Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reviews at Amazon-May 2017

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our new featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!



Melissa A:

Review (Goodreads)



Karma Brown is living in the moment...plus a book giveaway

We are always glad to feature Karma Brown's novels, as Come Away with Me made it to Melissa A's 2015 favorites list and she was impressed by the powerful follow-up, The Choices We Make. After reading her latest novel, In This Moment, Melissa A sees Karma on the path to becoming the next Jodi Picoult. See her review to find out why. Lucky for you, Karma has a signed copy to give away!

Karma has always loved the written word. As a kid she could usually be found with her face buried in a book, or writing stories about ice-skating elephants. Now that she’s (mostly) grown up, she’s a bestselling author.

A National Magazine Award winning journalist, Karma has been published in a variety of publications, including SELF, Redbook, Today’s Parent, Best Health, Canadian Living and Chatelaine.

Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred. When not crafting copy or mulling plot lines, she is typically running or working on her downward dog, hanging out with her family, making a mess in the kitchen and checking items off her bucket list. Karma is currently wearing down her laptop’s keyboard writing her next novel.

Visit Karma online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she’s able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes.

After school pickup one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him.

Meg can’t help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy’s family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy’s father.

Soon Meg’s picture-perfect life is unravelling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she’s been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

From Reader to Writer: Imagination, Perseverance, “Always be Learning”

I never planned to become a writer. There was the dream of being a singing duo sensation with my younger sister, despite neither of us being particularly great singers. Then, I imagined a career as a veterinarian, followed not long after by the curious idea of becoming an orthopedic surgeon (math and science are not my forte, I should add). As a teenager I watched Thalia Assuras – a Canadian journalist – deliver the news one evening and that was it; I was going to be a news anchor. That one stuck for a long time, eventually taking me to journalism school where I specialized in broadcasting. A j-school friend even used to refer to me as “Katie,” as in Katie Couric. But in the end I didn’t become a singer, or take care of pets or broken bones, nor did I ever anchor a newscast. Instead, I ended up doing the thing I never imagined: I became a writer.

I’m not sure why writing never occurred to me as a career. After all, I have been a library card-carrying citizen and voracious booklover from the moment I learned to read. I was that kid holed up under the covers with a flashlight and her latest tome, awake long past bedtime to finish just one more chapter. The stacks as my backrest, I would read for hours in the library while my mom grocery shopped. If you give me $100 I will spend it on books before buying anything else. It’s possible I have too many books on my shelf…but only because I’m running out of space to add new ones.

A young woman considering a writing career recently asked what I thought one needed to be successful in this industry. That’s a tricky question, and I’m not sure there’s a good, clean answer (outside of “hard work”), but I offered this: Imagination, perseverance, and an “always be learning” attitude. As well as being a reader first, because if you’ve never cried for a character, laughed at a particularly brilliant piece of dialogue, or had a book hangover, you won’t be able to affect readers in similar ways, no matter how great your prose.

A word on Imagination…
When I was nine I read Natalie Babbitt’s TUCK EVERLASTING, first published in 1975. For those who haven’t read this one, it features 11-year-old Winnie, who meets a curious family – The Tucks – while she’s out exploring the woods near her house, trying to escape her stifling home life. It’s a coming of age story, touching on themes of family, love, loss, death, and immortality (with a hint of fantasy), and it has stayed with me for 35 years and counting. Winnie, who must choose whether or not to drink spring water that will give her immortality, made me question what I would do (at age 9) if faced with a similar choice. I imagined drinking that water, or not … and long after I finished the book my mind continued to spin the “what if…?” questions. (It still does…and I’m still not sure which choice I would have made.)

A word on Perseverance …
Before reading THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot, a science writer, I had no idea who Henrietta Lacks was, or how important her story is to all of us. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, black tobacco farmer who died of cervical cancer in 1951. And the story could have ended there -- Henrietta Lack’s history only relevant to her future family tree -- except that unbeknownst to her (and without her consent) samples of her cells were taken and used in research. Those cells went on to become the first immortal cell line – known as HeLa cells – and have been used in the development of the polio vaccine, for gene mapping, in cancer research, etc. Speaking of perseverance, Skloot spent a decade researching the story of Henrietta Lacks, and tirelessly advocating for the Lacks family. It’s proof that sticking with a story can have an extraordinary impact, and it’s a book I tell everyone they HAVE TO READ.

