Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reviews at Amazon--January 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
Review




Abby Fabiaschi's new lease on life...plus a book giveaway

We're thrilled to celebrate the pub day of Abby Fabiaschi's debut novel, I Liked My Life, by having her at CLC today to finish up our "Something New" theme month. We've had our eye on her novel ever since we first heard about it, and Melissa A. was excited to recently receive a copy. (It's currently in her five book pile, which means it will be devoured in the near future.) Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie, we have TWO copies to give away!

After graduating from The Taft School in 1998 and Babson College in 2002, Abby climbed the corporate ladder in high technology. When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned to pursue writing. Last March, Abby signed a two-book, hardcover deal with St. Martin’s Press. 

Abby is a human rights advocate interested in economic solutions to social/cultural problems. She is Director of the Board for Made By Survivors, an international nonprofit organization with a unique prosperity model that uplifts victims from sex trafficking and extreme abuse. You can learn more about her practice of systematic giving here.

She and her family divide their time between West Hartford, Connecticut and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, hiking, and yoga. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation? (Bio from Abby's website.)

Find Abby online:
Website 
Twitter
Facebook 
Instagram 


Synopsis:
Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Something new I did in 2016:
I’m a born optimist, but 2016 was filled with new experiences I’m not in a hurry to repeat: it was the first time since I was twelve I didn’t earn a single dollar, I moved cross country with two kids in tow a week after surviving emergency surgery (admittedly better than the alternative), and I gained ten pounds that really like where they’ve landed and have decided to stay. Oh, there was also that horror show of an election day. New Year’s Eve my toast was, “Good riddance!"

Something new I want to try in 2017:
Being a real-life, bona fide published author! When someone asks what I do for a living, I can’t wait to answer without having to admit that the only person who reads what I write is my sister.

Someplace new I plan (or want) to visit:
I’ve declared this the year of food! My kids are old enough to eat at restaurants that don’t offer chicken fingers and hot dogs, and I plan to take full advantage. I will seek out new culinary experiences everywhere I go.

A new TV series I started watching:
I recently started Good Girls Revolt on Amazon Prime. It’s about women writers tapping at the glass ceiling in the early seventies. I’m totally hooked! I just learned they didn’t renew the contract. If there’s a TV executive reading this, please buy the option to this amazing show ….

A new book I started reading:
I just finished R.J. Palacio’s WONDER with my 7 and 8 year old. It was an incredible experience that initiated necessary, complicated, beautiful dialogue. The impact it had on my children can not be understated, but it was executed with such humor— they were wholly entertained the entire time.

I made a new friend recently....
We just moved to West Hartford, CT. I realized quickly that it’s harder to make friends later in life when your “peers” are more settled, so I invited everyone I met to join a book club. When I got a weary response, I pitched it as a wine and cheese club where a third of the people happened to have recently finished the same book. One woman asked if cocktails were acceptable midweek, as she doesn't care for wine. She quickly moved up the list to must-be-good-friends status.

Thanks to Abby for visiting with us and to Goldberg McDuffie 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 February 5th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: The Big Overnight

By Sara Steven

**May contain spoilers for The Big Lead (review) and The Big Interview (review)**

Sometimes The End is just The Beginning.

When the suspect in a Knoxville shooting confesses on camera, police say the case is closed. But then TV reporter Stella Reynolds gets an anonymous email that changes everything.

As she picks her way through a field of untruths and half-lies, she discovers everyone around has secrets they’re desperate to keep—including the people closest to her. With the body count rising, Stella won’t stop digging until she lays all the secrets bare. It will cost her friendships and might even put her life in danger.

Her work and personal lives collide in this exciting third installment of the Stella Reynolds Mystery Series. Start reading now to find out if she can track down the real killer before she reaches the ultimate deadline. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

She’s at it again!

I’ve read all three books in the Stella Reynolds Mystery series. Stella never backs down. Even when she’s placed into a situation where she knows she should. Finding the truth and doing what’s right will always be her guiding force, even more so in this latest installment, when a suspect confesses to a murder she’s convinced he hasn’t committed.

Why is he lying? Who’s covering for him? Soon, she discovers there is so much more beneath the surface, more than she could have ever imagined. Putting her own life on the line, again and again.

A few things I’ve noticed about Stella in The Big Overnight:

She’s changed. Big-time. I can still remember a young, inexperienced woman venturing out in front of the camera, trying to find her place within the media world. Stella has gained an immense amount of experience over the span of three novels, coming into her own with confidence and grace. Not as keen on taking crap from anyone. I really enjoy character development. She has plenty of it.

It’s not always about finding that special someone and creating a happily ever after scenario. It’s about finding your own happily ever after, no matter what that entails. It’s not that Stella doesn’t have suitors. Far from. You see plenty of sensual conflict between herself and other characters. Yet, she’s all about living her own life- whether that’s with a man, or without one.

Her circle of trouble keeps getting bigger. Bigger than she could have ever imagined, involving those she trusted the most. I think that’s often the case in real life, too. Usually it’s the ones you least expect it from, who end up pulling the wool over your eyes, causing the most damage.

The Stella Reynolds Mystery series can be read individually, or as a whole- they stand alone or collectively quite well. But I recommend you read all three. It’s been fun being part of Stella’s journey, from start to finish, watching her grow and change, yet never letting go of that relentless drive that keeps her going, that makes her undoubtedly Stella.

Thanks to Libby Kirsch for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
One Good Thing by Wendy Wax from Berkley
The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel from St. Martin's Press
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman from Kensington (e-book via Edelweiss)
The Odds of You and Me by Cecilia Galante from William Morrow
After the Fall by Julie Cohen from St. Martin's Press

This Love by Dani Atkins from Simon and Schuster UK
Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
Sweet Southern Hearts by Susan Schild from BookSparks
Drop In by Sara Harvey Yao from BookSparks
Shoes for Anthony by Emma Kennedy from Thomas Dunne
180 Seconds by Jessica Park from Skyscape

Sara:
Who We Were by Lindsey Detwiler from Hot Tree Publishing (e-book)
New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan from HarperCollins

Becky:
"A Night In" series by Lucy Holliday from HarperCollins UK
Enter to win all three books here.

Jami:
Lessons from the Prairie by Melissa Francis from Weinstein/Hachette
Restless in L.A. by Robin Finn from DoGoodPR Group (e-book via NetGalley)

Denise:
The #100 Love Notes Project by Hyong Yi from Andrea Burnett Public Relations

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: Before You Go

By Becky Gulc

‘When Zoe's husband Ed dies, her world caves in. But what if Zoe can get Ed back?

You find your soulmate . . .
Some people stare love in the face for years before they find it. Zoe and Ed fumbled their way into adulthood, both on different paths - but always in the same direction. Years later, having navigated dead-end jobs and chaotic house shares, romance finally blossoms. Their future together looks set...

Then the unthinkable happens.
One morning, on his way to work, Ed is knocked off his bike and dies. Now Zoe must find a way to survive. But she's not ready to let go of the memories. How can she forget all of the happy times, their first kiss, everything they'd built together? Zoe decides she has to tell Ed all the things she never said.

Now it's too late. Or is it?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Pan MacMillan.)

You can tell from the synopsis that Before You Go is going to be a bit different. To enjoy this you’re going to have to be open to a book which has a time travel/paranormal element. I haven’t read a book like this for years so I welcomed something a bit different, but would I enjoy it?

We know from the out-set of the novel Ed has sadly been killed after an accident on his bike. We quickly learn that whilst Ed and Zoe may well have loved each other dearly they didn’t always like each other, and quite frankly they were not going through a great spell when Ed is taken from her. This is a couple that always wanted to be together but on the major things in life, like marriage and children, they were never on the same page, cue a range of relationship difficulties. With Ed gone Zoe is racked with guilt and tormenting herself with what-ifs, if she had been more open to certain things, less insistent on others, would the outcome still be the same? In this book, we find out.

Something happens which leads Zoe to relive pivotal days in her relationship with Ed, from when they first met right through to the day he dies. The reader is enlightened as to how the day panned out the first-time round, and how it does this second time round with Zoe keen to try and change things that she regretted whenever possible.

Overall, I thought this was a good debut novel. I thought the writing was largely excellent and flowed well and I loved how different the book is from what I normally read. I certainly read this book quickly and I was spurred on to see if Zoe could indeed change what happened to Ed by revisiting the past. I also enjoyed getting to know more about the couples past and how they got to the point of difficultly around the time of Ed’s death.

The frustrations for me were tied to some repetition at the end of each chapter about Zoe’s hopes. I also didn’t warm to the characters for a while, to be honest, but they seemed very real; a flawed relationship like many. I also consistently had it in the back of my mind about whether Zoe was just dreaming and whether the book was just going to end on a cliché. Sometimes I wanted to see Zoe change some bigger things in the past too, be more open with her loved ones, in my head more than once I was thinking ‘why doesn’t she just…’ but I just wanted this part of me to shut up and enjoy it for what it was!

Whilst I read the whole book fast I plowed through the last chapters, when it came to revisiting Ed’s final day again I was on such tenterhooks and it didn’t disappoint really in terms of being emotional and fitting. I was keen to see if Ed could survive and how Zoe revisiting the past would be explained.

Overall, I would say I was satisfied with the ending. It was what I would hope for although it did still feel a little bit of a cliché in parts, but forgivable all the same! I’d certainly recommend this novel and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the other stops on Clare's blog tour.








Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Go-to-Gay: New and improved?

We're pleased to have our Go-to-Gay, Keith Stewart, here to kick off the new year. We hope his post will be inspiring to you, whether you are the resolution-making type or not!

Keith now has the floor....





Desperately Seeking Something New



A new year!
A fresh start.
A clean slate.
I know, I know. It’s annoying. I’ll stop.

For years, I looked forward to seeing the calendar turn from December to January. I convinced myself all the mistakes I’d made the previous twelve months magically washed away with the drop of the ball in Time’s Square. By writing out and stating what kind of person I would be in the coming year (skinnier, kinder, organized), I would manifest myself into some Deepak Chopra-ish being by February, March at the latest.


Of course, it actually never seemed to go that way in real life. Around January 10th, I began to understand all this “new me” business would require a lot more work than I was willing to give in order to change. Deepak Chopra-ish did not happen on its own (unless, of course, you ARE Deepak Chopra, then it’s just natural, you lucky bastard). Slowly, but surely, I would stop exercising, start eating pizza again, shovel off just enough room on my desk to reach my keyboard, and continue to be the same old me for the remainder of the year.

I am not sure when my “New Year Epiphany” hit me, probably around the age of 40. Middle age. Maybe that is when I began letting little bits of the grumpy old man I am inevitably to become out in public. Whatever the reason, I was freed. I told myself if I wanted to lose weight or get organized, I could do it any time I wanted. I could start in, dare I say it, May or September. I didn’t need to put the pressure of the world on myself during the dreariest time of the year. I didn’t have to try to break all of bad habits all at once. To every resolution, a season!

I wish I could tell you I began then and there to correct myself and amend my ways, but I didn’t. You see, one of my worst attributes is procrastination. When I decided I could make my New Year’s resolutions any time of the year, I just kept putting it off. Without the binds and structure of a particular date, I was dead in the water. As a result, there was no “new me.” I wasn’t Deepak Chopra-ish. I wasn’t even close.


So this year, I decided I would try a few resolutions again. A new start. Just test the waters of change. See if there are still a few tricks for me to learn. What were they, you ask? I’ll tell you. You have the added benefit of reading this late in the month, so I can also give you an update on how it is going.

1. Stop procrastinating.
Update: This post was my first deadline of the year. It was due on January 9th. I turned it in on January 19th.
2. Lose Weight.
Update: I joined Weight Watchers. I don’t trust the program now that Oprah owns it. She is trying to make me a better person on the inside as well as the outside. I just want to be skinny, Oprah. I just want to be skinny. As of today, I have gained 4 pounds.
3. Dress better.
Update: I have purchased some new shirts, and I got some new clothes for Christmas. However, I am currently wearing the same pair of jeans I have worn all week and an old t-shirt left over from my college days (20 years ago).


This year’s epiphany, however, came to me this morning. If I didn’t make these resolutions or set these goals for myself, at least once a year, I would completely stop trying to improve myself. At least there is a tiny nugget of determination left inside my middle-aged brain that is telling me to keep trying. To keep on keeping on. Hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

So I’ll keep plugging along trying to make myself better this year, and I hope you will, too. I may or may not give you an update in March on how the resolutions are going. It depends on if I am still participating. As long as I can get to my keyboard, order a pizza, and fit in these jeans, I’ll be OK.

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Spending a cozy night in...plus a book giveaway

Wouldn't you love to receive advice from your favorite celebrity? Libby Lomax, the heroine of Lucy Holliday's "A Night In" series, has three special "visitors" when she's facing trouble in her career and love life. Thanks to HarperCollins, we have a set of all three novels to give away!


A Night In with Audrey Hepburn

Unlucky in love, failed actress Libby Lomax has retreated into the world of classic movies, where the immortal lives of the screen goddesses offer so much more in the way of romance than her own life.

Enter Audrey Hepburn.

After a terrible day on the set of a cult TV sci-fi series where she has proved herself to be the antithesis of feminine poise and embarrassed herself in front of heartthrob actor Dillon O’Hara, Libby settles in for her trillionth viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Relaxing on her battered old couch, pondering where her life went wrong, Libby is stunned to find actual Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn sitting beside her. Dressed in her little black dress, wearing her trademark sunglasses, Audrey proffers advice to the hapless Libby between ladylike puffs on her vintage cigarette holder.

And so, Audrey becomes Libby’s confidante and friend – but has Libby got what it takes to turn her life from a Turkey to a Blockbuster? With a little bit of Audrey Hepburn magic, she might just pull it off.

A Night In with Marilyn Monroe

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Libby Lomax, not only is she dating the hottest man on the planet, but there now seems to be a decent career alternative on offer to the failed actress one that she seemed unable to escape. She can hardly believe that life is finally turning around.

But her optimism seems short-lived when she realizes that Dillon O’Hara is about as far away from steady boyfriend material as one can get. Then, when another uninvited guest, in the form of Marilyn Monroe, turns up on her ancient sofa, Libby finds she would willingly bite her own arm off for a return to normality. Libby doubts that Marilyn is really the right person to offer her relationship advice, but perhaps she should listen up, before it’s too late…

A Night In with Grace Kelly

Fate has got it in for Libby Lomax. She realised, far too late, that the actual "Love of Her Life" is now in love with the so-nice-it-hurts, Tash, and it looks like her happy ending is completely out of reach.

Things start looking up when she, quite literally, runs into the completely gorgeous Joel. Libby discovers that there is more to Joel than his six-pack, not least, the incredible fact that he honestly believes he has found his fairy tale princess in her.

And if this wasn’t enough, an unwanted guest shows up on Libby’s enchanted sofa; Grace Kelly, wearing her iconic wedding dress and convinced that Libby is figment of her imagination. But one thing that Grace doesn’t believe in is fairy tales. Grace believes that if you really want something, then you’ve got to make it happen yourself; words which give Libby hope that happy endings aren’t just for fairy tale princesses…

Lucy Holliday is married with a daughter and lives in Wimbledon. She is overly invested in Disney movies. Follow her on 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 January 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: Wake-Up Call

Sarah Winslow wakes up with a terrible hangover…and a kid in her boyfriend’s bed. She makes the horrifying discovery that, due to a head injury, it’s not a hangover. She’s got memory loss. Overnight, five years have disappeared, and she’s no longer the hard-living, fast-track, ad executive party girl she thinks she is. Now, she’s the unemployed, pudgy, married, stay-at-home-mom of three kids under five, including twins.

As she slowly pieces together the mystery of how her dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely in five short years, she finds herself utterly failing to manage this life she can’t imagine choosing. When Sarah meets the man of her dreams, she realizes she’s got to make a choice: Does she follow her bliss and “do-over” her life? Or does the Sarah she’s forgotten hold the answers to how she got here…and how she can stay? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Sara Steven:

Wake Up Call really spoke to me. There were so many scenarios and situations I could relate to and identify with, having been a freewheeling, single career woman myself at one point at time, as well as a married stay-at-home mom of two boys. I loved the honesty of the characters. There were times Sarah would say something that would make me cringe, because it was oh so painful, but oh so real. Often her thoughts reflected what so many of us have locked up tight inside our own minds, afraid to unleash those proverbial demons.

What I appreciated most was the sharp shift of realities for Sarah. In such a short amount of time, so much can happen that will change who you are as a person forever. I experienced that myself after my firstborn had been placed in my arms after he was born. I had so many ideas on how I would live the rest of my life and I truly felt his arrival wouldn’t really change the direction on how my life was headed. Yet once his beautiful brown eyes found mine, I found a new normal. I couldn’t even imagine going back to the woman I’d been before him.

This is a story that is a voice for every woman, not just for those who know what it’s like to walk in Sarah’s Croc encapsulated footsteps. Ultimately, whatever road we choose to travel on is a worthy road, and sometimes we need to reconnect with who we were before life’s biggest changes, to really find what’s most important.

Melissa Amster:

As soon as I started getting into Wake-Up Call (which was very easy to do), I knew Sara had to read it too. I described it to her as What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty) meets Say Never (Janis Thomas).

I'm always up for a good amnesia story and I like how this one was told. There wasn't too much time gone, but enough to be a huge shock. Sarah has gone from career girl to stay-at-home mom and she doesn't recognize her life at all. I can't even imagine what that would feel like. Thankfully, she was still with Kofi. She had started dating him in her late twenties, so her mind was back to what he was like before parenthood took over. It was still a strange shift for her to see him all worn out, trying to provide for his family. I enjoyed watching Sarah try to navigate her "new" life and see her children in a new light. She also had a great support system of friends that she was in denial of needing in her life, instead trying to reconnect with her friends from her twenties, who had changed a lot.

My only two issues where that time sometimes went by really fast throughout the story and I wasn't sure what the deal was with Troy (another man in Sarah's life) which made things confusing later on.

Overall, Wake-Up Call was engaging, funny, thought-provoking, and even somewhat sad at times. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Movie casting ideas:
Sarah: Rachael Taylor or Taylor Schilling
Kofi: Malcolm Barrett
Elaine: Rachel Boston
Troy: Christopher Russell
Celia: Jaimie Alexader

Thanks to Amy Avanzino for the book in exchange for an honest review. Check out her second novel, From the Sideline.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Susan Schild's newsworthy year...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Susan Schild to CLC today, as part of BookSparks' Wintervention. BookSparks even has a copy of her latest novel, Sweet Southern Hearts, to give away!

Susan Schild has an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree (MSW) from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has used her professional background as a psychotherapist and corporate trainer to add authenticity to her characters.

Susan is a wife, a stepmother, and a dog lover. She and her family live near Raleigh, North Carolina where she is busy finishing up the third novel in the Willow Hill Series.

Visit Susan at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Synopsis:
When it comes to marriage, third time’s the charm for Linny Taylor. She’s thrilled to be on her honeymoon with Jack Avery, Willow Hill’s handsome veterinarian. But just like the hair-raising white water rafting trip Jack persuades her to take, newlywed life has plenty of dips and bumps.

Jack’s twelve-year-old son is resisting all Linny’s efforts to be the perfect stepmother, while her own mother, Dottie, begs her to tag along on the first week of a free-wheeling RV adventure. Who knew women “of a certain age” could drum up so much trouble? No sooner is Linny sighing with relief at being back home than she’s helping her frazzled sister with a new baby…and dealing with an unexpected legacy from her late ex. Life is fuller—and richer—than she ever imagined, but if there’s one thing Linny’s learned by now, it’s that there’s always room for another sweet surprise… (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Something new I did in 2016:
I started taking Pilates and can’t believe how exercises that look so graceful and non-strenuous can cause me to gimp around the whole next day.

Something new I want to try in 2017: 
I want to plan my writing better so deadlines aren’t so hectic. It’s simple math: decide how long your book will be, and dividing the number of pages by days will give you how many pages you need to write per day. That’s been too sensible for me up until now, but that’s my 2017 plan.

A new restaurant I ate at recently: 
Chapman's Food and Spirits in Southern Pines, NC . Excellent mac and cheese and fish tacos in a friendly setting. We took a one night family holiday/mini-getaway and enjoyed exploring the small Sandhills town of Southern Pines. Chapman’s was an unexpected treat.

A new TV series I started watching: 
My latest favorites: Life in Pieces, American Pickers, Hotel Impossible, and the tiny house shows.

The newest thing I bought: 
A small, quiet room humidifier that eases my allergy symptoms in winter.

A new place I want (or plan) to visit soon: 
I want to take a train adventure. The Rocky Mountaineer? The Trans-Canadian Railway? Am picturing sitting on a red velvet seat, gazing out the train window at the coastline or soaring mountains….

Thanks to Susan for visiting with us and to BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends January 24th at midnight EST.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: So Glad They Told Me

By Sara Steven

When I had my first son, I had all sorts of ideas and opinions on how my pregnancy and his upbringing would go. I’d done my research. I’d purchased a plethora of childcare books, the ones guaranteeing a healthy pregnancy, others focusing on that pivotal first year, and even a few guiding me on how to ensure a happy, healthy baby through toddlerhood and beyond.

I’m a habitual planner. I feel calm when I can be the one in control of my own destiny. I figured childcare would fall easily in line with all the notions I’d read, all the guides and outlines, calendars and note keeping. Everything would go according to plan.

My son was an awesome baby, an easy baby, for the most part, but I often felt lost in translation. He didn’t do anything the books told me he’d do within a certain time frame. A friend purchased a sleep training guide in an effort to help me get him on some sort of sleep schedule, which didn’t work. Still others told me to “do this”, or “don’t do that”. I didn’t have as much of a support system as I would have liked to have, in those days. Friends were at work when I’d needed help or had questions. My husband at the time had been stationed overseas for nearly five long months. I didn’t have family to confide in. I felt alone in a lot of ways.

I wish I’d had a book like this one. So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood gives personal insights into what it’s really like to be a mom. The joys. The sorrows. The contributors give their own anecdotal experiences, which are far from perfect, but that’s what makes it so wonderfully real.

There are plenty of stories I can relate to and identify with, from that first year to what it’s like dealing with tweens and teenagers, and beyond. It’s going to continue being relevant for me, because being a parent will be something I am for the rest of my life. There are stories relating to what it’s like when your children move on and continue forth with their own adult lives, something I know will be a hard situation for me when that time comes.

What I appreciate most about So Glad They Told Me, is that the writers aren’t telling the readers to “do this”, or “don’t do that”. They merely share their own experiences in the hopes of reaching out to other mothers who might be dealing with a similar situation. It’s a must-have for anyone who’s a mother, a parent, or for those who are looking for an inspirational read.

By the time my second son was born, I felt as though I had a better grip on things, yet my little boy threw me a curve-ball. He wasn’t at all like his older brother. Not to say he wasn’t as awesome, he just wasn’t as easy. There have been quite a few moments during motherhood where I’ve questioned myself, if I’m doing the right thing. By reading stories from other mothers, like the ones found in So Glad They Told Me, I don’t feel alone in that sentiment. Even if at times we feel like failures in the parent department, our children will turn out alright.

Thanks to The HerStories Project Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More from Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Lift And Separate

Today we are featuring Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy to give away! Check out all the stops on Marilyn's blog tour for more chances to win.


Marcy Hammer’s life has been turned upside down. Her husband, the head of a global brassiere empire, didn’t think twice about leaving her after thirty-three years of marriage for a 32DD lingerie model. Now Harvey the Home-Wrecker is missing in action, but Marcy’s through thinking about what a cliché he is. What she needs now is a party-size bag of potato chips, a good support system, and a new dress.

Striking out on her own is difficult at first, but Marcy manages to find traces of humor in her heartbreak. Even while devastated by Harvey’s departure, she still has her indomitable spirit and her self-respect. She has no intention of falling apart, either, even when her adult children drop a few bombshells of their own and she discovers a secret about her new, once-in-a-lifetime friend. Life may be full of setbacks, but by lifting herself up by her own lacy straps, Marcy just may be able to handle them all.


For more than twenty-five years, Marilyn Simon Rothstein owned an advertising agency in Connecticut. She grew up in New York City, earned a degree in journalism from New York University, began her writing career at Seventeen magazine, and married a man she met in an elevator.

Lift And Separate is her debut novel.

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 January 23rd at midnight EST.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Holly Brown's fresh outlook...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Holly Brown back to CLC today (after two-and-a-half years) to talk about some new things in her life, as well as feature her domestic suspense novel, This is Not Over, which comes out tomorrow. Thanks to Get Red PR, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Holly Brown lives with her husband and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a practicing marriage and family therapist. Her blog, “Bonding Time,” is featured on Psychcentral.com, a mental health website with 1.5 million visitors per month. For more about Holly, visit her website and follow her on Facebook.


Synopsis:
You’ll have your deposit within seven business days, just like it says on Getaway.com. I’ve put through a refund to your credit card for the full amount, minus $200 to replace the stained sheets...

Miranda

When 30-year-old Dawn reads Miranda’s email, she sees red. People have always told Dawn she’s beautiful, and she just hopes they don’t see beneath—to how she grew up, to what she’s always tried to outrun. She revels in her getaways with her perfect (maybe too perfect) husband, the occasional long weekend in luxurious homes, temporarily inhabiting other people’s privileged lives. Miranda’s email strikes a nerve, with its lying intimation that Dawn is so dirty you need to throw out her sheets.

Beware of your “host”

I wouldn’t have left a review at all, if I didn’t feel it was my civic duty to warn others…

57-year-old Miranda thought she’d seen it all, but she can’t believe her eyes when she reads Dawn’s review. She’s a doctor’s wife but she needs that rental money, desperately. People might think her life is privileged, but they don’t know what’s really going on. They don’t know about her son. She won’t take this threat to her livelihood—to her very life—lying down.

Two very different women with this in common: Each harbors her own secret, her own reason why she can’t just let this go. Neither can yield, not before they’ve dredged up all that’s hidden, even if it has the power to shatter all they’ve built.

This is not over.

This is so not over. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)


Something new I did in 2016:
I started my own therapy practice. I've always worked for agencies before, so this felt like a big leap off a high bridge. But lots of people have been so kind to me that it's like having a parachute. And I've got my other amazing day job--writing!

Something new I want to try in 2017:
Stand-up paddle boarding. People look so serene, gliding along. I'm horribly uncoordinated but I've never seen anyone topple over so that could be for me. And the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, has lots of spots where I could give it a try.

A new food I tried recently:
Pan-seared Spanish octopus, from the restaurant Moshulu in Philadelphia. I'm going to have to take trips to the East Coast more often if they keep that up.

A new book I started reading:
Euphoria by Lily King. The cover alone is worth the price of admission, all those miasmic colors, and the story of 1930s anthropologists is completely immersive.

The newest thing I bought:
I've been a bit frugal lately, what with starting my business. So it was fun to shop for my daughter over the holidays. She's turning five, and her favorite gift was this schoolhouse kit where she gets to play teacher and her dad and I are the students, practicing our letters. She's a taskmaster, that one, but my handwriting is improving.

Someplace new I plan (or want) to visit:
I've always wanted to go to Croatia. Years ago, someone mentioned to me that it's the country of waterfalls, and that the coastline is as beautiful as Greece's. Don't know if this is my year to get there, but a girl can dream!

Thanks to Holly for visiting with us and to Get Red PR for sharing her book with our readers.

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


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Giveaway ends January 22nd at midnight EST.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: Mixed Signals

By Sara Steven

Getting dumped is never easy, but there’s a special bonus sting if your ex-fiancé is a producer for a popular morning radio show. Jillian Atwood’s breakup with Nico has become the hosts’ number-one topic. They’re even running a competition to find him a new girlfriend. The entire population of Boston, it seems, is tuning in with an opinion about who Nico should date next—and what Jillian should do to get over him.

Jillian’s co-worker, Ben, has his own ideas on that score. He hates seeing Jill depressed over a guy as unworthy as her ex. While he’s providing a friendly ear, he's also realizing how much more he’d like to offer. And if Jill could just get over the man who broke her heart, she might find the one who’s perfectly equipped to heal it… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

Mixed Signals is a realistic take on one woman’s journey through a transitional period in her life. I could feel the tiny shifts and nuances that happen for Jillian, while she works hard at dealing with an ex who took years in asking her to marry him, only to break up with her when he decides he really isn’t ready for any long-term commitments.

There were times where I wanted to reach into the pages and shake some sense into Jillian, to get her to see the light, to not lament over an obviously bad relationship. Yet her thought process, the way she yearns for the familiar and the life she’s known for so long, is how so many of us would deal if we were thrown into a similar situation. When thrust into something that is completely out of our control, it’s all we can focus on. What went wrong. What could have been done differently to salvage the relationship. Maybe given some time, some distance, he’ll come to his senses.

While reeling from the pain of the break-up, Jillian is also dealing with her life being played out for all to hear on the radio show. Strangers, and those who know her well, chime in on what they think she should or shouldn’t do, and when she retaliates against the ones in charge of the show, she finds herself in an even bigger mess. And then there's Ben. He's always been a good friend to her over the years, yet he’s known as a notorious player. When he’s nice to her, is it genuine, or is he looking for something more? And how can she ever get over Nico?

I enjoyed Mixed Signals, and the honesty it represents. A great example of this is a jacket Nico leaves behind at Jillian’s home, a place they both shared before he left her. She has a hard time getting rid of it. It sits where Nico left it, hanging on the back of a chair in the kitchen, convinced he’ll come back for it. He’ll come back for her. This is so symbolic of where Jillian is at in her relationship, not only with Nico but the relationship she has with herself, and we get to see her transition by way of the jacket. It’s moments like that one, and many others, that make this novel so clever, honest, and endearing.

Thanks to Lyrical Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. See Sara's review for Diane's previous novel, Waiting for Ethan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Giveaway: January and February Books We are Looking Forward To Reading

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

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


January:

Sisters One, Two, Three by 
Nancy Star (January 1st)

This was recently a Kindle First deal and it sounds very interesting. Anyone with a sister will relate, but you don't have to have one to enjoy it.

*Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the giveaway copy. Check out all the stops on their blog tour for more chances to win.

We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk (January 3rd)

The title makes us think of that famous line from Friends. If you haven't read a Lindsey Kelk novel yet, they are perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella. If you have read her books before, then you know what kind of treat you will be getting!

*Thanks to HarperCollins for the giveaway copy.


The Odds of You and Me by 
Cecilia Galante (January 31st)

It sounds like a gripping and thought-provoking novel. Perfect for fans of Meg Donohue and Sarah Jio.

*Thanks to William Morrow for the giveaway copy.

The Road to Enchantment by 
Kaya McLaren (January 31st)

Melissa A enjoyed Kaya's previous two novels and has been eagerly awaiting this one. Kaya writes with a lot of heartfelt sensitivity and her novels are comfort reads.

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



February:

Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire) by 
Jen Glantz (February 7th)

Jen Glantz shares about what happens when you've been a bridesmaid so often that you half-jokingly turn it into a career....and then it takes off!

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagán (February 7th)

We've been hearing great things about Camille Pagán's novels. This one is written from a male perspective and sounds incredibly romantic.

*Thanks to Goldberg McDuffie Communications for the giveaway copy.

The Young Wives Club by Julie Pennell (February 14th)

The synopsis had us at Desperate Housewives and sounds like a perfect fit for our blog. Plus, we wouldn't mind digging into that cake on the cover!

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

The Nearness of You by 
Amanda Eyre Ward (February 21st)

Melissa A has been a fan of Amanda Eyre Ward's writing for quite some time and knows she won't disappoint. While the topic is prevalent in this genre, it will be interesting to see Amanda's take on it.

*Thanks to Ballantine for the giveaway copy.


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

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Giveaway ends February 8th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stacey Wiedower's "new" year...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Stacey Wiedower here to kick off our "Something New" theme at CLC! Given that her debut, 30 First Dates (reviewed here), was about a bucket list, this is a perfect topic for her! Her follow-up novel, This is 35, published last week and features her charming main character Erin, who is back with another bucket list! (We're not sharing a synopsis as to avoid spoilers for the first book. All you need to know is that "everything that can go wrong definitely does.") Stacey has TWO e-book sets of both novels for some lucky readers.

Stacey Wiedower started her career as a reporter at a daily newspaper before following her passion to interior design school. She spent three years at a firm with bizarre similarities to Designing Women, and now she funnels all of those experiences into her work as a full-time writer. Along with magazine articles, website copy and a weekly feature called "My New Home," she writes romantic comedies, and the zany characters she's met poke their heads into her stories from time to time. Stacey lives in Tennessee with her husband, also a writer, and a son who's inherited their overactive imaginations. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Stacey at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Something new I did in 2016:
I hiked in Arches National Park and Zion National Park in southern Utah. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and both places were beautiful and breathtaking in very different ways. Arches is an alien planet – like hiking on the surface of Mars, but with oxygen. Zion feels a like a place time forgot, with incredible, colorful cliffs and peaks … and a waterfall in the middle of the desert. My favorite part of the experience was hiking The Narrows, a trail in Zion that’s actually a shallow river, with a pebbled riverbed and canyon walls rising on both sides of the water. It was absolutely unforgettable.


Something new I want to try in 2017:
I really, really want to go to the Greek Isles and I’m hoping this is the year we make it happen. Otherwise, I’d like to try being on time for once. I’m always late because I’m always trying to cram in “one more thing” before I get out the door. I want to work on that this year!

A new food I tried recently:
We started using Blue Apron on occasion last year, and so not only did I try several new foods, but I learned to cook several new foods and new cuisines. Some memorable dishes that I never would have attempted on my own were Green Shakshuka with Eight Ball Squash (a Middle Eastern dish), Empanadas de Picadillo with Lime Crema, and a Chilled Chicken Ramen that was fantastic. I liked not having to plan the meals or do the grocery shopping, but most of all I liked how using a meal service caused me to branch out and try new things.

A new TV series I started watching:
I didn’t start any new series, believe it or not, but my husband and I did return to Mad Men after a long hiatus. I love/hate me some Don Draper.

The newest thing I bought:
I bought two paintings in 2016, a gorgeous pastel abstract by Memphis artist Hillary Butler that hangs in my foyer, and an intriguing portrait of a woman with no facial features (I know that sounds strange, but trust me when I say it’s a cool painting) that I bought at a gallery in Oklahoma City’s Paseo Arts District. It’s titled “Who Is She Now?” It makes me think of a blank page or blank screen at the start of a new writing project. One day I want to write her story.

I made a new friend recently and her name is Kelly. I met her through my son’s basketball team and it turns out we have tons in common. We’re both career journalists, we love to read and we like home design and fashion. (Don’t get me wrong – we’re suburban moms, not exactly Instagram-worthy fashionistas. But we both like turning up at our book club meetings in a cute pair of shoes. :) ) We also took a fun turn through IKEA together recently.

Thanks to Stacey for chatting with us and sharing her books 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 January 16th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: The River at Night

By Jami Deise

When I was about five or six years old, I got lost in the woods with a couple of friends. With the hindsight of adulthood, I realize it was probably only an acre or two of yet-undeveloped land in what would become the bustling thoroughfare of Farewell Road in Columbia, Maryland, but in my mind’s eye, those trees stretched for miles. It got dark, and started raining, and when my friends and I finally made it out onto the sidewalk, we dropped to our knees and thanked G-d.

I’ve been wary of nature ever since. When the first Blair Witch film came out, I wondered why the filmmakers had bothered with a witch. Losing the map in the middle of the woods was scary enough.

This brings me to Erica Ferencik’s latest, The River at Night. Ferencik made her name as a satirist, although her previous book was a thriller. Her disconnected history serves as a warning that River will be equally disjointed. Its protagonist is Winifred Allen, and her story is straight out of women’s fiction. Mourning the death of her marriage and her younger brother, stuck in a commercial art job when she should be painting, Wini is ripe for a vacation. But the vacation her long-time best friend/queen bee Pia offers isn’t one she had in mind. Rather than relaxing at the beach, Pia wants Wini and the other women of their group, Rachel and Sandra, to hike through the untamed Maine forest and go white-water rafting with a hunky young guide. Even though Wini is the most tender-footed of the four, she doesn’t want to be left behind, and begrudgingly agrees to go. After a harrowing trek to the river, Pia reverts to “Mean Girls” form by screwing the guide within earshot of the rest of the group. They are pissed. It’s against the rules of feminism!

Then things take a turn. Twenty-five miles in the middle of nowhere, and what had been a dangerous vacation becomes a life-or-death crisis. At this point, Ferencik does a good job of seguing her women’s-fiction type novel into a man-versus-nature thriller. A chapter or so later, though, Ferencik decides to add Deliverance to the mix. (I’m not the only reviewer who cites this work.)

At that point, she lost me. While the writing is top-notch, with a fast pace and consistent characters (although Rachel and Sandra seemed a little too similar to each other), the addition of the Deliverance-type folks made me roll my eyes. Perhaps Ferencik didn’t think her “lost in the woods” tale was compelling enough without them. (Maybe she never read Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, about another girl lost in the Maine woods, no scary hillbilly types required.) This is unfortunate, because she does such strong job describing the dangers of the river and the forest, that no other dangers are necessary.

There were a few coincidences that I found annoying as well. It’s a general rule of thumb that if something is set up before it’s necessary, it’s not a coincidence, but some set-ups are just too obvious.
On the plus side, Wini’s character arc was well done and subtle, at least till the end.

Overall, despite its issues, The River at Night is a good read for anyone who considers a rest stop off of I-95 to be too much nature. It also makes a great gift for anyone who’s trying to convince you to go camping or otherwise participate in dangerous “natural” activities.

Just don’t.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.