Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: Amanda Wakes Up

By Jami Deise

In 1987, James L. Brooks released what some call his best romantic comedy ever, the Holly Hunter vehicle Broadcast News. The love triangle featured producer Jane Craig, who’s torn between field reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) and pretty-boy anchor Tom (William Hurt). Refreshing because Jane ultimately chooses herself and her journalistic ethics over either man, the film is also an inside look at one of the major issues in broadcast journalism at the time—hiring attractive people as anchors over more intelligent, less pretty people. (It was rumored that William Hurt’s character was based on Peter Jennings.) One of the most iconic scenes in the film is when Jane feeds Tom questions through an earpiece, making it seem that he’s conversant on the foreign crisis he’s reporting on.

A lot’s happened in journalism in the past thirty years. Broadcasting has become narrowcasting, as viewers follow only the news sources that reflect their particular world views. Teenagers make up stories about politicians and watch them go viral; politicians cry “fake news” whenever news breaks that makes them look bad. Journalists receive death threats. With the stakes so high, is it still possible to set a romantic comedy in this world?

CNN co-host Alisyn Camerota certainly thinks so. Her debut novel, Amanda Wakes Up, is Broadcast News for the reality-TV presidential era. And while her heroine, Amanda Gallo, is more Bridget Jones than Jane Craig, the political environment she’s thrust into is very serious.

After stringer Amanda reports on a hostage situation in her bikini, her profile explodes and she’s hired by Benji Diggs, the millionaire who owns FAIR News. (DC insiders may wonder if Camerota deliberately uses the same name as one of the most anti-immigrant groups there is, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.) FAIR runs a morning show, Wake Up America, and Benji promises Amanda that he wants to air both sides of the issues. But Amanda, raised by a liberal mother who’s supporting the country’s first female presidential candidate, Virginia Wynn, seems to be the only one who cares about the other side. Former actor Victor Fluke is running on a pro-business, anti-immigrant platform (“They’re American’ts!”) and Wake Up America is the only show where he can speak unchallenged. With a co-anchor, Rob, who seems more interested in his looks and his celebrity friends, and producers fresh out of college, Amanda is out of her league and can’t challenge bad statistics about gun control and abortion. As Fluke and Wake Up America become more and more prominent, Amanda’s liberal friends and her boyfriend Charlie accuse her of helping Fluke’s campaign, and Amanda begins to see them as close-minded when it comes to Fluke’s supporters. Depending on which questions she asks that morning, she’s attacked by conservatives or liberals as being against or for Fluke. At the same time, there’s whispers of scandals around Fluke’s past, and Amanda would love to report on them…if only Benji would let her.

Although Camerota swears she did not have a crystal ball, Wynn and Fluke do seem to be modeled on Clinton and Trump, and some of the events in the book (violence at Fluke rallies, for instance) are eerily prescient. Although the presidential campaign provides a timeline for the book, it does not dominate it. Rather, Camerota artfully demonstrates the hollowness behind news coverage; executives (Les Moonves, anyone?) who were more interested in their ratings than examining the damage that was being done to the country. Amanda herself, who was hired because she looked good in a bikini, may actually be the Tom in this case rather than the Jane. She’s too uninformed to hold her own in a debate with Fluke, blaming producers for not giving her enough information when Fluke badmouths Planned Parenthood. (Reporters who cover abortion issues are well-versed in the research provided by the Guttmacher Institute; Amanda seems to have never heard of them.) She naively believes that Fluke supporters are good people because they are nice to her, never wondering what their attitudes might be if she weren’t the reporter making Fluke look good. Amanda tries earnestly to live out the promise Benji made when he hired her, to see and report on both sides, never realizing that in some cases, there is really only one.

Camerota seems torn between whether she’s writing chick lit or a satire. That may be the result of decisions made at the editor or publisher level, though. While there were several plot points that had me cheering on Amanda, ultimately the book’s ending feels forced. It’s a reminder that while truth may be stranger than fiction, fiction is often happier. (And, as Amanda tells her mother, so are conservatives.) Still, the book works until the last few pages. And even if Camerota set out to write a satire, unfortunately events transpired to make Amanda Wakes Up too close to reality to be called an exaggeration. In fact, with a Twitter-happy President under investigation for colluding with Russia, real life has become the satire.

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

Melissa A:
I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella from St. Martin's Press
The Address by Fiona Davis from Goldberg McDuffie
The Captain's Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore from BookSparks
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak from Penguin Random House
The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms (paperback) from St. Martin's Press
Wish You Were Here by RenĂ©e Carlino from Atria
Look Behind You by Iris and Roy Johansen from St. Martin's Press
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder from Macmillan Audio (won from Goodreads)
Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg from BookSparks
A Work of Art by Micayla Lally from BookSparks
American Family by Catherine Marshall-Smith from BookSparks
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor from BookSparks



Sara:
Holly Freakin' Hughes by/from Kelsey Kingsley (e-book)
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley from Simon and Schuster





What could be in YOUR mail:

I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places and I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Since Melissa A just celebrated her birthday, she wants to share these summer treats with a lucky reader!