A word on “Always be learning” …
When I wrote my first novel, which now lives in a folder in my basement, tucked away and gathering dust for eternity, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t understand how to craft dialogue, couldn’t explain tension or pacing or character arcs (even though I instinctually understood these things as a lifelong reader), or how to balance what a reader needs to know with what an author longs to share. Appreciating my baby bird author status, I picked up a copy of ON WRITING, by Stephen King. If there’s one book that helped me understand novel writing, it’s this one. Part memoir and part craft book, it’s still my go-to book when I need a refresher and the first book I recommend to anyone hoping to become an author.

Now it’s your turn. Which books have stayed with you, or influenced your life in some way? I’m always adding to my to-be-read list, and will build a new bookshelf if necessary…

Thanks to Karma for sharing her favorite influential books with us and for sharing her own influential 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 June 4th at midnight EST.

Friday, May 26, 2017

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

Melissa A:
Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown from Random House (e-book via NetGalley)
Dating You, Hating You by Christina Lauren from Gallery
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan from BookSparks
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki from BookSparks
Best Intentions by Erika Raskin from St. Martin's Press

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson from BookSparks
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
When You Find Out the World is Against You by Kelly Oxford from Dey Street Books
The Map that Leads to You by J.P. Monninger from St. Martin's Press
Seeking Sarah by ReShonda Tate Billingsley from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe from Gallery
One Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison (paperback) from St. Martin's Press

Melissa A and Sara:
The Internet Never Lies by/from Jennifer Ammoscato (e-book)

Ella's Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson from Bookoture (e-book)
Saving Grace by/from Susanna O'Neill (e-book)

Girl Ghosted by Lucy English from Smith Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
Best Friend for Hire by Mary Carlomagno from Laura Rossi Public Relations
The One that Got Away by Leigh Himes from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)

What could be in YOUR mail?

When You Find Out the World is Against You by Kelly Oxford

Thanks to Dey Street Books, we have THREE copies to give away!

The author of the New York Times bestseller Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar returns with a deeper and even funnier new collection of essays about the pleasures and perils of living in Kelly Oxford’s head.

Kelly Oxford likes to blow up the internet. Whether it is with the kind of Tweets that lead Rolling Stone to name her one of the Funniest People on Twitter or with pictures of her hilariously adorable family (human and animal) or with something much more serious, like creating the hashtag #NotOkay, where millions of women came together to share their stories of sexual assault, Kelly has a unique, razor-sharp perspective on modern life. As a screen writer, professional sh*t disturber, wife and mother of three, Kelly is about everything but the status quo.

Perfect for anyone who ever wished David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling would just finally write a book together already, When You Find Out the World is Against You is filled with the biting, wise, and laugh-out-loud insights that have won Kelly legions of fans. Whether she’s detailing her obsession as an eleven-year-old with going to camp so she can become a “kissing bandit,” exploring the bittersweet boredom that so often accompanies parenthood, calling out the insanity of a posse of internet poodle vigilantes, writing bracingly about the anxiety that has plagued her as long as she can remember or taking us to ride shotgun as she stalks her husband on an accidental date with another man, When You Find Out the World Is Against You is Kelly at her most honest and disarmingly funny best. Her comedic skill, down-to-earth voice, and bull’s-eye observations on the absurdity of modern life mean there is nothing quite like seeing the world through Kelly’s eyes. (Synopsis 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

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Giveaway ends June 1st at midnight EST.

Cover Reveal: Little Gray Dress

Title: Little Gray Dress
Author: Aimee Brown
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publisher: Crooked Cat Books
Release Date: August 2nd, 2017
Pre-Orders Available: Early July

Emi Harrison has avoided her ex-fiance, Jack Cabot, for nearly two years. Her twin brother Evan’s wedding is about to end that streak.

From bad bridesmaid’s dresses, a hyperactive sister-in-law, a mean girl with even meaner secrets, and too much to drink, nothing seems to go right for Emi, except when she’s wearing her little gray dress.
When she speed-walks into Liam Jaxon’s bar, things get more complicated. He’s gorgeous, southern, and has no past with Emi. He may be exactly what she needs to prove for the last time that she doesn’t need or want Jack!

Her favorite little gray dress has made an appearance at nearly every major event in Emi’s adult life. Will it make another grand appearance when she least expects it?

Pre-Order the Book in early July.
*for a notification when the books pre-order is up, sign-up for her author newsletter.

