Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: A Sudden Crush

By Gail Allison

Joanna Price has got it all. She’s just gotten married to the love of her life, she has the best job in the world, and she’s on her way to the most romantic honeymoon she can imagine. Except for one tiny thing, everything seems to be coming up her way. Her brand new husband is absolutely dashing. A bestselling novelist, Liam met Joanna over her desk (she’s a very successful editor who is obsessed with finding amazing books), and fell head over heels. Now they’ve just been married and are headed off into the proverbial sunset for their honeymoon. The only blip on the radar: Joanna didn’t realize she could pre-book her seats online, and the only two seats left on their six-hour flight are most certainly not next to each other. When Joanna gets situated and frantically asks her seatmate if he will trade seats, burly rancher Connor Duffield flat-out refuses. Joanna decides to remedy the situation herself and go ask Liam’s seatmate to trade, only to be met with the sight of Liam already deep in conversation with his seatmate, who is apparently a Victoria’s Secret model. Joanna slumps back to her seat, thinking things can’t get much worse when the plane begins to experience some crazy turbulence.

The next thing Joanna knows she’s waking up in a tree still buckled in to her seat with her bag tied to her seat. This is where we get to suspend reality a little bit and just fall in to the story. Joanna and Connor have somehow fallen out of the plane and their seat has gotten wedged in the branches of a tree on a deserted island. Connor starts getting ready to stay there for the long haul, and luckily the island they have landed on has a freshwater pond on it, luckily neither one of them is injured, and luckily Joanna has a solar cell phone charger in her purse. That has survived the crash. And stayed in her purse that she still has.

I know you can probably all hear my rolling my eyes at this point, and I do have to admit the number of wonderfully lucky coincidences in this book do force you to suspend logic for awhile, but the story is quite enjoyable nevertheless, and written in a way that makes you want to keep you do!

After 143 days Joanna and Connor are rescued, and they go back to real life. This part surprised me, as they were rescued about halfway through the book. I was curious to see what the last half would be about, but it actually was quite enjoyable. As Joanna gets resettled back into her life, she finds that things have changed quite a lot actually. Liam, her loving and wonderful husband, has moved on. Yes, already. He’s gone and married the Victoria’s Secret model. Joanna is absolutely crushed, but soldiers on. I’m not going to give away the rest of the book, suffice to say it’s definitely a feel-good novel that end by making all the disbelief throughout worthwhile.

The only real drawback that I found in this novel was that occasionally the dialogue felt a little choppy. The author, at times, chose to use full words rather than the contractions occurring in everyday English, and it caused a bit of bumpy reading for me. I’m one of those people that when something interrupts the flow of a good book, it takes me a paragraph or two to get back into it, and when my eyes were getting hung up on some of the wording it just felt a little awkward at times...never enough to make me put the book down though. The story line was just so much fun!

I would definitely recommend A Sudden Crush by Camilla Isley. It’s completely adorable, and a great novel to have tucked into your travel bag. Just maybe don’t read the first half during turbulence...

Thanks to Camilla Isley for the book in exchange for an honest review and Hello...Chick Lit for including us in Camilla's blog tour.

Visit all the other stops on the tour:

Grass Monster- @Lost801_Oceanic – Review
Live, Laugh & Love Books – – Excerpt
Literary Chanteuse - – Promo
Around the World in Books - - Excerpt
Bookmyopia - – Review
Calico Gifts Blog - – Review
Judging More Than Just the Cover - – Author Q&A – Review
Pretty Little Book Reviews - – Review
Just a Book Lovin’ Junkie - – Promo
Bookish Escapes - - Review

T & L Book Reviews- – Promo
Romantic Reads and Such - – Review
Boundless Minds - – Author Q&A
Ali – The Dragon Slayer - - Review
Hello…Chick Lit – - Review

On My Bookshelf - – Review
Liz Ellen- – Review
The Nest of Books Review -  - Author Guest Post
ItaPixie’s Book Corner - - Review
I Heart Fictional People - - Review

Vvb32 Reads - - Review
One Book at a Time – – Promo
A Writer’s Ramblings - – Excerpt
Book Groupies - - Promo
Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’ - -Promo
Hey Said Renee - - Review

Friday, February 5, 2016

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

The Thing Is by Kathleen Gerard from
Red Adept Publishing (e-book)

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid from Atria (e-book via Edelweiss)

The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda from BookSparks

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase from Putnam

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen from Atria (e-book via Edelweiss)

Second House from the Corner by
Sadeqa Johnson from St. Martin's Press

I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck from Putnam

The Two-Family House by/from
Lynda Cohen Loigman

Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory by/from Whitney Dineen

Love, Luck, and Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)

