Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: New Attitude

Kathryn Biel's latest novel, New Attitude, was recently published. To celebrate, she is giving away e-books of Completions and Connections and Made for Me!

**May contain spoilers for MADE FOR ME**

As if it's not bad enough that I didn't win the reality design TV show I was on, try coming home to a one word note indicating that my ten-year marriage is over. So here I am, a suddenly single mother in my mid-thirties, doing what everyone advises me to do—have a fling. Except it doesn't go as planned, so I do the next best thing, which is sit on the couch and mope. But having to provide for a five-year-old doesn't let me stay home for too long. Before I know it, I'm back to dying my hair wild colors and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Except Tony, the fling that wasn't, keeps popping up in the most unlikely places and won't leave me alone. I'd like to be strong—I'm way too old for him—but he's cute and funny and sexy and oh, my ex is getting married to a girl named Bambi. All I know is the way I'm doing things isn't working. If I want to be happy again, I'm going to need to get a new attitude.

Telling stories of resilient women, Kathryn Biel hails from Upstate New York and is a wife and mother to two wonderful and energetic kids. In between being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage the government and insurance companies to fund her clients' needs, and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Her musings and rants can be found on her personal blog, Biel Blather. She is the author of Good Intentions (2013), Hold Her Down (2014), I'm Still Here (2014), Jump, Jive, and Wail (2015), Killing Me Softly (2015), Completions and Connections: A Romantic Holiday Novella (2015), Live for This (2016), and Made for Me (2016). Visit Kathryn on Facebook and 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 March 27th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Viola Shipman takes us over the a book giveaway

We're pleased to bring back our first Go-to-Gay, Wade Rouse, to celebrate the publication of his latest novel, The Hope Chest, written under the pen name Viola Shipman as a tribute to his grandmother, whose heirlooms inspired him to write it, along with his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet. Today, he's taking us back in time to the musicals his grandmothers loved. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies of The Hope Chest to give away!

Visit Viola online:


The discovery of one woman’s heirloom hope chest unveils precious memories and helps three people who have each lost a part of themselves find joy once again.

Ever since she was diagnosed with ALS, fiercely independent Mattie doesn’t feel like herself. She can’t navigate her beloved home, she can’t go for a boat ride, and she can barely even feed herself. Her devoted husband, Don, doesn’t want to imagine life without his wife of nearly fifty years, but Mattie isn’t likely to make it past their anniversary.

But when Rose, Mattie’s new caretaker, and her young daughter, Jeri, enter the couple’s life, happiness and the possibility for new memories return. Together they form a family, and Mattie is finally able to pass on her memories from the hope chest she received from her mother.

With each item―including a favorite doll, family dishes, an embroidered apron, and an antique Christmas ornament―the hope chest connects Mattie, Don and Rose to each other and helps them find hope again in the face of overwhelming life challenges.

A beautiful story about the unconditional love and support of family, The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman will remind you that hope can be found where and when you least expect it.

“Hope Sounds Like Judy Garland”

The first musical I remember watching as a child with my grandmothers was The Wizard of Oz. It didn’t turn out so well. The flying monkeys scared me so badly that I covered my eyes, screamed and finally went running out of the TV room to bury my head under the covers in my bedroom.
That didn’t deter my grandmothers from making me watch movies with music (Fantasia went much more smoothly) or further indoctrinating me to Judy Garland.

The next Judy musical I watched – snuggled between them, eating candy straight out of my basket – was Easter Parade.

This time, I didn’t cover my eyes, scream or run out of the room. I sat up a little straighter and smiled. When Judy and Fred Astaire sang “A Couple of Swells,” I remember getting up and taking a seat right in front of the TV, mesmerized, watching them dance in a fantasy world as make-believe characters.

Next came Meet Me in St. Louis, which, ironically, was the big city I dreamed of living in as an Ozarks child (my grandfathers and father LOVED the St. Louis Cardinals and listened to every game on the radio). This one hooked me even more with its songs and its beauty, and I eventually would live in St. Louis partially because of the spell this movie cast on me.

