Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: The Forever Girl

By Sara Steven

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery. 

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Out of the Wildstone series, The Forever Girl was my absolute favorite, hands down. And granted, it’s only my third time back to the small town, but I really couldn’t get enough of all of the special characters that made this book an absolute five-star experience.

I really love Maze. From the get go, there is no misreading who she is, an impetuous woman who used to go by the nickname, “Mayhem Maze.” So much of that is tied into her past and what she had to deal with for most of her childhood, and it has made it difficult for anyone to get close to her. The only people she allows in are the ones she had spent so much time with when she was a teen, and even that is debatable. It’s always been easier to remain at arm’s length, because there is less chance of getting hurt that way. She also carries around massive amounts of guilt that has eaten away at her over the years, making her blind to what is in front of her, and more importantly, who wants to be there for her.

Her support system, as mentioned in the synopsis, all have their own hurdles to overcome. Cat has potential relationship woes, while Heather hasn’t been forthcoming about immense changes that have occurred in her life since the last time the four of them had been together. Walker faces the same sort of past that Maze does, and while he’s more prone to accepting love from others, there is still a lot of baggage he carries around with him, past hurts that feel daunting. Walker is Maze’s Achilles heel, the one person she feels completely herself around, but at a cost. It made for an interesting dynamic. 

To shed some perspective on how much I loved The Forever Girl; I finished it within a twenty-four hour period. And I’m not prone to feeling overly emotional when I read books, yet there were certain moments that really got to me with this one, particularly when Maze comes face to face with one of her deepest regrets in life. That moment really had this reader all sorts of teary-eyed. This experience really had everything I look for in a good book. An amazingly flawed protagonist. Great characterization. Not to mention the friendships and sizzling hot moments that had the perfect build up and didn’t rush into anything. I was definitely a goner during my stay in Wildstone, totally and completely hooked!

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for a lucky reader!

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

Giveaway ends January 19th at midnight EST.

More by Jill Shalvis:

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Manuscript

By Cindy Roesel

A Parisian woman, Anne-Lise Briard is on holiday and while she's looking for something to read, finds an anonymous manuscript in the bedside drawer of the hotel. She falls in love with the story, but has no idea of the adventure she's about to take and the people she's going to meet. THE LOST MANUSCRIPT (St. Martin's Press) by Cathy Bonidan is a story of nearly a dozen people, mostly strangers who come together and through letters become friends. It's a novel for readers who love the written word and believe letters and books can create magic and heal people.

Anne-Lise sends a letter and a copy of the manuscript to the enclosed address and discovers its the writer, Sylvestre Fahmer. He says he wrote the first half thirty years ago, but doesn't know who wrote the second half and the little poems in the margins. He apparently left it in the Montreal airport, gave up writing and is now suffering from depression. Anne-Lise and Sylvestre begin a relationship through letters and it gives him some hope. They will solve this mystery together.

Once they start sending letters and meeting others on the search, she discovers people have been touched by this manuscript. People involved discover long-lost love stories, intimate secrets, feel less alone in their loneliness and their lives are made better.

The authors of the second half and poems are eventually discovered at the end. THE LOST MANUSCRIPT will hook you at page one, so be ready to read straight through when you pick it up.

"Once we've reached the last page, we feel more vulnerable to beauty. We look at the people we pass with an unusual benevolence that extends to our own reflection. I understand that this story helps us to smile and to put perspective of those trivial things that have the power to weigh us down." ~THE LOST MANUSCRIPT.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sara and Melissa talk about...Movies

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month we're talking about movies.

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Sara Steven:

My first day of Spring semester at Arizona State University starts today, and one of the “fun” courses I decided to enroll in had been an American Film Musicals class. Given the heavy workload of the other three classes I’m enrolled in, I figured watching musicals wouldn’t be too difficult. I enjoy them immensely, so it wouldn’t be torture, and summarizing or giving my opinion on the dance moves of Fred Astaire or trying to decipher Audrey Hepburn’s quirkiness in My Fair Lady would be a pretty easy task. 

Well, lesson learned: a three credit college course is still a three credit college course. There will be two MLA-formatted papers in my future, as well as a research paper and summaries/reviews of every movie we see this semester--eighteen in total! But, if I had to do it for any genre, I can’t think of a more fun genre. 

The first musical ever for me had been Gigi. It’s still a favorite of mine. My grandmother introduced me to it when I was in elementary school, and to this day, if I ever encounter a dress like the one Leslie Caron wore as Gigi to Maxim’s, it will be mine! 

