Monday, June 27, 2016

Spotlight: Wrong Highway

Two things stand out to me about Wendy Gordon and her debut novel, Wrong Highway. The first is that this book takes place in the 1980's. Such an incredible decade for pop culture. (I watch The Goldbergs a lot, which takes me back big time! Funny enough, the main character of this novel is named Erica!) The second is that Wendy is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, which is close to where I live. 

In honor of this novel, I am sharing my top five favorite 80's songs. 

1. "Material Girl," Madonna (I made a project in third grade and did a theme song for it parodying this song. That's all I need to say.)
2. "Let's Hear it for the Boy," Deniece Williams (Cute song. Cuter video. Now it makes me think of "Let's Go to the Mall.")
3. "Something About You," Level 42 (I just liked the way it sounded. It has such an 80's feel that carries over even to the present day.)
4. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (Because I picture Patrick Swayze wrinkling his nose toward the end...but really, such a great song!)
5. "The Power of Love," Huey Lewis and the News (It will always remind me of Back to the Future.)

Now that you're in an 80's mood...

It is 1986. Erica Richards lives in West Meadow, Long Island with her three young boys, newborn baby girl, and successful Wall Street analyst husband. But don’t be fooled by her seemingly placid suburban lifestyle. Erica is fierce, curious, uncompromising, and often impulsive. When her teenage nephew Jared rebels against his straight-laced parents Ron and Debbie, he turns to Erica for help, setting in motion a chain of events that will take all of them careening down a dangerous and twisty highway. Buckle your seat belt, crank up the 80’s soundtrack, and learn how stunningly easy it is to keep BIG SECRETS.

Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast. She received a B.S. from Simmons College in Boston and an M.S. from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and electronic formats. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children. Visit Wendy at her website and follow her on Twitter.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including us in Wendy's blog tour. Visit the rest of their stops here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright from Tracy Krimmer

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker from St. Martin's Press

We Could be Beautiful by Swan Huntley from Doubleday

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand (paperback), won from Karen's Korner

Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff from Mira (e-book via NetGalley)

Melissa A and Amy:

Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White from Lake Union


A House for Happy Mothers
by Amulya Malladi from Lake Union

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro from William Morrow (Enter to win!)

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy from HarperCollins

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale from Lake Union


We'll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson from Little, Brown (e-book via NetGalley)

Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People by Joel Michael Dorr from Word Slinger Publicity (e-book)

Reunion by Beth Brophy from PR Collaborative (e-book)


The Long, Hot Summer
by Kathleen MacMahon from Sphere

This Last Kiss by Madeleine Reiss from Zaffre

Spotlight and Giveaway: Saving Abby

Today we're featuring Steena Holmes' latest novel, Saving Abby, as part of BookSparks' 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. Marlene at Book Mama Blog (our sister blog) recently wrote a beautiful review, as this story is especially meaningful to her. Check out author liaison Cindy Roesel's poignant review, as well. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy for a lucky reader! Visit all their previous tour stops, as ours was the last.

All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Steena Holmes brings us an unforgettable story of one woman’s courage and love.

About the Author:
After writing her first novel while working as a receptionist, Steena Holmes made her dream of being a full-time writer a reality. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Now both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Steena continues to write stories that touch every parent’s heart in one way or another. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit Steena at her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and 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

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Giveaway ends June 29th at midnight EST.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Everything's coming up tulips for Kacie Davis a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kacie Davis Idol here today to talk about her debut novel, The Tulip Factory. Thanks to Inkshares, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Kacie is married and the mother of a baby girl. She was born and raised in the small, yet congested town of *Kernersville, North Carolina. As the middle child of three sisters, she always had a certain fire within; whether it was fighting over who got the front seat or making questionable decisions just to say that it was her own choice. Her life experiences, along with some crazy situations her friends went through, inspired her lead character, whom she first started writing about in November of 2014. 

You can find Kacie on Twitter.

