Thursday, October 1, 2020

Jen Lancaster's welcoming ways...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Jolene Siana
We are thrilled to have Jen Lancaster back at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest memoir, Welcome to the United States of Anxiety. Jen is legendary at CLC. Some of us have met her in person and we've featured Jen and her books many times throughout the past ten years. She is hilarious and there is a part of this interview that will have you rolling on the floor. Thanks to Amazon Publishing, we have TWO print copies of Welcome to give away!

Jen Lancaster is a New York Times bestselling author who has sold well over a million books. From Bitter Is the New Black to The Tao of Martha, Jen has made a career out of documenting her attempts to shape up, grow up, and have it all - sometimes with disastrous results. Her NYT bestselling novel Here I Go Again received three starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly). Her memoir I Regret Nothing was named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and she's regularly a finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. She loves bad TV, terrible wine, and will die before she gives up her Oxford comma.

Jen can often be seen on The Today Show, as well as CBS This Morning, Fox News, NPR All Things Considered, among others. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and her many ill-behaved dogs and cats. 

Hear the stories behind Jen's books on The Stories We'd Tell in Bars podcast, available on iTunes, Podbean, Spreaker, GooglePlay, and iHeartRadio, among other entities. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Jen online:

Synopsis:
When did USA become shorthand for the United States of Anxiety? From the moment Americans wake up, we’re bombarded with all-new terrifying news about crime, the environment, politics, and stroke-inducing foods we’ve been enjoying for years. We’re judged by social media’s faceless masses, pressured into maintaining a Pinterest-perfect home, and expected to base our self-worth on retweets, faves, likes, and followers. Our collective FOMO, and the disparity between the ideal and reality, is leading us to spend more and feel worse. No wonder we’re getting twitchy. Save for an Independence Day–style alien invasion, how do we begin to escape from the stressors that make up our days?

Jen Lancaster is here to take a hard look at our elevating anxieties, and with self-deprecating wit and levelheaded wisdom, she charts a path out of the quagmire that keeps us frightened of the future and ashamed of our imperfectly perfect human lives. Take a deep breath, and her advice, and you just might get through a holiday dinner without wanting to disown your uncle.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
My favorite compliment is when readers tell me that I write what they're thinking. I love creating the feeling of connection, that we're not alone in how we view our worlds. Given how isolated so many of us are now, that's more important than ever. 

I particularly love when readers tell me they've taken advice that I've given (or, let's be honest, mistakes I've made), finding ways to improve their lives. I've heard from people over the years who've lost weight or traveled solo or simply started self-advocating. Being an agent for positive change is gratifying.

It's important to note that most authors will tell you not to go searching for compliments, and that particularly applies to googling yourself. The comments section is the devil's playground. If Shakespeare were alive today, I guarantee someone's one-star Amazon review would have him curled in a closet, drinking tequila straight from the bottle.

What is something you learned from writing your previous memoirs that you applied to Welcome to the United States of Anxiety?
Having written so many memoirs, especially without tangible achievements like creating the electric car or sending a rocket to Mars, I learned that I despise writing about myself. I can't imagine anything more myopic than continuing to prattle on about me, me, me without these stories serving some greater purpose. Publishing a book right now about my getting day-drunk in a pool would be tone-deaf. While I can't say I'll never write another memoir, 2020 is not that time.

I loved writing Welcome to the United States of Anxiety because it felt like I was genuinely helping. Our world is a scary place, so shedding light on what shouldn't frighten us felt like the right thing to do. While I did share some personal experience in this book, it's not about me so much as the collective we. I took a deep dive into information, creating fact-based calls to action that will help readers deal with their stressors. We're up against algorithms programmed to determine our hot buttons and force misinformation our way, so of course we're more anxious than ever. My intent was to help lessen that for readers. (Yet I never lost sight of the fact that sometimes getting day-drunk in a pool is the best way to do so.)

