Monday, November 20, 2017

Jacquelyn Middleton lives it up in London...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Jacquelyn Middleton back at CLC. She's here to talk about what she enjoys doing for a night on the town in London, in honor of her novels based there. London Belongs to Me came out in 2016, and its sequel, London, Can You Wait?, was released in late October. Thanks to SparkPoint Studio, we have FOUR copies of London, Can You Wait? to give away!

Jacquelyn Middleton is an award-winning freelance writer with articles published by several of the most popular magazines, newspapers, and websites in North America including USA Today, Canadian Living, Best Health, National Geographic Travel, Psychology Today, The Toronto Star, Reader's Digest, Chatelaine, Today's Parent, and Flare. She previously worked in television broadcasting, and lives in Toronto with her husband and Schipperke. She's addicted to Bookstagram, loves London far too much, and has a thing for red Vespas.

Visit Jacquelyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:

**Contains spoilers for London Belongs to Me**


Alex loves Mark. Mark loves Alex. But is love enough?


Since moving to London from the US, twenty-four-year-old Alex Sinclair seems to have it all: a coveted job writing for the theatre, supportive friends, and the man of her dreams--gorgeous Irish actor, Mark Keegan. But in the year since the acclaimed debut of her play, Alex and Mark's lives have been turned upside down.


Thanks to his role on a smash-hit British TV show, Mark is catapulted to stardom. Alex couldn't be happier until her boyfriend's popularity and insatiable drive to succeed means they're apart more than they're together. Forced to share Mark with showbiz heavy-hitters, intrusive press, and unrelenting fangirls, Alex's hopes for a stable and committed life with him start to fade. Her struggles with panic attacks, career uncertainty, and Mark's increasingly worrisome behaviour make her wonder: how much more can she bend before she breaks? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


A Night on the Town — London Edition

There’s something about visiting my favorite place on the planet that turns this early bird into a night owl. Perhaps it’s something to do with squeezing every ounce of enjoyment out of London, or maybe I feel most like my true self in the city by the Thames. Whatever the reason, you won’t find me tucked up in bed with a good book when I’m over the pond. Nope! For me, every night in London is show time—literally.


A night on the town London-style means theatre, specifically plays. No offense to musicals—I adore the sparkly joy of Kinky Boots so much I’ve seen it six times on two different continents—but just like Alex Sinclair in my debut novel London Belongs to Me and my latest release London, Can You Wait?, the play’s the thing. In London, lovers of all things dramatic are spoiled for choice—a report from 2014 stated that over 240 theatres called England’s capital home, but don’t feel overwhelmed. I can help! You see, I have a bit of a London problem. I visit London to the exclusion of anywhere else, flying over a few times each year, spending at least five nights (usually more) in town catching plays every single night (plus, a matinee or two for good measure during the day). That’s a lot of interval ice creams and curtain calls. As a result of my addiction, I’ve seen performances housed in found spaces, pubs, Victorian music halls, and modern monstrosities. My top picks? The historic Royal Court in posh Sloane Square, the relaxed Almeida in north London, and the esteemed National Theatre on the South Bank by the River Thames. These venues embrace new playwrights and offer a mix of traditional and edgy works, and their seating arrangements make the theatre going experience second to none. The National in particular is really special. It’s actually three theatres, not just one, and each has its own personality and vibe. Pick an actor and they’ve probably performed there: Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Maggie Smith, and Hugh Jackman to name just a few.

The Court, the Almeida, and the National have all played huge roles in my books and continue to own my theatre-loving heart off the page. They say that art imitates life, right? Or is it vice versa? Hmm, maybe this Anglophile night owl has to visit again to answer that question. For book research, right? Always for research.

Thanks to Jacquelyn for her lovely post and to SparkPoint 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 November 26th at midnight EST.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review: The Woman at 72 Derry Lane

By Becky Gulc

‘On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all. Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.

But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making.

Has help been next door without them realising it?

With the warmth and wit of Maeve Binchy and the secrets and twists of Liane Moriarty, this is the utterly original and compelling new novel from Irish Times bestseller Carmel Harrington.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Oh my goodness. This is such an amazing book, I loved it. I think perhaps the synopsis didn’t prepare me for how I would be immediately captivated by this book. The first few pages weren’t what I expected and I was instantly hooked in a way which the rest of the world and worries disappear and you just want to hibernate until you reach the end.

