Thursday, June 21, 2018

Maddie Dawson's novel is the perfect match for us...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Maddie Dawson back at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, Matchmaking for Beginners. It sounds like a fun story and we love the cover! TLC Book Tours has one copy for a lucky reader!

Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal

Visit Maddie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.


And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.


What is the inspiration behind Matchmaking for Beginners?
This is my seventh novel, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t really pinpoint how or when the inspiration for a new book first flies into my head! It’s like suddenly I wake up knowing a teeny tiny detail—perhaps a character’s name and two tidbits about her situation—and then the rest sort of unfolds over time. I ask her to tell me the story, and she does--haltingly, at first, and then with more certainty as we get to know each other.

In the case of Matchmaking for Beginners, the first thing I knew was that there would an older woman who was a matchmaker and who had a bit of a magic—a wise person who wasn’t afraid of taking risks and manipulating things to her liking. Her name was Blix, and she sailed into my head like she belonged there. She was delightful company, always urging me to be brave and to tell the story the way I wanted it told. And then Marnie showed up, somebody wanting to NOT be brave, to simply be ordinary, except that her life was turning out to be anything but ordinary. Once those two were onstage, I was just along for the ride. They dictated the story whenever they felt like it. (Often when I was in a sound sleep they woke me up so I could get up and type for them—I know! Very selfish of them, but they knew they were in charge.) Gradually the novel came into being, and it became a novel about I magic, and love, and trusting that the life you’re meant for is right there for you when you open your eyes to it.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone wanting to become an author?
This is going to sound like silly, obvious advice, but you’d be surprised how many would-be authors don’t follow it. If you want to become an author, you have to write. A LOT. As in, every day. Write badly. Write gloriously badly! Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. Write on the backs of envelopes, in notebooks, when you have fifteen minutes to wait for somebody. Write when you wake up, and before you go to sleep. Don’t get upset when it doesn’t sound like you want it to. It won’t for such a long time. You’d be shocked to hear how many drafts actual published and successful authors go through before the words sound like they just tumbled out onto the page in perfect order. Take risks. Try out new ways of expressing yourself. Let the crazy come into your writing. Take things out that don’t work. Try it all again. Learn to stay in your chair. That’s the hardest part: staying with it when it doesn’t feel like it’s coming along. Oh, and also read! But only read what you love. Your brain will thank you and the good words you’re reading will imprint there and through some kind of magic, will affect your own brain waves and the way you think about your work.

If you could cast Matchmaking for Beginners as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
This question! WOW. It’s so much fun to think about, and yet I am so bad at playing the casting game. So I asked a bunch of people…and the general consensus was that Lily Tomlin would be a fascinating Blix…and perhaps Shailene Woodley for Marnie. Maybe Channing Tatum for Patrick. Chris Hemsworth for Noah.

What is something you are looking forward to this summer?
Every year our extended family goes to Cape Cod for a week. All of us pile into one house, and we cook lobsters and eat raw oysters (I know, not really wise, but we HAVE TO), and we go to the beach and boogie-board in the stunningly cold water, swim in the pond, eat ice cream every night, take bike rides, play mini-golf. We’ve been doing this for nearly thirty years now, and each year it seems we find more fun there. The best part for me is the early morning walk on the beach with my husband when everyone else is sleeping.

If you could take us on a tour of your town, where would we go first?
The Town Green! I’m a New England transplant, so I’m charmed by the town squares (called “greens”) here in Connecticut, which are gorgeous parks. In my town, Guilford, the green is surrounded by shops, little restaurants, benches, coffee places, bookstores, art galleries, the library…you name it. I go walking there every morning and buy a peach iced tea from the coffee shop, stop in at the library to say hi to my friends the librarians, and then walk down to the town dock, where there are people kayaking and sailing and eating clams and lobsters at the Lobster Pound. It’s a wonderful little town to live in!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Seriously? Just one? Okay, let’s see. The last book I read that made me laugh out loud was Husbands and Other Sharp Objects by Marilyn Simon Rothstein. Such a delight! But can I also mention a book that took me on a wild ride of twists and turns? The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie. But there are also so many others I’d love to mention…books I go back to again and again for inspiration.

Thanks to Maddie for chatting with us and to TLC Book Tours for sharing her book with our readers. Check out the other stops on Maddie's tour.

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 June 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Spotlight: Rainy Day Friends

Following the USA Today bestseller, Lost and Found Sisters, comes Rainy Day Friends, Jill Shalvis’ moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship.

