Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: The Recipe Box

By Melissa Amster

Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.

When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life―including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.

As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

I have to be honest about something...when I read The Recipe Box back in January, I had a whole review in my head. Then life got in the way and I forgot to write it down. I knew I was going to post it here today, which is why I ended up procrastinating a bit on what to say. Having said that, this review will be much shorter than my reviews for The Hope Chest and The Charm Bracelet (the reviews are linked to the titles here). The good news is that I tried out a couple of the recipes and will be sharing my experiences here (and photos), as well!

Like its predecessors, The Recipe Box was a charming and enjoyable story. And also like those books, instead of charms or treasures telling the story, it was recipes this time around. I love how each recipe was tied to the characters' experiences and memories. In her other novels, Viola gave a preview of how she writes a good baking scene, so I knew I was in for a treat this time around. I could practically smell the food as it was baking. It was also easy to visualize not only the food, but also the characters and settings. The Mullins orchard gave off a cozy feel that enhanced the story even more. It made me think of when I would go to a quaint shopping village near my home where they had an apple store that made fresh cider donuts. Reading about the "misfits" (donuts that were not sell-able) took me back to the taste of those donuts from my childhood.

Since I read the previous two novels as audio books, I had Andi Arndt's voice in my head while I was reading this one in print. I couldn't wait for audio this time around (to get a review done by publication time), but I also learned that there's a different narrator for this book anyway.

Sam was a likable character and I also enjoyed reading about Willo a lot, as well. They had some meaningful moments together that made me think of how I bake with my kids and hope to pass a love for baking down to future generations.

I mentioned in my reviews of Viola's previous novels that the language gets to be too sappy. I felt the same way about this book, but I'm used to it by now and I still felt an emotional tug from the story anyway. I even got teary-eyed toward the end. I recommended it to a friend who needed something light and happy after two sad books.

Overall, The Recipe Box is a sweet and heartwarming story with delicious sounding recipes! I look forward to whatever Viola comes up with next, as I'm always up for a comfort read. (Side note: I guess this review ended up being longer than I was expecting!)

Dream cast:
Sam: Caitlin Thompson
Willo: Sharon Gless
Deana: Elisabeth Shue
Angelo: Carlos PenaVega

Recipes I tried:

Strawberry Shortcake: The dough was very sticky, so I had to add a lot of flour to get it just right. I also missed hearing the oven timer go off, so I may have left it in a few minutes longer, but it looked good coming out. I let the cakes stay covered overnight so I could have them the next evening with my family. The shortcakes came out a little harder than I was expecting, but they still tasted good with the strawberries and frosting. (I think the hardness was due to me adding extra flour to balance out the stickiness. I need to figure out a different way to work with it next time.) The cinnamon sugar enhanced the flavor, as well. This dessert was definitely a hit for my family.

Thumbprint cookies: Dough is extremely easy to make and work with. It can even be vegan if you substitute butter with margarine. I used strawberry jam and orange marmalade for the fillings (as that was all I had that I thought would taste good in these cookies). The frosting was a bit thick and I had to loosen it up a bit, but then it worked just fine, and it enhanced the flavor of the cookies. Everyone in my family enjoyed them.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away! I also have a copy of The Hope Chest to share with a lucky reader.

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

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Giveaway ends March 25th at midnight EST.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
See Her Run by Peggy Townsend from Thomas & Mercer
The Ever After by Sarah Pekkanen from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
*The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle from Shadow Mountain
All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire from Montlake Romance
The Forgotten Ones by Steena Holmes from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)

Girls' Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson from St. Martin's Press
*Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller from Gallery
The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel from Thomas Nelson (e-book via NetGalley)
Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie from Karan & Co (e-book via NetGalley)
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin from Ballantine
Summer on the River by Marcia Willet from Thomas Dunne
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman from Berkley
Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe from Gallery

*Enter to win these books!

