Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--March 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:



Denise's review
Jami's review

Becky's review
Sara's review

The heat is on for Dawn a book giveaway

We're glad to have Dawn Keable here to finish up Seasons month. She's a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor. Her debut novel, Settling Down, published this past winter and she has a copy for a lucky US reader!

Dawn L. Keable is a freelance writer (em)powered by the pen, whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Seventeen Magazine, xoJane and the complaint department of many a national company. She's obsessed with the tropics, bangle bracelets and has made peace with the fact that she's quickly becoming the oldest person in the club. Before you start feeling pity that her home base is currently Providence, RI, know that this little historic city has B-I-G food.

While Settling Down is her first novel, her obsession with fiction is nearly four decades in the making, thanks to a whole lot of reading that went down under a cozy tent created using one of Grandma's handmade afghans. (This also kept her out of the sun--and might have discouraged the crow's feet.) Please. Stalk her out on Twitter and Instagram or her website.

When Dayna Morrison spontaneously treats herself to a diamond ring for her 33rd birthday, she proves to the world that she doesn’t need a man to enjoy the finer things in life. The real question is, can she prove it to herself?

Logically, Dayna knows she can survive solo; she doesn't need anyone to help her apply mascara, start her car or to clean up the messes she tackles daily as assistant to the editor at Mrs. magazine, where 'only wedded women find the ultimate bliss'. But she's always believed once Mr. Right appears, her life could, and would, finally jump start out of neutral and really begin.

Fault those fairy tales: Snow White. Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty. Their fate until a dude arrived on horseback? Severe food poisoning. Shoeless. In a coma. Then there's Dayna's mom. Whether Soul Train-ing through complete strangers' weddings or giving her daughter the gift of Old Maid cards, personalized with Dayna's face, the memo is the same: No one can do it alone.

The only positive messages of girl power come from her best friend Lydia Chavez. But, since Lydia bought her own home, then found a boyfriend, Dayna's feeling left behind. And a wee bit desperate, especially since that ring, a glittery symbol of singledom hasn't quite given her the confidence she hoped. So when a willing suitor arrives on scene, she can't find any reason not to throw away her soulmate checklist, as well as her J. Lo inspired life map, and try to make it stick.

Settling Down, thoughtful humorous women's fiction, explores what happens to an otherwise strong intelligent woman when she looks outside herself for love and happiness. Told in Dayna’s comedic, witty and often sarcastic voice in the spirit of Jennifer Weiner, Settling Down delves into the universal pressure women face to be part of a couple, and the danger that comes from sacrificing your own needs for someone else's.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Favorite season: Summer

Favorite thing about this season overall: When you hail from the land of long harsh winters, with lowlights like gray skies, slippery sidewalks and dirty snowbanks, summer always seems like a bright shiny reward from the weather gods. It's like killing yourself through a two month intense abs workout, before uncovering the six-pack. It's like getting up at three am to catch that flight to Puerta Plata. For me, summer says: 'Hey, you. Wait 'til you see your treat for hibernating.'

During this season: The world seems so vibrant and awake that even the sun doesn't want to waste a second sleeping. My beautifully diverse urban neighborhood reflects this energy. As the weather warms, our backyards turn into one giant block party of cultural celebration. From my hammock, the soundtrack becomes Dominican bachata or a live mariachi band and plates of Guatemalan steak, Puerto Rican chicken and bottles of imported beer get passed over the fence.

Favorite thing to eat: Everything. (And I only wish I were kidding.) Once upon a time, someone thought I was experienced enough to review restaurants. They were wrong. But that gig pushed me far, far outside of my chain restaurant comfort zone to a place of brave ethnic exploration and fresh, in-season ingredients. If I could only pick one thing to chow, I'd go with my husband's simple grilled pizza, garnished with yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.

Favorite thing to drink: Before 2:00 pm: Iced coffee. (I think this once regional drink, has gone a bit more mainstream, but take it from a native, the proper way to make it does not involve putting ice cubes in hot coffee.) After 2:00 pm: Mojitos made with mint picked from our container garden.

Favorite thing to wear: I'm kinda obsessed with sterling silver bangles. I manage to wear them year round, with one or two sadly peeking out from beneath the scratchy sleeve of a wool sweater. But when my arms go summertime bare, it's time to turn up the layering game, which has the added benefit of providing the most movement, and jangling music. Major bonus points when you have something to clap about, or are waving your arms like you just don't care.