*Melissa A: Funny enough, I recently sent a prize to a reader in Kernersville. After never having heard of that town before, it's interesting that it came up twice in one week. What are the odds?!? This reader is especially excited about the book, since it features her favorite flower!

Before they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two.

Timing, however, isn’t on the couple’s side. After their relationship ends, Corrine finds that years of putting her career and passions on hold for love have led to a stalled life. She once saw her receptionist job as temporary but got too comfortable and, before she knew it, lost sight of her dream of becoming a writer.

Now, as Corrine makes her way into her late twenties, she’s on a quest to find herself. As she struggles to figure out what she really wants, she’ll discover that sometimes you have to take happiness into your own hands and that a fulfilling life is built on opportunities—even the missed ones.

What did you do to celebrate when you were first published?
Honestly, I sat on my front porch, poured a glass of wine and took like 20 pictures of my little girl holding my book. It was actually pretty perfect.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Running and music. While I was working on this book I created a playlist and named it The Tulip Factory. Nothing throws me back in the game better than burning energy while blasting songs that force images and ideas into my head. It literally makes writer’s block disappear.

Describe your writing style in three words.
Bittersweet, feel good.

If you could cast The Tulip Factory for the big screen, which actors would you choose for the lead roles?
This is such a fun question! You have no idea how much I have thought about this. Okay, so for Corinne I would cast Teresa Palmer. She is so naturally pretty and I feel like she could take on this role perfectly; she has this look of innocence with a little bit of a young and wild side.

James would definitely be played by Milo Ventimiglia, but this next part is very important, it has to be the Milo with full facial hair and the long hair pushed back. He wears this look so well and if he did push ups for like a month he would be off the charts perfect!

Dennis Quaid would be Kevin, Corinne’s dad. Hands down, best movie dad ever. Perfect crow’s feet, adorable smile and a trusting voice.

Laurie, Corinne’s mom, would be played by Maria Bello. She is about the right age with soft, natural features. Not to mention, she and Dennis Quaid would be so beautiful together.

Britt Robertson would play the younger sister character, Ava. She is such a cute girl with a very confident air about her. I could see her playing Corinne’s sister, especially when it comes to Chapter 13 and the whole wedding scene. Makes me laugh just thinking about it.

The dog, Charlie, was written after my own dog also named Charli (minus the ‘e’ because I’m difficult that way) so I think my dog should play the role of Charlie. He will need a little training prior to this because he literally does nothing on command except for sit.

What song plays in your head most often?
This is probably my favorite question in the whole world. I wish I could create a playlist for everything. Currently the song playing on repeat in my head is “First” by Cold War Kids.

What is your favorite summertime food and beverage?
My favorite summer food is definitely tomatoes, all day long! Raw with a little salt and pepper. My favorite summertime beverage is probably beer. I love Amber Ale’s and I’ll try anything seasonal.

Thanks to Kacie for visiting with us and to Inkshares 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 June 28th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The Lake Girls

Introduction by Melissa Amster

The last time I flew with just my daughter, she was only one year old and spent most of the flight crying, eating, or sleeping. She was a lot easier to travel with on the most recent flight we took with my family, but this time around she could be entertained by coloring books. I hope to be able to do another girl's trip with her, especially after reading about our Chick Lit Cheerleader's recent adventure with her daughter. They visited Eileen Goudge, author of Swimsuit Body, which came out earlier this month.

Tucker Women Gone Wild

“You know I’ve never been on a plane, Mom. And I’ve never met Aunt Eileen even though she’s, like, my aunt. I can’t believe you’ve never let me meet my own aunt in my whole entire life!” My daughter and I were carving out plans to take a girls’ trip. My sweet friend, author Eileen Goudge, spends time in Grantsburg, Wisconsin and was chomping at the bit for Gracie and I to join her. Love notes, phone calls, little gifts, and silly selfies had been exchanged between Gracie and Eileen over the past four years yet it was time to hug it out in person.

“You know Aunt Eileen is your aunt in love and not by blood, right?” I asked.

Gracie corrected me. “You are definitely wrong, Mom. She is my aunt in blood. Family is family. We love who we love and they become family in our blood and in our heart.”

