Friday, December 30, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--December 2016

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:

(Also see Sara's review from 2014)


Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Favorites

A few of us are here today to share our favorites from 2016. There were so many great books and it was definitely hard to choose from the ones we read and loved. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book! And, of course, we'd love to hear what were your favorites from this past year.

Melissa A:
**Links are to reviews**

Novelista Girl by Meredith Schorr
Sparing the Heart by Tracy Krimmer
Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
The Year We Turned 40 
by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
A Girl's Guide to Moving On 
by Debbie Macomber
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner


It’s that time of year again! Time to whittle down all the books I’ve read into two favorites: a favorite that I’ve reviewed for CLC, and a favorite that I read on my own. The latter is getting a bit harder because I’m not in the habit of listing books on GoodReads or keeping track of them. I read so many books, I can’t remember them all.

My favorite of the books I’ve reviewed for Chick Lit Central was YA author Georgia Clark’s first adult novel, The Regulars (reviewed here). Described by more than one reviewer as a “feminist fairy tale,” The Regulars is the story of three New York City millennials who are gifted or cursed with a bottle of “Pretty,” which makes them… well, you know. Beauty may only be skin-deep, but the effects of sudden beauty go way deeper than that.

For the books I’ve read on my own, once again I’m choosing a World War II tale. Armando Lucas Correa’s The German Girl is the story of Hannah Rosen(thal), who is twelve years old in Berlin in 1939. Her parents are lucky enough to gain passage for the family on the St. Louis, which will take them and other Jewish refugees to America by way of Cuba. Seventy years later, Hannah’s granddaughter Anna receives a package from Cuba, and learns about Hannah’s life in Cuba and how the revolution affected her. With the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and the recent death of Fidel Castro, The German Girl is an important reminder of the cyclical nature of history.

My goal for 2017 is to do a better job of keeping track of everything I read!

**Links are to reviews**

1. The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig. I love that the relationships between the characters spanned decades of time. A great concept!

2. We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman. Matthew's writing style is so candid, his perspective on everything was spot on. I also appreciated the fact that the story primarily took place in Omaha, NE. Having lived there for fourteen years, I felt like I was "home" again.

3. For Rent by Erin Huss. Having worked in property management myself for over a decade, I felt as though I was re-living some of my own experiences. Such a fun read!

4. Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People by Joel Michael Dorr. This was another novel where I thoroughly enjoyed the candid writing style. There was great comedic timing and humor everywhere, keeping me entertained and on my toes.

5. Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan. Really, all of the books in the "Manhattan with Love" series could be on my list. I really enjoyed Sunset, though, because it tells the story of a young woman who has a really hard time dealing with relationships, and then she finds herself smack dab in the middle of one.

**Links are to reviews**

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon - a real page turner from start to finish. You can't always have a happy ending with a novel and i just couldn't see how one would emerge in this novel, in this sense it felt different and kept me on my toes. Loved it.

Would Like to Meet by Polly James - such a great novel, a feel good heart-warming funny story with characters I adored.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: Bridget Jones's Baby--The Diaries

By Melissa Amster

Bridget Jones, beloved Singleton and global phenomenon, is back with a bump in Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries.

8:45 P.M. Realize there have been so many times in my life when have fantasized about going to a scan with Mark or Daniel: just not both at the same time.

Before motherhood, before marriage, Bridget with biological clock ticking very, very loudly, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at the eleventh hour: a joyful pregnancy which is dominated, however, by a crucial but terribly awkward question – who is the father? Mark Darcy: honourable, decent, notable human rights lawyer? Or Daniel Cleaver: charming, witty, notable fuckwit?

9:45 PM It’s like they’re two halves of the perfect man, who’ll spend the rest of their lives each wanting to outdo the other one. And now it’s all enacting itself in my stomach.

In this gloriously funny, touching story of baby-deadline panic, maternal bliss, and social, professional, technological, culinary and childbirth chaos, Bridget Jones – global phenomenon and the world’s favorite Singleton – is back with a bump. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Although I haven't seen the latest Bridget Jones movie yet, I was psyched to receive this book. I plan to see the movie soon, now that it is out on DVD, but I'm glad I read the book first. From what I've heard, Daniel Cleaver is not in the movie. Bridget's friend Jude is not in the book, but IMDb shows her being in the movie. So I guess that even after reading the book, I may still be in for some surprises and changes.

Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries was the perfect light read for me. I had been reading some sad and intense novels lately, so this was definitely a pick-me-up. I found myself laughing out loud many, many times. Bridget is still a delightful mess, getting into all sorts of scrapes. On top of being pregnant and not knowing which man from her past is the father, she is also dealing with the drama that her family and friends are going through. And all she really wants sometimes is a cheesy potato. (Which inspired me to want a cheesy potato for dinner recently.)

The only issue I really had was with time. It seems like there would be time errors at various spots in the book. Like she would say she had a scan on Monday, when it was Friday, but then suddenly the scan was "tomorrow." Aside from that, I also couldn't tell if she was writing in her diary or reflecting in her head about a recent experience. It also would have been nice to talk about the actual baby delivering experience, which I'm sure would be amusing on top of everything else she had been going through.

Overall, it was hilarious and entertaining and I am even more excited to watch the movie now.

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

More Bridget Jones novels:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Seed of the Sunflower

By Sara Steven

**May contain spoilers for Can't Fight Fate and Chasing Butterflies, but you can win all three books right here!**

Can the words of a Psychic influence your thoughts? Your Choices? Your Destiny?

What if a Psychic could see your future?

Nikki is a Hollywood entertainment lawyer who thinks she's found the green-eyed man. Her soul mate; foreseen by the Psychic when she was 21.

But has she?

Sometimes all it takes is time… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

It seems as though Nikki’s story has come full circle in Seed of the Sunflower, the third installment from the “Can’t Fight Fate” book series. While she’s still grappling with the fact that she was promised a certain destiny several years ago, I felt as though Nikki was grabbing the reigns in her life and making a more conscious effort to live more by her own rules than someone else’s.

You can’t wait for life to happen to you. Often, you have to make life happen. Nikki is starting to adapt to this concept where her relationships are concerned, not only romantically but platonically as well. While I appreciated the growth we see in our main character, it’s in the supporting cast where we start to really see change and acceptance. Like with Siobhan, Nikki’s best friend. Her life has been all over the place, yet she’s starting to grow some roots, helping Nikki find her own roots, too.

Even when the roots are haphazard. Nikki always finds herself in certain situations none of us could fathom, good or bad! At times, I found myself a little envious of how easily she lands certain jobs, gigs, men… other times, I found myself happy that I live the lifestyle I do, because I know where I am and what I’m about. She’s still trying to figure it all out, little by little. Slowly coming to terms with the fact that maybe the psychic had been wrong all along. Or, maybe not. And, what’s a soul mate, anyway?

Ultimately, we discover whether Nikki ever finds her green-eyed man, and whether it’s all worth it in the end. I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series, Can’t Fight Fate (reviewed here) and Chasing Butterflies (book number 2, reviewed here), in order to follow this journey from start to finish, gaining a better understanding of whether you really can fight fate.

Thanks to Lisa Edwards for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has three sets of e-books and one set of print books to give away!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 2nd at midnight EST.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Review: Christmas at Lilac Cottage

By Becky Gulc

'Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore …

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?' (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Christmas at Lilac Cottage has a lovely festive cover and it would definitely grab my attention if I saw it in a book shop, it oozes warmth and festive sparkle. But what about the book itself?

This is a book which I found to be as warm inside as outside on the cover. It feels very traditional and I loved that. Quite a simple story in fact, no major plot twists but refreshingly in a not-boring kind of way!

Penny is a lovely character, an admittedly lonely woman who has been avoiding relationships since she was badly hurt a few years back. She works as an ice-carver and I loved this; so different, and so fitting with the festive feel to the novel. Her new tenant Henry is equally guarded about relationships. Having been a single dad since he was just a teenager, he is fiercely loyal and protective. But with instant chemistry between the pair, will they--and can they--fight this undeniable attraction?

