Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan...plus a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

For Harriet, a professional dog walker who feels she understands canines better than humans, she’s decided to conquer her shyness and other challenges she faces by doing one thing that frightens her, every single day. This includes online dating and talking with people she ordinarily would shy away from, and included on that list is ER doc Ethan, a man who is suddenly thrust into her world when she least expects it while handling a last-minute dog walking job. She’s dealing with anxiety, and he has a load of baggage, too, stemming from what he’s seen in the ER, the fact that he can’t give way to emotion, for fear of what that would do to him. The moments where Harriet feels she can actually open up to Ethan, are the moments where he closes himself off to her and everything else around him, and the rare times he shows compassion, she’s wounded. It makes for a very interesting dynamic with this couple.

I felt as though Moonlight Over Manhattan was a labor of love, showcasing how imperfect life can be, even for two people who want nothing more than to be loved, to be happy. Even when Harriet and Ethan begin to feel as though they might be good for one another, stumbling blocks, the past, the present, even the future stands in the way. How true to life. And, as with every book in this series, there is serious evolution of character. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, but it’s always nice to see the characters in a Sarah Morgan novel change by leaps and bounds. It was nice to see that with Harriet, in particular.

This was a great read for the holidays. As part of the synopsis on Goodreads states: “She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle.” This made me wonder if, while Harriet risks everything, will Ethan step up and give just as much, or will he revert to old patterns, and protect his heart? There is an element of hope, of yearning that felt very much like the wishes and wants during the holidays, because at what better time will all your dreams come true, than the holidays?

So far, I’ve loved every single book in the "From Manhattan With Love" series, but there was something extra special about this one. Being given the opportunity to live inside the mind of someone who struggles with shyness and a touch of social anxiety, like Harriet does, felt like a chance to open up within my own life, my own struggles. While I don’t think many people would describe me as shy, I’ve been edging towards that within the last several years, and I can tell I’m becoming more of an introvert. It was nice relating with someone else who deals with that, too.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the other stops on the blog tour.

Enter the giveaway being hosted by TLC Book Tours:

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Check out the other books in the series!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Christmas in London

With the holidays right around the corner, what better way to get in the mood than with Anita Hughes' latest novel, Christmas in London?!? Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to give away!

It’s a week before Christmas and Louisa Graham is working twelve hour shifts at a bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side. When a young cooking show assistant comes in from the rain and begs to buy all the cinnamon rolls on her tray, she doesn’t know what to do. Louisa is just the baker, and they aren't hers to sell. But the show burned the rolls they were supposed to film that day, so she agrees.

The next morning, Louisa finds out that her cinnamon rolls were a hit, but the host was allergic, and the whole crew is supposed to leave for London that afternoon. They want Louisa to step in for their annual Christmas Eve Dinner TV special at Claridge's. It’s a great opportunity, and Digby Bunting, Louisa’s famous baking idol, will be there. Even if he does seem more interested in her than her food.

And then there’s Kate, the show's beautiful producer. On their first day in London she runs into the skinny boy she jilted at St. Andrew's in Scotland ten years ago. Now he’s a handsome, brilliant mathematician, and newly divorced. Their familiar spark is still there, but so is the scar of how they left things. Kate and Louisa are busy preparing for the show, but old and new flames are complicating their work.


Anita Hughes is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, Santorini Sunsets, Emerald Coast, and Christmas in Paris. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California where she is at work on her next novel.

Visit Anita online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter 


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 December 12th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review: The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even

By Becky Gulc

Anna Bell has written some fantastic novels which I’ve enjoyed over the last few years, with her most recent release being The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even. Here is the synopsis:

‘When Lexi's sport-mad boyfriend Will skips her friend's wedding to watch football - after pretending to have food poisoning - it might just be the final whistle for their relationship.

But fed up of just getting mad, Lexi decides to even the score. And, when a couple of lost tickets and an 'accidentally' broken television lead to them spending extra time together, she's delighted to realise that revenge might be the best thing that's happened to their relationship.

And if her clever acts of sabotage prove to be a popular subject for her blog, what harm can that do? It's not as if he'll ever find out . . .’ (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Well suffice to say, this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Anna’s books just keep getting better and better in my opinion. Anna’s writing takes me back in a way to when I first started reading ‘chick lit’ many years ago; it reminds me why I love it, and she definitely has a way of making it contemporary and fresh whilst being quite traditional too.

Whilst the synopsis outlines a revenge plot by Lexi, it’s played out in a lighthearted way and she’s a very likable character. As readers, we feel her struggle between wanting to make the relationship work and accepting Will is just maybe not the one for her; after all, she’s never his priority in life, is she? When Lexi learns that Will went to watch a football match (whilst claiming to be ill) instead of attending her best friend’s wedding, her writing class provides the perfect opportunity to let her feelings flow on the matter. As well as being a cathartic experience for Lexi, it’s the catalyst for a chain of events to get revenge on Will. But will revenge be sweet?

I read this book very quickly (on holiday, perfect holiday read!) as I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. It was funny and yet also moving at times. As a reader you were left challenging your perceptions of Will throughout. With only Lexi’s viewpoint to go on, we are limited to what we know of Will’s side of the story. I certainly thought the story was going one way which I was wrong about, but I was ever so happy this was the case.

The supporting characters are great: Lexi’s best friend Cara, Lexi’s parents, the couple in Barbados; all vivid and added so much fun to the story. A fantastic read and I really hope there is a follow-up. More please Anna!

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

More by Anna Bell:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leah DeCesare spreads the joy (with a butter knife)...plus a special giveaway

Interview by Tracey Meyers

We're pleased to feature Leah DeCesare at CLC today! She's here to talk about her debut fiction novel, Forks, Knives, And Spoons (2017, SparkPress) and to get us into a holiday mood. She even has some special gifts for one of our readers: a copy of her book, a choice of a charm bracelet or fork, knife, and spoon necklace, and a 1980's journal. (See pics at the bottom of the post.)

Leah DeCesare is also the award-winning author of  the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, Eligible magazine, Simply Woman, the International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family and their talking cockatiel.

Visit Leah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest



For readers who love Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty, Forks, Knives, and Spoons is a light-hearted, thought-provoking coming of age story that takes readers on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s and 1990s. Romantic, witty and warm.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys―from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks―all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves―and not to settle in love or life.


What are the three most important lessons about writing you’ve learned over the course of your writing career?
1. I don’t have to follow the same process as others. I used to think there was a
“right” way to being an author but I’ve learned that I’m not doing it wrong if I’m doing it differently. Basically, you don’t have to follow other’s advice if something else is working for you!
2. You can always improve. Reading about writing, practicing writing, testing out new things, learning about the craft is all important.
3. It turns out that as hard as it is, writing the book is sometimes the easy part! :-) There is so much else to learn, understand and manage in publishing - from querying through marketing and promoting.

When writing a book, do you outline the book first or do you jump right into writing it?
So, for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS, I really had only the vaguest plan. I knew my character arcs in general and a few other points, but I came at that a bunch of different ways and learned a ton in writing that book. My work in progress, I approached in an entirely different way - this one, I planned out for months. I loved doing the puzzle-sorting, figuring piece of things all at once, then I laid out the scenes with notes. When I then started to write, I was able to stay in that side of my brain without interruption to figure out where I was going. It was way more efficient and I turned out a solid first draft much more efficiently.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
All over! I’m always taking notes and jotting down little thoughts. It can be an overheard word, an observation that makes me ask a question, a character quirk, a what-if scenario… I also draw on life experience as I wonder about my characters’ motivations and deepest emotions. We learn about life from fiction, we get the chance to see into other people’s viewpoints, to walk in another’s shoes or to relate to someone and see ourselves in them. It’s critical to pull in truths of human nature for fiction to really resonate.

Favorite winter activity:
I’ve lived in New England or the northeast my whole life, and as much as I love and appreciate all four seasons, as much as I love the beauty and slowing down of life that comes with snow, I can’t stand being cold. I love reading snuggled inside on a snowy day. I love the excuse to not go anywhere, to be trapped home with my family. That said, I do also like to sled and ski - and I like being warm inside again after! ;-)

What are three of your “bucket list” items?
Writing a novel has been a life-long bucket list dream - it’s so fulfilling to have done that and to be able to keep writing fiction.
Three others on my list are to:
*Travel to every state in the US
*Travel, travel, travel! I love traveling and would love to traipse all over the six travel-able continents. I’ve been to Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and there’s still so much more to see! Thankfully, my husband is on board with using our retirement savings to see the world!
*Go to a Super Bowl and a Presidential Inauguration

Favorite thing about the holidays:
I’m already loving the anticipation of Christmas! I love the preparations that lead to the celebration of Christmas with family. It’s such a joy and blessing to have those closest to me in one place with no expectations of responding to emails or being interactive on social media. I love the joy of picking out and giving the perfect gift for someone, the sparkle when my kids open their gifts - and the excitement when they give others the gifts they’ve selected. I’m seriously a Christmas elf! I love wrapping and decorating and baking cookies and singing Christmas songs (badly - but I do it anyway).

Thanks to Leah for chatting with us and for sharing her book and cool prizes 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 December 10th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop!


If you thought hopping was only done by bunnies at Easter, you haven't experienced Chick Lit Chat HQ's annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop! 62 bestselling and award-winning authors in the Chick Lit and Rom Com genres are participating in this year's fun-filled event and each one is doing a fabulous giveaway. Books, swag, and assorted holiday treats are all up for grabs! In addition, you can enter to win one of three Grand Prizes ($100 Amazon gift cards) on the hop's group page.

The celebration runs from Monday, Dec. 4th thru Friday, Dec. 15th, so strap on that mistletoe and fa-la-la-ollow along on Facebook. This hop is guaranteed to fill you with the Christmas spirit!

Join the party at the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Facebook group where you'll get to interact with readers, as well as the authors themselves. You'll find each day's featured authors, along with the links to their pages/giveaways, in the pinned post at the top of the group. Can't wait to see you there!


2nd Annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Schedule

Monday, Dec. 4th

Tuesday, Dec. 5th

Wednesday, Dec. 6th

Thursday, Dec. 7th

Friday, Dec. 8th

Saturday, Dec. 9th
Cassandra O’Leary 

Sunday, Dec. 10th

Monday, Dec. 11th

Tuesday, Dec. 12th

Wednesday, Dec. 13th

Thursday, Dec. 14th

Friday, Dec. 15th

Friday, December 1, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen from Doubleday (e-book via NetGalley)
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah from
St. Martin's Press
Granted by/from Angela Correll (plus a basket of soaps and bath products)
Snow Falling by Jane Gloriana Villanueva from Adams Media
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri from Putnam (e-book via Edelweiss)
Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (e-book via NetGalley)
Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades from HarperCollins (won from Thoughts on This 'n That)

Sara:
One Night to Fall by/from Kelsey Kingsley
(e-book)
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak from Kensington (e-book)
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake from
St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Janis Thomas' outdoor dining adventures...plus a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Janis Thomas back at CLC today. The last time she was here was in 2014 to talk about Say Never, which was one of Melissa A's favorite books that year. (She even gave us a shout-out in her Amazon bio for that!) This time around with What Remains True (publishing tomorrow), her writing has gone in a different direction from her past three romantic comedies. She even has TWO copies to share with some lucky readers!

Aside from her three critically-acclaimed humorous women's fiction novels and Murder in A-Minor, the first in her musical murder mystery series, Janis Thomas has written over fifty songs, and two children’s books which she wrote with her dad. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, Janis likes to play tennis, sing with her sister, and throw lavish dinner parties with wild menus for friends and loved ones (hence the topic of her "night out" post). Janis lives in Southern California with her husband, their two beautiful children and two crazy dogs. Her next novel is All That's Left of Me, publishing in June, 2018.

Visit Janis online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
In this mesmerizing drama, one life-altering event catapults a family into turmoil, revealing secrets that may leave them fractured forever . . . or bind them together tighter than ever before.

From the outside, the Davenports look like any other family living a completely ordinary life—until that devastating day when five-year-old Jonah is killed, and the family is torn apart. As the fury of guilt engulfs them, the Davenports slowly start to unravel, one by one.


