Thursday, May 31, 2018

Go-to-Gay: Hot and Cold

We're glad to have Go-to-Gay Keith Stewart back today to talk about food. He has an interesting relationship with the topic at hand, so we'll leave it in his hands for now. Prepare to laugh. A lot!

Food + Keith = It's Complicated.

Food. How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Okay, don’t worry, I am not actually going to count. There is a word limit on these posts, and if I put my love of food into words, it would be long. Like the Great Wall long (China’s, that is).

My relationship with food is so topsy-turvy we are marked as “It’s Complicated” on Facebook. We love each other, but it can be a little one-sided. I feel like I love food much more than it loves me. Sure, when we were younger, it was great. We enjoyed each other’s company all the time. I could sit with food at any hour of the day or night and indulge with no consequences.

As the years passed, however, things changed. Food began to cause unwanted effects to my body. Maybe it was marking its territory, maybe it was just being passive-aggressive and leaving reminders of itself for me to find when it wasn’t around. I don’t know, I will leave that to the therapists to answer. All I know, is suddenly, my desire for food was still there, but my body couldn’t take it 24/7 anymore. There were nights I lay awake burning with acid reflux, there were lots of extra pounds of me rolling around seemingly every where, there were even inflamed joints that barked and screamed if I tried to move them.

Looking back, perhaps I could have been a better partner to food. I never really put enough time in on learning the background and basics of what makes up food. I took it for granted that it would always be prepared and ready to go for me. When I did try to learn how to prepare items for myself, it often did not go well for either of us.

There was the time I thought wax paper and parchment paper were the same thing. A can of biscuits, a 400-degree oven, and a visit from the fire department later, I discovered you can’t bake with wax paper.


I even failed at the simplest things when food was concerned. A simple Pinterest recipe for dehydrated strawberries landed me on a Pinterest Fails website as a featured failure.
How they should look

How they ended up looking

My latest unsuccessful attempt at re-connecting with food was a simple experiment in baked potatoes. Don’t ask how, but this is how that turned out:



As you can see, food and I have an intense, passion-filled, sometimes toxic relationship. I still love it more than anything else in the world, but sometimes we just don’t understand each other at all.

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is www.astrongmanscupoftea.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMenProject.com. He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Sharing dinner with Elizabeth McGivern



Photo by Jess Lowe
We presented a challenge to all the authors we featured this month: Tell us what you'd serve at a book club meeting to go along with your novel. Only one author took us up on this challenge...Elizabeth McGivern. Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, she's here today to present her ideal book club three-course meal!

Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal. In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother. In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement – and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible – her debut novel, Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind, was born 

Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find Elizabeth at her website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge. After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie. Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not. After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning. 


Purchase links:
Amazon UK 
Amazon US 

Dinner Party for a book club.

Welcome, Book Club!

Now, I hope you have all gathered round to enjoy this book and lively debate as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. In order to really sell the whole experience you’re all welcome to dig into this extravagant feast I’ve made.

My main protagonist is an Irish woman and the book itself is filled, with what I consider, Irish humour at its core. What better way to accentuate that than preparing for you three courses of Italian food.

Sorry, guys.

If you were expecting some Irish stew or just a potato on a stick you’ve come to the wrong dinner party but I can assure you, there are perfectly rational reasons for this choice – mostly because my attempts at stew are usually a watery mess.

Course 1: Bruschetta (First Third of the book)
I can think of no better way to start a meal than basically a food that screams to me ‘summer on toast’. It’s so easy that not even I can mess this up.

I chose this because, like this particular food, we’re laying some solid ground work for what’s to come. We have sharp humour – like the zing of a ripe tomato, we touch on the darkness that has been plaguing Amy, giving her depth – like the crunch and base of the bread and we have a delicious mix of oil and herbs that blend deliciously to pull the dish together – like the introduction of all our main players.

Course 2: Spaghetti Bolognese (Middle of the book)
Our next course is a meatier affair, much like the next stage of our novel. Amy spends this part of the book dealing with obstacles, life challenges and facing troubles head on symbolised by a rich and satisfying sauce. We have the comforting addition of pasta (it’s a hug in a bowl) which signifies a soothing resolution to some of the situations she finds herself coming up across and let’s face it: nothing beats pasta – just like how you can’t beat a woman on a mission.