The chemistry between the pair is written so well. I loved the descriptions of the house, so vivid in my mind. I also loved the great characters in the community who were the essential combination of warm ones, as well as a few who were not so nice to Penny or who had their own agendas in terms of trying to make things difficult for this prospective couple. I saw flaws in the central characters too, particularly Henry, but I welcomed this; no one is perfect!

It's not even a niggle to me, but the story is set over a short period of time. In a way I had to forget that to allow some elements of the story to be believable. Otherwise things just moved too fast, people too easily and quickly settled. So in my mind I had things taking place over a longer period of time. I also felt some parts of the story were too dialogue heavy, and this dialogue didn't always feel completely realistic (mainly in terms of the teenage character. I would perhaps have preferred more internal dialogue from the characters, but overall this didn't matter to me.

If you're looking for a light read with no major twists, then this is a great book for you. I'd happily read more novels featuring these characters or members of this lovely community.

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

More by Holly Martin:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book Review: A Whyte Christmas

By Sara Steven

Christmas has always been Kate O’Connor’s favorite time of the year, but this season—despite her battery-operated twinkle-light earrings—she’s feeling far from festive. In fact, she’s wallowing in a generous dose of self-pity over the loss of her father, the train wreck that was her engagement, and an unsavory setback in her career. To make matters worse, her boss at the Cline & Co. ad agency has volunteered her to be the one-woman welcoming committee for Gavin Whyte, the VIP client from across the pond who could be the key to saving their struggling business. Eager to prove she’s a team player, Kate resolves to show Gavin a good time, hoping his dazzling blue eyes, his delicious Irish accent, and her own propensity for disaster don’t cause her to torpedo the company’s chances of recovery. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Kate has the type of personality you love to get to know. Even though she’s dealing with a lot of personal and professional issues in her life, she handles it as well as can be expected, all while doing her very best to stand her ground. I’m not sure I could handle an ex-fiance’s constant advances while working under the same roof. Or, a boss who insists on having me become part of some far-fetched ad campaign that would really put me out there for all the world to see, and not in a flattering light. There’s a lot of chaos in Kate’s world, that’s for sure, and it gets even more complicated when Gavin Whyte enters the picture.

It doesn’t help that he’s incredibly handsome. And funny. And nice. Kate doesn’t want to mix business with pleasure, certainly not with the man who could make or break her career. Yet she can’t help but feel drawn to him. When her boss volunteers Kate to show Gavin around the city, to see the sights, it’s with reluctant hesitation that she agrees.

Every time they’re alone together, some sort of disaster occurs. And just when she thinks he might have some interest in her, she finds out he’s already in a relationship. But who he’s pining for back in Ireland may surprise her.

I really enjoyed the story behind A Whyte Christmas. While reading it, I felt as though the scenarios of Kate’s life could really happen to any one of us, which made me enjoy it all the more. There is a budding romance brimming just under the surface, while we learn more about a woman who begins to learn just how wonderful she really is, even though it’s been a long time coming. While Gavin is the catalyst for this, really, Kate has to discover for herself the power she’s always had inside of her. It’s really the perfect read for the holiday season.

Thanks to Michele Brouder for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Making a list...

What would the holiday season be without a post from our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker?!? Are any of her wish list items on your list too?

Jen, take it away!

My Grown-up Christmas List

For years, there were two things that ranked tops on my Christmas list: The Laverne and Shirley board game and an Easy Bake Oven.
And the bell-bottomed generation of the 1970’s just nodded and whooped in unison!

Santa left neither under the tree when I was a little. However, one year, I came close! I remember tearing through reindeer printed paper Christmas morning to find tiny Betty Crocker mixes and baby-sized pans used in conjunction with the Easy Bake Oven, yet there must’ve been a grave mix up because there was no Easy Bake Oven.

“Easy Bake Ovens are dangerous, Jenny,” my electrical engineering father lectured. “You could hurt yourself cooking alone. So, Santa brought you the mixes to make in the real oven.”