The New York Times bestselling mother-daughter team returns with a new collection in the series that Oprah Magazine calls the "Perfect Summer Must-Read," of funny and relatable true stories in the everyday lives of modern women. Lisa and Francesca give their multigenerational take on a variety of topics, from the terrors of Tinder to the indignities of the gym, and from fleece as formalwear to playing the lotto as financial planning, sounding like two girlfriends you've known your whole life. As with all mothers and daughters, Lisa and Francesca sometimes joke, sometimes fight, but always love their way through life's best and worst moments. You'll laugh along with them, and when you finish, you will want to share the fun with your mother, daughter, or best friend.

So join Lisa and Francesca as they travel from the beach to the city to the suburbs and all the places in between, exasperating, supporting, and enjoying each other along the way.
(Courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.)


The bestselling and “perennially hilarious” mother-daughter team is back with a new collection of stories from their real lives, guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. Join Lisa and Francesca as they regret drunk-shopping online, try smell-dating, and explore the freedom of a hiatus from men - a Guyatus. They offer a fresh and funny take on the triumphs and facepalm moments of modern life, showing that when it comes to navigating the crazy world we live in, you’re always your own best lifeguard. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

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 July 26th at midnight EST.

Book Review: Crimes Against a Book Club

By Melissa Amster

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Crimes Against a Book Club is one of those books I was recommending before I even finished, as I was that confident it was a winner the whole way through. And I was right!

The premise is creative and the dialogue and characters are humorous throughout. I love how the characters played off of each other. Everyone and everything was easy to visualize without needing an overwhelming amount of detail.

It's basically Odd Mom Out meets Breaking Bad. It also reminded me of some books I read. The "criminal" aspect reminded me of The Assistants by Camille Perri and the parts where you feel bad for women you're not supposed to like reminded me of The J.A.P. Chronicles by Isabel Rose. Even with all these comparisons, the story is fun, fresh, and celebrates friendship.

There was nothing I didn't like about this book and it's going on my 2017 favorites list. Definitely pick it up for a dose of fun and entertainment. I'm impressed that it is a debut and look forward to more from Kathy Cooperman!

Dream movie cast:
Sarah: Christina Hendricks (I had her cast in this role from the moment I started the book.)
Annie: Linda Cardellini
Valerie: Mira Sorvino
Kim: Catherine Bell
Chloe: Joanna Cassidy (perhaps the Odd Mom Out connection made me think of her, but she'd be so perfect in this role!)
Natalie: Rachael Harris
Priscilla: Kristin Chenoweth
Dawn: Heather Graham

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Spending time (and money) with Camilla Isley

Today, we welcome Camilla Isley to CLC. Since our theme for July is shopping, she's here to answer some fun questions on the topic. Her latest novel, I Have Never, is part of the First Comes Love series. (First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.) 

Camilla is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband in an adventure abroad. She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

Visit Camilla online:


Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.

When Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?

With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…


A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane. 

Tell us about a time you experienced buyer's remorse:
A pair of boots. There’s an episode in Friends where Monica buys a pair of gorgeous—for that era―very expensive boots and then can’t wear them because they’re too uncomfortable and make her feet blister. The same happened to me. In the shop, for the five minutes I had the boots on, they seemed like the most sensible purchase. After wearing them for an entire evening, I knew I had just thrown out of the window a good chunk of my shopping budget for that year.

Would you consider yourself a shopaholic?
I have cycles. Dry seasons of shopping followed by splurging weeks, then I’m good for some months. Of course the aftermath of my birthday and Christmas always end up in a little shopping spree. The only unseasonal item are books, I buy them all year round…

Do you like to shop alone or with family/friends?
Alone. This way I have all the time in the world to spend in the shops I want to visit, try on whatever ridiculous amount of items, choose what I like, change my mind, not buy anything, and repeat in another shop. The only woman blessed with enough patience to go through this process with me is my mom, so sometimes she comes along.

What is the oldest item of clothing still in your possession? What year is it from?
Moving houses helps with keeping the hording in check, so I’d have to say a twin pair of strapless beach dresses 2008 circa, in white and green.
But if I go to my parents’ house in my old room the 90s are still raging in some drawers.

Favorite splurge purchase?
Weddings are always the best excuse to splurge, and I can’t resist the temptation to buy a new gorgeous dress to attend a ceremony and subsequent party. So my favorite purchase for this year has been a long aquamarine gown all flow-y and with a coral flowers print.

