Thursday, May 24, 2018

Liv Bartlet proves that two cooks do NOT spoil the broth...plus a special giveaway


Introduction by Melissa Amster

Something that surprised me from my interview with Liv Bartlet is that she is actually the brainchild of two authors. They're both here today to talk about food with us. Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, one lucky reader could receive an e-book of their latest novel, Production Values, along with some other cool prizes.

Liv Bartlet is the pseudonym for writing partners Becca McCulloch and Sarah McKnight, who have been building worlds and telling stories together for more than a decade. They’ve logged hours of behind-the-scenes movie and TV footage and challenged each other in a friendly Oscar guessing game every year this millennium. Lifelong Anglophiles, their Monkey & Me world sprang to vivid life on a trip to London that included divine pastries, sublime art, and a spectacular pratfall in the British Museum.

Becca is a professor, a scientist, and a secret romantic who insisted their first order of business in London was a meandering five-mile walk to see Big Ben. She lives with her husband, children, and an ever-expanding roster of pets in Logan, Utah.

Sarah is an Army brat, an Excel geek, and has a lot of opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy. She lives with her cat, Sir Jack—who is featured prominently on Liv’s Instagram —just outside Salt Lake City.

Visit Liv Bartlet online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
“Mornings like this I can understand the appeal of killer high heels. How they click with command down the sidewalk: Get out of my way, I’m in charge and I’ve got the footwear to prove it.”

At the age of 28, Kat Porter has become the it-girl of British TV Production. Gut, gumption, and artistry have carried her through a dozen impossible scenarios to arrive at her first run as Executive Producer, and now all three muses point to Ian Graham’s star power as the key to Los Angeles and golden statues.

But disaster looms as Ian twists Kat into a chameleon fit for success. Ian’s young daughter is thrown into the spotlight and Kat must face the consequences of her neverending quest for acclaim.

Production Values takes a biting but fun look at Hollywood—from the way we interpret female ambition to the influence of the paparazzi on how TV shows and stars fail or succeed.

Purchase the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

What is your go-to breakfast item?
Becca: Cereal. The Saturday morning, full-of-sugar kind.
Sarah: English breakfast tea, lots of sugar, a dash of milk.

Do you have any food related hobbies?
Becca: I’m a dietitian. My whole life is food-related but I’m not a foodie. I’ve never been good at joining the upper echelon of anything.
Sarah: I like to eat out, pretend I’m a foodie. Top Chef is one of my favorite shows.

What is the last meal you cooked using a recipe book?
Becca: Yellow curry with coconut sticky rice. Authentic.
Sarah: I only use recipes for baking. Cooking, I just make stuff up, but not even close to anything Top Chef level. My marinara is decent, though.

What snack would be a good pairing with your book?
Becca: Fancy cheese with cheap potato chips
Sarah: Crackers and edamame hummus, and a not too pricey Sauvignon Blanc.

What is your favorite movie involving food?
Becca: The first Avengers movie — the shawarma scene is classic.
Sarah: Mostly Martha. I liked No Reservations, the American version with Aaron Eckhart, but the original German is so utterly charming.

What is your favorite dessert item?
Becca: Creme Brûlée
Sarah: My mom’s version of trifle — chocolate cake, raspberries, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream, all layered into ooey gooey goodness.

Thanks to Becca and Sarah for chatting with us and to Rachel's Random Resources for sharing their books with our readers.

Win Production Values & Off Script e-books & 
$25 or equivalent Amazon Gift Card
(Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review: The Broken Girls

By Jami Deise

When I was a kid, before I knew that a Bloody Mary was a great drink for Sunday brunch, I knew better than to chant her name three times before a mirror in a dark bathroom. And Bloody Mary wasn’t the only spooky story to haunt sleepovers and camping trips. There was that guy with the hook for a hand. The killers hiding behind paintings of people (they watched you through the eyeholes). The psycho hiding in the back seat of the car. And of course, the call coming from inside the house…

For The Broken Girls in Simone St. James’s latest gothic ghost story, though, the rhyme of Mary Hand is very real.

