Thursday, December 12, 2019

'Tis the season for Rachel Winters...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Lou Abercrombie
Calling all rom com fans! Today we have Rachel Winters here to talk about her debut novel, Would Like to Meet. It's perfect for anyone who loves a good romantic comedy film (or novel). Thanks to Putnam, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Rachel Winters has lived and worked in London since graduating with a degree in Creative Writing, and a Masters in Publishing. She's spent most of her twenties freelancing for local papers and online magazines—including writing a weekly column about her cat (though she has never owned one). It's very Sex and the City. She firmly believes there are few problems that can't be solved with good friends and very large glasses of wine. She's currently an editor at Orion Books. Visit Rachel on Twitter and Instagram.


Synopsis:
Can you fall in love like they do in the movies?


It's Evie Summers's job to find out. Because if she can't convince her film agency's biggest client, Ezra Chester, to write the romantic-comedy screenplay he owes producers, her career will be over. The catch? He thinks rom-coms are unrealistic--and he'll only put pen to paper if Evie shows him that it's possible to meet a man in real life the way it happens on the big screen.

Cynical Evie might not believe in happily ever after, but she'll do what it takes to save the job that's been her lifeline . . . even if it means reenacting iconic rom-com scenes in public. Spilling orange juice on a cute stranger? No problem. Leaving her number in books all over London to see who calls? Done. With a little help from her well-meaning friends--and Ben and Anette, the adorable father-daughter duo who keep witnessing her humiliations--Evie is determined to prove she can meet a man the way Sally met Harry. But can a workaholic who's given up on love find a meet-cute of her very own?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


In one sentence, tell us what your road to publishing was like.
Long and unusual (heyoo)! I wanted to be a writer since I was little, did a Creative Writing degree, had my confidence knocked, went into publishing instead and ended up finding my way back to writing.

How are you similar to or different from Evie?
A great question. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that my surname – Winters – and Evie’s – Summers – is similar, however it’s a lovely coincidence. I’m a big Buffy fan. My friends who read the early drafts said it felt like they were inside my head, but as I found Evie’s voice, and how strong it was, it became very much her journey and her story to tell. I did have a similar experience to her as my confidence in my writing was knocked by someone in a role that was supposed to be supportive. In the end, she turns out to be far braver than I am, though she definitely shares my sense of humour (I spared her the dad jokes).

If Would Like to Meet were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
I honestly didn’t start thinking about this until after I’d written it. But, since watching LAST CHRISTMAS, I can only see Henry Golding as Ben, and, as I’ve grown up watching her in films, I can’t think of anyone more perfect than Emma Watson to play Evie and give her earnestness and heart. Also, how brilliant would Hugh Grant be as Evie’s terrible boss Monty?

What is your favorite winter holiday activity?
My family and I have a tradition of going out for a curry on Christmas eve with some old family friends. I don’t know where it came from, but my fondest memories are of crisp, wintery evenings, slightly tipsy on rose wine, walking back from the restaurant together on quiet streets with snow crunching underfoot.

That, and rewatching THE HOLIDAY (because Jude Law will one day turn up on my doorstep)

What is your favorite winter holiday dessert?

Chocolate Yule Log! Desserts should always include some variation of chocolate/caramel in my humble opinion. I will never understand the British fondness for Christmas pudding.

What is your favorite winter holiday song?
One of my family’s first CDs was an old Christmas album. I’ve no idea who the singers were, or what it was called, but their rendition of "Winter Wonderland" feels like the only correct version. As a kid, I remember belting out ‘Then pretend that he is Parson Brown’ and feeling like he was the only one who truly understood me.
I wish that was a lie.

Thanks to Rachel for chatting 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 December 17th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had

By Melissa Amster

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that's to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she's not sure she wants by a man she's not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents'.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt--given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before--we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons' past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo's debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family's becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

When The Most Fun We Ever Had first came across my radar, I thought it sounded interesting and added it to my future TBR pile. Then Jenny at Book Coffee Happy said it was one of her favorite novels and I instantly moved it into my current "pile." (I keep a list of the next five books I am going to read on my Kindle, and this is separate from my print pile.)

