Thursday, June 21, 2018

Maddie Dawson's novel is the perfect match for us...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Maddie Dawson back at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, Matchmaking for Beginners. It sounds like a fun story and we love the cover! TLC Book Tours has one copy for a lucky reader!

Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal

Visit Maddie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.


And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.


What is the inspiration behind Matchmaking for Beginners?
This is my seventh novel, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t really pinpoint how or when the inspiration for a new book first flies into my head! It’s like suddenly I wake up knowing a teeny tiny detail—perhaps a character’s name and two tidbits about her situation—and then the rest sort of unfolds over time. I ask her to tell me the story, and she does--haltingly, at first, and then with more certainty as we get to know each other.

In the case of Matchmaking for Beginners, the first thing I knew was that there would an older woman who was a matchmaker and who had a bit of a magic—a wise person who wasn’t afraid of taking risks and manipulating things to her liking. Her name was Blix, and she sailed into my head like she belonged there. She was delightful company, always urging me to be brave and to tell the story the way I wanted it told. And then Marnie showed up, somebody wanting to NOT be brave, to simply be ordinary, except that her life was turning out to be anything but ordinary. Once those two were onstage, I was just along for the ride. They dictated the story whenever they felt like it. (Often when I was in a sound sleep they woke me up so I could get up and type for them—I know! Very selfish of them, but they knew they were in charge.) Gradually the novel came into being, and it became a novel about I magic, and love, and trusting that the life you’re meant for is right there for you when you open your eyes to it.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone wanting to become an author?
This is going to sound like silly, obvious advice, but you’d be surprised how many would-be authors don’t follow it. If you want to become an author, you have to write. A LOT. As in, every day. Write badly. Write gloriously badly! Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. Write on the backs of envelopes, in notebooks, when you have fifteen minutes to wait for somebody. Write when you wake up, and before you go to sleep. Don’t get upset when it doesn’t sound like you want it to. It won’t for such a long time. You’d be shocked to hear how many drafts actual published and successful authors go through before the words sound like they just tumbled out onto the page in perfect order. Take risks. Try out new ways of expressing yourself. Let the crazy come into your writing. Take things out that don’t work. Try it all again. Learn to stay in your chair. That’s the hardest part: staying with it when it doesn’t feel like it’s coming along. Oh, and also read! But only read what you love. Your brain will thank you and the good words you’re reading will imprint there and through some kind of magic, will affect your own brain waves and the way you think about your work.

If you could cast Matchmaking for Beginners as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
This question! WOW. It’s so much fun to think about, and yet I am so bad at playing the casting game. So I asked a bunch of people…and the general consensus was that Lily Tomlin would be a fascinating Blix…and perhaps Shailene Woodley for Marnie. Maybe Channing Tatum for Patrick. Chris Hemsworth for Noah.

What is something you are looking forward to this summer?
Every year our extended family goes to Cape Cod for a week. All of us pile into one house, and we cook lobsters and eat raw oysters (I know, not really wise, but we HAVE TO), and we go to the beach and boogie-board in the stunningly cold water, swim in the pond, eat ice cream every night, take bike rides, play mini-golf. We’ve been doing this for nearly thirty years now, and each year it seems we find more fun there. The best part for me is the early morning walk on the beach with my husband when everyone else is sleeping.

If you could take us on a tour of your town, where would we go first?
The Town Green! I’m a New England transplant, so I’m charmed by the town squares (called “greens”) here in Connecticut, which are gorgeous parks. In my town, Guilford, the green is surrounded by shops, little restaurants, benches, coffee places, bookstores, art galleries, the library…you name it. I go walking there every morning and buy a peach iced tea from the coffee shop, stop in at the library to say hi to my friends the librarians, and then walk down to the town dock, where there are people kayaking and sailing and eating clams and lobsters at the Lobster Pound. It’s a wonderful little town to live in!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Seriously? Just one? Okay, let’s see. The last book I read that made me laugh out loud was Husbands and Other Sharp Objects by Marilyn Simon Rothstein. Such a delight! But can I also mention a book that took me on a wild ride of twists and turns? The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie. But there are also so many others I’d love to mention…books I go back to again and again for inspiration.

Thanks to Maddie for chatting with us and to TLC Book Tours for sharing her book with our readers. Check out the other stops on Maddie's tour.

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 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Spotlight: Rainy Day Friends

Following the USA Today bestseller, Lost and Found Sisters, comes Rainy Day Friends, Jill Shalvis’ moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship.

