Monday, December 31, 2018

Reviews at Amazon--November/December 2018

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 featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!



Melissa A:


Review (Goodreads)


Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Favorites

There were so many great books published in 2018 that it was very hard to choose between them! Here are some of the books that topped our lists.

Melissa A:
1. The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain (Review)
2. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (Review)
3. Limelight by Amy Poeppel (Review)
4. One Day in December by Josie Silver (Such a sweet story that would be a perfect rom com flick.)
5. Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins (review) and The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson (It's a tie...too hard to choose between them! They both made me smile and get teary-eyed.)

Favorite Short Story Collection: You Think It, I’ll Say It – Curtis Sittenfeld
Favorite Book about my Adoptive Home State: Florida – Lauren Groff
Favorite Social Justice Novel: An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Favorite Campaign Novel: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win -- Jo Piazza (read my review here)
Favorite “You Don’t Know Who Your Husband Really Is” Novel: Our House -- Louise Candlish (read my review here)

Miss You by Kate Eberlen (Review)
My favourite of the year, this novel has everything and it will be a rare book I keep to read again one day.

An Island Christmas (Christmas on the Island) by Jenny Colgan
One I've recently finished but just loved. I'm mad at myself for somehow missing Jenny's prequel to this novel as the characters are so engaging, i'll just have to go backwards!

How to be Happy by Eva Woods (Review)
I loved this book when I read it back in spring. What I didn't know then was how much more meaning it would have for me by the end of the year. In the past six months two family members have faced cancer, my Grandma is sadly no longer with us, my treasured mum is fighting it. I've looked back at this book over the past few months with fresh eyes and I try and carry the book's positivity with me during these difficult times.

It Started with a Tweet by Anna Bell (Review)
One of my favourite authors for delivering my kind of book each and every time. This book felt like a much needed digital detox in itself!

1. Anything from the Kinney Brothers book series from Kelsey Kingsley. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I will never say no to Last Chance to Fall. (Review)
2. The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club by Holly Tierney-Bedord. There are so many twists and turns to this story, it was a fun read! (Review)
3. I appreciated the unique story line to One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk. A little bit of My Fair Lady, mixed in with She's All That, with a twist. (Review)
4. In a Jam by Cindy Dorminy. I loved the characters and the small-town nostalgia, along with the remarkable friendships formed. (Review)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

End of the year book giveaway

We're keeping it pretty simple here....we have some books to give away and you just have to enter via our Rafflecopter. Print copies are US only, but if you are outside of the US and win, we'll send some e-books your way.

Thanks for a great year, all because of your enthusiasm and participation. We love sharing our love for books with all of you!

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 1st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Chick Lit Cheerleader: What a year!

Introduction by Melissa Amster

One of the things that made me really happy in 2018 was that our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, moved to my neck of the woods. We're now an hour away as opposed to 11 hours away! We got together last week with our families for a fun afternoon of bowling and Chinese food. What more could two chick lit lovers ask for?!? I hope that we will get together many more times in 2019 and beyond... Next time, we'll be hanging out in "The Jam." (Jen knows what that means.)

Jen is here today to tell us what made her happy this year. 

Where in the world did 2018 go? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s so true that as my years fly by they’re travelling at warp speed. Yet the irony is that I really don’t want time to slow down. I love my memories and experiences, and I also like where life has me right now. The bumps and bruises, the highs and lows, and even the praises and preposterous markers we encounter in life make us who we are at this very moment. Plus, I don’t have the skills or technology to turn back time, so I’d rather focus on the sweetness than the suck-y-ness on any given day.

Here’s my short but sweet list of getting happy in 2018. Please, hold your applause until the end…

Jen’s Top 5 Happy Moments of 2018
(These are in no particular order…as far as you know)

