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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Where the Sweet Bird Sings

By Jami Deise

Thanks to companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe, genealogy has become a big business. With help from the internet, tracking down one’s ancestors has become a popular hobby. Discovering that a great-great-grandfather was a Civil War hero or emigrated from Ireland on the Titanic can be enormously satisfying. What many hobbyists don’t know, however, is that much of this research was originally compiled by the Church of Latter-Day Saints. As Mormons believe that souls can be baptized after death, they are meticulous about researching their ancestors so they can be welcomed into the faith after a conversion. (In fact, this was a point of contention after some new Mormons baptized Jewish ancestors who died in the Holocaust, a practice that the Church discontinued.) Even to non-believers, though, Mormons have always been generous about sharing their findings.

Author Ella Joy Olsen, who lives in Salt Lake City, utilizes her deep knowledge of these practices to craft a story that hinges upon the vagaries of fate, love, and DNA. Emma Hazelton’s son Joey died a year ago of Canavan Disease, a genetic disorder with ties to Eastern European Jewish groups that requires both parents to be carriers. While Emma’s husband Noah wants to talk about having another child and the steps they would have to take to ensure a healthy baby, the death of Emma’s grandfather Joe puts her in another tailspin. Discovering new things about Grandpa, Emma starts to question how a disease mostly found in Jewish families took her son. And Noah’s pressure makes things even worse – Emma isn’t sure whether they should stay married, or split up in order to try to have children with other—non-carrier—people.

Emma turns out to be descended from Emmeline and Nathanial, who are featured in Olsen’s debut novel, Root, Petal, Thorn. While Emmeline was my favorite character from this novel, at the same time, her inclusion meant that the mystery Emma works to solve is already known to anyone who read the first book. Olsen also gets distracted with a subplot about Emma’s brother, which turns into a convoluted way to make the same point she makes with Emmaline and Nathanial’s story.

Even so, Emma’s grief over Joey and her inner conflict over her marriage to Noah make her a compelling character. What does it mean when the person you love carries the same defective gene that you do? What does that say about the nature of attraction? Some genetic diseases have their roots in helpful mutations—the mutation that causes sickle cell disease might protect against malaria when only one copy of the gene is defective, and researchers now believe that cystic fibrosis conveys a similar effect for tuberculosis. Nature herself seems to be saying that people should mate with those who are as different from each other as possible.

This is deep stuff, and while sometimes Olsen brushes the surface rather than diving in all the way, the work she’s put into the story is obvious. Also absorbing are the meticulous scenes of Emma’s research at the Family History Library on the grounds of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, the largest such library in the world.

Fans of Olsen’s debut novel will enjoy Where the Sweet Bird Sings. Even those who do not find the story completely satisfying will find themselves signing up for Ancestry.com when they finish.

Thanks to Ella Joy Olsen for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Emily Bleeker is on fire...plus a book giveaway

Amber Linderman Photography
We're pleased to introduce Emily Bleeker today and help her celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Working Fire. Thanks to Kaye Publicity, we have one copy to give away.

Emily Bleeker is also the author of the Street Journal bestseller When I'm Gone (March, 2016; Lake Union), and her debut novel, Wreckage (March, 2015; Lake Union), which became a Kindle bestseller. A former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer’s workshop, she found the courage to share her stories after surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer. Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago. You can visit her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Synopsis:
Ellie Brown must abandon medical school to return home to help her married sister Amelia care for their widowed father after he suffers a stroke. But her monotonous days as a small-town paramedic are turned upside down when she receives a dispatch call to an address that turns out to be Amelia's home. Racing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband have been shot in a home invasion. 

As Amelia remains comatose and in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s—and her hometown’s—past that challenge her beliefs about what happened that morning and force her to question where her devotions truly lie. The story is told in two timelines--the present day, from Ellie's point of view; and for six weeks leading up to the day of the shooting, told from Amelia's point of view.