What would be your main character's favorite place to shop?
Blair lives in New York, so I’d say SOHO. A good mix for different budgets and both unique and chain shops.

Thanks to Camilla for chatting with us and to HCL Author Services for including us in Camilla's tour.

Check out the full tour:

July 13th
Rachel Brimble Romance - Author Q&A
A Beautiful Book Blog - Book Review
Writing Pearls - Book Review
With Love For Books - Book Review
For the Love of Chick Lit - Book Review

July 14th
Kristin's Novel Cafe - Book Excerpt
JenaBooks - Book Review
He Said Books or Me - Author Guest Post
Judging More than Just the Cover - Author Q&A

July 15th
I Heart Fictional People - Book Review
Chrissi Reads - Book Review
Books and Photographs - Book Review
Rebecca Book Review - Book Excerpt
Monique McDonell-Author - Book Excerpt

July 16th
One Book At A Time - Spotlight Post
CosyCuteKnits - Book Review
The Writing Garnet - Book Review

July 17th
The Belgian Reviewer - Book Excerpt
Girl vs Books - Book Review
kraftireader - Book Review

July 18th
Reading Is My SuperPower - Book Review
THE CHLOE DOUGLAS BLOG - Book Review

July 19th
Simona's Corner of Dreams - Author Guest Post
Bookish - Book Review

July 20th
TheBlossomTwins - Book Review
Grass Monster - Book Review
Chick Lit Central - Author Q&A
Living Life with Joy - Author Guest Post

July 21st
ItaPixie's Book Corner - Book Review
Rae Reads - Book Review
Novelgossip - Book Review
Whispering Stories - Book Review
Ali - The Dragon Slayer - Book Review
A Daydreamer's Thoughts - Book Review
Steamy Book Momma - Book Excerpt

July 22nd
BookLoverWorm - Book Review
Pretty Little Book Reviews - Book Review
Book Lover in Florida - Book Excerpt


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Go-To-Gay: Shop 'til you drop!

We're so glad to have our Go-To-Gay, Keith Stewart, back this month. He took some time off from CLC in May, but definitely made up for it with a fabulous post that needs no introduction.

Stay tuned for August, when Keith and our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, pair up on a post.

I CAME. I SAW. I SHOPPED.

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. I still abide by the tried and true maxims, “Shopping is cheaper than therapy,” and “Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life,” but as I aged over the years, I also fattened up and lazied out, dulling my shopping habits a bit. I no longer allow myself to buy expensive designer brands of clothes because, obviously, I am not going to be wearing this massive size two months from now when Weight Watchers finally kicks in on my body (also, why in Hell do they make size 40-waist pants in SLIM FIT?! If you wear that size, nothing is going to fit you slimly. YOU AREN’T FOOLING ANY ONE, RALPH LAUREN).

I have never been a bargain shopper. You will never find me at a Black Friday sale. I did that one time only, and as I stood my ground in the electronics section of Wal-Mart in Douglas, Georgia, protecting my place in line against an angry mob of heathens who had waited until 4:00 AM to come out for a deal instead of 3:30 AM like us sane folk (as if you can hope for a 40-inch, off-brand, LED television for $99 after 3:30 AM), I swore to God above if she just got me through this anarchy with all my fingers and toes intact, I would never attempt to shop on Thanksgiving weekend. I kept my word. In fact, I don’t think I even have been back inside the Wal-Mart in Douglas, Georgia since that fateful day.



The only time I really lost control while shopping was my first experience in a DSW Shoe Warehouse. My husband was attending a conference in San Francisco, and I tagged along for fun. We soon discovered that San Fran is a SHOPPING MECCA for men, for obvious reasons. Our guard was already down by the multiple floors of men’s clothes in the downtown Macy’s, Saks, and other department stores, but when we happened into the DSW Shoe Warehouse, WE LOST OUR FREAKING MINDS. Men’s shoes as far as the eye could see called our name. Designer shoes. On Clearance. Even a percentage off the clearance price. All sense and sensibility went out the window then and there. Andy and I ended up having to buy an extra bag to pack our fourteen pairs of shoes (seven each) in so we could get them home to Florida.



I occasionally still get excited at the thought of shopping. In fact, just last week I had two big shopping-related events. First, I went to Houston to visit my best friend, and I am not sure how many of you know this, but Dillard’s Department Stores sends all of the leftover clothes that have already been placed on sale and put on clearance in your local store to Houston to a humongous facility I like to call the Dillard’s Dump. The store is crammed with clothes at rock-bottom prices. We are talking prices so cheap, I will allow myself to purchase expensive brands even at my current pre-Weight-Watchers-kicking-in size. In fact, I bought $563.50 worth of clothes for a mere $72.00. I’m telling you, it’s worth a trip to Houston just to shop there.



