Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: Totlandia (The Twosies, Book 5: Fall) a special giveaway

By Melissa Amster

I have been a fan of Josie Brown's Totlandia series for the past year or two, so I was excited to start a new chapter in the lives of Lorna, Ally, Jade, and Jillian with the Twosies, picking up where the Onesies left off. (Please note that there are spoilers for the Onesies, but you'll have a chance to win those books if you scroll down.)

When Bettina Cross is faced with having to share the leadership of her beloved Pacific Heights Moms and Tots Club with her sister-in-law, Lorna Connaught, she plays dirty—only to discover that her actions have aligned her two true enemies: Kimberley Savitch, and Kelly Overton.

Bettina’s problems are compounded when Daniel Warwick, a Department of Justice prosecutor, wants to use her as bait to trap her soon-to-be ex, Art, into coming home and answering to long list of fraud charges. The fact that Art has scammed most of San Francisco’s wealthiest families has Bettina fighting desperately to preserve her most priceless possession: her social standing.

When Brady lines up venture capital funding for Life of Pie, Ally must tamp down his gung-ho power ranger tendencies, while at the same time shore up Jillian’s insecurities that her pies won’t live up to Brady’s promises.

And now that the once homeless Reggie is teaching the complete works of Shakespeare to UC Berkeley undergrads, Jade struggles with her fear that she’s competing for his affections with his younger, more beautiful students.

Finally, an unexpected tragedy puts Jillian in the middle of her ex's life again—with consequences that will affect her future and those of her twins—forever.

The leaves are falling, and there’s a bitter chill in the air—but Mother Nature has nothing to do with it. Blame it on human nature—in this case, Pacific Heights parents behaving badly.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Since the last time I read a Totlandia book, I started watching Jane the Virgin. While reading Book Five, I was reminded of this much-loved TV series. Both have lots of scandals and secrets, people you can't trust, romantic entanglements, backstabbing, sex, and humor. I could easily see the narrator of Jane the Virgin having a field day with Totlandia.

It was interesting to see Bettina taken down a few pegs. I felt sorry for her sometimes and thought of Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter, where the stuck-up character becomes the likable one after a set of circumstances occur beyond her control. Even so, Bettina has a ways to go, as she's still materialistic and snobby. It was nice to see her vulnerable side though.

I was also glad to see that an aspect of Book Four was toned down in Book Five. It was still prevalent, but more talk than action, which I appreciated this time around.

Book Five has even more scandal and betrayal, along with some new and exciting twists. There was only one part that was predictable and that was something minor and funny, which goes to show that Josie will pull out a lot of game changers when we least expect them. I am already eager to read Book Six!

A while ago, I asked Josie to cast some of the lead characters in the Totlandia series. While I agree with Jennifer Garner as Bettina, I could also see Laura Ramsey from Hindsight in this role. I have some other ideas up my sleeve, as well.

Ally: Monica Potter (after watching Parenthood for a while, this was an easy choice.)
Kimberley: Bridget Regan (She plays Rose on Jane the Virgin.)
Jillian: Ellie Kemper (Kimmy Schmidt)
Jade: Brooklyn Decker
Brady: Reid Scott 
Lorna: Jenna Fischer or Lake Bell

Thanks to Josie Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has an e-book set of the Onesies (Books 1-4) for a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

See my reviews for the Onesies:
Book 1: Fall
Book 2: Winter
Book 3: Spring
Book 4: Summer

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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Open worldwide. Giveaway ends December 1st at midnight EST.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Going bananas for Kristina a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kristina McMorris back at CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Edge of Lost. She has one signed copy for a lucky US reader!

Kristina McMorris is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author published by Kensington Books, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins. Her novels have garnered more than twenty national literary awards, as well as a nomination for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA's RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction.

Since her debut, Letters from Home, released in 2011, Kristina's published works have expanded to include the novels Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The Pieces We Keep, as well as her current novel, in addition to her novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Rights to her books have been sold to numerous foreign publishers, Readers Digest, Doubleday, the Literary Guild, and more.

Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon, where she is still sleep deprived but eagerly working on her next novel. You can find her at her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Synopsis of The Edge of Lost:
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard's only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive. (Courtesy of Kristina's website.)

Visiting an escapee cell at Alcatraz for research.