If there were a soundtrack to go along with Welcome, what are some songs that would be on it?
The ideal soundtrack for this book would be my favorite summer soundtrack--a smooth and easy blend of yacht rock, especially as I make so many references to the late '70s and early '80s. 

Those decades seemed like simpler times, but if you listen to some of the music, there was a lot of darkness. Take Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues," for example. The song is a mellow groove... about having a midlife crisis in the middle of suburbia. In it, Donald Fagen fantasizes about drinking scotch whiskey all night long and dying behind the wheel. Or how about Benny Mardones's "Into the Night," a tune in which a grown man just can't leave a sixteen year old girl alone. Pal, you should have been in jail, not on the Billboard chart. This music is a fine reminder that sometimes the past seems rosier than it actually was. 

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
If you'd like to escape all things 2020, thank you very much, I can't recommend Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone enough. This novel is a fascinating look at homesteading the Alaskan wilderness, perfect for fans of Educated and The Glass Castle. My only caveat is to read this while it's still sunny and warm, as her breathtaking descriptions of the Alaskan winter chilled me down to my very soul.

What is the funniest thing you've heard someone say recently?
Hmm. I've left the house maybe ten times since March, so I've not had much of a chance to eavesdrop or interact. Instead I'll share the funniest thing that's happened to me. I've had a weekly virtual game night with my best friends for the past six months. A few weeks ago, a sinus infection sidelined me and I didn't feel like drinking wine and screaming into a Zoom screen for three hours. I sat out that night.

To make me feel better, my friends decided to send me care packages. Instead of soup or flowers, they went a different route. For almost two weeks, a different bachelorette-party item arrived at my house daily, with each card signed by "the Dick Fairy". My friends know I'm how uptight I am, so they delighted in embarrassing me. I received pornographic chocolates, cookies, stress balls, and coloring books. They #metoo'd me every time I opened the mail, much to their delight.

One friend sent an exploding cannon of dick-shaped glitter. After I'd opened it, I saw that the shipper had mixed up the notes. Mine read, Congrats on your new apartment, Georgie! I hope you enjoy this dick confetti, from Kelsey. The note I was supposed to receive read, From the Dick Fairy. So this poor kid who was likely so excited to move into her first apartment by herself probably thinks she has a weird stalker because my friends are funny.

Related note: I'm never sitting out of game night again.

What is a guilty pleasure for you?
My biggest guilty pleasure right now is Zapruder-ing certain Bravo shows. It's no longer enough for me to watch; now I am compelled to listen to every podcast recap, and there are... a lot of them. I particularly love the "Watch What Crappens" guys as they reenact the episodes with pitch-perfect imitations of housewives' and crew members' dialogue. It's my happy place!

Thanks to Jen for chatting with us and to Amazon Publishing 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 October 6th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Make room for Sariah Wilson...plus a book giveaway

We are pleased to welcome Sariah Wilson to CLC today. Her latest novel, Roommaid, publishes tomorrow. The cover is so enticing and the story sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks to Kaye Publicity, we have one copy to give away!

Sariah will be celebrating the launch of Roommaid with a virtual launch party on Thursday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time (8:00pm Eastern, 7:00pm Central, 5:00pm Pacific). She'll be in conversation with fellow romance author Teri Wilson. The online party is free and open to the public and attendees can register here.

Sariah Wilson's passionate belief in true love and happily-ever-afters has also inspired several bestselling romance series, including End of the Line (THE FRIEND ZONE, JUST A BOYFRIEND); Lovestruck (#STARSTRUCK, #MOONSTRUCK, #AWESTRUCK); Ugly Stepsisters (THE UGLY STEPSISTER STRIKES BACK; PROMPOSAL), Royals of Monterra (ROYAL DATE, ROYAL CHASE, ROYAL GAMES, ROYAL DESIGN), and many standalone novels. 