The second shopping event of last week truly explains where I am in my life. Amazon Prime Day had me on edge the entire time I was in Houston. I didn’t really need anything in particular, but the news outlets kept touting it, calling it Christmas in July, which eventually led me to begin thinking of it as a loophole in my deal with God not to shop on Black Friday. As Prime day went on, I saw nothing that struck my fancy, until around 9:00 PM. Then it finally happened. I saw it. The item I’d secretly coveted for a while. The Squatty Potty. HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?! It is something every middle-aged person should own. I was so excited about finding it for half-price, I not only bought myself one, but also one for my parents and one for my sister. Overall, the items I purchased on Prime Day were as follows:
• 3 Squatty Potties (50% off)
• 1 CPAP Replacement Mask (33% off)
• 1 My Pillow (40% off)
• 2 Orthopedic shoe insoles (25%)



As I said, I think that clearly tells everyone where currently I am in life.
Shopping can be therapeutic or it can be gut-wrenching (and gut-wrenching is another reason you need a Squatty Potty in your life). Either way, I hope when you do decide to go, you find the best deals out there. In fact, if you want to share some places you’ve found something cool for a great price, help your Go-To-Gay out and list it in the comments below. And always remember, when in doubt, go shop.


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.

Book Review: Fitness Junkie

By Jami Deise

I hate going to the gym.

This might come as a surprise for those who know that I’ve been going three to five days a week for the past five years. But I have to force myself every morning. Most days it’s only knowing that I have a good book to read on my Kindle while I’m walking on the treadmill that gets me there. And if the book doesn’t pass the “Kindle test” – keeping me distracted enough that I can almost forget I’m exercising – I delete it and cue up the next book.

Fitness Junkie definitely passed the Kindle test. And I enjoyed the irony of reading it while on the treadmill. The second novel by authors Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, the book centers around Janey Sweet, CEO of couture wedding dress company B, whose dresses only go up to size four. When Janey makes headlines stuffing her face at a fashion show, her partner and best friend, Beau, demands she take three months off and lose thirty pounds – or else.

Immediately, this sends Janey into the insane world of New York City fitness, where she meets a shaman and begins attending the ultra-exclusive The Workout. At the same time, Janey’s cousin Ivy, a former ballerina turned spin class instructor extraordinaire, is tasked by her bosses to learn more about The Workout, to whom they fear they are losing their best customers.

It’s hard to say whether Fitness Junkie is standard chick lit fare or satire, as some of the most outlandish ideas – an all-clay diet, for instance – may very well be popular in certain areas of New York. Many scenes reminded me of the Bravo TV series Odd Mom Out, where protagonist Jill Weber once wondered if NYC women were so mean because so many of them were on starvation diets.

Every aspect of the book is exaggerated just beyond believability, from the boot camp-like environment of Ivy’s classes to Janey’s dumpster-diving date with a hipster juice bar owner.

As Janey learns more about Beau’s actions behind her back – and flashbacks reveal he’s always been more frenemy than best friend—the book becomes more episodic. Janey continues her fitness and diet antics, while the reader wants her to do everything possible to get back at Beau and regain control of her company. And while Ivy’s dilemma is interesting, she’s not the character readers will identify with. Janey is, up to a point.

While this is definitely a book about the crazy fitness culture, it is also a book about privilege, and I’m not sure the authors are fully aware of that. While Janey is momentarily startled that a weeklong fitness retreat will cost fifteen thousand dollars, that doesn’t keep her from going. Not only is she not bothered by unemployment – she does own half the company – she is also an heiress to her family’s candy company, which sounds big enough to rival Snickers-manufacturer Mars. Although Ivy occasionally worries about money, none of the other women think twice about paying enormous amounts of money for classes. Even the dumpster-diver does it more for environmental reasons than monetary ones. Any reader who lives paycheck to paycheck will be so turned off by this attitude that she might miss the book’s humor entirely.

This casual outlook toward money seems to stress that fitness is another area that’s reserved for the one percent, or at least the top ten. And indeed, with obesity being directly related to poverty and stress, the authors may have a point in placing their story in the richest city in the country. It just may be a point they did not intend to make.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

BookSparks #SRC2017 July Novels












Today the spotlight is on the July books for BookSparks' Summer Reading Challenge of 2017. We already featured Hello, Sunshine. All synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

Internationally bestselling author John Connolly returns with another “superb fusion of noir and the supernatural” (My Bookish Ways) in this latest thriller in his gripping Charlie Parker series.