  1. My jeans from last year still fit after a long Maryland summer in shorts! Can I get a hallelujah?!
  2. Mike, my beloved, and I re-binged the series Breaking Bad and it had a different ending. At the end, everyone lived happily ever after and Marie broke up with the color purple, replacing it with pink shades of “blush” and “bashful.” No—wait—that’s Steel Magnolias. Never mind.
  3. I have discovered that gin doesn’t taste like Pine-Sol when combined with the correct ratio of tonic water and a squeeze of lime. This was life changing, friends. And it took me twenty-five years of being married to a bartender to find this truth. Things that make you go hmmmmm.
  4. Three months is the longest Mike and I have been separated from our nineteen-year-old college sophomore, Ryan, since he entered our lives. I burst into tears as Ryan and I embraced amongst Thanksgiving travelers in the baggage claim area at BWI airport. His visit was short, yet so very sweet. And now he’s home for Christmas. He packed only a duffle bag containing, mostly, his PlayStation 4 paraphernalia. This is how college men pack for three weeks at home. God, I love that guy.
  5. I’ve happily learned I’m not too old for adventure. Like moving to the east coast with four-fifths of Team Tucker. Most mornings, I awake to deer foraging in our backyard and that doesn’t suck. I only live a short road-trip from so many friends that were once too far away to see often. That my Midwestern crew, who are now father in distance, are but a quick text or inappropriate meme away. This is the truth that sticks with me: no matter where you go in this world, your love for others goes with you.

On behalf of the entire CLC family, I want to wish you and yours only the best in 2019. May peace and joy surround you and your loved ones.


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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Book Review: Game of Pies

By Jami Deise

Romeo-and-Juliet type stories have been popular since… well, since before Romeo and Juliet, because everyone knows the Bard got his material from other sources. There’s just something so poignant about lovers who can’t be together because of their families, whether the source of conflict is religion, land, football allegiances, or baked goods.

Of course, a pie is never really just a pie, is it?

Prolific indie author Heather Wardell’s latest offering, Game of Pies, combines the classic Romeo-and-Juliet structure with Game of Thrones type machinations, and plenty of ingredients. (There are even fraternal twins, though thank God no twincest.) Thirty-somethings Kyle and Brittany have just moved in together, and when they throw their first family dinner party, they learn that their grandmothers have been feuding for sixty years. Their venue of choice: A pie-baking contest. Not the warm-and-fuzzy type, the grandmothers demand that Kyle and Brit beat them in the contest if they want to be together. Both loyal to their respective matriarchs, they give in… and then begin to doubt their loyalty to each other.

Although at first I had trouble getting into the book (the first chapter is crowded with too many characters and too much back story), as the story progressed, it became more intriguing. Narrated in first person by Brittany, she’s a likeable character who naturally sees the best in her own grandmother, Marilyn. When Brit learns that Kyle’s grandmother, Virginia, married Marilyn’s boyfriend Gary, it seems obvious who is the villain and who is the victim in the long-ago story.
Or is it?

As Brit and Kyle try (and don’t always succeed) to avoid becoming pawns in their grandmothers’ elaborate chess game, Wardell alternates these present-day chapters with sections from the past that detail the women’s teenage friendship and how it was derailed by their mutual crush on Gary. While I liked Brit a lot, I loved these chapters from the 1960s. The juxtaposition of today’s contemporary attitudes toward sex and women, to the mid-century mindset where women had no hope of a future better than a good marriage and their virginity was a prized possession, elevated this book from chick lit to social commentary. I would have liked to have seen even more from the grandmothers’ past – specifically, Virginia, who lost her only child in a car accident and ended up raising her daughter’s twins from babyhood. With the focus on the love triangle and the mutual dislike for each other’s grandchild, the grandmothers come across a bit one-dimensional.

While I read several of Wardell’s earlier books that focused on a reality TV competition and its effect on the participants, I’m a stranger to her current series of loosely interconnected novels, which she calls the Toronto Collection. As a writer myself, I’m bowled over by Wardell’s prodigious output. Indie writers gain a following by pumping out books like a machine, but she never sacrifices plot or character development for speed.

I thought Game of Pies would be a nice detour from my usual diet of psychological thrillers, but instead it was a good reminder that beneath the heart of every romantic comedy lies a spine of intrigue. When a couple is thwarted a happy ending, the consequences can reverberate for generations.

Thanks to Heather Wardell for the book in exchange for an honest review. Pre-order Game of Pies for only 99 cents on Kindle!