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person? Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan. Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Green changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

Buy Rainy Day Friends here:
Amazon * IndieBound * Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million * iBooks * GooglePlay

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram
Pinterest * Tumblr * Goodreads


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Camille Perri is pleased to meet you...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Camille Perri back at CLC to celebrate the publication of her sophomore novel, When Katie Met Cassidy. Prior to Camille's first visit to CLC, Melissa A got to meet her in person and can attest to how warm and friendly she is. Melissa also enjoyed her debut, The Assistants, and is excited to read this new one (and cast it...see below). Putnam is sharing THREE copies of Camille's latest novel with some lucky readers!

Camille Perri has worked as a books editor for Cosmopolitan and Esquire. She has also been a ghostwriter of young adult novels and a reference librarian. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from New York University and a master of library science degree from Queens College. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House.)

Visit Camille on Twitter and Instagram.


Synopsis:
When it comes to Cassidy, Katie can't think straight.

Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man's suit. At first neither of them knows what to make of the other, but soon their undeniable connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy about gender and sexuality, and the importance of figuring out who we are in order to go after what we truly want. It's also a portrait of a high-drama subculture where barrooms may as well be bedrooms, and loyal friends fill in the spaces absent families leave behind. Katie's glimpse into this wild yet fiercely tight-knit community begins to alter not only how she sees the larger world, but also where exactly she fits in. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you've received about your writing?
I’m not sure that it was even a compliment; it was technically a question. A well-respected screenwriter/director who was interested in adapting my novel The Assistants to film asked me, “Did you always know you were funny?” This was not something I had ever considered. I blurted out a “No,” followed by a “Well, I’m not sure.” I really had to think about it. If given a do-over I would reply with a way more confident, “Why, yes. Thank you.” That’s probably how a man would have replied, right?

Did you learn anything new from writing When Katie Met Cassidy?
I learned that second novels aren’t easier to write just because you’ve done it once before. One would think that would be the case, but instead I was crippled by anxiety for much of the time I was writing this book. I was afraid I would let people down or disappoint some readers who enjoyed my last book. But so far people have been responding to WKMC with generosity and enthusiasm. So I guess I learned I could write another novel once I got out of my own way!

If you could cast the movie version of When Katie Met Cassidy, who would star in the lead roles?
Ooh. I’m sorry but there is no way I can answer this question. I feel strongly that every reader is entitled to their own mental image of these characters based on how I presented them in words. It’s also far more interesting to me to hear other people’s suggestions on this. Please @ me!

What empowers you the most?
I feel most empowered when I achieve a healthy balance to my day—when I get good work done, but my whole day isn’t only about work. A day when in addition to writing I also go out for some fresh air, exercise, eat well, and enjoy the company of a friend. That’s a perfect day for me and one that leaves me feeling wholly self-actualized.

What TV show reminds you the most of your own life?
I’m going to have to go with Younger. Not because it’s so realistic to the world of publishing and book media, but because it’s a show that reminds me of what I thought such a life would look like if I ever achieved it. It’s always good to remember the shine and sparkle of your dreams before they become a slightly less effervescent reality.

What is the funniest fortune you ever received from a fortune cookie?
“Only listen to fortune cookie, disregard all other fortune telling units.” I have to give a shout out to my friend Joanna Greenberg for this answer. She’s an art teacher and artist with the most wonderful collection of fortune cookie fortunes, all digitally archived. Without her I would have been lost on this question.

Thanks to Camille for visiting with us and to Putnam 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 June 24th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Missing Pieces

By Becky Gulc

‘What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.


Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

A devastating mistake, a lifetime of consequences. How can you repair something broken if pieces are missing?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

What a debut novel! Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily pick up a book about loss and grief, I’m so pleased I was sent this book for review. It manages to be difficult to read for its raw and continued portrayal of grief but captivating and even hopeful at the same time.

The early chapters cover how the Sadler family are coping with the recent loss of their daughter and sister Phoebe. We don’t know what happened exactly, what we do know is they’re all coping very differently. Linda as the mum is really struggling, to the point at which she can almost no longer cope with life generally, never mind as a mother to her remaining child Esme and the child she is expecting. Tom as the father is trying his best to get back to a new sense of normal, but can his wife be part of this new normal or is he inadvertently trying to escape/distract from truly acknowledging life as it is? Life becomes destructive for both parents in very different ways. I very much felt for them all, particularly Esme.

The narrative worked for me, with the first half of the novel being set in the months after losing Phoebe, and the second half set twenty-something years later. Despite the synopsis, I forgot there would be a shift in time and the first half certainly has you on the edge of your seat as it draws to a close. I was pleased we got to see how life was treating Esme as a grown up, whether she’d been able to put the past behind her. The dynamic between Bea, her sister, and dad was interesting to explore in the second half and it offered hope in what was a very sad situation. We finally learn what happened to Phoebe.