There are three strands to this story, Stella (and the reality of her seemingly perfect marriage), Rea (who lives alone and suffers from agoraphobia) and Skye - the lovely daughter/sister that just wants to go on a long-awaited family holiday. Each narrative was as captivating as the next. Each one hit you in the face with surprises at different points and my emotions were all over the place, you will cry!

I can’t praise the writing enough. With two of the stories set in the present, and one in the past, there was also the added intrigue as a reader to see if the stories would come together in the end somehow, I certainly didn’t second-guess how this could be until well past the half way mark in the novel.

There are some very emotional and sometimes very hard to read elements of the book (domestic violence, mental health issues, human tragedy, grief), but there are also some very funny scenes, and it takes skill to get this balance right without downplaying the serious elements of the story. This is a book which, despite covering some hard issues, manages to ooze warmth and gives you faith in humanity.

I hadn’t heard of Carmel Harrington before reading this but I’ll definitely be reading her other work now.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. The Woman at 72 Derry Lane can be purchased here.

More by Carmel Harrington:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Spotlight: Three Last First Dates

Release Blitz || Three Last First Dates by Kate O’Keeffe


Congrats to Kate O’Keeffe! The third book in her Cozy Cottage Cafe series, THREE LAST FIRST DATES, is available now!


Release Blitz || Three Last First Dates by Kate O’KeeffeThree Last First Dates by Kate O'Keeffe

Series: Cozy Cottage Cafe #3

Published by Wild Lime Books on October 31, 2017

Genres: Romantic Comedy

Standalone:
While this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. The protagonist is different from books one and two, although all lead female characters appear in each of the books.


  

When it comes to men, Marissa Jones is totally committed to not being committed. One major heartbreak is enough for her.

Against her better judgment, Marissa agrees to a pact with her friends to marry the next guy she dates. But she isn't going to take any chances. For her, it's a numbers game, and one last first date just isn't enough. So, she ups the ante--three first dates with three very different guys, all in one day.

But can any of these men live up to her high standards?

Despite a few bumps in the road, from the three, she chooses The One. That is until the motorcycle-riding ex she never got over turns up, changing everything.

In the end, do you choose love or does love choose you?

Escape to New Zealand in this fun, feel-good chick lit story.


Read the other books in the Cozy Cottage Cafe series
Book 1: One Last First Date https://books2read.com/koolfd
Book 2: Two Last First Dates https://books2read.com/kotlfd
Book 4: A Final Last First Date - coming early-2018


Kate O'Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he's a scruffy dog too. He's not: he's a cat.

She is a wife, a mother, and a chocolate expert. Seriously. She loves to read, to hang out with friends, and to hike up the big hill behind her house each day.

To date, she’s written the Amazon bestselling chick lit series, the Cozy Cottage CafĂ©, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy Series, a fun holiday novella, and co-authored One Way Ticket with fellow author, Melissa Baldwin. 



Blog Tour Organized By Karan & Co. Visit all the tour stops



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Go-to-Gay: It changes at every age!

Our Go-to-Gay, Keith Stewart, is here to talk about his nights on the town and how they've changed between his twenties and now. Most of us can probably relate to what he is talking about! Since he has a lot to say, we'll let him take it from here.

From the clubs to the couch

Nothing tells the world more about where you are in life than a night out. Night Outs vary from wild, wooly, raucous evenings to sophisticated, elegant soirees, and during our lifetimes, we likely experience each extreme and everything in between.

In my twenties, I lived in Daytona Beach, Florida. A Night Out during that period of my life started no earlier than 10:00 PM. I suppose on work nights—yes, I know, going out on a work night, God I miss those days—the evening would begin earlier with dinner after work. But absolutely anything that happened before 10:00 PM was strictly a preliminary affair. A warm up. A practice session. The night really began closer to 11:00 and wrapped up anywhere from 3:00 AM to dawn on the beach. A perfect Night Out included going to a club with loud dance music blaring, lots of drinks and whatever else I could find, dancing until I was wet with sweat, and a perfect outfit that had been meticulous planned to look not-so-perfect. To top it all off, I would wake up at 5:30 the next morning, grab my bag, head to the gym, working off the previous night’s indulgences and preparing myself for a long day of work.



