Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: I’m the One Who Got Away

By Jami Deise

The problem with the “writer in jeopardy” type of memoir is that the reader knows the ending before picking up the book. Obviously the writer survived… and did well enough to write his or her story, find a publisher and/or an agent, and get that story out there. The attraction of these books is not the “what” of the ending but the “how” of the middle.

By titling her memoir I’m The One Who Got Away, writer Andrea Jarrell leaves no doubt about how her book ends. At only 176 pages, the book’s prose is stunning, but the structure is weak. Jarrell begins with a bang: Her neighbor has been murdered. Reflecting on the woman’s killer—Jarrell believes she was probably hiding from an abusive partner—leads Jarrell to digress to her mother’s life with her father, and later Jarrell’s own issues with men.

With the explosive beginning, I was expecting Jarrell to circle back to her neighbor and use the woman’s death as the spine of the story. This did not happen. In fact, most chapters do not build on each other, but seem like specific, isolated anecdotes rather than part of a single narrative. I wasn’t surprised to read that some of the chapters had been published as essays, including the New York Times’ Modern Love column. Because of this, Jarrell seems less like the driver of her own life than a passenger, watching the decisions of other people (her parents, her lovers) and recording how their actions affect her.

Still, the prose is exquisite, and that kept me reading even while I was frustrated by everything that Jarrell left out of her story. With its relatively short length, it’s a nice diversion for readers more interested in word choice and description over a beginning, middle, and end.

Thanks to SparkPoint Studio for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Go-to-Gay: Far away festivities

If you give a Go-To-Gay a topic, he will then take it and run with it, making us laugh along the way. He does that once again with our "Around the World" theme.

Take it away, Keith!





La la la la la - It goes around the world

I love to travel. I am usually up for most any adventure offered up to me. “Travel the world,” is my most used answer when asked what I would do if I won the lottery.




Ideally, that sounds great. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that. Imagine how many “likes,” “hearts,” and “retweets” you would get for a picture of yourself standing on the steps of the Taj Mahal (not really sure if the TM has steps, I’m just assuming). I would also be one of those people who take a picture of themselves “holding up” the leaning tower of Pisa. Yes, I am that guy. DON’T JUDGE.

Realistically, I don’t think I would actually want to go everywhere around the world, because let’s face it, I am a wuss. I am a spoiled, entitled American. I admit it. I don’t care. If your culture is shockingly different than mine, I probably would prefer learning about it online or from an informative documentary. For instance, I MUST HAVE a modern toilet that is attached to working plumbing. I MUST HAVE food that is something other than insects or parts of animals I normally don’t eat. I would PREFER to visit places that have good toilet paper readily available, access to full bars and modern kitchens, and some air conditioning.

That being said, there is a great big world out there that I haven’t seen. Places that I would go and want to go and, hopefully, will go. While thinking about this post, I decided to make a list of the places and things I wanted to see most. Then, I found even better stuff. There are some tremendous festivals out there if you just look hard enough. I now have a list of the ones I want to attend at some point. Here is part of that list:

Keith’s Festivals “I Must Attend List”

The Baby Jumping Festival – Spain



The origin of this festival dates back to the early 1600’s. It is held early during the feast of Corpus Christi. The gist is this: all parents who have had babies during the year since the previous festival, bring their children out and lay them down on pillows in the public street. Then men dressed as devils make their way through the crowd and whip bystanders with switches before running down the street jumping over the babies. This hurdling somehow blesses the babies and forgives them for man’s “original sin.” To add to the intrigue of this festival, the Pope and the Vatican have been trying to stop it for years, but these rebel-Catholics won’t stop. This takes places every June in the town of Castrillo de Murcia.


Lopburi Monkey Banquet – Thailand



I have never been, but apparently Thailand has thousands of monkeys that hang out at its temples and in its streets. Hungry monkeys. During most the year, these monkeys are a nuisance, and people must be careful not to have their lunch or snacks stolen by a sneaky simian citizen. But come November, the people of Lopburi, Thailand, celebrate these quirky fellas, and treat them to a massive food banquet. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat for monkeys only. Each year, over 800 pounds of bananas, apples, ice cream, and other monkey favorites are devoured at the festival. This is to say thanks for the good luck and fortune the monkeys bring to the people of the town each year. The guests of honor are also known to have quite the food fights while feasting as well. This takes place the last Sunday in November in Lopburi.

World Toe Wrestling Championships – England


The story goes that tired of England always losing at all international sports, George Burgess invented this sport in hopes that his home country would dominate. George apparently had lots of faith in the strong toes of the British people. As fate would have it, though, a dang Canadian soon came along and out-toed all the home players and took the crowd. Honestly, the colonists ruin everything (Are Canadians considered colonists? I’m not really sure, and I am on a deadline, so throw me a bone here.)

But from the ashes of Burgess’ dashed global toe domination, came the sport of toe wrestling. There is even an official Federation. THAT MEANS IT IS REAL. There is even a starting chant that is done before each match: “One, two, three, four, I declare a toe war,” or some variation of that. Each year, the world championships are held in Ashbourne, and while not an official festival, there are plenty toe-related festivities centered around the competition.

That’s the top three from my new list. How about you? Where in the world would you like to go? Are there any festivals that you know of I should add to my itinerary? Please let me know in the comments below. Let’s create a Chick Lit Central Must See Festival List!

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.

Guest Book Review: Mr. Right Swipe

By Shana Javery

Rae Wallace would rather drown in a vat of pinot greezh and be eaten by her own beagle than make another trip down the aisle--even if it is her best friend's wedding. She's too busy molding the minds of first graders and polishing that ol' novel in the drawer to waste time on any man, unless it's Jason Segel.

But when her be-fris stage an intervention, Rae is forced to give in. After all, they've hatched a plan to help her find love the 21st century way: online. She's skeptical of this electronic chlamydia catcher, but she's out to prove she hasn't been too picky with men.

However, when a familiar fella's profile pops up--the dangerously hot substitute teacher from work --Rae swipes herself right into a new problem...(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

As I started to read this book I really thought I was too old for it. I mean, what do I know about dating in the 21st century??? I’ve been married for 25 years! But within a few chapters I was hooked!

The main character, Rae, tells the story of her experience with one of those dating apps that certainly wasn’t around when I dated. Her dating adventures with the men with whom she “matches” are humorous. No matter how long you’ve been out of the dating scene, there’s a lot to make you laugh in this book. And if you ARE currently dating…well, Rae can read your mind! I enjoyed this book all the way to the last page. It was just a feel-good, make you laugh kind of book. The only challenge I had was figuring out some of the acronyms in this book. LOL? No problem. LMAO? I got it. After that…I’m a little lost. Thank goodness for context clues! Two of the best parts of this book are the relationship that Rae has with her two best girlfriends, one of whom is about to tie the knot.

The other thing is her hysterical hashtags, which pop up throughout the book and made me chuckle constantly. (Even LOL!) Bottom line? Want something light and fun that will put you in a good mood? Grab a copy of Mr. Right Swipe, pour yourself a glass of wine…or two...and treat yourself to this light-hearted book.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing 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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kaira Rouda's wonderful world...plus a book giveaway

Today, Kaira Rouda is here to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Best Day Ever! She's answering our questions for our Around the World theme and we think you'll enjoy what she has to say. Thanks to Graydon House, two lucky readers are about to have their best day ever, when they win copies of this book.

Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling author. My books have won several Indie Excellence Awards, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her previous novels include ALL THE DIFFERENCE, HERE, HOME, HOPE, IN THE MIRROR, and THE GOODBYE YEAR. Her modern romance novels are set on beaches, including the Indigo Island series and the Laguna Beach series. Kaira lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. Visit her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Synopsis:
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he's promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Countries you'd like to visit:
Anywhere I haven’t been yet - but specifically, Vietnam and Thailand are at the top of my list. Also, Croatia. And, well there are so many places to see in this beautiful world.

Favorite foreign food:
Indian Food, specifically papadum, dark lentils, and sag paneer. Yum.

Favorite foreign film or movie that takes place in a different country:
Life is Beautiful (Italy, poignant) and Love Actually (England, heart-warming)

Something that interests or fascinates you about another part of the world:
I love listening to people speak different languages. I particularly love listening to French being spoken, especially if I’m sitting in a beautiful cafe in Paris.

Something you own from a different country:
We live in such a connected world, we are all surrounded by things from other countries. I’m writing this as I look up and see three beautiful African fertility dolls I found in South Africa.

Closest friend from a different country:
I’m blessed to have friends who are here in the states from all over the world. We live in a wonderful, historically inclusive and welcoming country. It’s what makes our country great. Unless you are a Native American Indigenous person, you’ve come here from a different country at some point.

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 September 24th at midnight EST.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: The Big Weekend

By Sara Steven

**Synopsis may contain spoilers for The Big Lead (review), The Big Interview (review), and The Big Overnight (review)**

Columbus police make a quick arrest in a murder, but when a tip comes in from someone who knows more about the case than detectives, it’s clear to TV reporter Stella Reynolds that the woman behind bars didn’t pull the trigger.

With lowlifes stealing the headlines, why is Stella’s boss only concerned with her hair? He insists a makeover will help her career, but she knows that a visit to the salon will only get in the way of solving the murder. Or will it? With the real suspect determined to stay hidden, maybe a makeover contest is the perfect cover for catching a killer. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

There’s just something about Stella!

I really love how Libby Kirsch has created this fantastic butt-kicking protagonist. She reminds me of a modern-day Nancy Drew, not letting anything stop her until she finds the answer, and believe me, there are a lot of hurdles that are constantly thrown at her. Whether it’s from love interests, coworkers, or potential bad guys, she works doubly hard to do all she can to get to the truth, no matter the cost.

It’s empowering, really. Stella works to prove herself and do the best work she can at her broadcasting job, even when it might mean losing those closest to her. There are people in her life who are not on board with her tenacious personality, unable to understand what drives her. There are girl power undertones throughout this whole book, and in the other books in the Stella Reynolds Mystery Series, enough to make you feel motivated and inspired within your own life.

I’ve read every book in this series, and while I love them all, I feel like this particular installment, book four, has a few more twists and turns in it that are far from expected. There were moments where I’d been certain I knew “who done it”, yet I’d get thrown off the trail and would get booted back to square one. I think that’s a testament to how great this story really is. It’s a lot more fun when you’re discovering the secrets right along with Stella, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next book, which will focus on Stella’s nutty friend, Janet. It will be interesting to see what sort of situations she’ll find herself in!

Thanks to Libby Kirsch for the book in exchange for an honest review. This book can be purchased here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate from Linda's Book Obsession (won from a giveaway)
Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine from St. Martin's Press
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser from St. Martin's Press
The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner from Berkley
What Remains True by/from Janis Thomas (e-book via NetGalley)
Present, Not Perfect by Aimee Chase from St. Martin's Press
Life By Design by Miranda Hersey from St. Martin's Press

Jami:
The Way We Were and Never Let You Go by Sinead Moriarty received from Kim at Bookture (e-books)
Stray Magic by/from Jackie Bouchard (e-book)
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson from HarperCollins UK (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Is This It Then? by/from Victoria Oliver (e-book)

Book Review: When We Were Worthy

By Jami Deise

It happens nearly every year somewhere in this country, often around prom or graduation. A car filled with teenagers—usually drinking—slams into a tree, or a ditch, or another car. Many die, including some who were just unfortunate bystanders. The recriminations last for months, if not years, and go way beyond the driver. Who provided the alcohol? The car? Who is ultimately to blame?

The details are a little different in Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s novel When We Were Worthy, but the aftermath is the same. In tiny Worthy, Georgia, three cheerleaders going to celebrate after a football game are mowed down by a classmate racing down a dirt road. As cheerleaders, the girls—Mary Claire, Brynne, and Keary—are high-school royalty. The boy who hit them didn’t even play sports. The battle lines are clearly drawn. But the real villains in this small town may not have been involved in the accident at all.

The story is told through the points-of-view of four characters: Darcy, whose son Graham was driving the car and who’d been mourning the death of her marriage to philandering Tommy; Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with the three other girls and knows more than she’s saying; Ava, a substitute teacher who thought—wrongly—that her biggest secret was safe with Keary’s death; and Marglyn, Mary Claire’s mother, whose grief is compounded with guilt because she was helping out another teenage girl that night rather than watching Mary Claire cheer.

With all these voices—and all the characters related to them—I had trouble remembering which woman was starring in what story. Each chapter is named after a character, which was helpful because before going on to the next chapter, I’d focus on the name and remind myself of her situation. It was hard work to keep everyone straight.