I agree with Jenny on a few things:
1. It was nice to read a book set in Chicago. I grew up near where Jenny lives and we went to the same high school, so we can definitely relate on this aspect.
2. It's perfect for fans of Parenthood and This is Us. Fans of these shows will appreciate that this novel features a large family and shows perspectives from the parents and their four daughters. It also goes back and forth between the past and present. The story spans from the 1970's through 2017.
3. It's long. I read it on Kindle, so I had no idea how many pages there were, but it took me longer to read than most books do on my Kindle. However, while Jenny didn't want it to end, I was actually thrilled when I finally got to the 50% mark and beyond.

Unfortunately, I don't share Jenny's enthusiasm for this novel. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about it and I thought it was incredibly well-written for a debut. I didn't feel close with the characters, but they were relatable in some ways. I liked Jonah a lot and felt he really carried the story along the most. His narrative was my favorite. Second to Jonah was Grace, who was a misfit in her own way. She didn't have as much narrative time as the other characters, so I looked forward to the morsels I got from her.

Marilyn and David reminded me of myself and my husband in some ways, like with setting the standard for relationships for our kids. They may complain when we are affectionate with other in front of them, but I'm always telling them that they are lucky their parents love each other so much and that we hope they'll find that for themselves in the future. Aside from that, I found myself referring to things that happened in the novel when talking to a friend about something related to these things. I don't want to say what they are as to not give too much away, but when my friend was talking about someone who is dating a guy who is experiencing anxiety and depression, I immediately thought of Liza's situation and relayed that to her. I also thought it was interesting to see how some of the things that were referenced by characters in the present fit in when we saw them in the past.

Overall, it was an interesting novel and the length didn't scare me off from reading it all the way through. However, there were times it felt slow to me and I wondered where it was going and how long I'd have to wait for it to get there. Yet, at other times, it was captivating and kept me turning the pages. Readers who liked Ask Again, Yes will enjoy this novel too. (And now you know how I felt about that one.) Enter for a chance to win this novel and a "family survival kit." (US only. Ends December 15th.)

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

Movie casting ideas (all in present time):
Marilyn: Joan Allen
David: Bryan Cranston
Liza: Teresa Palmer
Wendy: Mena Suvari
Violet: Krysten Ritter
Grace: Libe Barer
Jonah: Aedan Duckworth

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: Meg & Jo

Is everyone excited about the new Little Women movie? While you're waiting for it to come to theaters, we have a modern take on the story to share with you today. Virginia Kantra's latest novel, Meg & Jo, published last week. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

From New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra comes a heartwarming modern novel inspired by the timeless classic Little Women.

The March sisters--reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy and shy Beth--have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook-slash-secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned--the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you ever wanted isn't all it's cracked up to be...

When their mother's illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they'll rediscover what really matters.

One thing's for sure--they'll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.


New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra is the author of thirty books of women's fiction, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. Her stories have earned numerous awards including two Romance Writers of America's RITA (R) Awards, ten RITA nominations, and two National Readers' Choice Awards.

Carolina Dreaming, the fifth book in her Dare Island series, won the 2017 RITA (R) Award for Best Contemporary Romance - Midlength and was named one of BookPage's Top Ten Romance Novels of 2016.

Her work includes the popular Children of the Sea series and, in e-book format, The MacNeills stories. (Bio courtesy of Virginia's website.)

Visit Virginia 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 December 16th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 9, 2019

We believe in Fern Ronay...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Fern Ronay back to CLC today. Her sophomore novel, Better Believe It, published last week. Fern has one e-book copy for a lucky reader!

Fern Ronay has lived in NYC, Chicago, and now sunny Los Angeles with her husband, but she will always consider herself a Jersey girl. She is the author of two novels, Better in the Morning and Better Believe It, and is the host of the podcast Signs from the Other Side, as well as a host at Maria Menounos's AfterBuzzTV network.

Visit Fern online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Jada Marlone’s life appears to be perfect on social media. She has a loving husband, a beautiful child, and a successful career. What she doesn’t post about is the disconnect she feels in her marriage, the difficulties of motherhood, and her strained relationship with her mother.

Resigned to never being truly happy, Jada runs into an ex-boyfriend. While trying to decide whether the coincidence is her second chance at happiness, Jada begins having dreams that feature her dead cousin Gina.