Missing Pieces is a very well written novel, so moving and unapologetic in its exploration of grief. With a clever shift in the narrative it adds so much more to the story. I’d definitely read more by Laura Pearson.

Thanks to Agora Books for the book in exchange for an honest review and for including us on their blog tour.

Visit all the stops on the tour:




Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Always With You

By Sara Steven

A secret kept for more than twenty years. A daughter intent on finding the truth…

In 1994, twenty-one-year-old Evelyn Taylor left England to backpack around Australia. When she stopped off in the dusty outback town of Kununurra, she never expected to fall in love with the place - and the people. But Joe Sullivan captured her heart, and when her fun-filled year in Australia came to an end, saying goodbye to him was the hardest thing she’d ever done.

In 2017, Evelyn’s daughter, Libby, embarks on her own Australian adventure. Grief-stricken following her mother’s death, she’s determined to find the father she never met.

Little does she know that digging up the past will be more complicated than she ever imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Initially, Always With You feels as though it’s a story focused primarily on loss. The loss Libby feels after losing her mother, the loss she feels at not knowing who her father is. The loss Evelyn experiences when she has to say goodbye to the love of her life. But what this story really does, is catapult these characters and its readers into an adventure, a soul-searching adventure into the unknown while trying hard to find one’s self within that journey. It’s a parallel experience for both Evelyn, and Libby.

I really loved the way we get to see Evelyn’s experiences, as well as her daughter’s. While they feel similar, the motivation behind it is world’s apart. Evelyn wants to explore a life unknown, and Libby wants to walk in her mother’s footsteps, not knowing that ultimately she really is living her own existence. I felt the relationships between the characters were true to life, particularly when Libby is in search of her father. When she has to confront the man she is convinced she’s linked to, I could really feel the struggle within her, the struggle within him, it wasn’t forced or shallowly written. There were plenty of deep, touching moments that reached right into your chest and pulled hard on the heartstrings.

I fall for stories that have a “coming home” or reunion vein to them, when we get the opportunity to go back and see what changes have occurred, how people have evolved, how the scenery has changed. Having the chance to see it all through Evelyn’s eyes, first, then over twenty years later, the sometimes small and subtle, or very distinct changes that Libby witnesses was really such a unique experience, and really spoke to my nostalgic spirit. The give and take between Evelyn’s strengths and witnesses, and Libby’s, too, was the perfect balance for their story, a balance that touched me deeply and stirred my psyche.

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

More by Hannah Ellis:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Charlotte Nash takes us on an armchair adventure...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Jen Dainer
We're pleased to welcome Charlotte Nash to CLC this week, as her latest novel, The Paris Wedding, published in the US this week! Thanks to HarperCollins, we have THREE books to give away!

Charlotte Nash was born in historic Lincoln, England and grew up in the sunny Redland Shire of Brisbane. Obsessed with horses and riding, she began stealing her mother’s Jilly Cooper novels at the age of thirteen, and has been enthusiastic for romance ever since. Always a little unconventional, she took a meandering path to writing through careers in engineering and medicine, including stints building rockets and as an industrial accident investigator. Now she writes romantic stories, and moonlights as a creative writing PhD student, studying how narratives engage the brain. She lives in a cozy Brisbane cottage with her husband and son, and a small flock of lovable chooks. Visit Charlotte at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.


Synopsis:
It’s been ages since Rachael West has seen the man she once believed she couldn’t live without. Receiving his wedding invitation was bittersweet—she was oddly touched he’s asked her, but knows that facing him on this day would be the hardest thing she’s ever done.

But her friends and family convince her to attend. After all, it’s an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris! Surely she can get through that one day, and discover all the delights of that magical city the remainder of the time.

So Rachael leaves her small town, setting off for the City of Lights with her best friend, two feuding neighbors, and a suitcase full of home-sewn couture in tow. She’s determined to let Paris work its magic—and it does by way of a handsome photojournalist. And before her adventure is over, Rachael will be faced with yet another choice. But this time, hers isn’t the only happiness at risk...


Which authors have inspired you?
Oh, so many. Jilly Cooper, because she was my first introduction to this type of genre, and wrote such big, bolshy, fun characters who had struggles that seemed so lifelike. Diana Gabaldon, because, you know, Jamie Fraser in a kilt (and jokes aside, the incredible freshness of Cross-stitch (now Outlander) when it first came out). More recently, Liane Moriarty, because she has such a keen ability to observe her characters and use just the right words, and JoJo Moyes for the same reason, and because I think she captures a truth about people that's hard to do.