That’s really my only quibble with the book, which started off strong and got better as the story progressed. The mystery that’s only hinted at in the opening pages becomes clearer, and the characters’ dilemmas more poignant by the middle of the book. Some characters who seem dubious are revealed to be innocent; characters who originally seemed minor turn out to be important. Leah, in particular, ends up being the heart of the book and the key to mystery.

While I was drawn to When We Were Worthy due to its plot, what moved me the most was the writer’s seamless segue into theme. This isn’t just a book about teenagers who do something stupid and the physical and emotional wreckage they leave behind. It’s about hope and forgiveness after the worst kinds of losses. By the end, I was reading with tears running down my face and getting strange looks by people next to me on the treadmill.

Although this is Whalen’s seventh novel, I’d never heard of her before receiving the pitch for this book. I’ll definitely be checking out her back list.

Thanks to Lake Union for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Eva Woods' foreign flair...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Jamie Drew
We're pleased to have Eva Woods at CLC today to feature her latest novel, Something Like Happy (How to Be Happy in UK). Today, she's here to talk about her foreign travels as part of our "Around the World" theme. Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, we have one copy to give away!

Eva was born in Northern Ireland in the early eighties, and now lives in London with her musician boyfriend, where she spends a lot of time dodging urban foxes and tutting at people who are too slow on escalators. She likes to think of herself as being a cross between Jessica Fletcher (only slightly younger), Carrie Bradshaw (only with fewer shoes), and Sylvia Plath (only more....alive). Eva writes crime fiction as Claire McGowan. Aside from writing novels, she teaches creative writing workshops. She enjoys travelling, reading, and drinking far too much tea.

Visit Eva online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she'd once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.

Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn't want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it's that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie's convinced it's impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there's still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly's about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Countries you've visited?
I think it’s close to 40 – this year I went to Peru and also Denmark for the first time.

Favorite foreign cuisine?
That’s a tough one – either Japanese or French.

Favorite foreign film or movie that takes place in a different country?
I’m a big fan of Battle Royale, though it scares me a bit, too.

Something that interests or fascinates you about another part of the world?
I love the café culture in Paris. I have dream of going to live there for a while and just writing in cafes, soaking up the atmosphere, and working on my books.

Favorite item from a different country that you can't get in your own country?
I’m very upset that we can’t get all the flavors of M&Ms in the UK. It makes no sense!

Which languages do you speak fluently?
French, and also some Chinese and Spanish.

Thanks to Eva for chatting with us and to Little Bird Publicity 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 September 19th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September and October 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 September and October. 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.)

September:

Worst Date Ever by Melodie Campbell (September 5th)

Jennie has been a widow for two years. Her twelve-year-old son thinks it's about time she started dating, and so does her best friend, Angela. So with Angela's help, Jennie signs up to an online dating site. Within hours, she has several dates lined up for the week. Surely there will be one Prince Charming in the bunch. And if not, it's only one date, right? How bad could it be?

*Thanks to Orca for the giveaway copy.

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas (September 5th)

One woman's journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.


*Thanks to Berkley for the giveaway copy.


The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi (September 26th)

Set in the capital city of the world’s happiest country, a comedy of manners about depression, the pressures of marriage, and the possibility of falling in love again, from the bestselling author of
A House for Happy Mothers.

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie for the giveaway copy.

The Comfort Food Diairies by Emily Nunn (September 26th)

In the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert and Ruth Reichl, former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn chronicles her journey to heal old wounds and find comfort in the face of loss through travel, home-cooked food, and the company of friends and family.

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

October:

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree (October 3rd)

A stirring debut rife with intoxicating family secrets and dazzling insights into our most basic desires, Perfectly Undone offers an intimate, uncensored exploration of forgiveness and fidelity, in all its forms, as a young doctor struggles with her sister's death—and the role she played in it—while her own picture-perfect relationship and promising career unravel around her.


*Thanks to Graydon House for the giveaway copy.

The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison (October 10th)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Clique series comes a novel about the importance of friendship, and, of course, the pleasure of a dirty book.


*Thanks to Gallery for the giveaway copy.

A Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones (October 19th)

Katie is thirty-two, single, and works in advertising. She’s also dead. A lost soul hitching rides with the dying, trying to find her way to...wherever she’s supposed to be. And whoever she’s supposed to be with.

*Thanks to Helen Jones for the giveaway copy.

Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades (October 31st)

She’s blossomed from a wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes...