In my mid-thirties, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky. I had settled down and was much more domestic than in those Florida days. I still had the urge to have big Night Outs, just not as often. The few times I tried to party hard like I had in Daytona, it took days to recover. Forget ever going out on a work night. WHO DOES THAT?! I started listening to my body telling me that I could no longer hang with the crowd that starts the evening at 10:00 PM, which was fine because I knew no one who did that anymore. A perfect Night Out during those years still included hitting a few clubs and, occasionally, dancing until sweaty. Instead of lots of drinks, however, dinner was always involved. And the clubs were ones that offered quieter spaces to have conversations away from the thumping dance floor, and I was usually on my way home by midnight, or 1:00 AM if I was having a great time.


My forties find me still living in Kentucky, but something dramatic has changed in my perception of a fun Night Out. For one, a Night Out must planned weeks in advance. All my friends who are in the same age bracket as I am are so busy. Calendars must be synced; sitters of children and dogs must be arranged. If an actual nightclub is involved, it must be one with a purpose, like a drag show or a cabaret. A nice dinner with great conversation MUST come first. And everything needs to be wrapped up so I can be in my bed by midnight.



To recap, my perfect Night Outs, by age:
• 20's: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, start late, never stop, rinse and repeat
• 30's: special occasions, lots of people, see and be seen, dance a bit, don’t close down the club
• 40's: reservations for a nice dinner, catching up with friends, if feeling crazy see a show, home in bed by midnight

OH, one last perfect Night Out I have fallen in love with in my mid-forties: STAYING HOME. My word, I feel like this is a secret that you don’t learn until you are at least 45. Comfy clothes, a couch, some food, and a movie or Netflix? I can still party like a rock star in that scenario!



How about you? What is your ideal Night Out?

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is www.astrongmanscupoftea.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMenProject.com. He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Angela Correll's unique date night...plus a special giveaway

We're pleased to have Angela Correll at CLC today! Her latest novel, Granted, is publishing next week. To celebrate, she is giving away a Plainview Set of Four Basket from her store, Kentucky Soaps & Such. This includes a body cream, bar soap, hand soap, and sugar scrub from the store's flagship brand, a collection of organic goat milk bath products, Plainview Farm. 

Angela Correll is the author of the May Hollow Trilogy – which includes her previous novels, Grounded and Guarded (links are to reviews). With humor, mystery and romance, the small-town characters take readers on a journey of the heart from Kentucky farm country to Italy and back again.


Visit Angela online:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis (may contain spoilers for Grounded and Guarded):
Former international flight attendant Annie Taylor is embracing her country roots and racing toward a future with her sustainable farmer fiancé, but wedding plans are complicated by her new job, a mysterious ex-boyfriend, and a narcissistic father.

Meanwhile, Annie’s old-fashioned grandma, Beulah, is facing a shake-up in the last place she ever thought she would—home. A crisis on May Hollow Road follows a friend’s betrayal, challenging Beulah’s forgiving nature. An unwelcome diet, a new houseguest, and a possible overseas trip will all stretch her spirit—if she lets it.

Granted takes readers from the comforts of the Kentucky countryside to old-world Tuscany with a cast of memorable characters. Granted follows Grounded and Guarded in the May Hollow Trilogy.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


In recent years, my husband and I had fallen into a date night rut. We were vigilant about guarding our time together on Fridays, but it usually meant dinner and a movie at home. On top of that, we live on a farm outside a small town, so our favorite restaurant is the one we own with our Chef partner. We love going there, but it can be hard to enjoy it for a date since we know most everyone who walks through the doors.

We talked about changing it up, doing something different, and getting out of our comfort zone. But the Fridays continued to roll around and each week stayed the same. We made dinner at home and relaxed into two mindless hours of movie time on the couch. It was comfortable and easy, but it was also boring.

Earlier this year, I noticed an advertisement for an Italian class in Lexington, nearly an hour from us. It was on Monday nights and ended at 7:30 p.m., just in time for dinner out. We talked about it and decided to sign up. We both rearranged our Mondays so we could leave in time to make the 5:30 p.m. start time.

We enjoyed the ride up, talking about our day and decompressing. Sometimes we went over our homework, quizzing each other on vocabulary words and parts of speech. We drove to the heart of downtown for class and enjoyed two stimulating hours, pushing our minds to wrap around a foreign language, the language of a place we love and visit as often as possible. We met interesting people from completely different walks of life, but all with a common love for Italy.

After class, we tried out several restaurants in Lexington, and enjoyed the new experiences. But as the weeks went on, we found ourselves coming back to Dudley’s on Short, a longtime culinary institution on the Lexington scene. It’s within walking distance of the Carnegie Center, where our classes were held, so it became our favorite date night to end the evening in the comfortable seating of a fine old restaurant, with the perfect lighting, delicious food and sweet conversation.

Dinner at Dudley’s turned into my favorite night on the town, and even now, with our classes over, I long for those Mondays when we pushed ourselves to learn and grow, and do something outside of our normal routine. Mondays weren’t easy and there were times we both dreaded the drive up as we were in the middle of busy days. Yet, each time we invested with each other on our night out, it paid rewards we are still reaping.

Thanks to Angela for visiting with us and sharing a gift basket 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 November 19th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The Happiness In Between

By Sara Steven

Sandra Hurst has left her husband. Again. After dropping out of college to marry Trent, divorcing him, then remarrying him, she’s shown up on her parents’ doorstep nursing her wounds. But her parents refuse to help this time—emotionally or financially.

Desperate to earn money and determined to start over, she accepts an offer from her aunt to house-sit at the old family home, Cub Creek, in ruggedly beautiful rural Virginia. But when Sandra arrives, she finds the house has grown shabby, her aunt’s dog is missing, and the garden is woefully overgrown. And she suspects her almost-ex-husband is on her trail.

As she begins to settle into the familiar homestead, powerful secrets and hurtful memories are unearthed. But Sandra discovers that to move on from the pain of her past, she must embrace the beauty of her future. Getting back to her roots—with a little help from her handsome new neighbor Colton and his son; her aunt’s devoted dog, Honey; and a lush garden on the brink of either failing or flourishing—may be just what Sandra needs. And this final chance could lead to regaining her self-respect, making peace with her family, discovering what she’s truly made of…and becoming the woman she was always meant to be. And along the way, she just might find a bit of happiness in each day. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The relationship between Sandra and Trent was chilling, and here’s why; they interact with one another in a way that really speaks volumes on what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who is a manipulator. Sandra never feels as though she’s on solid ground with Trent. She feels as though he’s messing with her head, but by outward appearances, it doesn’t seem that way, which makes her all the more confused. As a reader, I really felt that confusion and there were moments where even I had questioned the validity of her feelings. Is Trent such a bad guy, or is she making him out to be?

I questioned Sandra, because she questions herself. I got the impression that she’s been coddled a lot, has often let others dictate the kind of life she wants to live. So, when she makes the decision to leave Trent a second time, no one wants to support the decision because it’s not easily understood, and it’s coming from someone who doesn’t do anything on her own.

I liked the fact that Sandra is thrown into a situation where it’s sink or swim for her, like taking care of her aunt’s home, the dog, the yard, and really, herself. It was interesting to see the way she works hard at fighting against several years of not knowing her own worth, and while there are plenty of stumbles, there’s plenty of growth, too.

And speaking of growth, I really appreciated the character development and evolvement of Sandra, and the tension that often presents itself when she’s dealing with Trent. There were plenty of moments while reading The Happiness In Between that had been building up to something pretty catastrophic, almost like watching a scary movie where you see the main character walking upstairs to investigate a loud noise, and you know someone else is in the house, and you scream out loud, “Come on, don’t go up there!” Only in this case, there were false alarms that kept me guessing on whether anything really would happen, which was nice. It kept the suspense aspect strong.

Thanks to Grace Greene for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Grace Greene:

Friday, November 10, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life with Boys by Tiffany O'Connor and Lyndee Brown from A Splendid Messy Life (won in a giveaway)
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende from Linda's Book Obsession
Nights at Seaside by/from Addison Cole

Jami:
Poison by Galt Niederhoffer from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer from Little Bird Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
Risking It All by Nina Darnton from Lucinda Literary (e-book via NetGalley)
Sara:
Here's to Campfires and S'mores by/from Brooke Moss (e-book)

Tracey:
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman from St. Martin's Press