Melissa A and Amy:

Everything's Relative by Jenna McCarthy from Penguin


Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany from Atria

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelly Rowley from William Morrow
**Enter to win a trip to NYC and lunch with Aidan (US only).**

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard from William Morrow

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne from William Morrow


Branching Out by Kerstin March from Kensington

Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets from Berkley/NAL (e-book via Netgalley)


The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans from Headline Review

Who's That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane from Harper Collins


14 Days by Lisa Goich from
Liberty Media Stategies

Book Review: A Place For Us

By Melissa Smoot

From the moment I discovered Harriet Evans and her book Going Home, I was hooked. I've read everything she's written and have loved every single page of every book. Harriet has a way of weaving her characters lives together in a realistic and emotional way. Her stories always have depth and warmth at the heart of them, and a sprinkle of humor and fun, to make the perfect balance.

A Place For Us is no exception and I am grateful that I get to review her latest great read.

The story takes place in the English countryside at a place called Winterfold. The descriptive way that Evans paints the large rambling home, and the family that lives there, gives a clear picture to the imagination.

Martha is the mother of three children. Bill is a doctor and considered the "golden child", Florence is a professor in Italy and is considered eccentric and a wanderer, and then there is Daisy...the so called "black sheep" of the family.

Martha and her husband, David, have been keeping a family secret for decades. One summer morning, Martha sits down to write out the invitations to her 80th birthday celebration. She knows she needs to finally come clean, but how will the family react and will it tear them apart?

This book kept me guessing from the beginning, I had no idea what the big secret could be and enjoyed learning about all of the characters and the history that led up to the fateful moment. Whether you're already a fan of Evans as I am, or you have yet to discover her storytelling talents, this book should definitely be high on your "must read" list. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll feel for the family in this story.

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

More by Harriet Evans:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Laura Chapman is in a league of her a book giveaway

We’re so excited to have Laura Chapman here with us today, sharing her insights on writing, authors who inspire her, and of course, fantasy football! Her latest novel, Going For Two (reviewed here), is part of the "Queen of the League" series, featuring one of the coolest women to ever inspire girl empowerment, Harper Duquaine. (See my review for First & Goal, the first book in the series). 

While Harper shows the boys just what it takes to run a successful fantasy football roster, we wanted to sit down with the creative force behind this amazing series and other great reads, like The Marrying Type and Hard Hats and Doormats. She was also a contributing author for Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and the holiday compilation, All I Want For Christmas, from Marching Ink. Art certainly imitates life; when Laura isn’t writing, she’s cheering on the Huskers and the Packers, participating in her own fantasy football leagues.

You can find Laura on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Goodreads, her website, and her blog.

Laura is giving away a pair of signed print copies of First and Goal and Going for Two to a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

About the Book:
Harper Duquaine is back for another season of fantasy football! This time she’s a year wiser and prepared to dominate the league. But while she finally seems to have her fantasy life in order, reality proves more challenging.

Her plans to peacefully play house with her boyfriend come to a halt when the high school suddenly names Brook its head football coach. The promotion comes with more responsibility on the field and less time at home. It also unexpectedly means more work for Harper, who already has her hands full helping a friend pull off the perfect proposal (while dodging questions about when she and Brook are going to get hitched already). Plus, a new development at work could leave her—and half of the fantasy league—jobless.

With the complications of her career and being “Mrs. Coach” adding up, Harper wonders if she’s committed to the life she’s already building or if there is something else out there.

Find the Book:
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Goodreads

Tell us about your writing process. What rituals or habits help you to stay motivated?
My writing process is always evolving. I keep working at it to find ways to make it go more smoothly. One of the things I try to do is write a little every day when I am working on a first draft. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes, it helps me keep the story fresh in my mind. Most weekdays, I wake up early and write before I go to my day job. Throughout the day, I often write notes to myself or leave voice memos if I have an idea come to me. When I’m super involved in a project, I tend to obsess about it, which means those ideas can arise at any moment. And in those instances, I’m so excited to keep going I end up spending my evenings writing, too. When the writing doesn’t come so easily, I motivate myself by listening to the playlist I’ve created for the story. Music is a big source of my inspiration, and it helps stir the creative juices. And while I tend to keep pretty quiet about sharing details about my works in progress—I’m a little superstitious—I do talk them over with my sister and one of my closest friends. They know what’s going on with each of my stories, and when I’m puzzled I can go to them with my issues. Sometimes just talking to one of them helps me come up with a resolution.

