Friday, October 30, 2015

Reviews at Amazon--October edition

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our new featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!

Melissa A:









Book Review: Sweet Forgiveness

The Forgiveness Stones craze is sweeping the nation—instantly recognizable pouches of stones that come with a chain letter and two simple requests: to forgive, and then to seek forgiveness. But New Orleans' favorite talk show host, Hannah Farr, isn't biting. Intensely private and dating the city’s mayor, Hannah has kept her very own pouch of Forgiveness Stones hidden for two years—and her dark past concealed for nearly two decades. But when Fiona Knowles, creator of the Forgiveness Stones, appears on Hannah’s show, Hannah unwittingly reveals on air details of a decades-old falling out with her mother.

Spurned by her fans, doubted by her friends, and accused by her boyfriend of marring his political career, Hannah reluctantly embarks on a public journey of forgiveness. As events from her past become clearer, the truth she’s clung to since her teenage years has never felt murkier. Hannah must find the courage to right old wrongs, or risk losing her mother, and any glimmer of an authentic life, forever.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Melissa Amster:

I really enjoyed Lori Nelson Spielman's sophomore novel, Sweet Forgiveness. She takes on an original concept and goes in directions I would not have expected at all. There were so many twists that I never saw what was around each corner. It is very easy to get swept up by the strong and compelling narrative and it kept me on my toes.

The story is very heartfelt and inspires me to apologize more but also has me second-guessing things I should apologize for. The dialogue is so genuine and doesn't hold back. There's also great use of description that made me want to visit New Orleans. And of course, I love the romantic aspect of this novel.

Really, there was nothing I didn't like about Sweet Forgiveness. Bravo to Lori on a job well done!

Movie casting ideas:
Hannah: Mila Kunis or Laura Prepon (I know they're both from That 70s Show, but they would do equally well in this role.)
RJ: Michiel Huisman
Michael: Jon Hamm
Dorothy: June Squibb
Claudia: Ksenia Solo (and yes, I also have a thing for actors from Orphan Black)
Jade: Gabrielle Union

Thanks to Lori Nelson Spielman  for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Caryn Strean:

I definitely related to Hannah immensely, as I was a broadcast journalism major in college, and completely understand how ratings mean more to the station than feelings or personal lives.

Lori Nelson Spielman created an interesting phenomenon with her Forgiveness Stones, which reminded me a lot of last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I liked how the whole novel stemmed from personal experiences of forgiveness and whether it ends up being sweet or creating more devastation.

I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t had a chance to read Lori’s debut novel, The Life List, but after reading this, I plan to move it to the top of my list. Her engaging writing can easily have you finishing this book in days. I tore through it in 48 hours.

Overall, this was a wonderful read that is sure to make you think twice of how much “I’m sorry” truly means.

Caryn Strean is a mom by day and reader by night. Asking her to name her favorite book is like asking her to choose a favorite child. Her friends call her The Book Whisperer. Caryn can be reached on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ava Finch lures us a book giveaway

Today we're pleased to feature Ava Finch and her debut novel Fishing with RayAnne. 

Thanks to BookSparks, we have FIVE copies for some lucky US readers!

Ava Finch was born in Sechelt, British Columbia, and now makes her home in Minneapolis. When not writing, she hikes with her dog, ties flies, and collects vintage lures and outdoor magazines. Her current secret fishing spot is a stream running from the Laurentian Divide to Lake Superior. Follow Ava on Twitter.

Synopsis of Fishing with RayAnne:
Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of pro fishing to finally settle in her Minneapolis fixer-upper, thirty-something RayAnne unexpectedly lands at the helm of the first all-women fishing and talk show. Between her dad's falling off the wagon, unwanted advice from Mom—a life coach to the menopausal rich—and her clingy dog, she needs the advice of her beloved grandmother more than ever. With the show’s surprise success, producers press for celebrity appearances, but fans tweet support for RayAnne and her quirky guests, real women with unique stories and something to say. And though handsome Hal tempts RayAnne, he is a sponsor, rocketing him to the top of her don’ts list.

Just when she’s shedding uncertainty, RayAnne’s world nearly capsizes, and she’s faced with gut-wrenching choices. Will she live by the rules, or by her heart? (Courtesy of BookSparks.)

At what age did you discover writing?
Such a late bloomer, I didn’t start writing until I was over thirty and didn’t publish until after forty. Before that, I toyed with painting, but the images in my head never quite translated into what I’d hoped for when the paint hit the canvas. I’ve had better luck with words. It feels like a lucky break to finally have cornered my real creative outlet – no matter what age. And I’m not telling mine.

What kind of research did you do for Fishing with RayAnne
Not much. I usually do just enough to sound like I might know what I’m talking about – there’s my fear of facts and sounding ‘teachy’ which I sometimes run across when an author seems compelled to educate the reader or just sound smart, or both. Some of my research is pretty casual. After skimming a history of Naples after WWII (mostly for the pictures) I decided to place Dot there. I meant to research fly fishing in more depth, but…time. I will do more actual fishing and research for the next book in which, hint hint we might meet a familiar character, perhaps in a boat.

What do you do when you get writer’s block? 
I’m not sure of that term – but I do get in the way of myself sometime – not for lack of ideas – I’ve actually got too many of those. I interpret the blocking as not sitting down to it with the time and abandon the craft deserves. So to me, writers block is just a writer blocking herself.

If Fishing with RayAnne were optioned for film, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Sadly, I just read Betty White has retired from Hollywood. But surely after reading Dot’s character she will make a third comeback? Bernadette would be nicely portrayed by Meryl Streep, who never seems to do the same schtick twice and maybe all that is left for her is a trilly new-age woo-woo maven. Big Rick could only ever be played by Alec Baldwin since I had him in my head the whole time I wrote dialogue - only his sonorous voice and delivery could make Big Rick’s brand of man-spew tolerable. RayAnne naturally would have to be played by an unknown. To all of the above, just kidding. I wouldn’t care - RayAnne could be played by Miss Piggy as long as there was a check involved.

With Halloween coming up, tell us what your favorite costume was. 
I spent much of one October making a padded stegosaurus costume for my little boy, just three. It had great paws and feet, claws, the whole deal. Then I made a white fleece spine of bony plates to strap onto our white husky. So awesome I took them both to a photographer friend for a studio portrait. My son hated the costume and bawled the whole session – I’ve got great shots of him all tears and snot, with the dog always trying to skulk away. As costumes go, it was definitely MY favorite. For Halloween he wore his Superman pyjamas.

From your collection of vintage lures, which is your favorite? 
This isn’t actually mine, so rare I couldn’t afford it, but isn’t it darling? And - best part - is called Crazy Eye crawler.

Thanks to Ava for chatting with us and to BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers and including us in their blog 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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US only. Giveaway ends November 3rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spotlight: Reading the Sweet Oak

After losing first her husband, then her daughter, seventy-eight-year-old grandmother Ruby wants to teach her risk-averse granddaughter, Tulsa, that some leaps are worth taking, no matter how high the potential fall. Tulsa loves her grandmother dearly, but she has a business to run and no time for romance—not even the paperback version. But when Ruby ropes her into a book club, Tulsa can’t bring herself to disappoint the woman who raised her.

Together with Ruby’s best friend, Pearl, as well as family friends BJ and Jen, the women embark on an exploration of modern-day love guided by written tales of romance. What they discover is a beautiful story that examines the bonds of friendship and the highs and lows of love in all its forms.
(Synopsis courtesy of BookSparks.)

Jan Stites has been a screenwriter, a screenwriting instructor, a waitress, a secretary, a middle school teacher in both inner-city and affluent schools, a scuba dive travel writer, a journalist, a transcriptionist for doctors and for documentary filmmakers, and a volunteer teacher in Kenya and the Yucatan. She considers the affirmative action plan she wrote for a maritime company to be perhaps her greatest work of fiction. Edgewise, set in a gritty Oakland setting, is Jan's debut novel. A romantic comedy set in the Ozarks, Reading the Sweet Oak is a different, much lighter book involving small towns, good friends, rivers, herons and love in many forms. Visit Jan at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: You're the Best

Even though "Friendship Month" at CLC was in September, today we're here to celebrate friendships (and a pub day) with the Satellite Sisters and their new book, You're the Best: A Celebration of Friendship.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

For the past 15 years, the Satellite Sisters – Julie, Liz, Sheila, Monica and Lian Dolan – have entertained us with headlines of the day and career and family life anecdotes. We’ve laughed, cried, and learned that nothing is more powerful than a sense of connection and the notion that going through life with other people is the better way to go.

In their new book, You’re the Best, the Satellite Sisters have turned their focus on one of the most important relationships in our lives – our friends, our Satellite Sisters, the women (and men) we call when the best thing in your life happens, or the worst.

With their trademark empathy, intelligence, and humor, You’re the Best is a collection of essays and writings about Life, Love, Family, Play, and Change.

Spanning ages 15 to 60, both the Satellite Sisters and the Next Generation--nieces, daughters, daughters-in-law--cover how friendships influence choices, relationships, careers, adventures, and inevitable changes.

Available in hardcover this fall, You’re the Best is the perfect thank-you note to our female friends and the perfect gift for childhood BFFs, your college roommates, your running group, your book club, your PTA friends or your actual sisters – for anyone you want to tell, “You’re the best.”

The book is the best reminder that it’s our friends who get us up, get us going, get us through and, most importantly, make us laugh.

Samples of Essays and Lists from the book:

*When to Call Your Satellite Sister:
  • When you need to decide between grad school and an unpaid internship.
  • When you discover the guy in the cubicle next to you is making $15,000 more for the same job.
  • When your life big issue is "stay vs. go."

*A Satellite Sisters’ Guide to Birthdays at 21, 30, 40, 50 & 60

*Bad Advice from Good Friends:
  • Take astronomy. It’s easy.
  • You don’t have to declare that as income.
  • You have to get a puppy.
  • Marry him. He’ll change.

About the Satellite Sisters and the Next Generation: 
The Satellite Sisters—Julie, Liz, Sheila, Monica, and Lian Dolan—are five real sisters who believe that a sense of connection is what gives meaning to our lives. The Dolans created the Satellite Sisters first as a radio show and website in 2000 and then became podcast pioneers with a devoted national fan base; they are also authors of Satellite Sisters’ UnCommon Senses, and sister Lian Dolan has written two best-selling novels, Elizabeth the First Wife and Helen of Pasadena. Together they have won 13 Gracie Allen Awards for excellence in women’s media, including Talk Show of the Year, have appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, and wrote a regular column in O Magazine. You’re the Best includes the Next Generation of Satellite Sisters – their daughters, daughters-in-laws, and nieces.

Visit the Satellite Sisters at their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Photo by Anthony Barboza

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 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: Shopaholic to the Rescue

We're excited to share that Sophie Kinsella's latest novel from her "Shopaholic" series is hitting shelves tomorrow! Shopaholic to the Rescue takes place in Las Vegas, so we're betting it will be fabulous!

Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

To Las Vegas . . . and beyond!

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is on a major rescue mission! Hollywood was full of surprises, and now she's on a road trip to Las Vegas to help her friends and family.

She's determined to get to the bottom of why her dad has mysteriously disappeared, help her best friend Suze and even bond with long-time enemy Alicia Bitch Long-legs (maybe...).

As Becky discovers just how much her friends and family need help, she comes up with her biggest, boldest, most brilliant plan yet! So can she save the day just when they need her most?
(Synopsis courtesy of Sophie Kinsella's website.)

About the author:
Aside from the "Shopaholic" series (which starts with Confessions of a Shopaholic), Sophie Kinsella has also written six standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world. Some of these are The Undomestic Goddess, Twenties Girl, and Wedding Night.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, at the tender age of 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party (40 Love) was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. Some other novels she has written as Madeleine Wickham include A Desirable Residence, The Wedding Girl, and Cocktails for Three.

She submitted her first ‘Sophie Kinsella’ novel anonymously to her existing publishers and it was snapped up without her editors knowing that she was already one of their authors. It wasn’t until the appropriately titled Can You Keep a Secret? was published that Sophie revealed her true identity for the first time.

Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She now lives in London, UK, with her husband and family. Visit Sophie at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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 1st at midnight EST.

Friday, October 23, 2015

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

Magic Fishing Panties by/from Kimba Dalferes won from Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More (e-book)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff from
Book of the Month Club

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán from Lake Union

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore from BookSparks

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner from Berkley (e-book)

Smart Girl by Rachel Hollis from Chic Media

The Marriage Pact by M.J. Pullen from
St. Martin's Press

North of Here by Laurel Saville from
Lake Union

The Furies by Natalie Haynes from
St. Martin's Press

Melissa A and Amy:

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams from Putnam


D.C. Trip by Sara Benincasa from
Adaptive Studios

The Great Christmas Knit-Off by
Alexandra Brown from HarperCollins

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella from Penguin Random House


Chance Harbor by Holly Robinson from Penguin

Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho from Harper Impulse (e-book)


Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde from BookSparks

The Last Dreamer by Barbara Solomon Josselsohn from BookSparks

What could be in YOUR mail:

Food Whore by Jessica Tom

William Morrow has TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Full of wit and mouth-watering cuisines, Jessica Tom’s debut novel offers a clever insider take on the rarefied world of New York City’s dining scene in the tradition of The Devil Wears Prada meets Kitchen Confidential.

Food whore (n.) A person who will do anything for food.

When Tia Monroe moves to New York City, she plans to put herself on the culinary map in no time. But after a coveted internship goes up in smoke, Tia’s suddenly just another young food lover in the big city.

But when Michael Saltz, a legendary New York Times restaurant critic, lets Tia in on a career-ending secret—that he’s lost his sense of taste—everything changes. Now he wants Tia to serve as his palate, ghostwriting his reviews. In return he promises her lavish meals, a bottomless cache of designer clothing, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Out of prospects and determined to make it, Tia agrees.

Within weeks, Tia’s world transforms into one of luxury: four-star dinners, sexy celebrity chefs, and an unlimited expense account at Bergdorf Goodman. Tia loves every minute of it…until she sees her words in print and Michael Saltz taking all the credit. As her secret identity begins to crumble and the veneer of extravagance wears thin, Tia is forced to confront what it means to truly succeed—and how far she’s willing to go to get there. (Synopsis courtesy of HarperCollins.)

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 October 28th at midnight EST.

Book Review: The Twelve Dates of Christmas

By Becky Gulc

‘At thirty, Claudia's life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life - and Christmas - alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It's also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing's for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different...

This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it's a story about losing love, finding love, and discovering what's been there all along. Expect Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas.’
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I do love a Christmassy book and whilst some books marketed at Christmas time don’t feel that festive, this book for me really delivered. I’m very much feeling Christmassy now, even though it’s still only October!

The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a book which had so much warmth and humour to it, I instantly liked Claudia as the main character, and for her long-term relationship to come to an end in December, I really felt for her! Cue the twelve dates...these weren’t all necessarily what I would think of as ‘dates’ as such but I liked the premise of these to move the story along and give it that extra Christmassy feel which was delivered in abundance. Some of these dates, particularly the ones at Winter Wonderland and the ice rink were both cringe worthy as well as laugh out loud funny...just perfect.

There are plenty of characters to love in this book. Claudia’s dad is such a sweetheart and Nick and Penny are great friends that anyone would be lucky to have. I have to say Nick is probably one of the stand out male leads in a novel I’ve read for a while, so likable and he clearly just adores Claudia.

Although yes it did seem predictable I didn’t care at all, I loved the whole story! The closing chapters were very fitting and just what I wanted as the reader. A very funny book and a perfect Christmas read.

Thanks to Little, Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on Lisa's blog tour! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: Love at First Flight

By Melissa Amster

The last time I flew on a plane (which wasn't for a good reason), I made sure to look as plain and boring as possible and to avoid eye contact with any men nearby. I didn't want to put myself into a situation like the one Mel did in Tess Woods' debut novel, Love at First Flight.

What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?

Mel is living the dream. She's a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.

What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel's dream life turns into her worst nightmare.

LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Even if I had managed to get into Mel's situation, I would think that I had more restraint and could just focus on my Marian Keyes novel (not that I was reading one at the time, but I loved Tess' shout-out to her) the entire time. While I don't ever support or promote infidelity, I could see why Mel had an affair to begin with. And it was hard to not want her to be with Matt because the temptation he provided was challenging to ignore. The steamy scenes between Mel and Matt were definitely cigarette-worthy, but I would advise not reading those parts when children are nearby. (At least if they're able to read. I was careful, but still...)

I have to applaud Tess Woods on tackling this subject matter, as most readers expect the man to cheat and the woman to be the victim. However, Love at First Flight twists that concept around and intensifies everything. I have read a few good novels where women are the ones having the affair and the consequences that come with it, but this one takes the cake! Tess gives a realistic view of marital infidelity and also tosses in some surprises that just threw me off my game. There was nothing predictable about this novel.

I really enjoyed Love at First Flight and could easily see it becoming a movie. I loved Tess' idea to cast Rose Byrne as Mel. I couldn't even imagine anyone else. She had some ideas for Adam and Matt, but I had my own. I could see Gerard Butler as Adam and Matt Lanter as Matt. Nicky Whelan would be Lydia (Matt's girlfriend). The soundtrack would have to feature "Roller Coaster" by Luke Bryan. That song is perfect for this novel!

Thanks to Tess Woods for the book in exchange for an honest review. I look forward to more enticing stories from her in the future!

Love at First Flight is 99 cents for Kindle through October 25th.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Trick-or-Treat!

Heads month, our theme is "Something Sweet." Today, Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker is getting a head start and giving us something to look forward to, especially with Halloween right around the corner. 

Let's get our sugar high on!

Get Me to The Candy

It’s the most wonderful time of year! We carve pumpkins, decorate our porches with glowing purple spiders, and purchase a plethora of candy helping to secure the 401K accounts of dentists across this great nation of ours. And I’m wondering the following for those who open their doors to trick or treaters: what kind of candy buyer are you? Here’s why I ask…

I started out being the candy buyer who only bought the good stuff. The confectionery treats I craved; I liked. Not only did I want to be the “good candy house” kids remembered year after year, if there were any treats leftover, I wanted the yummy stuff. I always purchased my sugar laden bags early to ensure I had my pick of the bunch. I would hate to run to the store days, or even hours before I flicked my front porch light. That’s too much stress.

Here’s where that plan became a problem.

I opened the bags, just to nibble on a peanut butter cup here and a few Bottle Caps there. For some reason, they began to magically disappear bag after bag way before Halloween! Isn’t that weird? My jeans became tighter. I had to buy more candy for the kiddos. Not good.

Then, I evolved into that bargain bag candy lady. The one with the stuff no one would ever buy in real life with gum, off-brand suckers, and taffy that could outlive the zombie apocalypse. This kept me from eating it by the handful.

There was a slight complication with this new plan.

On the one night of the year you give candy away, I couldn’t give this stuff away. It started riots! Sweet little children became incensed. “Mrs. Tucker,’ one sweet little munchkin asked, ‘what happened to the Hershey bars you had last year?”

I smiled. “I went with a different candy this year! Want a few extra pieces?”

Zombies and mummies ran from my front door as fast as Olympic sprinters take a causal stroll.

So, when in doubt go back to the winning plan, right?


I am now that person who buys candy a day or two before Halloween. The one I swore I’d never become. Whatever I find is what I dish out. Whatever is left on the shelves is the candy for me, and I’m totally fine with that. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not buying circus peanuts or gum that violently rips out your molars. I’m talking about the good stuff; it’s still there! You might have to dig around a little bit yet you’ll find it.

What’s your plan, and poison, when it comes to Halloween? I’d love to hear all about it! If any of you have a few extra Bottle Caps or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on November 1st, I wouldn’t be upset if you sent some my way. I’m not saying – but I’m just saying....

Happy Halloween!

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.

Book Review and Giveaway: House Trained

By Jami Deise

Author Jackie Bouchard specializes in “Fido-friendly fiction.” Her debut novel, What the Dog Ate, was one of the first books I reviewed for Chick Lit Central. She followed that up with Rescue Me, Maybe. Her new release, House Trained, was issued by Amazon's imprint Lake Union Publishing.

Bouchard has found success with a narrow niche: Her heroines are all childless by choice but are devoted mothers to their dogs. And the dogs prove themselves worthy of such devotion.

In Bouchard’s latest offering, she serves up a standard plot with a twist: the grown child no one ever knew about has come home to roost with a child of her own. (Bouchard must have her finger on the pulse of the entertainment world, since this is also the plot of the new John Stamos sitcom, Grandfathered.) The grown child in question is Marie (aka Wren), the until-now unknown 18-year-old daughter of heroine Alex’s husband, Barry. Wren shows up at the college campus where Barry works and announces that she’s the product of a one-night stand with his ex-lover Jade. Jade had lied to Wren that Barry was dead; she never told Barry about Wren because he made it clear he did not want children (that’s why they broke up). But when Wren shows up to dinner with Barry and Alex, she has a surprise of her own – her toddler daughter Ruthie. And she’s so angry with Jade over her lies that she can’t live with her mother anymore. Could she and Ruthie stay with Barry and Alex for the summer?

Alex, an interior designer who has spent years getting her house in shape, has been hiding her own secret: She’s overloaded their credit cards and gone through their savings trying to keep her new business afloat. With Wren and Ruthie moving in, now is not the time to fess all to Barry. She knows letting the girls move in is the right thing to do. Still, it’s damn hard to watch Barry move her favorite coffee table into the garage. While Alex and Barry adjust awkwardly to instant grandparent-hood, the dog Marie turns out to be just as good a mother as teenage mom Marie (both named due to Barry’s interest in famous scientists.). Some of the sweetest scenes in the book revolve around Marie bonding with and teaching Ruthie, as Alex marvels at her dog’s gentle touch. And Marie’s (the dog) instincts will play a vital role near the book’s climax.

House Trained differs from Bouchard’s first two books, as the relationship between the heroine and her dog is not as central to the plot. With Marie healthy and firmly ensconced in her home, Alex doesn’t need to worry about her canine companion. Instead, her mental energy goes into worrying about Wren and Ruthie’s effect on her house and her career, and old jealousy about Jade. The result is that Alex does not seem as warm or vulnerable as Bouchard’s other heroines. The book is written in first person, and Alex’s unfiltered thoughts are very honest. She knows helping out Wren and Ruthie is the right thing to do. But that’s cold comfort when “the right thing” is screaming her lungs out at two am. Even worse, Barry seems to think that any need of Wren and Ruthie’s should be handled by Alex.

Ironically, the character who comes across the best in the book is unwed teenage mother Wren. She takes full responsibility for her baby and her predicament, and understands she’s asking a lot of Alex and Barry. She’s a good enough mother to recognize her baby’s middle-of-the-night ear infection, take her to urgent care and a 24-hour pharmacy, and return home before her father and stepmother have even woken up. I wish Alex had pressed Wren more about the events that led her to her doorstep. Other than a throw-away comment about a boyfriend who wasn’t interested in being a father, there’s no back story about how Wren managed pregnancy, child birth and child care during her last two years of high school.

One aspect of Bouchard’s writing I’ve always admired is that she doesn’t jump through hoops to try to explain why her heroines don’t want children. There are no traumatic childhood incidents, no psychotic mothers, and no sudden moments of clarity where the heroine changes her mind. Alex just simply doesn’t want children. (And neither did Barry, but no one questions men who want to remain childless the way they do women.) But that doesn’t mean she’s stone-hearted when it comes to one that needs her. The book isn’t about Alex realizing the one thing in her life that’s missing is a baby. It’s about her realizing that a more open and accepting attitude toward the people in her world and the complications they bring will enrich her life.

And she learns this lesson from Marie. Rather than trotting out the old canard about teaching an old dog new tricks, Bouchard shows us that sometimes old dogs have new tricks to teach their old humans.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have a copy to share with one lucky US reader! This is part of their Girl's Best Friend 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends October 27th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Catherine McKenzie sets the literary world on a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Catherine McKenzie back at CLC to celebrate the pub day of her fifth novel, Smoke. Since the last time she visited, she also published a novella companion to her debut novel, Spin, called Spun. We love her writing style and all the support she gives other authors, even outside of the chick lit world. Visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Today, she's sharing some new and interesting information about herself, as well as FIVE e-books of her previous novel, Hidden (reviewed here), for some lucky US readers.

Synopsis of Smoke:
After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What guides you through the writing process as you are writing any given story? 
When I start writing a book, the characters have been with me for a while, as has the story. So what guides me is the story that's trying to push out of me and the idea of the finished book that I have in my head. It never ends up quite like what's up there - in my head, I mean - but hopefully it's close enough.

When you write a novel, do you know how it's going to end or is each twist and turn a surprise to you?
I have to have an idea of the beginning, middle and end when I start writing. There are definitely surprises along the way, or sometimes I might have two potential endings in mind, but so far there isn't an end that's taken me totally by surprise.

Of all the characters you've created, which one is your favorite?
I can't pick between my children! But I have only ever revisited one set of characters - those in Spin.

The first concert I ever attended was:
The first adult concert was the Amnesty International show in 1987: Springsteen, Sting, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel - pretty awesome. I believe the first concert was Sharon, Lois and Bram (a Canadian kids group).

You have the whole day to yourself, how do you spend the time?
I watch TV, write, listen to music, read a book - sometimes kind of all at once. Maybe I make a big meal somewhere in there.

What is the greatest life lesson you've learned? 
That the world spins on without you, so it's okay to take time out for yourself once in a while.

Thanks to Catherine for a wonderful interview and for sharing Hidden with our readers.

~Interview by Tracey Meyers

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 October 25th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: The Girls of August

By Denise Keliuotis

Women come together for a variety of reasons and in myriad ways. Careers brought the Girls of August together; not their own careers, but those of their husbands. With one exception, the women met in Nashville, Tennessee, where their spouses attended Vanderbilt University Medical School. That first August, Madison, Barbara, Rachel, and Cornelia spent two weeks at a house owned by Cornelia’s family, an impressive homestead perched on the water in Point Clear, Alabama. The August routine stayed consistent for many years, though the women did not: Cornelia lasted just one August, leaving the group when she left her husband, Teddy, for another man. Melinda soon replaced her, and for decades after, the new foursome came together for an August fortnight, holing themselves away in a series of beach-fronted houses across the Southeast.

Until Melinda died tragically. And with her, the August tradition died, too.

The rebirth of the girls’ tradition introduced Baby, Teddy’s young new wife and the owner of the gorgeous island property upon which the novel is set. Each of The Girls of August carries a secret with her on the island – including one who is herself unaware of her own hidden news. The women build and push and eventually break down boundaries as they fight to hide what they cannot share, not at first. And the presence of Baby, an interloper, adds a tension that would ring true to any established group struggling to accept a new person who the longer-standing members truly believe simply does not fit in. Of course, the question hangs in the breeze: Are the women correct – or is there more to Baby than meets the eye?

The Girls of August comes replete with twists and turns, some predictable, but others that made me catch my breath. The plot moves steadily, and the handful of flashbacks Siddons offers are both seamless and well paced, adding graceful layers to the perfectly structured novel.

As I read The Girls of August, I could not help but think of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Something about Siddons’ choices of words brought to mind The Great Gatsby (my all-time favorite novel). I wondered whether this feeling was of my own making – until I came across Siddons’ reference to Fitzgerald’s Daisy, the heroine of The Great Gatsby. I then knew I was in on Siddons’ secret, one I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.

I have only recently discovered the beauty of an Anne Rivers Siddons’ book. I had long seen her titles in bookstores and yet somehow never read any until a month ago, when I stumbled across her novel, The House Next Door. I devoured that book, and when the opportunity arose to review The Girls of August, I could not say “yes” fast enough. I am so glad I did. Siddons style never varies in that it always captivates – once you pick up a book she has authored, you will not easily be able to put it down. Yet, Siddons possesses an enviable skill, an ability to almost imperceptibly alter her style to match the feel of each novel. The stories contained in The House Next Door and The Girls of August are notably different, and Siddons skillfully sets two appropriate moods. Both, however, are memorable; each almost haunting in their own way. Siddons characters and the events in their lives stay with you, and I found myself thinking about the stories for days after I read the final pages. I know her characters and their lives will stay with you, too.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Anne Rivers Siddons: