Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mhairi McFarlane is unforgettable...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Mhairi McFarlane, whose latest novel, Don't You Forget About Me, published last week. Becky has reviewed some of her previous novels and enjoyed them. We're excited to check this new one out! Thanks to William Morrow, we have one copy to give away.

Mhairi McFarlane was born in Scotland in 1976 and got the fringe hairstyle locked down early so she could concentrate on wider issues affecting society, like why Cadbury's don't make plain chocolate buttons. Surely the demand is there. She has written five rom-com books and is trying to write another and not be distracted by Netflix or Twitter, with varying success. Visit Mhairi on Facebook and Twitter. (Bio adapted from Amazon UK).


Synopsis:
You always remember your first love... don’t you?

If there’s anything worse than being fired from the worst restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else. Reeling from the humiliation of a double dumping in one day, Georgina takes the next job that comes her way—bartender in a newly opened pub. There’s only one problem: it’s run by the guy she fell in love with years ago. And—make that two problems—he doesn’t remember her. At all. But she has fabulous friends and her signature hot pink fur coat... what more could a girl really need?

Lucas McCarthy has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but he’s also turned into an actual grown-up, with a thriving business and a dog along the way. Crossing paths with him again throws Georgina’s rocky present into sharp relief—and brings a secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows what happened twelve years ago, and why she’s allowed the memories to chase her ever since. But maybe it’s not too late for the truth... or a second chance with the one that got away? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
Wow this is a nice question! *rubs hands* Oddly enough the greatest compliment any writer can ever receive is "What happens next?" That right there is proof you've done your job and it also makes you giddy with power, that you invented a fictional universe that feels real enough to people that they want to know what happens - they've invested in enough to care about its outcome. To some extent storytelling is a magic trick isn't it? It's a made up world and the reader knows it's made up, obviously, but your job is to make it feel as real as possible, as impactful as possible. A less generalised answer - when my first editor at HarperCollins signed me up, she had to make a case - the standard one in acquiring any author - for why I was a good bet to publish. She told me that in projection for future books, she said "Mhairi is a natural writer." That really thrilled me. A natural writer.

What was the biggest challenge and biggest reward with writing Don't You Forget About Me?
The biggest challenge, if you've read it (no spoilers!) was the revelation and resolution for Georgina. I've not had that experience and I was very conscious it had to ring true. It wasn't easy but I honestly felt like I was stuck in her shoes for that whole passage, and I needed a stiff drink afterwards. The biggest reward was the response to DYFAM. I don't think any author can judge a book by the end - that's not fibbing or false modesty, you've lived with it for so long, with so many of its flaws and its different drafts and its difficulties, you can't really 'see' the end result. So the feedback and the enthusiasm has been amazing. And very movingly, a friend told me she'd have her young daughters read it when they were the right age, so that they hopefully feel more prepared to stand up for themselves than Georgina did. I never write anything as a teaching credential, but if story telling can have any positive real world effect, I feel very lucky to be able to do that.

If Don't You Forget About Me were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Ooh - an actress called Romola Garai - not sure how famous she is in the States, she's well known in the UK. Lucas would be Aidan Turner, who plays Poldark on TV here - again, has he made it in America yet?! He's silly levels of handsome. Google them! Robin would be a joy to cast too because he's such a type, with his curly hair and smarm. Can't think who'd be right though, I feel like readers would make good suggestions?

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
I have just finished Mindhunter 2, the series about the FBI's behavioural science unit in the 1980s and their studies into serial killers. So, so compelling. I'm a huge David Fincher fan. I've just started the HBO series Chernobyl, because apparently when I am not enjoying murders I like radiation.