About the Author:
Author Bio:

Aimee Brown is a writer and avid reader, often blogging her thoughts on chick lit books. Little Gray Dress is her first novel published. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s degree in English Writing. She spends much of her time writing her next book, doing homework, raising three teenagers, binge watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to use far too many swear words.

Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and many, many pets.

She would love to hear your thoughts on Little Gray Dress! If you want to chat with her she’s very active on social media.

Author Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Sign-Up for her Newsletter

Participate in the Book Tour:

Aimee would love to have you as a part of this upcoming release day book tour!
If you'd like to sign-up to review the book during the tour or post a feature, author q&a, author guest post, excerpt, or giveaway, click the image below to sign-up.

Or --- sign-up here ---> http://authoraimeebrown.com/little-gray-dress/

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Liz and Lisa's influential stories...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

You all probably know by now what a fan-girl I am over Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's books. I've met them in person at Book Expos and love how sweet and down-to-earth they are. Their friendship reminds me of what I have with my BFF. We've been friends for almost the same amount of time (25 for them, 30 for us). Also, we both live far apart from each other, but the miles don't matter. 

In the past, their books have covered surreal topics, such as body swapping and time travel. This time around, they've moved their writing in a new direction....suspense. Their latest novel, The Good Widow (reviewed here), takes readers on a trip to Maui in a twisted adventure. Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie, we have THREE copies to give away!

To learn more about what makes Liz and Lisa tick, as well as the history of their friendship, visit them online:

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancĂ©. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…(Courtesy of Goodreads.)

We have both been reading for as long as we can remember. There are so many books that have impacted us, inspired us, challenged us and changed us. Here is a list of the ones that really stand out.

The books that impacted Liz:

*Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

To this day, this amazing novel about friendship remains my all-time favorite. Told in multiple narratives, Blume bridged the gap from adolescence to adult reading seamlessly for me. The friendships she depicted were layered and complicated, just as they are in real life, and continues to inspire the relationships we showcase in our own books.

*Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I remember where I was when I found Firefly Lane. I was on vacation and popped into the B&N in Rancho Mirage, CA. My kids were at that age where they were so cute but incredibly exhausting and I was looking for an easy read while they napped. What I discovered was an amazing tale of a long-term friendship, which reminded me at times of my own with Lisa. I read it again and again until the pages began to fall apart, and still think of it when I'm writing our novels.

*After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

TJR nails the complexities of marriage in this pitch perfect novel. I had been in a writing slump and Taylor's addicting narrative kept me turning the pages and inspired to get back on the computer to finish our own book. And to this day, is the only book I've quoted out loud to my husband. (He totally ignored me, but still!)

The books that impacted Lisa:

*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

I was an avid reader as a child, but it was after finishing this book that I first started dreaming of being an author. The story inspired me to write my first book called, There’s a Jungle in My Closet. That was never published—never even made it out of my spiral notebook. But it was the first of many and I thank Judy Blume for that.

*Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the first memoir I’d ever read. And I didn’t just read it once, I read it three times. To date, it’s the only book I’ve read more than twice. As a reader, I connected with the messages in her book and was challenged to be more self-aware. To stop making the same mistakes in relationships, in life. As a writer I was inspired to take more risks, to step outside of my comfort zone.

*Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I was intrigued by all the buzz around this memoir I’d heard everyone from Oprah to my neighbor talking about. I wondered how a story about a woman who’d taken a hike had become watercooler fodder. But once I cracked open the hardback and began reading, it was instantly clear why Cheryl Strayed had captivated the country. Wild is a heart wrenching story that is beautifully written. Her prose inspired me to push my boundaries as a writer—to say more with less words. To work harder to bring readers into the world I was trying to create. To just be better. I’d like to think I am.

A book that impacted both Liz and Lisa:

*Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This is the novel that first inspired us to write suspense. After we read Gone Girl, we—like most of the planet—couldn’t stop talking about this book that was so different. That unreliable narrator! That plot! That ending! We started discussing the idea of tackling a new genre. Could we? Would we? The answer was yes! The Good Widow is out on June 1!

Thanks to Liz and Lisa for visiting and to Goldberg McDuffie for sharing their 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 June 1st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

BookSparks #SRC2017 May novels

Today the spotlight is on the May books for BookSparks' Summer Reading Challenge of 2017. We are not featuring In This Moment, as Karma Brown is visiting CLC next week. All synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he's not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage. As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband—a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan's hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia's most privileged families and their rich people problems.