That started a tradition: Whenever a movie musical was on, my grandmothers would call me, and we’d plan a night together, just the three of us, and our imaginations.

We watched more than Judy, of course – Oklahoma, Auntie Mame, The Sound of Music – but Judy’s musicals remained our favorites. Whenever one of her movies was shown on TV, or featured at the local, old-time theatre, we would watch or go, the three of us.

I asked my grandmas once why they loved musicals so much. My Grandma Shipman took my hand in hers and said, “They’re like living a dream. The actors sing everything we think in our heads and feel in our hearts but that we are never able to demonstrate in real life.”

“And why do you love Judy Garland so much?”
“If hope had a voice, it would be Judy’s,” she said.

I use her quote in my new novel, The Hope Chest. In fact, one of the chapters in the book centers around an old Judy Garland ticket stub that is found in the long-forgotten hope chest of the main character, Mattie, a woman in the final stages of ALS. Mattie grew up loving Judy Garland (and living in St. Louis), and she passes along her love for the star and of movie musicals to her caregiver, Rose, and Rose’s young daughter, Jeri (who is named after my own mother).

Watching musicals with my grandmas still fills me with great warmth and memories, but, more importantly, that experience changed me greatly. It caused me not only to see the world differently but also challenged how I wanted to be a part of it. As a result, I took music lessons. I played trombone. I sang. I acted in plays and musicals. I read books. And, of course, I began to write.
Like my debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest is inspired not only by my grandmas’ heirlooms but also by their lives, lessons and love. It was their belief in me and sacrifices for our family that changed the course of our lives and allowed me to be who I am today. Viola Shipman – the pen name I use for my fiction – is my maternal grandmother’s name, and I chose it to pay tribute to my grandmothers as well as all of our elders, whose voices, stories and sacrifices are too often overlooked today.

I still curl up on the couch and watch musicals, old and new, and I continue to feel the presence and impact of my grandmothers when I do. I recently saw a new movie musical, LaLa Land, and I thought of my grandmas much of the time, thinking of how much they’d love the movie. Near the end, when Emma Stone’s character – who is about to give up her dream of being an actress – sings a number entitled "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," I began to weep openly. So loudly, in fact, that many turned around to see if I were OK.

I had been where Emma Stone’s character had been many times in my career, on the verge of quitting, of thinking that my dreams of being a writer were simply pipe dreams. But something deep inside me always urged me on, sang to me, like my grandmas did when we watched musicals together.

It was fierce determination and a bit of madness, of course, but most of all it was hope. Hope that I could make the world feel, think, see just a little bit differently from my words.

In the end, hope sang to me, so loudly it won out.

And it sounded just like Judy Garland’s voice.

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 March 26th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Beyond the Lens

By Sara Steven

When twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell loses her job, she momentarily loses her mind too and agrees to take part in a reality TV show. Before she knows it she’s jetting off to a piece of paradise on a beautiful Spanish island.

Much to her surprise, Lucy makes new friends and has the time of her life, even indulging in a behind-the-scenes romance with a hunky cameraman.

Convinced the production will never make it to the screen, Lucy returns home on cloud nine, but soon finds that things are not always as they seem. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

I’m a huge fan of reality TV, especially when it pertains to putting random strangers together. Think Survivor. While Beyond the Lens isn’t set on some remote island with participants battling it out for first place, there are certainly some similarities. As with most reality tv, what’s filmed isn’t always what we see on the small screen, and that’s exactly what Lucy encounters after being part of her own reality TV show.

It seems too good to be true. She’s getting along well with the other cast members. The locale is breathtaking. It seems that every need is provided for. There is no real guarantee that the show will even air, so she might as well enjoy the week as an all expenses paid trip. Only, she finds out the truth behind the show, the lies and the deceit, that turn her into a carbon copy of Courtney Robertson (think The Bachelor).