Course 3: Chocolate, coffee & hazelnut dessert (Final third)
Now, if all this wasn’t enough, then I have chosen the perfect way to finish the evening – and our story. We’ve got it all: hazelnut cream, airy coffee sponge, crunchy chocolate crumble and caramelised sweet milk sauce. What more could you ask for? With a lot of the action taking place in a coffee shop, that particular flavour would always find a way onto this menu. The crunchy chocolate crumble symbolises the delicious, but fragile nature of love while the sweet sauce can only mean a happy ending to round off our tale.

I can never get enough Italian food and I hope that this same feeling can be said for those of you reading my book. The sequel is in the works so if you find this meal ‘moreish’ then stick with our heroine and see what is still to come.


Thank you for coming along to my not-so-Irish, Italian themed evening and I must say it’s been the easiest three course meal I’ve ever had to ‘prepare’ with the added bonus of no washing up!



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Meat Candy

"Sporting" the best kind of ring
(not that I'm biased)
Introduction by Melissa Amster

Funny story #1...when Jen first sent me her post for this month's food theme, it never arrived to my inbox. She re-sent it to another account and it showed up there. So when I found out the topic, I told her the Kosher filter on my personal e-mail account must have caught it and thrown it out. 

Funny story #2...not long after receiving Jen's post, I was out shopping and saw a shirt that said "Bacon is Meat Candy." What are the odds? I never heard it called that before and it just sounded weird. Now I can't stop thinking about the combination of meat and candy.

This is not the shirt I saw,
but so funny, right?

Today, Chick-Lit-Cheerleader Jen Tucker is back (did you miss her?) to bring home the bacon! Let's give it up for Jen! (And I don't mean give up bacon, unless you plan to keep Kosher...)

Bacon is Good for Me!

I loved watching Wife Swap when it originally aired on ABC.

Reason #1 – Each episode made me feel immensely competent when it came to my parenting skills. My children understood this truth each time a new mom moved in and took charge of her surrogate family for a tumultuous week of reality television. “Think about how lucky you guys are to have me as your mom. I could be making you take thirty-second showers and drink wheat grass at every meal!” I’d smugly announce each time they’d moan about unloading the dishwasher.

Reason #2 – I was introduced to Curtis. If you haven’t met Curtis before, now is your chance and you won’t regret it!  

Curtis is my people for one simple reason. Bacon tops my food pyramid too, and if anyone—anyone—discarded a full package of thick-cut, Applewood smoked bacon in my presence there would be anarchy. That’s not cool. Not cool at all. Because I love bacon even though bacon no longer loves me on the same level.

Bacon’s treachery to our committed relationship began about a year ago. Before that we had an understanding. I devoured bacon anytime I wished, and, in return, bacon fulfilled its destiny by making me sublimely happy. A win-win relationship. If I were to show a mouthwatering BLT today who’s boss; the plump tomato, rich mayonnaise, perfectly toasted gluten free bread, unimportant lettuce, and the pork product star of the dish, my joints would ache, feet swell—basically, I’d be miserable. Why, you ask? Because getting old is not for wimps and that includes having high blood pressure and being told to stay away from too much salt. Ugh…being a grownup sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

I know you've got some
bacon in there! Open up!
Then there’s the things we do all in the name of good health to live longer and feel better. Like eat grilled seaweed and flambéed tree bark. Perhaps even swill down a glass of wheat grass to start the day—right now, poor Curtis is somewhere losing his mind and plugging his ears. My “younger me” is right there with him. Somewhere buried deep inside me is the college girl who drank a Diet Coke on the way to her 7:30 AM class, popped the second can open during lecture, then hit up the vending machine for her third while booking it across campus. I rarely drink soda anymore and never choose the diet variety. I drink club soda with a wedge of lime—it’s like my grandma is living a second life through me when I admit this to you.

I’m not saying bacon can’t pair nicely with wheat grass or be chased with a Diet Coke. In my case, however, my body has declared it to be so by swelling up like Violet Beauregard the moment anything salty, sugary sweet, or ohmigod-so-goooooooood greasy deliciousness passes my swallow reflex. This is what 47-years on the planet looks like, friends.

The funny thing is that the longer I go without eating extremely salty or sugar-infused foods, I don’t miss them; crave them. I watch my husband down a family-sized bag of Fritos or my daughter polish off a triple-scoop mint chocolate chip ice cream cone and don’t drool. Yet when I want something, like a slab of bacon, I don’t deny myself. Because life is too short to always turn down nitrates and processed meat, isn’t it? Yet I don’t want my days to be any shorter than they need to be because I was not a good listener when my healthcare provider told me to shut-er-down in sodium department. Some days I eat like a hamster. Other days I writhe in pain because I chose the margarita on the rocks with salt then moan and whine. So, there you have it. The current great compromise of my life. The one my little friend Curtis just couldn’t make when it came to cheese in a can and our beloved bacon. And I find no fault with him. Because if we do not stand up and fight for our bacon rights, who will?  

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.


Book Review: Order Up

By Sara Steven

Nancy Braley is the Chicago Gazettes food editor with a taste for hot chefs and talent for replicating their "secret" recipes. But when she finally gets up the nerve to ask out a hot local café owner, Doug Johnston, she's crushed when he says she's not the "marriage material" he's looking for.

Doug is perplexed by his attraction to Nancy whose take-no-prisoners personality reminds him way too much of his cheating ex. To keep Nancy and his conflicted feelings at bay, he throws out the only excuse he can come up with—she's just not marriage material.

Not one to be deterred, Nancy becomes obsessed with figuring out what exactly that means—partly because she doesn't want to emulate her oft-married but divorce-settlement-wealthy mother, and partly because her attraction to Doug is driving her to distraction. So when a married and very pregnant colleague gets put on bed rest until her baby arrives, Nancy volunteers to feed her family, hoping to get a first-hand look at what marriage is all about. And when Doug's ex opens a new coffee shop nearby, stealing business from his café, it's Nancy who comes to his aid! Eager to call Doug's bluff, can she convince him she's the real deal? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Nancy reminds me of a good friend of mine. In fact, for most of Order Up, it was her image and mannerisms that I saw when witnessing Nancy’s interactions with friends and with Doug. The tough exterior that gives way into having a more sensitive interior. That, although she wants people to believe that nothing phases her, she’s ultimately affected by a lot.

I got the impression that relationships were never high on Nancy’s priority list, most likely a byproduct of seeing the revolving door of husbands her mother has had, but deep down it’s something she yearns for. The security and comfort of knowing that there’s that one special person who understands her better than anyone else. So, when she makes the decision to actually allow herself to be vulnerable with Doug, and he refutes it, she’s confused and not entirely sure where to go from there.

What I liked most about Order Up is the underlying theme behind who Nancy is as a person. For a while, she attempts to become the type of person she thinks Doug wants her to be, vs. being who she is and allowing herself to truly be open with another human being. I think there’s a huge difference between those two distinctions, and it was enjoyable to see that journey for Nancy. I think we forget that seeking acceptance isn’t restricted to our childhood and youth. It’s something that most of us can relate to, even if in our adult years, with friendships and colleagues and romantic relationships. It’s never easy, and I like how that’s reflected in Nancy’s response to Doug and her friends. It’s not a perfect venture, not for any of us.

I also appreciated the opportunity to go back and visit some of the characters in Valentin’s Assignment: Romance series. I love it when story lines from other novels weave into one another, and while all of the books in this series can be read as stand-alones, I got to know the characters even more when told from various perspectives.

Thanks to Barbara Valentin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Barbara Valentin:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spotlight and Giveaway: Fun in the Sun

Get out your swimsuit, flip-flops, and sunscreen because today we have some more beach-themed books you can win.

Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble (HarperCollins)
Best Beach Ever by Wendy Wax (Berkley)

The publishers have three copies of each book to give away (as sets to three winners)!

Lighthouse Beach
This idyllic wedding is turning out to be anything but. When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW Van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding—they haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-olds at fat camp—and she knows she doesn’t fit in these rarefied circles.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Bay. There, she hopes, she’ll figure out what to do next. Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach
Photo by Gary Brown

Shelley Noble is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of WHISPER BEACH and BEACH COLORS. Other titles include STARGAZEY POINT, BREAKWATER BAY, FOREVER BEACH, a story of foster adoption in New Jersey, and four spin off novellas. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she lives at the Jersey shore and loves to discover new beaches and indulge her passion for lighthouses and vintage carousels. Shelley is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Visit Shelley online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Best Beach Ever
Despite their hopes for smooth sailing, the ladies of Ten Beach Road confront choppy seas in this novel in the bestselling series.

Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are.

Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at forty-seven. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks.

Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship—tried and tested—can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in.

Photo by Beth Kelly
Wendy Wax, a former broadcaster, is the author of fourteen novels and two novellas, including One Good Thing, Sunshine Beach, A Week at the Lake, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, The House on Mermaid Point, Ocean Beach, and Ten Beach Road. The mother of two grown sons, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and is doing her best to adjust to the quiet of her recently emptied nest.


Visit Wendy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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Giveaway ends June 3rd at midnight EST.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
All That's Left of Me by/from Janis Thomas
Dreams of Falling by Karen White from Berkley
Hey Ladies! by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss from Abrams Media
License to Date by/from Susan Hatler (e-book)
The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker from JKS Communications
All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire from Montlake Romance
The Gypsy Moth Summer (paperback) by Julia Fierro from St. Martin's Press
The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain from St. Martin's Press
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage from St. Martin's Press

Jami:
The Bucket List by Georgia Clark from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)

Becky:
Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland from Zaffre

Sara:
Love, Lies and Wedding Cake by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book)
Unreasonable Doubts by Reyna Marder Gentin from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC (e-book via NetGalley)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Liv Bartlet proves that two cooks do NOT spoil the broth...plus a special giveaway


Introduction by Melissa Amster

Something that surprised me from my interview with Liv Bartlet is that she is actually the brainchild of two authors. They're both here today to talk about food with us. Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, one lucky reader could receive an e-book of their latest novel, Production Values, along with some other cool prizes.

Liv Bartlet is the pseudonym for writing partners Becca McCulloch and Sarah McKnight, who have been building worlds and telling stories together for more than a decade. They’ve logged hours of behind-the-scenes movie and TV footage and challenged each other in a friendly Oscar guessing game every year this millennium. Lifelong Anglophiles, their Monkey & Me world sprang to vivid life on a trip to London that included divine pastries, sublime art, and a spectacular pratfall in the British Museum.

Becca is a professor, a scientist, and a secret romantic who insisted their first order of business in London was a meandering five-mile walk to see Big Ben. She lives with her husband, children, and an ever-expanding roster of pets in Logan, Utah.

Sarah is an Army brat, an Excel geek, and has a lot of opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy. She lives with her cat, Sir Jack—who is featured prominently on Liv’s Instagram —just outside Salt Lake City.

Visit Liv Bartlet online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
“Mornings like this I can understand the appeal of killer high heels. How they click with command down the sidewalk: Get out of my way, I’m in charge and I’ve got the footwear to prove it.”

At the age of 28, Kat Porter has become the it-girl of British TV Production. Gut, gumption, and artistry have carried her through a dozen impossible scenarios to arrive at her first run as Executive Producer, and now all three muses point to Ian Graham’s star power as the key to Los Angeles and golden statues.

But disaster looms as Ian twists Kat into a chameleon fit for success. Ian’s young daughter is thrown into the spotlight and Kat must face the consequences of her neverending quest for acclaim.

Production Values takes a biting but fun look at Hollywood—from the way we interpret female ambition to the influence of the paparazzi on how TV shows and stars fail or succeed.

Purchase the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

What is your go-to breakfast item?
Becca: Cereal. The Saturday morning, full-of-sugar kind.
Sarah: English breakfast tea, lots of sugar, a dash of milk.

Do you have any food related hobbies?
Becca: I’m a dietitian. My whole life is food-related but I’m not a foodie. I’ve never been good at joining the upper echelon of anything.
Sarah: I like to eat out, pretend I’m a foodie. Top Chef is one of my favorite shows.

What is the last meal you cooked using a recipe book?
Becca: Yellow curry with coconut sticky rice. Authentic.
Sarah: I only use recipes for baking. Cooking, I just make stuff up, but not even close to anything Top Chef level. My marinara is decent, though.

What snack would be a good pairing with your book?
Becca: Fancy cheese with cheap potato chips
Sarah: Crackers and edamame hummus, and a not too pricey Sauvignon Blanc.

What is your favorite movie involving food?
Becca: The first Avengers movie — the shawarma scene is classic.
Sarah: Mostly Martha. I liked No Reservations, the American version with Aaron Eckhart, but the original German is so utterly charming.

What is your favorite dessert item?
Becca: Creme Brûlée
Sarah: My mom’s version of trifle — chocolate cake, raspberries, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream, all layered into ooey gooey goodness.