In a rural town in Vermont in 1950, four roommates bond as they try to survive Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for girls no one wants. They scare themselves with the story of Mary Hand, whose dead baby could be buried in the garden where nothing grows.

In 2014, Idlewild Hall has been abandoned for decades. But when a mysterious benefactor buys the compound, journalist Fiona Sheridan is intrigued. Twenty years ago, Fiona’s sister Deb was murdered, her body dumped in the road outside the old school. Even though Deb’s boyfriend was tried and convicted, Fiona always had her doubts. Could the history of the school…and doomed Mary Hand…have anything to do with her sister’s death?

The novel unfolds along two timelines: 1950, in which roommates Katie, Roberta, Sonia, and CeCe try to cope with their creepy school, and 2014, as Fiona digs deep into the school’s mysteries. The 1950 timeline features chapters from each girl’s point of view, which gets confusing at times. Fiona is aided by her journalist father as well as her boyfriend, Jamie, a cop about ten years younger than she is whose father was the police chief when Deb was murdered.

It’s an engrossing read, and moves along at a fast clip. There are several mysteries to be solved: Was there really a Mary Hand, and does she haunt Idlewild? Did one of the roommates really run away? Who really killed Deb? Who is the mysterious wealthy widow who has bought Idlewild, and what are her plans for the property?

St. James has does an exemplary job with setting as well. The rural Vermont town where the story takes place feels as abandoned as the school, but it’s a claustrophobic place where residents close ranks at the first sign of trouble.

The novel works well but for the ending. Not to give too much away, but mystery readers expect separate threads to tie together, and St. James does not deliver that experience. Still, the characters and setting engaging enough that while the ending is disappointing, the journey to get there is worthwhile.

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

More by Simone St. James:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sharing a drink with Michelle Gable....plus a book giveaway

Photo by Joanna DeGeneres
Michelle Gable's latest novel, The Summer I Met Jack, publishes in one week. To celebrate, she's here today to talk with us about food (and beverages). Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one set of all four of her novels to give away!

Michelle is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT, I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS, THE BOOK OF SUMMER, and the soon-to-be-released THE SUMMER I MET JACK. She also has numerous other never-to-be-seen books that will forever remain stored in her childhood bedroom.

Michelle grew up in San Diego and attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, as most aspiring writers do. After a twenty-year career in finance, Michelle now writes full-time. She lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and what is quickly becoming a menagerie: one cat, one bunny, and a lab/jindo mix recently rescued from the dog meat trade in Thailand. (Bio courtesy of Amazon and Michelle's website.)

Visit Michelle online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.


The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Do you watch food shows on TV? If so, what is your favorite?
I don’t watch food shows, mostly because I don’t like to cook. I do cook, because for some reason my kids keep wanting to eat every day, but it is very much a chore. I do love Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, but that’s probably travel more than food.

That said, my husband is a fan of cooking shows and I’ll never forget watching Iron Chef America while I was in labor with my oldest. It was the middle of the night, and the hospital didn’t have a ton of options. A former Bachelor contestant (Andrew Firestone) was one of the judges and he kept going on and on about “mouth feel” and it was driving me nuts!

What is your favorite carnival food?
I grew up close to the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and it was very common for high school kids to work there when the fair came into town. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been a “carnie” thanks to the two weeks I spent making corndogs in a hot, stuffy trailer. My skin was a disaster and I came home each night reeking of french fry oil. That experience soured me on carnivals, and now I avoid them at all costs. So, my favorite carnival food is whatever my husband and kids are eating at the county fair while I stay at home.

What snack would be a good pairing with your book?
The Summer I Met Jack begins at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Interestingly, the Kennedys had very bland culinary tastes, due in part to their famed “Kennedy stomachs” (i.e. they were all high-strung and nervous). Basing a menu on their dietary habits would be a grim affair indeed but pairing the book with a good pizza or a plate of homemade pasta would honor the Roman part of the story. Or, you could read it with a daiquiri, JFK’s favorite drink!

What is a food everyone else likes but you won't even touch?
I’m generally not very picky and there are few things I won’t eat. But, I cannot stand olives and syrup. Separately, of course. I’m sure no one likes them together! I also don’t care for ice cream all that much, but I’ll have a bite on occasion.

What food are you craving at this very moment?
Dark chocolate. Always.

Favorite song with a food item in it?
"Cracklin’ Rosie" by Neil Diamond is one of my favorite songs in general, and my husband tells me it’s about wine. Second choice would be "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett because it reminds me of college. Also, San Diego is my hometown, so I do love a good margarita.

Thanks to Michelle for helping us work up an appetite and St. Martin's Press for sharing her books 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 May 28th at midnight EST.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Guest Book Review: Excess Baggage

By Shana Javery

Stuck in a dead-end relationship, Erica Bennett finds herself daydreaming of her first holiday romance. She was fifteen, it was exciting, new and full of possibilities…and Jack Lawson was hot as hell. That kind of thing leaves a mark.

So when her friends suggest a girls holiday to Luna Island, it’s exactly what she needs to take her mind off things. What she doesn’t expect is to spot Jack – a much older, hotter version of him – across the hotel lobby.

Their attraction is still there and it isn’t long before sparks fly, but fifteen years is a long time. They aren’t the same people they were back then and besides, it’s only a week, right?

Is it a second chance at something real or will their excess baggage ruin their shot at love after they leave Luna Island?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

In this novel, Erica and Jack unexpectedly bump into one another while on separate vacations with their friends. They haven’t seen or talked to one another in fifteen years. Read as they struggle to figure out if they can rekindle their teen romance.

I love that the story is told from both of their perspectives. Erica has a wicked sense of humor. I laughed throughout book. It’s also a very quick read. As you might imagine, a story about single thirty-year-old adults on vacation tends to involve lots of drinking and some sexual encounters. Those sex scenes will probably get your motor running!

One warning: this book has quite a bit of profanity in it. Not necessarily vulgar words, but lots of cursing!

I found myself chuckling as Erica and Jack tried to figure out whether or not they could have a future. As a bonus (for this American reviewer), the novel was written by an author who lives in the United Kingdom. It’s always fun for a “Yank” to try to decipher the “Queen’s English!” So, if you want a quick, lighthearted beach read, this book is perfect for you!

Thanks to Laura Barnard for the book in exchange for an honest review. Excess Baggage can be purchased here.

Shana Javery is an attorney mediator with a background in employment law. She is thrilled to have renewed her lifelong love of reading over the past few years. Shana & her husband reside in Plano, Texas. She is grateful to all the fabulous authors out there who unknowingly have eased her heartache from becoming a recent empty nester. 

More by Laura Barnard:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Amy E. Reichert serves up a delicious story...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Kelly Johnsen
Amy E. Reichert is here to celebrate the publication week of her latest novel, The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go. We can't think of a better month to have her here, as all her books focus on food. Her answers to our questions show her love for all things food and cooking related, so we hope you will enjoy learning more about her in this way. Thanks to Gallery, we have TWO copies to give away!

Amy E. Reichert is also the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE, and THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, a volunteer baby snuggler, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her library’s board of directors. She's a member of Tall Poppy Writers. (Courtesy of Amy's website.)

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.


But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine's kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go... (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is your go-to recipe?
Tacos. I brown one pound of ground beef, then add in one can of black beans, 1/4 cup of taco seasoning or more as needed (I use Penzey’s), one teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper, and one cup salsa (or more—I make it a little different every time). Simmer for five minutes. Scoop into tortillas, top with your favorite toppings. I use shredded cheese, sour cream, and lettuce. It’s the one meal that makes my entire family happy.

What is your favorite cuisine?
This is a tough one—I like it all. I have favorites in every cuisine, from tom kha soup (a yummy chicken, coconut milk thai soup) to bone marrow on crispy toast to burgers and fries. I do tend to prefer meals that are cooked for ages like cuban pork or a roast beef that’s falling apart on top of mashed potatoes and gravy.

What snack would be a good pairing with The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go?
Grilled cheese and brownies. I’m not responsible for weight gain. That should be a disclaimer on all my books.