Obviously, cooking over a light bulb was lethal in my parents’ eyes yet a 400° oven was perfectly rational for a second grader in which to create Bundt cakes. I can’t make this up, people—honestly!
I was thinking about that little girl who once penned long, detailed lists to Santa and how the decades have changed her. She still believes in the magic of Christmas—giving, blessing others, chestnuts roasting by someone else’s open fire—yet her wish list looks different now that she’s forty-five-years-old.

One of my favorite holiday songs, "My Grown-up Christmas List," was released in 1992 by Amy Grant. Listening to it recently churned my grey matter: If I could, what would I wish for with that same childhood love and abandon I had so many moons ago? Without adult bias or humbug tendencies; just pure childlike-faith that anything was possible?

Well, here goes:

Jen’s (Grown-up) Christmas List
  1. A Starbucks barista—oh, I don’t know, maybe named Clive Owen—who magically appears daily in my kitchen, with a perfectly brewed 90oz. mug of black tea, at 6:00 am. No weekends off!
  2. A Star Trek-like gadget making all stoplights green upon my car’s arrival, removes crazies from my path, and places bubble force fields around my sons’ cars.
  3. The Krispy Krème diet is real—Hallelujah! 
  4. Laundry magically folds itself and climbs into the dresser a la Mary Poppins.
  5. Dog nose prints instantly dissipate from car windows along with the hair tumbleweeds my golden retrievers leave behind.
  6. Not one more pediatric oncology hospital bed is occupied—ever.
  7. That I’d always be slow to anger, even when one of my spawn eats the last Reese’s peanut butter cup in the freezer. (Side note from Melissa A: "Slow to anger" brought about a Hamilaria moment for me.
  8. That I’d be quick to love, even when one of my spawn eats the last Reese’s peanut butter cup in the freezer.
  9. That which makes people unique is embraced, not feared.
  10. One more day with my grandma so my children could hear her voice speaking their names; oh, and to hear her laugh while feeling her arms around me. Just one more Christmas. One more bite of her Salisbury steak with all the trimmings. One more time to watch her work her sewing machine magic. It doesn’t feel like too much to ask.
  11. To quote the movie, Strange Brew, on command as I did in high school let alone remember why I walk upstairs in my house daily only to recall the reason after I descend.
  12. Staying on high school: I want to retrieve all the time I spent making my permed hair even bigger along applying electric blue mascara. We’re regaining months of my life back, friends.
  13. That I’d catch up with my endlessly multiplying To Be Read pile of books. Can I get an “amen” my CLC peeps!?
  14. For peace on earth and goodwill towards all; always.
Christmas wishes do come true. In 2001, an Easy Bake Oven appeared under my Christmas tree. It wasn’t for me, rather it was from me, to my sons, ages five and three at the time. We can make our own Christmas magic happen all by ourselves and do not need others to make it happen for us, right? Boy oh boy, did that little bake shop live up to my all imagined hype! My boys and I baked tiny devil’s food chocolate layer cakes together over a lightbulb…and it was good…and no one was electrocuted, Dad.

Happiest of holidays to you and yours,

Check out this vintage Easy Bake Oven Commercial!

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.

Spotlight: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit
an Anthology by:
S.E. Babin, Geralyn Corcillo, Amy Gettinger, Holly Tierney-Bedord, Jax Abbey, Susan Murphy, Tracy Krimmer, Kate O’Keefe, 

Monique McDonell, Laurie Baxter

Eleven short and funny holiday stories of women going home for Christmas, stirring up old flames (& finding new ones), baking grandma’s cookies, planning revenge pranks on high school duds, opening Pandora’s Box, racing across the country for love, & kissing cute hunks under the mistletoe. Grab your copy while this limited time collection is still available!
Buy the Book:
About the Authors:

51dpgrm-qhl-_ux250_S.E. Babin is an award-winning author with a passion for writing books with a paranormal twist. Whether it’s romance or mystery, she loves taking the norm and turning it into the extraordinary. Her love of reading turned into a curious exploration to see whether or not she could write her own novel. Beginning with discarded pages of angsty novels and a slightly popular reimagining of Beowulf’s Grendel in her high school English class, Sheryl spent way too much time in the library, killing any chance of her becoming a cheerleader or anything even remotely cool.

geralyncorcilloFirst and foremost, Geralyn Corcillo loves reader reviews! In other news…When she was a kid growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching old movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.

b10rik4obxs-_ux250_Amy Gettinger lives in Orange County, California with her husband and her two piteous poodles under the shade of a very noisy old eucalyptus windrow full of crows and wild parrots. When she’s not writing novels, she’s creating Reader’s Theater plays and coaching a local senior group to perform them, complete with big bad wolves, feather boas and tiaras.
Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Website

Holly Tierney-Bedord lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She is the author of several novels including Coached, Bellamy’s Redemption, and Surviving Valencia. Visit her website at where you can connect to her blogs and subscribe to her newsletter.

A Durham, North Carolina native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jax Abbey bleeds Carolina blue. By day she molds the young, bright minds of the future, but at night you can find her furiously pounding the keyboard as she funnels the zany ideas and quirky characters from her brain to the computer. When Jax isn’t telling preschoolers to keep their hands to themselves or telling her characters to simmer down, she loves to spend time with her significant other, Tyler, and her TinyDog.

Tracy Krimmer’s love of writing began at nine years old. She wrote stories about aliens at school, machines that did homework for you, and penguins. Now she pens books and short stories about romance. She loves to read a great book, whether it be romance or science fiction, or any genre in between, or pop popcorn and catch up on her favorite TV shows or movies. She’s been known to crush a candy or two as well. Her first romance novel, Pieces of it All, released in May 2014 followed in December with Caching In, a romance mixed with the hobby of geocaching. She also has written several short stories.

Kate O’Keefe – I write funny, sexy, feel-good romantic comedies.
I’ve loved rom coms, romance, and chick lit since I first encountered Bridget Jones as a young, impressionable writer. It really was a match made in chick lit heaven.
I’ve been a teacher and a sales executive, but am now content as a mother and writer, madly scribbling all the ideas I’ve accumulated during my time on this planet we call home.

I live and love in beautiful New Zealand–where my novels are all set–with my wonderful family and my two very scruffy, naughty dogs.
b1wbzy5qhhs-_ux250_Monique McDonell – I am an Australian author who writes fun, flirty contemporary women’s fiction including chick lit and romance. After many attempts writing books that made me miserable I decided to write books with happy endings and have been loving the journey ever since.

I live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter which probably explains why the beach features in so many of my novels and why people describe them as excellent beach reads.
61nme5gs4ml-_ux250_Laurie Baxter has degrees in both puppetry and screenwriting because let’s face it, majoring in English would have been no more useful and way less fun. She loves chocolate, ice cream, chocolate ice cream, dogs, New York City, old movies, modern architecture, all kinds of theater, and music from before she was born. Her eighth grade English teacher told her to become a writer, so she did.

Visit all the Stops on the Tour:

December 18th
Hea Romances With A Little Kick - Book Excerpt/Promo
Romantic Reads and Such - Book Excerpt
He Said Books Or Me - Book Promo/Author Guest Post

December 19th
Kristin's Novel Cafe - Book Excerpt/Promo
Hello...Chick Lit - Book Excerpt/Promo

December 20th
ItaPixie's Book Corner - Book Review/Excerpt
Reads and Treats - Book Review
Rae Reads - Book Excerpt/Promo

December 21st
Appletree Books - Book Review

December 22nd
Jena Books - Book Review
Wonderfully Bookish - Book Review

December 23rd
Pretty Little Book Reviews - Book Review
Steamy Book Momma - Book Review
Blog on the run - Book Promo Post

December 24th
Novelgossip - Book Review
Book Lover in Florida - Book Review/Promo

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Spotlight: Small Admissions

Today we're featuring Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel as part of BookSparks' 2016 Fall Reading Challenge.