What is one of your methods for balancing life as a stay-at-home mom with life as a writer?
Balance? What is that? I think the biggest thing is reminding myself (and sometimes my kids) that writing is a job and just like other work from home moms I have to make actual time to do my job. Honestly, my kids are old enough to understand that there are trade-offs with this situation. We focus on fun and bonding or chores or learning for many hours of our day, and then I can say, “Okay, I need to get some writing done now!” They are very good about taking their down time at the same time I’m writing. Also, writing while they sleep works well but only if I can stay awake myself!

Which authors have inspired you?
Gosh, there are just too many to name them all. I think that I’ll focus on two that had a BIG impact in my life as an author:

Charlotte Bronte is my favorite author. I feel like she is the mother of Women’s Fiction in a lot of ways. Like other female authors of her time, including her sisters, she had to fight against so much to even have her words published. I first read JANE EYRE when I was in seventh grade. My teacher told me it had too many “big words” for me, but I read it anyway, almost seeing it as a challenge. I became enthralled by Jane as a person; her strength and her resilience after facing terrible abuse and neglect. Soon, any words that may have seemed overwhelming in chapter one melted away into the landscape of the gothic scenery. I finally met the first fictional person I felt must exist in some real world outside of my own. From Charlotte, I learned about characters and how important it is to care for them, cheer for them and maybe even wish you were them at times.

Jumping to a different genre, I was also inspired by Lauren Oliver’s DELIRIUM. The story was compelling, but it was her writing that moved me. It was so descriptive and beautiful. Just before reading this story, I'd been told by someone close to me that I’d never been a writer because my writing was too flowery. But reading Lauren’s words, I realized I just needed to hone and trim that part of my craft and perhaps at some point I too could share my work with the world.

What is something you've learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to Working Fire?
I learned that books are about people, not plots. I mean, it is great to have an awesome plot line with lots of fun ups and downs and twists and turns but it is more important to have characters that are relatable and emotions that invoke responses from your readers. So, that’s what I tried to remember when I wrote about Ellie and Amelia. I tried to help them be relatable and really evoke true emotions from their trials and triumphs.

If you could cast Working Fire as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
I am the worst at answering this question! So many authors cast their characters in their heads, but to me, they are real people and hard to put a different face on them. Hmmm, let me think.

For Ellie, I like Rachel Bilson from Hart of Dixie and for Amelia someone like Katie Holmes. They look a lot like sisters and Katie would have the maturity and vulnerability to play Amelia and Rachel would have that toughness Ellie needs. I like Josh Duhamel for Amelia’s husband, Steve, and Max Minghella from The Handmaid's Tale as Officer Travis Rivera.

Okay, that is the best I can do!! I LOVE hearing who my readers imagine far more than my thoughts, so please pass on your ideas!

If you could take us on a tour of the town where you currently live, what places would be must-see stops?
One of my favorite spots in my town is the Savanna by my house. It is filled with wildflowers and many species of birds. I love to walk the trail there imagining what it must’ve been like to stroll through that prairie one hundred years ago before there was a running path and benches and look out spots.

Our downtown area is a must-walk! You can walk the whole thing and go to a variety of awesome restaurants and a weekly farmer's market. I like ending the night at the local Tastee Freeze. The town’s historical museum is within walking distance as well as the fire house and a delicious specialty bakery.

Finally, Central Park has all my kids’ favorite places including a splash park, two regular parks, the library, a running path, an outdoor stage, the community pool and a Frisbee golf course. Also, from Central Park, you can see the smokestack of the old gelatin factory. My kids love to make up stories about the uninhabited structure, especially since it is surrounded by “No Trespassing” signs. What do kids like more than abandoned factories and warnings against entering them? Sounds like the start of a good book….

With school starting back up, tell us about a teacher who made a difference in your life.
When I started at Benedictine University, I went into my first literature class having no idea how hard I’d fall for the complex beauty of classic literature. The books themselves were inspiring, filled with humanity and giving me a window into the lives of those who lived ages ago. But it wasn’t just the books that inspired me in that class; it was also my professor—Dr. Julie Duggar (also known as author Julie Salmon Kelleher). She led lively discussions about our course material, and suddenly I found out I had opinions on poetry, that I would read and reread the same page just to test out some theory dancing through my mind. Eventually, I even started to look forward to writing term papers. Yeah. It was like that.