Have you ever been part of a fantasy football league? If so, how was that experience?
I have—it was actually my inspiration for writing the series. A few of my then-co-workers invited me to join their league. Unlike Harper, my co-workers were helpful. The league commissioner actually walked me through a mock draft and gave me pointers throughout the season. I was about halfway through my first real draft when I realized that this might make for a good story—fantasy football from a woman’s perspective. The next fall, I was invited to join another league, and the past few years I have had two fantasy teams a season. I have never won the coveted championship trophy, but I did place second one year. This experience gave me a good background when it came to writing these books. I knew what kind of problems might come up with your team and how you’d overcome—or succumb—to them. Aside from that, everything you read in the "Queen of the League" series is pretty much made up. Harper’s fantasy football experience is way more dramatic than mine. And I’ve never had two dishy league-mates fight for my affections like her, either. Too bad for me.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge you faced while writing the "Queen of the League" series?
It’s the same challenge I face every time I write—having the confidence and belief in myself to keep going. There are a lot of highs and lows that come with being an author (or in most lines of work). And sometimes those lows—a nasty review, paltry sales, a tricky passage that just won’t come together, no one liking the super cute photo I posted of my cat on Facebook—can trigger a “woe is me” spiral of shame that usually ends with me sprawled on the floor telling my sister or friend that I’m never writing ever again. In those lows, it feels almost impossible to keep writing. Then something happens. Someone likes that cat photo, I get a new positive review, or an idea pops into my head that is too wonderful to ignore. My biggest challenge tends to be remembering that those bad moments will pass. I actually had one of them while editing Going for Two. In tears, I told my sister that the book sucked and my months of writing had yielded crap. I was done. Then almost within an hour, I figured out how to fix the issues, and I went back to my edits. (I’m maybe a little dramatic.) While the lows are difficult, I kind of need them. They keep me humble, and they make me appreciate the highs all the more.

I love that most of your novels take place in the Midwest, having lived there nearly 14 years, myself. It feels like home when I read them. What inspired you to choose the Midwest as the locale for your characters?
I actually almost set First & Goal in Houston, then Kansas City, then Chicago, then Seattle. But when it came time to write, I realized Nebraska—specifically Lincoln—was the perfect setting for this story. There were a few practical reasons. For one, I wanted Harper and her friends to support different professional football teams. While I’m sure this happens lots of places, it’s definitely a way of life here in Nebraska. We don’t have a professional team, which means people are pretty diverse with their allegiances. I also needed a college town. Part of the conflict stems from having a couple of characters who played together in college with differing outcomes. Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska—where we often tend to hero-worship our student athletes for decades. So that fit. I also interviewed a couple of local high school football coaches as background information while writing this series. While some of their challenges are probably universal, some seemed rooted in the location. So when it actually came time to write, it just made sense to have the story here. There is also some nostalgia for featuring Lincoln. It’s my hometown, and I love it. I wanted to share my home with others.

I love Harper Duquaine. She's so motivating, encompassing girl power! Is there a real-life person or a character from the pages of a book that motivates and inspires you?
There are so many! As an author, I find Nora Roberts, Colleen Hoover, and Mindy Kaling particularly inspiring. Nora is so studious and dedicated to her craft, and I’m a little jealous of her discipline. I appreciate CoHo for how kind and sincere she seems to be with her fans. She seems genuinely grateful for their support and pays it back and forward. And I just love Mindy Kaling. I think she’s one of the most brilliant voices of our time. I also draw a lot of inspiration from writers like Margret Atwood, Judy Blume, Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, Sophie Kinsella, Amy Poehler, and Julia Quinn. They’re all so talented and funny in different ways. When it comes to fictional characters, I find Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games series inspiring, because she’s someone who has to struggle to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Sometimes she fails, and she uses those failures to do better—or at least try to improve—in the future. I also like Anne Elliot from Persuasion. After facing huge heartbreak in her youth, many people—particularly her contemporaries—take her at face value and believe she’s become withdrawn and haggard. In actuality, she becomes someone others depend upon. She tries to be good and caring and make her small world better, even if her hopes of true happiness are by all appearances gone. Rather than becoming a jealous wench, she takes the high road. I’ve also been lucky to have some great people directly inspire and motivate me in real life. People like my mother, my sister, relatives, and my closest friends. I had so much support and encouragement growing up. I was raised to believe that with hard work, perseverance, and kindness, I could do anything. Thank goodness for strong, empowered women!