When ambitious Kate Pearson’s handsome French “almost fiancé” ditches her, she does not roll with the punches, despite the best efforts of her family and friends. After abandoning her lofty career goals and grad school plans, Kate spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City and leaving her apartment only when an infrequent dog-walking gig demands it. It seems that nothing will get her out of pajamas and back into the world—until, miraculously, one cringe worthy job interview leads to a position in the admissions school department at the revered Hudson Day School.

In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer. Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

Small Admissions is quick-witted and razor-sharp. With a chorus of varied and absurd voices, you'll laugh at everyone involved while secretly fearing that you see yourself in the mix. Amy Poeppel manages to tell a story both poignant and hilarious, hinting that this wry and absorbing debut is the beginning of an exciting career.” ~Taylor Jenkins Reid, Author of One True Loves

Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. She lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of a prestigious independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of Small Admissions at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into this novel. Visit Amy at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: This Must Be the Place

By Sara Steven

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

There are so many layers to Daniel, and to this story. Initially, I found myself going back and forth between several chapters, ensuring I had the correct characters linked together, that I was on the same page. To say that Daniel lives a complicated life would be an understatement, yet it’s so true to the nature of most of us. There are so many layers to our own lives, so many connections that we often miss or don’t recognize. I appreciated the great lengths Maggie O’Farrell went to, in order to perfect this.

Even though Daniel reflects back on the woman he’d lost touch with twenty years ago, the true epicenter begins with Daniel and Claudette. While she’s hiding away from the world and trying hard to close the door on the life she once lived, Daniel discovers who she really is while he’s also hiding from his own failures. Unfortunately, the truth almost always reveals itself, no matter how many years go by, and soon they find themselves facing the past and having a hard time overcoming it. They both bring so much baggage to this relationship, it’s hard for either of them to let go.

The complexity of the story and its characters can at times feel overwhelming, but in a good way. There’s such a stark reality to it all; even when I felt as though I couldn’t read another page, I couldn’t put it down. At times, I found myself angry with Daniel, or with Claudette. I wanted to jump into the pages and shake shoulders, offering up my own advice in order to save them from the inevitable train wreck that looms ahead. In other moments, I could identify and see the wisdom from their own experiences. It was an interesting way to feel about two fictional characters.

This Must Be the Place would never be classified as a simple, easy read. It’is a work of art, engaging, enabling you to slow down and take your time with its characters. Well worth the time you’ll put into it.

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

More by Maggie O'Farrell:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: The Language of Sisters

By Sara Steven

Toni Kozlovsky can’t explain how she knows exactly what her sisters are feeling—only that the connection seems to happen out of the blue, just when they need it most. Since Toni, Valerie, and Ellie were little girls growing up in Communist Russia, their parents have insisted it’s simply further proof that the Kozlovskys are special and different.

Now a crime and justice reporter, Toni lives on a yellow tugboat on Oregon’s Willamette River. As far as her parents are concerned, the pain of their old life and their dangerous escape should remain buried in the Moscow they left behind, as should the mysterious past of their adopted brother, Dmitry. But lately, Toni’s talent for putting on a smile isn’t enough to keep memories at bay.

Valerie, a prosecuting attorney, wages constant war against the wrongs she could do nothing about as a child. Youngest sister Ellie is engaged to marry an Italian, breaking her mother’s heart in the process. Toni fears she’s about to lose her home, while the hard edged DEA agent down the dock keeps trying to break through her reserve. Meanwhile, beneath the culture clashes and endearing quirks within her huge, noisy, loving family are deeper secrets that Toni has sworn to keep—even from the one person she longs to help most.

As poignant as it is humorous, The Language of Sisters explores the echoes of the past that can cling to the present—and how love, laughter, and family can rescue us time and again. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

So many wonderful things in this novel that really resonated with me, from even the smallest of nuances. Toni’s story isn’t unlike what many of us have gone through in our own lives, when it comes to protecting our hearts from damage. I could really relate and identify with her need for building up walls, especially when it comes to romantic involvements. At first, I wasn’t quite sure where her fears stemmed from, but I loved that. Cathy Lamb shows us, vs. coming right out and telling us Toni’s backstory, only adding to the seriousness and dedication of this character.