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Two decades ago, Adam Sharp’s piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and strong-willed actress. They had a chance at something more―but Adam didn’t take it.

Now, on the cusp of turning fifty, Adam likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT. But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been.

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.

It’s Always The Husband by Michele Campbell

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite being as different as three women can be. Kate was beautiful, wild, wealthy, and damaged. Aubrey, on financial aid, came from a broken home, and wanted more than anything to distance herself from her past. And Jenny was a striver―brilliant, ambitious, and determined to succeed. As an unlikely friendship formed, the three of them swore they would always be there for each other.

But twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone is urging her to jump.

How did it come to this?

Kate married the gorgeous party boy, Aubrey married up, and Jenny married the boy next door. But how can these three women love and hate each other? Can feelings this strong lead to murder? When one of them dies under mysterious circumstances, will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Em Muslin's favorite escape...plus a special giveaway

Please join us in welcoming Em Muslin to CLC today. She's here to feature her debut novel, Before You Were Mine, and talk about the books that influenced her. And for one lucky reader, she has a $10 Amazon gift card to give away!

Em Muslin has worked in the film and television industry for over 20 years. She first fell in love with reading and writing after experiencing Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. She hasn't stopped devouring books ever since.

She loves words that capture an experience or emotion in a singular form: her current favourite, describing herself, is nemophilist.

Em's writing career has included developing a script for a stage musical with Tina Turner, and writing a bitter-sweet comedy screenplay, Last Chance Saloon.

Em's writing focuses on the texture of domestic life, relationships, family and the pressures of social convention. Her characters are often fighting to become the hero of their own story, searching for hope, despite the adversities that life inevitably brings.

You can find Em at her website and on Twitter.

Sometimes hope has a way of changing everything…

Just hours after giving birth, Eli Bell is forced to give up her newborn baby daughter for adoption. Devastated, she tries desperately to rebuild her shattered life.

Then, over thirty years later, Eli catches sight of her daughter. And she knows that she must do everything to find a way back into her life. Even if it means lying…

While her husband Tommy must grow to accept his own part in the events of her early life, he can only try to save her before her obsession with the young woman ruins them both. 

Books that Influenced Me 

The love of stories began, like most people at a very early age. I grew up in a home without a television and surrounded by shelves full of books. I would spend many hours in voluntary solitary confinement curled up under my duvet on whatever adventure I had managed to find at the library that day. Books for me were an escape. They were an extension into a different world. They allowed me to disappear from any difficulties I may be having, and safely hide away with the friends I found on the pages. Books helped me begin to understand the world, my world, and find my identity. They were the lungs that breathed air into my world. They helped me make sense of my place in life and they inspired me, not only to write and read more, but to become the hero of my own story. They taught me to laugh and to love and they taught me to fight when the going got tough. They were the parent that placed their arm around my shoulder and told me never to give up. They were the guiding hand that led me safely down the dark passages when I was too fearful to go alone. Quite simply books moulded me and books made me.

As a young child, I will never forget reading Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Set at the beginning of WWII, it is a story about a young girl called Anna coming to terms with her place in a world where Jews don’t belong. As a Jewish girl, it taught me not only the history of the war, but how a young girl can be brave and survive despite the odds. As I grew up, I moved on to Eli Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man/The Truce; harrowing true recollections of the holocaust. These are challenging books, but I believe essential reading to anyone – no matter their identity - as they help you understand what is at the heart of humanity and what drives people to act as they do.

Obviously, not all my reading was as heavy as these books. However, they were a fascinating (and often painful) introduction to human nature. Novels such as Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, Anne Tyler’s Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Jeffrey Euginides' Middlesex, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time, Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life, Steinbecks’ Pastures of Heaven, Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes, Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were The Mulvaneys, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, and many many more, all touched me in different ways. They contain characters who can make you laugh, make you cry, make you think, make you angry. All these characters make you feel something. And that for me is key. These simple words on a page help me emote. They wriggle inside my heart and unpick something that already exists there until my heart bursts with it.

Like music, we can often choose books to suit our mood. It could be the cadence and beauty of the prose, the circumstance the hero finds themselves in, the adversities they face, or simply their sense of humour. These books become our friends.

In my debut novel, Before You Were Mine, the process of writing was similar to how I read. I entered into the psyche of the main character; Eli. I listened to her voice. I thought about what she had to say to me and why. I tried to be her friend and understand her. I hope as readers, you feel able to do the same. That like characters that have put their arms around you, and tell you it is going to be OK, you can do that for her. I hope she touches your heart, like she has touched mine and teaches you something about love, determination and the importance of never losing hope. I hope you become her friend and you in turn hers.

Thanks to Em for visiting with us and sharing a 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 May 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs

By Sara Steven

There was a moment several years ago, when I’d struck up a conversation with another mom at the local playground. My towheaded two-year old had been playing nicely with her two young daughters, and we were sharing parenting nostalgia while we watched our children frolic in the early morning sunshine.

All had gone well, until I made the grave mistake of being completely honest with this woman, who didn’t know me, granted. But we’d been conversing about temper tantrums and meltdowns, and I asked her, “Do you ever feel like you want to just go running outside into the street, screaming at the top of your lungs?” She quickly assured me that NO, that had never happened to her, she never felt the need to run away from her precious little angels, and made sure to hastily plop those two angels inside their double-wide stroller, leaving me and my honesty in the dust.

Reading Whitney Dineen’s latest novel about her own experiences with parenthood, womanhood, and all things Costco, reminded me of that moment and several others I’ve had in my parenting journey. The moments where we don’t feel we’ve really earned that Mommy Gold Star. So often, I feel as though we’re told to put on this brace face, to never show the true colors of what’s going on in our lives, especially if it’s not considered “favorable”. The truth is, life isn’t perfect. There is no sugar coating how hard it can be to shape and mold the future. Dineen tells us about it in a way that brings emotional humor and depth to what’s really happening.

In so many of her reflections, it’s apparent how much her daughters have shaped who she is today, even if at times she laments a little on the freedom she used to have before they were in the picture. Such an honest, candid response. Yet, she appreciates the impact they’ve had on her. It’s particularly touching how she goes into detail on the struggles she had to conceive, her own postpartum experiences. A voice for mothers everywhere who often feel alone, fearful of judgement.

And Costco! I laughed hard when I read the moments that happen in Costco, and could totally relate to the bathroom woes she deals with every single time she steps foot inside of a Costco. She has to map out her shopping route in order to incorporate a stop (or two, or three) to the bathroom, because her girls just can’t help themselves. Or the multitude of questions they always ask Dineen, the questions no parent wants to answer. Then there’s the conversations she’ll have with her husband, or her mother. Even the Costco check-out guy. It’s just all so funny!

This is a must-read for any parent- those who have been in the trenches long enough to know when to duck and cover, to those who are just starting out. And while I never saw that mom at the playground ever again (most likely, she was trying to avoid me at all cost), if I were able to see her now, I’d totally give her Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs as a loving gift, from one mom to another.

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Whitney Dineen:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: There’s More than One Way Home

By Jami Deise

When my son Alex was two in 1996, we moved into a new neighborhood and made friends with a couple who had a boy Alex’s age and an older daughter. While the girl was bright and bubbly, the boy was barely verbal, lost in his own world. As the kids grew older, my friends searched for answers while their son refused to be potty-trained. One seminar they attended assured them it was nothing – that many younger brothers of verbal sisters let their siblings do the talking for them.

Today, of course, this boy would be diagnosed with ASD before his third birthday, rather than waiting years as my friends did. In the past twenty years, autism diagnoses have exploded. (Although the jury is still out on whether the number of cases is increasing, or whether better diagnostic tools have uncovered cases that in prior years would have been classified as something else. ) And my old neighbor is not the only person I know whose child is on the spectrum. A casual glance at my Facebook feed reveals about five percent of the parents I’m friends with have children with ASD. A few have more than one. A very small percentage are adults who have the condition themselves. And even families who don’t have a member on the spectrum are impacted by it, whether it’s through the debate on vaccines or wondering the best way to accommodate a child’s classmate at a birthday party.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects everyone.

Author Donna Levin’s latest novel, There’s More than One Way Home, offers a plot built on these issues. San Francisco mom Anna Kagen’s life is centered around her 10-year-old son Jack, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Jack attends a small private school for kids with developmental issues, but even there he is isolated and his quirks stick out. When Anna chaperones a field trip to a wooded island, Jack and a few other boys go missing. When they are found, one boy is dead and the others point their fingers at Jack, saying he pushed a child who was taunting him. Anna doesn’t believe them, but Jack doesn’t have the communication abilities to tell her what happened. Quickly, the school and the town turn against them. Before the day is over, Anna and her husband Alex – a district attorney running for re-election – are forced to hand over their son due to a 5150 order. Jack’s never spent a night without his mother. Will Anna be able to discover the truth before the ordeal destroys Jack?