Favorite holiday for dessert/candy and favorite dessert/candy from that holiday: 
 Every year for Thanksgiving, I love making Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie, a delicious recipe passed down from my grandmother.

Favorite book involving dessert/candy?
The Giving Tree (Apples count as a dessert, don't they?)

Favorite dessert to have at a restaurant: 

Favorite cheesecake flavor:
Salted Caramel

Dark, white, or milk chocolate?
Dark (preferably with almonds)

If you could invent a new dessert, what are three must-have ingredients and what would it be called? 
A pie layered with both chocolate cream and banana cream atop a graham cracker crust, making it.... a Choco-nana Cream Pie!

Thanks to Kristina for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here. Also enter Book Mama Blog's giveaway, which includes an extra special prize.

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US only. Giveaway ends November 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Pretending to Dance

By Jami Deise

As the typical American family changes from a man married to a woman with two point three children to unique groupings of one or more adults of any gender and children acquired in a variety of ways, the women’s fiction genre has mirrored this evolution. By, for, and about women, this category prizes relationships above all else, and delivers strong, thoughtful female protagonists who place the people they love front and center. It’s also one of the most contemporary types of fiction, as writers deliver stories that address modern relationship quandaries. While author Diane Chamberlain’s latest offering, Pretending to Dance, takes place primarily in the mid-1990s, it deals with issues that feel very specific to what’s going on in today’s families.

After a tragic miscarriage that resulted in a hysterectomy, lawyer Molly Arnett and her husband, Aidan, are trying to adopt a baby. But the current custom of open adoption leaves Molly cold. She struggles to write the introductory letter to would-be adoptive mothers and can’t decide which pictures to include in a scrapbook. When Aidan asks about her reluctance, she lies. After all, Molly has been lying throughout her entire marriage. Because what would Aidan think if she knew her mother had killed her father? And that she grew up in a “family compound,” with her birth mother living next door to her adoptive mother, who was married to her biological dad?

Most of the book takes place the summer when Molly is 14. Her father is paralyzed with MS, and Molly helps him write his book on “pretend therapy.” Graham is a therapist who tells his patients to deal with their fears by pretending they don’t have them. Molly is a naïve, unquestioning teenager till she becomes fast friends with Stacy, who shoplifts, dates a 17-year-old boy, and smokes pot. Stacy encourages Molly to follow in her footsteps, all the while questioning the make-up of Molly’s family. Doesn’t Molly’s mother Nora think it’s weird that Graham is so close to Molly’s birth mother, Amalia? As this storyline develops, in the present Molly and Aidan have been contacted by a pregnant teenager who is considering them among other couples to raise her baby. But Aidan is afraid that Molly’s reticence might ruin their chances.

Pretending to Dance is a wonderfully character-driven book, with careful descriptions of Molly’s life and family members in the mountains of North Carolina. When the writer first dropped the “my mother killed my father” bombshell, I had expected a love triangle and a bloody murder. But when the book goes back to 1995 and introduces Molly’s sick father, it’s pretty obvious that his death will be tied to his disease. What results is a book that isn’t as plot-driven as a reader might expect from the back cover blurb, but an intimate character portrayal of a teenage girl just beginning to push her limits. Why is it so easy for Molly, a good girl raised by a strong, loving family, to break rules with Stacy? As both time lines are written in first person, the writer doesn’t really deliver an answer to this question, but it’s the most intriguing one of the book.

The writing is engrossing, strong and confident. What I admired most about it was that Chamberlain was able to communicate so much more about Molly’s world than what Molly was able to convey. Molly is unaware of the enormous emotional pain her father is in, but it’s clear to the reader. She’s oblivious to the danger Stacy puts her in – and later, her own 17-year-old boyfriend – but the tea leaves are there. The reader is able to observe Molly’s life while living it with her, which is a fully engaging experience.

Because of this duality, I was much more intrigued by Molly’s 14-year-old life than by her adult conflicts. That might be because of the point where Chamberlain decided to end the 1995 storyline. There were events she summed up, rather than showing, that were hugely important to the adult Molly became. It could be that this scene work would have led to a book twice as long, so it’s understandable that the writer decided not to include them. Still, it felt like something was missing in order to fully understand the adult Molly. The ending, as well, feels a little rushed and pat. However, these are minor quibbles that only slightly dampened my enjoyment of the book.

Molly’s world in the North Carolina mountains is absorbing, and the characters are unique and specific. Pretending to Dance will have strong appeal to women’s fiction readers. And lovers of 1990s boy bands should definitely add this book to their TBR piles.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their 2015 Fall Reading Challenge.

Check out the prequel, The Dance Begins, for 99 cents on Kindle.

More by Diane Chamberlain:

Friday, November 20, 2015

What's in the a giveaway


Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann from Penguin Random House


Heart Conditions by/from Phoebe Fox

Written on My Heart by Morgan Callan Rogers from Blue Rider Press (e-book)


Bella's Christmas Bake-Off by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book)

What could be in YOUR mail:

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Book-smart Melissa Fletcher lives a predictable life in her hometown, working behind the scenes for her charismatic father in a financial career that makes perfect sense. But when her dad is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Missy is forced to step up and take over as his primary caregiver and the principal of the firm.

After her father’s death, Missy finds a letter from him in which he praises her for being a dutiful daughter but admonishes her for not taking any risks in life.

Devastated, Missy packs her suitcase and heads for Italy. There she meets a new friend who proposes a radical idea. Soon, Missy finds herself in impoverished India, signing away her inheritance and betting on a risky plan while rekindling a lost love.

The Light of Hidden Flowers is a deeply felt story of accepting who we are while pushing our boundaries to see how much more we can become. It’s a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue our dreams. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

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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US only. Giveaway ends November 24th at midnight EST.

Book Review: A Proper Family Christmas

By Becky Gulc

‘Take one Queen Bee: Annabel Buchanan, with a perfect house in the country, a rich husband and a beautiful daughter, Izzy . . .

. . . and one large, loud family: the Bensons.

What happens when their worlds collide?

When Izzy suddenly falls dangerously ill, adoptee Annabel has to track down her biological family to see if they can help her daughter. But can she see past the Bensons' brash exteriors to the warm, loving people they are at heart?

With December just around the corner, is it too much to hope that the Bensons and the Buchanans can have a proper family Christmas?’ (Synopsis courtesy of

OK, bear with me, I know it’s not quite December yet, but please don’t let the mention of Christmas put you off. This is a book that was released in the run up to Christmas, has Christmas in the title but to be honest there’s very little of Christmas actually in it (and dare I say if I’d bought this expecting it to have a real Christmassy feel, I’d probably be a bit disappointed). So there’s no reason not to pick this book up on a cold winter’s night. Here is why I enjoyed A Proper Family Christmas:

When I read the synopsis I wondered if I was going to take to any of the characters, expecting the Buchanans to be aloof and the Bensons to be a bit, well, common. In actual fact I really liked the characters and they were all very relatable and they weren’t quite as extreme polar opposites as we might first believe, first impressions can be deceptive after all.

Annabel may seem to have everything on paper, but when her daughter Izzy falls ill this is a situation where money cannot help. The only thing that may help is finding her birth family--you guessed it--the Bensons. The multiple narratives definitely helped me as a reader to emphasise with both families and the difficulties faced by each one.

The best thing about this book for me was the younger characters, Izzy and Sophie, cousins who clash but develop such a touching bond, I loved the scenes with these two. I also loved Jack who is the Benson’s youngest child, such a character, and a thoughtful inquisitive one, this character’s actions had me crying at one point.

The subjects of adoption and Izzy’s need for a transplant were both covered very sensitively and with the different viewpoints presented we got to see how different people feel and react to situations. It definitely makes you think about how you’d feel, and how you’d act if that situation presented itself in your life. I liked how the book didn’t go down the route I thought it would near the end too, it felt real and it was quite emotional. I must say though despite the sensitive subjects it doesn’t feel like a heavy or serious book, there are some very funny moments in the book, especially Grandpa Bill’s scenes.

If you’re a fan of Chrissie’s work and have read A Proper Family Holiday, you’ll know doubt enjoy meeting the Benson characters again. I haven’t read that book yet but enjoyed this one and would recommend it.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton  for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Chrissie Manby:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stacey Wiedower's movie a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Stacey Wiedower back at CLC today, this time to feature her sophomore novel, Now a Major Motion Picture. She was here in January to talk about her favorite things. Now she's talking about desserts and candy with us. She also has an e-book of Now a Major Motion Picture to share with a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

Visit Stacey at her websiteFacebook, and Twitter. 

