would have liked to have, in those days. Friends were at work when I’d needed help or had questions. My husband at the time had been stationed overseas for nearly five long months. I didn’t have family to confide in. I felt alone in a lot of ways.

I wish I’d had a book like this one. So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood gives personal insights into what it’s really like to be a mom. The joys. The sorrows. The contributors give their own anecdotal experiences, which are far from perfect, but that’s what makes it so wonderfully real.

There are plenty of stories I can relate to and identify with, from that first year to what it’s like dealing with tweens and teenagers, and beyond. It’s going to continue being relevant for me, because being a parent will be something I am for the rest of my life. There are stories relating to what it’s like when your children move on and continue forth with their own adult lives, something I know will be a hard situation for me when that time comes.

What I appreciate most about So Glad They Told Me, is that the writers aren’t telling the readers to “do this”, or “don’t do that”. They merely share their own experiences in the hopes of reaching out to other mothers who might be dealing with a similar situation. It’s a must-have for anyone who’s a mother, a parent, or for those who are looking for an inspirational read.

By the time my second son was born, I felt as though I had a better grip on things, yet my little boy threw me a curve-ball. He wasn’t at all like his older brother. Not to say he wasn’t as awesome, he just wasn’t as easy. There have been quite a few moments during motherhood where I’ve questioned myself, if I’m doing the right thing. By reading stories from other mothers, like the ones found in So Glad They Told Me, I don’t feel alone in that sentiment. Even if at times we feel like failures in the parent department, our children will turn out alright.

Thanks to The HerStories Project Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More from Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Lift And Separate

Today we are featuring Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy to give away! Check out all the stops on Marilyn's blog tour for more chances to win.


Marcy Hammer’s life has been turned upside down. Her husband, the head of a global brassiere empire, didn’t think twice about leaving her after thirty-three years of marriage for a 32DD lingerie model. Now Harvey the Home-Wrecker is missing in action, but Marcy’s through thinking about what a cliché he is. What she needs now is a party-size bag of potato chips, a good support system, and a new dress.

Striking out on her own is difficult at first, but Marcy manages to find traces of humor in her heartbreak. Even while devastated by Harvey’s departure, she still has her indomitable spirit and her self-respect. She has no intention of falling apart, either, even when her adult children drop a few bombshells of their own and she discovers a secret about her new, once-in-a-lifetime friend. Life may be full of setbacks, but by lifting herself up by her own lacy straps, Marcy just may be able to handle them all.


For more than twenty-five years, Marilyn Simon Rothstein owned an advertising agency in Connecticut. She grew up in New York City, earned a degree in journalism from New York University, began her writing career at Seventeen magazine, and married a man she met in an elevator.

Lift And Separate is her debut novel.

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 January 23rd at midnight EST.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Holly Brown's fresh outlook...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Holly Brown back to CLC today (after two-and-a-half years) to talk about some new things in her life, as well as feature her domestic suspense novel, This is Not Over, which comes out tomorrow. Thanks to Get Red PR, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Holly Brown lives with her husband and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a practicing marriage and family therapist. Her blog, “Bonding Time,” is featured on Psychcentral.com, a mental health website with 1.5 million visitors per month. For more about Holly, visit her website and follow her on Facebook.


Synopsis:
You’ll have your deposit within seven business days, just like it says on Getaway.com. I’ve put through a refund to your credit card for the full amount, minus $200 to replace the stained sheets...

Miranda

When 30-year-old Dawn reads Miranda’s email, she sees red. People have always told Dawn she’s beautiful, and she just hopes they don’t see beneath—to how she grew up, to what she’s always tried to outrun. She revels in her getaways with her perfect (maybe too perfect) husband, the occasional long weekend in luxurious homes, temporarily inhabiting other people’s privileged lives. Miranda’s email strikes a nerve, with its lying intimation that Dawn is so dirty you need to throw out her sheets.

Beware of your “host”

I wouldn’t have left a review at all, if I didn’t feel it was my civic duty to warn others…

57-year-old Miranda thought she’d seen it all, but she can’t believe her eyes when she reads Dawn’s review. She’s a doctor’s wife but she needs that rental money, desperately. People might think her life is privileged, but they don’t know what’s really going on. They don’t know about her son. She won’t take this threat to her livelihood—to her very life—lying down.

Two very different women with this in common: Each harbors her own secret, her own reason why she can’t just let this go. Neither can yield, not before they’ve dredged up all that’s hidden, even if it has the power to shatter all they’ve built.

This is not over.

This is so not over. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)


Something new I did in 2016:
I started my own therapy practice. I've always worked for agencies before, so this felt like a big leap off a high bridge. But lots of people have been so kind to me that it's like having a parachute. And I've got my other amazing day job--writing!

Something new I want to try in 2017:
Stand-up paddle boarding. People look so serene, gliding along. I'm horribly uncoordinated but I've never seen anyone topple over so that could be for me. And the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, has lots of spots where I could give it a try.

A new food I tried recently:
Pan-seared Spanish octopus, from the restaurant Moshulu in Philadelphia. I'm going to have to take trips to the East Coast more often if they keep that up.

A new book I started reading:
Euphoria by Lily King. The cover alone is worth the price of admission, all those miasmic colors, and the story of 1930s anthropologists is completely immersive.