With Gina’s help, Jada starts to uncover the real reasons behind her life decisions. As Jada tries to figure out her future, uncontrollable events threaten her resolve. Will she be able to draw from all she learned from Gina, or will she risk making the same mistakes twice?


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
"I believe in signs now and look for them in my own life."

What is something you learned from writing Better in the Morning that you applied to Better Believe It?
I talk to myself! Saying dialogue aloud is how I make sure it sounds natural for the character and delivered in the way they would say it.

How are you similar to or different from Jada?
Jada and I are very different in the sense that Jada is snobby and rather judgmental of her own family and others (Don't worry, life kicks her in the butt and she evolves). We are similar in the sense that Jada and I both can't stand to see anyone treated unfairly and have a keen desire to see justice served.

What is your favorite winter holiday beverage?
Skinny Eggnog Latte

What is your favorite Christmas song?
"Baby Please Come Home" by Darlene Love

What is the best gift you gave someone last year?
A whole lot of nothing! A while ago, the adults in my family decided that for us, the gift is spending time together, eating delicious food, playing games and laughing - some of our favorite things.

Thanks to Fern for visiting with us and 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 December 15th at midnight EST.

Friday, December 6, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)
Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould from Avid Reader Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey from Simon & Schuster Canada
The German House by Annette Hess from The Good Book Fairy (won in a giveaway)
Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida from Quirk Books (e-book via NetGalley)
Tiny Imperfections by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans from Kathleen Carter Communications
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore from Flatiron (e-book via NetGalley)


Sara:
The Move by/from Whitney Dineen (e-book)
A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Out of My League by Brea Brown from Wayzgoose Press (e-book)
Five Wakes and a Wedding by Karen Ross from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)
From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
The Spinster Diaries by Gina Fattore from Prospect Park Books (e-book)

Book Review: A Perfect Cornish Christmas

By Becky Gulc

‘Christmas in Cornwall is just around the corner…

But after last Christmas revealed a shocking family secret, Scarlett’s hardly feeling merry and bright. All she wants this Christmas is to know who her real father is.

So Scarlett heads to the little Cornish town of Porthmellow, where she believes the truth of her birth is hidden. She just didn’t bargain on being drawn into the Christmas festival preparations – or meeting Jude Penberth, whose charm threatens to complicate life further.

Everything will come to a head at Porthmellow’s Christmas Festival … But can Scarlett have the perfect Christmas this year, or are there more surprises on the way’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I love a good Christmas book so couldn’t wait to get started with A Perfect Cornish Christmas, and whilst I’ve certainly heard great things about Phillipa Ashley I hadn’t read any of her previous novels yet they all seem exactly the kind of books I’d love. So what did I think?

The story gets off to an intriguing start, with Scarlett entering the local pub just a tad forlorn and distraught on Christmas day, but why isn’t she at home with her family? We soon find out her Christmas gift to her parents inadvertently revealed her dad might not actually be her real dad after all, cue the consequences for all members of the family. What follows is mainly the story of Scarlett and her sister Ellie as they try to move forward, re-build, but uncover the truth.

I loved Ellie in particular; she was a delightful character. I felt her vulnerability and there were moments when her story revealed she was such a selfless character, I was really rooting for her throughout. Scarlett is formidable too and I enjoyed her quest to find out the truth, I felt her frustration when trying to find out something--anything--from her mum on the matter. Due to the frustration, I did enjoy it when their Mum comes to stay in Porthmellow and the barriers slowly break down and the truth revealed.

There are love interests for both Scarlett and Ellie and it certainly felt romantic, particularly for Ellie. You feel the character fall in love and you feel the anticipation and concern over being hurt again. I certainly felt on edge at times hoping these ladies wouldn’t be let down and that other obstacles wouldn’t stand in their way. There may have been some swooning going on.

This book delivers on Christmas – the Christmas period bookends the novel so you get a dose of festivity at the beginning (in theory anyway due to mysterious events) and plenty of build up to the following Christmas at the end of the novel. It delivered everything you’d expect for a more realistic festive period, strained relationships, arguments, loneliness, forgiveness but plenty of love (old and new). I particularly loved the sense of community at Christmas in Porthmellow.

My only qualm concerned the main reveal in the novel. I may have pulled a ‘really?’ face at first and you’d probably need to read the novel to understand why. Once I digested it though I accepted it works for the story, and I certainly hadn’t guessed this reveal so it kept me on my toes throughout.

Overall a fabulous Christmas book and whilst I know there is an earlier novel set in Porthmellow, I didn’t feel I’d missed out any context by not reading that first. I’d certainly go back, and forward, with Phillipa’s Porthmellow series in the future.

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

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:



Thursday, December 5, 2019

To us, Julie Valerie is perfect...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Kim Brundage
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I met Julie Valerie in person at Book Expo, five years ago. We actually shared a hotel room for the event. She was really nice and funny. So I was thrilled to find out that she was publishing a novel and I eagerly awaited its arrival and then added it to my TBR as soon as it arrived. Holly Banks Full of Angst is just as delightful as its author. You can check out my review here. Julie has one signed copy for a lucky reader!


After Book Buzz in 2014

Julie Valerie, an avid Scrabble player who once played QWERTY on a triple word, writes humorous women’s fiction and is developing a series set in the idyllic Village of Primm, starting with her debut novel.

She is the founder of the 85K Writing Challenge, providing writers an enriching environment in which to pen 85,000 words in 90 days, supported by a full calendar of writing support. Julie also serves on the board of directors for James River Writers, a multi-faceted non-profit organization based in Richmond, Virginia, that serves as central Virginia’s literary hub. A voracious reader, Julie has reviewed 200+ books in her genre and won the BookSparks 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Grand Prize.

Deepening her love of the written word, Julie earned an editing certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School and is constantly humbled by the nuances of language and the nitty-gritty of grammar while strengthening her proficiencies in the Chicago Manual of Style. With a master’s degree in education and a certification in wilderness first aid, Julie enjoys reading, the study of wine, section hiking the Appalachian Trail, and travel.

Writing amid the mayhem and merriment of her motley crew, Julie is married to her college sweetheart, has four children (two girls, two boys) and two English Labradors (one yellow, one chocolate). (Bio adapted from Julie's website.)

Visit Julie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest


Synopsis:
Holly Banks could not have made a worse first impression on the seemingly perfect moms in her new affluent community, the Village of Primm. Turns out wearing pink piggy pajama bottoms while dropping off her kindergartener late to the first day of school wasn’t her best look.

Not to mention Holly’s worried her husband may be having an affair, she can’t get her daughter to stop sucking her thumb, her hard-won film degree is collecting dust, and to top it all off, the power-hungry PTA president clearly has it in for her…

To make matters even worse, Holly’s natural eye for drama lands her smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood mystery—right as her own crazy mother shows up in Primm “to help.” Through it all, Holly begins to realize her neighbors may be just as flawed as—and even wackier than—she is, leaving her to wonder: Is there such a thing as a perfect mom?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


In one sentence, tell us what the road to publishing was like for you.
On my road to publishing, I met many wonderful people, and for that, I am truly grateful.

How are you similar to or different from Holly?
I am very similar to Holly. When faced with a new situation, my "fight or flight" response is keenly felt and I almost always choose flight until I can settle in and get comfortable with my new surroundings. Not only that, I'm constantly making mistakes and wishing I could do better.

If Holly Banks Full of Angst were to become a binge-worthy TV series, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Oh, that's a great question! Kristin Bell would be perfect for Holly. And I think Anna Kendrick looks a lot like the Hollys on the cover. When I wrote Mary-Margaret St. James, I imagined her as Reese Witherspoon, but Christina Applegate would also make a great Mary-Margaret.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?
My favorite Christmas movie is Love, Actually.

Tell us about a family holiday tradition.
Every year for Thanksgiving, a family holiday tradition we enjoy is decorating gingerbread houses. Whatever hasn't been eaten by Christmas gets broken and served with ice cream and enjoyed on Christmas Day.

What is your favorite winter holiday snack?
My favorite winter holiday snack is my sister's cranberry and orange zest shortbread cookies served with a cup of hot English Breakfast tea.

Thanks to Julie for chatting with us and 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


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway ends December 10th at midnight EST.


Giveaway ends December 10th at midnight EST.