Synopsis of Now a Major Motion Picture:
Eight years after her fiancé’s betrayal rips her world apart, Amelia Wright is at the pinnacle of career success. Using heartbreak as her muse, she’s authored Shattered, a best-selling dystopian series that’s headed for the big screen. Though she writes under a pen name, she’s secretly scared Noah Bradley, her ex-fiancé, will recognize himself in her work, and, worse yet, realize she's never moved on.

But in a world of Instagram and iPhones, Amelia quickly learns it isn’t easy to hide in plain sight—especially after a paparazzo steals a shot of Amelia in a steamy encounter with the star of her upcoming movie. At the height of the tabloid frenzy, Amelia uncovers a secret about Noah’s betrayal and finds herself faced with a choice. Will she move forward with her new life of Louboutins, limos, and bullying paparazzi, or succumb to the pull of a past she thought she’d finally written off? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Favorite ice cream flavor: Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey

Favorite sweet drink:
Hot chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream, topped with whipped cream

Favorite movie involving dessert or candy:
Serendipity ... it has scenes in the NY restaurant Serendipity 3. Plus it's a great love story!

Favorite kind of muffin:
Classic blueberry

Favorite dessert that someone else bakes for you:
My mom's Congress tarts. They're basically little English tarts filled with jam and topped with cake.

Favorite pairing of salty and sweet:
The "Garrett Mix" popcorn from Garrett Popcorn Shops in Chicago. It's a combo of cheese popcorn and caramel corn, and when you get it hot straight from the store ... holy wow, it's heaven.

Thanks to Stacey for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Open worldwide. Giveaway ends November 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The Sweet Life

Earlier this year, Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker did a review of Lauren Clark's novel Pie Girls. Who knew that Jen was a Pie Girl herself?!? (Anyone...anyone....?) She's here today to talk about sweets and share a special recipe with all of us.

We now leave you in Jen's capable hands, so get your aprons on and start your ovens!
The REAL Pie Girl!

I want to let you in on a little secret. I love desserts. No, really. The kind of love that would make a grade school playground bully ask me if I wanted to marry them. My answer would be a resounding “Yes! Yes, I want to marry chocolate cake along with its sibling, vanilla cake drenched in buttercream frosting, least we forget their cousin, cupcakes!” I could go on and on…

When dining out, I’m the girl who flips to the back of the menu first. I need to know my dessert choices so I can plan my meal accordingly. A warm slice of apple pie will require more tummy room than chocolate mousse. One choice requires me to stick with a salad while the other allows me to dive head first into a petite filet and mashed potatoes yet still have plenty of room for something sweet after. As you can see, it’s all about priorities.

My dad has taught me many important life truths: to be kind to others, always do my best no matter the task before me, and that ice cream always fills in the cracks. If you nosh on an overkill plate of spaghetti and meatballs, after you’ve filled up on bread sticks, never fear! There’s still room for dessert because ice cream is here! It fills in the nooks and crannies in your belly. I’m sure this hypothesis is true because my dad is an engineer and it sounds super science-y, right?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be nice if I shared a dessert recipe with you. I’m in charge of desserts at our family gatherings. I’m not sure if that’s because the consensus is I rock at creating confectionary treats, or if they think I would flunk turkey stuffing.

But I digress…

Apple pie is my husband’s favorite. He’s a pretty tough cookie (See what I did there? Desserts? Cookies?) when it comes to apple pie. I’d dare say his palate for baked apples reaches snobbish levels. For you, my dear CLC-ers, here’s my apple pie recipe. It’s a hodgepodge of different recipes I’ve tried over the years, taking a little of this and a whole lot of that to make, what Mike deems, the best apple pie, of all apple pies, that were ever apple pies.

Crumble Top Apple Pie

1 Refrigerated pie crust (follow package instructions to thaw)

4 cups tart apples, peeled, cut into small chunks (I prefer Granny Smith)
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup cold butter

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out pastry to fit a 9-inch pie plate.
  • Place pastry into pie plate.
  • Trim pastry to 1/2 inches beyond edge of plate then flute, or pinch, edges. Poke the bottom of the crust in several places with a fork.
  • Combine apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Pour onto crust.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together flour and sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.
  • Bake 50-60 minutes or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 8 servings.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.