Favorite holiday that occurs: My birthday, September 2nd. It actually sometime masquerades as an official federal holiday too, aka Labor Day, which is exactly how a birthday should roll.

Favorite thing to do: For me, life is about the simple pleasures and basking in unexpected delights. Whether going for a lazy walk that ends on the patio of an Italian inspired plaza, sipping sangria. Or wandering across a live salsa band, and stopping to dance in the street, summer is simply the best season to allow the magic of life to leisurely unfold. And grab it with both bracelet adorned hands. Naturally.

Thanks to Dawn for chatting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends April 6th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Warming up our winter

By Sara Steven

If I had to choose a favorite season, winter wouldn't be my number one choice. In fact, it would come in dead last. I’ve never been a big fan of cold weather. I dread the thought of shoveling snow, or having to contend with icy, sleet-filled roads. Nearly six months out of the year, that was my life while living in Nebraska, dreaming of a sun-filled, warmer climate.

After fourteen years, I got my wish. My family moved to Arizona last July, and while I enjoy not having to shovel my driveway anymore, there are a few things I miss about the winter. I never thought I would, but I do. I loved it when my two sons would make snow angels in our front yard. Or, when we’d attempt to make a snowman, to the best of our abilities. It never panned out, but we tried. The holidays go hand in hand with a winter wonderland, certainly lacking in the Arizona desert. I won’t complain too much, since I haven’t had to wear a heavy coat in the last eight months, but I do have a new perspective on things. Maybe the winter isn’t so bad, after all.

During those cold winter months, here were a few of my favorite things:

Favorite thing to eat: A good friend of mine passed along an easy delicious crockpot chili recipe a few years ago, and I still make it on occasion. There’s something about a hot cooked meal on a cold winter’s day, especially one that’s been simmering for hours! Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to give it a try. I’ve found it’s good all year round, no matter what climate you live in!

Crockpot Chili

2 pounds of hamburger
1 roll of sausage (Farmland Original, preferred)
½ onion, chopped
Cook the three ingredients until the hamburger is brown. Drain. Throw into crockpot with:

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 envelope chili mix
1 can ranch style beans
½ bag lima beans (I’ve often omitted this, or substituted it with other beans I find more palatable)
1 15oz can kidney beans

Cook on low all day.

Favorite thing to drink: Hot chocolate! Preferably with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkles aren’t bad, either.

Favorite thing to wear: I’d still venture outside for a run during those blistery winter months, and I couldn’t have done it without my trusty scarf. I’d wrap it around my neck and mouth, keeping the cold out until my body would acclimate to the frigid air. I didn’t enjoy having to get all bundled up in layers upon layers of clothing, but I never minded my scarf.

Favorite holiday that occurs: I love Christmas. It’s still my favorite holiday. True, I won’t have a white Christmas from here on out, but there’s something about a decorated tree, hanging stockings for my family, even wrapping the presents gets me into the spirit of things. It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. It’s what’s happening inside that counts.

Favorite thing to do: Playing in the snow with my sons. Sometimes, the conditions would line up just right, where it wouldn’t be too cold, or too windy. The snow was packed perfectly, not too grainy or icy. A snowball fight was always on the agenda, and afterwards, we’d warm up with hot cups of cocoa. A perfect winter day.

Book Review: Spare Me the Drama

By Jami Deise

As I said a few years ago when I reviewed Dee DeTarsio’s novel, All My Restless Life to Live, everyone who knows me – and even some people who don’t – knows that I am a huge soap opera fan. When I was in high school in the 1980s, there were 12 soaps on the air and somehow I managed to follow the stories and characters in each one. And although I no longer watch any daytime soaps (I quit watching General Hospital for the fourth time in 2013, but I’m hooked on the nighttime ones like Grey’s Anatomy and Nashville), I still hold the daytime drama genre very close to my heart. So naturally, when another soap-opera themed book came up for review, I jumped at it.

Karen Tomsovic’s Spare Me the Drama stars Martin, who, with his now-deceased wife Jeanie, has been head writer for the soap After The Loving for the past seventeen years. But now Jeanie’s dead – having been thrown from a horse that was bitten by a snake – leaving him with the show and their eight children, who range from practically adult to just-out-of-diapers. When Martin invites Roxanne Hunter – ATL’s former leading lady who parlayed her daytime success into a mattress fortune – to his niece’s birthday party, sparks fly. But will Martin’s kids accept a new woman in their father’s life?

For this old time General Hospital fan, Spare Me the Drama started off strong. Spare Me the Drama takes place in Point Disillusion. (General Hospital takes place in Port Charles.) An early story Martin grapples with features Damian, a low-level mobster, who’s trying to prove himself to his crime bosses by making a hit on the town’s corrupt mayor. But his true love, Emily, prevents him from doing so by tossing his car keys over a cliff. This leaves Damian’s best friend, Freddy, to attempt the hit himself. Instead, Freddy is shot in the chest and dies in the arms of his true love.

As longtime fans of General Hospital know, in November 1979 Laura Baldwin kept her true love Luke Spencer from committing a hit on corrupt senator Mitch Williams by throwing his car keys off a cliff. This left Luke’s best friend, Roy, to attempt the murder. But Roy himself was killed, dying in the arms of his true love, Luke’s sister Bobbie. (That Roy came back some twenty years later in the form of another actor to pointless storylines is irrelevant at this point.) After reading this summary, I was very eager to see what other soap story tidbits Tomsovic had hidden away in Spare Me the Drama.

Unfortunately for me, Tomsovic sticks pretty closely to the Martin/Roxanne relationship in her novel. While there are a few throw-away mentions to other storylines, past and present, and some grappling with the executive producer and network, the soap opera setting takes a huge back seat to the romance and family drama. Along with Martin and Roxanne, two of Martin’s daughters are point of view characters. And while Martin acquired some of his children in soap operaish ways – a grown-up foster child here, an adopted orphaned niece there – there were no outlandish twists that this soap opera fan was hoping for.

This is not to criticize Tomsovic’s writing. Spare Me the Drama  features a sweet romance between two likable characters, trying to come together in the middle of an Eight is Enough-type brood. The conflict is extremely low-level, making the title quite accurate.

Romance fans will find much to enjoy about Spare Me the Drama. But if, like me, you’re looking for a novel that would take you behind the scenes at a soap opera in the way that Nurse Betty or Tootsie did, "Drama" will disappoint. 

Thanks to Hello...Chick Lit for the book in exchange for an honest review and for including us on Karen Tomsovic's blog tour. They have THREE e-book copies to give away to readers anywhere in the world.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open worldwide. Giveaway ends April 2nd.

Visit all the stops on the tour:

March 28th
Bookish Things & More - - Review
Literary Chanteuse - - Promo
Ever Growing Book Obsession - - Promo
Red's Midnight Readers - - Excerpt 

March 29th
Around the World in Books - - 
Excerpt /Promo
Hello...Chick Lit - - Review

March 30th
Ali - The Dragon Slayer - - Promo
Romance Writer and Lover of Books - - Review/Excerpt
March 31st
vvb32 reads - - Review/Excerpt 

April 1st
The Bookworm's Book Reviews - -Review
Romantic Reads and Such - - Review/Excerpt
Pretty Little Book Reviews - -  Review
ItaPixie's Book Corner - - Review

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fun in the sun with Bruce a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Bruce Stuart here today to talk about his favorite season. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have a copy of his novel, The Lightening Round, for a lucky US reader.

Bruce Stuart has spent several New Year’s Eves making resolutions to lose weight and get into shape. Bruce is an author of several books and created the popular serial fiction website,, which featured his story THE LIGHTENING ROUND about Hannah More, a thirty-nine year-old single mom who joins a satirical gym called The Ultimate Level. This off-the-wall place actually groups all of its members based on their fitness levels and limits their interactions both inside and outside of the gym. In the novel adopted from Bruce’s serial, THE LIGHTENING ROUND, Hannah reluctantly joins The Ultimate Level and falls in love with a member on another level triggering a series of over the top antics as she attempts to navigate the gym while scheming to end up with the man of her dreams. 

Visit Bruce at Goodreads.

The Lightening Round is currently 99 cents for Kindle.

Summer has always been my favorite season.

What’s so special about summer? It’s usually the hottest season. It’s when school is out and workdays open up into sunshine. It’s when the weather tugs at our shirt sleeves to get outside and enjoy the warmth on our faces. Everything feels possible in the summer whether it is taking a long drive down the coast in a convertible with the top down or even finding the romantic adventure of a lifetime.

How many of us met our first real love during summer vacation? And how many of us long to return to that simpler time when our biggest cares were wondering how long that amazing feeling was going to last?

What other season has a holiday like the Fourth of July? It may be America’s Independence Day, but it also can be the chance to recognize how much you love that special someone you are holding in your arms while the pitch black sky suddenly ignites into streamers of light.

Summer has an unbeatable edge because of its laid-back ease. No need for heavy sweaters, long pants, and gloves. Nope. This season lets you be yourself. You can be casual and free while you wear t-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes.

Thanks to Bruce for visiting with us and to TLC Book Tours for arranging this post and sharing his 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

US only. Giveaway ends April 4th at midnight EST.

Bruce Stuart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Thursday, March 10th: Read Love Blog – author guest post
Monday, March 14th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen – author guest post
Wednesday, March 16th: A Chick Who Reads – review
Thursday, March 17th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, March 22nd: The Sassy Bookster – author guest post
Tuesday, March 29th:  Chick Lit Central – author guest post
Monday, April 4thRomancing the Book – review

Monday, March 28, 2016

Deja Vu Review: Dear a book giveaway

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen publishes in the US tomorrow. To celebrate, we are sharing Becky's review from 2013 and St. Martin's Press has THREE copies for some lucky US readers.

By Becky Gulc

I’m lucky enough to be sent plenty of books for review, but I particularly love it when a book arrives in the post captures your interest from the moment you open the parcel, be this down to the cover and title alone, the blurb, press release or a combination of all three. Dear Thing by Julie Cohen was one of these books, despite my review copy not even having the finished cover (which would have hooked me in even more now I’ve seen it!), I was sold on the idea of the story from the very beginning, but what is it about?

Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they’ve been desperately trying – and failing – to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire’s ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben’s best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben’s child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she’s kept hidden for a very long time: Ben’s the only man she’s ever loved.

Two mothers—and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep. (Synopsis courtesy of Julie Cohen's website.)

I thought that I may be in for an emotional, and quite frankly heart-wrenching ride with this story and that was part of its appeal, as I love reading a good tear-jerker every now and then. I also don’t remember reading a book that covered surrogacy before, so I welcomed the idea of reading something a bit different and delving into a world I knew little about.

Overall I thought this was a great book, and once I picked it up I found I couldn’t put it down; isn’t that a huge sign of enjoyment? As readers we are presented with the perspectives of both Claire and Romily throughout the book and this was really important in terms of developing empathy with each of these characters, that empathy is formed very quickly. Julie managed to create leading characters where I felt equally for both in the situation they find themselves in; I didn’t find myself feeling that the baby should end up with one of them over the other as there was merit in every scenario. I think this helps sustain the reader’s interest, I really didn’t know what the final outcome would be, or what I wanted it to be, but I wanted to find out!

I didn’t find the book to be heart-wrenching like I thought it would be, to an extent I was disappointed with this at the time. I expected to cry, after all; one of these characters I grew to really like was going to end up without the baby they already loved. I'm approaching this as a non-parent, though I recognise people are going to have different levels of emotional attachment with the story. Saying that though with consideration, I think the way the final chapters were written fitted well with the character development throughout the book and the events that take place. I would maybe just have liked a little more insight into the feelings of both Claire and Romily after the decision is made about where the baby will live. As a reader I’m left wondering how the one without the baby is doing right now! But, saying that, I completely understand why as readers we don’t see this. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the characters pop up in Julie’s future books to get this insight.

Julie’s characters are perfect for a book covering the different emotions for different parties involved in surrogacy, the fact that Romily isn’t necessarily the kind of character I would imagine to be a typical surrogate (if such a thing exists), and perhaps appears to go into the process without fully considering how difficult it could be makes the story all the more intriguing. The letters she writes to the baby (hence ‘Dear Thing’) add depth to the novel as it helps the reader find out more about how Romily is feeling, when she writes the letters she opens herself up emotionally to the reality of the situation much more than we witness in the general narrative, these were a really nice feature of the book.

Not only were Claire and Romily great characters (and very different people) and written so well, the supporting characters really helped to make this book. Posie (Romily’s daughter) was a fantastic character and she felt so real and it took me back to being her age and the sometimes tricky relationship with parents; Ben (Claire’s husband) was also great and although we weren’t presented with his viewpoint he still came across as a fully formed character where as readers you really feel for him.

Overall I’d definitely recommend this book as a great read! I’ve seen other reviews which state this story will stay with people and I wholeheartedly agree. This is the first book I’ve read by Julie and now I look forward to reading more.

Thanks to Transworld for the book in exchange for an honest review and to St. Martin's Press for sharing the 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

US only. Giveaway ends April 3rd at midnight EST.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

The Summer Escape by Lily Graham from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)

Island in the Sea  and Santorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes from St. Martin's Press (latter is e-book via NetGalley)

Face Time by/from S.J. Pajonas (e-book)

The Winemakers by Jan Moran from
St. Martin's Press

Sister Dear by/from Laura McNeill

Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax from Berkley/NAL

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford from NAL

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by
Sarit Yishai-Levi from Thomas Dunne

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy from William Morrow (e-book via Edelweiss)


Lies and Other Acts of Love by
Kristy Woodson Harvey from Berkley

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand from
MB Communications


I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley/NAL (e-book); Melissa A got this in print

The Hole in the Middle by Kate Hilton from BookSparks


Where the Light Gets In by
Kimberly Williams-Paisley from Crown

Falling Together by Donna Wilk Cardillo, RN from BookSparks

What could be in YOUR mail?

A paperback of Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner (releasing April 5th), thanks to Engelman & Co. (US only.)

A sweeping tale about the passage of time and the differences between people, WHO DO YOU LOVE (Washington Square Press/Atria Books) explores the indelible influences of class, race, religion, celebrity, and charity; it is about what makes us strong, what renders us vulnerable, and how the measure of a life is who you love.

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect and a veteran of hospitals, Rachel’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy's taken back to a doctor and Rachel's sent back to her bed, they think they'll never see each other again. Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again — linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed both of their lives.

WHO DO YOU LOVE is the kind of book you read in one sitting, as “readers will laugh, cry, and find themselves caught up in the story, as Weiner explores the idea: ‘Do soul mates really exist?” (AP). It is Jennifer Weiner’s most unforgettable work yet and sure to become everyone’s favorite love story this spring and summer if it isn’t already.

See Melissa A's review from August, 2015.

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. Ends March 30th at midnight EST.

Book Review: Coached

By Sara Steven

Coached, called "Fizzy and fun" by best selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard, is the story of twenty-five year old Rowen's quest for self-improvement. From her frumpy wardrobe and dead end job to her boring social life, Rowen's twenties are turning out to be quite the letdown. When her boyfriend Sherman abruptly moves away, Rowen decides it's time to take action and turn her life around. She responds to an advertisement in her local newspaper for some tough-love life-coaching by the sophisticated and stylish Ms. Crystal Class. It could prove to be exactly what Rowen needs to get out of her rut. (synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Here’s what I really loved about Coached: Rowen (or RoRo, as she’s known to friends and family) tells her story through the eyes of none other than....RoRo. Written in diary fashion, she takes us on her journey through the highs and lows of trying to become a better person. I couldn’t help but ask, who gets to say what “better” is, anyway?

Crystal Class, RoRo’s life coach. Through extensive counseling and training, Crystal attempts to transform RoRo into what she feels is a productive member of society. That means changing the type of music she enjoys listening to, the items she likes to to collect for her home, even her clothing and lifestyle are under intense scrutiny. RoRo goes along with it, because she wants so desperately to have what Crystal has, and to be as put together as she is.

And, as life would have it, nothing is ever as it really appears to be, and sometimes, the person who is the most put together is the one who needs the most help, and the one who seems to be chaotic is the one who really has a good grip on things.

I enjoyed the way that Coached isn’t formulaic. I was peeking into someone else’s private thoughts, really getting the goods on RoRo’s struggle, as well as her triumphs, even when she’s unable to see them. I also enjoyed the little twist at the end, and I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. It’s My Fair Lady meets Single White Female, but only in reverse, somewhat. It was an interesting story, one that could be about any one of us who’s looking to change their lives for the "better".