Dr. Duggar ended up being my professor another three times as I finished up my degree in education and minor in literature. I have to admit that the reason I was in her class so often was because I wanted to be. I carried this passion for literature into my classroom as a teacher, trying to help younger students to find the same fascination with books and poetry that are often seen as boring or out of date.

As an author, I often think about how those stories taught me that human emotion, mortal trials, and heartfelt passions have no expiration date. We may have different clothes, different struggles, and better teeth, but we are all the same even with three hundred years or more between us. Dr. Duggar helped me learn that whether it is a story of Domestic Suspense, Women’s Fiction or a classic masterpiece, your words must strike at that central core that is in all of us, it must touch on what it is that makes us human—our hearts.

Thanks to Emily for chatting with us and Kaye 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 4th at midnight EST.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Watch Me Disappear

By Melissa Amster

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The last line of the synopsis really sums up how I feel about Watch Me Disappear. I felt like I was completely in the dark the entire time, learning about everything only as it was revealed to Olive or Jonathan.

I'll admit that the story started off a bit slow, as we're learning about the characters and their motivations, but once it takes off, I couldn't put it down. Truths and secrets were revealed like little gifts throughout the story. You unwrap one gift and five more show up out of the blue.

Janelle Brown is great with writing descriptions and dialogue. Everything felt realistic. It may be summer here, but I could feel the chill of autumn as I turned the pages. I was able to visualize people and settings without feeling overwhelmed by details. There was just enough to work with. I felt transported to a place I've never been. One description that stands out is during a kiss, where someone's lips are described as feeling like soft serve ice cream on a hot day.

I enjoyed the element of surprise from this story and am glad I didn't know anything before the characters did. Even though the ending felt a bit anti-climactic for me, I still was guessing where things would go. I wouldn't categorize this novel as a thriller, but it definitely is a mystery and we're along for the ride.

I would give this novel 4.5 stars, even though Goodreads and Amazon don't let me do half-stars.

Of course, I was casting the movie version in my head...
Billie: Kim Director
Jonathan: Breckin Meyer
Olive: Rhiannon Leigh Wryn
Harmony: Marley Shelton
Natalie: Jamie Bloch

Thanks to Spiegel & Grau for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Janelle Brown:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Dating Bender

Meet Samantha Serrano, your new favorite dysfunctional leading lady. In The Dating Bender by debut author Christina Julian (Limitless Publishing; August 22), Samantha stumbles from one romantic misadventure to the next, while relying all too heavily on relationship advice from glossy mags like Cosmo, Redbook, and O. You’ll laugh (and cringe) as she navigates family drama, exciting career opportunities and, humbling disasters.

Samantha was planning on a happily ever after, courtesy of an early marriage to her best friend, because that’s what good Catholic girls do. When that, quickly and shamefully, falls to pieces, she moves to Colorado where her job at a tech startup flies as high and fast as her sex life. Things look promising until she stumbles out of the boardroom and into the available arms of a colleague—who happens to be her boss.

When that relationship tanks, she ditches her dream (or is it her parents’ pipedream?) of lifelong love for a dating bender that takes her from Colorado to Manhattan and ultimately to Rome. The globetrotting adventure serves up a hefty dose of sex, angst, alcohol, and optimistic yet wrenching dysfunction—all part of the package for Samantha Serrano. There’s Superstar, the brilliant tech geek, Long John Silver, a luscious fireman-turned-soap-star-wannabe, Buff Boy, a taut surfer type, and Justin, a terrorist fighting FBI agent. When the dating bender takes an unexpected turn at the foot of the Vatican, Samantha realizes that she must let go of her family’s wishes and her own personal fears and misguided beliefs to discover who she really is and find true love.