It is deep winter and the darkness is unending. A private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished and Charlie Parker is assigned to track him down. Parker’s employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found. Eklund is no ordinary investigator—he is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker is drawn into Eklund’s world: a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts...

Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Becca Meister Fitzpatrick―wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community―is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel―with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship―will react.

Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca’s family―her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden.”

A Work of Art by Micayla Lally

Letting go after her abrupt break-up with Samson is harder than Julene thought it would be, especially since her ex has wasted no time in burying himself in the local dating scene. But during an extended visit to her parents overseas, Julene rediscovers her love of art, and a burgeoning career develops. Samson, on the other hand, after trying valiantly―and unsuccessfully―to forget Julene, has settled instead on his own new career.

When Julene returns home to Australia, a coincidental meeting leads to an emotional reunion―but her love and patience will be tested when she finds out just how busy Samson has been in her absence. Yes, they have both made mistakes they can work through and move past―but when a specter from Samson’s past looms, Julene wonders: Can she trust him again?

The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore

Growing up in Little Harbor, Maine, the daughter of a widowed lobsterman, Eliza Barnes could haul a trap and row a skiff with the best of them. But she always knew she'd leave that life behind. Now that she's married, with two kids and a cushy front-row seat to suburban country club gossip in an affluent Massachusetts town, she feels adrift.

When her father injures himself in a boating accident, Eliza pushes the pause button on her own life to come to his aid. But when she arrives in Maine, she discovers her father's situation is more dire than he let on. Eliza's homecoming is further complicated by the reemergence of her first love--and memories of their shared secret. Then Eliza meets Mary Brown, a seventeen-year-old local who is at her own crossroad, and Eliza can't help but wonder what her life would have been like if she'd stayed.

Filled with humor, insight, summer cocktails, and gorgeous sunsets, THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER is a compassionate novel about the life-changing choices we make and the consequences we face in their aftermath.

American Family by Catherine Marshall-Smith

Richard and Michael, both three years sober, have just decided to celebrate their love by moving in together when Richard―driven by the desire to do the right thing for his ten-year-old-daughter, Brady, whom he has never met―impulsively calls his former father-in-law to connect with her. With that phone call, he jeopardizes the one good thing he has―his relationship with Michael―and also threatens the world of the fundamentalist Christian grandparents who love Brady and see her as payback from God for the alcohol-related death of her mother. Unable to reach an agreement, the two parties hire lawyers who have agendas far beyond the interests of the families―and Brady is initially trusted into Richard and Michael’s care. But when the judge learns that the young girl was present when a questionable act took place while in their custody, she returns Brady to her grandparents. Ultimately, it’s not until further tragedy strikes that both families are finally motivated to actually act in the “best interests of the child.”

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-traveling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she re-kindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Kevin Dickson has the item we're looking for...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kevin Dickson here to talk about shopping with us today. He was introduced to us by Lindsey Kelk (author of the "I Heart" series), who I devoured his book on her holiday and says "it's a super fun, sexy romp through the lives of three young Hollywood insiders." "What book is that?" you ask. Why, Blind Item, of course! Thanks to Imprint, we have FIVE copies to give away! Blind Item was also written by his friend Jack Ketsoyan and it sounds like a perfect chick lit read for the summer!

Kevin Dickson grew up obsessed with pop culture in his native Australia. He became an entertainment journalist and worked his way up to being the TV Critic for the national newspaper, The Australian. Moving to Los Angeles in the late '90s, Dickson eventually ended up working for a start-up tabloid called In Touch. Over the next decade-plus, Dickson covered the entertainment world from both sides of the fence - as a reporter and as a friend and confidante to some of Hollywood's most scandalous names. He also formed a punk band called The Chew Toys, who toured and recorded one well-received album. He put down the guitar to work on Blind Item with his friend Jack Ketsoyan. Dickson is synesthetic, globophobic and outdoorsy. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his fiance and two wonderful dogs, and is working on three upcoming novels. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Kevin on Facebook and Twitter.


Synopsis:
No one knows her name, but now everyone wants to.

As an assistant publicist in Hollywood, Nicola spends her days (and nights) sweeping up the scandals of singers, movie stars, and TV actors. Fresh from Ohio, she’s rapidly discovering the real Hollywood is rotten under its glittering skin. Everyone is a hustler with a hard bottom line and a soap opera sob story.

When she breaks her own rules and starts dating a movie star, the Los Angeles scene starts to spill into her own life. As the paparazzi begin the hunt for sexy star Seamus O’Riordan’s new mystery girl, Nicola’s best friend Billy has her back while he prowls parties for the latest scoop to sell to the tabloids. Her roommate Kara keeps tabs on things too—in between befriending a former child star and transforming herself from stylist to reality TV sensation.