Who is the most unforgettable person in your life?
Haha, wow! Hard to choose just one? Plus there's all kinds of terrible people you might not forget :) I will pass on this one, if that's OK, it seems a political quagmire to me! There, I got to use the word "quagmire" though.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse/handbag?
Well, this is truly strange, but....it's a florist's card, one of those little ones that come with flowers. It accompanied a bunch of red roses I had sent to my office years ago by a former colleague, who wanted to apologise for not buying me a pint (I think, the reasons are lost in time.) He signed it "Norbert" as a joke about being like a tightfisted character in a comic called Viz (British reference only). He's now a prominent political journalist on a national newspaper here and I bet would be QUITE embarrassed / amused to be reminded of it. It made me laugh though and somehow it's ended up surviving many changes of handbags, lost among my purse, keys, photos, lipstick, spare iPhone headphones etc....

Thanks to Mhairi for chatting with us and William Morrow 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 September 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Book Review: The Worst Couple in the World...plus a special giveaway




By Sara Steven

From the author of The Woman America Loves a Latte and I Will Follow Him comes a satirical novella about an over-the-top fame-hungry duo whose love for each other is only rivaled by their love of attention.

No longer content to just be Snappigram sensations, folk hop singers Zeke and Angelique are ready to move up from coffee house performances to the big stage. With songs like “Uh Huh, Future Baby Mama” and “Don’t Worry About the Bills, Little Missus” there’s pretty much no way they can fail.

But if their musical career takes off, will it leave their love behind?
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Zeke and Angelique reminded me of Nico Slobkin and Brie Bacardi, the annoying Instagram couple (played by Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner) on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. In fact, if The Worst Couple in the World were to ever be turned into a television show or movie, that’s who should play this folk hop singer duo!

I imagine it’s hard to write characters who are so slanted and silly, yet still maintain a level of seriousness that only adds to the hilarity. Holly Tierney-Bedord perfected this, not only by placing Zeke and Angelique in otherwise “normal” situations that really brought forth their quirky personalities, but by the interactions they have with other people who are more grounded and realistic. You can’t help but go with the flow and fall in line with the surreal, because this special couple believes so much in what they are doing and who they are, you start to believe in it, too.

One of my favorite characters is Zeke’s mother. Sadly, I know people who have the type of personality she has, an all encompassing life sucking quality that ordinarily would not be considered funny. But, in her conversations with Zeke and Angelique, her mannerisms, it’s just pure fun, from start to finish. The contrast between the mother and Angelique is a lot of fun, too, and it makes for some of the best deliciously awkward moments.

What I liked the most about this couple, is that even through the silliness, there is an undercurrent of perseverance. Granted, they have no clue how silly they are, but even when it seems there is no hope and that they need to give up on their dreams, they don’t give up. I also felt this was a blatant look at how far people will go to gain fame. Angelique goes through a lot of “changes”, and even though she brings this up flippantly, the reader gets the sense that it is far from flippant and that’s the whole point. Even though it’s a clear coat of funny, the solid foundation underneath that is all truth. This was a unique read, and it makes you wonder what you’d do and how you’d react if you’d ever encounter these two, the worst couple in the world!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Holly Tierney-Bedord is the author of over twenty books ranging from serious women’s fiction to romantic comedies, domestic thrillers, humor, and cozy mysteries. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.



Visit Holly online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Blog


Giveaway to Win a $5 Starbucks Gift Card 
(Open to US Only, as part of the blog tour)

*Terms and Conditions –US entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. We are not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review: Skint Estate

By Jami Deise

Ever since Jeannette Walls released her memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005, books about growing up with poor, sometimes abusive, parents have been popular. Biographies such as Educated, Hillbilly Elegy, Hand to Mouth, and the award-winning Evicted put faces and names to statistics – at least in the United States. Now British artist Cash Carraway has given readers a look at what life is like under the poverty line in Tory-run, austerity-focused London in her memoir Skint Estate. In some cases, it’s better; in others, it definitely seems worse.

Carraway begins her book on the run from an abusive boyfriend, taking a pregnancy test in the feces-smeared bathroom of a moving train. Even though she’s broke and her own parents were abusive as well, Carraway is desperate to have this baby, wanting a child to love and a family she can call her own. Anyone who has ever wondered why someone in gut-wrenching poverty would add to their complications by procreating will be enlightened by Carraway’s longing.