Christina Julian does the dance as a wine and food columnist by day, novelist by night. She grew up back East but now resides in Calistoga with her husband and their toddling twins. Her writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast and Weddings California. Visit Christina at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Thanks to Get Red PR, we have TWO copies of The Dating Bender to give away!

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

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Giveaway ends August 29th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Go-to-Gay AND Chick Lit Cheerleader: The Name Game

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I thought it would be fun for our Chick Lit Cheerleader and our Go-to-Gay to write a joint post. Since they had such a fun time doing it (and made me laugh out loud), I will definitely be getting these two together again! 

I may have mentioned this a while ago, but Jen connected me with Keith when I was looking for a new GTG at CLC. I'm so glad she did, as he is a real joy to have here! I've hung out with Jen in person several times (including earlier this month) and hope to meet Keith in person one of these days. I think if all three of us were in the same room, there would be lots of trouble (the fun kind, of course)! In fact, I may sneak in some of my own names... ;)


Say My Name, Say My Name

Jen Tucker: My husband, Mike, is the hipster when it comes to new music. If it were up to me, my Subaru’s radio station would never leave the 80’s. I know, I’m a time capsule you’d open and find zero surprises inside, like when Geraldo Rivera opened one of Al Capone’s vaults on live television in 1986. Yikes, that was not a good moment for the mustached reporter, right? Did you see that travesty? Sorry, I digress…

Keith Stewart: {Am I the only one who wishes Geraldo had just sealed himself back up in that vault? It’s just me? OK, nevermind.}

JT: My honey has vogued me into this era with a new-to-me band, Wilco.
KS: { I have never heard of this band. I am heading over to Spotify right now.} 
JT: How can a child of the 70’s and teenager of the 80’s like me not love a band who titles their album, Star Wars? One catchy tune from this album, that rings in my head constantly, is called Random Name Generator, which got me thinking—I know, perilous road ahead. I wanted to find out what random names would be doled-out my way, and I brought along CLC’s Keith Stewart for the ride.

Keith—he’s my guy. We first met at Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop where I allegedly attacked him (only with love and devotion) during a meet and greet, then sporadically coerced him (not really, he went willingly) to drink clearance-rack wine in the room I shared with Francine LaSala. He was forever changed, as you can imagine. And here we are sharing column space! Yay us! I hope it’s the first of many opportunities unless Melissa separates us.

KS: There was no alleged-ness to it. Jen had graciously agreed to do a “blurb” for my book, but we had never met in person. When we did actually meet at Erma Bombeck it was a full-on Tucker Attack. This includes hugs, kisses, pats, and a lot of fast talking that makes a Southerner nervous and confused. It also made me sure she was my new best friend.

Not only did we drink clearance-rack wine, but Francine and Jen also taught me to watch out for full glasses of wine at the empty dinner table seats on banquet night. Some may call that stealing, but we call it “not wasting.”

Jen also failed to mention that she and our friend, Nancy Berk, cat-called to me as I walked to the hotel after workshop. They were “cruising the strip” between the workshop classrooms and the hotel in their rental car blasting 80’s music and hanging out the windows and sunroof. Who would not love her after that?!

Enough jibber-jabber! Let’s get to name generating!


All names were discovered at the site, Name Robot. We included the link because Keith and I know, once you see our randomness, you’ll want scroll through this site to create your own. Trust me, there’s plenty to choose from! Here are a few of our favorites:

Dog Name



JT: Princess Waffle Bunnybottom
“I suddenly feel like I should eat kale, and take up Parkour, with any name that includes “waffle” and “bottom.” Good Lord…

KS: Prince Squigg Frapenstein
“I’m not sure how I feel about my dog name. I am totally fine with “Prince,” but I guess I always pictured myself as a more regally named dog than “Squigg Frapenstein.” I see that dog wearing dark rimmed glasses, always carrying a book bag, and incessantly worrying about everything. Wait, I suppose I am a Prince Squigg Frapenstein.