Losing her son forces Rachel to withdraw into a frayed, fuzzy reality. Her husband, Sam, tries to remain stoic, but he’s consumed by regret with the choices he’s made. Eden mourns her brother, while desperately fighting to regain a sense of normalcy. And Aunt Ruth, Rachel’s sister, works too hard to care for the family, even as her own personal issues haunt her.


Told from multiple points of view—including Jonah’s—the family struggles to cope with unthinkable loss. But as they face their own dark secrets about that terrible day, they have a choice: to be swallowed up in sadness forever, or begin the raw, arduous ascent back to living. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


A Night Out in the Yard

Thank you Chick Lit Central for inviting me to post!

I gave a lot of thought to ‘the perfect date’ and ‘a night out on the town.’ I’ve been lucky enough to have many of both. And I have to agree with (Go-to-Gay) Keith Stewart on this subject. The ideal changes as you age.

When I was in my 20’s, living in New York City, a night on the town was just that. Cabs and clubs, open mics and Irish pubs. Staggering home at three o’clock in the morning, sweat-soaked from shaking my groove-thing to Bugs Moran and the Trouble Boys, impossibly sober from dancing out all the alcohol.

In my 30’s, having moved back to So Cal with my hubby, a perfect night out was always spent with my mom and step dad, going to fabulous new restaurants and indulging in martinis and lively conversations with two of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I knew.

After having kids, the perfect date was all about securing a babysitter and stealing two hours or less of ‘adult time,’ eating quickly, drinking coffee, staring at our watches, and wondering if the house would still be standing when we got home.

Allow me to go a bit tangential—you’ll understand in a minute. My mom had an amazing house, but more amazing than the house itself was her backyard. Almost a square acre, it was a wonderland when I was a child. As I got older, the yard became party central. This special place hosted countless birthday parties, wedding showers, weddings (including mine), baby showers (including mine), dinner parties. Any huge life event took place in Mom’s backyard. When my mom passed, I lost not only my best friend, but a magical venue filled with all the energy of celebrations past.
My husband and I have a small backyard, but we decided to honor my mom by making it into a magical place all its own. We did our best to utilize the odd shape and limited square footage and created a space in which we could gather the people we love together and celebrate life, just like Mom did.

I should backtrack again and let you know that my husband is a former chef, or what he likes to call a ‘recovering chef.’ Although he doesn’t cook for a living anymore, he loves to keep his hand in the kitchen. We are both foodies, and knew it was Kismet when we recognized our mutual love of a good meal and entertaining.

A couple of years ago, we started something we call our Amuse Bouche. The direct translation is ‘mouth amuser,’ and in fine restaurants an amuse bouche is a complementary bite-sized portion of food meant to hint at the chef’s vision for the meal. Our Amuse Bouche is a lavish dinner party we host twice a year in our backyard.



We string lights on the house and hedge. If it’s cool, we open the awning and fire up the heaters. We decorate the table especially for the occasion (my sister is in charge of this, and she does it
beautifully every time). We light candles and lay out the linens and set the music to low so as not to interfere with conversation. Sometimes, we have a guest chef. Mostly, Alex is the chef and I am the sous chef (which means he gets to boss me around). The menus are always extravagant and outrageous—if you’re not gastronomically adventurous, you need not RSVP, and there is always a copious amount of wine and spirits.

But the best part about these evenings is not the spectacular food, nor the wine, nor even the yard we worked so hard to create. The best part is the people gathered at the table around us, laughing, talking, eating, drinking, connecting. Some of our guests are strangers to each other, but by the end of the night, all of us are old friends, bonded by the breaking of bread together.

I still love shaking my groove thing, albeit earlier in the evening, and I still love trying new restaurants. And Alex and I still love our date nights and our alone time. But as I age (I turned 50 this year!) I have come to cherish these events and the magic they represent. The magic of being with those I love and sharing a singular experience no one will ever forget.


So, although we only host them twice a year, our Amuse Bouche in our lovely backyard, is my ‘night out’ of choice.

Thanks to Janis for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers!

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

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Giveaway ends December 5th at midnight EST.