*Thanks to Kensington 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 October 9th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry recently published in the US. To celebrate, Viking Books has THREE copies to give away!

The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart.

Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers—a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father’s death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there’s a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage—she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future—and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish. (Courtesy of Veronica Henry's website.)


Photo by Jenny Lewis
Veronica Henry worked as a TV scriptwriter before turning to fiction. In 2014, she won the RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year with A Night on the Orient Express. Henry lives by the sea in North Devon, U.K.

Visit her online:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

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 September 17th at midnight EST.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: All the Little Children

By Jami Deise

With the country in perpetual crisis, post-apocalyptic fiction is more popular than ever, and not only with teenage boys. Women are coming to the forefront, in titles such as Amanda Hickie’s Before this is Over and Carla Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here, featuring female protagonists who put their families’ safety front and center. As one of Amazon Prime’s Kindle First free books for August, All the Little Children features protagonist Marlene Greene, who is forced to answer the question, what about everyone else’s family?

In Jo Furniss’s debut novel, Marlene has taken her three children, a friend of her son’s, and her sister-in-law and niece on a camping trip in the woods somewhere in the U.K. While they’re playing around and Marlene is sulking about the end of her marriage, something bad happens. When the group goes back to town, everyone’s gone but the bodies (and the flies), the electricity’s off, and other post-apocalyptic signs abound. But Marlene and her family aren’t the only ones left alive—there’s a group of schoolboys, and when Marlene’s niece Lola plays Wendy to their Lost Boys, Marlene wonders how much responsibility she has to children she did not birth.

I had trouble getting into the book in the beginning – Marlene is so arrogant, she’s difficult to root for, and I didn’t care about the end of her marriage. I was also tripped up by the quick timeline of events – the world ends pretty much in a day and a half. As the story progresses, Marlene learns that homegrown British terrorists planted multiple bombs containing manufactured Bubonic Plague that killed most of the population instantly. I found the instant death of everyone difficult to believe, as the most deadly viruses don’t kill people right away. If people die immediately, they cannot spread the disease, and the disease is contained.

But as I got deeper into the story, it differentiated itself well enough from other post-apocalyptic fiction (and Marlene became more human) that it become much more engrossing. Furniss deftly raises the stakes and reveals that Marlene’s initial impressions of the calamity were wrong. Not only does Marlene have other people’s kids to look after, she has to determine who the bad guys are, and who’s trying to help.

Near the end of the story, Furniss compares Marlene’s situation with the Lost Boys to the global response to refugees, a metaphor that worked well and that I wished she had used throughout the book. (The fact that the terrorists were homegrown has important ramifications.) What kind of world are we left with if people do not take responsibility for other people’s children? And are refugees not other people’s children?

Furniss refuses to tie up her story in a nice bow, leaving enough material for a sequel if she wishes to pursue one. All the Little Children is a nice addition to the female-driven post-apocalyptic genre, and I look forward to Furniss’s next book.

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kate O'Keeffe is a woman of the world...plus a book giveaway

Today we're glad to feature Kate O'Keeffe as she takes us around the world in eighty seconds (or so). Her latest novel, Two Last First Dates is the second in her Cozy Cottage Café Series and can be read as a stand-alone. This series is also an armchair adventure to New Zealand. Perhaps you'll want to travel there after reading these books. Thanks to Karan & Co, you have a chance to win the first book in this series! Visit all the stops on Kate's tour.

Kate O'Keeffe is an award-nominated author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he's a scruffy dog too. He's not: he's a cat. To date, Kate's written the chick lit series, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy Series, and the new Cozy Cottage Café Series. Visit Kate at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To Paige Miller, Two Last First Dates sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.Paige is having a rough time. She's unhappy in her career and her One Last First Date ended in total disaster. Now, she has to figure out what to do professionally and personally. Life as a spinster with fifteen cats doesn't sound too bad, though.

Deciding to give up on love, Paige begrudgingly befriends Josh Bentley, the friendly coffee delivery guy, while helping out at the Cozy Cottage Café. His T-shirts make her eyes roll, but their runs have become an important part of her day and a blessing to her waistline, because Bailey's cakes are too good to pass up.