This is a meaty, important plot that will resonate with anyone who loves someone on the spectrum. Kids with ASD are known to “bolt” and disappear. Some of them are so frustrated by their communication struggles that they reach out in ways that seem violent. In 2015, California parents sued a neighbor because their autistic son “attacked” other children in their neighborhood.

Yet Levin treats these serious issues lightly, like her characters are in one of Josie Brown’s Totlandia books rather than dealing with the death of a child. The night of Jack’s hospitalization, Anna immediately falls in love with the therapist on duty, and most of her mental energy is spent on that affair. As such, Anna comes across as self-centered and unsympathetic, shrugging off the pain of the parents of a dead boy and choosing her lover over her son. Anna is a character who should be easy to root for, but she is more childish than her 10-year-old son. Her divorced sister’s love life also plays a distracting role.

The case against Jack unfolds unrealistically, as an assistant DA threatens to file murder one charges against a boy and multiple inconclusive autopsies are done. A stronger edit could have fixed these problems, as well as updated the book. For no apparent reason, it’s set around 2003-04. (Jack’s Asperger’s diagnosis is the first clue; Asperger’s was folded into ASD in 2013.)

There’s more than one way home, and there’s more than one way to tell a story about a child with ASD. As I read the novel, I often thought about how Jodi Picoult would handle the material. Not surprisingly, ripped-from-the-headlines author Picoult published a book in 2010, House Rules, about a mother whose autistic teenager is accused of murder. Picoult handled the plot with the gravitas that the issues required.

With so many families impacted by ASD, many more books will be written about these parents and their children. Some of those will be dramas. Some will be comedies. There’s space on the book shelf for all these genres. But the death of a child is a horrible event, and books that feature this plot need to treat it with the weight it deserves. Had a boy not died, had Jack’s emotional health not been in jeopardy, I might have enjoyed Anna’s snarky observations and obsession over her lover. But with the stakes so high, I did not root for Anna. I judged her.

Thanks to JKS Communications for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Donna Levin:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Meet Camille Di Maio's literary friends...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Camille Di Maio here for a visit. Melissa A loved her debut, The Memory of Us (reviewed here), and is excited to start her sophomore novel, Before the Rain Falls. Thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy to give away!

Camille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of 19 years, she home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it does’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. (Bio courtesy of Camille's website.)

Visit Camille online:

After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

My Books as My Friends

I was the kid with the teeth that earned me the nickname of “Vampire”. The glasses that could have helped you see Haley’s Comet in perfect clarity. The shyness that had me hiding in the library at recess.

In every scenario, I would have chosen books over people. People were fickle, confusing, and often mean. Books were full of adventure, travel, and interesting characters.

I worked my way through all of the Nancy Drews, Bobsey Twins, and Trixie Beldens, so much so that that Sr. Charles Marie, the librarian, called my parents in to discuss her concern that I might have a criminal mind. (Why she didn’t think, instead, that maybe I was destined to be a detective, still baffles me.)

It was in that library in Aurora, Colorado, where I discovered that books held the key to be transported nearly anywhere and where friends were found in the black ink on a white page.
My friends were named Anne (with an E), Pollyanna, and Jane Eyre. I learned something from each of them.

From Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, I learned that an imagination was something to nurture. Anne dreamed big and believed that all things were possible. She bucked social norms and forged her own path. Instead of bowing down to everyone’s expectations, she stayed true to herself and changed the hearts of those around her.

So I dreamed big. I dreamed that I would be a writer even as people told me that it was difficult and the road laced with rejection. They were right. But I dreamed it anyway. And it came true.

From Pollyanna, I learned to play The Glad Game. I developed an attitude of gratitude before that was a popular phrase. If anything unpleasant came my way, I found something in it to be glad about. A red light? I’m glad I didn’t get a green – maybe there would have been an accident up ahead. A thunderstorm cancelled our plans? I glad I’d get the chance to dance in the rain. (Literally. I love to toss off my shoes and run outside and pretend that I’m in some romantic movie scene.) My parents moved us in the middle of my junior year across country from a beloved city to a tiny rural town? Ok. That one was a little tough to get over, but I found my gladness – hitting highway 83 to make monthly trips to Washington, DC, where I eventually met my future husband.