Visit Sariah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
Madison Huntington is determined to live her dreams. That means getting out from under her family’s wealth and influence by saying no to the family business, her allowance, and her home. But on a teacher’s salary, the real world comes as a rude awakening—especially when she wakes up every morning on a colleague’s couch. To get a place of her own (without cockroaches, mold, or crime scene tape), Madison accepts a position as a roommaid. In exchange for free room and board, all she needs to do is keep her busy roommate’s penthouse clean and his dog company. So what if she’s never washed a dish in her life. She can figure this out, right?

Madison is pretty confident she can fake it well enough that Tyler Roth will never know the difference. The finance whiz is rich and privileged and navigates the same social circles as her parents—but to him she’s just a teacher in need of an apartment. He’s everything Madison has run from, but his kindhearted nature, stomach-fluttering smile, and unexpected insecurities only make her want to get closer. And Tyler is warming to the move.

Rewarding job. Perfect guy. Great future. With everything so right, what could go wrong? Madison is about to find out. (
Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
There are so many compliments authors love, but I think my favorite ever was from a woman who had just lost her mother and she thanked me for writing a book that let her forget everything and eased her pain for a few hours. That’s always my hope—to write a fun, escapist book that makes all the crazy things happening around us a little easier to deal with. 
 
How are you similar to or different from Madison?
I’m very bad at crafts, just like Madison. I also have a thing for tall blue-eyed guys who are tech geniuses (like my husband). There was a time in my life that I considered becoming a teacher, but I’m not sure I would have had the patience, like she does. I’ve also had to deal with controlling, wealthy people in my life, and my reaction to them was very similar to hers. 
 
If Roommaid were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This question is so hard for me and I don’t know why. Other authors choose actors or models before they even begin writing, but not me! And I love movies so much that the idea I might choose badly usually keeps me from settling on anyone specific. But if I have to give an answer, I’m going to choose Chris Evans as Tyler and Candice King as Madison (but like, slightly younger versions of them).
 
What is your least favorite household chore?
Can I choose all of the above? I’m not kidding. I HATE cleaning with a fiery passion of a thousand suns going supernova. I never make my bed. Laundry piles up. My personal workspace is a total disaster with papers and articles and books. I only ever clean if 1) we’re approaching a Board of Health violation or 2) somebody is coming over (so please tell me if you’re stopping by. It’s best for both of us).
 
What is your guilty pleasure TV series?
Siesta Key. I don’t know why I like this series so much or why I watch it but I still tune in for every episode and wish that I had someone in real life that I could talk to about it! I’m also a big “Bachelor in Paradise” fan – to the point that I’ve met my favorites Ashley Iaconetti-Haibon and Jared Haibon in real life and we’re friendly. (I have her phone number and we occasionally text. Which is the coolest thing ever.)
 
What is something you've learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I’m a huge introvert and I’ve always joked that I could easily go into solitary confinement in prison as long as I had some books and pen and paper. The pandemic has proved this to be true. My poor extrovert husband has been champing at the bit to get outside the house and I’m totally fine. I could happily stay in my very messy home forever and never see the rest of the world again. I also learned that I could never, ever homeschool my kids. Boy, am I bad at it. Looks like I made the right choice in not becoming a teacher! 

Thanks to Sariah for visiting with us and to Kaye Publicity 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 October 5th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Holiday Detour

Even though it's almost October, we're starting to get into a holiday mood. Today, we're kicking that off with The Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven. Thanks to Bold Strokes Books, we have one e-book to give away!

Sometimes it takes everything going wrong to make you see how right things are.

Dana Gottfried is a stressed-out Jewish lesbian who’s just quit her job and wants to get home to see her grandmother. When her car breaks down in Indiana on Christmas Eve, Dana is stranded—until she’s rescued by Charlie, a pig farmer who doesn’t identify as male or female. Although they come from different worlds, Dana is intrigued by Charlie’s sense of humor and kindness. Despite her better judgment, Dana says yes when Charlie offers a ride.

But the journey home is paved with detours. From car accidents to scheming ex-girlfriends to a snowy and deserted Chicago Loop, everything that could go wrong on their road trip does, but it leads Dana on a path of self-discovery that just might end in love.

Jane Kolven is an author of contemporary, fun LGBTQ romances. She is proud to create stories that show a variety of LGBTQ people finding happiness—because everyone deserves love. Jane currently lives in Michigan with her wife and their pets.


Visit Jane online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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 October 4th at midnight EST.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Book Review: The Choice

By Sara Steven

Olivia Pritchard lives in constant fear since Mother Mason came into power. Everything from healthy eating to exercise is controlled by the government, all in the name of health and happiness. Olivia hates being dictated to, but to protect her family she must follow the rules or face a stay in the Shame Box - a perspex box, placed in a public place for everyone to judge.

After Olivia witnesses an innocent woman being violently arrested, she is no longer able to ignore the injustice. The underground rebellion 'Cut The Apron Strings' is gaining momentum and for the first time in years Olivia has a choice: keep her head down or join the fray…
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

For those who are fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this dystopian thriller needs to be the next book on your to be read pile! It was absolutely chilling, the thought of having anyone control the way I choose to live my life by way of food, exercise, the high and hard to reach expectations that are placed on every single person and family unit under Mother Mason’s jurisdiction. Olivia can remember a time before all of the strict guidelines, when she owned a bakery and could bake desserts to her heart’s content. In this new world, bakeries are banned, and sugar is the devil.

In this world, people are pitted against each other, encouraged to spot out any potential illegal wrongdoing, and often this ends in the Shame Box. Yet there are many other ways to dole out punishment, and much of what I read had been nothing short of scary. Children taken from their homes, adults sent to macabre prisons, the type that focus on the very things the Mother Mason establishment warns against. Olivia feels there is no winning, no matter what she chooses to do, and it makes for a very trying and difficult life.

The Choice goes so much deeper than what the storyline entails. In our society, we hear so much about the dangers of eating unhealthily, of not exercising, in not making healthy choices. Olivia’s experiences takes all of that and asks, “At what cost?” How far do we go in order to create a “better” world? And, in doing so, is it really any better? Should we take away someone’s personal choice in how they want to live their lives, even if it means they might not live in a manner of wellness, or should everyone have that say? In this story, it’s so far one way or the other, there is no balance, so similar in representing how hard it is for those of us in the “real world” to find that balance.

I felt intrigued and hooked from the very first chapter, wanting to know what would happen next for Olivia, her family, her friends. At times challenging, and at others inspiring, it was hard not to put myself in her shoes and wonder how I would react or deal with a similar situation, if I could suck it up if it meant keeping my family safe, or if I would go against the grain in order to change up the status quo. It made me appreciate the bowl of ice cream I had last night, all the more. A well deserved, five-star read from me!

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway: Anxious People

By Melissa Amster

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove comes a charming, poignant novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

It has been a while since I last read a Fredrik Backman novel. For some reason, Bear Town and Us Against You didn't capture my interest. However, after reading Anxious People, I'm leaning toward checking out some of his books that I missed!

Overall, this was a great novel. There were parts that I didn't see coming at all and I was pleasantly surprised. I liked all of the characters and the way they interacted, as well as how their stories unfolded throughout the novel. It was so clever how everything was threaded together. One of the situations reminded me of something a close friend is going through and I hope things will happen for them the way they happened in this novel. 

The only thing that didn't work for me was that some phrases translated strangely and it was hard to make sense of what was being said. It didn't detract from my enjoyment, but I had to re-read some sentences more than once. 

I definitely recommend this novel for a cozy fall read!

Movie casting suggestions (even though this story takes place in Sweden, they've moved other stories to America, so I chose accordingly...and it was still a challenge, so bear with me!):
Jack: David Corenswet
Jim: Brendan Gleeson
Julia: Stefanie Martini
Ro: Hannah John-Kamen
Anna-Lena: Joanna Cassidy
Roger: Craig T. Nelson
Estelle: Rosemary Harris
Lennart: Scott Bakula
Zara: Elizabeth Perkins

Thanks to Atria for the book in exchange for an honest review...and for sharing a copy with a lucky reader!