Thanks to Holly Tierney-Bedord for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Holly Tierney-Bedord:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jan Birley's summer a book giveaway

I love that when we asked today's featured author, Jan Birley, about her favorite holiday that takes place during her favorite season, the translation from US to UK meant she thought we were asking about a vacation. It reminds me of the time a girl from the UK asked me for cotton and I gave her cotton balls when she was looking for thread. What I also love is that Jan wrote her bio to be more conversational in nature. Like she's introducing herself to a friend.

"So – all about me ………
I went to live in London when I was 17. Pretty young really, amazing that my parents let me go – after six years at a draughty boarding school in Yorkshire, my knowledge of life was hardly encyclopaedic. Mind you, whose is at 17? Initially, I trained as a radiographer but didn’t like it much and dabbled in other worlds where I couldn’t find anything I really wanted to do. Apart from sit and read a book, of course. Nanny? Nope. Not after attempting to look after two hideous children who only spoke Dutch. Cooking in a restaurant in Cornwall? Not really my thing, especially as my role seemed to consist of doing the washing up. So back to London where I spent many years in Wandsworth, getting married and having three fabulous sons, two of whom are twins. Now I live in Dorset, but am unwilling to give up totally on city life and so I still go back there to work at LSE one day a week. I’m a dyslexia support tutor. I also work at a local girls’ school and because of the lovely, long holidays I’m able to spend a good part of the year with all my boys at our holiday home in Italy. Along with our elderly dog, we relish the time we’re able to spend in la bella Umbria. My husband is the Deputy Mayor of our town here in Dorset which keeps him busy.

I’ve recently published, on line, my first novel with the second one to follow shortly. The third one is still in the process of being written. All of them are stand-alone books. Although I’ve been writing for many years, it never seemed a possible financial option as a career but belatedly I’ve realised that if I don’t pursue my dream right now, that’s all it will ever be. The result is The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett."

Find Jan Birley here:

Rosy loved her London life – her job in a designer shop, her gorgeous West London family house and of course her gorgeous family (although young sons are enough to test anyone at times). All that disappears when, one unremarkable morning, after one unremarkable school run, her husband collapses on a crowded tube carriage and dies.

As she struggles her way through the grief, she discovers her husband’s secret life: secrets accounts, secret deals that their solicitor knew nothing of, secret debts and what looks like a secret “very close friend” at least.

Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to leave London to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. Can angsty urban teenagers cope with farm life, let alone enjoy it? More to the point, can their mother? It’s certainly not going to be easy but when you are at rock bottom the only way is up.

Buy the Book:

Favourite season: Summer
Favourite thing about this season overall: Lavender and roses, the long days with beautiful sunsets, the smell of hot earth and pine trees. The crickets chirping, my friends coming to stay and watching them unwind.

During this season...
Favourite thing to eat:
Chocolate and lobster, not together of course, although chocolate would be fine for pudding.
And Shepherd’s Pie, whatever the season.

Favourite thing to drink:
Dry Martini - but they are so strong I only ever have one. Dorothy Parker said: ‘I love a dry Martini, but one at the very most … after two I’m under the table …after three I’m under the host.’ Hah!

Favourite thing to wear:

Favourite holiday that occurs:
Going to our lovely home in Umbria, Italy for a few months.

Favourite thing to do:
Loll by our pool and read with glass of chilled white wine, (I save the martini ‘til the evening) looking out over the glorious Tuscan/Umbrian hills.

Thanks to Jan for visiting with us and Hello...Chick Lit for including us on her blog tour. 

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

Win an e-book of The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett.

Open Worldwide! Ends March 26th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out all the stops on the tour:

March 21st
Judging More Than Just The Cover - - Review/Author Q&A
T&L Book Reviews - - Excerpt/Promo 
Grass Monster - - Review

March 22nd
Literary Chanteuse - - Promo 
Steamy Book Momma - - Excerpt
Around the World in Books - - Promo 

March 23rd
JustaBooklovinJunkie - - Excerpt/Promo 
SassyCatChat - -  Review/Promo 
Book Groupies - - Excerpt
Hello...Chick Lit - -  Review

March 24th
ItaPixie's Book Corner - -Review/Excerpt
Chick Lit Central - - Author Q&A
The Bookworm's Book Reviews - - Review

March 25th
Ali - The Dragon Slayer - - Review/Promo 
Portobello Book Blog - - Excerpt
Have Books, Will Read - - Review/Excerpt