From Jane Eyre, I learned stamina. Despite her love for Mr. Rochester, she ran away from his pleading heart when she discovered that he was already married. It took amazing fortitude to do what she felt was right and she paid a price for it. But she laid groundwork for me to be strong when faced with moral challenges.

There were many others over the years. In fact, in nearly every book I’ve read – and there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds behind me now – I have learned something from a character or situation that has shaped me. As a person. As a writer.

My new dream is to write characters who have a similar impact to others. To let my books give what I’ve been given.

And who are we kidding? I also dream of living in front of an ocean and having a perpetual supply of guava juice in my refrigerator. Perhaps Anne will be my next door neighbor and we will make cakes that don’t include mice in the batter and dye our hair green.

Until then, I’ll continue to live inside the pages.

Thanks to Camille for visiting with us and to Get Red PR 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 May 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Left Hanging

By Sara Steven

As a nurse and single mom, Darla Battle hides her loneliness behind a smile. But when she discovers that the new cute doctor everyone is talking about is her daughter’s father, she knows she needs to keep her distance from the man who abandoned her and their child, Stella.

When Theo Edwards returns to Nashville to finish his medical training, he never expects to run into Darla, a girl he spent one night with seven years ago. For reasons he can’t fathom, her attitude toward him is frosty, but he still hopes to ignite the spark they once felt.

Once Darla realizes Theo doesn’t know he’s Stella’s father, she has no idea how to tell him the truth. And the longer she waits, the more difficult it becomes. When the situation spins out of control, can the two come together for the sake of their daughter? Or is forgiveness out of reach? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Darla and Theo’s story had me hooked right from the beginning, primarily because Cindy Dorminy has created characters that are easy to invest in. When the two meet, spending one unforgettable night together, I wanted to know what that experience would do to them, and for them. And it felt like a very relatable situation. Many of us have thrown caution to the wind, done a few things that go against our character, much like Darla and Theo had done.

There was the perfect mix of tension and suspense while Darla tries to figure out how to deal with Theo. She knows she needs to tell him about Stella, but she can never find the right time to do it. While she’s waiting, she spends time with him, rediscovering what made her feel so attracted to him, wanting to steer clear of him, too. Theo has always felt as though Darla had been the one who got away, literally, and will do anything it takes to get her to fall for him again.

A gigantic catastrophe brings the two together in the most inopportune way, forcing Theo to face up to his responsibilities, and Darla to let go of the reigns a little bit. It’s a huge turning point for both characters. Can they set it all aside for the love of their daughter? Will this completely destroy any chance they have at picking up where they left off seven years ago?

**Potential spoilers, but nothing major**

I appreciated all the little nuances in Left Hanging, like the idea for Stella’s name (she was named after her paternal Grandmother, something Theo doesn’t connect the dots to until much later), to the dyslexia Darla’s best friend has, revealed in an interesting way as the story progresses. Every character is unique and realistic, creating an environment a reader can get lost in, from page one to the very end.

Thanks to Red Adept Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Cindy Dorminy:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A toast to Glynis Astie...plus a special giveaway

We're glad to have Glynis Astie back at CLC to promote her fourth book in the French Twist series, French Roast. In honor of our "Books that made an impact" theme, she's here to talk about the special books in her life. She's also giving away an e-book set of her series and a $20 Amazon gift card (two winners will be chosen)!

Glynis never expected in her wildest dreams to be a writer. After thirteen years in the Human Resources Industry, she decided to stay at home with her two amazing sons. Ever in search of a project, she was inspired to write the story of how, in only six short months, she met and married her wonderfully romantic French husband, Sebastien. The end result became her first novel, French Twist.

As this was just the beginning of their epic love story, Glynis continued to chronicle their adventures in the sequel, French Toast, and the final installment in the series, French Fry. After she finished milking her life story for all it was worth, she decided to write straight-up fiction with Gamer Girl, which infused her beloved chick lit with a hint of fantasy. She then realized there were a few ounces left in her real-life French fairy tale, and added French Roast to the mix. She is currently considering writing a prequel to the series, and is therefore questioning her definition of “final installment.”

When Glynis is not writing, she is trying to keep the peace amongst the three men and two cats in her life, finding missing body parts (Lego pieces are small!), supervising a myriad of homework assignments and keeping a tenuous hold on her sanity by consuming whatever chocolate is in the vicinity. 