Oh my sweet girl. If only everyone in the world felt as you do about loving others, what a beautiful world this would be. Hold onto that; tightly, and never let go. Rather than tear up at her sentiment, because I cry at the drop of a hat, I remained on topic. “Gracie, you’ve flown before!”

“No I haven’t!” she argued.

“Just because you were not in a seat, and I was pregnant with you, doesn’t mean that you’ve never been on a plane.”

“That totally doesn’t count, Mom,” she scoffed. “Like I could really look out the window or order a Coke from the lady or dude with the cart inside your belly!”


Plane faces are not plain faces :)

Airline travel is a lot of hurry up and wait. Hurry up and pack, we have to hit the road! Hurry and commute to Chicago, yet wait in morning rush-hour monotony. Hurry up and run to the bus, the tram, and the terminal. Hurry up, take off your shoes and baubles, and wait in the TSA line. Hurry up to the terminal so you can wait for your flight. Hurry all the passengers off the previous flight so you can wait your turn to board. Traveling is a lesson in patience not only for nine-year-olds, but for adults as well.

“Mommy, I’m nervous to fly,” Gracie said as she buckled her seatbelt, then wrung her little fingers while fidgeting on the plane.

I pulled her puppy pillow out of her backpack. “I bet Theo is nervous, too,” I said, handing her her beloved friend. “You could tell him there’s nothing to be nervous about. He gets to look out the window, and watch the busyness of life below him grow very small. Pretzels and a drink will be coming his way, and, before you both know it, we’ll be hugging Aunt Eileen at the airport.”

Gracie took my hand and patted it lovingly. “Theo isn’t real, Mom. You know that, right?” Totally reminiscent of when she was in kindergarten and broke the news to me the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.
Eyes wide, little fingers entwined with mine, plane rumbling down the tarmac—we had liftoff. She reclined her seat, opened her tray table countless times (my apologies to the dude in front of her), scored a few bags of snacks all in an hour and fourteen minutes. And just like that, she could cross “flying in a plane not in utero” off her bucket list along with visiting her Aunt Eileen.

Birds of a feather!

Let me tell you about my daughter and Eileen; what a pair. Over four days they enjoyed shopping excursions, fed horses and saw deer, visited a dairy farm, canoed up and down Big Wood Lake, and snuggled on the couch watching Unlikely Animal Friends and SpongeBob Squarepants. They went for walks and stalked the neighbors four dogs Gracie was dying to play fetch with. Gracie taught Eileen about Littlest Pet Shop and Eileen taught her to to chill out and enjoy watching the hummingbirds and other aviary wonders. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When I think about the adults my children turn to as friends, mentors, even grandparent figures, Gracie is so blessed to have a set of those shoes filled by Eileen. A tenderhearted, elfin-magic little girl connecting with one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. I’ll be their third wheel member of the Lake Girls anytime.

Bird watching in the early hours

Making new friends

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Book Review: Sunshine Beach

By Jami Deise

There’s a certain sense of smug satisfaction among those of us lucky enough to live at the beach. My husband and I moved to the Gulf coast of Florida four years ago, and my Facebook friends are sick of my constant posting of sunset pictures, tropical drinks, sugar-white sand, and native birds.

Those friends may want to skip reading this review. ;-)

For book lovers, it’s always a bit of a thrill to pick up a book that’s set in the reader’s home town. And when said reader is lucky enough to live in a place as close to paradise as is St. Pete Beach, the thrill is doubled. Wendy Wax’s Sunshine Beach, the latest book in her Ten Beach Road series, takes place primarily in Pass-A-Grille, a secluded beach on the southern tip of St. Pete Beach. Once primarily a campground for fisherman to grill their catches, Pass-A-Grille is a strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Ciega Bay. Fishermen still dot the seawall off the bay, attracting hundreds of pelicans. Natives hang out at the Paradise Grille, eating cheeseburgers, drinking beer and watching the sun melt into the Gulf. The area’s most well-known edifice is the five-star Don CeSar hotel, a sprawling pink-and-white structure that opened in 1928 and housed the military during World War II. Resembling a giant birthday cake, locals refer to it as “The Pink Palace.”