What is something unique about your writing style?
This is a difficult question for an author to answer about themselves … people tell me that I write the landscapes and settings in a memorable way. I've always thought that people are so tied in to the places they live – either in a comfortable way, or as a point of friction – that rendering those places through their eyes is a critical part of forming the character and their stories. Besides that, I find some unconventionalities and cross-genre interests of mine sneak into my contemporary stories …

If The Paris Wedding were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Rachael West (our heroine) needs that wholesome, naïve quality, but also the capacity for great sacrifice and transformation. I'd be keen for Katherine Langford (from 13 Reasons Why) – she looks like she could convince us she came from a farm, but hold her own in a fashionable crowd.

Sammy (her best friend) is more street-smart, but an incurable romantic. A strong, supportive type but who tends to hold her own problems very close to her chest. I like Haley Lu Richardson or someone like her, even though she's younger than Sammy.

Matthew Grant (the man Rachael never got over) is an up-and-coming star physician, but straddling the uncomfortable territory between his roots and his new world. Someone like an older version of Tom Holland, who has that boyish quality but can still carry authority. Or Callum Turner, who's about the right age, look, and presence.

Antonio Ferranti (the dashing Italian-American photojournalist) needs an older actor with a rugged quality. Perhaps Justin Baldoni – his Ted talk about redefining masculinity showed such a great capacity for comfort with himself, but a critical eye for how the world is. Perfect for Antonio.

Where is your favorite place to spend money?
At my local café mostly! However, about once a year I go on a 'spree' of buying vintage fashion online (mostly eBay). I know which designers I like and my sizes and I go a little crazy buying too many boots and coats. I comfort myself that it's recycling (as well as a bargain).

What is your favorite thing to do at an amusement park or carnival?
Eat dagwood dogs. I think in America that's called a corn dog? (hot dog sausage on a stick covered with batter and deep fried). I'm a sucker for the food carts.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
At the cinema: Avengers: Infinity War. It's so surprising. On my home screen … I'll admit that I re-watch The Devil Wears Prada and Midnight in Paris over and over. They are so brilliantly structured and entertaining and funny, and yet have deeper things to say. I never tire of them. I'll stop there, otherwise I'll be recommending a whole shopping list!

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 June 19th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: Little Big Love

By Jami Deise

Even while the body-positivity campaign has gained traction, overweight and obese people are one of the few groups left that everyone feels free to shame and discriminate against. Although in the developed world, heavier people outnumber appropriately sized folks by nearly a third, they are still blamed for being lazy, undisciplined, unkept. Fashion designers won’t create for them. Employers freely discriminate against them. And yet, more and more research shows that folks with a higher body weight than recommended have multiple decks stacked against them, when it comes to stress hormones, gut bacteria, and even viruses that wring every calorie out of every bite taken. That old advice about just eating less and exercising more is outdated and nearly worthless.

U.K. author Katy Regan’s U.S. debut, Little Big Love, shows how emotional upheaval and the stress of poverty can contribute to weight issues. Two of its three first-person protagonists are overweight, the third is an alcoholic in recovery. Ten-year-old Zac Hutchinson wants nothing more than for his father to attend his 11th birthday party. But that’s difficult, as the man took off before he was born. At least that’s what Zac’s mother, 30-year-old Juliet, has always told him. But Juliet has her secrets, as does Juliet’s father, Mick. And Zac’s quest to find his father might reveal these secrets and shatter everyone’s world once and for all.

With her plans for the future derailed by early pregnancy, Juliet and Zac live on an estate (public housing) in the small English fishing village where she grew up and where her parents still reside. She has a job in a sandwich shop that pays her in cash because otherwise she’d lose her benefits; she doesn’t have a car. The one bright spot in Juliet’s life is her overwhelming love for Zac; a love so enormous she can’t see that her son is struggling with his own weight issues until Zac’s school lets her know he’s being bullied for it.

While Zac’s search for his father provides the backbone of the novel, I was more drawn in by the specificity of the voices of the three main characters, especially Zac’s, which always seems like a 10-year-old boy’s. Without ever judging her characters, Regan describes how the stress of poverty, bullying, and secrets can lead to comfort eating and weight gain. The supporting cast, such as Zac’s best friend Teagan and Juliet’s mother, are also specific and real.

If I had one criticism, it was that the book felt overly long. With three protagonists and the dual narrative of Zac and Juliet’s weight issues along with Zac’s search for his father, the pacing never drags, but there were times I wanted more action. And with its contemporary setting, it shouldn’t take that long to find a man with a distinctive name. Another relative is found on Facebook; no one ever does a Google search for Zac’s father.

Still, it’s the character work that will hook readers, and it’s the character work that will result in tears by the end of the book. Katy Regan’s U.S. debut will have readers looking up her U.K. offerings.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away!


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 June 18th at midnight EST.

More by Katy Regan: