Friday, July 29, 2016

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Along the Infinite Sea (paperback) by
Beatriz Williams from Putnam
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by
Bryn Greenwood from Macmillan
Where is Emma Butler's Life Plan? by/from Julia Wilmot, won from Neverland Blog Tours


Amy:
Love, Alice by Barbara Davis from Penguin Random House

Melissa A and Gail:
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris from
St. Martin's Press

Gail:
Housebroken by Laurie Notaro from
Random House

Jami:
A Spoonful of Sugar by/from Amanda Orr
(e-book)
The Regulars by Georgia Clark from BookSparks
The Girl Who Slept with G-d by Val Brelinski from Viking

Book Review: What Happens at the Beach (plus a giveaway)

By Sara Steven

It’s finally time for Natalie Dryden to decide what she really wants! After ditching her sparkling engagement ring, and her ghastly fiancé, she jets off for the sun-kissed shores of Southern France – the only place that has ever truly felt like home. For the first time ever, Natalie is determined to forget all about men and follow her dreams!

…head to the French coast!

Only, avoiding the male population isn’t quite so easy, especially when she meets smooth-talking Philippe and gorgeous fisherman, Remy! But then Natalie, quite literally, bumps into brooding millionaire Mark whilst swimming in the glittering azure-blue bay – and her life is turned upside-down.

Love might be off the cards for Natalie, yet suddenly she finds herself in her dream job and working with her dream man! But is it all too good to be true?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

One of the things I appreciate most about T.A. Williams, are the exotic locations his novels are always set in. You want nothing more than to be where he’s describing, and he describes the scenery so well! While Natalie finds herself in a bit of a dilemma, she’s dealing with her own personal roller coaster ride while enjoying the beauty of Southern France. It definitely takes the edge off her failed engagement, as well as the unwanted advances she’s finding herself in where local men are concerned.

Only, there is one man she can’t seem to shake. Mark is someone she is instantly drawn to, and when he hires her to help him with a novel he’s writing, using her expertise in Medieval History, she’s near him as much as he’ll allow. For some reason, he’s standoffish with her, making it seem as though there is no interest there, whatsoever. A wall is built up between them, no matter how hard Natalie tries to penetrate it.

Natalie is trying desperately to stick with the plan, the goal for her life. To find a long-term career. The job Mark has offered her will only last so long, and afterwards, there’s no guarantee that she’ll remain in his life, especially if she’s offered jobs outside of France. And, if he’s involved with someone else, a real possibility, where would that leave Natalie?

One of the main characters is Natalie’s ninety year-old grandmother, someone who Natalie feels very close to, like a surrogate mother. I could really identify and relate with that relationship, considering my own experiences with my grandmother. She tries hard to steer Natalie in the right direction, at times the voice of reason. It’s like a touch of nostalgia and familiarity, making What Happens at the Beach a very sweet read, indeed.

Thanks to KEPR for the book in exchange for an honest review. They're giving away e-books of some previous novels in this series. Visit the other stops on T.A. Williams' blog tour.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reviews at Amazon--July 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!

Jami's review
Gail's review

Melissa A:

Review
Review
Review

Review
Review
Review

Sara:

Review
Review

#SRC2016 July Books



We're featuring some more books from BookSparks' July 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. Be sure to add these to your shelves!


All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

The next blockbuster thriller for fans of The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive — with film rights already snapped up by Reese Witherspoon.

In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut, everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

Visit Wendy Walker at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

The audacious new novel about family and ambition from "one of the best living mystery writers" (Grantland) and bestselling, award-winning author of The Fever, Megan Abbott.

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.

From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl" (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition.

Visit Megan Abbott at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Excerpt and Giveaway: Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty published yesterday, but has been building up hype well before then, thanks to Liane Moriarty's popularity from Big Little Lies. Melissa A is reading and already enjoying this brand new novel. Today we are sharing the first chapter and thanks to Flatiron Books, we have FIVE copies to give away!




Chapter One

“This is a story that begins with a barbecue,” said Clementine. The microphone amplified and smoothed her voice, making it more authoritative, as if it had been photoshopped. “An ordinary neighborhood barbecue in an ordinary backyard.”
Well, not exactly an ordinary backyard, thought Erika. She crossed her legs, tucked one foot behind her ankle, and sniffed. Nobody would call Vid’s backyard ordinary.
Erika sat in the middle of the back row of the audience in the event room that adjoined this smartly renovated local library in a suburb forty-five minutes out of the city, not thirty minutes, thank you very much, as suggested by the person at the cab company, who you would think would have some sort of expertise in the matter.
There were maybe twenty people in the audience, although there were foldout chairs available for twice that many. Most of the audience were elderly people, with lively, expectant faces. These were intelligent, informed senior citizens who had come along on this rainy (yet again, would it ever end?) morning to collect new and fascinating information at their local Community Matters Meeting. “I saw the most interesting woman speak today,” they wanted to tell their children and grandchildren.
Before she came, Erika had looked up the library’s website to see how it described Clementine’s talk. The blurb was short, and not very informative:

Hear Sydney mother and well-known cellist Clementine Hart share her story: “One Ordinary Day.”

Was Clementine really a “well-known” cellist? That seemed a stretch.
The five-dollar fee for today’s event included two guest speakers, a delicious homemade morning tea and the chance to win a lucky door prize. The speaker after Clementine was going to talk about Council’s controversial redevelopment plan for the local pool. Erika could hear the distant gentle clatter of cups and saucers being set up for the morning tea now. She held her flimsy raffle ticket for the lucky door prize safe on her lap. She couldn’t be bothered putting it in her bag and then having to find it when they drew the raffle. Blue, E 24. It didn’t have the look of a winning ticket.
The lady who sat directly in front of Erika had her gray, curly-haired head tipped to one side in a sympathetic, engaged manner, as if she were ready to agree with everything Clementine had to say. The tag on her shirt was sticking up. Size twelve. Target. Erika reached over and slid it back down.
The lady turned her head.
“Tag,” whispered Erika.
The lady smiled her thanks and Erika watched the back of her neck turn pale pink. The younger man sitting next to her, her son perhaps, who looked to be in his forties, had a bar code tattooed on the back of his tanned neck, as if he were a supermarket product. Was it meant to be funny? Ironic? Symbolic? Erika wanted to tell him that it was, in point of fact, idiotic.
“It was just an ordinary Sunday afternoon,” said Clementine.
Noticeable repetition of the word “ordinary.” Clementine must have decided that it was important she appear “relatable” to these ordinary people in the ordinary outer suburbs. Erika imagined Clementine sitting at her small dining room table, or maybe at Sam’s unrestored antique desk, in her shabby-chic sandstone terrace house with its “water glimpse,” writing her little community-minded speech while she chewed on the end of her pen and pulled all that lavish, dark hair of hers over one shoulder to caress in that sensual, slightly self-satisfied way she had, as if she were Rapunzel, thinking to herself: Ordinary.
Indeed, Clementine, how shall you make the ordinary people understand?
“It was early winter. A cold, gloomy day,” said Clementine.
What the…? Erika shifted in her chair. It had been a beautiful day. A “magnificent” day. That was the word Vid had used.
Or possibly “glorious.” A word like that, anyway.
“There was a real bite in the air,” said Clementine, and she actually shivered theatrically, and surely unnecessarily, when it was warm in the room, so much so that a man sitting a few rows in front of Erika appeared to have nodded off. He had his legs stretched out in front of him and his hands clasped comfortably across his stomach, his head tipped back as if he were napping on an invisible pillow. Perhaps he’d died.
Maybe the day of the barbecue had been cool, but it was definitely not gloomy.Erika knew that eyewitness accounts were notoriously unreliable because people thought they just pressed Rewind on the little recorder installed in their heads, when in fact they constructed their memories. They “developed their own narratives.” And so, when Clementine remembered the barbecue, she remembered a cold, gloomy day. But Clementine was wrong. Erika remembered (she remembered; she was absolutely not constructing) how on the morning of the barbecue, Vid had bent down to lean into her car window. “Isn’t it a magnificent day!” he said.
Erika knew for an absolute fact that was what he’d said.
Or it may have been “glorious.”
But it was a word with positive connotations. She could be sure of that.
(If only Erika had said, “Yes, Vid, it certainly is a magnificent/glorious day,” and put her foot back on the accelerator.)
“I remember I’d dressed my little girls extra warmly,” said Clementine.
Sam probably dressed the girls, thought Erika.
Clementine cleared her throat and gripped the sides of the lectern with both hands. The microphone was angled too high for her, so it seemed as though she were on tippy-toes trying to get her mouth close enough. Her neck was elongated, emphasizing the new skinniness of her face.
Erika considered the possibility of discreetly edging her way around the side of the room and zipping over to adjust the microphone. It would only take a second. She imagined Clementine shooting her a grateful smile. “Thank God you did that,” she would say afterwards, while they had coffee. “You really saved the day.”
Except that Clementine didn’t really want Erika there today. Erika hadn’t missed the horrified expression that flashed across her face when Erika had suggested she’d like to come along to hear her speak, although Clementine had quickly recovered herself and said it was fine, lovely, how nice, they could have coffee in the local food court afterwards.
“It was a last-minute invitation,” said Clementine. “The barbecue. We didn’t know our hosts that well. They were, well, they were friends of friends.” She looked down at the lectern as if she’d lost her place. She’d carried a little pile of handwritten palm-sized index cards with her when she walked up to the lectern. There was something heartbreaking about those cards, as if Clementine had remembered that little tip from their oratory lessons at school. She must have cut them up with scissors. Not her grandmother’s pearl-handled ones. They’d gone missing.