It’s a gorgeous setting for a book, and Wax’s plot is a nice match for this historical location. The drama centers around the dilapidated Sunshine Beach hotel where, in 1952, Renee and Annelise’s father was murdered and Annelise’s mother (Renee’s stepmother) disappeared. Raised by their grandparents, the sisters could never agree what to do with the property, allowing it to fall apart. The book kicks off when reality TV renovation team Maddie, Avery, Nikki and Kyra stumble across the property and think it would be the perfect subject for a renovation. But Annelise will only agree if the murder case is re-opened. She never believed the official explanation, that her mother killed her father and then ran off. Luckily, Nikki’s boyfriend Joe is an FBI agent, who uncovers surprising clues that Annelise could be right.

This is a captivating plot, and I was especially intrigued by the descriptions of St. Pete Beach in the 1950s, as the country struggled to move past World War II. (Annelise’s mother was German, and her father got grief for bringing her back to live in a Jewish community.) This plot, however, is only one of several competing narratives. Maddie, who is Kyra’s mother, is dating a rock star and dealing with her ex-husband Steve. Kyra had dated a married movie star and is now raising his toddler. Nikki’s brother is in jail for conducting a Ponzi scheme that cost all the women their savings, and the strain is hurting her relationship with Joe. The network is currently airing episodes of their series that make them look like idiots, and the paparazzi are always around.

Since Sunshine Beach is the fourth book in a series, all these plots – save for the murder mystery – are picked up midstream, and the affect is like turning on a soap opera for the first time without a friend to explain exactly who these people are and what’s going on. But with interesting characters, beautiful settings, and lots of twists and turns, this is an argument to read the entire series in order. The first book is Ten Beach Road. According to the Amazon description, it describes how the women were brought together due to all being victims of the Ponzi scheme. The other two books also incorporate mystery, home renovation, and the beach. They all sound like perfect additions to a Kindle, to be perused as one lies on the sugar-white sands of St. Pete Beach, in the shadow of the gorgeous Pink Palace.

That’s only about two miles from my house. I think I’ll walk there now to enjoy a sunset drink.

Thanks to Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Wendy Wax:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: By the Numbers

I met Jen Lancaster last year. We were at a party that Jennifer Weiner was hosting in NYC during the week of Book Expo America. She knew who I was right away and was so incredibly sweet. It made me feel almost guilty for not having read any of her non-fiction books, which I heard are really funny. However, I have read and enjoyed all her fiction novels (especially Here I Go Again) and am excited to check out By the Numbers, which is available as of today. Thanks to Berkley/NAL, we have copies for THREE lucky readers!

Actuary Penny Sinclair has a head for business, and she always makes rational decisions. Knowing that 60% of spouses cheat and 50% of marriages end in divorce, she wasn’t too surprised when her husband had an affair. (That he did so with a woman their daughter’s age? Well, that part did sting a bit.) She just made sure she got everything in the divorce, including their lovely old Victorian house. And as soon as her younger daughter has her hipster-fabulous wedding in the backyard, she’s trading it in for a condo in downtown Chicago...

Well within the average market time in her area, Penny gets an offer on the house. But then life happens. Her children, her parents and her ex come flying back to the nest, all in need of Penny’s emotional—and financial—support. Spread thin, Penny becomes the poster child for the “sandwich generation,” when all she really wanted to do was make managing director, buy a white couch, and maybe go on a date.

Jen Lancaster is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve previous books (The Best of Enemies; I Regret Nothing; Twisted Sisters; The Tao of Martha; Here I Go Again; Jeneration X; If You Were Here;My Fair Lazy; Pretty in Plaid; Such a Pretty Fat; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Bitter Is the New Black). She has appeared on Today, The Joy Behar Show, and NPR’s All Things Considered. Visit Jen at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

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 June 26th at midnight EST.