I’ve often wondered what’s real, what’s not when I’m watching reality TV. Hannah Ellis takes us into that world wonderfully, showcasing what it’s like behind the lens, and what goes into creating the people we often consider to be celebrities, even though they’d been like the rest of us before their fifteen minutes of fame. And what happens after their time is over? Can they ever return to any sense of normalcy? That dynamic is showcased well for Lucy, and for the relationship she tries to hold onto through the whole process of returning to the life she’d known before the cameras. A sweet, relatable read!

Thanks to Hannah Ellis for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Hannah Ellis:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Josie Brown's Red Carpet a book giveaway

Green room photo
We're pleased to have Josie Brown here today to talk about her recent Oscars experience. We love Josie and her books (especially the Totlandia series) and we think you'll enjoy what she has to say. She even has an e-book giveaway at the end.

I'd like to thank...

Contrary to anything you may have heard from Chick Lit Central’s Melissa Amster, I had nothing to do with the envelope mix-up at the Oscars.

But yes, I was on the scene—at least, on the red carpet (before and during); and in the Green Room (a day before); and in Press Room during the one Academy Awards ceremony that will go down in history for the sole purpose that, for the first time in this eighty-nine-year event, a wrong winner was called in the most important category of all: “Best Picture.”

If you don’t already know, Moonlight won, although the envelope for Best Actress was handed to Warren Beatty, which is why Faye Dunaway, who presented it with him, called out La La Land.
At the time, I was backstage in the Press Room. EVERYONE gasped.

Almost every question asked of Emma Stone and anyone with a La La Land Oscar grasped in their hands —or for that matter, to Moonlight’s director, Kevin Johnson, its screenwriter, Tarell Alvin McCraney, or Mahershala Ali, the film’s stars and the winner of Best Supporting Actor—was about the envelope mix-up. 

It may have been the most talked about incident, but for someone like me, who was attending the Academy Awards for the very first time, this historical event was just the icing on the gooey confection of flashing cameras, screaming fans, and glamorous stars.

I was invited as the guest of a journalist friend. My role there was to help him with his social media. In return, I’d get great background research for any future glam lit novels (in fact, both Hollywood Hunk and Hollywood Whore have Oscar scenes in them) and I certainly got up close to some folks emitting enough star wattage to send a message to Mars.

Scarlett Johansson
The Academy Awards take place at the Dolby Theatre, which is part of a multi-level outdoor mall complex (with more than three-hundred days of sunshine, of course it would be outdoors!) at the corner of Highland and Hollywood Boulevards. Flanking all of this is Loews Hollywood Hotel, which is essentially Ground Zero for all the action when it’s not on the red carpet or in the theater.

Yes, I was impressed. Make that mesmerized.

Every day—several times a day, in fact—I’d be running from the hotel through the mall and onto the red carpet: the length of several football fields. This gauntlet has numerous security checkpoints, for which the proper passes are needed.

The press shows up as early as the Wednesday prior to the event. By then, the bleachers are in place for fans on one side, and risers for the press on the other, along the “boulevard”—the path between the underground garage and the theatre. The red carpet has also been laid down, although you wouldn’t know it, considering the layers of plastic covering it, so that workmen, camera people, and the news talent can’t sully it before the first stars make his or her appearances on Sunday.

To add to the mystique, a three-story curtain blocks that end of the mall.

Matt Damon
The only way onto the red carpet—or for that matter, into the Dolby Theatre—is through several layers of security. If you don’t have a pass, forget about it. It truly is the golden ticket!

By now, news crews from all over the world are arriving. Each has been given a small piece of real estate—at the most three feet by three feet—on one of the press risers that runs the full length of the red carpet. And yet, my friend was able to make "entertainment news magic," despite my fumbles and lack of a learning curve).

(By the way, the red carpet is not a straightaway. It bends, like an elbow, in front of the largest of the two stages set up for the sponsoring network’s news talent: in this case, ABC’s Good Morning America.

Between now and Saturday, several times a day the news talent and his or her camera crew will shoot and edit short segments and teasers in order to excite their networks’ audiences. Remember: the Oscars are the entertainment industry’s equivalent to the Superbowl. Just as much ad revenue is on the line. The more viewers you can get, the more money you can demand from advertisers.

They will also rehearse what they’ll say to the stars. For example, an assistant will hold up a placard that says “Emma Stone” and the on-air talent will reel off a question or two he hopes will be original enough that she’ll be delighted to answer it. (Even if it’s not so original, she’ll pretend it is. It isn’t much of a stretch for a great actress.)

With each passing day, something new is revealed on the red carpet: a change in the backdrop, say; or how the lights are hung. Workmen are everywhere, doing the tiniest of things, including polishing every surface to a far-thee-well.

We were allowed a full hour in the Green Room (in this case, it truly is green) which gave us time to give my friend’s audience a walkthrough teaser. Think of it as an elegant party room that looks out onto a beautiful forest—an optical illusion, really, since the room has no exterior windows. However, the walls are lined with backlit photographic panels of copses of trees. Besides a wet bar and healthy buffet, there are several couches and comfortable chairs. A few photos of past winners line one wall. The Green Room is an oasis of calm: much appreciated, I’m sure, considering the energy level throughout the big night.

Viola Davis
For the next forty-eight hours leading up to the event, the Lowes Hotel goes into lock-down for anyone NOT connected to the Oscars—staff, press, publicist, handler, or star.

Every day came with new instructions from the journalist’s producers as to suggestions on story angles. For example: what fashion trends could the audience expect to see? And, how much would politics affect this year’s event?

As it turns out, politics were big—and not just in the speeches given on stage. One of the talent agencies, UTA, actually held a demonstration in its parking lot. Yes, we covered it. The next morning, a pro-Trump group held one on the mall side of the red carpet. Again, we were there, getting photos. Talk about a different spin on an entertainment story…

On the day of the big event, I got up early in order to get ready: make-up, gown, French Twist.

Had I been the one walking the red carpet instead of standing on the sidelines, believe me, I would have had an entourage to help me. (It takes a village to get me into fashion plate mode.)

Samuel L. Jackson
Everyone must dress up, even the cameramen and women. That means the guys where tuxes (some of the ladies, too) but at least they can wear sneakers.

My biggest dilemma was deciding which shoes to wear. I’d been told: make sure they are comfortable.

Really? Sneakers under a gown, when I bought some beautiful sparkly ones, just for the occasion? I just couldn’t….

I’d been forewarned.  

Fans lucky enough to hold a lottery ticket to get them into the bleachers were already there. Their shouts would crescendo with the arrival of the stars. Then things happened fast. From our little sliver of riser, we took pictures quickly and uploaded them onto Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In the ninety minutes of red carpet fanfare time flew by.

And then it was over.

Onto the Press Room…

Food. YES!

Shoes: OFF! I wasn’t alone. Practically ever woman had yanked them off by the time I reached the Press Room—unless they were smart enough to just wear booties, flip-flops, or sneakers under their dresses.

Comfortable chairs. I grabbed one in the second row, which was great for catching all the interview questions.

By the way, no photos or video can be taken in the Press Room unless you’re one of the few photographers licensed to do so. At this point, my role is strictly transcription.

Truly, there aren’t words in which I can describe this experience—

Okay, I’ll try. Let’s start with

- EXHILARATING. The Academy prides itself on glitz and glamor. It never fails.

- MESMERIZING. There is an energy coming off the stars walking the red carpet to stop you in your tracks. Forget yoga pants and sans makeup, as you’ll probably catch them in the Verve coffee bar in WeHo. While the Oscars Red Carpet in all their finery, they look exactly like you’d hope to see them: emitting enough star power to light up a galaxy.

- The PERFECT place for stargazing (if you aren't under eight different media deadlines within a two-hour period). 

-  FREEZING, especially if it’s unseasonably chilly, and you’re wearing a dress with either a plunging neckline or a scoop back. (Since you asked, mine had the latter.)

And last but in no way least…UNFORGETTABLE.

And yes, I came home with a chocolate Oscar, courtesy of the Governor’s Ball and Wolfgang Puck.

Will I eat it? No way! I’d rather hold it and while I give an acceptance speech.

In honor of my Oscars experience, I’m giving away two digital copies of my 3-episode novella set, Hollywood Hunk.  To enter this drawing, you must read the excerpt here, and correctly answer this question: What is the name of Louis’s talent agent?

**Send your answer to, SUBJECT: Oscars Answer, by March 20th at midnight EST**

You can also get a copy of another True Hollywood Lies novel, Hollywood Whore, just by signing up for my eLetter.

Thank you, Josie, from all of us at CLC!

**All photos courtesy of Josie Brown.**

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Amy Rivers measures her life in a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Amy Rivers is a woman after my own heart. When you see the number one spot on her top five favorite musicals list, you'll know why! (And yes, it's what I was listening to in my car this week. I do "take a break" from Hamilton sometimes!)

Today, Amy is here to talk about musicals and celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Best Laid Plans & Other Disasters. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy to give away! Visit all the stops on Amy's tour.

Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado with her husband, kids and cat. She has a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics, two topics she loves to incorporate into her personal essays and novels. Amy has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, Novelty Bride Magazine, and Splice Today. Her first novel, Wallflower Blooming, was published in August 2016. Best Laid Plans is the second book in the Cambria Trilogy, but can be read as a stand-alone. Visit Amy at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


A year after she is elected mayor of a prosperous Colorado city, Gwen’s career and life are fully on track, all according to plan. So why is she in such a slump emotionally and physically? New conflicts keep boiling over in city government, and her earlier allies no longer support her. She and her boyfriend have an ideal relationship, which she finds inexplicably dissatisfying. Without telling her, he decides to take a new job that has him traveling out of state every week. Suddenly unexpected developments turn everything topsy-turvy, and Gwen is forced to re-examine her carefully-planned life.

“Witty, warm, and compulsively readable. Rivers has deftly created lovably flawed and relatable characters you don’t want to miss.”
 –Amy Avanzino, author of Wake-Up Call and From the Sidelines

The Magic of Musicals

If I could get away with bursting out in song throughout the day without being arrested or committed, I would. Since I was a child, musicals have always resonated with me. Growing up in a musical family, it just made sense that we express our emotions and tell stories through song. I grew up on The Sound of Music and Annie, but also on Labyrinth and Hair. If there was singing, I was nearby singing along.

Some musicals are just good clean fun, but others address important historical, cultural and social issues. When watching (or listening to) Rent, I never ever fail to sob uncontrollably when Collins sings I'll Cover You (reprise) at Angel’s funeral. I always think, “that’s what love sounds like.” Imagine, tackling homelessness, homosexuality, and AIDS in song? The creators of Rent are revolutionaries, bringing topics that are often taboo to a broader audience.

I have a copy of the 25th Anniversary celebration of Les Miserables on my phone. I listen to it when I need to hear raw emotion. My favorite line is where Fantine (played by Lea Salonga) sings, “You let your foreman send me away,” to a mortified Jean Valjean. Her voice cracks, the look on her face is pure agony, and I think to myself, “if I can convey that kind of emotion in my writing, I will have achieved my dreams.”

OK, so I’m going to attempt to give you my top five favorite musicals (with the caveat that this is my list as of 12:33 MST, Monday, March 6, 2017 and is subject to change at the slightest whim). Here goes:

1.      Rent. That’s right. Despite being absolutely in love with Les Mis, I’m putting Rent at the top spot because it’s hard to imagine a more perfect combination of music and storytelling. The story of these people, brought together one night under a common cause, and of course, friendship. They love. They hate. They struggle. The story examines the brutal realities of homelessness and AIDS. And yet, there are tender moments of true friendship and love that move me each and every time I watch this musical.

2.      Les Miserables. I’ve seen this musical twice on stage. The first time was in high school. I saw it at the Abraham Chavez theater in El Paso, Texas. The stage revolved, and from our balcony seats, we watched as the scenery and cast floated around below us, the barricade being erected in a whirl. That image has stayed with me, and every time I see a musical performed live on stage, I can’t help but compare it to the magic of that first night. Les Miserables is a tale of redemption and the endurance of the human soul despite the foulest of circumstances. Love, love, love.

3.      Meet Me in St. Louis. Because, Judy Garland. I grew up watching every Judy Garland movie I could get my hands on, from her Andy Hardy days on up. But Meet Me in St. Louis is one of my favorite movies of all time, musical or no. I own it. I watch it more than once a year, singing along the whole time. And the red dress at the end of Wallflower Blooming was inspired by Judy’s ball gown at the Christmas dance. It’s a great story about a family at the turn of the century and the things that are important to them. It’s got one of the funnest and funniest Halloween scenes of all time AND one of the greatest Christmas carol performances ever: Judy singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

4.      Mary Poppins. What can I say? You’ve got Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. There’s woman’s suffrage, the importance of charity AND personal responsibility (a clean room! – kids, take note).  There’s magical tea parties, penguins and siedwalk art. There’s chimney sweeps dancing on the rooftops for heaven’s sake! I love a good musical that both children and adults can enjoy together. Stage productions that I’ve seen of this musical are equally good, but I’m going to stick with the Disney film for the purposes of this list.

5.      and, finally,  Purple Rain. Yes, siree. I saw this movie when I was probably WAY too young to see it and thus began a lifelong love affair with Prince. Musical in the tradition sense? Maybe not. But luckily this is my list and I can do what I want!

I was going to make an honorable mentions list, but it got out of control and, quite frankly, included every musical known to man because, as I’ve stated before, I LOVE MUSICALS! Also, you’ll probably have noted that all the musicals above are movies. Because those are the musicals that I (and all of you) have most ready access to, they’re the ones that come to mind first. That being said, I implore you, NEVER pass up a chance to see a musical performed live. Sweeny Todd is just so much more amazing on stage (sorry Johnny and Helena). Elton John’s musical Aida took my breath away and I still go on binges listening to the soundtrack. And an amateur production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring a high school classmate (way back in the day) was maybe one of the best productions I have ever seen on stage. They did such an amazing job!

In closing….a few guilty (sorta) confessions: I will watch High School Musical (the first one) about a million times in a row. And the Frankie and Annette beach movies are also on my list of musical fav’s. AND my husband will probably snort when he sees that I haven’t included a single Gilbert and Sullivan. Sorry honey, I’m out of space.

Thanks to Amy for visiting with us and to TLC Book Tours 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 March 21st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Go-to-Gay: All the World's a Stage!

This month's Go-To-Gay post really needs no introduction. Keith just took our musicals theme and rolled with it!

Rosie Red

Broadway prima donnas and their show tunes have always been two of my great loves. As early as age five, I created my own diva persona, Rosie Red. I transformed into Rosie when the urge to perform on the stage overwhelmed my normal needs of playing kickball with my sister or building yet another cabin with my set of Lincoln Logs. All I had to do in order to call Rosie Red to me was wrap a bath towel around my head to imitate hair.

The wrapping of the towel around my head was also crucial to Rosie Red’s identity. It was not wrapped into a cone-shaped pile like my mother and older sister fixed after they washed their hair. I draped the towel over my head, much like a boy performing the role of Shepherd Number One in his church’s Christmas nativity play. I would then crease a small fold above my eyebrows that would help frame my face and give an appearance of bangs and texture. The cascade of the towel would create enough length and body to allow me to perform both a patented Cher head and neck flip, and to tuck my terrycloth hair behind my ear with my hand, when either move was needed for emphasis in a song performance.