Determined to earn the money required to rent a place before her baby is born, Carraway finds work at a peep show, a step down from her former life as a stripper. Behind a wall, men ogle and “wank off” to her expanding body. Carraway hides no detail of the degradation, which comes from her employers as much as her customers. The smells, filth, language, and hunger of her and her daughter’s life are everywhere. The author never tries to pretty it up, and the reader can’t hide from her reality.

In both countries, it is expensive to be poor. Both the U.S. and the U.K. penalize folks on benefits who earn, inherit, save, or are gifted money. British citizens at least have the NHS, so they don’t need to worry about going bankrupt due to medical bills. They also have to contend with a government that seems determined to push poor women and children out of London, away from their families, schools, and support systems. When the Grenfell Tower caught fire, Carraway and her daughter were practically next door, at a shelter for abused women that was literally falling down on top of them.

What is the link between violence and poverty, and how does someone like Carraway develop the strength to try to escape both her upbringing and her financial situation? Near the end of the book, she reveals that no matter what else is going on her life, she wakes up every morning at four am to write, eventually producing a one-woman show before writing this book. She is also a political activist, trying to get the media to pay attention to the horrible way the government treats poor women and children. I can’t imagine having this kind of fortitude, especially in the depth of a depression she suffered that nearly drove her to suicide.

The issue with memoirs is that the reader knows, just by picking up the book, that the author overcame her life challenges enough to write and become published. When we read a book like Carraway’s, it’s important to remember that it’s not just her story she’s sharing, but the stories of millions of people all over the world who are just as desperate, but who do not have a voice. Her voice becomes theirs. Let’s hope people are listening.

Thanks to Ebury Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: We Got This

Today we are featuring We Got This (September 10th, She Writes Press), which is a compilation of personal stories from solo mom writers. Whether you are a solo mom or someone special in your life is, this is one you will want to add to your (or their) TBR pile! Thanks to JKS Communications, we have TWO copies up for grabs!

Frank, funny, and unflinchingly real stories by solo moms, for solo moms.

In the United States, more than 15 million women are parenting children on their own, either by circumstance or by choice. Too often these moms who do it all have been misrepresented and maligned. Not anymore. In We Got This, seventy-five solo mom writers tell the truth about their lives—their hopes and fears, their resilience and setbacks, their embarrassments and triumphs. Some of these writers’ names will sound familiar, like Amy Poehler, Anne Lamott, and Elizabeth Alexander, while others are about to become unforgettable. Bound together by their strength, pride, and most of all, their dedication to their children, they broadcast a universal and empowering message: You are not alone, solo moms—and your tenacity, courage, and fierce love are worthy of celebration.

“Isolated, scared, sad, and hopeless are some of the emotions I felt when I was going through my divorce eleven years ago. I had two small children and no family living near me, and I had never felt so alone. I wish I could have read We Got This back then. Reading this book made me feel like I had friends, women who understand me, who care about me, and who are here for me, and like no matter what, everything is going to be OK!”
―Jackie Pilossoph, Creator, Divorced Girl Smiling, "Love Essentially" Columnist for Chicago Tribune Media Group


Dr. Marika Lindholm founded ESME.com to ignite a social movement of solo moms. A trained sociologist, Lindholm taught courses on inequality, diversity, and gender at Northwestern University for over a decade. After a divorce left her parenting two children on her own, she realized solo moms lacked much-needed resources, support, and connection. She built her social platform, Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere (ESME), out of this combination of academic and personal experience. In addition to publishing numerous scholarly articles, Lindholm has been a regular contributor to Psychology Today, Working Mother, Mind Body Green, and Talk Space. She has published essays and fiction in the Daily News, Elephant Journal, The Hill, Ms., Silent Voices, and the Southern Indiana Review.

Visit Marika and ESME online:
Website * Facebook * ESME's Twitter
Marika's Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

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 September 17th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Sharing a meal with Nicole Meier...plus a book giveaway

Today we're celebrating the publication of Nicole Meier's latest novel, The Second Chance Supper Club. This novel looks and sounds really good and we're excited to dig in! Nicole is here to tell us more about it and thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy to give away!