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
A pineapple and cheese casserole. It sounds disgusting but it’s surprisingly delicious. Now I want to make it…

What is your favorite holiday that involves a lot of food and favorite recipe for that holiday?
100% Thanksgiving. And my favorite is the stuffing. Our family’s recipe is dead simple: one pound ground pork sausage and one pound ground beef. Brown them, then toss with a pound of seasoned bread cubes, then add homemade turkey stock until the bread cubes soften and start to break down. Place in a casserole dish and heat (or stuff in the bird—but make sure it gets above 170 degrees). I use leftover stuffing for sandwiches and topped on toast (yes, I eat stuffing on toast—it’s scrumptious).

Tell us about a cooking disaster (yours or someone close to you).
There are almost too many to choose. I regularly set off smoke detectors and set things on fire—that’s going to happen when you’re trying new things in the kitchen. One time, I was teaching a friend how to saute salmon. Teaching! I let the oil get too hot, so when I put the salmon in, the spattering oil it caught fire. In a rare moment of calm, I covered the pan with a lid and carried it outside. I failed to teach my friend how to cook salmon, but she did learn how to not panic while putting out an oil fire.

Thanks to Amy for visiting with us and to Gallery 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 May 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Review: Saving Each Other

By Sara Steven

What would you do if the most important people in your world were suddenly and violently taken away from you? Everything is excruciating! Everything is broken! Ean Montgomery and Dani Adams were each forced to see the same grief counselor after a drunk driver killed both Dani’s husband and Ean’s wife and six year old son. Two cars demolished, two families killed. In an unconventional twist of therapy, Dani and Ean were each given a private cell phone and only the first initial of their first names. They were then instructed to reach out to one another in order to share their grief…to heal. The rules: Communicate only through text messages and never reveal our real names or other personal details. Neither planned to contact the other, but with all hope and the will to live gone… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

My worst fears are presented and on full display with Saving Each Other. I cannot fathom losing my husband, or one of my children. The way the pain and utter despair has been captured within Ean and Dani’s stories, it felt realistic and human and while it was difficult to delve into, given the subject matter, I didn’t want to turn away from it. I wanted to better understand, to fully experience it.

Ean and Dani are given an opportunity to help one another through one of the most difficult times I feel anyone could go through, but they don’t know each other, have never met. They don’t even know names, using first initials instead. Yet, I could feel the deep connection that begins to form, a bond grown from tragedy. No one else would understand what they’re going through, and in this ambiguity they become a lifeline for one another, enabling both characters to live each day, even when it feels like the days aren’t worth living.

Granted, this is fiction, yet I could see how the process of healing, how finding the light at the end of a dark tunnel is achievable. Whether it’s through an unconventional method of conversing with a stranger who is also going through the same pain, who knows the score, or finding solace within loved ones who want nothing more than to be there. And there were subtle elements of something reminiscent to the movie You Got Mail, where the two primary characters form a bond without even knowing each other or never meeting. It was a nice, sweet romantic touch that helped to balance out the heavy subject matter of the plot. It will be interesting to see what’s next in book two of the Saving series, not only for Ean and Dani, but for their supporting characters, too.

Thanks to PR By the Book for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spotlight: Back to the Beach

Our two authors being featured today have a few things in common:
*They have the same first name and also use their middle name.
*They live in the south.
*They have summer/beach themed books that take place in the south.

We also found out that they are friends with each other. 

We're pleased to present the latest novels by Mary Kay Andrews and Mary Alice Monroe. Thanks to Gallery and St. Martin's Press, we have THREE pairs of books for some lucky readers!

The High Tide Club
by Mary Kay Andrews

When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of THE HIGH TIDE CLUB —so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

Photo by Bill Miles
Mary Kay Andrews is The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House Cookbook, The Weekenders, Beach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Christmas Bliss, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.


Visit Mary Kay online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Beach House Reunion 
by Mary Alice Monroe

Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Photo by Mic Smith
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly two dozen novels. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. Most recently, Mary Alice was named by the South Carolina Academy of Authors as a 2018 inductee of the Literary Hall of Fame. Mary Alice is an active conservationist and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Visit Mary Alice 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 May 21st at midnight EST.