The relationship between Toni and her sisters is pure love. I felt the urge to call my own sibling up and check in with her, reminding me just how important family can be. Toni’s parents are a riot, reminiscent of the parents in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There is no filter, showcasing real honesty. It was a very unique perspective on family dynamics.

I appreciated the backstory on Communist Russia. I know someone who had suffered from similar experiences in her own childhood, and I can remember the haunted look in her eyes when she’d tell me what her own family had gone through in order to survive. This was another unique perspective, blending in beautifully with Toni and her driving need to live her life in a certain way, free from restrictions. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover the backdrop for The Language of Sisters is in Oregon, right off of the Willamette River. I’m from Salem, Oregon, and it was nice to be reminded of the beauty that surrounds that wonderful state, having moved from there nearly twenty years ago. I thought Cathy described the city perfectly, and I loved the animal characters she’s thrown in who have human characteristics. It was a really nice touch.

The Language of Sisters is a gentle read, taking us through the intricate web of Toni’s life, giving us not only a better understanding of what makes her tick, but a better understanding of our own lives, especially when it comes to family. A great read!

Thanks to Cathy Lamb for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Cathy Lamb:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review: Driving on the Left

By Sara Steven

**May contain spoilers for Jeep Tour. Can be read as a stand-alone though.**

Like Mother, Like Daughter? 

A summer fling changed the entire course of Jackie Sullivan’s life. Back then, she trusted her instincts and took a chance on love. Now she’s at a crossroads and has a big decision to make. How much is she willing to sacrifice for the man she loves? 

Her daughter Becca’s got her own problem- a secret that could threaten her carefully planned-out future. Romance is the last thing on her mind this summer. Jackie and Becca planned to explore the beautiful Irish countryside during a relaxing vacation, but when Becca falls for tour guide Sean, she wants to explore much more. Will Becca resist temptation or follow in her mother’s footsteps? Sean may be just too good to pass up. 

This book is for anyone who believes in the power of love and its ability to make you all sorts of crazy. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I really appreciated the mother/daughter dynamic between Jackie and Becca. Even though there are undercurrents of friendship, I got the impression that Jackie in no uncertain terms has laid down the groundwork for what she feels is an appropriate relationship to have with her young adult daughter. She knows she needs to let go of the reigns, allowing Becca to live her own life, but she also wants to ensure Becca won’t make the same mistakes she made at her age.

While trying desperately to protect Becca, Jackie is also struggling with her own indecision. There’s a crossroads looming ahead. Soon, she’ll be living primarily without children, entering a new transitional period of her life. She’s so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of changing the routine she’s grown so accustomed to over the last several years. Should she really pursue such big changes without much of a safety net?

In witnessing the relationship between Becca and Sean, I felt as though Jackie was reliving so much of her own youth, only adding to the chaos and turmoil inside of her. Making it even harder for her to make a decision. And, for Becca, she wants to move forward in life uninhibited. If only there weren’t so many stumbling blocks involved, whether it’s from her mother, or Sean and his family, or the fact that all too soon, she’ll be heading back to the States, while her beau will remain in Ireland.

As the synopsis pointed out, Driving on the Left is for anyone who believes in the power of love, but I also felt it’s for anyone who has been in a situation where they’re teetering right on the edge of self-discovery. Young and young at heart, alike. We’ve all felt the strong pangs of love, of heartbreak. And, most of us cling to strong family ties as much as we can, never wanting to let go, but knowing at some point you have to. It was a sweet read, with the ability to take us back to that point in our lives where we truly felt the craziness of love, in all its forms, and what it can do, or make us do for it.

Thanks to Gail Ward Olmsted for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Gail Ward Olmsted:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Say Goodbye For Now

By Sara Steven

First, a confession. I read the majority of Say Goodbye For Now in one night. That was never my intent, initially, yet I had a really hard time finding just the right place to put it down. Catherine Ryan Hyde has a wonderful way of creating unique characters that you can identify with, the kind who tell a story in such a simplistic way, it’s like becoming part of the scenery. That’s why I couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t want to.