Thanks to Becca and Sarah for chatting with us and to Rachel's Random Resources for sharing their books with our readers.

Win Production Values & Off Script e-books & 
$25 or equivalent Amazon Gift Card
(Open Internationally)

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

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review: The Broken Girls

By Jami Deise

When I was a kid, before I knew that a Bloody Mary was a great drink for Sunday brunch, I knew better than to chant her name three times before a mirror in a dark bathroom. And Bloody Mary wasn’t the only spooky story to haunt sleepovers and camping trips. There was that guy with the hook for a hand. The killers hiding behind paintings of people (they watched you through the eyeholes). The psycho hiding in the back seat of the car. And of course, the call coming from inside the house…

For The Broken Girls in Simone St. James’s latest gothic ghost story, though, the rhyme of Mary Hand is very real.

In a rural town in Vermont in 1950, four roommates bond as they try to survive Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for girls no one wants. They scare themselves with the story of Mary Hand, whose dead baby could be buried in the garden where nothing grows.

In 2014, Idlewild Hall has been abandoned for decades. But when a mysterious benefactor buys the compound, journalist Fiona Sheridan is intrigued. Twenty years ago, Fiona’s sister Deb was murdered, her body dumped in the road outside the old school. Even though Deb’s boyfriend was tried and convicted, Fiona always had her doubts. Could the history of the school…and doomed Mary Hand…have anything to do with her sister’s death?

The novel unfolds along two timelines: 1950, in which roommates Katie, Roberta, Sonia, and CeCe try to cope with their creepy school, and 2014, as Fiona digs deep into the school’s mysteries. The 1950 timeline features chapters from each girl’s point of view, which gets confusing at times. Fiona is aided by her journalist father as well as her boyfriend, Jamie, a cop about ten years younger than she is whose father was the police chief when Deb was murdered.

It’s an engrossing read, and moves along at a fast clip. There are several mysteries to be solved: Was there really a Mary Hand, and does she haunt Idlewild? Did one of the roommates really run away? Who really killed Deb? Who is the mysterious wealthy widow who has bought Idlewild, and what are her plans for the property?

St. James has does an exemplary job with setting as well. The rural Vermont town where the story takes place feels as abandoned as the school, but it’s a claustrophobic place where residents close ranks at the first sign of trouble.

The novel works well but for the ending. Not to give too much away, but mystery readers expect separate threads to tie together, and St. James does not deliver that experience. Still, the characters and setting engaging enough that while the ending is disappointing, the journey to get there is worthwhile.

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

More by Simone St. James:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sharing a drink with Michelle Gable....plus a book giveaway

Photo by Joanna DeGeneres
Michelle Gable's latest novel, The Summer I Met Jack, publishes in one week. To celebrate, she's here today to talk with us about food (and beverages). Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one set of all four of her novels to give away!

Michelle is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT, I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS, THE BOOK OF SUMMER, and the soon-to-be-released THE SUMMER I MET JACK. She also has numerous other never-to-be-seen books that will forever remain stored in her childhood bedroom.

Michelle grew up in San Diego and attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, as most aspiring writers do. After a twenty-year career in finance, Michelle now writes full-time. She lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and what is quickly becoming a menagerie: one cat, one bunny, and a lab/jindo mix recently rescued from the dog meat trade in Thailand. (Bio courtesy of Amazon and Michelle's website.)

Visit Michelle online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.


The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Do you watch food shows on TV? If so, what is your favorite?
I don’t watch food shows, mostly because I don’t like to cook. I do cook, because for some reason my kids keep wanting to eat every day, but it is very much a chore. I do love Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, but that’s probably travel more than food.

That said, my husband is a fan of cooking shows and I’ll never forget watching Iron Chef America while I was in labor with my oldest. It was the middle of the night, and the hospital didn’t have a ton of options. A former Bachelor contestant (Andrew Firestone) was one of the judges and he kept going on and on about “mouth feel” and it was driving me nuts!

What is your favorite carnival food?
I grew up close to the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and it was very common for high school kids to work there when the fair came into town. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been a “carnie” thanks to the two weeks I spent making corndogs in a hot, stuffy trailer. My skin was a disaster and I came home each night reeking of french fry oil. That experience soured me on carnivals, and now I avoid them at all costs. So, my favorite carnival food is whatever my husband and kids are eating at the county fair while I stay at home.

What snack would be a good pairing with your book?
The Summer I Met Jack begins at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Interestingly, the Kennedys had very bland culinary tastes, due in part to their famed “Kennedy stomachs” (i.e. they were all high-strung and nervous). Basing a menu on their dietary habits would be a grim affair indeed but pairing the book with a good pizza or a plate of homemade pasta would honor the Roman part of the story. Or, you could read it with a daiquiri, JFK’s favorite drink!

What is a food everyone else likes but you won't even touch?
I’m generally not very picky and there are few things I won’t eat. But, I cannot stand olives and syrup. Separately, of course. I’m sure no one likes them together! I also don’t care for ice cream all that much, but I’ll have a bite on occasion.

What food are you craving at this very moment?
Dark chocolate. Always.

Favorite song with a food item in it?
"Cracklin’ Rosie" by Neil Diamond is one of my favorite songs in general, and my husband tells me it’s about wine. Second choice would be "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett because it reminds me of college. Also, San Diego is my hometown, so I do love a good margarita.

Thanks to Michelle for helping us work up an appetite and St. Martin's Press 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 May 28th at midnight EST.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Guest Book Review: Excess Baggage

By Shana Javery

Stuck in a dead-end relationship, Erica Bennett finds herself daydreaming of her first holiday romance. She was fifteen, it was exciting, new and full of possibilities…and Jack Lawson was hot as hell. That kind of thing leaves a mark.

So when her friends suggest a girls holiday to Luna Island, it’s exactly what she needs to take her mind off things. What she doesn’t expect is to spot Jack – a much older, hotter version of him – across the hotel lobby.

Their attraction is still there and it isn’t long before sparks fly, but fifteen years is a long time. They aren’t the same people they were back then and besides, it’s only a week, right?

Is it a second chance at something real or will their excess baggage ruin their shot at love after they leave Luna Island?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

In this novel, Erica and Jack unexpectedly bump into one another while on separate vacations with their friends. They haven’t seen or talked to one another in fifteen years. Read as they struggle to figure out if they can rekindle their teen romance.

I love that the story is told from both of their perspectives. Erica has a wicked sense of humor. I laughed throughout book. It’s also a very quick read. As you might imagine, a story about single thirty-year-old adults on vacation tends to involve lots of drinking and some sexual encounters. Those sex scenes will probably get your motor running!

One warning: this book has quite a bit of profanity in it. Not necessarily vulgar words, but lots of cursing!

I found myself chuckling as Erica and Jack tried to figure out whether or not they could have a future. As a bonus (for this American reviewer), the novel was written by an author who lives in the United Kingdom. It’s always fun for a “Yank” to try to decipher the “Queen’s English!” So, if you want a quick, lighthearted beach read, this book is perfect for you!

Thanks to Laura Barnard for the book in exchange for an honest review. Excess Baggage can be purchased here.

Shana Javery is an attorney mediator with a background in employment law. She is thrilled to have renewed her lifelong love of reading over the past few years. Shana & her husband reside in Plano, Texas. She is grateful to all the fabulous authors out there who unknowingly have eased her heartache from becoming a recent empty nester. 

More by Laura Barnard:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Amy E. Reichert serves up a delicious story...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Kelly Johnsen
Amy E. Reichert is here to celebrate the publication week of her latest novel, The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go. We can't think of a better month to have her here, as all her books focus on food. Her answers to our questions show her love for all things food and cooking related, so we hope you will enjoy learning more about her in this way. Thanks to Gallery, we have TWO copies to give away!

Amy E. Reichert is also the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE, and THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, a volunteer baby snuggler, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her library’s board of directors. She's a member of Tall Poppy Writers. (Courtesy of Amy's website.)

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.


But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine's kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go... (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is your go-to recipe?
Tacos. I brown one pound of ground beef, then add in one can of black beans, 1/4 cup of taco seasoning or more as needed (I use Penzey’s), one teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper, and one cup salsa (or more—I make it a little different every time). Simmer for five minutes. Scoop into tortillas, top with your favorite toppings. I use shredded cheese, sour cream, and lettuce. It’s the one meal that makes my entire family happy.

What is your favorite cuisine?
This is a tough one—I like it all. I have favorites in every cuisine, from tom kha soup (a yummy chicken, coconut milk thai soup) to bone marrow on crispy toast to burgers and fries. I do tend to prefer meals that are cooked for ages like cuban pork or a roast beef that’s falling apart on top of mashed potatoes and gravy.

What snack would be a good pairing with The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go?
Grilled cheese and brownies. I’m not responsible for weight gain. That should be a disclaimer on all my books.

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
A pineapple and cheese casserole. It sounds disgusting but it’s surprisingly delicious. Now I want to make it…

What is your favorite holiday that involves a lot of food and favorite recipe for that holiday?
100% Thanksgiving. And my favorite is the stuffing. Our family’s recipe is dead simple: one pound ground pork sausage and one pound ground beef. Brown them, then toss with a pound of seasoned bread cubes, then add homemade turkey stock until the bread cubes soften and start to break down. Place in a casserole dish and heat (or stuff in the bird—but make sure it gets above 170 degrees). I use leftover stuffing for sandwiches and topped on toast (yes, I eat stuffing on toast—it’s scrumptious).

Tell us about a cooking disaster (yours or someone close to you).
There are almost too many to choose. I regularly set off smoke detectors and set things on fire—that’s going to happen when you’re trying new things in the kitchen. One time, I was teaching a friend how to saute salmon. Teaching! I let the oil get too hot, so when I put the salmon in, the spattering oil it caught fire. In a rare moment of calm, I covered the pan with a lid and carried it outside. I failed to teach my friend how to cook salmon, but she did learn how to not panic while putting out an oil fire.

Thanks to Amy for visiting with us and to Gallery 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 May 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Review: Saving Each Other

By Sara Steven

What would you do if the most important people in your world were suddenly and violently taken away from you? Everything is excruciating! Everything is broken! Ean Montgomery and Dani Adams were each forced to see the same grief counselor after a drunk driver killed both Dani’s husband and Ean’s wife and six year old son. Two cars demolished, two families killed. In an unconventional twist of therapy, Dani and Ean were each given a private cell phone and only the first initial of their first names. They were then instructed to reach out to one another in order to share their grief…to heal. The rules: Communicate only through text messages and never reveal our real names or other personal details. Neither planned to contact the other, but with all hope and the will to live gone… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

My worst fears are presented and on full display with Saving Each Other. I cannot fathom losing my husband, or one of my children. The way the pain and utter despair has been captured within Ean and Dani’s stories, it felt realistic and human and while it was difficult to delve into, given the subject matter, I didn’t want to turn away from it. I wanted to better understand, to fully experience it.

Ean and Dani are given an opportunity to help one another through one of the most difficult times I feel anyone could go through, but they don’t know each other, have never met. They don’t even know names, using first initials instead. Yet, I could feel the deep connection that begins to form, a bond grown from tragedy. No one else would understand what they’re going through, and in this ambiguity they become a lifeline for one another, enabling both characters to live each day, even when it feels like the days aren’t worth living.

Granted, this is fiction, yet I could see how the process of healing, how finding the light at the end of a dark tunnel is achievable. Whether it’s through an unconventional method of conversing with a stranger who is also going through the same pain, who knows the score, or finding solace within loved ones who want nothing more than to be there. And there were subtle elements of something reminiscent to the movie You Got Mail, where the two primary characters form a bond without even knowing each other or never meeting. It was a nice, sweet romantic touch that helped to balance out the heavy subject matter of the plot. It will be interesting to see what’s next in book two of the Saving series, not only for Ean and Dani, but for their supporting characters, too.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spotlight: Back to the Beach

Our two authors being featured today have a few things in common:
*They have the same first name and also use their middle name.
*They live in the south.
*They have summer/beach themed books that take place in the south.

We also found out that they are friends with each other. 

We're pleased to present the latest novels by Mary Kay Andrews and Mary Alice Monroe. Thanks to Gallery and St. Martin's Press, we have THREE pairs of books for some lucky readers!

The High Tide Club
by Mary Kay Andrews

When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of THE HIGH TIDE CLUB —so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

Photo by Bill Miles
Mary Kay Andrews is The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House Cookbook, The Weekenders, Beach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Christmas Bliss, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.


Visit Mary Kay online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Beach House Reunion 
by Mary Alice Monroe

Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Photo by Mic Smith
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly two dozen novels. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. Most recently, Mary Alice was named by the South Carolina Academy of Authors as a 2018 inductee of the Literary Hall of Fame. Mary Alice is an active conservationist and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Visit Mary Alice online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


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

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Giveaway ends May 21st at midnight EST.