It was odd seeing Clementine “onstage,” so to speak, without her cello. She looked so conventional, in her blue jeans and “nice” floral top. Suburban mum outfit. Clementine’s legs were too short for jeans, and they looked even shorter with flat ballet shoes like she was wearing today. Well, it was just a fact. She had looked almost—even though it seemed so disloyal to use the word in relation to Clementine—frumpy, when she’d walked up to the lectern. When she performed, she put her hair up and wore heels and all black: long skirts made out of floaty material, wide enough so she could fit the cello between her knees. Seeing Clementine sit with her head bowed tenderly, passionately toward her cello, as if she were embracing it, one long tendril of hair falling just short of the strings, her arm bent at that strange, geometric angle, was always so sensual, so exotic, soother to Erika. Each time she saw Clementine perform, even after all these years, Erika inevitably experienced a sensation like loss, as though she yearned for something unattainable. She’d always assumed that sensation represented something more complicated and interesting than envy, because she had no interest in playing a musical instrument, but maybe it didn’t. Maybe it all came back to envy.
Watching Clementine give this halting, surely pointless little speech in this little room, with a view of the busy shopping center parking lot instead of the hushed, soaring-ceilinged concert halls where she normally performed, gave Erika the same shameful satisfaction she felt seeing a movie star in a trashy magazine without makeup: You’re not that special after all.
“So there were six adults there that day,” said Clementine. She cleared her throat, rocked back onto her heels and then rocked forward again. “Six adults and three children.”
And one yappy dog, thought Erika. Yap, yap, yap.
“As I said, we didn’t really know our hosts, but we were all having a nice time, we were enjoying ourselves.”
You were enjoying yourself, thought Erika. You were.
She remembered how Clementine’s clear, bell-like laughter rose and fell in tandem with Vid’s deep chuckle. She saw people’s faces slip in and out of murky shadows, their eyes like black pools, sudden flashes of teeth.
They’d taken far too long that afternoon to turn on the outdoor lights in that preposterous backyard.
“I remember at one point we were listening to music,” said Clementine. She looked down at the lectern in front of her, and then up again, as if she were seeing something on the horizon far in the distance. Her eyes were blank. She didn’t look like a suburban mum now. “‘After a Dream’ by the French composer Gabriel Fauré.” Naturally she pronounced it the proper French way. “It’s a beautiful piece of music. It has this exquisite mournfulness to it.”
She stopped. Did she sense the slight shifting in seats, the discomfort in her audience? “Exquisite mournfulness” was not the right phrase for this audience: too excessive, too arty. Clementine, my love, we’re too ordinary for your highbrow references to French composers. Anyway, they also played “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses that night. Not quite so arty.
Wasn’t the playing of “November Rain” somehow related to Tiffany’s revelation? Or was that before? When exactly did Tiffany share her secret? Was that when the afternoon had turned to liquid and begun to slip and slide away?
“We had been drinking,” said Clementine. “But no one was drunk. Maybe a little tipsy.”
Her eyes met Erika’s, as though she’d been aware of exactly where she was sitting the whole time and had been avoiding looking at her, but had now made a deliberate decision to seek her out. Erika stared back and tried to smile, like a friend, Clementine’s closest friend, the godmother of her children, but her face felt paralyzed, as if she’d had a stroke.
“Anyway, it was very late in the afternoon and we were all about to have dessert, we were all laughing,” said Clementine. She dropped Erika’s gaze to look at someone else in the audience in the front row, and it felt dismissive, even cruel. “Over something. I don’t remember what.”
Erika felt light-headed, claustrophobic. The room had become unbearably stuffy.
The need to get out was suddenly overpowering. Here we go, she thought. Here we go again. Fight-or-flight response. Activation of her sympathetic nervous system. A shift in her brain chemicals. That’s what it was. Perfectly natural. Childhood trauma. She’d read all the literature. She knew exactly what was happening to her but the knowledge made no difference. Her body went right ahead and betrayed her. Her heart raced. Her hands trembled. She could smellher childhood, so thick and real in her nostrils: damp and mold and shame.
“Don’t fight the panic. Face it. Float through it,” her psychologist had told her.
Her psychologist was exceptional, worth every cent, but for God’s sake, as if you could float when there was no room, no space anywhere, above, below, when you couldn’t take a step without feeling the spongy give of rotting stuff beneath your feet.
She stood, pulling at her skirt, which had gotten stuck to the backs of her legs. The guy with the bar code glanced over his shoulder at her. The sympathetic concern in his eyes gave her a tiny shock; it was like seeing the disconcertingly intelligent eyes of an ape.
“Sorry,” whispered Erika. “I have to—” She pointed at her watch and shuffled sideways past him, trying not to brush the back of his head with her jacket.
As she reached the back of the room, Clementine said, “I remember there was a moment when my friend screamed my name. Really loud. I’ll never forget the sound.”
Erika stopped with her hand on the door, her back to the front of the room. Clementine must have leaned toward the microphone because her voice suddenly filled the room: “She shouted, Clementine!”
Clementine had always been an excellent mimic; as a musician she had an ear for the precise intonations in people’s voices. Erika could hear raw terror and shrill urgency in just that one word, “Clementine!”
Erika knew she was the friend who had shouted Clementine’s name that night but she had no memory of it. There was nothing but a pure white space where that memory should have been, and if she couldn’t remember a moment like that, well, that indicated a problem, an anomaly, a discrepancy, an extremely significant and concerning discrepancy. The wave of panic peaked and nearly swept her off her feet. She pushed down the handle of the door and staggered out into the relentless rain.