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

The Big Job by/from Libby Kirsch (e-book)
Order Up by/from Barb Valentin (e-book)
Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Little Bird Publicity(e-book via NetGalley)

Book Review: Let Me Lie

By Jami Deise

Like most thriller fans, I began reading them at an early age. One of the first books I read in the genre was Mary Higgins Clark’s debut, Where Are the Children? Clark’s heroine, Nancy, had a husband who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge and leaving behind personal items. His body was never found. Even though I was only nine years old when I read the book, I wondered why everyone took at face value that Nancy’s husband was actually dead. There was no body. Couldn’t he have just faked his death?

British author Clare Mackintosh’s third book, Let Me Lie (read my reviews of her first two books, I Let You Go and I See You) solidifies her standing as a thriller writer worth following. However, a thriller writer must be careful not to fall into two traps: One, relying so strongly on what has worked in previous books to fool readers in the same way. And two, forgetting that thriller readers are quite savvy—definitely more savvy than thriller protagonists—and drawing out clues that readers will quickly pick up on. Like Where Are the Children?, Let Me Lie also features characters who commit suicide by jumping into the sea and leaving behind personal items but no actual bodies. And thriller fans—even nine-year-olds—will immediately wonder why no one questions whether the dead are actually dead.

Mackintosh’s protagonist is Anna Johnson. It’s her parents who separately committed suicide, seven months apart, by jumping off the same cliff. When the novel begins, it’s Christmastime, and around the first anniversary of Anna’s mother’s death. (She jumped second.) Anna has lived life at warp speed since then, moving into her parents’ house, trying to run her parents’ car dealership with her Uncle Billy, falling in love with the therapist she saw to get over her grief, and having a baby girl. Even with all the activity around her, the anniversary accentuates the grief and guilt Anna has been carrying around. And then, on the actual day, Anna opens the door to a card reading “Happy Anniversary! Suicide? Think again!”

It seems like a cruel joke, and I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Anna was being told that her mother had staged her death. But Anna thinks it’s murder. She takes the card to the police, and retired detective Murray Mackenzie—now manning the front desk—takes her case. He can’t do it officially, of course, since he’s retired, but he knows that if he refers it to a detective, it will be tossed in the circular file.

Anna and Murray are both point-of-view characters, along with Anna’s mother, who could be narrating from the great beyond, or not. It’s a slow start, with a lot of back story and characters – Anna’s boyfriend, her mother’s goddaughter, Uncle Billy, Murray’s personal life—and it took awhile for me to get into the story.

Then Murray proves his worth, and he begins to figure things out just as events start heating up for Anna. The pacing takes off, plot points start to click, and the story starts to work.

Mackintosh made a name for herself for pulling off one of the greatest twists in the genre in the past few years in I Let You Go. So as I read Let Me Lie, in the back of my mind I tried to figure out what this book’s twist could be, if any.

I thought I did. But I was wrong. Again, Mackintosh plays with the unspoken assumptions and expectations about gender. Her sleigh-of-hand is so careful, I didn’t realize what she’d done until the implications exploded across the page. In this case, the author didn’t fall into a trap of relying on previous tricks. She let her readers fall into it while she kept going.

Bravo, Ms. Mackintosh.

Let Me Lie has a bit of a slow start, and I honestly didn’t find Murray as compelling as the other (female) detectives in Mackintosh’s first two books. But stick with it. She’ll surprise you.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kate Rorick is in a good a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kate Rorick at CLC today to celebrate the upcoming publication of her latest (but first solo) novel, The Baby Plan. She's here to joke around with us during Humor month and William Morrow has one copy of her book to share with a lucky reader!

Emmy Award-winning writer Kate Rorick is the author of The Baby Plan for William Morrow. She is also a television writer and producer, most recently for TNT's The Librarians. In 2014, Kate wrote for the You-Tube internet sensation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and co-authored two books based on the series, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, and The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet.

In her vast spare time, she moonlights as the bestselling author of several historical romance novels written under the pseudonym Kate Noble.

Kate lives in Los Angeles with her family.

And yes, her hair is naturally curly.