As the scandals pile up behind them, their pasts will be exposed… And every secret can be sold.

Written by two Hollywood insiders, Kevin Dickson and Jack Ketsoyan,
Blind Item's jaw-dropping scandals are real, but the names are not. And they’ll never tell. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Where did you enjoy shopping most when you were a kid/teen?
My mother believed that taking kids shopping was torture for both parent and child and so we rarely got to go shopping. There was a Woolworth’s near my school bus stop and I’d go in while I was waiting for a bus, and I’d see all the toys I wanted, and I’d save my lunch money so that I could buy a Star Wars figure every couple of weeks. I grew up beside a postcard-perfect beach in Australia, and that was always more interesting to me than going shopping anyway.

Last item you purchased in a store:
I fell in love with a pair of Sperry sneakers, super lightweight and comfortable but also stylish. They had them in teal and peacock blue and I could not decide which so I bought both. I don’t regret my lack of control, they’re super cool.

Least favorite thing to shop for:
Jeans. There are so many options and variations in cut and fit that it’s overwhelming. When I find a pair that fit well, I usually wear them to death and then it’s time to panic again when I have to replace them.

Favorite purchase from the past year:
I splashed out and bought a beautifully tailored Paul Smith shirt for my book launch event. Even though it is a simple black long-sleeved shirt, it fits and wears perfectly. I love it so much.

Retail or thrift?
A thrilling combination of both: I love to find things new, but dramatically reduced in price. If I fall in love with anything - a clothing item, homewares - I will wait patiently until I can get it for around 70% off. It’s pretty easy in Los Angeles, stock has a high turnover and old stock gets discounted quickly. The key is to know when a department store is going to do a “take an additional 50% off lowest marked price” sale - that’s when you get to make a killing. I was obsessed with a pair of $145 Sundek swim shorts for this summer and I was able to finally get them for $22.50.

Most amusing purchase:
My friend Katia has opened an art space slash fashion store in Tijuana called Studio 664 and the last time I was down there, they had a range of lingerie slip dresses for dogs, and I bought my chihuahua-pomeranian runt Tuna this ridiculous outfit. It’s sheer lace on top with a satin skirt. Tuna hates wearing it so much, she keeps burying it behind the couch cushions. It’s hilarious.

Thanks to Kevin for visiting with us and to Imprint for sharing Blind Item 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 23rd at midnight EST.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: Confessions of a Domestic Failure

By Sara Steven

There are good moms and bad moms—and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who's trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.

When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she's always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop?

With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Bunmi Laditan creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother. At its heart, Ashley's story reminds moms that there's no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

I’ll admit to something. I made my own snap judgments while reading Confessions of a Domestic Failure. There were quite a few moments where I was aghast at some of the situations Ashley finds herself in, the awkward scenarios that crop up from out of nowhere. Like, in one scene, where a baby bottle filled with curdled, spoiled, rotten milk is discovered from the underbelly of the sofa. That image really stood out to me. I’m wrinkling my nose up right now, just thinking about it. Who knows how long that bottle had been there!

My snap judgment presented itself like this: “How could someone (a parent, no less) leave a bottle of milk under the couch for that long???” And thoughts like that one would often prelude many others while I made more snap judgments regarding Ashley’s parenting style. Which is exactly the point that I feel Laditan is trying to make here. It’s too easy to make those judgments, to have our own ideas and opinions on how someone else should raise their children. But often, we (I) judge too harshly.

Like many of us who are working hard to trudge the deep, turbulent waters of parenthood, Ashley is doing the best she can, given what she’s got. She’s been removed from the world she knew so well. A world full of corporate deadlines and paperwork, fashionable office attire and the need to be on top of her game. All of that has been replaced with poopy diapers and spit up, sleepless, endless nights and wearing the same clothing for days on end. Even if it’s covered in baby food and spilled coffee.

The Motherhood Better boot camp becomes her lifeline. A way to find herself again, and while she has her own ideas of what can come from rubbing elbows with the woman she idolizes, Ashley ends up getting way more than she bargains for. Good and bad.

As I continued on with Ashley’s story, I became humbled by her situation, finding a lot in common with her. Sure, I might do things differently, but I’m far from perfect, and who am I to place any sort of judgement on the way she chooses to parent or live her life? Especially after remembering the time my oldest son had eaten a piece of sushi that had fallen on the floor of a restaurant when he was a toddler. Yeah, talk about cringe-worthy. Or the time my youngest found a goldfish cracker that had been hidden behind the computer desk for who knows how long and quickly popped it into his mouth. These things and many more have happened to me and my children, and similar situations happen to all of us from time to time, even the parents who feel they’ve got it all figured out.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned while reading Confessions. What helps that along is how hilarious it is. And touching. I loved the scenes with all the women in the boot camp program. It made me want to sign up for something similar, reminding me that it really can take a village. Or at the very least, a great support system!

