Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Favorites

A few of us are here today to share our favorites from 2017. There were so many great books and it was definitely hard to choose from the ones we read and loved. (And we set a limit to five books each, or we'd be working on this all day.)

Hope we can help you find your next favorite book! And, of course, we'd love to hear what were your favorites from this past year. Please share in the comments section.

**Links are to reviews, unless noted otherwise**

Melissa A:
1. Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
2. Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman
3. Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio
4. The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr
5. Virtually Perfect by Paige Roberts

Sara:
1. Who We Were by Lindsay Detwiler
2. G*d-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo
3. The Party by Robyn Harding
4. A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl
5. Holly Freakin' Hughes by Kelsey Kingsley

Becky:
1. The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond
2. The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
3. The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even by Anna Bell
4. The Woman at 72 Derry Lane by Carmel Harrington
5. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (review not available)


Jami:
Ordinarily I’ve chosen two books to feature – my favorite reviewed book and my favorite personal read. With a cap of five books, this year I’m expanding that list…

Favorite Overall Read of 2017 – Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. This book landed on a lot of publication’s “best of” lists. I fell in love with every character, the setting, the examination of two different types of mothers in Elena and Mia. This is women’s fiction through and through, and to see it garnering such critical praise is a win for the entire genre.

Favorite “I Didn’t Know Who My Husband Really Was Until He Died or Disappeared” Read -- Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke’s The Good Widow. The writing duo’s first foray into suspense fiction is a winner in a crowded category, in which even gritty Bostonian Dennis Lehane has an entry. With a last-minute plot twist (true, it left a huge plot hole, but sometimes characters don’t act in rational ways) that changed everything, The Good Widow defied expectations.

Favorite “Ripped from the Headlines” Read – It’s hard to believe Alisyn Camerota wrote Amanda Wakes Up before the 2016 election. Read my review here.

Favorite Debut and Favorite YA – Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give could also win the “ripped from the headlines” award. Dominating the New York Times YA bestseller list all year, THUG was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and has been banned by a school district in Texas. But its carefully drawn protagonist, Starr, makes this book more than a political battle cry. Torn between her family and neighborhood and her private school, Starr’s personal dilemma is the foundation of every worthwhile coming-of-age story. It may be banned in Texas schools, but other schools will someday be teaching this book in English classes.

Favorite “The World Is Ending, Now What?” Read – So many books could fall into this category, not to mention many news articles. Aussie writer Amanda Hickie penned my favorite, Before This is Over, about an Australian family coping with a virus that’s killing all their neighbors as well as everyone else in the entire world. Read my review here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Reviews at Amazon--November/December 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
Review
Review (Goodreads)

Review (Goodreads)
Review
Review (Goodreads)


Review

Review

Review (Goodreads)


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Survey Results



Thanks again to everyone who took our recent themes survey for 2018. We had 55 participants altogether. Here are the "winners."

Favorite themes of 2017:

  • The Influence of Books
  • Something New


Themes chosen for 2018:
We're revisiting past themes, so those were the only choices given. (There was a tie for some of the themes, so either we'll combine two of them or we'll have an additional theme month.)

  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Romance
  • Humor
  • Fairy tales/Disney
  • Food/Cooking
  • Happiness


Top five favorite books:
(These books were chosen by more than one reader on our survey)

  • My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  • Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
  • The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
We look forward to bringing a lot of fun author interviews your way in the year ahead, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: Beneath These Stars

By Sara Steven

Perfect couple Lucy and Adam have it all: a home in the picturesque village of Havendon, budding careers and a sparkling future. Life is exactly as it should be.

But, when tragedy strikes and Adam becomes the guardian to his two young nieces, their idyllic life is turned upside down. Suddenly, they face an entirely different future.

Grief-stricken and disoriented, the four of them battle to build a new life together.

Can Adam and Lucy’s relationship survive being pushed to the limit? And can a devastated family find a way to get through such testing times? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I can honestly say, I didn’t see this coming. Having read the first book in the Lucy Mitchell series, Beyond the Lens (reviewed here), I’d expected a completely different story. An entirely different outcome for Lucy and Adam. Having said that, I can’t stress enough how much I loved this turn of events.

The synopsis alone intrigued me. As stated, Lucy and Adam appear to live a perfect existence, to be the perfect couple who were made for one another. Hannah Ellis gives us the honest truth when it comes to tragedy. It can cause horrific damage. It can change even the strongest of us. I felt the struggle every single character goes through while trying to get back to some sense of normalcy, changing everything I thought I’d known about the main characters and the type of life they’d have.

While it’s common practice to side more with the protagonist, I found myself supporting and understanding everyone in this story. The depth of grief can make people do terrible things, and sometimes you just can’t see it, until it might be too late. I found myself reasoning with some of the actions, willing others to understand what I could see, looking from the outside in.

An undercurrent to the plot, would be the need to still hold onto the dreams you’ve been striving for, even when the worst obstacles stand in the way of that. I completely identified with some of the struggles the characters faced when trying to move forward. Is it acceptable to want to maintain the passions that drive us, or is it more reasonable to do what’s best for everyone else?

While I enjoyed both books in this series, I really loved the direction Ellis went in, with Beneath These Stars. It was a much-appreciated surprise, and I’m seriously looking forward to reading what’s in store for Lucy and Adam in the future.

Thanks to Hannah Ellis for the book in exchange for an honest review. This book is part of a series, but can be read as a standalone.

More by Hannah Ellis:

Friday, December 22, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Girl Logic by Iliza Schlesinger from BookTrib (won in a giveaway)
No Time to Blink by/from Dina Silver (e-book via NetGalley)
Dear Dwayne, With Love by Eliza Gordon from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Totlandia Book 8 by/from Josie Brown (e-book)
Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley from Berkley
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li from Henry Holt (e-book via NetGalley)
Boot Camp Bride by/from Lizzy Lamb (e-book)
Izzy As Is by/from Tracie Banister (e-book)
Alice in Monologue Land by/from Amy Gettinger (e-book)
Falling for Mr. Wrong by Jenny Gardiner from My Author Concierge (e-book)

Jami:
The French Girl by Lexie Elliot from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Cupcakes and Condoms by Naheed Elyasi from Joan Grangenois-Thomas (e-book)
The Last Day by Claire Dyer from The Dome Press (e-book)

Sara:
The Wrong Side of Twenty-Five by Kate Armitage from HCL Book Tours (e-book)
One Way Ticket by/from Melissa Baldwin and Kate O'Keeffe (e-book)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Book Review: Little Bigfoot, Big City

By E.Z. Amster

**May contain spoilers for The Littlest Bigfoot**

Twelve-year-old Alice Mayfair has a secret. She’s not human. But who—or what—is she? While Alice goes in search of her past, her best friend Millie Maximus, a tiny Bigfoot with a big voice, prepares for her future. Together they plan to sneak off to New York City, where Millie hopes to audition for
The Next Stage, the TV show she’s sure will rocket her to stardom and free her from the suffocating expectations of her tribe.

Meanwhile Jeremy Bigelow’s Bigfoot research has put him on the radar of a shadowy government organization led by a mysterious man named Trip Carruthers. The Bigfoots have something, a chemical so powerful and dangerous that the government will do anything to obtain it. And Jeremy is tasked with securing it once and for all.

In an unexpected twist of fate, Jeremy, Alice, and Millie find themselves facing off at a crossroads. But in order to determine where they’re going, they have to first figure out where they come from—and draw the line between what is good, what is evil, and what it means to be a hero
. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Jennifer Weiner has put a commemorating sequel to The Littlest Bigfoot (reviewed here) our radar. Her new book, Little Bigfoot, Big City, tells the beginnings of Millie's adventures to fame. Millie is a child Bigfoot who wants to be in the human--or "no-fur," as they call them--world. This book reveals the secrets people hide from even those closest to them, and how no one can trust each other once they've found their true identities.

Alice journeys more to find out where she really belongs. Millie really inspires me to chase your dreams, but you have to be careful to hold on to those dearest to you. This book deserves five big stars for the wonderful motivations driving the characters to do what they do. I really love the ending when new ideas and adventures just begin building again.

A strong topic addressed in this book is friendship because Millie and Alice have to hold on tight to each other to keep their bond with one another. Little Bigfoot, Big City circles around a theme: Never get carried away with your surroundings or you lose the things dearest to you. People who are interested in fame and mystery would find this book appealing to them. I would love to thank Jennifer Weiner for bringing back her beloved tale.


E.Z. is Melissa Amster's older son. He enjoys musical theater, reading, cooking, playing clarinet, and drawing pictures. He is currently in sixth grade and loving it! E.Z. lives at home with his parents and younger brother and sister.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Go-to-Gay AND Chick Lit Cheerleader: Be Merry!

Jen and Keith are back....this time to talk about the winter holiday season. They even set up this fun interview. Do you agree with any of their answers? If not, what would your answer(s) be?

Have fun reading this one and keep in mind that Keith and Jen are siblings from another mother.


What is your favorite holiday TV special?
Keith: My love for Snoopy runs deep and true, so I always must go with A Charlie Brown Christmas. The scene where Snoopy dances on Schroder’s piano is perfection for me. A close second, though, is a show that is no longer broadcast: The House Without a Christmas Tree. It was a story of a little nerd girl, Addie, and her hateful father who wouldn’t allow her to have a Christmas tree. I am sure the plot was much deeper than that, but I was like five when it used to come on, and all I know is that IT IS THE BEST TEARJERKER HOLIDAY SHOW EVER.

Jen: This is why Keith and I are friends until the end! The Dorothy Hamill worthy Ice Capades opening scene. The sad little homeless tree. Schroder’s speech about the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown doesn’t get a rock. Just a handful of reasons why A Charlie Brown Christmas is my bae. Do the kids still say “bae”? Probably not…

In case you haven't seen it yet...



What Holiday TV Show would you prefer to NEVER see again?
K: Frosty the Snowman. There I said it. I never liked it. Never will. As a child, I was obligated to watch it, of course, but I never really cared when he got trapped in that greenhouse and melted.

J: This is why I feel like Keith is breaking up with me. Frosty the Snowman is quintessential 1970's animation at its best! I remember making snowmen as a kid, believing that if I included the corncob pipe, button nose, and the coal eyeballs that Frosty would wake up and say, “Happy Birthday!” I’m still waiting, sadly.

Photo from MeTV
What is a memory from the holidays you look back at and think, “Wow, my family is like a Currier and Ives or Norman Rockwell painting?
K: My favorite memories of Christmas are when all my extended family would come to our house for Christmas dinner or for Christmas Eve. Aunts, uncles, tons of cousins, and a few family friends would gather seemingly all over our house. Each room was filled with people and food and laughter. It was so much fun, and during those moments, I think our family probably looked pretty cool to the outside world.

J:  Somewhere floating around in the world are photos of little Jenny wearing footie pajamas at Grandma’s house, peeking inside the fireplace trying to figure out how the jolly old man pulled it off year after year. Hung by the chimney with care were stockings sewed by Grandma. Each one personalized. Mine, of course, was the biggest. The mantle overflowed with holiday cards which always seemed on the verge of falling and becoming kindling. If that’s not a Norman moment, I don’t know what is.

What is a memory from the holidays you look back at and think, “Dang. We are certainly NOT a Currier and Ives or Norman Rockwell painting.”
K: We used to put our Christmas tree in our Florida room because it has a high ceiling and we could get a humongous tree in there. It was always so much fun decorating, but taking it down, of course, was another story. Especially when both my sister and I were in high school. We were busy doing angsty teenage things, and couldn’t be bothered helping our mom take down the decorations. Mom kept asking and asking for help. Finally, in mid-January she decided enough was enough. She took off all the ornaments that had sentimental value, and then proceeded to open the sliding glass door in the room, and pitch the entire 15-foot, mostly decorated, tree into the yard. When my sister and I came home, we looked on in horror as the tree lay in the dead grass, tinsel sparkling in the sun, broken glass from ornaments and lights strewn about the yard. The Florida room was back to normal, no trace of Christmas at all, and mom was reading a magazine in her chair. As my sister and I took the rest of salvageable ornaments off the tree in our yard, we decided maybe we weren’t like all the other families on the street, and we were no Norman Rockwell models.

J:  Christmas of 2009, the stomach flu picked us off one by one. The end.

What is your favorite Christmas Carol? Least Favorite?
K: My favorite is "Winter Wonderland." Or "Mele Kalikimaka." Least favorite: "Twelve Days of Christmas" (UGH)

J:  Bing Crosby’s "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" leaves me in tears every time it plays. I think of families separated by miles or missing a loved one. Love that song. "Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer"—no. Just no.

What is the best gift you have ever received during the holiday season?
K: Probably the Star Wars X-Wing fighter and Tie Fighter along with all the Star Wars movie action figures from the late 70’s. Of course, more recently, the first iPhone I received changed my life.

J:  I loved my X-Wing fighter, too! When I unwrapped the Bionic Woman doll in 1978, I lost my mind. Jamie Sommers actually tied with Gnip-Gnop that year now that I think about it.



What is the worst gift you have ever received during the holiday Season?
K: My aunt once re-gifted me something that I had given her for Christmas the year before.

J:  Never select a wine bottle bag thinking there’s a chardonnay inside. It’s never wine, friends. Never. At a White Elephant work party, I was the proud recipient of a recipe book for patients after jaw surgery. A page-turner filled with blended options like meatloaf and turkey tetrazzini. Sorry about the visual.

If you had one holiday wish for the Chick Lit Central family this year, what would it be?
K: That your holiday season be exactly like a TV special or a Currier and Ives/Norman Rockwell painting. And that you eat all you want and gain zero weight!

J:  May your days be merry and bright, your stockings over flow with peace and happiness, and as you light candles with loved ones and for loved ones, remember we’re thankful for each and every one of you!

Jen's kids on Christmas
Wouldn't you love to spend Christmas at Keith's house?
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, December 19, 2017

Book Review: Is This It Then?

By Sara Steven

A humiliating experience at an office party prompts married mom-of-two, Becky, to ditch the junk food and start a healthy new lifestyle, with or without the help of her apathetic family. During one of her early morning workouts Becky meets an attractive new guy in town, whose attentiveness makes her question her 15-year marriage to sports-obsessed husband, Dave.

Seemingly unflappable businesswoman Fay is convinced that her husband, Pete, is having an affair with his leggy, blond personal assistant. Determined to find out the truth, Fay enlists the help of Becky and HR nightmare Brigitte. After several failed attempts at playing amateur detective, Fay discovers that what she thinks she knows about Pete doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of his deception.

Oblivious to her coworkers' marital woes, lovable but self-centered Brigitte is on a two-pronged mission: to beat out her arch-nemesis Tom for a departmental promotion, and to sleep with as many men as possible. Unfortunately her inability to separate business and pleasure means that Brigitte is more likely to get an appointment at the unemployment center than a desk in a corner office. Everyone can see Brigitte's impending career spiral…except for Brigitte. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I really appreciated the way I found a little of myself within the main characters in this novel. I’m a married woman with two children, so I could completely relate to Becky, who is trying hard to find a few new paths in her world to embark on. And, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an infidelity, like Fay, where the signs drive you completely crazy, playing detective until the truth is found. And, I think most of us, even though we don’t want to admit to it, have wanted to unleash and do the things that the rest of society might think is wrong, which is totally what Brigitte is about. She does what she wants to, and she’s unapologetic about it.

A friendship that has bonded through work roots, the three women are all vasty different, yet they manage to maintain a friendship that seems out of character, but it works. There are a lot of dramatic moments, secrets that come to light, judgements that threaten the foundation their relationship is based on, but this only adds to the realism of their situation.

I think what I found most relatable was the office portion of Is This It Then?. It reminded me of my own office relationships, strong friendships that have remained even after we’ve gone our separate ways, and the oddball characters that you still think about from time to time, unique individuals that often helped in surviving the work day. There were a few shocking twists and turns that really kept this novel interesting, yet it’s the roots, the foundation of friendship that kept me turning the page.

Thanks to Victoria Oliver for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Spotlight: Adventures in Blind Dating...plus a book giveaway

We're excited to feature the Adventures in Blind Dating series by Christine S. Feldman. To celebrate, Christine has THREE e-books of The Heavenly Bites Novella Collection to give away, in honor of this time of year!

It Happened One Night

Who has time for dating these days? Certainly not struggling entrepreneur Paisley Jameson, who has way too much on her plate to pay any real attention to her shriveling social life. And not mechanic Joe Spencer either, who has a lot on his mind with both the family business and family in general. But neither can say no to the beloved mutual acquaintance who wants to set them both up on a blind date.

Which is too bad, because they both kind of wish they had said no when they show up for the dinner date and realize they've met before--and not under happy circumstances.

But fate seems determined to prove that they're not so wrong for each other after all, because in spite of the intentions of both Paisley and Joe to nip this whole unfortunate blind date thing in the bud and go their separate ways, events transpire to keep them together for an evening involving muggers, foot-chases, and even a high-speed trip to the ER--

And that's all before dessert.

Dating: it's not for wimps…



Center Stage

When financially-strapped actor J.J. McKinney responds to an unusual Help Wanted ad on the bulletin board outside his theater class, he has no idea that he’s in for an evening of improv like no other: posing as the hitherto fabricated boyfriend of one Erika Mills for the duration of a single family reunion. But hey, a job is a job, and if it will help get J.J. back in the good graces of his landlord, he’s completely on board. After all, how bad can one family reunion possibly be?

Enter Erika Mills: only child of one meddling mother, reluctant darling of several devoted yet squabbling aunts and uncles who are sure they know what’s best for her even if none of them can agree on what that is, and beloved grandchild of the tiny white-haired family matriarch who might just be more imp than invalid when it comes to managing family matters in spite of appearances to the contrary.

Throw in a suspicious cousin, an obnoxious ex-boyfriend who is determined to erase that whole “ex” thing from Erika’s vocabulary, and a rash deathbed promise that turned out to be less deathbed and more just a bad case of indigestion, and you get the reunion from hell—at least until the sparks begin to fly for real.

It ain’t Off-Broadway, but it still might turn out to be the role of a lifetime...



The Fix-Up Mix-Up

When the two biggest self-proclaimed matchmakers in town throw down and call each other out, Jenna Owens feels obliged to step in and broker the peace any way she can. After all, one is her mother and the other is her best friend, and quite frankly all of this arguing is giving her a headache. So when they propose a three-week long “match-off” to see who can find the perfect match for the most widely-acknowledged practitioner of social ineptness in the neighborhood, Jenna is just happy that they’ve found a solution—until she realizes that they’re talking about her.

Oops.

Ryan Caldwell isn’t exactly thrilled that the two matchmakers have decided to use his bar and grill as the setting for their little social experiment and appoint him the official neutral third-party, but he has to admit that it’s certainly entertaining—especially when he gets a load of the unlikely candidates that come marching through his doors to woo the reluctant Jenna. If this is matchmaking, he wants no part of it, confirmed bachelor that he is.

Except that somehow intervening in one bad date escalates to the outright rescue of Jenna from another, and from there—well...

So much for staying neutral.



A former kindergarten teacher, Christine S. Feldman writes both novels and feature-length screenplays, and, to her great delight, she has placed in screenwriting competitions on both coasts—and has even won a couple of them. In 2012 one of her screenplays was featured as a staged reading in New York City at the Gotham Screen International Film Festival, and later that same year she signed her first publishing contract. When she is not writing, she is puttering around in her garden with her beagle, ballroom dancing with her husband, or doing research for her next project. Visit Christine at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Giveaway ends December 19th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances

By Sara Steven

A year after she separated from her husband, Gianni, on Christmas Day, Chloe’s heart is still in pieces as she unpacks the decorations for her first ever festive holiday alone. That is, until the phone rings…

It seems Gianni’s new seaside restaurant is in trouble and Chloe must go to Appledore to save the business – and him. Equally famous for his experimental culinary extravaganzas and his explosive temper, Gianni has been really stirring up a sensation with the locals – and not in a good way!

As pans fly and the temperature in the kitchen rises, Chloe’s calming influence and magic touch might just get critics back on side in time to save the restaurant from sinking like a sad soufflĂ©. But will it be enough to save their marriage? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

There are quite a few eccentric characters that have emerged from Sue Watson’s novels, and Gianni can easily be added to the list. He’s brash and he’s bold, loud and obnoxious. His hot-tempered manner sprinkled with egotism reminded me a little of Gordon Ramsey to the hilt, and you’ve got to wonder if Gianni is really that way in “real life”, or if it’s partially for show. If it’s what he thinks his audience would prefer, or if it goes even deeper than that.

It seems only one woman can tame the wild beast of Gianni, and that would be Chloe. She doesn’t put up with his antics, in fact she’ll often add fuel to his already enraged fire, which makes for a smoldering, deep relationship between the two. There are so many layers to the both of them, and we get to see everything unravel, inch by inch, answering the question of, why? Why couldn’t they make it?

The answer is deep, and tragic. Human. What I’ve always appreciated is Watson's ability to create characters who are real and experience real emotion, and handle everything in a way that any flawed human would. It’s messy and intense, but that’s usually the way it goes when we’re trying to deal. Thrown in there are moments of comedy and humor, the icebreakers that we all need in order to get on and get through this life.

And of course, there is food. This wouldn’t be a Watson read without it. It’s funny that this go around intermixes a blend of deliciousness, with a few odd delicacies that Gianni whips up, only adding to his character and the tone of this story. No one in Snowflakes, Iced Cakes and Second Chances is perfect, but I can tell you, that’s one of the things I loved the most. It’s perfect in its imperfections, and the perfect holiday read for this time of year.

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

More holiday fun from Sue Watson:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Linda Bradley warms up our winter...plus a book giveaway

Interview by Tracey Meyers

We're pleased to have Linda Bradley here today. We featured her Montana Bound series last year and she now has a holiday story to go along with it, A Montana Bound Christmas. Linda has two e-books to share with some lucky readers! It's something you can read in front of a fireplace while sipping hot cocoa. (Or at least it will evoke that feeling!)

Linda Bradley’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments that make readers connect with her characters.

Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA and the Capital City Writers Association in Lansing, Michigan. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. (Bio courtesy of Linda's website.)


Synopsis:
Chloe and John McIntyre await Maggie Abernathy's arrival at the 617 Ranch, but snowfall has halted flights from Michigan to Montana. While Maggie and her mother, Glad prepare for their delayed departure, eight-year-old Chloe prepares for disappointment. Anticipating Maggie's absence on Christmas morning, Chloe invites her Hollywood mother to the ranch hoping to fill the void. Brook's unexpected acceptance, raises the stakes for John who wants his first Christmas with Maggie to be perfect. With a few unexpected twists and turns, along with a missing dog, this cast of misfits manages to band together in true Montana Bound fashion to celebrate the holiday season.

"What fun! From the first chapter to the last, this story is a like a warm hug. Linda Bradley weaves the different worlds of each of the characters together in a rich tapestry that mirrors the story line itself. This could easily become a beloved holiday movie classic, if it were given the chance. Maggie, John, and Chloe will feel as much like family to you as they do to each other. Open a wonderful gift of the holidays, when you open A Montana Bound Christmas." 
~Annette Rochelle Aben, Amazon.Com Best Selling Author


In your bio you mentioned that part of your inspiration for your writing comes from your life. What is an example of a life experience you used in your writing?
In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was a wake-up call. The kind that smacks you in the face. I’d been writing, working two jobs, and raising two teenage boys. Right then I realized I needed to buckle down to achieve a dream. I’d been working on several writing projects, but my intuition nagged at me to begin something new. So, I did. I put everything aside and began writing The Montana Bound Series. The story line lingered in the back of my brain with a clutter of other ideas. After seven weeks of radiation treatment, I decided it was time to get myself organized, connect with my characters, and get published. In doing so, I gave my heroine breast cancer. Writing about her journey helped me forge through my own. Four years and four books later, I’m still writing about Maggie Abernathy and her merry band of misfits. With that said, I’m healthy and still writing!

What part of writing do you find the easiest and the hardest?
New characters and story lines manifest themselves easily. The hardest part is trying not to entertain them all simultaneously.

How has your writing evolved over the years?
I’ve been writing all my life. Even as a grade school student, I wrote and entered my work in contests. The progression has been naturally nurtured with the beat of time. I believe my characters have become richer and the flow of words stronger.

What is your favorite part about the winter?
The best part of winter is eating chili on a cold day after shoveling snow and Christmas lights.

A six-year child asks you if Santa Claus is real. What do you tell them?
“Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus.” (Then I have to explain who Virginia is.)

What is your New Year's Eve tradition?
Staying home with my husband, eating in, watching television together, and a midnight kiss to celebrate the New Year.

Thanks to Linda for visiting with us and 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 December 17th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Review: A Little Bit Wicked

By Melissa Amster

I was recently looking for an interesting audio book, so I went back to searching for celebrity memoirs. Then I came upon Kristin Chenoweth's book, A Little Bit Wicked, and decided to give it a whirl. I'm SO glad I did!

There's something extra special about listening to a celebrity read their memoir. Since Kristin is so much fun to listen to, this definitely enhanced my enjoyment. She talks about everything she can fit into her 40 years of a life well-lived. (This book came out in 2009, so she was about the same age as I am now at that point in time. Her birthday is even close to mine!) Her stories go from growing up in Oklahoma as the adopted child of two loving parents to performing in beauty pageants to her first Broadway audition to on-and-off dating Aaron Sorkin (writer of The West Wing) and all things in-between. Of course, she talks about playing Galinda in Wicked from the days of workshops through the musical's Tony nomination. And she shares bits and pieces of her experiences on TV shows, such as The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, and the huge (HUGE!) hit sitcom, Kristin. She shares about her faith and how it has helped her overcome obstacles and triumph. She talks about her awkward and embarrassing moments and even points out that she doesn't get special treatment just because she's famous. She's just so kind and gracious about everything, even when she shouldn't have to be! And if you're hungry, she has recipes for "Hum Dum Diddy" and her "cursed" cookies. (You'll see....or hear!)

I really loved everything about this memoir and now I want to see all the shows Kristin has been in, even if I wasn't interested before. Like The Music Man. I am not a fan of that musical, but I'd be interested to see the TV movie starring Kristin and Matthew Broderick. And I really want to watch Pushing Daisies now. (She sings with Ellen "Audrey" Greene!) I may also consider binge-watching The West Wing, but maybe in a few years.

Kristin is truly a delight to listen to. The audio book is short and the print version is 256 pages. Easy read that you're guaranteed to breeze through because you also won't be able to get enough of her! I felt a real connection to her throughout and hope she will write another memoir detailing what she's been up to since she finished this one! I felt like I was sitting across from her at lunch listening to her share all her stories. The only thing I should "warn" readers about in advance is that there is not a linear or chronological progression. Kristin jumps back and forth in time throughout, which may feel a bit confusing. She also goes off on tangents a lot. Another "warning" is that Kristin will have you laughing throughout her book, so don't drink anything you're not prepared to choke on when she throws out one of her zingers.

I hope I can one day meet Kristin in person so I can tell her how much I enjoyed her book and how great I think she is (if I don't get tongue-tied).

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan...plus a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

For Harriet, a professional dog walker who feels she understands canines better than humans, she’s decided to conquer her shyness and other challenges she faces by doing one thing that frightens her, every single day. This includes online dating and talking with people she ordinarily would shy away from, and included on that list is ER doc Ethan, a man who is suddenly thrust into her world when she least expects it while handling a last-minute dog walking job. She’s dealing with anxiety, and he has a load of baggage, too, stemming from what he’s seen in the ER, the fact that he can’t give way to emotion, for fear of what that would do to him. The moments where Harriet feels she can actually open up to Ethan, are the moments where he closes himself off to her and everything else around him, and the rare times he shows compassion, she’s wounded. It makes for a very interesting dynamic with this couple.

I felt as though Moonlight Over Manhattan was a labor of love, showcasing how imperfect life can be, even for two people who want nothing more than to be loved, to be happy. Even when Harriet and Ethan begin to feel as though they might be good for one another, stumbling blocks, the past, the present, even the future stands in the way. How true to life. And, as with every book in this series, there is serious evolution of character. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, but it’s always nice to see the characters in a Sarah Morgan novel change by leaps and bounds. It was nice to see that with Harriet, in particular.

This was a great read for the holidays. As part of the synopsis on Goodreads states: “She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle.” This made me wonder if, while Harriet risks everything, will Ethan step up and give just as much, or will he revert to old patterns, and protect his heart? There is an element of hope, of yearning that felt very much like the wishes and wants during the holidays, because at what better time will all your dreams come true, than the holidays?

So far, I’ve loved every single book in the "From Manhattan With Love" series, but there was something extra special about this one. Being given the opportunity to live inside the mind of someone who struggles with shyness and a touch of social anxiety, like Harriet does, felt like a chance to open up within my own life, my own struggles. While I don’t think many people would describe me as shy, I’ve been edging towards that within the last several years, and I can tell I’m becoming more of an introvert. It was nice relating with someone else who deals with that, too.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the other stops on the blog tour.

Enter the giveaway being hosted by TLC Book Tours:

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Check out the other books in the series!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Christmas in London

With the holidays right around the corner, what better way to get in the mood than with Anita Hughes' latest novel, Christmas in London?!? Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies to give away!

It’s a week before Christmas and Louisa Graham is working twelve hour shifts at a bakery on Manhattan's Lower East Side. When a young cooking show assistant comes in from the rain and begs to buy all the cinnamon rolls on her tray, she doesn’t know what to do. Louisa is just the baker, and they aren't hers to sell. But the show burned the rolls they were supposed to film that day, so she agrees.

The next morning, Louisa finds out that her cinnamon rolls were a hit, but the host was allergic, and the whole crew is supposed to leave for London that afternoon. They want Louisa to step in for their annual Christmas Eve Dinner TV special at Claridge's. It’s a great opportunity, and Digby Bunting, Louisa’s famous baking idol, will be there. Even if he does seem more interested in her than her food.

And then there’s Kate, the show's beautiful producer. On their first day in London she runs into the skinny boy she jilted at St. Andrew's in Scotland ten years ago. Now he’s a handsome, brilliant mathematician, and newly divorced. Their familiar spark is still there, but so is the scar of how they left things. Kate and Louisa are busy preparing for the show, but old and new flames are complicating their work.


Anita Hughes is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, Santorini Sunsets, Emerald Coast, and Christmas in Paris. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California where she is at work on her next novel.

Visit Anita online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter 


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

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Giveaway ends December 12th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review: The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even

By Becky Gulc

Anna Bell has written some fantastic novels which I’ve enjoyed over the last few years, with her most recent release being The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even. Here is the synopsis:

‘When Lexi's sport-mad boyfriend Will skips her friend's wedding to watch football - after pretending to have food poisoning - it might just be the final whistle for their relationship.

But fed up of just getting mad, Lexi decides to even the score. And, when a couple of lost tickets and an 'accidentally' broken television lead to them spending extra time together, she's delighted to realise that revenge might be the best thing that's happened to their relationship.

And if her clever acts of sabotage prove to be a popular subject for her blog, what harm can that do? It's not as if he'll ever find out . . .’ (Courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Well suffice to say, this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Anna’s books just keep getting better and better in my opinion. Anna’s writing takes me back in a way to when I first started reading ‘chick lit’ many years ago; it reminds me why I love it, and she definitely has a way of making it contemporary and fresh whilst being quite traditional too.

Whilst the synopsis outlines a revenge plot by Lexi, it’s played out in a lighthearted way and she’s a very likable character. As readers, we feel her struggle between wanting to make the relationship work and accepting Will is just maybe not the one for her; after all, she’s never his priority in life, is she? When Lexi learns that Will went to watch a football match (whilst claiming to be ill) instead of attending her best friend’s wedding, her writing class provides the perfect opportunity to let her feelings flow on the matter. As well as being a cathartic experience for Lexi, it’s the catalyst for a chain of events to get revenge on Will. But will revenge be sweet?

I read this book very quickly (on holiday, perfect holiday read!) as I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. It was funny and yet also moving at times. As a reader you were left challenging your perceptions of Will throughout. With only Lexi’s viewpoint to go on, we are limited to what we know of Will’s side of the story. I certainly thought the story was going one way which I was wrong about, but I was ever so happy this was the case.

The supporting characters are great: Lexi’s best friend Cara, Lexi’s parents, the couple in Barbados; all vivid and added so much fun to the story. A fantastic read and I really hope there is a follow-up. More please Anna!

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

More by Anna Bell:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leah DeCesare spreads the joy (with a butter knife)...plus a special giveaway

Interview by Tracey Meyers

We're pleased to feature Leah DeCesare at CLC today! She's here to talk about her debut fiction novel, Forks, Knives, And Spoons (2017, SparkPress) and to get us into a holiday mood. She even has some special gifts for one of our readers: a copy of her book, a choice of a charm bracelet or fork, knife, and spoon necklace, and a 1980's journal. (See pics at the bottom of the post.)

Leah DeCesare is also the award-winning author of  the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, Eligible magazine, Simply Woman, the International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family and their talking cockatiel.

Visit Leah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest



For readers who love Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty, Forks, Knives, and Spoons is a light-hearted, thought-provoking coming of age story that takes readers on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s and 1990s. Romantic, witty and warm.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys―from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks―all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves―and not to settle in love or life.


What are the three most important lessons about writing you’ve learned over the course of your writing career?
1. I don’t have to follow the same process as others. I used to think there was a
“right” way to being an author but I’ve learned that I’m not doing it wrong if I’m doing it differently. Basically, you don’t have to follow other’s advice if something else is working for you!
2. You can always improve. Reading about writing, practicing writing, testing out new things, learning about the craft is all important.
3. It turns out that as hard as it is, writing the book is sometimes the easy part! :-) There is so much else to learn, understand and manage in publishing - from querying through marketing and promoting.

When writing a book, do you outline the book first or do you jump right into writing it?
So, for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS, I really had only the vaguest plan. I knew my character arcs in general and a few other points, but I came at that a bunch of different ways and learned a ton in writing that book. My work in progress, I approached in an entirely different way - this one, I planned out for months. I loved doing the puzzle-sorting, figuring piece of things all at once, then I laid out the scenes with notes. When I then started to write, I was able to stay in that side of my brain without interruption to figure out where I was going. It was way more efficient and I turned out a solid first draft much more efficiently.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
All over! I’m always taking notes and jotting down little thoughts. It can be an overheard word, an observation that makes me ask a question, a character quirk, a what-if scenario… I also draw on life experience as I wonder about my characters’ motivations and deepest emotions. We learn about life from fiction, we get the chance to see into other people’s viewpoints, to walk in another’s shoes or to relate to someone and see ourselves in them. It’s critical to pull in truths of human nature for fiction to really resonate.

Favorite winter activity:
I’ve lived in New England or the northeast my whole life, and as much as I love and appreciate all four seasons, as much as I love the beauty and slowing down of life that comes with snow, I can’t stand being cold. I love reading snuggled inside on a snowy day. I love the excuse to not go anywhere, to be trapped home with my family. That said, I do also like to sled and ski - and I like being warm inside again after! ;-)

What are three of your “bucket list” items?
Writing a novel has been a life-long bucket list dream - it’s so fulfilling to have done that and to be able to keep writing fiction.
Three others on my list are to:
*Travel to every state in the US
*Travel, travel, travel! I love traveling and would love to traipse all over the six travel-able continents. I’ve been to Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and there’s still so much more to see! Thankfully, my husband is on board with using our retirement savings to see the world!
*Go to a Super Bowl and a Presidential Inauguration

Favorite thing about the holidays:
I’m already loving the anticipation of Christmas! I love the preparations that lead to the celebration of Christmas with family. It’s such a joy and blessing to have those closest to me in one place with no expectations of responding to emails or being interactive on social media. I love the joy of picking out and giving the perfect gift for someone, the sparkle when my kids open their gifts - and the excitement when they give others the gifts they’ve selected. I’m seriously a Christmas elf! I love wrapping and decorating and baking cookies and singing Christmas songs (badly - but I do it anyway).

Thanks to Leah for chatting with us and for sharing her book and cool 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 December 10th at midnight EST.