Nicole Meier is a native Southern Californian who pulled up roots and moved to the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her husband, three children, and one very nosey Aussiedoodle.


Her debut novel, The House of Bradbury, was chosen as a Best Book of 2016 by Refinery29. Her sophomore novel, The Girl Made of Clay (reviewed here), was recently named a Top Book according to Bookbub readers. 

Nicole's works have been published in The Oregonian, Cascade Journal, Southern Oregon Magazine, Women Writers Women’s Books, Brazen Woman, and more. (Bio adapted from Nicole's website.)

Visit Nicole online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Ginny and Julia Frank had a forever bond, until a sudden tragedy thrust them apart. Now, each at a crossroad in her own life, their paths are about to intersect. Broadcast journalist Julia has it all: a career, an ambitious fiancé, and the hard-won respect of her peers. Until a hasty and desperate decision destroys her reputation, puts her job at risk, and sends her reeling toward the only soul left to turn to: her estranged sister, Ginny.

The owner of a clandestine supper club hidden in the Arizona desert, Ginny has a lot on her plate. The last thing she wants is more drama—or the burden of nursing her younger sister’s wounded ego. Her young adult daughter Olive is enough to deal with. But family is family. Besides, Ginny can use the help in more ways than one, and she’s going to make sure Julia pulls her weight.


As a tenuous reunion reopens old wounds, Julia and Ginny have no choice but to confront the pain and betrayals of the past. Will working to keep the secret supper club running be just what they need to find common ground and a path toward forgiveness, or will the increasing stress push them even further apart?


Warm, comforting and brimming with hope, THE SECOND CHANCE SUPPER CLUB is the perfect reminder of the unique bonds that make up a family.


The Second Chance Supper Club is as warm and comforting as one of chef Ginny’s signature dishes. Meier writes with insight and heart, offering readers a vivid peek at the intriguing world of private supper clubs in this life-affirming story of three women reconnecting with the ones who matter most.” —Amy Mason Doan, author of The Summer List and Summer Hours

“The Second Chance Supper Club is a book to be savored. Meier expertly weaves the stories of two grieving sisters with humor, tenderness, and hope. Upon finishing this scrumptious book, I felt as one would feel after a good meal: satisfied but wishing I could take just one more bite.”
—Jennifer Gold, author of The Ingredients of Us

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
A reader wrote a review saying my book made her "ugly cry." I loved that I was able to evoke such emotion in my story. We all need a good cry now and then, right?

What was the inspiration behind The Second Chance Supper Club?
A couple of years ago I saw a film at an indie film festival. It was a documentary on underground dining. I'd never heard of the concept before, but knew instantly that I wanted to include some kind of culinary speakeasy in my next book. It was a lot of fun.

If The Second Chance Supper Club were made into a movie, who would play the lead roles?
Oh! I love this question. For the younger ambitious sister, Julia, I might pick Kristen Bell. For her older bossy sister, I would love someone like Laura Linney.

What is your favorite memory from elementary school?
Going to the library and checking out books.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
A few! Dead to Me, Big Little Lies, and about a half dozen Food Network shows.

What is the strangest thing residing in your purse/handbag?
Oh, gosh. I'm a minimalist in that department. I just stick my credit card in my phone case and away I go!

Thanks to Nicole for chatting with us and to Get Red PR 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 September 15th at midnight EST.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Book Review: The Time of Our Lives

By Sara Steven

Luca is used to being the ‘single one’ at weddings – it happens, when all your other friends are engaged, married or taken. But when she bumps into Tom, her friend from university who broke her heart into a million pieces, she finds herself wondering what could have been.

It’s ten years later, surely she should be over that Tom by now? So why is he looking even more gorgeous than ever – and why doesn’t he seem to be able to keep his eyes off her either?