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Joshilyn Jackson is nifty and thrifty...plus a book giveaway

Photo by EV Jackson
We're pleased to have Joshilyn Jackson here to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, The Almost Sisters. Thanks to HarperCollins, we have two copies to give away!

New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of seven novels and a novella: The Opposite of Everyone, Someone Else’s Love Story, gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and the novella My Own Miraculous. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, three times been a #1 Book Sense Pick, twice won Georgia Author of the Year, and three times been shortlisted for the Townsend prize.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, has made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up Awards from Publisher’s Weekly. In 2012 Jackson began reading the audio versions of books written by other novelists, beginning with Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit dedicated to providing theatre infused liberal arts education to women who are under carceral control in Georgia. Through their education-in-prison and reentry programs, Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives. Joshilyn volunteers inside Lee Arrendale State Prison, teaching creative writing courses and facilitating a new literary magazine/newsletter that the students are producing. You can find out how to help support this organization HERE. (Bio courtesy of Joshilyn's website.)

Visit Joshilyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter


Synopsis:
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Current favorite place to shop: 
Finders Keepers. It is a string of consignment shops near my house. I am very...um...thrifty when it comes to clothes and furniture and such. Some might even say CHEAP. But I say wise and frugal, because I would almost always rather DO something than HAVE something. I think I spent maybe 200 bucks on clothes for all of us in the last year, and right now, with the money I saved, we are learning to scuba dive.

Walmart or Target?
Target, but I go there maybe 6 times a year? It is very far. Most things I get at Publix, or a drug store, or I go to the in-town Ace. It is this BIZARRE hardware store with a popcorn machine that makes it smell like carb heaven. About the half the store is saws and lightbulbs and blinds, and the rest is stuffed with a random trove of wonders: old fashioned soda, 1950’s candy, handmade soap and lotion, Maraschino Cherries in bourbon, yarn shawls, weird handmade yoga pants. I like to go there and just explore. In fact – I may like the in-town Ace more than Finders Keepers!

Would you consider yourself a shopaholic? 
Not really. 90% of shopping is a chore---a thing I put on my to do lists next to “Clean the bathroom.” But I do love thrifting and junk shopping and garage sales and art fests. That 10% is a pure pleasure.

Do you like to purchase souvenirs when you travel? 
If so, what do you usually get? One of the benefits of being, er, thrifty, Is that we have money for the stuff we really like---and one of those things is travelling. I used to get refrigerator magnets, but when we moved our new house came with a silver fridge that won’t hold them. Alas! Ever since then, we try to get things we will use. When I wear my blue scarf, I remember San Francisco, for example. We got two surrealist paintings from an art auction on the way home from London, and they hang on our walls along with a rusted road sign my son found at a flea market in Poland. From France, I brought home several bottles of wine and a pair of simply enormous pink harem pants I found in a box by a dumpster in Paris. Those pants are magic. I call them my Francey-Pants, and whenever I am stuck on a chapter, I can pull them on and they make my writing brain wake up. (For the record, I did wash them in boiling water a few hundred times before I put them on.)

What is something you purchase on a regular basis (excluding stuff you need)?
BOOKS! I am a JUNKY. And I like old, regular, paper books that I can handle. My house is stuffed with them, and I keep getting more. I love the smell of them. I can pick them up and remember the story so much better than if I just thought about them. I have hard time giving any up. I tend to loan them out instead and hope they do not come back, so I have room for more.

What would be your main character's favorite place to shop? 
Oh, that’s easy! Leia Birch Briggs is old school geek. She would hang out in comics and gaming shops.

Thanks to Joshilyn for visiting with us and to HarperCollins 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 18th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July and August Book Giveaway

Every two months, we're featuring EIGHT books we're interested in checking out. (We know there are many, many more, but we're just highlighting a few that haven't received their time in the spotlight yet.) Here are the books we've chosen for July and August. There is one copy of each book available to give away and we will choose FOUR winners to each receive TWO books at random.

See our previous bi-monthly posts for some other great reads you might have missed.

We've been doing this now for a year and hope to keep it going a while longer. This time around, we're going to share a teaser or mini-synopsis of each book. (All courtesy of Amazon.)


July:

The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry (July 11th)

"The women who spent their childhood summers in a small southern town discover it harbors secrets as lush as the marshes that surround it..."

*Thanks to Penguin for the giveaway copy.

The Perfect Recipe for Love and Friendship by Shirley Jump (July 11th)

"Bridget can see the recipe for a happy life- including the possibility of a new romance- written out before her, but first she and her family will need to lay bare their secrets and rediscover the most elusive ingredients of all: forgiveness, laughter, and love."

*Thanks to Hachette for the giveaway copy.


Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck (July 25th)

"In this moving, witty novel, author Maureen Leurck explores the intricacies and joys of renovation and rediscovery—as one woman’s improvement project promises to transform much more than a home..."

*Thanks to Maureen Leurck for the giveaway copy.

The Dream Keeper's Daughter by Emily Colin (July 25th)

"A woman discovers an impossible connection that transcends time and place in this stirring, unforgettable novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Memory Thief."

*Thanks to Ballantine for the giveaway copy.

August:

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer (August 1st)

"Critically acclaimed author Julie Lawson Timmer returns with a tale of how community can heal the brokenness in all of us."

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie for the giveaway copy.


Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes (August 1st)

"Set on the glamorous Italian island, Emerald Coast is a touching and humorous story about marriage and the difficulty of finding love and happiness at the same time."

*Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the giveaway copy.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman (August 1st)

"Laurie Gelman’s clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom—a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics."

*Thanks to Henry Holt for the giveaway copy.

The Second Course by Kelly Killoren (August 15th)

"Set between the hip and idyllic farm-to-table foodie communities of the Hudson Valley, and the hotspots of Brooklyn, the Hamptons, and Manhattan, The Second Course follows four old friends struggling to find their footing in a rapidly changing world."

*Thanks to Gallery for the giveaway copy.




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 August 9th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Laura Dave's boots are made for walkin'....plus a book giveaway

We welcome Laura Dave back to CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Hello, Sunshine. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away as part of their 2017 Summer Reading Challenge

Laura Dave is the international bestselling author of Eight Hundred Grapes, The First Husband, The Divorce Party, and London is the Best City in America. Her novels have been published in fifteen countries and optioned as major motion pictures. Dave's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in New York City. Visit Laura at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Melissa A got to interview Laura a while back for The Jewish Food Experience. Check it out here.

Synopsis:
Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

Tell us about a time you experienced buyer's remorse:
These gorgeous espadrilles. Which are too uncomfortable to actually put on.

What store that no longer exists would you like to bring back?
City Bakery in Los Angeles. I like having their pastries on the west coast.

What is the oldest item of clothing still in your possession? What year is it from?
An oatmeal sweater - 1980s. Love it still.

Best deal you ever got on an item?
A pair of gorgeous black boots. I wore them so much, it turned into $1.00 a wear!

Favorite splurge purchase?
Oatmeal sweaters, even new ones.

Thanks to Laura for chatting with us and BookSparks 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 16th at midnight EST.




Monday, July 10, 2017

Guest Book Review: The Confusion of Languages

By Shana Javery

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance.

With achingly honest prose and riveting characters, The Confusion of Languages plunges readers into a shattering collision between two women and two worlds, affirming Siobhan Fallon as a powerful voice in American fiction and a storyteller not to be missed. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

From the moment I started reading The Confusion of Languages, I was intrigued. Surely that's what every author hopes for as he or she writes a book. Siobhan Fallon laid out the story line in such a way that I felt an absolute NEED TO KNOW how things would end. Not only did Ms. Fallon find a very unique way to tell the story from two viewpoints but she also included interesting information about Jordan, where the story takes place. I love when I'm entertained AND learning at the same time! I also had no idea where the story was headed, something I prefer when reading. I'm not someone who gives too much away in my reviews but I will say that it's amazing how the author was able to change my impressions of some of the characters by the end of the book.

This book was well-written, enjoyable, and had an ending that I never saw coming. I recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different.

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

Shana Javery is an attorney mediator with a background in employment law. She is thrilled to have renewed her lifelong love of reading over the past few years. Recently, Shana even had the chance to edit a friend's book, something which she thoroughly enjoyed. Shana resides in Plano, Texas with her husband and the family dog Smoochy. Shana's renewed interest in reading is partly due to her empty nest, something she doesn't enjoy as much as others might.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What's in the mail


Melissa A:
The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison from Gallery
Totlandia: Book 7 (The Twosies-Spring) by/from Josie Brown (e-book)
The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi from Lake Union
Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen (paperback) from Anchor Books
Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller from Little A

Bridges by/from Maria Murnane (won from Caryn, The Book Whisperer)
The Rules of Half by Jenna Patrick from BookSparks
The Half-Life of Remorse by Grant Jarrett from BookSparks
Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes from St. Martin's Press
Here We Lie by/from Paula Treick DeBoard
All or Nothing at All by Jennifer Probst from Gallery
Scot on the Rocks by/from Brenda Janowitz (e-book)


Jami:
Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota from Viking (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice Cream by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book)