Liane Moriarty has sold over six million copies of her books worldwide and her novels have been translated into thirty-nine languages. She lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter. When she’s not writing she can be found reading, demanding coffee, clutching her forehead and occasionally falling to her knees on the soccer field sidelines (the grief, the joy, the drama!) demanding chocolate, skiing like she’s thirty years younger than she is, recovering from skiing injuries, doing the school run, walking around the block to avoid writer’s block, talking to old friends about getting old, listening to her children explain the wonders of MineCraft, watching TV series far too late into the night and reading, which has already been mentioned, but deserves a second mention. (Bio courtesy of Liane's website.)

Visit Liane on Facebook.

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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Ends August 1st at midnight EST.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beth Kendrick is unFURgettable...plus a book giveaway

Beth Kendrick's Black Dog Bay novels never fail to entertain and make us smile, so we're excited to read her latest, Once Upon a Wine. And who can resist the cute dog on the cover of this one?!? Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have a copy to give away!

Some fun facts about Beth, courtesy of her website: She's a Leo, a middle child, and a formidable Trivial Pursuit opponent. She reads everything she can get her hands on, from the classics to comic books. She doesn’t drink coffee (something she has in common with Melissa A, along with her favorite Girl Scout cookie...which you'll find out about soon). Beth lives in Arizona in a very cute fixer-upper that she bought in a burst of totally delusional, can-do confidence. And finally, she has two large dogs (possibly Rhodesian Ridgebacks) named Roxie and Friday. Visit Beth on Facebook and Twitter

Beth is here to celebrate her pub day and play Loaded Questions with us, so let the game begin!


Synopsis:
Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of cabernet—her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She’s bought a vineyard—in Delaware. At Ginger’s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat.

The three women reunite, determined to succeed. There’s only one little problem: None of them knows the first thing about wine making. And it turns out, owning a vineyard isn’t all wine and roses. It’s dirt, sweat, and desperation. Every day brings financial pitfalls, unruly tourists, romantic dilemmas, and second thoughts. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth waiting for…
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
Thin Mints, always and forever.



What makes you comfortable?
Giant, ungainly dogs trying to sit on my lap and leaving fur all over my black pants. It’s what I’m used to!

What movie should have been a lot funnier?
In order to answer this question, I would actually have to go to a movie, which hasn’t happened in…um…wait, hang on…carry the three…a really, REALLY long time. (Deadlines, single parent, etc.) The obvious solution is for me to throw caution to the wind, go to a theater--preferably one of the swanky ones with leather recliners and cocktails--and report back next week.

If you could give anyone a big hug, who would it be?
My son, the light of my life. He’s at the age where he’s starting to resist hugging and holding my hand in public. *sob*

If you were to change your first name, what would you change it to?
I could see myself as a “Gwen.”

What is way too dangerous for you to even try?
Starting to watch a new TV series (like oh, say, “Bloodline”) when I’m on deadline. I’m not really known for my self-control, so the result would inevitably be binge-watching, a word count of zero, tears, desperation, and excessive Thin Mint consumption. Ask me how I know.

Thanks to Beth for visiting with us and Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends July 31st at midnight EST.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath

By Jami Deise

What makes you turn the page?

As a reader, I’m mostly drawn to genre fiction. Loosely speaking, genre fiction is plot-based fiction that follows a certain set of parameters. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense keep readers turning pages as they wonder who did it and whether the protagonist and her friends and family will survive. Romance readers are looking for those magical moments that drive two people together, and the required happily-ever-after. Fans of women’s fiction, including chick lit, want to know how the heroine will cope with the new relationship circumstances and what epiphanies she will have.

And literary fiction? I have to be honest – I’m not a huge fan. I’m not into quiet stories, pages of description, long scenes where very little happens. I don’t believe writing should be admired for clever turns of phrase, complex sentence structure or unique metaphors. Tell me a story. Tell me a story that keeps me turning pages, wondering and guessing about what’s going to happen next.

Literary fiction usually reveals itself in an Amazon or back cover blurb, and other than certain book club selections, I’ve done a fair job of avoiding it. However, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath, Kimberly Knutsen’s debut novel, slipped in under my radar. I thought I was requesting women’s fiction. But there’s very little plot in this nearly 400-page book.

Also, no Sylvia Plath. And her journals remain lost.

The journals in question are the conception of Wilson Lavender, women studies instructor and PhD candidate. He already has one perfect sentence, and he’s confident that these fictional lost journals, his planned dissertation, will shoot out of him like a missile. He is, after all, a genius.

Too bad his wife Katie – who already earned her PhD in psychology, although she’d prefer to spend her days eating chocolate, reading People magazine, and seducing her 15-years-younger neighbor – doesn’t think so. She sees Wilson as a morose recovering alcoholic who’d rather sleep than work, help around the house, or kill the mice who’ve infested the kitchen of their too-small condo.

This condo, already stuffed with the couple, their three kids, and their old dog, becomes suffocating when Katie’s pregnant sister January moves in. With all three children and the dog now sleeping with their parents, it’s not surprising that Wilson starts to see his co-worker Alice Cherry as more than just a colleague – especially when she asks for his help on her dissertation about life as a stripper.

Knutsen is an enormously talented writer, and this novel is a true achievement. But for a genre fan like myself, reading it was a chore. It is a completely character-driven book, written from the points of view of Katie, Wilson and January. There are pages and pages of characters staring up at the ceiling, having panic attacks, fighting insomnia, chasing lost dogs, and ruminating about past loves. Despite all the education between them, Wilson and Katie are both about as mature as the average 13-year-old. (January, a high school dropout, has that excuse for her attitude.) And Katie and January both have sexual violence in their past. The sections of the book that deal with what happened to them are so specific, that readers who are triggered by these events might not be able to handle reading them. I’m not sure whether I was supposed to connect Katie’s childhood abuse to her casual attitude toward adultery; January’s incident happened when she was (legally) an adult.

These are not likable characters. Yet, they are incredibly real and vivid. But I wouldn’t want any of them in my house. January would smoke pot in my bathroom, Katie would try to seduce my son, and Wilson would leave behind a mess. I feel awful for their kids.

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath is a very well-written book. For fans of both women’s fiction and literary fiction – for readers who like uncomfortable characters – it might be perfect. But if you’re looking for a quick read with plenty of plot twists, you may want to keep looking.

Thanks to Northern Illinois University Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: Just Haven’t Met You Yet

By Becky Gulc

‘Percy James has everything a girl could want: a comfy flat, a steady relationship and a truly lovely group of friends. Then she is approached by Eros Tech. Eros is 'the future of love' - an agency that brings together soulmates using phone data. Percy has been identified as a match for one of Eros's super wealthy clients. The only problem is she already has a boyfriend . . . but what if this is *destiny*? Would you - could you - pass up a chance to meet your one true love?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Just Haven't Met You Yet is Cate’s first novel under her own name, having previously worked as a ghost-writer. With a catchy and recognisable title, an appealing cover, and an intriguing premise this is a book that would definitely capture my attention even if I wasn’t reviewing it. To state it will appeal to fans of Paige Toon and Lucy Diamond too on the cover..well, I’m sold!

This is a novel which I really enjoyed; it was fresh, modern and intriguing. It covers situations I’ve not read in any other books in the genre yet also manages to have very much a traditional chick-lit feel to it at the same time.

Percy is a very likable and relatable character. When we meet her she in theory is in a solid relationship with Adam, yet we soon realise for Percy it’s not necessarily ‘the’ relationship for her. With EROS being the catalyst to a chain of events and meeting new people Percy soon finds herself in some really tricky and funny situations; some she could never have imagined her being in when we first meet her. I found it surprising at times and couldn’t predict where it was going to go and I loved the collection of characters. The writing is effortless and engaging, a pleasure to read.

My only slight qualm was regarding ‘SoulDate’ Eros Technologies matchmaking system. It’s obviously fiction and there’s no need to go into a vast amount of detail about how this would work in theory, I just thought there could have been a little more detail about this than there actually was to make it sound more credible at particular points. But I just accepted it, to be honest, so as not to spoil the reading experience for myself.

A very enjoyable read and definitely an author whose work I will keep an eye out for in future!

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spotlight: "The It Girls"....plus a special giveaway

Today we're featuring the three novels from Leah Marie Brown's series "The It Girls." Leah is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky reader!

Faking It
Vivia Grant couldn't be happier. She has her dream job and is about to marry her dream man. Does it really matter that she's led him to believe she's a virgin? After all, being in love makes every experience feel like the first time anyway! But an unexpected encounter with an ex-lover is about to expose her embarrassing lie...When Vivia's fiancé discovers the truth, he ends their engagement--via text--and uses his connections to get her fired. Unemployed and heartbroken, Vivia begins planning her new future--as a homeless spinster. But her best friend has a better idea. They'll skip the Ben & Jerry's binge and go on Vivia's honeymoon instead. Two weeks cycling through Provence and Tuscany, with Luc de Caumont, a sexy French bike guide. Too bad Vivia's not a big fan of biking. And she's abysmal at languages. Will she fib her way through the adventure, or finally learn to love herself--and Luc--flaws and all?


Finding It
Anything can happen in a year! Unemployed, homeless, and left at the altar, Vivia Perpetua Grant could see her future as a flannel pajama wearing spinster—or worse, a bag lady shuffling around Golden Gate Park. But for a girl obsessed with rock music, Chinese take-out, and the color pink, misfortune is another word for opportunity. Vivia has found her niche as an international travel writer and the long-distance lover of Jean-Luc de Caumont, an über-hot French literature professor and competitive cyclist. Still, even with so much going right, Vivia can’t help but wonder if something isn’t missing. The long distance thing is taking its toll on a girl who didn’t have that many tokens to begin with. And fate seems to be tempting her at every turn, first with a hunky Scottish helicopter pilot, and then with a British celebrity bad boy...Will Vivia continue to keep it real or will she discover some old habits die hard?