Tour organized by:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Go-to-Gay: Child of a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

As I was reading Wade's post for this month, I was reminded of when my mother-in-law and I went to Rosh Hashanah services together. She wore a charm bracelet that was passed along to her from her mother, and she told me how she would play with the charms during services when she was a kid and how she wore it now in case my kids wanted to play with the charms. They definitely kept my daughter entertained when she wanted to sit with us during the holiday services. It's amazing to think about how jewelry and stories get passed down through generations and I don't expect to see any dry eyes after you read about Wade's memories. His debut novel, The Charm Bracelet (written as Viola Shipman) published yesterday. (Check out a review here.) Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to share with some lucky US readers!

The Seasons of Our Lives

As I grow older, the seasons come faster and seem shorter, and yet I find them laced with even more beauty and resonance.

Summer, of course, is still filled with childlike wonder, days at the beach, reading on the screen porch while the Cardinals game plays in the background, picking blueberries, eating triple scoop ice cream cones and watching fireflies illuminate the warm night.

Fall brings a return to routine along with crisp days, crockpot meals, football and sugar maples blanketed with leaves of crimson, yellow and orange.

Winter is a time of hibernation and snow, which comes early in Michigan – snowmen and snow angels and cross-country skiing – and Christmas is tinged with love and sadness now that both of my parents are gone.

But spring has always held a certain wonder for me, a time of rebirth. I love to wander through our woods and admire the daffodils that grow wildly and blanket the hillsides in gold, the Crayon tulips that pop up around trees and the inspiration of Easter, both spiritually and commercially (who still doesn't love Easter baskets, chocolate, dying eggs and Peeps?!?).

I was born March 30th, and my birthday has often fallen around or on Easter. My mother always called me her "child of hope," and she planted dogwoods – pink and white – in our childhood yard to represent me and my brother, who died when he was 17. I drove past our home last year while visiting my father, and those trees are intertwined now, pink and white hugging one another forever.

I used to call my mother on my birthday, before she could wake, much like Billy Crystal's mother did in the movie City Slickers.

"Happy Birthday," I would say to her.
"You're not well," she would joke. "I was going to call you … when it was light out."
"It's really your birthday," I would say. "I was just along for the ride."
"My child of hope," she would whisper, her voice suddenly emotional.
On my birthday, she would often send me daffodils and tulips – "for your writing desk," she would state on her card – as well as gifts to "inspire your muse."

It seems only appropriate that my latest book – and debut novel, The Charm Bracelet – would also be born in the spring (March 22 is its launch date) and be inspired by her. In fact, The Charm Bracelet is inspired by mother and grandmothers – their charm bracelets and lessons – as well as the "seasons" of our lives. It is also a tribute to my grandmothers: I chose the pen name Viola Shipman, my maternal grandmother's name, to honor all the women who inspired this book as well as me to become a writer.

With my maternal grandmother

I always say that the jangling of my grandmothers' charm bracelets was the background music to my childhood, and the charms are the narrative structure and hook of this book. Each charm in the book – like in my grandmothers' lives – held a story, a key that unlocked a secret part of them, and that while the charms were simple, their symbolism was grand: The dragonfly charm was to a life filled with good fortune; the puzzle piece was to a life filled with friends who complete you; the loon charm for a love that always called you home; the mustard seed charm to a life filled with faith.

My roots are present in this novel, which is about how the charms on a grandmother's bracelet reconnect her to her daughter and granddaughter and reminds them (before she falls further into dementia) -- and all of us -- of what's most important in this too-busy world: Family, faith, friends, fun, love and a passion for what you do.

The book, naturally, is also tied to the seasons, and how the memories of each resonates more deeply within us as we grow older, and the seasons come faster and seem shorter.

I consider this book to be a child of hope as well, and I know my mom and grandmothers would be proud. I can picture us all swinging on a glider on a warm summer day drinking iced tea and reading this book aloud to one another.

I couldn't be prouder of this book – and this new season of my life as a novelist – and truly hope you're charmed by The Charm Bracelet.

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 March 29th at midnight EST.

VIOLA SHIPMAN is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages and is an April Indie Next Pick by the nation's independent booksellers. He is at work on his second “heirloom novel,” which will be published in 2017 from St. Martin's Press. For more, please visit