It’s more than the dress, though. I love all the outfits. I love the Parisian backdrop. I know all of the songs by heart, even now, and just the other day I thought of the legendary Maurice Chevalier remarking on the fact that he’s “glad he’s not young anymore” when I heard my children fighting over something that consequently, didn’t matter too much and would quickly blow over if given another minute or two. 

Gigi opened the door to so many other musicals, and I’ve discovered that while I’ve seen quite a few that are required viewing for my class, there are still quite a few I haven’t seen! 

Some of my favorite film musicals:

Gypsy: Who wouldn’t love Natalie Wood, who goes from tomboy to sexpot while dealing with deep mommy issues with her momager mother?

Mary Poppins: This was a constant while growing up, and I’ve seen it recently after we acquired Disney + for our Roku. While I love Julie Andrews, my favorite character is Bert, played wonderfully by Dick Van Dyke.

The Sound of Music: Another Julie Andrews classic. My favorite song is “So Long, Farewell.”   

Xanadu: Admittedly, it has been nearly four decades since I’ve seen Olivia Newton-John in roller skates. My young parents brought me with them to the movie theater when I was only three, and I can barely remember much of it, other than vibrant colors and the music. I still remember “Magic,” and I get to reacquaint myself with it all this semester, since it’s one of the musicals we’ll be working with.

The Wizard of Oz: I made it a point to watch it every single holiday for several years, when it would air on television.

Grease: Another classic that I have seen several times over the course of my life. Friend and relatives at odd times over the years will break into famous lines and song and phrases, out of the blue. It wasn’t until later in life when I realized what Rizzo meant when she said, “I feel like a defective typewriter. I skipped a period.”    

(Links above are to trailers.)

What are some of your favorite film musicals?

Melissa Amster:

Today I am sharing ten of my favorite movies. Please note that these are just ten movies I love out of many, many more. It's hard to just pick only ten, which is why I don't want to say that these are my only favorites. (Links are to trailers.)

1. Where the Heart Is: I read the book (by Billie Letts) in 1999 and loved it. Then the movie came out in the spring of 2000 and I was excited to see it. The first time, I enjoyed it enough. Then I watched it again when it came out on video (yes, I said video) and fell in love with it. After that, I couldn't stop watching it and it became one of my all time favorite movies. I love James Frain as Forney, with all the curls. 

2. Sing!: I am talking about the film that came out in 1989 (not the animated animal movie). I had read a book called Sing in middle school about a musical competition and someone told me it was a movie, so I knew I just had to watch it. The first time I saw it, I started in the middle where this girl was auditioning for a show by singing "Like a Virgin" really bad. Then I kept watching and knew I had to see it again from the very beginning. After that, I saw it more times than I can even count. I still love it and it makes me smile (and cry) every time I see it. 

3. The Princess Bride: It is inconceivable to me that anyone has NOT seen this movie by now. It's such a classic! Oddly enough, I didn't like it the first time I saw it, when I was eleven years old. I thought some parts were scary. Then I saw it in college and fell in love with it. I watched it all the time and still quote from it a lot. I even have a Westley Funko pop and I read Cary Elwes' movie memoir As You Wish a while back and loved that too. 

4. Girls Just Want to Have Fun: I basically grew up on this movie. My sister and I watched it countless times. We always thought it was hilarious when they were giving everyone invitations to Natalie's party and then all these random people showed up and ruined everything for her. (Natalie was mean to them, so I don't feel guilty about that.) I also thought Jeff was so cute and I was sad that he wasn't in anything else. I will still watch this movie as an adult and I listen to the soundtrack in my car.

5. Dirty Dancing: I fell in love with Dirty Dancing when I first saw it during the summer I turned eleven. I was obsessed after that and watched it all the time. I got the soundtracks, posters, etc. I had such a crush on Patrick Swayze at the time. I still think I look like Jennifer Grey did in that movie. 

6. Wreck-It Ralph: You may be wondering why this is the Disney movie that made it to my list. It's just so funny and clever, with great characters and an interesting plot. I love it every time I see it and I always get teary-eyed at the end. My daughter dressed as Vanellope for Purim one year and I had fun putting together her costume.

7. Ten Things I Hate About You: One of the best teen movies from the nineties. I didn't know what to expect with this one and ended up adoring it the whole way through. I cry every time Kat reads her poem. This was also an introduction to Heath Ledger, who was fabulous as Patrick, not to mention hot! I also enjoyed Bianca's part of the story. 

8. Legally Blonde: Elle Woods was so inspiring to me in this movie and I am not ashamed to admit how much I cried at the end. I also love the Broadway musical version of this movie. Great lines too!

9. 50 First Dates: Find someone who will treat you the way Adam Sandler treats Drew Barrymore in this movie. While it's goofy at times, it's so completely romantic that it's impossible to have dry eyes by the end. 

(Yes, I like movies that make me cry when I least expect them to...)

10. The Shawshank Redemption: Another movie where I'm shocked if someone tells me they haven't seen it yet. I saw it freshman year of college and was so moved by Andy's resolve to escape prison and the lives he impacts while he is there. It's just so well told and the casting is fantastic. I never read the book, but I don't really need to after seeing the movie so many times. 

Tell us about your favorite movies!

Book Review: Truth, Lies, and Second Dates

By Sara Steven

Captain Ava Capp has been flying from her past for a decade. She’d much rather leave it, and her home state, behind forever. But when she finds herself back in Minnesota, against her better judgment, everything goes sideways in a way she never expected it to.

M.E. Dr. Tom Baker has never forgotten Ava and the cold case she ran away from. When she shows up unexpectedly in town, in spite of himself, sparks fly. Which is terrible because he can’t stop his growing attraction to her. Can these two Type-A’s let their guards down and work together to put Ava’s tragic past behind her for good? And keep their hands off each other at the same time?
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I really enjoyed the sarcastic wit and humor within Truth, Lies and Second Dates. Ava showcases so much of it when she’s engaging with friends and coworkers and with the people who think they know her best, the ones who still envision her as the person they remember from a decade ago. The old adage, “I laugh so I won’t cry” seems to really ring true for her, particularly when she’s invited back to Minnesota, a place she has tried so hard to distance herself from for so long.

Ava chose to be a pilot, and I felt this really was the perfect job for the character she is. It adds to her need to continually run away, and to never put roots down in any particular place.  When Tom Baker enters her world, not only do sparks fly, but it makes her question if the last ten years was a good decision for her life. Has her inclination to run away from the past created issues for her future?

And speaking of her future, it begins to appear uncertain when the story removes itself from merely a potential budding romance perspective into a potential murder mystery. Not only will Ava fear for her own life, but there are other people at stake too, and she wonders what that could mean for her and for Tom. It doesn’t help that Tom doesn’t know what to think of the way Ava reacts to everything, questioning whether her motives are pure and real. 

Through all the mischief and mystery, Ava continues to showcase her sarcasm, allowing the reader to feel closer to her and what she’s going through. It was also appealing to see things from not just her perspective, but from Tom’s too, so we get an even better idea of why they react the way they do to what they’re experiencing. I felt like this was the perfect mix of romance, comedy, and enigma, a true five-star experience! 

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by MaryJanice Davidson:

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Catching up with Kelly a book giveaway

Today we welcome Kelly Simmons back to CLC. Her latest novel, Not My Boy, published last week and she has two copies to share with one lucky reader (the second copy can be given to a family member or friend to read together)!

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist, advertising creative director and the author of six novels sold in a dozen countries: STANDING STILL and THE BIRD HOUSE (Simon & Schuster) ONE MORE DAY, THE FIFTH OF JULY, WHERE SHE WENT, and NOT MY BOY (Sourcebooks).

She teaches in the Drexel University MFA program, and is a member of WFWA, Tall Poppy Writers and The Liars Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping fledgling novelists.

Additionally, she co-helms the weekly writers podcast “Liars Club Oddcast.”

She was born the same day as Dorothy Parker. Coincidence? She thinks not. (Bio courtesy of Kelly's website.)

Visit Kelly online:

When Hannah packs up her past and moves to the cottage next-door to her sister, she hopes the luxe neighborhood and close family ties will be the perfect escape for her son and the shadows that trail them. But when a young girl goes missing days after they unload their final boxes and her son is quickly thrown under suspicion, Hannah must do whatever it takes to protect her child.

Even if that means pointing the blame her sister's way instead.

With investigators swarming and neighborhood scrutiny closing in, the divide between two sisters grows. As one fiercely defends her husband, the other shields her boy from the crime, keeping quiet the secrets that might unravel it all.

And all the while, one young girl has vanished, and someone is to blame. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?   
Compliments and comments, usually from book club members who have flagged sentences on the page, really warm an author’s heart. My favorite one of all time is:  “I want a tattoo of that sentence on my arm!”   The sentence was, “in all things, I blame the husband.” 

What did you learn from writing your previous novels that you applied to Not My Boy?
My novels all have a narrow focus — I like to really drill down into one family’s, or one couple’s, story — I like to go deep, not wide. But I know readers enjoy minor characters, too; and in NOT MY BOY, I enjoyed keeping in mind subplots for the “other” characters. 

If Not My Boy were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
I think some of Taylor Swift’s new album, which feels like it was set in a forest, would work nicely. 

What is something you see as a silver lining from the pandemic?
Writers seemed to be slightly better suited to pandemic life than others. We're used to working from home, motivating ourselves, burrowing in and ignoring the world for long stretches of time. So there were months at a time that did not seem wildly different to me. But one big difference — my adult kids spent lots of time visiting us for long stretches. I enjoyed being able to talk to them, walk with them, and recommend books and recipes and TV shows with them. It was like being on retreat with fun, young co-workers. Until they made a mess and didn’t do their dishes. Then they were like bad coworkers who steal your yogurt. 

What is a new year's resolution you made that you hope to keep this year?
Well, for starters, I’m doing Dry January, so we’ll see how that goes before I commit to the rest of the year!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
My top two in 2020 would be Dear Edward and Writers & Lovers. But, occasionally, there’s a book that everyone in my family likes  — a rare thing indeed. This year, that book was In Five Years

Thanks to Kelly for visiting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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

Giveaway ends January 17th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review: Confessions on the 7:45

By Jami Denison

The impulse to bare one’s soul to the stranger sitting next to you is a popular trope in fiction. And while I’ve never had the impulse to say more than “hello” to my seatmate, the existence of advice columnists, “AITA” subreddits, and anonymous confessional websites point to the real-life popularity of this cliché. Now Clearwater, Florida author Lisa Unger has used this scenario as the basis of her latest thriller, Confessions on the 7:45. And while the book starts out in an expectable way, Unger takes the plot in completely unpredictable directions. 

Catching the later train home, Selena Murphy tells her seatmate, Martha, that her husband Graham is having an affair with their nanny Geneva. It should be a harmless revelation, a way to deal with the stress and tension of her knowledge. But then Geneva disappears… and Martha texts Selena. Only Selena never gave Martha her phone number… 

Confessions seems like it will unfold in a manner similar to movies with the same plot, and I wondered what Martha would want from Selena in return. But Unger is too good a writer, and soon it becomes obvious that she is not retelling a familiar story. Selena’s is not the book’s only point-of-view; Anne, the woman on the train who calls herself Martha, also tells her own tale, and it’s a complicated one. Selena is pulled in two directions: Tell the cops about Martha, and she implicates herself. Tell the cops about Graham and Geneva, and she implicates Graham. She’s stuck, and the police aren’t stupid. As the narrative progresses, it turns out that Selena is a bit of an unreliable narrator. The reader doesn’t get the complete picture of her marriage or of the home she grew up in until events in the book demand the missing details. 

 Beyond the question of the missing nanny—who turns out be less innocent than first seen—is the question of what type of family Selena owes her children, Oliver and Stephen. Is it really better to stay together for the sake of the kids? What happens to kids who grow up in a family of lies? Selena knows the answer—her own father was a cheater as well, and she always judged her mother for staying in the marriage. But her mother kept her father’s secrets too well, and those secrets reverberate onto Selena’s life. 

Unger throws plenty of balls in the air, and she juggles them like a master. By the end of the novel, all threads are neatly tied up, coincidences dispensed with, and reader satisfaction achieved. My one quibble is that a character who turns out to be very important is never seen on the canvas. Confessions on the 7:45 is a masterful, surprising thriller that readers will not be able to put down until the end.

Thanks to Park Row for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lisa Unger:

Friday, January 8, 2021

What's in the mail


Widowish by Melissa Gould from Little A
Her Turn by Allison Jones from BooksGoSocial (e-book via NetGalley)
Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy from St. Martin's Press
No One Asked For This by Cazzie David from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey from William Morrow (e-book via NetGalley)

The Jake Ryan Complex
by/from Bethany Crandell (e-book via NetGalley)
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson from William Morrow
Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
The Perfect Daughter
by D.J. Palmer from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
No More Words by/from Kerry Lonsdale (e-book via NetGalley)
Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan from Kathleen Carter Communications
The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)

Lost, Found, & Forever by Victoria Schade from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Reality in Chaos by Monique Kelley from The ROZ Group (e-book)
My Way to You by Fabiola Francisco from Bare Naked Words

It Had to Be You by/from Georgia Clark (e-book)