Working It
With her trust fund and coveted job at Christian Dior, Fanny Moreau believes she has it all. But when her best friend finds a fulfilling new career abroad—and a dreamy relationship with a great guy, Fanny’s fabulous life suddenly feels empty. Inspired to find her true purpose, she trades her cushy lifestyle in San Francisco for an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness. Everyone thinks Fanny has gone off the deep end. What’s a girl with a Ph.D in Prada doing teaching in an Inuit village? Even Fanny is wondering, especially when she comes face to face with Calder MacFarlane. The Scottish search and rescue pilot is everything Fanny is not—selfless, heroic, and used to living on the edge. He’s also the man who once loved her best friend. Yet something in Calder’s sexy gaze has her believing that she’s a woman capable of great things—a woman who might just find her own happily-ever-after, in a place where she least expects it…

Leah Marie Brown is an American writer with a penchant for Paris and all things pink! Before writing novels, she worked as a print journalist for a Pulitzer prize winning newspaper and served in the United States Air Force as a Radio and Television Broadcaster. An avid traveler, she has had adventures and mishaps from London to Tokyo, which she writes about on her blog, On Life, Love & Accidental Adventures, and in her contemporary romantic series, "The It Girls."  In her free time, she likes to watch movies, read, and snap photographs. You can view her photography by clicking on the Adventures tab on her website or by following her on Instagram. She lives in the shadow of Pike's Peak Mountain with her family and shamefully pampered poodles. She loves to hear from readers, so send her a note! Or connect with her on Pinterest, 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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Open worldwide. Giveaway ends July 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Go-to-Gay: The new man in town

You may or may not have heard, but Wade Rouse and Gary Edwards have decided to retire from their joint role as CLC's Go-to-Gay. We loved having them here and will miss them, but hopefully they'll contribute a guest post from time to time.

After hearing this news, our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, came to the rescue and introduced us to Keith Stewart, author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me. She claims that he is hilarious, and we definitely agree with her after reading his answers to our loaded questions.

Please give Keith a warm welcome as we inaugurate him as our new Go-to-Gay!

What is your favorite dish at a Chinese restaurant?
Chinese food is one of my favorites, and choosing a dish is easy. It’s Hot and Sour Soup. I could live on it. I would eat it every day. Some things I love about it, besides the Umaminess: (1) I have no idea how to make it myself, so I only can get it when I order out, (2) there are mystery ingredients in the soup that taste great, but do not look like edible items at all, and (3) those teeny-tiny little shrimp are always in it.

Although you didn’t ask, the item I hate most at Chinese restaurants is the large fish dish you have to call ahead to have prepared for you. If you’ve never noticed, all eat-in Chinese restaurants have this huge fish in their repertoire. Many times, it isn’t on the actual menu, but it is available. They act like it takes extra time to specially prepare it, but I’m telling you, all they do is coat with breading and fry up AN ENTIRE FISH. Head, bones, tail, gills, eyes. It is the whole thing. Flash fried and sent to your table to stare at you while you try to eat it without getting choked on a bone and dying. Eww, it gives me shivers.

What are you a self-proclaimed expert at?
I am an expert on ways to cheat on your daily step count with your Fitbit. This isn’t a particularly proud moment for me, but I admit, I am good at it. I have the unfortunate luck of being an out-of-shape person with several in-shape friends. Had I realized the stress and turmoil accepting these people as my “friends” on Fitbit.com, I would have never done it, but now that I have, it is too late to take it back. As a result, I constantly see myself at the bottom of the rankings for number of steps walked. I have earned exactly two Step Badges, and have never been close to receiving one for climbing stairs. I have never won a challenge of any sort. I rarely even hit my daily step goal, even though I lowered from the default goal that the sadists at the Fitbit company set for you. So you can see why it was necessary to find ways to “boost” my steps while still maintaining my current level of (non)activity. Through trial and error, I can now can bust out 5-7k in steps without moving from my recliner while watching The Vampire Diaries. I can get in a quick 3k in steps on the drive to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. I still haven’t won a challenge, but it is only a matter of time. Only a matter of time.

What one food item do you wish was healthy?
Pizza. If pizza were healthy, I would be an Olympian.



What is life's greatest mystery?
Life’s greatest mystery has to be why the mind wreaks such havoc on the body? Honestly, my mind just flat out enjoys messing with me. As a writer, I can’t tell you how many times while on the verge of falling asleep, I have thought of the perfect line for a poem or come up with the best story idea I have had in months. It is so good, I tell myself I could never forget it and will start writing it all out first thing in the morning. Of course when I wake up, I can only remember that I am already running behind, and I forgot to refill my water pill yesterday, which means my face will have an extra chin today.

Another sick trick my brain likes to pull on me is telling me how tired I am all day long. Signals are sent resulting in my barely being able to make it through work and dinner. I force myself to stay awake until there is at least a semblance of darkness outside. Then I hop in bed, get under the covers, turn out the light, and my mind says, “SURPRISE! I FOOLED YOU! WE ARE GOING TO STAY UP ALL NIGHT AND WORRY!”

If anyone has an answer to this mystery of life, I am all ears.

What do you need more of right now?
Willpower! I am the easiest pushover in Kentucky. I have such good intentions to eat well, exercise, write two hours daily, keep my house clean, wash my car, get to work on time, etc. All it takes is to glance at a Facebook notification or to hear the familiar “tweet” ushering in a text, and I am sucked into a time wormhole that blindsides my day. How I wish I could be disciplined, productive, and, oh look, Sean Hayes is broadcasting live on Facebook!