MA: Duchess Stumpy Fluffybutt: I don't even know how to picture what this kind of dog would look like. Maybe a very posh looking poodle?

Game of Thrones Name




JT: Lysa Arryn
“I’m not going to lie; kind of a letdown for me. I wanted to be Khalesei Snow, or Dragon Baby Mama Snow. They’re one in the same, really. You GoT-ers feel me.”

KS: Aeron Greyjoy
“I am not happy with this one bit. I did not want to be a Greyjoy. WHO WANTS TO BE FROM THE IRON ISLANDS?! I will admit that I even lied to the random name generator to get a better name by using my middle name and my husband’s birthday month. However, that produced, “Shagwell the Fool,” so I suppose being a Greyjoy isn’t that bad.

Cocktail Name



JT: Screaming Snot
“Some of you know I married a bartender over 24 years ago. This new moniker will not surprise him. It’s like the NSA saw me freaking out this morning when, for the twenty-trillionth time, I swapped the toilet paper for the empty roll. Is it really that hard, people?”

KS: Flying Nipple
“Finally, a name I can get behind. I think “nipple” is one of the best words ever. I love to say it. Nipplenipplenipple. I think the “flying” part is indicative that it is a strong drink, and any drink associated with me would have to be strong. As TV’s Karen Walker says, “I’d suck the alcohol out of a deodorant stick.”

MA: Multi-colored Sunset: Why do they get all the fun names?!?

Food Truck Name



JT: Rolling Cheese Steak Kitchen
“Again, the NSA has seen me on rollerblades after Thanksgiving dinner. Creepers.”

KS: Big Mama’s Jambalaya Kitchen
“That is totally me as a food truck. New Orleans is my favorite city. Cajun/Creole is my favorite food. We call my mother, “Big Mommy.” Maybe the NSA is watching me, too?

MA: Teriyaki WonTon Trattoria: I love Chinese food (and even worked at a Chinese restaurant in my teens), so this is perfect for me!

Zombie Name



JT: Blood-stained Corpse
“I am a rabid fan of The Walking Dead. Not so much Fear The Walking Dead, yet this is not the time nor place to debate. Send all your hate mail to Keith. This is a Duh! name for me. Aren’t all zombies blood-stained corpses? I would’ve preferred names such as Mrs. Daryl Dixon (That’s for you Kelly, Melinda, and Theresa!), Face-plant Off A High-rise, Impaled Parts, or Attacked By Killer Tomatoes. Extremely disappointing.

KS: Rotting Dust
“OK, go ahead and send the hate mail to me, because I don’t get zombies. I don’t watch any zombie shows. I don’t listen to any zombie podcasts (is that a thing?). Give me a nice looking vampire and I will watch him or her all day, but zombies? No. Rotting Dust seems appropriate. I have a feeling that zombies smell really bad, too.

Last, yet not least, you had to know this one was coming…

Star Wars Name



JT: Kento Marek
“Kento, packs her bento box with socks and locks (This is what comes into my mind, friends. My apologies). Not sure if I’m a Jedi Master or one of Jabba the Hutt’s handlers. I’m still fantasizing about the name Kaleesi Snow. It could happen!

KS: Princess Leia Nrgana
“I have no idea what the Nrgana part of the name means, so I choose to ignore it. That makes me Princess Leia. Boom! We have gone full circle with royalty and me. The dog name started with Prince and the Star Wars name ended with Princess. I think it’s clear I was destined to be called His Royal Highness. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE START CALLING ME THAT?!

Also, Jen, I will call you Kaleesi Snow if you will call me Cersei’s Other Twin Who She Doesn’t Have “Relations” With. Deal?

Be sure to create your own random names and share them with us in the comments. We can’t wait to hear all about your randomness!


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.


Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: The One that Got Away

A modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back. Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Ten years later, Ruby’s single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past…


Melissa Pimentel grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing. Visit Melissa at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy of The One That Got Away to share with a lucky reader!

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

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Giveaway ends August 27th at midnight EST.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: Royally Wed: The Cock-Up

By Sara Steven

**May contain spoilers for the previous books in the "Ladies In Waiting" Series (see reviews for Part-time Princess, Royally Wed, and Royally Wed: The Poser)**

Is it possible Lucy is royally wed to Crown Prince Cristoph instead of his brother, her beloved Nicholas?

Is this simply a case of bad luck, a mix up of epic proportions? Or has Prince Cristoph carried a torch for Lucy ever since she left him high and dry at the cathedral’s altar and sabotaged her marriage to Nick?

Lucy will finally get her HEA in this LOL royal rom-com, but who will be her lucky husband — Prince Cristoph the heir — or Prince Nicholas Frederick the spare? (synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Well, this is the last book in the "Ladies in Waiting" series, and I can honestly say that Pamela DuMond made sure her wonderful heroine, Lucy, would go out with a bang! As always, we find Lucy up to her eyeballs in crazy situations, leaving the reader guessing on whether she’ll be able to climb her way out of them. And, it’s always funny. No matter what, every book in this series is laced with humor on every page, so even when it’s a cringe-worthy moment, you laugh!

And there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments. Like when Lucy finds herself in a compromising position with Cristoph. Or when she’s sharing a tender bathroom moment with Royal Nana. Or when she’s trying to figure out if she’s really married to NIck, or somehow married to his brother. It seems nothing is ever easy, that’s for sure, but it’s the uneasiness that only adds to the fun of what she goes through, and what those around her go through, too.

I felt as though her friends, her ladies-in-waiting were much more subdued this go around. Maybe to add more focus on Lucy. Even Esmeralda seemed more mature, possibly a character evolvement in the making. Although Royally was just as silly as it’s ever been, I felt there were more serious subjects thrown in, a lot more that Lucy has to deal with. It’s not all fun and games. I also felt the softer side, particularly after reading DuMond’s Author’s Note, in regards to the origins of Royal Nana. I’ll admit, I got a little teary-eyed. It’s hard not to, after becoming a part of Lucy’s world, having read every book in the series. I will certainly miss the characters wholeheartedly, and as I’ve done with every other review for "Ladies in Waiting," I highly recommend reading them all. Not only for the fun and for the silly, but also for the heart of it.

Thanks to Pamela DuMond for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase the whole series here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

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

Melissa A:
Virtually Perfect by Paige Roberts from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)
Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle from St. Martin's Press
P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy from Amazon Crossing
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang from BookSparks
The Leavers by Lisa Ko from BookSparks
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka from BookSparks
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige from BookSparks
Jack with a Twist by/from Brenda Janowitz (e-book)
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land from Flatiron
Living the Dream by Lauren Berry from Henry Holt
Class Mom by Laurie Gelman from Henry Holt


Melissa A and Sara:
Kindred Spirits by/from Whitney Dineen
(e-book)

Jami:
I'm the One Who Got Away by Andrea Jarrell from Sparkpoint Studio (e-book via NetGalley)
The Week I Ruined My Life by Caroline Grace-Cassidy from Trafalgar Square Publishing

What could be in YOUR (e-)mail:

Jack with a Twist
by Brenda Janowitz...now available for Kindle!

Thanks to Brenda, we have THREE e-books for some lucky readers.

PLANNING A WEDDING CAN BE A TRYING EXPERIENCE....

A little pre-wedding anxiety is normal for every bride, and Manhattan attorney Brooke Miller isn't worried. She's got the loving support of the world's greatest guy, so planning her nuptials should be a piece of cake.

But that was yesterday.

Today, Brooke's landed her first big case and has just discovered that the opposing attorney is none other than her fiancĂ©, Jack. But that's okay. These two professionals aren't going to let a little courtroom sparring get their legal briefs in a bunch.… Right? Wrong! Now Jack's pulling every dirty trick in the law books, and Brooke's starting to suspect that maybe he isn't the man she thought he was. Warring with her fiancĂ© at work and at home, Brooke realizes that she'll have to choose between the case of her life, or actually having a life.
(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 August 23rd at midnight EST.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

BookSparks #SRC2017 August novels










Today the spotlight is on the August books for BookSparks' Summer Reading Challenge of 2017.  All synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.

Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.

Told from the perspective of both Daniel—as he grows into a directionless young man—and Polly, Ko’s novel gives us one of fiction’s most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heartwrenching choice after another.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

WHO ARE YOU WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING?

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she's not crazy and doesn't belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn't what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid--her true home--with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she's sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything . . . including Snow's return to the world she once knew.

This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land

By Sara Steven

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

I could totally relate to Sophie. While I've never made a move to London, and I don’t find myself surrounded by semi-famous, glamorous mothers, I feel as though I’m still trying to find my niche after moving to Arizona, particularly when it comes to making new friends. And just like Sophie, I’m not quite sure how to fit myself inside the close-knit groups of women that stand outside the school doors, either dropping off or picking up their children. I had this idea that friendships would get easier the older I got. Boy, was I wrong!

It’s even harder when you don’t have a good support system. Sophie moved away from hers, in an effort to support her husband’s budding career. And it seems as though no matter how hard she tries, or how many play dates she attempts to make through an Alpha Mum’s personal assistant, she just can’t catch a break. She feels like she can live with the rejection, but when it begins to affect her daughter’s well-being, it gets to be a little too much.

I found the Beta Mum blog enjoyable, and funny. An open, honest letter to others who might be struggling, offering up a candid look into what it’s like to feel overlooked. But in the process of finding her voice and gaining ground in her life, Sophie notices so many other areas in her world begin to unravel. Can she find a balance between being who she yearns to be, and trying to become something she’s not?

There were moments where I cringed right along with Sophie, particularly when everything begins to crumble around her. And, I appreciated the often hidden perspective in The Beta Mum that can come from seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, then being forced to see the honesty and realism of what’s really happening. Often, those who portray a certain image in an attempt to gain approval, are usually the ones whose lives are far from the visual they want us all to see. And while I’ll continue to be friendly and not shy away from any potential friendships that may come my way from the Beta Moms in my world, I’ve been focusing more on appreciating the friendships I already have with the amazing mom friends who make up my own support system, whether near or far.

Thanks to Isabella Davidson for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Stacey Ballis' impact on our lives...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Joe Mazza/Bravelux
Interview by Tracey Meyers

We're pleased to have Stacey Ballis at CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, How to Change a Life (reviewed here). Stacey is practically a fixture here, as we have had her for a few visits over the past years and Melissa A has read all her books, listing her previous novel, Wedding Girl, as a 2016 favorite.

Stacey Ballis is the author of ten foodie novels, including Inappropriate Men, Room for Improvement, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, and Recipe for Disaster. Her first cookbook, Big Delicious Life is out now in a digital edition. She is also a contributing author to the anthologies Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly. Her non fiction cooking pieces can be read at ExtraCrispy.com and Bake From Scratch Magazine.

Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy of How to Change a Life to give away!

Visit Stacey online:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest


Synopsis:
Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world’s most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.

Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn’t seem so lonely—until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Which author has had the greatest influence on your writing?
This is a very hard question. I like to think I’m inspired in my writing of female relationships from Jane Austen, my food writing from MFK Fisher, my humor from Oscar Wilde, my romantic relationships from Shakespeare.

What's your work space like?
I have an office that is like my secret hidey hole. I upholstered the walls in moss green velvet with padding, so it is very loud proofed. I have a full sized daybed full of pillows, and tend to write sitting on that…I have an antique hospital rolling bed table that holds my laptop when I write sitting there. I also have a gorgeous antique desk from 1835, but I tend not to work on that for my novels, it is more of a note writing desk. There is a large built-in bookcase facing the daybed, with the books that inspire me, and a television.

Do you listen to music, podcast, etc. when you write or do you need complete silence?
I sometimes leave the tv on for background noise, or I listen to music. I don’t really like to write in silence, I find it unsettling!

My favorite book of all time is:
Eloise by Kay Thompson

Besides your phone, what must you have with you at all times?
Kleenex.

What is your favorite life hack?
Hmmm. Most of mine have to do with cooking. I love using two plates to trap cherry tomatoes so I can slice them all in half quickly by just sliding a serrated knife between the plates! So much faster than one at a time.

Thanks to Stacey for visiting with us and to Berkley 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 August 20th at midnight EST

Monday, August 14, 2017

Spotlight: Seasons of Summer

Melissa Baldwin recently published the fourth and final novella in her "Seasons of Summer" series. Each e-novella is 99 cents, and they can be enjoyed all at once instead of waiting for each season to happen.

Fall Into Magic

After a devastating breakup in the middle of her summer vacation, Summer Peters knows she needs something to distract her. What better than the arrival of fall, Halloween, and a new client? Though she assumes that Alexander Williams will be a hands-off client, she is surprised to find him very down-to-earth. She’s immediately drawn to him, much to the dismay of his overprotective assistant. When it becomes obvious that he feels the same, she begins to wonder if their meeting was meant to be.

Just when she thinks she could be ready to move on with her life, her ex-boyfriend Jake returns for a second chance. She’s in for even more of a surprise when she learns her nosy, meddling neighbor is actually a psychic pushing to reveal details of her future.

Summer doesn’t know which way to turn as she feels like she’s being pulled in different directions. Between Alexander, his assistant, and her ex-boyfriend, she fears she may not be ready to move on after all. She considers turning to her neighbor for advice but the fear of knowing exactly what the future holds is more frightening than not knowing.


Winter Can Wait

Following a fabulous fall, Summer Peters is not looking forward to the frigid winter. Much to her dismay, she knows this winter is a time for many changes in her life, including moving on from the heartache of the past.

Her professional life is flourishing, especially after her company is hired to decorate a trendy New York City restaurant. Summer sees this as a fantastic opportunity to build her clientele. However, she doesn’t anticipate the few surprises she encounters along the way, some of which could threaten her future.

Although her relationship with superman-lookalike Alexander Williams seems almost perfect, she finds it more and more difficult to compete for his time with his possessive personal assistant. To make matters worse, she doesn’t expect the return of Helena, his supermodel ex-wife who many say is his soul mate.

On the big opening night of the restaurant, she’s faced with making yet another difficult decision. She knows it’s time to take her life in the right direction; although in order to do this, she may need to let go again.


To Spring with Love

Summer Peters is thrilled to be done with the frigid winter. Spring is in the air, and she’s ready for a fresh new start. Her career is thriving, she’s searching for a new place to live, and she’s finally ready to take her relationship with Alexander Williams to the next level.

What she doesn’t expect is to be blindsided by Alexander’s assistant, Melanie, who seems to be up to her old tricks, even stooping as low as dating Summer’s ex-boyfriend, Jake. Once again, Summer is faced with the dilemma of having to share Alexander with a woman who’s out to destroy their relationship.

To add to these challenges, she receives devastating news from her best friend, Angie. At a critical time when she may need her best friend the most, she learns Angie may not be there for her. She quickly realizes that she may need to lean on someone she never expected during this time of change.

Return to Summer

Summertime has arrived and things aren’t only heating up outside for Summer Peters. After a rocky spring, Summer thinks she’s finally moved on from the heartache of last year. She’s found a new place to live, her company has new clients, and her relationship with Alexander Williams is going strong, despite the desperate attempts by others to sabotage it.

Just when Summer thinks everything is finally falling into place, she receives another crushing blow, and this time it could even affect her business. Summer knows it’s finally time to put a stop to the one thing that threatens her happiness, even though it requires a difficult decision in order to do this. Will this season bring her everything she’s always wanted or will history repeat itself?

Find out how Summer’s one-year journey ends in this final installment of the "Seasons of Summer" Novella Series.