Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Book Review: Well, That Escalated Quickly

By Jami Deise

I usually plan my reading carefully – a book is a several-hour commitment, so I evaluate summaries and reviews, even when deciding whether to buy a free book for my Kindle. But in choosing Franchesca Ramsey’s Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes from an Accidental Activist, I was a bit more cavalier. I’d seen that the title was getting some buzz, so I requested it, even though I knew nothing about the book or the author. Had I known more, would I have still requested it? I’m not sure. As its long title implies, there’s a lot going on in this book. Some chapters I loved, some chapters I skimmed, and some left me weeping for humanity.

Ramsey is one of the first people to become famous through a YouTube video going viral (“Sh*t White Girls Say… to Black Girls,”) and even though the content pigeonholed her as a social justice warrior before being an SJW was cool/an alt-right insult, Ramsey was an actress and a comedian who carefully developed her YouTube channel as a springboard to an entertainment career. As someone whose early videos were hair-style tutorials for black women, it’s not surprising that Ramsey landed at the intersection of entertainment and advocacy. But the resulting book, while mostly linear, lacks focus; a criticism that makes me wonder if Ramsey feels that way in her own life.

The first several chapters of the book describe Ramsey’s early attempts at pursuing an entertainment career. She’s humble and self-deprecating in these accounts of her early YouTube videos (bad lighting, shower-curtain cameos) and her attempt to balance this work with her day job. Then “Sh*t White Girls…” goes viral, and suddenly she had an agent and an invitation to audition for SNL. At the same time, her new fame coupled with her already-established internet presence meant she became a fat target for every racist with a modem. When she tried to appease them, the black community called her an apologist and questioned her marriage to a white man.

Fame really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Ramsey is a thoughtful, earnest writer who sometimes bends over backwards to see the good in other people, even people who say things like, “She’s pretty for a black girl.” Sometimes, though, she’s a little too earnest. The book has a long section of social justice vocabulary words, a section on music she can’t listen to anymore, and a list of words and phrases that people committed to equality shouldn’t say. Reading those sections left me feeling exhausted… and guilty. Exhausted because who wants to be excoriated for using the word “gypped?” And guilty because, as a white woman, I can decide how committed I want to be to this movement. I didn’t have to have “the talk” with my white son, who will never be arrested for waiting for someone at Starbucks; no one will call the police on me because I did not wave at a neighbor when leaving an AirBnB. Ramsey, her friends, and family do not have that choice. They can’t just decide one day not to be black because it’s exhausting.

I do wonder, however, if Ramsey will someday feel the need to make a choice between comedy and social justice activism. While occasionally in the book she was able to mix them (such as her flowchart titled “Should I Unfriend This Person?”), most sections were either funny or earnest, but not both. Then again, there’s an old saying about comedy being tragedy plus time. Our country’s current social and political environment is definitely a tragedy. It’s going to take a long time before any of this can seem funny

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Amy Blumenfeld picks the flicks...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Amy Blumenfeld to CLC today and celebrate the publication of her debut novel, The Cast. Amy is here to tell us about some of her favorite movies from two genres we enjoy and thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy of The Cast to give away!

Amy Blumenfeld’s articles and essays have appeared in various publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Prevention, and on the cover of People.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Amy was a shy child who sat in a coat cubby for the first six weeks of kindergarten. Lured out by carrot sticks and crayons, she eventually made her way into the world and graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University and received a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism where she was the recipient of the James A. Wechsler Award for National Reporting.

Amy has been interviewed on MSNBC, CBS Evening News, FOX News, and contributed to two non-fiction books. She has been a featured speaker for several national organizations and during one keynote address made Robin Williams laugh. It is one of her most treasured memories.

Amy lives in New York with her husband and daughter.

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Twenty-five years ago, a group of ninth graders produced a Saturday Night Live–style videotape to cheer up their ailing friend. The show’s running time was only ninety minutes, but it had a lasting impact: Becca laughed her way through recovery, and the group―Jordana, Seth, Holly, and Lex―became her supporting cast for life.

On the silver anniversary of Becca Night Live, the friends reunite over the Fourth of July to celebrate Becca’s good health―but nothing goes as planned. The happy holiday card facades everyone’s been hiding behind quickly crumble and give way to an unforgettable three days filled with complex moral dilemmas and life-altering choices. Through humor, drama, and the alternating perspectives of five characters, The Cast explores the power of forgiveness, the importance of authenticity, and the immeasurable value of deep, enduring friendships to buoy us when life plays out differently than expected.


*Bio and synopsis courtesy of Amy's website.

Top Five Favorite Chick Flicks:
  • Love Actually
  • The Big Sick
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Pretty Woman

Top Five Favorite Animated Films:
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Boss Baby
  • Stuart Little (partially animated)
  • Charlotte's Web (sort of animated with the animals)
  • The Princess and the Frog
Thanks to Amy 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 August 19th at midnight EST.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli

By Sara Steven

Lily Holmes is ready for a fresh start. And there’s no better place to begin again than the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

All Lily wants to do is focus on making her new deli a success and ensuring her son’s happiness. Not the postcard creeping out of her handbag, and definitely not finding a new man in her life!

But this isn’t going to be as easy as she first thought. The town is in uproar about the city girl who’s dared to join them and she’s fighting a battle at every turn.

Perhaps with a little help from the gorgeous cider farmer next door, she may be able to win them over, but her past secrets threaten to ruin everything… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Portia MacIntosh has a way of developing characters who have the ability to bring out a range of emotions from within. The way she describes the connections between Lily and her son, or the way Lily is not welcomed into the town of Marram Bay, even the first visit with the next door neighbor- I was on a roller coaster.

Lily wants to create a better life for her son, but she’s fighting against what feels like impossible odds. In her way are the various townspeople, who don’t take kindly to outsiders, doing all they can to muddle up her plans. This trickles down into the experiences Lily’s son has at school, which really got me going. I found myself cursing under my breath from time to time, or rolling my eyes. It felt true to life and close to home, since so many of us have been in Lily’s shoes.

Even Lily’s experiences with that gorgeous cider farmer next door are tinged with contention, when she discovers she’s not the only one who’s interested in him. Yet, through all the muck is this undeniable spirit, a fighting spirit. I really appreciated that about Lily. Her ability to keep going, even with all the negativity. It would be so easy for her to run for the hills, and not that she doesn’t feel like she wants to several times along the way, but witnessing her ability to take a few steps forward, a ton back every time feeds into that need to see the underdog achieve the impossible. The question, though, is whether it’s all worth it, and what’s the end result? The changes Lily goes through during all of this, it’s fun to witness, and is inspiring.

This truly was a sweet read, mixed in with strong undertones of strength and courage while facing less than stellar odds.

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review. Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli can be purchased here.

More by Portia MacIntosh:

Friday, August 10, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson from Gallery
Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle from St. Martin's Press
The Last House on Sycamore Street by Paige Roberts from Kensington (ebook via NetGalley)
The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay from St. Martin's Press



Jami and Melissa A:
The Guests on South Battery by Karen White from Berkley (Jami got an e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
I Give You My Heart by SarahJane Ford from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
The Exes' Revenge by Jo Jakeman from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Go On, Girl by/from Hilary Grossman (e-book)
Pictures in the Sky by Amanda Paull from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)

Book Review: The Bucket List

By Jami Deise

While breast cancer isn’t the leading cause of death for women—heart disease is—we fear it like no other disease. Perhaps because it’s seen as a uniquely female disease (it’s not—my father and my uncle both had it), perhaps because it happens to a body part that physically marks us as female. I had my first mammogram at 37; when I told my gynecologist it felt like everyone I knew was getting that diagnosis, she said it was time, and I’ve had one every year since. And while every film save one was clean, finding out that my former state, Maryland, was a breast cancer hot spot helped reinforce the decision to leave.

Thirty-seven felt young; I can’t imagine dealing with these issues at 25. In her follow-up to her 2016 book about New York millennials who magically become pretty (The Regulars), Georgia Clark brings us another New York millennial, Lacey, a 25-year-old who just tested positive for the BCRA1 mutation, meaning the question of breast cancer is not an if but a when. Her question actually is, does she get a preventative mastectomy and breast reconstruction, or wait and see what happens? Her mother died at 31; her older sister Mara, with a daughter of her own, doesn’t want to get the test at all. It’s heady stuff, and in a less sure hand, it would have been a Lifetime movie or weepy women’s fiction. But The Bucket List is, as Clark describes it, “a sexy mastectomy book.” Lacey is much more than her mutation; she has a full, rich, complicated millennial life, and Clark explores all its aspects.

I admit, I was overwhelmed and not as drawn in as I wanted to be in the beginning of the book. Lacey is, fittingly enough, a “trend forecaster” for a fashion publication in New York; she’s also working on a shopping app with a friend. Clark fully immerses readers in the fashion world and with her fast-paced, present-tense, millennial voice, there were times I found it hard to keep up. When Lacey decides to have the surgery, she creates a bucket list for her breasts, with items like threesomes, sex with a woman, and topless sunbathing. At times, the diagnosis and upcoming surgery practically disappear while Lacey deals with work, friends, competing love interests, etc. At other times, it felt like the diagnosis and surgery dilemma were metaphors as well as plot points—with the country and the world being in the shape that it’s in, don’t all millennials feel they’re living in a ticking time bomb, even if it’s not in their own bodies?

When Clark gets the story out of Fashion Week and Lacey puts the bucket list on the back burner to pursue her life and her health, things fall into place more tightly and the story finds its rhythm. Lacey’s biggest physical problem is BCRA1, but her biggest emotional problem is that she would rather lie to the people she’s closest to instead of telling the truth and dealing with the fall-out. This doesn’t make her an unlikeable character; it adds to her complexity.

The Regulars was one of my favorite books from 2016; the only flaw I found was an ending that was too neat. The Bucket List also delivers an ending that’s wrapped in a tidy little bow; so much so I’d call it a fairy tale ending. It’ll please folks who enjoy books with happily-ever-afters; I felt it was a simple ending that didn’t work for a character who had so much going on in her life. Still, I enjoy Clark’s depiction of New York millennials, and I look forward to her next book.

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

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Catching a matinee with Rea Frey...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Alex Holguin
Today we welcome Rea Frey to CLC to talk about movies for our latest theme month. Her novel is publishing on August 21st and we have a copy for one lucky reader, thanks to St. Martin's Press!

​Rea Frey is an award-winning author of four nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. Not Her Daughter is her debut novel. Visit Rea at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Synopsis:
Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. When a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her―far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure whether she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


“In Not Her Daughter, Frey pulls off a difficult task: balancing a nail-biting plot with a thought-provoking question — is a crime committed with the best intentions still a crime? A chilling, powerful tale of love and sacrifice, of truth and perception, Not Her Daughter will make you miss your bedtime, guaranteed. A stunning debut.” 

—Kimberly Belle, Internationally Bestselling Author of The Marriage Lie


"Women who do not embrace motherhood or "bad mothers" are a taboo subject -- in both real life and fiction -- but Frey tackles it with aplomb in her taut debut, NOT HER DAUGHTER. The story begs the question: who is more mother -- the one who gives birth or the one who rescues? The plot twists here are brave, the themes are both poignant and unsettling, and the resolution is deeply resonant. A page-turner with heart!" 

New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti

Top Five Movies of the 90’s.

1. Edward Scissorhands: I remember being transported to another world entirely with Johnny Depp’s sad face and those tragic hands. What imagination.
2. Clueless: When Clueless came out, I immediately went out and bought all of the same clothes and wore them to the first day of eighth grade. (Sadly, I did not have a Cher Horowitz experience.)
3. Pretty Woman: Who doesn’t love Richard Gere and prostitutes? This was such a “play” on the traditional love story that stuck with me for years.
4. Ghost: Pottery, murder, Swayze, Whoopi, and ghosts. Pretty much all of the good things. I watched this movie when I was way too young, but it was one of the most visceral love stories I’d seen (and still remember).
5. Good Will Hunting: This movie still makes it in my top five of all time (oh how I mourn the loss of Robin Williams). I love everything about this movie: how smart, how touching, how the phrase: “how do you like them apples?” is still used today. How you don’t have to go to some fancy school to be smart. How addictive Boston accents can be. How you can change your life and take a risk, no matter who you are or where you’re from.

Top Five Indie Films:

1. Dirty Dancing: This movie was my life.
2. House Party: Can someone please resurrect Kid ‘N Play? Pretty please?
3. Sideways: I love depressed writers and red wine. This one struck a chord.
4. La Fille Sur Le Pont (The Girl on the Bridge): One of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Who doesn’t love a hot dude throwing knives at a beautiful French girl? C’est magnifique!
5. Teen Wolf: Michael J. Fox and the 1980's. Was there really anything better? I think not.

Thanks to Rea for visiting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers.

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


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Giveaway ends August 14th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Book Review: Summer on the River

By Sara Steven

As summer beckons, Evie’s family gathers once more at the beautiful old riverside house they all adore. But when Evie discovers a secret that threatens their future, a shadow falls over them all: this summer by the river could be their last together...

For Charlie, a visit home to see stepmother Evie is an escape from his unhappy marriage in London. Until a chance encounter changes everything: in the space of a moment, he meets a woman by the river, falls in love, and his two worlds collide.

As Evie and Charlie struggle to keep their secrets safe, they long for the summer to never end... 

Can the happiness of one summer last forever? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

While reading Summer On The River, I had this easy feeling creep in, the kind that makes you feel as though you’re sitting in peace, sipping herbal tea, or maybe you’re sitting in a hammock surrounded by flowers and sunshine, the sounds of nature all around. A relaxing discovery of intricate connections between characters, with a spider web of hidden agendas and secretive innuendos.

There were a lot of parallel experiences for the characters in Summer too, falling onto and into one another. Tied up and twisted without knowing they are, without knowing that the actions and choices made from one person can influence and change the course for another. I really felt that a lot between Evie and Charlie, and Evie and Jason, a man who is still reeling from the choices Evie made for her life several years before, that he feels have come back to haunt him, and ultimately haunt her, too. A lot of cause and effect scenarios that lead to the very center of what this novel is about, which to me feels like a lesson in acceptance and progression. Of moving on.

And even though Charlie finds himself in a serious predicament, you can’t help but root for him. It’s not so much that he’s an underdog, but a man who struggles with a connection that feels too large to ignore. I really appreciated the dynamic of an inner struggle between doing what’s right, and what feels right. And, what is the right thing, anyway? A lot of blurred, gray areas that really played into what real life is like when it comes to matters of the heart.

While it did take some time for me to get into the groove of this story, once it picked up, I felt connected to all of the characters here, and I really appreciated the various perspectives from each one. It helped to better identify what their motivation is. The fact that Summer won’t give us a perfectly wrapped gift with a bow on it only added to the appeal of this story. What you’re given is a messy box filled with deep emotions and purpose-driven complexity, mixed in with a slow intensity reminiscent of cinematic ambiance. Ultimately, a great summer read!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Marcia Willett:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Spotlight and Giveaway: Good Luck With That

Today we're celebrating the publication of Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins. There has been a lot of great buzz about this novel, so we're excited to feature it today and read it soon. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it's coming to terms with the survivor's guilt she's carried around since her twin sister's death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it's about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother's and brother's ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson's dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.

A novel of compassion and insight, Good Luck With That tells the story of two women who learn to embrace themselves just the way they are. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“Wholly original and heartfelt, and written with grace and sensitivity, Good Luck With That is an irresistible tale of love, friendship, and self-acceptance—and the way body image can sabotage all three.” 
New York Times bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman

“Masterfully told, Good Luck With That is a story with which every woman will identify. We all deal with body image, self-esteem, and acceptance of love at one time or another. Bravo, Kristan Higgins, bravo!” 
—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber


Photo by Deborah Feingold
Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received many awards and accolades, and she is a six-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. Higgins lives in Connecticut with her family. Connect with Kristan online at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

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Giveaway ends August 12th at midnight EST.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review: Our House

By Jami Deise

As a real estate agent, I’m well aware of the fraud that has infested the industry. Almost every week, I hear stories of how some poor buyer wired their closing funds to an overseas bank, thanks to cyber-scammers who steal email passwords of agents and monitor them for news of closings. Our title company no longer gives wiring instructions over email, and our own email accounts are run by the brokerage and feature two-step authentication. All of this caution, however, presumes that the scammers are strangers. When the scammer is the person who is closest to you, there’s no type of authentication to counter that.

In Our House, the latest thriller by British author Louise Candlish, Fiona Lawson arrives unexpectedly to her multimillion-dollar home on Trinity Avenue to find its new owners moving in. Only problem is, she never sold her house. When she realizes her estranged husband Bram is missing—and there’s paperwork with his signature selling the house—the awful truth is unavoidable: Her own husband sold their home behind her back and swindled her out of the proceeds. But how? And why? And what will she do now?

The book unfolds on multiple fronts. Bram tells his side of the story in a Word document, describing everything that happened to him that led to his actions. Fiona gives her side in a podcast called “The Victim.” And the narrative describes what Fiona does when she finds two strangers in her home, preparing to move in.

Fiona is a naturally sympathetic protagonist, and the sympathy grows even deeper as she describes the events that led to the estrangement: Fiona caught Bram having sex with a neighbor in the playhouse in their backyard—and it wasn’t the first time he strayed. But because their boys are so important to her, and the house is so dear after all those renovations, Fiona and Bram agree to a nesting separation, in which they will rent out a small apartment and trade off time in it with time in the family home with the boys.

When Bram gives his side of the story, he comes off even worse. There are other secrets he’s kept from Fiona, and Bram justifies his actions like an immature teenager. The secrets build until Bram places himself in the situation that leads to selling the house behind his wife’s back. There’s a huge coincidence behind it that I had a little trouble swallowing, but it’s the only coincidence in the book, so I wasn’t too bothered by it.

Because of the way the story unfolds, much of the tension dissipates while Bram recounts everything that led to the sale, and at these points the novel feels less like a thriller and more like character-driven fiction. Candlish seems to be attempting to build sympathy for Bram as she reveals his back story, which includes a father who died at a young age and the circumstances behind his death. These explanations just led me to ruminate on the types of characters who, when finding themselves in a hole, keep digging. Bram had several opportunities to come clean, accept responsibility, and keep his sons in their childhood home, and he never owned up to his actions.

The podcast ends before the book does, and at that point, Candlish adds a few more twists, which heighten the tension again. And she ties up a loose thread that I didn’t even realize was left dangling. The ending is a masterpiece, as other characters refuse to learn from Bram’s mistakes, implying a domino effect that will eventually come down right on the children.

Reading the book as a real estate agent was especially enlightening. As I watched Bram take the steps necessary to defraud his wife and complete the sale, I kept wondering if there were any precautions in place to keep others from doing what he did.

Sadly, the answer is no.

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

More by Louise Candlish:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Review: Love, Lies and Wedding Cake

By Sara Steven

**Contains SPOILERS for Love, Lies and Lemon Cake**

Since Faye met her gorgeous Aussie boyfriend Dan, they’ve travelled all over the world to meet in amazing, crazy and romantic locations. They’ve eaten gateaux in a chateau, chocolate torte in a moonlit port, and even had stöllen kisses in a sparkling Christmas market. Neither of them wanted to settle down… until now.

When Dan asks Faye to marry him and to move to Australia it throws a real spanner in the works. Faye’s daughter Emma needs her here, so moving to the other side of the world – even for a hunk like Dan – simply isn’t an option. Is it?

Faye’s been down the marriage road before and it ended up with her having Ryan Gosling fantasies while her ex-husband obsessed about the plumbing. Is that what she has to look forward to? Is she ready to end her adventure? And even if she is, how can she be sure Dan is the right man for her? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

This was the perfect continuation to Faye and Dan’s story. When we last read about the couple in Love, Lies and Lemon Cake (reviewed here)it was a newfound relationship full of budding promises of what’s to come. After a few years, the newness has worn off, and both Faye and Dan have come to appreciate who they are, not only as a couple, but as individuals. There are a lot of outside influences that will sway decisions in one way or another, and what I appreciated so much about these two characters is how nothing is easy.

It can’t be easy trying to accommodate the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, while trying to keep yourself happy, too. While Faye has been down that road, the one where she puts everyone else’s needs before her own, it’s not something Dan has ever had to worry about before. And while he feels the need to start an entirely new and different life thousands of miles away, it’s hard for Faye to even fathom a life unlike the one she’s used to. Not while there are so many who are dependent on her.

I like that Sue Watson hasn’t pulled any punches when it comes to matters of the heart and what realistically could happen between two people who are pulled in different directions. A lot of the obstacles and hurdles that they both have to deal with and jump over, it’s the stuff that happens in real life. The way they respond felt real. You can really see their personalities come out when dealing with adversity, and it’s not always the best or the prettiest, but it makes it honest, and I appreciate honesty.

A friend once told me, the right thing is usually the hardest thing to do. This Watson novel, and all of the others I’ve read fill me with assertion and strength. She has this wonderful ability of creating strong characters who ultimately find the courage to do what they need to do, the right thing that is right for them, something Faye and Dan discover on the journey through their relationship.

Thanks to Bookouture for the book in exchange for an honest review. Love, Lies and Wedding Cake can be purchased here.

More by Sue Watson:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Janna King's hot ticket...plus a book giveaway

Since we had TV month in July, we decided to follow it up with movie month in August. We're still doing top five lists, but with a twist! Kicking off the new theme month is Janna King, debut author of The Seasonaires, which published earlier this year and has been praised by The New York Times, Bustle, HelloGiggles, Southern Living, PopSugar, and actress Tori Spelling (among others). Thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications, we have TWO copies to give away!

Armed with a BA in English from UCLA and an MA in Film/TV from LMU, Janna King began her career with a job as a movie studio receptionist. She went on to become an assistant for TV executives and producers, reading much material, which in turn, prompted much writing. Her spec scripts garnered work on various one-hour dramas.

When her two children were born, she turned her focus to kids’ animation, but kept one foot in the “grown-up” live action world. Her produced credits include TV movies for Lifetime and The Hallmark Channel, series for Sony, Spelling, and more, and in children’s entertainment, Disney Junior, Warner Bros. Animation, and Children’s Television Workshop.

Janna is a freelance journalist and blogger, co-founding the website, The Broad Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two rescue pooches. (Bio adapted from Janna's website.)

Visit Janna online:
Website * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
For a twenty-something, there is no summer job better than being a seasonaire. No responsibilities, college is barely a thought, and you’re surrounded by glamorous, beautiful people. Intoxicating and seemingly carefree, what could possibly go wrong?

An idyllic Nantucket summer begins like a dream for scrappy Mia from South Boston; Presley, a gorgeous Southern beauty queen; Cole, a handsome introvert; Jade, the sultry daughter of a model and music mogul; J.P., an energetic young designer; and Grant, a playful party-boy.


These six are working as seasonaires—influential brand ambassadors—for the clothing line Lyndon Wyld. But like all things that look too good to be true, the darkness lurking underneath slowly rises to the surface.


Lyndon Wyld, the chic tigress who owns the eponymous business, rules their daily life by curating their every move, which the seasonaires are obligated to post on social media for their growing throngs of followers. Corporate greed, professional rivalries, and personal conflicts mix with sex, drugs, and the naiveté of youth, exploding in a murder that sullies their catalog-perfect lives.

The Seasonaires is a fresh and stylish debut that perfectly captures today’s zeitgeist, promising to thrill until the very last page. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Here are my top 5 comedy movie picks:
  • Elf - I love Buddy’s (Will Farrell) pure joy and naiveté. He thinks everything about life outside the North Pole is amazing.
  • Little Miss Sunshine - I happy-cry every time I watch the scene when teary-eyed Olive (Abigail Breslin) tells Grandpa (Alan Arkin) that she "doesn't want to be a loser" and he reassures her: "A real loser is somebody that's so afraid of not winning, they don't even try.”
  • Eighth Grade - Writer/Director Bo Burnham manages to paint a perfect picture of the anxiety, excitement and heartbreak of a thirteen-year-old girl. See the movie - it’s out right now!
  • School of Rock - I’m all about Dewey (Jack Black) and the overwhelming enthusiasm for face-melting rock he passes down to his students.
  • The Big Lebowski - Because "The Dude abides.”

Top 5 movies based on TV series/characters:
  • The Wild Thornberrys Movie - I must’ve watched this movie 300 times with my kids when they were little.
  • The Rugrats Movie - Tommy Pickles is a hero, but I totally relate to Chuckie.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Absurdly funny.
  • Wayne’s World - Two words: “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
  • 22 Jump Street - I’m choosing the sequel because Jillian Bell is hysterical in everything she does.
Thanks to Janna for visiting with us and to Kathleen Carter Communications for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends August 7th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Book Review: The Boy at the Door

By Jami Deise

Most women’s fiction novels center around a protagonist who puts relationships at the center of her life. Children, especially, are most important—even if those children aren’t her own, or are practically strangers. But in Alex Dahl’s debut, The Boy at the Door, her protagonist, Norwegian wife and mother Cecilia Wilborg, seems to care more about her social standing and her tennis dates than her children. And when she’s asked to help the mysterious Tobias, a grade-school aged boy who appears to have been abandoned at the local swimming pool, she’s more concerned about what the neighbors may think than about the child’s welfare. But Cecilia is much more complex than she seems, and the mystery of Tobias’s origins is only one of several in the novel.

The story is told from three points of view: Cecilia and Tobias’s first-person points of view (one of the issues I had with the novel is that Tobias’s voice is much too sophisticated for a boy his age, especially one who has never been to school), and through the diary of Annika, the drug addict who abandoned Tobias. After her dead body is discovered, DNA testing reveals that she was not Tobias’s mother. So who was? How did Tobias end up with Annika and her abusive boyfriend, who has also disappeared? And who killed her?

The Boy at the Door was not the story I thought it would be when I picked up the novel. I was not expecting such an in-depth look at the causes and consequences of long-term drug addiction as depicted by Annika, and her story broke my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen while reading a thriller. However, the long sections of her diary did slow down the pacing of the book somewhat. While I was moved by Annika’s tragic life story, my real interest was how she ended up with Tobias.

Cecilia is the more problematic character—while it turns out she is also hiding secrets, hers are of her own doing, and she never becomes truly sympathetic, even when she has a breakdown. While the mystery was twisty enough to keep me reading, others may find Cecilia so abhorrent that they don’t stick around for its resolution. That would be a shame. Although this is her debut novel, Dahl is a confident writer who doesn’t leave a single thread untied by the book’s conclusion—every set up is paid off. Readers who are tempted to give up on the book due to Cecilia’s duplicity are highly advised to stick it out to the end.

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sharing some laughs with Rich Amooi...plus a book giveaway




We welcome Rich Amooi to CLC today, as his latest novel, Madam Love, Actually, published earlier this year. He's here today to tell us about his favorite TV shows from past and present and he has a special giveaway as part of his blog tour with Rachel's Random Resources!

Rich Amooi is a former radio personality who now writes romantic comedies full-time. He is happily married to a kiss monster imported from Spain. They live in San Diego, California with their very hairy daughter, a mini goldendoodle puppy. Rich believes in public displays of affection, silliness, infinite possibilities, donuts, gratitude, laughter, and happily ever after.


Visit Rich on Facebook and Twitter.



Synopsis:
Lance Parker is an arrogant know-it-all. As author of the bestselling book Your Soulmate Doesn’t Exist, he says love is for losers. Madam Love is a fortune teller and matchmaker who has brought hundreds of couples together.

When the two clash during a radio interview, she admits even someone as irritating and impossible as Lance has a soulmate. He says she’s delirious and a fraud. Then the gauntlet is laid down: Madam Love has two weeks to prove Lance wrong and find him a soulmate.


When Lance meets wonderful Emma by chance, he doesn’t know what to think anymore. But Emma has a secret. She’s Madam Love, actually. And it's going to take a whole lot more than a crystal ball to get her out of this mess.


Purchase Links:

Amazon US * Amazon UK * Amazon CA * Amazon AU

Top 5 favorite TV shows from when I was a teen:

1) Saturday Night Live — I used to stay up late and watch this show with my mom, since she loved it too. There were so many hilarious comedy sketches and parody TV commercials from Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and the rest of the other very talented comedians. I would continue to watch this show decades later. Eddie Murphy is my all-time favorite cast member with Will Ferrell coming in a close second. Although I don’t watch the show anymore, I do occasionally see a hilarious sketch from the current season that someone posts on Twitter or Facebook.

2) WKRP in Cincinnati – Loved the humor and occasional over-the-top situations in this sitcom with nerdy weatherman Les Nessman. I thought Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap were the coolest DJs. I guess it’s not a surprise I ended up having a career on the radio as a DJ for over thirty years before I started writing romantic comedies.

3) The Mary Tyler Moore Show — This was another show I used to watch with my mom. Clever, funny, and an amazing ensemble cast.

4) I Love Lucy —Lucille Ball was a comic genius. I loved watching her get into trouble every episode. This was such a funny show and even funnier seeing how everything she did drove her husband Ricky Ricardo crazy.

5) Three’s Company —I’ve always been a big fan of silliness and this show ranked high on the silly meter.


Top 5 favorite TV shows now:

1) Psych — I usually don’t watch detective shows, but this one is so witty. I was instantly hooked with the banter and quirky characters.

2) Doc Martin — The Brits know how to do comedy well and this show is no exception, featuring a brilliant doctor with no social skills whatsoever. We binge-watched the earlier episodes on Netflix when we discovered it.

3) Santa Clarita Diet — This show has made me cringe more than a few times, but it’s very funny. Love the banter and the humor.

4) The Golden Girls. Okay, maybe I cheated a little with this one since it isn’t a current TV show, but I watch the syndicated episodes regularly on the Hallmark Channel. That counts, right? Of course, it does! These women are hilarious.

You’re probably wondering about number five. I don’t have one! Honestly, we don’t watch much television anymore. We prefer to watch movies (three to four a week) and go for lots of walks by the ocean. Oh, and we read a lot of romance!

Thanks to Rich for chatting with us and for sharing his book and special prize with our readers.

Giveaway
Win a Sterling Silver Lucky Charm Pendant, plus an autographed paperback copy of Madam Love, Actually. (Open Internationally).

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Visit the other stops on Rich's tour!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review: Connectedness

By Sara Steven

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Having read Ignoring Gravity (reviewed here), I looked forward to reading more from Sandra Danby, a continuation in Rose’s quest to help people discover their pasts and ultimately, their identities. While it’s primarily told through Justine’s perspective, we get to see how two characters become linked through pain and loss, going through similar life experiences that have shaped who they are today.

I felt transported between Justine the young adult, and Justine as she is now, and I appreciated the voice given for her within those two stages of her life. I could see the exuberance in her youth, and the maturity that settles into her soul as the years pass, particularly while carrying around a secret that has weighed on her psyche. It was a unique way to see the progression of a character, realistic and honest. I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to a painter’s lifestyle, it was interesting to be given insight into that world, to walk through Justine’s experiences in trying to initially make a name for herself, and what it’s like when those dreams come true. Her past is the driving force behind her artistic endeavors, lending into her success. It was a nice way to tip the scales on what someone can live with, and what they’re living for.

In dealing with her past, Justine also has to confront the here and now in becoming a support system for those who are like family to her, a loved one who parallels the loss Justine felt after her mother died. There are a lot of situations and scenarios that aren’t easy, and at times it can be painful to read, but it’s told in a way that is simplistic in nature, that fills you with the need to continue reading, to find out what happens next for Justine and Rose and the other characters that make up the beauty that is Connectedness.

Thanks to Sandra Danby for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Chillin' on the couch with Jennifer Haupt

We're pleased to introduce Jennifer Haupt, who recently had her debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, published. It is a Kindle Book Club pick on sale for $1.99 the week of July 29! She's here today to tell us about her favorite TV shows from past and present.

Jennifer Haupt has been a journalist for more than 25 years, writing primarily about women prompted by their own depression and grief to reach out and help others to heal. Her essays and articles have been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Rumpus, Psychology Today, Travel & Leisure, The Seattle Times, Spirituality & Health, The Sun, and many other publications. Her Psychology Today blog, One True Thing, is a collection of essays contributed by and interviews with bestselling and emerging authors. 

Jennifer has traveled to Africa five times, as well as to Haiti, Lebanon, and other locations for business and pleasure. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and Duck Toller. 

Visit Jennifer online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS is a riveting family saga that spans from the turmoil of Atlanta during the Civil Rights Movement through the struggle for reconciliation and forgiveness in post-genocide Rwanda. At the heart of this literary novel that crosses racial and cultural boundaries is the search for family on a personal and global level.

In 1967, a disillusioned and heartbroken Lillian Carlson left Atlanta after the assassination of Martin Luther King. She found meaning in the hearts of orphaned African children and cobbled together her own small orphanage in the Rift Valley alongside the lush forests of Rwanda.

Three decades later, in New York City, Rachel Shepherd, lost and heartbroken herself, embarks on a journey to find the father who abandoned her as a young child, determined to solve the enigma of Henry Shepherd, a now-famous photographer. When an online search turns up a clue to his whereabouts, Rachel travels to Rwanda to connect with an unsuspecting and uncooperative Lillian.

While Rachel tries to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance, she finds unexpected allies in an ex-pat doctor running from his past and a young Tutsi woman who lived through a profound experience alongside her father.

Set amongst the gaping wounds of a healing country, follow the intertwining stories of three women who discover something unexpected: grace when there can be no forgiveness.

(Bio and synopsis courtesy of Jennifer's website.)

My top 5 shows when I was a kid:

  • The Banana Splits
  • HR Puff 'n Stuff
  • The Partridge Family
  • The Monkees
  • The Bobby Sherman Show

Top 5 now:

  • Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Ozark
  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers
Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her favorite TV shows with us!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

CLC TV picks

A few of us wanted to share our favorite TV shows with you, the same way the authors have been doing this month. (Watch out for potential spoilers though...) Enjoy!

Melissa A:

Top 5 from childhood/teen years:

Photo credit: People
Full House: This was my comfort show and I could always rely on it for laughs (and some tears). I watch Fuller House now!

Saved by the Bell: Even if Zack Morris is trash, this show was so addictive when I was a pre-teen and throughout my high school years. The caffeine pill episode is classic.

Punky Brewster: She was my TV best friend when I was a kid.

Friends: I was technically still a teenager when I started watching this, even though I was already in college. It became an instant favorite for me. Could it BE any funnier?

Animaniacs: I also started this in my late teens and couldn't get enough of it. Wakko was my favorite. I love that my kids watch it now.


Top 5 from now:
(So so SO hard to choose! I love so many shows these days.)
Photo credit: The Central Trend
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: It's a weekly musical on my TV. And so funny too. What's not to love?!?

This is Us: An incredibly written show with so much emotional depth. I've been going through withdrawal since the season finale.

Younger: Perfect for all chick lit fans. Also, Charles.

The Bold Type: You'd think I wouldn't be able to identify with millenials, but Kat, Jane, and Sutton are such well-developed characters and I love watching them tackle modern day issues.

Stranger Things: I'm not much into scary stuff, but this show just pulled me in with its excellent writing, acting, and nostalgic feel. I care so much about the characters and can't wait to see what's in store for season three!

Melissa S:

Photo credit: IMDb
Then:
1. Punky Brewster
2. Rags to Riches (Melissa A loves this one too, even though there weren't that many seasons!)
3. Avonlea
4. Silver Spoons
5. Kids Incorporated

Now:
1. Law and Order: SVU
2. Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce
3. The Goldbergs
4. Nashville
5. Scandal

Amy:

Photo Credit: Golden Globes
As a kid:
  • Growing Pains
  • Who's the Boss
  • 90210
  • Full House
  • Perfect Strangers
Adult:
  • Modern Family (haven't watched it though in a long time.)
  • Will and Grace
  • Once Upon a Time
  • This Is Us
  • Ellen


Jami:

I’ve loved TV since before I could read! Whittling down this list to 10 was really hard.

Here are the top 5 TV shows I loved as a kid:

Photo credit: Amazon
The Addams Family – This is the first show I paid attention to. I was seven, and I wanted to be Morticia. I thought the way Gomez kissed up her arm when she spoke French was the most romantic thing ever.

The Bionic Woman – Her name was Jaime. My name is Jami. Having the same name as a TV superhero gave me enormous clout in the 4th grade.



Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew – Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy? Yes, please! I love mysteries, but that’s not why I loved this show.

M*A*S*H – This show jump-started my love of wisecracks and medical stories.

The Love Boat – This and Fantasy Island made up my Saturday nights before I was old enough to go out.


And my top 5 adult series:

Photo credit: Us Weekly
General Hospital – I became obsessed with soaps as a teenager, but my love for GH persisted into my 30s… until the show became overrun with mobsters.

Grey’s Anatomy – I’ve watched every single episode of every season. While I view most TV these days on my own schedule, I always watch Grey’s live.

The Good Wife – I shipped Alicia and Will so hard and it killed me when he died.

Sex and the City – I pretend the movies didn’t happen. This show had the best series finale of any show ever.

Alias – Jennifer Garner was like a grown-up’s Jaime Sommers.


Got any shows in common with us? Tell us in the comments section.