Visit Glynis at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Synopsis of French Roast (may contain spoilers for the other books):
Sydney Durand, the quirky yet lovable heroine of the French Twist series, is back for one final installment in a very special novella.

As the wife of a gorgeous and romantic Frenchman and the mother of the most angelic boy ever, Sydney is living a life of sheer perfection. She’s gone through quite a bit to achieve this charmed life, and now nothing is going to bring her down. Or so she thinks.

Just when Sydney’s happiness is at its height, an unexpected event throws her life into chaos, threatening her happily ever after. With her tight-knit family in danger of falling apart, she suddenly finds herself longing for the days of dating disasters and unsolicited (and embarrassing!) advice from her wise-cracking father. At least those humiliations would be easier to take than the devastation now enveloping her heart.

Will she be able to find the strength her parents have always fought to instill in her, or will she spiral into the void of her always-lurking anxiety? Sydney’s challenge is to survive...or roast...

What I've Learned Through Books

Though I have only been writing for the past few years, I have long held a great love of books. From Curious George to Little House on the Prairie, my childhood was filled with tales of all kinds, each one inspiring me in a different way. I truly believe there is a lesson to be learned from everything and have found books to be exceptional educators. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Besides learning about good old-fashioned romance, there are deeper teachings at play. We all know the importance of pride—taking pride in your work, in your appearance, in yourself as a whole—but we often forget how easily pride can go awry. Not to mention the danger of prejudice. How easy is it to take our preconceived ideas and believe them to be true, when there is actually no basis in fact? (I think of it as a misguided mental shortcut. We have so much thinking to do, it’s natural to want to cut corners somewhere.) Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were both rather impressive—and amusing—in their delivery of these faults, but thankfully they found some sense in the end.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I dove into Anne’s adventures at an early age and was quickly mesmerized by her bravery, her dedication and her cherished belief that each day brought a fresh start. (Fun fact: I used to think I needed red hair to evince these characteristics. For nearly the entirety of the eight book series, if you must know.) I was pretty shy as a kid, so when I was faced with tackling an obstacle, I would do my best to channel my inner Anne. I may not have reached new heights in terms of being fearless, but I was able to explore many things outside of my comfort zone—which was good enough for me. Thank you, Anne!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
When I first read this brilliant work, I thought the world was an insane place. Why would millions of people love a story filled with so much pain and emotional turmoil? What was the lesson in all this chaos? I may have needed a little guidance to understand the reasoning, but in the end, I was able to appreciate the endurance Jane exhibited throughout her challenging life. To have gone through so much difficulty with such strength and grace is something to be celebrated. And definitely something to aspire to in your own life.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
My mother fell in love with San Francisco the late 60s, when she was fortunate enough to spend a few years soaking up the sunshine and the beautiful scenery. I used to love hearing stories from those days, wishing I could have tagged along for her delightful rambles. When I stumbled upon the start of Armistead Maupin’s famed series, I was instantly reminded of my mother’s fun-filled California days. From the very beginning, I was drawn to the world of Michael Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton—laughing as Michael tried to guide Mary Ann out of her closely-guarded shell and as Mary Ann tried to keep Michael from eradicating his completely. I sent my mother a copy immediately, knowing she would enjoy it as much as I did. She always had an appreciation for different cultures, beliefs and lifestyles and she reveled in the idea that everyone could get along, teaching each other as they went—exactly what the series touted. Our shared love of this series left me with a courageous heart, an open mind and the will to chase my own dreams to California.

Oh the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
I have always been a big fan of Dr. Seuss—the rhyming, the addictive rhythm of the words, the delightful illustrations and the heartfelt messages. This book is a pure work of genius in my opinion. How scary can a journey be if Dr. Seuss is giving you a pep talk along the way? All the basics are outlined nicely—you’ll have a lot of choices, you’ll have to work hard, you might get scared, but think of all the amazing things you can do! And most importantly: don’t give up. I’m sure it won’t shock you to learn that I still pull out my battered copy and read through it when I’m thinking of doing something which just happens to scare the crap out of me. Guess what? After my heart-to-heart with the good doctor, I’m all set. Every. Single. Time.

I could go on and on (and on!) about wisdom I have gleaned from a collection of incredible books, but I thought you might appreciate the condensed version—after all, you have your own places to go. (Ha!) Plus, I would really like to hear about how your favorite books have impacted your life. Please fill me in below!

Thanks to Glynis for visiting with us and for sharing such awesome prizes 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 May 21st at midnight EST.