And as the champagne flows and old secrets resurface, Luca realises that perhaps the time to take a chance on love and life is…now? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

The Time of Our Lives reminded me of the TV show Friends. Luca’s friends have been in her life for over a decade, and they were all roommates, back in the day. We get to see where Luca is now in her life, with plenty of flashbacks that lend into those glory days where they were all young twenty-somethings, with loads of chaotic debaucheries and silly situations. The characters are so likable, all supporting Luca, who was well known as the one who held the glue together in her group. But time changes everything, which is well portrayed within her friendships in the present time.

I liked Luca. Female protagonists who find themselves falling back in love with a man from their past aren’t often written as strong and independent. I got the impression that Luca knows who she is and, no matter what Tom or any other man (and believe me, she finds herself in one doozy of a situation with more than one) throws at her, she’s going to be fine. The fact that Tom rattles her like he does, really showcased how deeply she felt for him, back then, and now.

Tom finds himself in some really awkward situations with former relationships, and in dealing with his feelings for Luca. This plays out in an almost pseudo love triangle, and adds a lot more tension between Tom and Luca. I got the impression that, while he’s a really nice guy, Tom needs to be a lot more assertive in what, and who, he wants out of life. It was this constant shift that helped in giving the reader the want to see these two together, yet we weren’t sure if we wanted that, too. It was a nice way to constantly shift perspectives.

Although The Time of Our Lives offers up romance, and the relationship between Luca and Tom could really draw the reader in, what had me the most hooked are the relationships Luca has with her friends, her former roommates. That Friends-like element that offered comedy, and an emotional depth to this story. While I shifted perspective on whether I wanted to see Luca end up with Tom, I had no doubts on how I wanted Luca’s friendships to end up. I wanted their friendships to last a lifetime! Overall, this was a fun, five-star read!

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Portia MacIntosh:

Friday, September 6, 2019

Book Review: Too Close

By Jami Deise

The worst thing imaginable is the death of a child. The most monstrous crime imaginable is a parent who kills her own children. When a child is killed, it’s more often at the hands of a father, stepfather, or mother’s boyfriend. A woman who deliberately hurts her baby is almost beyond imagining. The cases are so rare that when a Susan Smith or a Casey Anthony occurs, the nation is transfixed.

In Too Close, author Natalie Daniels’s debut, British wife and mother Connie has been institutionalized with dissociative amnesia after driving into a river with her daughter and her daughter’s best friend in the back seat. Forensic psychiatrist Emma has been tasked with trying to make her remember how and why she committed the crime. Written from both women’s first-person points of view, and moving between past and present, Too Close attempts to show that the wrong set of circumstances can push anyone too far.

Too Close is an admirable debut and a mesmerizing book. I was as captivated as Emma was by Connie, wondering what would push this happy suburban mom – the British press called her the “Yummy Monster,” a take on the British slang “Yummy Mummy” – to commit the most unforgivable of crimes. Connie begins her story by describing her relationship with Ness, her best friend and neighbor. At first, it seems like Ness, who’s married to another woman, is going to become obsessed with Connie (she quickly adopts Connie’s haircut and perfume) and that the book would become a Tangerine-type thriller. But “too close” also describes Connie and Emma’s relationship, as Emma’s own back story and relationship issues begin to color her treatment of Connie.

Connie’s characterization is uneven – as can be expected for a psychiatric patient – in ways that I found off-putting as a reviewer. At times, her confrontations with Emma reminded me of Clarice and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, only Connie is the one who has the preternatural insight into Emma’s life. At other times, Connie comforts Emma as Emma’s life spirals downward. While Emma’s vulnerabilities made me sympathize with the psychiatrist, I was also impatient for an unbiased look at Connie’s actions.

And while I was happy that Connie’s story didn’t evolve into the cliché about a person being driven mad due to unrequited gay tendencies, I felt the outcome was even more cliched. True, Daniels’s careful character work makes the cliché she falls back on very specific to the people involved, but at the same time, I was disappointed. I wanted a solution more complex than what the author provided.

Then again, Susan Smith supposedly killed her children because her new boyfriend didn’t want to be tied down with small kids. Perhaps it’s the banality of evil that is the most monstrous part of stories like these.

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