With dance moves I had memorized by studying the television program Zoom, I executed riveting concerts for my horrified parents and enthusiastic sister. My performances were always a surprise. To begin, I would stick one leg into the doorway of the living room where my unsuspecting family was sitting. I shook the exposed leg until someone noticed, then in my best emcee voice, I announced Rosie Red was back in town for one last performance, and high kicked my way into the room. Using my mother’s pink Avon hairbrush as a microphone, I sang songs from 42nd Street, The Wiz, and West Side Story, as well as whatever songs were requested from my audience, which usually included something by Cher, Dolly Parton, and Dad's favorite, Charlie Pride.

Sadly, for whatever reasons, Rosie Red slowly faded over the years until she no longer performed in the Stewart home. She drifted to that place where other childhood activities retire, along with my bicycle, Star Wars action figures, countless colorful plastic pegs from a Lite-Brite, and a few stray Legos.

When I began thinking about what I wanted to write this month, I thought of Rosie, and how much I miss her. She would be so happy see the success of the La La Land movie. She would love all the Broadway musicals she has missed since she faded away. She would be particularly fond of Mamma Mia and Wicked.

I then began thinking of how great it would be if Rosie could just exist in my current day-to-day life. Life would be so much more bearable if you could break out into song whenever you wanted or needed. Imagine how less mundane a trip to the grocery store would be if you could blurt out in the produce isle (to the tune of Memory from Cats):

All that leafy green goodness!
Will I pay for the spring mix
or just stick with romaine?

Say you are in a rush to get somewhere and traffic is terrible and you hit every red light along the way. Every. Single. One. Wouldn’t it be great to belt out (to the tune of "Tomorrow" from Annie):

The red light!
The red light!
I always
find red lights!
I never
drive up on green!

Who hasn’t had to sit through endless, mind-numbing meetings at work or on committees? How I wish I could just stand up in the middle of one and sing (to the tune of "Seasons of Love"from Rent):

522 bazillion 400 minutes,
522 bazillion minutes in meetings.
522 bazillion 400 minutes,
how many ways do we have to say the same thing?

Who knows, maybe I will find myself a new towel and see if I still have the same hair wrapping skills as my childhood self. I am planning on finally seeing Hamilton this summer, maybe Rosie Red will make a guest appearance.

Until then, I will be at some coffee shop furiously typing on my laptop while singing (to the tune of "Tonight"from West Side Story):

My piece is due tonight
I wish I had done some prep before.

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 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 and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Eggshells

By Melissa Amster

Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in — and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was “left by fairies.” Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she’s crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn’t a friend in the world.

So, she decides it’s time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope.

Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from.

And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian’s life begins to change.
(Synopsis courtesy of TLC Book Tours.)

Some things I really liked about Eggshells:
1. Caitriona Lally writes Vivian as a protagonist, yet most of her supporting characters are bothered or annoyed by her. This felt like an interesting way to tell a story.
2. There's an idyllic feel to the story. Vivian can come and go as she pleases and spend her days doing whatever she wants. She has a childlike sense of wonder.
3. It was funny. Vivian reminds me of Amelia Bedelia, who always makes me laugh (even as an adult). She takes so much of what is said to her at face value and it leads to some fantastic misunderstandings.
4. Vivian's fascination with words enhanced the story. I loved reading what she thought a word meant or how it should look, sound, etc.
5. It was an escape from the stress of what is going on in real life. I rarely thought about current events while reading this novel.
6. It took me on an armchair adventure to Ireland.

Some things I would have liked to know more about:
1. Vivian's age. All I know is that she is an adult, but that she's younger than Penelope.
2. Why Vivian won't look in a mirror.
3. Why her family has such a problem with her. We only see this through her sister, but there are some points where she refers to how her parents treated her.
4. Vivian's backstory. We only really know about her present comings and goings. I wanted to know more about her past.
5. What Vivian looks like. We don't get much of a description.

Overall, it was a quirky story that will delight fans of A Man Called Ove, Invisible Ellen, and/or Be Frank With Me.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! Visit all the stops on Caitriona's tour. (We're pleased to be kicking it off!)

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Giveaway ends March 19th at midnight EST.