Visit Kate online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Meet the mothers…

Nathalie Kneller: Nathalie’s plan: to announce her pregnancy now that she’s finally made it past twelve weeks! But just as she’s about to deliver (so to speak) the big news to her family, her scene-stealing sister barfs all over the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Yup, Lyndi’s pregnant too, swiping the spotlight once more…

Lyndi Kneller: Lyndi’s plan: finally get her life together! She’s got a new apartment, new promotion, new boyfriend. What she didn’t count on—a new baby! She can barely afford her rent, much less a state-of-the-art stroller…

Sophia Nunez: Sophia’s plan: Once she gets her daughter Maisey off to college, she’ll finally be able to enjoy life as make-up artist to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and girlfriend to one of rock’s hottest musicians. But after 18 years she discovers the stork is once again on its way…

Now these women are about to jump headlong into the world of modern day pregnancy. It’s a world of over the top gender reveal parties (with tacky cakes and fireworks); where every morsel you eat is scrutinized and discussed; where baby names are crowd-sourced and sonograms are Facebook-shared. And where nothing goes as planned...
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Funniest song you've heard
The state capitals song from Animaniacs. (Educational, too!)

What is your best celebrity impression (bonus if you have a video doing it)?
I do a decent Stewie Griffin from Family Guy and I will never, ever, ever have it committed to video.

Who is the funniest person you know (personally, not celebrity)?
My old boss John Rogers. He quit being a physicist to become a stand up comic so you hope he’s really good at the latter (or really bad at the former)

Who is the funniest celebrity, in your opinion?
I was going to say Amy Poehler in Parks and Rec was currently tied with Kristen Bell in The Good Place, but since Mike Schur created both shows I think a thimbleful of credit goes to him.

What classic Saturday Night Live skit/character is your favorite?
The Hillary Clinton/Sarah Palin sketch from the 2008 campaign is one of the most brilliant pieces of searingly feminist comedy we have ever been lucky to witness.

What is the funniest thing you own?
My complete collection of Eddie Izzard’s stand up specials on DVD. “Cake or Death!"

Thanks to Kate for the giggles and to William Morrow 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 March 20th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March and April 2018 Book Giveaway

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

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

 (Mini teasers/synopses are all courtesy of Amazon.)


This Bright Beauty by Emily Cavanagh (March 1st)

Franci and Lottie may be identical twins, but that’s where the similarities end. Franci has always been the stable one, while Lottie has bipolar disorder, constantly battling depression and mania. After years of taking care of her sister, Franci moves across the country to build a life for herself. Now, all the two share is distance.

*Thanks to Emily Cavanagh for the giveaway copy.

Husbands and Other Sharp Objects by Marilyn Simon Rothstein (March 6th)

After a lifetime of marriage, Marcy Hammer is ready to get herself unhitched—just as everyone else in her life is looking for a commitment. Her new boyfriend, Jon, wants to get serious, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Harvey, is desperate to get back together. When her headstrong daughter announces a secret engagement to Harvey’s attorney, Marcy finds herself planning her daughter’s wedding as she plans her own divorce.

*Thanks to Lake Union for the giveaway copy.

I'll Be Your Blue Sky by 
Marisa de los Santos (March 6th)

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in alternating voices,
I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

*Thanks to William Morrow for the giveaway copy.

The Neighbors 
by Hannah Mary McKinnon (March 13th)

Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in across the street—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

*Thanks to MIRA for the giveaway copy.


by Mandy Stadtmiller (April 3rd)

From the popular, “candid and bold, tender and tough” (Cheryl Strayed) dating columnist for New York magazine and the New York Post comes a whirlwind and “gutsy” (Courtney Love) memoir recounting countless failed romances and blackout nights, told with Mandy Stadtmiller’s unflinching candor and brilliant wit.

*Thanks to Gallery for the giveaway copy.

The Lemonade Year 
by Amy Willoughby-Burle (April 3rd)

As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.

*Thanks to Shadow Mountain for the giveaway copy.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (April 24th)

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

*Thanks to Atria for the giveaway copy.

The Opposite of Never 
by Mary Kathleen Mehuron (April 24th)

Devastated when they lose their spouses, both Kenny Simmons and Georgia Best carry on for the sake of their children, although they are certain that the best part of their lives is long over. Then Georgia and her lifelong companions, Linda and Yvonne, meet Kenny while walking down a dusty Vermont country road, and the four of them hit it off. Soon, Kenny becomes a regular part of their hiking group, and he and Georgia grow more than fond of each other.

*Thanks to SparkPress for the giveaway copy.

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

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Giveaway ends April 11th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Stephie Chapman is laughing out a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Recently, we were asked about celebrity crushes in the ChickLitChatHQ group. One answer that caught my eye was "David Duchovny," as I had a crush on him in college. I inquired as to whether the woman who posted it had heard the song about him. She hadn't, so I gladly shared it with her. Then we started chatting and I found out that she's a chick lit author. So, of course, I invited her for a friendly (and humorous) visit to CLC.

Meet Stephie Chapman, author of Getting Over Jesse Franklin and Jetplanes to Jupiter (which are part of a series). She has an e-book set of both for a lucky reader!

Stephie lives on the South Coast of the UK with her (some might erroneously say) long suffering husband, and two children. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found living the dream nine-to-five life, playing aforementioned four-stringed instruments (ukulele, bass), or catching up on a) Netflix or b) sleep.

She’s a big fan of the Oxford comma, has figured out the most perfect cast for if ever her books were made into movies (find me an author who hasn’t! I’ll wait.) and not so secretly fancies herself as a Joan Holloway, Donna Paulsen, and Hank Moody hybrid.

Visit Stephie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


What happens when you find your 90's boyband crush on Facebook, and then add him as a friend?

Back in the nineties Cassie loved Jesse. But he was the bass player in her favourite band and didn't even know she existed. Fourteen years on, the band has broken up and she's found him on Facebook, and it turns out that after finally meeting in London, he quite likes her, too. Things between them quickly intensify and Cassie and Jesse soon find themselves in a long distance relationship spanning five thousand miles.

Just as Cassie is beginning to think all her dreams have come true, she's reminded that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. But whilst she tries to piece her life back together in London, over in LA, Jesse is planning a way to win her back.
(Courtesy of Amazon)

*We're not sharing the synopsis of Jetplanes as there are spoilers for Getting Over Jesse Franklin.*

Most recent thing you laughed about:
Ahh, this is almost certainly one of those you-have-to-be-there things, but my side hustle to writing (ha) is that I work at a University. You might think a University would be a dry old place to work, but guys, you'd be wrong! There's a lot of innuendo. A LOT. So much so that I keep a book of all the accidentally smutty things my colleagues say. It's almost full. Sometimes, my BFF at work and I will have a giggle over some of the things people have said that we've put in the book.

Favorite funny meme:
Mary Poppins flying off holding her umbrella. Caption is "Screw this. I am done! I am so done."

Favorite comedy film:
It's super old, but I love Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. That last scene! No spoilers, but it's amazing. You absolutely realise they have been completely played, and so do they!

What is something that always makes you laugh no matter what?
There's a gif (that I shamelessly overuse on Twitter) of Steve Carell pulling a face. It sums up distaste for something perfectly. Very stupid, but it always makes me laugh.

What is the strangest thing you've ever laughed about?
Probably some of the odd stuff my husband comes out with. This morning, for instance, he'd just got out of the shower, and he was combing through his hair in our bedroom and legitimately checking himself out in the mirror. 'Yeah,' he said, 'I look like a proper Jedi!'

Just.... what?

He's a strange one.

What is the funniest thing you own?
The funniest thing I own? Hmm, Do my kids count? They are hilarious. A stream of comedy gold. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

Thanks to Stephie for all the laughs and for sharing her books with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends March 18th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: Degrees of Love

By Sara Steven

Like the shiny new BMW parked in the driveway of the Silicon Valley home she shares with her husband, Matt, and their two boys, Susan Sinclair exudes confidence and style. Newly promoted to a prestigious Senior Vice President position at her firm, Susan is the picture of personal and professional success.

Yet appearances are deceiving. With each advance in Susan’s career, Matt has grown more distant. But he refuses to admit there is a problem, and Susan, determined to give her boys the close-knit family life she never had, forces herself to play along.

Then she meets her new boss, Reese Kirkpatrick. She and Reese become a crackerjack team, but little by little, pleasure mixes with business. For the first time in a long time, Susan feels seen and appreciated for who she is.

In a moment of weakness, friendship becomes something more. Now, unable to stomach the fa├žade her marriage has become yet unwilling to decimate her family by moving forward with Reese, Susan faces a choice that could cost her everything—including her children . . . but possibly bring her more than she can dream. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

As the synopsis indicates, appearances are deceiving. Often, what we think we see, the image we’re given on someone’s relationship, a marriage, a family unit, is much more deeper than the first layer, the surface. For Susan, so much of her life is dictated by the appearance of her life, yet in reality, her marriage has been slowly unraveling for several years, a fact that she’s tried to keep hidden, in a sense, even from herself.

I really felt for the position she is in. She tries so hard to make it all work, because ultimately, she loves her husband, Matt. So much of Degrees of Love plays out like a deep internal struggle for doing what’s right, vs. doing what her heart tells her to do. I could appreciate that about her personality, that she wasn’t some tart who is out for a cheap thrill with her boss, Reese. Far from. And, above all else, she wants to keep the image of a happy, fulfilling life for her children, even if that means sacrificing her own happiness in order to protect the ones she loves.

I also appreciated the turmoil felt from all three major players in this story. It was genuine, a realistic response to being in a rather awkward and perplexing situation. How will Reese deal with the notion that he may never have Susan fully, that she’s always going to be tied to her family in a way that he won’t ever be able to penetrate? And, will Matt ever really come clean on why he treats Susan the way he does, and what would he do if he ever found out that she has forged a forbidden relationship with another man? And of course, the biggest question is, what will happen to Susan; her marriage, her relationship with Reese. What sort of life will she have going forward? This bruised and beaten love triangle was a chaotic mess with insane highs and lows, but that made it all the more interesting and real for me, because I always wanted to know what was going to happen next for all involved at every given moment.

Thanks to Lisa Slabach for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: The Hating Game

By Melissa Amster

I'm not a fan of Josh from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Josh from Younger, but with her debut novel The Hating Game, Sally Thorne creates a Josh who totally gets under my skin (in a good way).

Nemesis (n.) 
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I had been told by several friends that I needed to read this novel and that it was best as an audio book. So I decided to go for it and completely agree with their recommendation.

Like on the show Younger, this story takes place at a publishing company. That definitely caught my interest, as anything related to books usually does. I also liked the fact that Lucy grew up on a strawberry farm, which, along with her height, earns her the nickname "Shortcake." Somehow, it sounds sexy coming from Josh. Lucy collects Smurfs, which is something I did as a kid. (I still have my Smurf collection and sometimes my kids play with it.)

The tension between Lucy and Josh reminded me of You've Got Mail in some ways. I really liked all their scenes together. I don't want to say anything more as to not spoil where the story goes.

A few things didn't work for me so well, but it did not detract from my enjoyment. Some parts felt a bit slow and took away from the momentum of the story. I tended to zone out when that happened and was worried I missed something. However, the rest of the story made up for it, especially the steamy parts! Also, I wasn't sure where the story took place, in terms of city location. Unless I missed something? Finally, there were two characters named Elaine, which seemed a bit strange and unnecessary to me. Especially since they had similar personalities.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to The Hating Game. It was a fun and entertaining story and I really felt a kinship with Lucy. It was hard to believe this was a debut novel, as it was well-written and polished. Katie Schorr did a good job narrating, but I would have liked for more of a differentiation between male voices. She has a cute voice that worked well for Lucy and I was pleased to find out that she also narrates Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich. She can really make a steamy scene come to life!

Dream movie cast:
Lucy: Milana Vayntrub
Josh: Max Greenfield
Danny: Finn Jones
Elaine (Lucy's boss): Alex Meneses

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sally Hepworth is young at a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Sally Hepworth here during publication week for her fourth novel, The Family Next Door. Melissa A enjoyed it as much as she has enjoyed Sally's previous novels. (See her review.) Sally is here for a good laugh during Humor month and St. Martin's Press has TWO copies of her novel to give away!

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives (2015), The Things We Keep (2016) and The Mother's Promise (2017). Her books have been labeled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing.” Her novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 15 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. You can find her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby.

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Your online go-to source for humor:
The Fat Jewish

Favorite funny video
The BBC reporter who is photo-bombed by his two kids and wife during a live interview!

Favorite comedy film:
Love Actually or any British film. British humor is my favorite.

Funniest misunderstanding you've had with someone:
When the computer at my optometrist’s office changed my date of birth and thought I was 65 instead of 35. The receptionist kept telling me how good I looked for my age, and that it was “a miracle I hadn’t needed glasses before now.” When I explained that I was actually only 35, she merely looked back at the computer and said … “no, it says here you are 65.” There was really no convincing her.

Funniest book you've read:
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. This book had me snorting my tea. When I read it in bed I laughed so loud I had to move to the lounge room so I wouldn’t wake up my husband.

What is the strangest thing you've ever laughed about?
When a little old lady farted in the library and then, when she noticed that I’d heard it, swore me to secrecy.

Thanks to Sally for making us snort-laugh 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 March 13th at midnight EST

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Book Review: Hot Mess

By Jami Deise

Most of us who read or watch romantic comedies know the drill: We get a “girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy” story; we root for the couple to end up together and live happily ever after. But life today delivers a different type of love story, and as I read Emily Belden’s debut novel, Hot Mess, I rooted for the protagonist to dump her boyfriend and get on with her life without him.

Allie Simon is a 25 year-old living in Chicago, and in many ways, she’s emblematic of the millennial generation. She met her boyfriend on Twitter. She works in digital marketing. She lives in a 550 square foot apartment. In other ways, she isn’t—somehow she has managed to save thirty thousand dollars. But the biggest way Allie’s story feels ripe for the time is that her boyfriend, cyber-famous chef Benji Zane, is an addict. Although coke, not heroin, is Benji’s weakness, it’s not difficult to see their story as illustrative of every couple involved in a love triangle between two people and a mood-altering substance.

How does an otherwise intelligent, hard-working person end up in a relationship with an addict? Why does she believe his lies? What lies does she tell herself to justify staying with him? Because the story is told from Allie’s first-person perspective, readers get an up-close-and-personal look at her thought process. When we first meet Allie, she and Benji have been together for awhile, so we don’t get to experience the early part of their relationship as it unfolds. The opening scene is Allie running one of Benji’s sold-out “pop up” dining experiences. He’s a bad boy chef who can’t hold a real job, so he’s forced to cook in other people’s spaces, and she has to hold the money because otherwise it might go in his crack pipe. It’s a very long opening scene because Belden intersperses it with all the back story about Allie and Benji’s relationship, including information about Allie’s job, Allie’s best friends (whom she’ll casually blow off if something comes up with Benji, and pout for their attention if they are busy on a night when Benji is otherwise occupied), Allie’s parents. Belden has a strong, confident narrative voice, but that opening scene is so weighed down with all this back story that I originally thought Hot Mess was the second in a series, and she was bringing me up to speed with what happened in the first book. When I realized that wasn’t the case, I was tempted to give up on the book. (It’s also long for the genre, clocking in at over 400 pages.) But I’m glad I didn’t, because Belden hit her stride soon after, easily balancing present scenes with exposition and back story.

Complications ensue when Benji is offered a chance at part ownership in a new restaurant that will open on Chicago’s famed Randolph Street. Benji is so broke he’s spending his days on Allie’s couch, but Allie has that thirty grand in savings. She’s already risked her heart… will she risk all her money on Benji’s sobriety? As the book’s blurb reveals, Allie’s faith in Benji is misplaced. Once Benji relapses, Allie’s only option to recover her money is to go to work for the restaurant he abandoned.

At this point, the book stops being about Allie and Benji and starts being about all the minutiae involved in opening a restaurant. This “you are there” behind-the-scenes look is exhausting, but probably riveting for folks who like to watch shows like Vanderpump Rules or the latest Gordon Ramsay. As I’m not a foodie (my idea of gourmet is a high-level ice cream), I found my interest flagging during the latter half of the book, but I stuck around for the inevitable reunion with Benji. Will Allie learn her lesson, or does love conquer all, even with an addict? Of course addicts deserve love—everyone does—but what happens to those who love them?

For what it’s worth, I never felt Benji deserved Allie’s devotion, even when he was ostensibly clean. He was the star of their relationship, and she was expected to be the planet orbiting around him. The most telling fact of all: Benji refused to perform a sexual activity crucial to female enjoyment, and Allie accepted that because of his “sensitive chef taste buds.” Millennial women: Even more than addiction, this is a deal-breaker.

While Hot Mess might feel very timely due to its emphasis on life in cyberspace, addiction, and money issues, at its heart it’s a timeless story. Women, you are the center of your own life. Any man who sees you as second to him does not deserve to be part of it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on Emily's tour.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We've got a friend in Stacey a book giveaway

Today, Stacey Wiedower is here to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, How to Be Loved, which is the second book in her Fixer Upper Romantic Comedy series. To get you started, she has two e-book copies of the first book in the series, How to Look Happy, to give away!

Stacey Wiedower is a freelance journalist and USA Today-bestselling romantic comedy author. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband, also a writer, and a son who's inherited their overactive imaginations. She's here to talk about our theme for March...humor. Stacey is really funny, so she's the perfect person to kick off this theme month!

Visit Stacey online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Interior designer Quinn Cunningham has spent her life competing with her sisters, struggling with her weight, and breaking up with one jerk after another. She's currently at war with her mother, who wants nothing more than for Quinn to land a man and fall in line with her wealthy Southern family's traditional path of marriage, kids, spin class, and social climbing. But all Quinn really wants is to build a thriving career and make her own way.

When she lands an assignment to design a London townhouse for her boss's brother, Quinn is ecstatic to get out of her hometown of Memphis and embark on an exciting adventure outside the bounds of her mother's stifling social scene. As she learns the ropes in a new city and tackles the restoration of a stately old home, she meets a quirky fellow designer who pulls her easily—almost too easily—into her inner circle, along with not just one, but two hot British men with secrets she's dying to unravel. The question is, will transatlantic romance unravel her, or will love finally find a place alongside Quinn's ambition? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Most recent thing you laughed about:
My most recent laughs have come from re-watching the first few seasons of Friends for about the five millionth time! I pulled out the DVD box set recently to have on in the background while painting my living room, and I laughed just as hard as I did the first (or fifth, or fifteenth) time I watched it. And last weekend, I laughed because my best friend's husband was wearing a Friends T-shirt covered in funny lines from the show, and we all cracked up remembering which episodes and characters they came from. My best friend and I can quote episodes verbatim, WITH emphasis.

Favorite funny meme:
There are SO many ... how can I pick? But this? This is me.

Favorite sitcom
It's still Friends. Surprise, surprise!

Favorite comedian
I'm loving some Leslie Jones, who gets bonus points because she's from my city! So is Justin Timberlake, who's also one quite fine comedian (in more ways than one). I especially love J.T. when he hangs out with Jimmy Fallon.

Favorite joke (keep it clean :) )
George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey get together to make a movie.
Clooney says, "I'll direct."
DiCaprio says, "I'll act."
McConaughey says, "I'll write. I'll write. I'll write."

*snort laughs*

What is something that always makes you laugh no matter what?
This might sound silly, but my book club is flipping hilarious. Every month, I'm guaranteed a night of laughing, wine drinking and even a little book discussion. ;)

And, of course, Friends. Was that overkill?

Thanks to Stacey for cracking us up and sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends March 11th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: The Wake Up

By Sara Steven

Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

There’s a sleepy comfort to this story, set in a small town where everyone knows everyone. A vast setting filled with sprawling farmland and trees, horses idling within their stalls and cattle that roam pastures. The characters are just as ingrained into the setting, most who have lived their whole lives this way, cattle ranchers who have boots planted firmly on rich soil. It presented an important background to the struggle Aiden faces. His livelihood depends on the nature of his cattle business, a business that he could detach from completely, only now there’s no separating the way he feels from the way all living things feel when he’s around them. It’s as though they are one and the same.

A lot of mirroring occurs in The Wake Up, between many of the characters; what one feels they are in need of, they can find within the other, and vice versa. While Aiden deals with the ability to feel what others feel, Milo can’t feel a thing. In so many ways, the struggles this relationship suffers through, is what brings them closer together, and even with that, it’s terrifying for both. In order to feel he can move on with his life and find some way to balance out his newfound gift, he wants to be with Gwen. But it’s hard when Milo is the antithesis of everything Aiden stands for.

Something I’ve always appreciated about Catherine Ryan Hyde, is her ability to tackle difficult topics, and it’s done in such a way that is intricate and beautiful. My heart broke for Milo, for all those who deal with the fallout of what he’s been through, and I could also understand Aiden’s frustration. There was a particular scene, where Aiden and Milo have an altercation due to one of Aiden’s beloved animals, and I could feel the seething emotions, could sense the fear from both man and child. It was powerful moments like that one, that made The Wake Up such an intense and enjoyable read.

Thanks to Lake Union for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Catherine Ryan Hyde:

Friday, March 2, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
After Nightfall by A.J. Banner from Lake Union
The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews from St. Martin's Press
Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison from St. Martin's Press
Limelight by Amy Poeppel from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky from St. Martin's Press
The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller from Viking (e-book via NetGalley)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng from The Book Sage (won in a contest)
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James from Berkley
We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (e-book via Edelweiss)
The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland from St. Martin's Press
California Summer by Anita Hughes from St. Martin's Press
The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White from Berkley (paperback)
When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger from Simon & Schuster (e-book via Edelweiss)
The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker from Dutton (e-book via NetGalley)
Sold on a Monday by/from Kristina McMorris (e-book via NetGalley)

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews from Sphere
How to be Happy by Eva Woods from Sphere

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Review: One Night to Fall

By Sara Steven

To Kinsey McKenna, Patrick Kinney was a persistent glob of sticky peanut butter. He had been stuck to the roof of her mouth, since they were both three years old, when fate seemed to send his family next door to hers. All the way from the coast of Ireland to River Canyon, Connecticut.

Over twenty-nine years, fate has been both kind and cruel and many choices have been made. Can things go back to when they were more innocent and magical? Patrick has a plan and just one night to try and take back the reins of his destiny and put the wrong things right with a trip down memory lane. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

One of my favorite references from this novel pertains to the way Kinsey feels about Patrick. As though Patrick is like a glob of peanut butter stuck to the roof of her mouth. It’s when she says his name in its entirety; Patrick Kinney. Or, in her mind, ‘Patrickkinney’. One long word, one drawn out experience that she just can’t seem to get over or ignore and when she really thinks deep down about it, she doesn’t want to. It’s the strong connection between these two characters that really draws the reader into One Night to Fall.

There is a lot of hurt and anger behind their past. A lot of unspoken feelings that neither character wants to own up to, because of pride and fear, but they can’t forget the ties that bind them, the way their chance meeting felt like fate. There were many moments of give and take, push and pull that led to a plethora of build-ups that I never wanted to see come to fruition, but then again I did. I wanted to continue to be a greedy reader who could live within their indecision and ‘will I, won’t I’ mentality, because it meant not having to see the story come to an end.

Having read Holly Freakin’ Hughes (reviewed here), this is another great read from Kelsey Kingsley, I’m not at all surprised at how well-written and entertaining One Night to Fall has turned out to be. I really want to see what comes next, and I’m so glad this novel is #1 of the Kinney Brothers series. It will be interesting to read about the experiences that come from this boisterous group of individuals, while hopefully getting a little more on what has happened in Kinsey and Patrick’s lives, too.

Thanks to Kelsey Kingsley for the book in exchange for an honest review.