Meanwhile, her best friends offer to find Mr. Right for her, and all Paige has to do is let them. Then, the man of her dreams walks through the door. Marcus Hahn is as good-looking as he is charming, and any thoughts Paige had of being alone with those fifteen cats, fly out the window. Now, she just has to hope her friends choose him as her Last First Date.

But in the end, are Two Last First Dates enough to find The One?

Read the Cozy Cottage Café series
Book 1: One Last First Date 
Book 2: Two Last First Dates--Available now! 
Book 3: Three Last First Dates - coming October 31, 2017 
Book 4: A Final Last First Date - coming early-2018

Countries I’ve visited:
I love to travel! I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to and lived in a few countries, so here’s my list, in no particular order: New Zealand, Australia, Rarotonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, United States, Canada, Mexico, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Chzec Republic, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Turkey, Belgium, Austria, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia.
I still feel like I have so much more to see in this wonderful world of ours, particularly South America, which I have yet to get to. One day!

Favorite foreign cuisine:
This has to be a tie between Thai and French. I love the freshness, flavours, and spice of Thai food, but nothing can beat a pastry from a Parisian patisserie with its flaky, buttery, yumminess. Bliss.

Favorite book that takes place in a different country:
That would have to be one of my all-time favourite books, A Room With a View by D.H. Lawrence. It’s set in England and Italy, and I adore Florence where Lucy Honeychurch goes on vacation.

Which languages do you speak fluently:
Really, the truthful answer is only English, although I have enough French to be able to be answered in French while in France, which, if you’ve ever travelled there, you will know is quite something! I would love to be able to speak fluent French, and I have been learning to speak Thai as we adopted our son from there.

Something that interests or fascinates you about another part of the world:
Wow, there are so many things! One thing I am fascinated by is different religions, and love to visit places of worship: The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Notre Dame in Paris, the temples of Thailand. I went to Dharamsala when I was in India where the Dalai Lama lives in exile. Although he was out of town, I got to play table tennis against some Tibetan monks - and was soundly beaten by them, I can tell you!

Closest friend from a different country:
That would have to be my friend, Anna. She’s half English and half Spanish, and she lives in the UK. We met when we worked together in New Zealand, and we clicked straight away. She’s straight-shooting, witty, and fun, and I can always rely on her for a wry comment to bring me out of myself. I miss her!

Thanks to Kate for chatting with us and to Karan & Co for sharing her book with our readers (as part of the blog tour).

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: The Internet Never Lies (Avery Fowler 2.0, Book 3)

**SPOILER ALERT: Please skip the synopsis if you haven't read the first two books in the Avery Fowler series. The first one is currently 99 cents for Kindle**

Avery Fowler is facing 40 with all the grace you'd expect of someone who once convinced herself that Cheetos were good for her because they're the same colour as carrots. She simply hates admitting defeat.

Now a blogger and aspiring author, she hears the clock ticking on the deadline for her erotica novel, "Venetia: The Story of a Sized-16 Sex Goddess", (erotica for the rest of us) as well as on the possibility of having a child.

As her world grows more complicated, some days, she simply doesn't know where to turn. Should she chance renewing her relationship with Clementine, her Howto.com web advisor—available 24/7 for the low, low price of just $14.95 a month?

Or, should Avery trust her own instincts while searching for the answers to life's latest challenges?

If you enjoy the Shopaholic series, or the charm and sass of Bridget Jones, Avery is right up your alley!

Sara Steven:


I’ve appreciated and enjoyed every single book inside the Avery Fowler 2.0 Trilogy, and here’s why: Jennifer Ammoscato has created an amazing protagonist who is unapologetic in saying what she thinks or how she feels. In fact, Avery often says or does something that we’re all thinking or feeling, but most of us just don’t have the guts to carry it out. In the final book in the trilogy, she’s still as out there as ever, and she’s just as funny as she’s ever been, yet there’s a more sensitive side to Avery, a shift in what matters most to her and her perspective on life. It was refreshing, and honest. I felt closer to Avery and her story. Maybe it’s because she’s turning forty, and I’m on the cusp of that. Or maybe it’s because of the life-altering changes that suddenly surface in her world. Or maybe it’s because, even with all the chaos, she’s still the same wonderfully flawed character we all know and love, the one who still has a very important decision to make - trusting in those around her, or trusting in the all knowing Interwebs, better known as Howto.com. The struggle is very, very real.