Dr. Lucy is content in living alone, far from humans and all the chaos they bring with them. She surrounds herself with animals, the kind who are injured or have nowhere else to go. The kind who would never survive on their own. Pete Solomon, a young boy, discovers a wounded wolf-dog on the side of the road, and that’s where his story begins, and where Lucy’s begins, too.

Set in rural Texas in 1959, there are a lot of biases and opinions on whether a woman doctor, one who treats humans or animals alike, can do as well of a job as her male counterparts. There’s also a lot of contention when Pete meets Justin, new to the neighborhood, a boy around his age who has similar interests yet those interests differ where the color of their skin contrast.

Pete doesn’t understand when his own father threatens his newfound friendship with the new kid in town. He certainly doesn’t understand it when Justin ends up injured and on the brink of death due to his differences. And it’s not safe to take Justin anywhere, injured or otherwise. The only safe place he can go is to Dr. Lucy’s, and when Lucy meets Justin, she also encounters his father, Calvin, a unique man who is different and altogether wonderful.

Although this novel is set several decades back from our own time, there is so much that still holds true and relevant to what we encounter today. There are plenty of biases and opinions, many of them stemming from where you come from, your religion, the color of your skin, who you are. Say Goodbye For Now lays a foundation laced in all of it, giving the reader an in-depth look into what it’s really like to be in the middle of such contention.

I love the message this novel relays to its readers. That there is hope. That given time, there can be change. That ultimately, love reigns. And that often, doing what’s right can be the hardest thing you ever have to do, but it’s the only thing worth fighting for.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for a honest review. They have one copy for a lucky reader!

Visit Confessions of a Bookaholic for another chance to win!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends December 21st at midnight EST.

More by Catherine Ryan Hyde:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A special Christmas book giveaway!

Just in time for Christmas, we have a great opportunity to win six Christmas books by six bestselling authors! There's enough here to keep some for yourself and to share the love by gifting some to your friends and family! Enter to win A Lowcountry Christmas by Mary Alice Monroe, Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews, Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber, Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand, Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes, and A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison.

Visit the featured authors on social media:
Facebook: Mary Alice Monroe/Twitter: @maryalicemonroe
Facebook: Mary Kay Andrews/Twitter: @mkayandrews
Facebook: Debbie Macomber/Twitter: @debbiemacomber
Facebook: Elin Hilderbrand/Twitter: @elinhilderbrand
Facebook: Anita Hughes/Twitter: @hughesanita
Facebook: Beth Harbison/Twitter: @BethHarbison

Thanks to Tandem Literary for this generous giveaway!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends December 20th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Review: Miracle on 5th a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve loved every single book in the "Manhattan with Love" series. The third installment, Eva’s story, is no exception. Sarah Morgan is the queen of creating friction and tension between her leading characters, making sparks fly between Eva and Lucas, two people you’d never think to put together based on their personalities, but that’s what makes it work so well.

There are wonderful layers to Eva. While she projects an image of sweetness and light, there are a few secrets behind her personality that you discover while reading about her experiences with Lucas. And, he’s also hiding his own charming personality behind a gruff and cold exterior. It just takes some time to coax it out, lending into an emotional struggle for both characters.

I also appreciated the in-depth look into the psyche of someone who is still dealing with loss. No one handles losing a loved one in the same way. We’re all so different in how we grieve. While Eva is choosing to put on a brave face and remain the sunshine in life, trying hard to stay true to her grandmother’s personality and wishes, Lucas is hiding from the world and himself. Even the reasons behind his grieving are a twist, because nothing is ever really quite like it seems.

While Miracle on 5th Avenue is a great novel that can be read on its own, I highly recommend reading all the books in the "Manhattan with Love" series. Eva’s story takes center stage, but I felt I learned so much about her and her friendships through the other books, too. They all compliment one another so well, and are a great way to enjoy some downtime during the holiday season.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on Sarah Morgan's blog tour and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Check out Sara's reviews for Sleepless in Manhattan and Sunset in Central Park

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. (Giveaway is part of the tour. If the Rafflecopter below doesn't work, enter here.) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends December 30th.