More by Heather Wardell:

Friday, December 21, 2018

What's in the mail

Girls' Night Out by/from Glynis Astie (e-book) and a set of shot glasses, won from O.D. Book Reviews
Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
California Girls by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (e-book via NetGalley)
There's More Than One Way Home and He Could Be Another Bill Gates by Donna Levin from Chickadee Prince Books (won from Thoughts on This 'n That)
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms from Kathleen Carter Communications
A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields from Lake Union
In Another Time by Jillian Cantor from GetRed PR
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Woman 99 by Greer MacAllister from Sourcebooks (e-book via NetGalley)
Half of What You Hear by Kristyn Kusek Lewis from HarperCollins
Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert from Gallery
Beshert by/from Erin Gordon (e-book)
More Than Words by Jill Santopolo from Putnam (e-book via NetGalley)
The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes from Penguin

The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live by Christie Grotheim from Big Sister Productions (e-book)

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly from Sourcebooks (e-book via NetGalley)
The Missing Years by Lexie Elliot from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Kristyn Kusek Lewis' Top 5 of a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kristyn Kusek Lewis at CLC today to tell us about her happiest moments in 2018. Her latest novel, Half of What You Hear publishes at the end of this month and thanks to HarperCollins, we have TWO copies to give away!

Kristyn Kusek Lewis is the author of Save Me and How Lucky You Are. A former magazine editor at Glamour and Child, Kristyn has been writing for national publications for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared in the New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Real Simple; Reader's Digest; Glamour; Self; Redbook; Cosmopolitan; Marie Claire; Parents; Allure; Good Housekeeping; Cooking Light; Health; Men's Health; the New York Daily News; and many more. Kristyn is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA in creative writing. She lives in the Washington DC area with her family.

Visit Kristyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

From well-loved women’s fiction writer Kristyn Kusek Lewis comes a breakout novel about a woman moving to a small community and uncovering the many secrets that hide behind closed doors—perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Elin Hilderbrand.

Greyhill, Virginia—refuge of old money, old mansions, and old-fashioned ideas about who belongs and who doesn’t—just got a few new residents. When Bess Warner arrives in town with her husband Cole and their kids, she thinks she knows what to expect. Sure, moving to Cole’s small hometown means she’ll have to live across the street from her mother-in-law, and yes, there’s going to be a lot to learn as they take over Cole’s family’s inn-keeping business, but Bess believes it will be the perfect escape from Washington. She needs it to be. After losing her White House job under a cloud of scandal, she hardly knows who she is anymore.

But Bess quickly discovers that fitting in is easier said than done. Instead of the simpler life she’d banked on, she finds herself preoccupied by barbed questions from gossipy locals and her own worries over how her twins are acclimating at the town’s elite private school. When the opportunity to write an article for the Washington Post’s lifestyle supplement falls into Bess’s lap, she thinks it might finally be her opportunity to find her footing here…even if the subject of the piece is Greyhill’s most notorious resident.

Susannah “Cricket” Lane, fruit of the town’s deepest-rooted family tree, is a special sort of outsider, having just returned to Greyhill from New York after a decades-long hiatus. The long absence has always been the subject of suspicion, not that the eccentric Susannah cares what anyone thinks; as a matter of fact, she seems bent on antagonizing as many people as possible. But is Susannah being sincere with Bess—or is she using their strangely intense interview sessions for her to further an agenda that includes peeling back the layers of Greyhill’s darkest secrets?

As Bess discovers unsettling truths about Susannah and Greyhill at large, ones that bring her into the secrets of prior generations, she begins to learn how difficult it is to start over in a town that runs on talk, and that sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to uncover what everyone around you is hiding....

(Bio and synopsis are courtesy of Amazon.)

Five Happy Things that Happened in 2018

1. My third book, HALF OF WHAT YOU HEAR, is receiving lovely reviews prior to its New Year’s Eve release!
With just a couple of weeks to go until my new novel comes out, I’m finding it difficult to think of almost anything else! I’ve been thrilled that the book has received lovely early reviews. Kirkus Reviews called it, “Perfect for fans of Big Little Lies.” (!!) And InStyle magazine said, “Detox from the holidays with this novel of a small and well-to-do Virginia town, its meddlesome residents, and the decades of secrets within its walls.” This story is an escape with a capital-E and I am so excited to share it with readers!

2. We added a sweet Golden Retriever puppy to our family.
We are big dog people in our house, and were so excited to bring home Rosie, our sweet Golden Retriever puppy, at the start of the year. She joins our four-year-old mutt, and the two of them keep me company while I write, often even squeezing under my desk while I’m working.

3. I found inspiration in unlikely places.
Like the gym! I’m a lifelong runner, a practice that is essential given how much time I spend sitting at my desk. Running clears my mind like nothing else does, and often helps me untangle a tricky plot detail when I’m working on a story. But this year, inspired by a friend, I joined a strength-training gym that has pushed me physically and led to several new friendships. The bonus: I get lots of story ideas from the women I chat with during class.

4. I had an excellent reading year.
I read so many good books this year--Michelle Obama’s memoir, Curtis Sittenfeld’s story collection, Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away, as well as tons of new releases by writer friends, including Susie Orman Schnall’s The Subway Girls, Jamie Brenner’s The Forever Summer, Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amelie, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke’s Girls’ Night Out, and so many others.

5. I spent lots of time in libraries.
At the beginning of 2018, I volunteered weekly at my kids’ elementary school library. For a book lover, there is nothing quite as fun and encouraging as watching kids get excited about books. The experience even inspired one of my 2019 projects: My first children’s book! I also took advantage of my local public library, checking out dozens of books and attending author talks. Libraries have so much to offer, they’re the true cornerstones of our communities, and I feel so lucky to have an excellent library system where I live.

Thanks to Kristyn for visiting with us and to HarperCollins 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 December 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Book Review: Dear Santa

By Sara Steven

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s "Dear Santa" letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on "Dear Santa" is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Reminiscent of You’ve Got Mail with a Sleepless in Seattle twist, Dear Santa was the perfect sweet holiday read, providing just the right mix of trouble and romance. As mentioned in the synopsis, Angela runs the local holiday store, a store that has been in her family for generations. When a mega-chain moves into town, it threatens her livelihood and everything she stands for. Christmas Galore felt like a Walmart-type one stop shop with all things holiday and beyond, while Angela’s Heart of Christmas could certainly be categorized as unique boutique. Given time, people will find a reason to seek out the store that offers discounts and savings, even though it might mean sacrificing quality.

The reaction Angela has when dealing with the possibility of having to close her family’s store was perfection. It was also infuriating how Geoff stands by his mantra of, “business is business”. I was right there in the mix of the fights and disagreements the two characters share, while deep down there is a mutual respect they have for one another, lending into potential romantic vibes and feelings. You get the sense that it all would have worked out, if not for this one large obstacle, ultimately giving us that “wanting what you can’t have” scenario.

The "Dear Santa" letters were great. Not just the ones from Angela to Geoff, (unbeknownst to her), but the ones from random children. Many are showcased, adding a nice holiday touch. You want to be angry with Geoff, given what Angela goes through in trying to save her business. But, it’s hard not to like him just a little, when he picks up on his mother’s wishes to answer the letters. It was nice to see a man who holds up his end of the family bargain, giving us another look at who Geoff really is, even if it’s completely the opposite of what Angela assumes him to be.

I appreciated the “what’s going to happen” aspect in Dear Santa. Will Angela save her business? Will she and Geoff become more than frenemies? Will his mother be okay, and what is her tie to Pleasant Sands, anyway? It’s what made this a real page turner, and very enjoyable.

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

More by Nancy Naigle:

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Linda Smolkin’s Top 5 of 2018…plus a book giveaway!

We’re pleased to have Linda Smolkin join us at CLC to tell us her top five happy moments of 2018. Her latest novel, The Secret We Lost, was published in September and, thanks to the author, we have five signed ARCs to give away!

Linda always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. By day, she writes articles, ads, email campaigns, scripts, and website and social media content. At night, Linda works on her novels and there’s usually chocolate (and sometimes wine) involved. When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her neighbors. Her debut novel, Among the Branded, was published in May 2017, and her second book, The Secret We Lost, released in September 2018.

Visit Linda online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

Three generations. One secret. A life-changing twist of fate.

It’s 1993 in Washington, DC, and Elsa Kartchner isn’t getting any younger. But the passage of time is the last thing on her mind. Instead, she’s focused on her free-spirited daughter, Laura, who’s about to leave for a year-long trip to Russia.

To cope, Elsa devours Laura’s letters from St. Petersburg and indulges in chocolate she keeps in her nightstand. But her stash of sweets isn’t the only thing she’s hiding. That’s because Elsa and her mother Millie have a complicated past. A buried secret haunts them both, and Elsa must decide whether to tell Laura. Fearing that Laura may discover the secret when she returns, Elsa wants to confess. She travels to Russia hoping for acceptance, but while there, gets a surprise of her own.

In THE SECRET WE LOST, love and redemption vie for attention against an intercontinental backdrop, as Elsa struggles with the truth. This moving family saga is the second novel by Linda Smolkin, whose debut AMONG THE BRANDED was called a “fascinating novel that will keep readers hooked” by San Francisco Book Review.

Five Happy Things that Happened to Me in 2018

1. My son started his first year of college.
Friends (and even strangers) told me that I'd feel sad sending him off and seeing him leave home. Some even teased that I'd weep. But that wasn't the case at all. I haven't shed one tear. In fact, I couldn’t be happier—because I'm so happy for him and this new chapter in his life. Or maybe it’s because I don’t miss hearing him say there's no food in the house (even though I’d just gone shopping the day before)!

2. My second novel was published.
After years in the making (or writing and editing I should say), my second novel, THE SECRET WE LOST, was released. It has been a long road, but it's a great feeling to be able to share my story and characters with book lovers near and far.

3. I started traveling more.
I started planning more trips this past year, even before my son left the nest. I've been visiting friends and going to new places or cities I haven’t visited in a long time. It's great to just get in the car, put on your favorite playlist, and drive while singing at the top of your lungs. (Yeah, that was probably me that you heard. And yes, I should probably sign up for some singing lessons.)

4. I was able to meet a wonderful author that I've followed for a long time on social media.
While I was in Miami in November, I had lunch with novelist Rochelle B. Weinstein. I adore her and her books. She has always been so nice and has given me advice when I was on the fence about some career-wise stuff. She's just as nice in person as she is virtually!

5. I went to an event I’ve dreamed of attending for years.
For ten years, I've been listening to Jew Rock Marathon on DC101, my local rock station. Jew Rock Marathon is an event hosted by the station during Hanukkah. They play rock music by Jewish musicians, serve delicious food, and have special guests. All these years, while listening at home, I’ve thought, “wouldn’t it be great to actually be at the studio.” This year, I had the chance and even got to chat with my favorite DJ on air (and shamelessly plug my books when he asked about them). It’s definitely a highlight of my year and a day to remember!

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

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Giveaway ends December 25th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: An Anonymous Girl

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Melissa Amster:

I've always been a fan of Sarah Pekkanen's writing and have enjoyed seeing her foray into psychological thrillers by partnering with Greer Hendricks. Since I couldn't put down The Wife Between Us, I was excited to read An Anonymous Girl. Their sophomore novel did not disappoint and it was even better than their debut!

The story had me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing the whole time. There is an element of mystery and many surprises along the way. The fact that Dr. Shields narrates part of the story adds to its intrigue.I felt a kinship with Jessica, even though she is a lot younger than I am. Her answers to the questions were interesting and it made me wonder what I'd say when faced with the same kinds of questions.

My only concern was that the ending felt a bit anticlimactic after all the buildup. However, it was still good and resolved some of the problems that were brought up throughout the story.

Sarah and Greer are a great writing team and I look forward to many more thrillers from them.

Movie casting suggestions:
Jessica: Lorenza Izzo
Thomas: Michiel Huisman
Lydia: Rebecca Ferguson
Noah: Scott Eastwood
Lizzie: Lucy Hale

Jami Deise:

Like Melissa, I’ve been a fan of Sarah Pekkanen’s since her first book, drawn by the Montgomery County connection and support of women’s fiction. While I really enjoyed her first collaboration with Greer Hendricks, The Wife Between Us, I think the pair really hits it out of the park with An Anonymous Girl. I read many offerings in the domestic thriller genre, and Girl stands out with its originality, characterization, and tight plotting.

The story is told in alternating parts from Jessica and Dr. Shields’s points of view. Right away, Jessica signs up for the study under false pretenses, and as she answers questions about sex, lies, and betrayal, the reader can’t help but answer those questions for herself. While Jessica is nearly an open book to the reader (she has a secret about her sister’s brain injury that comes as no surprise when it’s revealed), Dr. Shields is much more of an enigma. Her manipulation of Jessica is a masterclass in puppetry. The therapist’s true agenda is revealed slowly and carefully; while I first questioned her logic, as the novel progressed it became obvious why she did everything exactly as she did it. At the same time, Jessica is no angel… but her portrayal is so well-rounded and human, the reader roots for her even as she behaves selfishly and makes mistakes.

The ending is a masterpiece, bringing together all the elements of the story and revealing just how much Jessica has learned from Dr. Shields. While there is a tiny nagging plot hole that occurs late in the story, overall the climax feels completely earned and totally justified.

While An Anonymous Girl will appeal to thriller fans, it will also find common ground with viewers of the NBC sitcom, The Good Place. Even though the former is a mystery and the latter a comedy, both works deal with the deeper questions of morality, ethics, and what humans owe other humans. Sometimes these questions inspire people to try to be better. In other cases, it gives them the tools to wreak havoc.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for a lucky reader!

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

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Giveaway ends December 23rd at midnight EST.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kim Gruenenfelder's Top Five of a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kim Gruenenfelder back at CLC to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Hangovers & Hot Flashes. She's here to tell us what made her happy this past year and she has one copy of her book to share with a lucky reader.

Kim Gruenenfelder lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son, and continues to avoid anything even remotely resembling a real job. Her acclaimed debut novel, A Total Waste of Makeup, has been published in six languages and eight international editions to date. In addition to her other published novels, A Total Waste of Makeup, Misery Loves Cabernet, There’s Cake In My Future, Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink, and Love the Wine You’re With, she has written feature films, episodic teleplays and two stage plays.

Kim also created the word “eciah” (featured in Love the Wine You’re With), and is the founder and curator of the website Kim loves her fans and readers, who can contact her at her website, as well as follow her through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (Bio courtesy of Kim's website.)

Michelle, Zoe and Alexis are friends who have one thing in common. They are all in their 40s and all wondering the same thing: “Now what?”

Zoe, the mother of 17 year-old twins about to abandon her for college, misses the romance of her twenties, and desperately wants just one more first kiss. Thinking outside the box, she convinces her husband Carlos to embark on an open marriage. Which leads to a new set of problems and questions: How does she pick a “non-skeevy” swinger’s club, do men of a certain age even want sex with no strings attached, and does ordering a glass of Syrah these days really signal to would be suitors that you just want to f*@# them in their car? Most importantly, will getting to be with someone else help or hurt her marriage? And if that someone else is an ex who effortlessly morphs into a fantasy man who says and does all the right things, how does Zoe choose between the life she has and the road not taken?

Michelle has made it her routine on her way home to stop one block from her house, park, stare into space, and dread the next few hours of her life. She’s tired of juggling her very full time job as a real estate agent with the full time job of parenting two kids (without much help). She and her husband Steve have not had sex in over a year. Michelle doesn’t have a road not taken, but she’s at a fork in that road. Does she take the easy path, and spend the rest of her life with a man she loves but no longer likes? Or go the hard route: Divorce. Living life with one income, single parenting, lonely Thanksgivings, and kids who may never forgive you. And how does a girl start dating again when all the rules have changed since she took herself off the market years ago?

Alexis is the self-made multi-millionaire we all aspire to be. She’s the creator of a slew of hit TV shows and the head of a wildly successful production company. She’s got the dream car, the stunning house on the beach in Malibu, the black AmEx. Everything is going exactly according to plan, and there’s a lot to be happy about. But she also has Connor, her on-again/off-again boyfriend of twelve years. Plus she’s going through early menopause, and now wonders how she forgot to have kids. Her life plan is suddenly thrown into further disarray when Connor shows up with a stray dog, which he leaves with her. Which is just the beginning, as that mangy mutt leads to a teenaged dog walker, a middle-aged widower, and her Sunday morning brunches possibly being replaced by church.So what do you do when nothing in your life is working the way you saw it in your head, and the unplanned life might make you happier?

Knowing their girlfriends will always have their backs, Michelle, Zoe and Alexis confront their new realities with honesty and humor, while trying to find happiness amidst hangovers and hot flashes.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Top Five Favorite Moments of 2018

1. Going to New York for a long weekend to see the 50th anniversary production of Boys in the Band.
I had seen the movie adaptation of the play with my mother as a kid, and it deeply changed the way I saw the world at that time. The cast included Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer, and was one of the most superbly acted plays I have ever seen. Which was certainly part of what made it a top five moment. But when I gave it some thought for this essay, I realized my top moment really came from the decision to go. I desperately wanted to go, and wanted my husband and son to see the play. But it was in New York, and we live in Los Angeles. And it seemed like a ridiculous waste of time and money to fly out for just three days. But then I realized, “Why is it a ridiculous waste of time and money? This is really important to me, and it’s an opportunity I will never get again.” And sometimes you have to follow what your heart tells you to do, and not your head. Not always, not every day, but occasionally. Because life is too short to always play it safe.

And then, if you’re really lucky, your son will walk out of the theater and say, “I want to direct that play when I get older. That was amazing.” And all will be happy in your world.

2. Watching my son play the lead in a Shakespeare play.

My son Alex played Bottom in his high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier this year. And you would think, “Three hours of high-schoolers botching Shakespeare?” (Or at least that was what I thought before I saw it.) But his school specializes in the arts, and many of the kids have parents who are professional actors. They’re really good. More than a bunch of 16 and 17 year-olds have any right to be.

My exact favorite moment came not when Alex was on jumping stilts as ‘donkey Bottom’, although that’s a very funny and probably the most famous scene. But the moment that really hit me was when he popped his head out of the curtain as ‘actor Bottom’ performing for the Duke. And he commanded the room.

And if I had never been a parent, I would have never had that moment.

As anyone who is a parent knows, it can be hard, expensive, so so constant, and you’re frequently not sure if you’re doing it right. Plus, it doesn’t look anything like you thought it would. My first inkling of this was when we were trying to get pregnant, and I imagined having a little girl I could shop with, and dress in frilly pretty clothes. Instead, I got a boy. A really awesome boy, but one who, when I dragged him to the Bloomingdale's Home Store to shop for a wedding gift, spent the entire time glued to his phone. At some point, after giving him the pluses and minuses of buying a place setting of formal china vs. a collection of super soft towels, I muttered in exasperation, “Can you please give me your opinion?!” And he looked up from his phone to say pleasantly, “Oh. Whichever one will get us out of here the fastest.” Frilly clothes? He wears combat boots, black jeans, and a combination his father’s old concert T-shirts from 80s rock bands and current concert T shirts from Green Day, Queen and Metallica.

So, it didn’t look how I thought it would look. And what a gift. Because, man, I frequently watch that kid do stuff I could never do, and I am constantly in awe. My dream could have never included watching my son do Shakespeare (my favorite author of all time), but only because I didn’t dream big enough.

3. Seeing the galleys (which are the printed books sent ahead of time to give you one final chance to make corrections) of Hangovers and Hot Flashes for the first time.

Those of you who have read me know I write romantic comedy novels about women who are around thirty. And I have fun doing it, and am proud of my work. But Hangovers was a creative departure from my previous five books. The characters are all in their mid-forties, and they are dealing with totally different problems from characters in my other books. I still write about dating, and I’d like to think I’m still funny, but I was trying to do something a little more soul searching this time around.
When I first pitched the idea, several editors told me not to write the book. I heard, “Women in their forties don’t buy books.” And/or, “Women in their forties will buy a book about women in their twenties, but women in their twenties won’t buy a book about women in their forties.” I was warned spending a few years writing it was financial suicide.

Then one night I was talking to my agent, Kim Whalen, about what I really wanted to write next, and I told her all about the characters in my head and the challenges they would face, and she smiled and said, “Do it!” I then described the scene where Alexis talks about early menopause and she burst out laughing.

So I spent a few years writing something totally new. And the book might very well be financial suicide – it just came out December 11th, so I don’t know yet. But my #3 moment is similar to moment 1 in that I let my heart guide this one. And rarely has my heart made the wrong decision.

4. Writing a chapter about Charlie and Drew: two of my characters from A Total Waste of Makeup and Misery Loves Cabernet.

Okay – there’s kind a weird story behind this. So a writer friend of mine asks me about my mailing list, and I say, “I don’t have a mailing list.” and she has a hissy fit. It is quickly decided by a table of women writers that I need a mailing list. I ask how I should compile one. My friend Quinn suggests I put on all of my social media that I am compiling a list, and that anyone who agrees to go on the list can vote for 2 characters for me to write about, and I’ll write a free scene to show what they’re up to these days. Over 90% chose Drew and Charlie (which is interesting because they are from books that are over 10 years old, and Drew isn’t even a main character.)

Misery Loves Cabernet ended Thanksgiving night, so I started the chapter very early the next morning as Charlie opens the door to her boss Drew (a movie star) inexplicably dressed in a tuxedo. I had no idea why I wrote him like that, but had faith he would let me know within the hour why he was dressed that way. And he did.

Within a few hours, I had written Chapter One of what could be a third in the series. It turned out, I had missed these two, and I spent my evening after my writing day kind of floating on air. The next day, I cleaned the chapter up a little and sent it off.

And got fan mail! And several people asking if I was writing a third in the series. So I started writing more, and even wrote my ending to the book (just the last paragraph). Now – I have since been distracted with Hangovers and another little non fiction project, so I haven’t given it my full attention, but I’m kind of digging the idea of continuing with Charlie’s journey. And, after so many years of being the insecure writer wondering if anyone out there even really likes my work, reading that fan mail was absolutely my top moment #4.

(By the way, if you want to catch up with Drew and Charlie and get on my mailing list, I’m at

5. Tyra Banks saying to me, “You get it, because you’re skinny like me.”

Okay, I know, that’s a ridiculously shallow top five moment. But when a former “Sports Illustrated” cover model tells you that you look like her in any way, shape or form, that’s a topfive. It just is.
I’m kidding. Kind of. Tyra was actually in the middle of telling me a story and when she said that, I put up my index finger and said, “Hold that thought. I have to text my husband to tell him a Victoria’s Secret Angel just said I was skinny like her.” Then I typed, hit send, looked up at her and said, “Okay, go.” And she finished her story.

I directed her and her mother Carolyn earlier this year when they recorded Perfect is Boring, a light, empowering, nonfiction book I highly recommend for teen and tween girls. The first time Tyra walked into the studio she wore sweats and no makeup, and she was so ridiculously stunning that I thought a little jealously, “What? Did God give with both hands, both feet and an ear?” But then I started talking to her, and it was like we had been friends since college. She is one of the most supportive, loving, “girl power” women I have met in a long time. During lunches and breaks, we’d talk about parenting, dating, eating (we shared 4 desserts on our last day together, how much do I love this woman?) and modeling. Okay, I did not talk about modeling. I listened. But I learned how to take a selfie and that I should get my hair out of a ponytail more often. I guess I could say my top five moment was the reminder that successful women don’t need to compete with each other.

Nope. “Skinny like me”. Still Number Five. Just let me have this one.

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

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Giveaway ends December 18th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: For Better and Worse

By Jami Deise

Have you ever been angry enough to want to kill someone? Have you ever wondered if you had what it takes to actually do it? How you would plan it out? Whether you’d be able to get away with it? I think most of us have at one point or another in our lives. (I really hope it’s not just me!)

For Better and Worse, author Margot Hunt’s follow-up to her psychological thriller Best Friends Forever (reviewed here), answers that question head-on.

Seventeen years ago, law students Will and Natalie talked abstractly about whether they could get away with murder. Now married with an eleven-year-old son, Charlie, Natalie is a hard-charging defense attorney obsessed with calendars and to-do lists, while Will sleepwalks through his job as an estate lawyer while having an affair with a married colleague. Then someone hurts Charlie, and the couple’s long-ago rhetorical conversation suddenly becomes a real one.

Hunt has a very direct writing style – she doesn’t waste time with a lot of poetic description or flowery language, which I appreciate. The book is told alternatively from Will and Natalie’s points of view, and seeing how the couple views each other and how that differs from their own internal picture of themselves was part of the fun of the book. It’s so well-plotted, I could easily see it as a movie.

While I didn’t like the ending, the epilogue was tantalizing, opening up more questions about the nature of killing. If someone plots out a murder – even if the victim deserves it – what does that say about the killer?

But the biggest dilemma of all seems to be that if you’re going to kill someone, make sure your partner in crime is up to snuff.

I look forward to reading more psychological thrillers from Hunt.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! Visit the other stops on Margot's tour.

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Giveaway ends December 17th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Spotlight: Moonlight on the Thames

Worlds collide when two strangers meet at Waterloo station. It's a moment they'll never forget. Perfect for the fans of Milly Johnson.

Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright.

Nicola is a rising star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has lost its allure, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is just about the last straw...

Dmitri loves conducting his pop-up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist.

Can their hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Kobo * Ibooks * GooglePlay

Lauren Westwood writes romantic women's fiction, and is also an award-winning children's writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a persnickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.

Social Media Links:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads * Booktrail

Check out the playlist for Moonlight on the Thames (music plays a big part in the book).

Win TWO Signed copies of Moonlight on the Thames (UK Only)

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