My struggle will come from living without another book in this series. It’s been a wild ride, at times a laugh out loud experience intermixed with cringe-worthy moments, moments I highly recommend to anyone. Period. I’m also glad to have had the opportunity to share in those moments and co-write the Avery reviews with Melissa. I’ve had a lot of fun!

Melissa Amster:

I recently asked Jennifer Ammoscato if there would be a fourth book about Avery. Sadly, the answer is "no." I guess I'll just have to dream up what is happening in her life after this book. And now I'm bummed that I rushed through it, since it was such a fun and easy read once again.

Wherever Avery goes, chaos is sure to follow. And turning 40 hasn't changed that for her. There are some really funny and wacky situations that Avery gets herself into, but she always manages to come out on top. Some things got extra tough for Avery at this go-around, but she found a way through it. Did HowTo.com help? I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!

I adore Avery and her snarky sense of humor. She's so relatable that I even found myself getting teary-eyed at one point in the story. I'll miss her and hope you'll read this series so that I can live vicariously through you!

A few more casting ideas:
Elettra: Rebecca Croll
Allie: Leighton Meester
Jane: Heather Burns

Thanks to Jennifer Ammoscato for the book in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase the book here

*Book 1 review
*Book 2 review

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Kathryn R. Biel's international sugar rush...plus a special giveaway

It's September and Kathryn Biel is here to celebrate the release of her 10th and latest novel, Once in a Lifetime, by participating in our latest theme month, "Around the World!" She has a  $5 Amazon gift card for a lucky reader.

Telling stories of resilient women, Kathryn R. Biel hails from Upstate New York where her most important role is being mom and wife to an incredibly understanding family who don't mind fetching coffee and living in a dusty house. In addition to being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage insurance companies to fund her client's needs, and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Kathryn is the author of ten women's fiction, romantic comedy, contemporary romance, and chick lit works, including Live for This and Made for Me. Please follow Kathryn on her website, Facebook, and Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter.  (Courtesy of Kathryn's website.)


Synopsis:
Ten years ago, the Sassy Cats were at the top of the charts until Callie Smalls walked away to pursue her career in fashion and television. The other four members—Angie, Tabitha, Mandy, and Daphne—were left to fend for themselves and continue on with their lives.

That is, until the day when Callie decides to book a gig for the group at a major music festival, without talking to her former band mates. Scattered across the country, at different points in life, can they rekindle the magic in the music?

A soccer mom who's husband doesn't know about her past. A fading star, sacrificing all to stay in the spotlight just one second more. A party girl, challenged with her most important role yet. A tiger mom, fighting for her son. A desperate woman, unhappy and alone.

A lot can change in the course of a decade. Will it be harmony or hatred for the Sassy Cats? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Countries you'd like to visit:
Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Italy. Scotland is a must after reading Outlander.

Favorite foreign food item: 
Éclairs and cannoli. I have quite the sweet tooth.

Favorite foreign film or movie that takes place in a different country: 
Amelie (we went to see it right after returning from our Paris honeymoon so it holds a special place. Plus, it’s delightful.)

Favorite celebrity from a different country: 
Tom Hardy (sigh—fans self)

Something you own from a different country:
I have a beautiful embroidered Christmas table topper from a little shop in Paris, as well as a rug from the Middle East (I like to call it Persian but I think my brother probably got it in Abu Dhabi).

Favorite item from a different country that you can't get in your own country: 
That’s tough because I feel like we can get almost anything here, if we’re willing to pay enough. Probably good old Cadbury chocolate.

Thanks to Kathryn for visiting with us and sharing an Amazon gift card 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 September 11th at midnight EST.

Friday, September 1, 2017

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

Melissa A:
Between Me and You by/from Allison Winn Scotch (e-book via NetGalley)
The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer (e-book via NetGalley)
Bullet It! by Nicole Lara from St. Martin's Press
Enigma by Catherine Coulter from Gallery
The Break by Marian Keyes from Penguin UK (e-book via NetGalley)
A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas from Penguin
Watch Me by Jody Gehrman by St. Martin's Press
Her Last Day by T.R. Ragan from Thomas and Mercer
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall from Ballantine

What could be in YOUR mail?

The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer
Leah has TWO copies to give away!

One fine autumn evening, Anna returns from work and starts making dinner, eager to welcome home her husband, Mark. It’s just like any other day in their ten-year, Pinterest-perfect marriage—until he says he’s leaving her.

Discovering that the man she thought she knew better than anyone else is capable of abandoning it all sends Anna reeling. She believed the life they’d built together—and the bright future they’d imagined—counted for everything. How can he walk away?

The truth is Mark is battling secrets of his own—secrets Anna knows nothing about. A painful past and an uncertain future threaten to bring his life down around him—and he’ll do anything not to expose her to that.

But unravelling the past is lonelier than Mark could ever have imagined and, as the days turn to months, Anna worries the separation will break them forever. Can she bring him back from the brink of self-destruction before it’s too late, or will she discover that she never really knew him at all?


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 September 6th at midnight EST.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The sky is the limit for Elisa Lorello...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Elisa Lorello back at CLC to feature her latest novel, Big Skye Littleton. She has one copy for a lucky reader!

Elisa hasn't always been a novelist, but she has been a writer and teacher throughout her life. To date, she has written and published eight novels, a memoir about her lifelong love for the band Duran Duran, and The Writer’s Habit, which inspired a blog and website, and courses. In addition to writing, Elisa teaches the craft of storytelling, writing process, and rhetoric, and approaches each with enthusiasm and humor.

In addition to Long Island and Massachusetts, Elisa has also lived in North Carolina. In 2016, she moved to Montana to be with Craig Lancaster (also a best-selling novelist), whom she married in October of the same year.

Some of Elisa's favorite things include reading, walking, spending time with friends and/or family, eating Nutella and baked goods, her cat, and going to the beach.

Visit Elisa online:
Website * BlogFacebook * Twitter


Synopsis:
Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is the inspiration behind Big Skye Littleton?
My husband (a novelist who’s been living in Billings, Montana, for a little over ten years) and I began first as a long-distance friendship, then as a long-distance romance, and then during the first week of 2016, I moved to Billings to be with him full time. I was immediately welcomed and embraced by his community and wide circle of friends when I moved. I wanted to write a story set in my adopted city, but I wanted to flip my experience on its head—a woman who moves across the country to be with her long-distance lover, and arrives to no friends, no community, and no lover, either.

What was the most challenging part of writing Big Skye Littleton? Most rewarding?
I had quite a few challenges—not only did I move across the country, but we bought a house and moved yet again months later. Add to that wedding planning (long distance—we got married in New York!), and promoting two other novels that came out within months of each other (Pasta Wars and The Second First Time)… I was pretty overloaded.

I’d also had trouble making the story work at first. I had wanted Skye to have a dramatic transformation, but in the early drafts I’d gone too far to the extreme, to the point where she wasn’t very likable. There were a couple of plot problems too. Frustrated, I was days away from my deadline when I printed out the manuscript to read it and make notes. By page ten, the light went on and I knew exactly how to fix the story. I begged for an extension, and then I completely overhauled the first half of the manuscript. Made a lot of changes to the second half too, including the ending.

The most rewarding part has been how much positive feedback the book has been getting. So far just about everyone who’s read it has loved it, using words like “feel-good” and “warm and fuzzy.” I think we could all use some of that these days!

Describe your writing in three words.
Smart. Authentic. Crafted.

If Big Skye Littleton were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I'm always terrible at this sort of thing! In the book I described Harvey to look at little like Robert Downey, Jr., so I would probably cast him (although Harvey is younger). As for Skye… Melissa McCarthy could probably pull it off; not only because of her size, but more because I’d love to see her in a role that doesn’t have so much silly physical comedy (and I loved her as Sookie on Gilmore Girls).

With school starting back up, what extracurricular activities did you participate in during your high school years?
I had a hard time throughout my high school years so I didn’t get involved in much. I was the editor of our literary art magazine called Xanadu, contributing both drawings and writing. It won back-to-back First Place awards in the district. I also won Best Artist in my senior year. Other than that, like just about every other teenage girl in the 80s, I hung out with my friends at the mall, went to every movie John Hughes made, and was devoted to Duran Duran!

What are you looking forward to this fall?
My husband and I will celebrate our first wedding anniversary in October. We’re planning a weekend getaway to Mt. Rushmore. Fall is my favorite season. We honeymooned throughout New England at the peak of the foliage, and I love all the fall comfort food, not to mention the wardrobe!

Thanks to Elisa for chatting with us and 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 September 5th at midnight EST.