If you were to start a collection now, what would it be?
Each year at Christmas, I compile a list for my blog called The Most Inappropriate Christmas Gift List. I usually spend a couple of months researching the dark alleyways and underground stores of the interweb to find these items. I have been doing it for four years now, and at this point, my friends and family join in on the research. I am always getting links to items for my list. If I could have a collection of the macabre items on that list, I would be the happiest man alive.

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is www.astrongmanscupoftea.com . You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMenProject.com. He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.


Getting close with Emma and Nicola...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus back at CLC today to play a lively game of Loaded Questions. They recently published So Close and it is part of BookSparks' 2016 Summer Reading Challenge. BookSparks even has one copy to give away! In addition, Emma and Nicola are giving away a copy of their 2015 novel, How to Be a Grown-up.

Newsweek declared Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’s The Nanny Diaries a “phenomenon.” It is a #1 New York Times bestseller and the longest-running hardcover bestseller of 2002. In 2007 it was released as a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, and Alicia Keys. McLaughlin and Kraus are also the authors of three other New York Times bestsellers—Citizen Girl, Dedication and Nanny Returns—as well as Between You & Me and their young adult novel, Over You. They have appeared numerous times on CNN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, and The View. In addition to writing for television and film, McLaughlin and Kraus travel around the country speaking to young women about feminism and gender issues in American corporate culture.

You can find them at their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Synopsis of So Close:

Amanda Beth Luker has spent her whole life desperately looking for someone who can show her the way out of her trailer park Florida town. And then, finally, help arrives―in the form of Tom Davis, a successful lawyer with political aspirations who grew up just a few towns over from Amanda. But it’s his wife, Lindsay, who really captures Amanda’s imagination. Strong, smart, and determined, she gives Amanda something she’s never had―a role model. Meanwhile Amanda is introduced to the wealthy, charismatic, and deeply troubled Pax Westerbrook. He clearly desires Amanda, but if she gives in will that move her closer to the life she’s always dreamed of―or make it impossible?

Amanda rides Davis’s political success all the way to Washington, where he becomes Senator and will later be tapped for president and even make a bid for the White House. But when Amanda starts to suspect, and later confirms, his moral indiscretions, her loyalty is tested. Will a girl from a trailer park even be believed if she goes public with damning information? Will she be willing to risk losing everything she’s gained?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Emma McLaughlin:

If you could choose any college to attend, what would it be?
The American University of Paris. If I had only known! I can’t believe I was on a snowy hill in Connecticut and could have been in Paris. But then I never would have met my writing partner, never written the Nanny Diaries and never had the privilege of answering this question. So never mind. :)

What song reminds you of a past or present relationship?
The Cure’s "Pictures of You" takes me RIGHT back to the angst filled days of high school where I was longing for the touch of FirstNameLastName crushes and waiting for life to start. It reminds me of a past relationship with a version of myself I find mortifying/endearing. Me as played by Lena Dunham.

What book do you frequently recommend to people?
The Rules of Civility. Gorgeous, brilliant and nailing the Gershwin/Gatsby Manhattan. It makes me want to be a better writer, woman, and urbanite.

Nicola Kraus:

What is your favorite kind of cereal? 
Granola. But the really not-healthy kind. I like it high in fat.

What is one thing you always wanted as a kid, but never got? 
Cool clothes. You name the trend, I did not have it. My parents had a very post-war outlook on Children’s clothes. They were supposed to keep us warm and that was about it. I just wanted a Benetton rugby sweater SO BADLY.

What is the funniest thing you can write in five words or less? 
IKEA’s new tampon: the Üptwaat.

Thanks to Emma and Nicola for chatting with us and sharing How to Be a Grown-up with our readers. Thanks to BookSparks for sharing So Close with our readers, as well!

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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Ends July 25th at midnight EST.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jennifer Close raises our hopes...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Jennifer Close here to celebrate the pub day of her latest novel, The Hopefuls. Melissa A. loves that it takes place in DC and even saw a review by Ron Charles at The Washington Post talking about how she captures the essence of the district. Entertainment Weekly gave The Hopefuls an A- in their most recent issue. Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Jennifer was born and raised on the North Shore of Chicago (another thing she has in common with Melissa A, although she was raised in the northwest suburbs) She graduated from Boston College and received her MFA in Fiction Writing from The New School in 2005. Jennifer worked in New York in magazines for many years and now lives in Washington, DC, where she teaches creative writing at George Washington University. Visit Jennifer at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Synopsis:
When Beth arrives in DC, she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn't work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young DC and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What no longer holds your interest?
Negative people.

What movie was simply made to make you cry?
Marley and Me. I’m sort of a wimp with all sad movies, but when they involve a dog…well, let’s just say I don’t handle it too well.



What would motivate (or already motivates) you to run a marathon?
Every time I watch a marathon, I get so inspired by the runners and how hard they’ve worked and I get this feeling that I’m going to start training the very next day for my own marathon. Of course, this feeling fades by the next day. I’m sure I could be convinced if there was some sort of combination lifetime gift of wine/cheeseburgers/blowouts at the end.