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



Giveaway ends September 29th at midnight EST.

More by Fredrik Backman:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Spotlight: She Gets That From Me

Quinn never expected that her best friend’s courageous decision to be a single mother by choice would end up transforming her own life in this poignant novel from USA Today bestselling author Robin Wells.

When Quinn Langston’s best friend unexpectedly passes away, Quinn embraces Brooke’s three-year-old daughter Lily and elderly grandmother Margaret as the family she’s always wanted.  She’ll do whatever it takes to help them heal, but she didn’t anticipate Lily’s biological father would be part of the plan. Margaret is old-fashioned, though, and she has no compunction about finding a way to reach Lily’s dad, a sperm donor. After all, he's a blood relative, and she believes family should raise family.

Zack Bradley doesn't know what to expect when he finds out he has a child. Sperm donors don't usually get to meet their...well, he's not sure what to call Lily yet, but he’s certain he wants to get to know her. There’s just one of problem: he’s about to move to Seattle with his wife, Jessica, who’s undergone multiple infertility treatments, desperately wants a family of her own and can’t stand the idea of Zack playing daddy to another woman’s child.

Together, they’ll all learn that the human heart is infinitely expandable and there are many different roads to family.

Purchase She Gets That From Me here.

Photo by Arden Wells
Robin Wells was an advertising and public relations executive before becoming a  full-time writer. She always dreamed of writing novels--a dream inspired by a  grandmother who told "hot tales" and parents who were both librarians. Her  books have won the RWA Golden Heart, two National Readers' Choice Awards,  the HOLT Medallion, and numerous other awards. She now lives in Texas with  her husband, but will always be a Louisiana girl at heart.


Visit Robin online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Bunco - A Comedy About The Drama of Friendship

Bunco: A Comedy About The Drama of Friendship is a new book by Robin Delnoce. It is recommended for fans of Bridesmaids, Desperate Housewives, and Bad Moms. Thanks to Book Publicity Services, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

We all have “those” friends.  Maybe you’ve known them since childhood, or met in college, or while waiting for a child’s practice to end. Maybe you found yourself living on the same street. There’s no single path to friendship. Relationships don’t follow a script and neither do the lives of smart, funny, complicated suburban women.

Jill, Anne, Mary, and Rachel met years ago through a neighborhood group that regularly got together to play a dice game called bunco. Although players have come and gone, they continue to use bunco as an excuse to abandon their day-to-day responsibilities and enjoy food, drinks, and the company of their best friends. 

When new neighbors move in under the cover of night, the foursome sees an opportunity to expand their bunco circle. But within hours, suspicions run rampant as the odd behaviors of the newest residents are interpreted differently. Are they quirky, or kinky? Diabolical, or misunderstood? Time after time, as the truth sheds light on some secrets, more emerge. Each woman finds herself shocked by the friends she thought she knew.

Through the friendly banter, intimate confessions, and tongue-twisting insults, you may see yourself or your friends in these characters. Wipe away tears of laughter and loss as you join the four metaphorical rounds of bunco, and feel part of the conversation. Whether engaging in playful exploits, providing unconditional support, making uncomfortable sacrifices, or winding up in handcuffs again, these ladies are those rarest of friends who become true family. Of course, families don’t follow a script either, unless it is a plot-twisting, slightly off-color comedy about the drama of friendship. And bunco, sort of.

Robin Delnoce has the kind of sense of humor that would crush any political aspirations. Her off-color humor amuses most but offends a few, and she has been known to issue a post-party apology or two. After twenty years of being caught in her verbal crosshairs, her husband kindly suggested she shift her energies to a more constructive outlet.

Visit Robin online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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 28th at midnight EST.