Tell us: will there be a #3 in the Queen of the League series? Are there any future projects in the works?
I am writing Three & Out, the third book in the "Queen of the League" series right now. It’s a little strange to be back with the characters after some time apart, because I wrote the first two parts before the first was released, and now I’m writing the third while the second is being released. Harper has some new adventures awaiting her, and I’m excited to give them life. I am nearly done with the first draft of a standalone project. I’m pretty sure this one is going to be a total gut job in editing, so I have it resting on the back burner while I work on Three & Out. After that, I have a long list of story ideas. I’m toying with working on the cozy mystery I started a few years ago, or maybe a regency romance, or something completely different. We’ll just have to see what happens after I finish my current project list! I’m trying not to set any hard and fast deadlines for this year. I’m turning thirty this year, and I want to allow a reasonable amount of time for the emotional crisis I’m bound to face.

Thank you to Chick Lit Central for having me on the blog, and Sara for the great interview.

Thanks to Laura for chatting with us and sharing her books with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Sara Steven

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends February 9th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: Casualties

By Jami Deise

How much responsibility do we have for the choices of others? How much can we blame others’ choices for the problems in our own lives? In Elizabeth Marro’s complex debut novel, Casualties, war is the backdrop and impetus of the main characters’ issues. But dig a little deeper. Sometimes the damage was done way before the first bullet was fired.

Ruth Nolan is a high-powered executive for a California-based military contractor, responsible for recruiting and supplying non-military bodies to drive the trucks, repair the infrastructure and fix the plumbing in a war zone. So she knows exactly what her troubled son, Robbie, is getting into when he joins the Marines. After two tours in Iraq, he seems none the worse for wear. But when Ruth is pre-occupied with a company scandal – her contractors are not receiving the health and life insurance benefits they had signed up for – Robbie commits suicide. Shattered – and out of a job due to the scandal – Ruth hits the road with no plan in mind. When she gets drunk and attacked at a seedy casino, Desert Storm veteran Casey rescues her. Casey is broke and missing a leg due to his service. Ruth has a car and wants to be anywhere but California. She decides to accompany Casey on his road trip to New Jersey, where Casey hopes to reconnect with the daughter he abandoned years ago. Can Ruth and Casey help each other heal their wounds? Will Ruth do the right thing for the contractors her company abandoned?

The characters in Casualties are difficult to love. Before he enlists, Robbie is a directionless youth who blames his mother for all his problems. Ruth puts her job before her son, and sees the contractors who work for her company as little more than bodies. Casey is addicted to gambling. But they are tough, multi-dimensional, and the relationship between Ruth and Casey grows naturally. By the book’s end, the reader roots for both of them to be happy.

Still, questions remain about blame and responsibility. Robbie is quick to point at his mother’s commitment to her hard-driving career and her expectations for his scholastic success for his brushes with drugs and the law. Did his experiences in Iraq lead to suicide, or was he already on that trajectory? Just how responsible is a parent for the bad choices of a child? When Robbie kills himself, Ruth is quick to blame herself and her commitment to her job as the reason for his actions. Casey, as well, has a “Robbie” in his past and a similar result for which he also blames himself. While Ruth’s company’s callousness toward its contractors make it an obvious villain, to me, Marro seemed to agree with Ruth’s conclusion that her desire to leave her New Hampshire hometown and be successful in her career were factors in Robbie’s downfall, a chilling subtext for women’s fiction.

Structurally, I also found issues with the book. The first quarter alternates between Ruth and Robbie’s points of view, setting up the reader to believe that they are the book’s two main leads. Marro introduces a few characters in Robbie’s sections that seem like they will be important, only to lose them when Robbie’s point of view is silenced with his death. Granted, it’s very jarring and daring to kill off a point of view character. But when this happens at the twenty-five percent mark, it feels more like the writer was indulgent with her first act, rather than a deliberate attempt to shake up the reader. Similarly, Casey isn’t introduced until forty percent of the way through. A smoother book would have introduced both point of view characters in the first few chapters of the book, and Robbie would not have been one of them.

These structural issues were more irritating than infuriating, however. At its heart, Casualties is a moving story about two broken strangers who take to the road together and, during their journey, find a way to help each other heal. My biggest concern is that the book ends before the story does. Marro has left plenty of material for a sequel.

Thanks to Berkley/NAL for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jenna McCarthy owns a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Jenna McCarthy back at CLC to feature her latest novel, Everything's Relative, in which three sisters with very different personalities have to rely on each other to earn the inheritance their mother left behind in her passing. Thanks to Berkley/NAL, we have THREE copies for some lucky US readers!