What is your favorite cliche?
Laughter is the best medicine. Cheesy? Maybe. But it’s also true. A good laugh always makes me feel so much better.

Who is your favorite comedian?
I’m a big fan of Mindy Kaling. I like her show, I like her essays and I like her attitude and approach to work, success, friendship and family.

What is your greatest phobia?
Rats. I hate them so much and I have a gift (curse?) for being able to spot them on the street and in alleys and pretty much everywhere!

Thanks to Jennifer for chatting with us and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.


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

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Giveaway ends July 24th at midnight EST

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book Review: All the Time in the World

By Jami Deise

Disney has helped popularize well-used tropes about evil stepmothers. Romance flips that trope on its head, utilizing the caring young woman – often a nanny, but not always – who comes into the life of a widower and his children, quickly mends their broken hearts, and then becomes a loving, devoted stepmother. Guitar and curtain-clothes are a bonus, but not required.



In her debut novel, All the Time in the World, author Caroline Angell tears apart that romantic fantasy with an ease that belies her first-time status. Her protagonist, composer-turned-nanny Charlotte, may be Maria Von Trapp mixed with Mary Poppins. But children with dead mothers need a lot more than songs, and this book details how crushing and overwhelming their grief can be. Romance under these circumstances would feel completely inappropriate.

Angell moves back and forth through time in the novel, and reveals on the first page that Gretchen, Charlotte’s employer, dies. She then moves back to establish Charlotte, who has a master’s degree in music composition and is smarting from learning that Jess, a teacher whom she idolized, stole her work and used it in a TV theme. While the rest of Charlotte’s class is moving onto successful music careers, including her sometime-boyfriend Everett, Charlotte is paralyzed, and ends up accepting a nanny job with very wealthy Upper-East-Siders Gretchen and Scotty McLean, helping Gretchen take care of their two pre-school boys, Matt and George. Scotty is a lawyer who comes from serious old wealth; if Gretchen’s career prior to motherhood was mentioned, I did not note it. But these two are not another Mr. and Mrs. X from the Nanny Diaries. Scotty is obsessed with work, but he is also clearly devoted to Gretchen and the boys. And Gretchen is perfect. (Perhaps Angell was trying to avoid stereotypes around Upper East Side parents, and over-corrected.)

The novel has two weaknesses, and one of them is that both Gretchen and Charlotte are practically perfect. Sometimes Gretchen may have a sharp word for Scotty, but she’s quick to apologize and explain her thoughts and feelings to her husband and children. And she is overwhelmingly grateful for Charlotte, constantly thanking her and paying her huge amounts of money. Charlotte, as well, is the nanny a woman can only dream of having. Not only does she never lose patience with Matt and George – whose pre-school boyness is precisely and accurately rendered – she never even has a cross thought about the boys. She’s always on time, can always stay late, is never tardy in picking up the boys from school. Her only flaw – which isn’t even a flaw – is that for a woman in her late 20s, she’s living a life more appropriate for someone several years younger, and at times that makes her seem younger than her actual age.

The second weakness is that Angell spends too much time on the pre-death minutiae of the kids’ daily lives. (This book is a great gift for anyone who asks the question, “What did you do all day,” to someone with young kids.) The preschool pick up and various catty moms; the food challenges, the “witching hour” meltdowns are all dissected in great detail. Angell is a gifted writer, and I could tell she was trying to show, not tell, what a terrific nanny Charlotte was, how well she understood the children, and how important she was to their lives. But a little can go a long way for a talented writer, and a stronger editor could have helped rein her in a bit.

Other than Jess, who only appears briefly, the villain in the piece seems to be Scotty’s brother Patrick, a womanizer who never misses an opportunity to remind Scotty that he dated Gretchen (once) before he did. With Charlotte in his brother’s camp, Patrick covets her, and it’s a mystery why Charlotte tolerates his boorishness as much as she does.

Amazon advertises the book as “about a young woman's choice between the future she's always imagined and the people she's come to love,” but it’s not as clear cut as that. Charlotte doesn’t really have a specific option for a future other than remaining the boys’ nanny; without a firm choice, her dilemma is less clear. Still, without that choice, the unsettling notion that Charlotte could spend the rest of her life taking care of another woman’s family remains ominously out there.

Angell is a gifted writer, and her command of prose is quite sophisticated. All the Time in the World does not read like a debut, which holds great promise for her future offerings. I am looking forward to them.

Thanks to FSB Associates for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What's in the mail?

Melissa A:
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison from St. Martin's Press
Love, Alice by Barbara Davis from Berkley
(e-book via NetGalley)
Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star from Lake Union
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott from BookSparks
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller from Pamela Dorman Books
I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places by
Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella from
St. Martin's Press
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon from Ballantine
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by
Susan Bishop Crispell from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)

Amy:
Housebroken by Laurie Notaro from
Random House
Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick from Penguin Random House
We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman from Penguin Random House
Home Field by Hannah Gersen from
William Morrow
Jami:
Into the Amish by/from Erin Brady (e-book)
Love Literary Style by/from Karin Gillespie
(e-book)
Sara:
What Happens at the Beach by T.A. Williams from Karan Eleni (e-book)

Becky:
The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by
Ellen Berry from Avon