The newest thing I bought:
I've been a bit frugal lately, what with starting my business. So it was fun to shop for my daughter over the holidays. She's turning five, and her favorite gift was this schoolhouse kit where she gets to play teacher and her dad and I are the students, practicing our letters. She's a taskmaster, that one, but my handwriting is improving.

Someplace new I plan (or want) to visit:
I've always wanted to go to Croatia. Years ago, someone mentioned to me that it's the country of waterfalls, and that the coastline is as beautiful as Greece's. Don't know if this is my year to get there, but a girl can dream!

Thanks to Holly for visiting with us and to Get Red PR 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


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Giveaway ends January 22nd at midnight EST.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: Mixed Signals

By Sara Steven

Getting dumped is never easy, but there’s a special bonus sting if your ex-fiancé is a producer for a popular morning radio show. Jillian Atwood’s breakup with Nico has become the hosts’ number-one topic. They’re even running a competition to find him a new girlfriend. The entire population of Boston, it seems, is tuning in with an opinion about who Nico should date next—and what Jillian should do to get over him.

Jillian’s co-worker, Ben, has his own ideas on that score. He hates seeing Jill depressed over a guy as unworthy as her ex. While he’s providing a friendly ear, he's also realizing how much more he’d like to offer. And if Jill could just get over the man who broke her heart, she might find the one who’s perfectly equipped to heal it… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Mixed Signals is a realistic take on one woman’s journey through a transitional period in her life. I could feel the tiny shifts and nuances that happen for Jillian, while she works hard at dealing with an ex who took years in asking her to marry him, only to break up with her when he decides he really isn’t ready for any long-term commitments.

There were times where I wanted to reach into the pages and shake some sense into Jillian, to get her to see the light, to not lament over an obviously bad relationship. Yet her thought process, the way she yearns for the familiar and the life she’s known for so long, is how so many of us would deal if we were thrown into a similar situation. When thrust into something that is completely out of our control, it’s all we can focus on. What went wrong. What could have been done differently to salvage the relationship. Maybe given some time, some distance, he’ll come to his senses.

While reeling from the pain of the break-up, Jillian is also dealing with her life being played out for all to hear on the radio show. Strangers, and those who know her well, chime in on what they think she should or shouldn’t do, and when she retaliates against the ones in charge of the show, she finds herself in an even bigger mess. And then there's Ben. He's always been a good friend to her over the years, yet he’s known as a notorious player. When he’s nice to her, is it genuine, or is he looking for something more? And how can she ever get over Nico?

I enjoyed Mixed Signals, and the honesty it represents. A great example of this is a jacket Nico leaves behind at Jillian’s home, a place they both shared before he left her. She has a hard time getting rid of it. It sits where Nico left it, hanging on the back of a chair in the kitchen, convinced he’ll come back for it. He’ll come back for her. This is so symbolic of where Jillian is at in her relationship, not only with Nico but the relationship she has with herself, and we get to see her transition by way of the jacket. It’s moments like that one, and many others, that make this novel so clever, honest, and endearing.

Thanks to Lyrical Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. See Sara's review for Diane's previous novel, Waiting for Ethan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Giveaway: January and February Books We are Looking Forward To Reading

Every two months, we're featuring EIGHT books we're interested in checking out. (We know there are many, many more, but we're just highlighting a few that haven't received their time in the spotlight yet.) Here are the books we've chosen for January and February. There is one copy of each book available to give away and we will choose FOUR winners to each receive TWO books at random.

See our previous bi-monthly posts for some other great reads you might have missed.


January:

Sisters One, Two, Three by 
Nancy Star (January 1st)

This was recently a Kindle First deal and it sounds very interesting. Anyone with a sister will relate, but you don't have to have one to enjoy it.

*Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the giveaway copy. Check out all the stops on their blog tour for more chances to win.

We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk (January 3rd)

The title makes us think of that famous line from Friends. If you haven't read a Lindsey Kelk novel yet, they are perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella. If you have read her books before, then you know what kind of treat you will be getting!

*Thanks to HarperCollins for the giveaway copy.


The Odds of You and Me by 
Cecilia Galante (January 31st)

It sounds like a gripping and thought-provoking novel. Perfect for fans of Meg Donohue and Sarah Jio.

*Thanks to William Morrow for the giveaway copy.

The Road to Enchantment by 
Kaya McLaren (January 31st)

Melissa A enjoyed Kaya's previous two novels and has been eagerly awaiting this one. Kaya writes with a lot of heartfelt sensitivity and her novels are comfort reads.

*Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the giveaway copy.



February:

Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire) by 
Jen Glantz (February 7th)

Jen Glantz shares about what happens when you've been a bridesmaid so often that you half-jokingly turn it into a career....and then it takes off!

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagán (February 7th)

We've been hearing great things about Camille Pagán's novels. This one is written from a male perspective and sounds incredibly romantic.

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie Communications for the giveaway copy.

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell (February 14th)

The synopsis had us at Desperate Housewives and sounds like a perfect fit for our blog. Plus, we wouldn't mind digging into that cake on the cover!

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

The Nearness of You by 
Amanda Eyre Ward (February 21st)

Melissa A has been a fan of Amanda Eyre Ward's writing for quite some time and knows she won't disappoint. While the topic is prevalent in this genre, it will be interesting to see Amanda's take on it.

*Thanks to Ballantine for the giveaway copy.


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 February 8th at midnight EST.