Before she became an author, Jenna McCarthy started writing fabulous articles and submitting them to all of the Fancy New York City Magazines (FNYCMs). While none were ever published, she was offered a job by one of the editors. She went from one magazine to the next writing articles in exchange for actual money. Then she moved to California, wrote a book, had some babies, and wrote several more books. In addition, she gave a TED talk, flipped a house on TV and learned how to play tennis. Currently, she is trying to give up processed food and teach herself how to write a screenplay. 

Jenna (modestly) considers herself the luckiest person she knows. She's married to her best friend, works in her pajamas, and has two beautiful, healthy, hilarious daughters. She likes cats, hats, sparkly things, and laughing until her sides hurt. You can find her at her website (from where this bio was adapted), Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

For many, many years I wrote nonfiction exclusively. I’d tell tales about my husband and my kids and my life, and my friends and family were incredibly supportive. At least at first. Then one day I wrote a little piece about my memories of going to the beach as a child. I mused about spending unsupervised hours dodging riptides and eating junk food and procuring a nice, third-degree sunburn while my mom dozed in her lounge chair, a Kool dangling from her lips and a warm Tab in a Koozie by her side.

“I was a good mother!” she cried when it came out. Had I implied that she wasn’t? Or that the other mothers were diligently watching their children and feeding them organic grapes and spackling them with sunblock every hour? This was the 70s! That was the way it was back then. I knew that and she knew that. I hadn’t meant it as an attack; I was merely pointing out the difference a few decades—and heaps of scientific data—can make. But she was hurt, and it was my fault.

Then I wrote a first-person book about marriage, aptly (in my rarely humble opinion) titled If It Was Easy They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon. The subtitle was my favorite: “Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married.” I’d go great lengths to point out that it very clearly said “the man you married,” and then explain how my husband Joe was, in fact, extremely handy. (Ahem.) Because I was attempting to expose the raw and hilarious truths about the often unholy state of matrimony, I had included things like the way Joe routinely wakes me up using the famed boner-in-the-backside method and how we occasionally poop in front of each other. Despite these things—or maybe because of them—I was proud of that book. Joe, who read every draft, insisted that he was, too.

I was scheduled to appear on the Today Show on publication day. As I dressed for my segment, I got a text from my husband’s sister. “Break a leg!” I read aloud. “We’re having a viewing party. Dad’s coming, too!”

“Oh my God, my dad is going to read this book,” Joe said, slumping into a chair. He looked horrified. And again, it was my fault.

I have a quote by the brilliant Anne Lamott framed on my office wall: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I passionately agree with every word of this. But the thing is, I was writing warmly about these people and I was still hurting them.

I decided maybe I’d give fiction a try.
When I came up with the kernel of the idea for my first novel, I couldn’t wait to tell Joe.
"I have my novel idea!” I squealed.
“That’s great honey,” he said.
An eternity passed.
“Don’t you want to know what it is?”
“Honestly? I don’t really care,” he said. “As long as it’s not about me.”

And there it was. The working title for that book was actually It’s Not about You, although ultimately I changed it to Pretty Much Screwed because it fit the story better. And the thing is, every character in that book—and every word of fiction I’ve written since—is at least loosely based on someone I know. A lot of times they’re me. But the names are always changed so everyone feels protected and safe. Even me.

Until my latest, Everything’s Relative. I’m fascinated by family dynamics and I came up with this story about three grown siblings who lose their mom very suddenly; their dad had died long ago. The book was in its final edit phase when my two grown siblings and I—for a total of three—lost our mom (wait for it) very suddenly; our dad had died long ago. The siblings in Everything’s Relative resemble my own in some ways. The mom, at times, looks a bit like ours did. The differences between my actual life and those of my characters far outweigh any similarities (most notably, the fictitious siblings are estranged while my close relationship with my own siblings might border on pathological to some), and the book was written a year before she passed, but most people don’t know how long publishing takes. I worry they’ll think it’s thinly, poorly veiled nonfiction, which it isn’t. It’s just a story I am telling that, like any story I ever tell, might have a bit of art-imitating-life (and vice versa). I hope people love it. Don’t tell any of my other books this, but it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written.

Thanks to Jenna for sharing her thoughts with us and to Berkley/NAL for sharing her book with our readers. Confessions of a Bookaholic also has a chance for you to win. (Worldwide. Ends 2/4.)

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends February 7th at midnight EST.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Birthdays in February

Instead of posting on our Facebook page, we're going to honor all author and CLC team birthdays each month here!

(If we are missing a birthday, please let us know and we'll be glad to add it.)

2/14-Cari Kamm

2/17-Denise Keliuotis (reviewer for CLC)

2/18-Sarah Jio

See birthdays from January.