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person? Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan. Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Green changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

Buy Rainy Day Friends here:
Amazon * IndieBound * Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million * iBooks * GooglePlay

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram
Pinterest * Tumblr * Goodreads


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Camille Perri is pleased to meet you...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Camille Perri back at CLC to celebrate the publication of her sophomore novel, When Katie Met Cassidy. Prior to Camille's first visit to CLC, Melissa A got to meet her in person and can attest to how warm and friendly she is. Melissa also enjoyed her debut, The Assistants, and is excited to read this new one (and cast it...see below). Putnam is sharing THREE copies of Camille's latest novel with some lucky readers!

Camille Perri has worked as a books editor for Cosmopolitan and Esquire. She has also been a ghostwriter of young adult novels and a reference librarian. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from New York University and a master of library science degree from Queens College. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House.)

Visit Camille on Twitter and Instagram.


Synopsis:
When it comes to Cassidy, Katie can't think straight.

Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man's suit. At first neither of them knows what to make of the other, but soon their undeniable connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy about gender and sexuality, and the importance of figuring out who we are in order to go after what we truly want. It's also a portrait of a high-drama subculture where barrooms may as well be bedrooms, and loyal friends fill in the spaces absent families leave behind. Katie's glimpse into this wild yet fiercely tight-knit community begins to alter not only how she sees the larger world, but also where exactly she fits in. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you've received about your writing?
I’m not sure that it was even a compliment; it was technically a question. A well-respected screenwriter/director who was interested in adapting my novel The Assistants to film asked me, “Did you always know you were funny?” This was not something I had ever considered. I blurted out a “No,” followed by a “Well, I’m not sure.” I really had to think about it. If given a do-over I would reply with a way more confident, “Why, yes. Thank you.” That’s probably how a man would have replied, right?

Did you learn anything new from writing When Katie Met Cassidy?
I learned that second novels aren’t easier to write just because you’ve done it once before. One would think that would be the case, but instead I was crippled by anxiety for much of the time I was writing this book. I was afraid I would let people down or disappoint some readers who enjoyed my last book. But so far people have been responding to WKMC with generosity and enthusiasm. So I guess I learned I could write another novel once I got out of my own way!

If you could cast the movie version of When Katie Met Cassidy, who would star in the lead roles?
Ooh. I’m sorry but there is no way I can answer this question. I feel strongly that every reader is entitled to their own mental image of these characters based on how I presented them in words. It’s also far more interesting to me to hear other people’s suggestions on this. Please @ me!

What empowers you the most?
I feel most empowered when I achieve a healthy balance to my day—when I get good work done, but my whole day isn’t only about work. A day when in addition to writing I also go out for some fresh air, exercise, eat well, and enjoy the company of a friend. That’s a perfect day for me and one that leaves me feeling wholly self-actualized.

What TV show reminds you the most of your own life?
I’m going to have to go with Younger. Not because it’s so realistic to the world of publishing and book media, but because it’s a show that reminds me of what I thought such a life would look like if I ever achieved it. It’s always good to remember the shine and sparkle of your dreams before they become a slightly less effervescent reality.

What is the funniest fortune you ever received from a fortune cookie?
“Only listen to fortune cookie, disregard all other fortune telling units.” I have to give a shout out to my friend Joanna Greenberg for this answer. She’s an art teacher and artist with the most wonderful collection of fortune cookie fortunes, all digitally archived. Without her I would have been lost on this question.

Thanks to Camille for visiting with us and to Putnam 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 June 24th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Missing Pieces

By Becky Gulc

‘What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.


Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

A devastating mistake, a lifetime of consequences. How can you repair something broken if pieces are missing?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

What a debut novel! Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily pick up a book about loss and grief, I’m so pleased I was sent this book for review. It manages to be difficult to read for its raw and continued portrayal of grief but captivating and even hopeful at the same time.

The early chapters cover how the Sadler family are coping with the recent loss of their daughter and sister Phoebe. We don’t know what happened exactly, what we do know is they’re all coping very differently. Linda as the mum is really struggling, to the point at which she can almost no longer cope with life generally, never mind as a mother to her remaining child Esme and the child she is expecting. Tom as the father is trying his best to get back to a new sense of normal, but can his wife be part of this new normal or is he inadvertently trying to escape/distract from truly acknowledging life as it is? Life becomes destructive for both parents in very different ways. I very much felt for them all, particularly Esme.

The narrative worked for me, with the first half of the novel being set in the months after losing Phoebe, and the second half set twenty-something years later. Despite the synopsis, I forgot there would be a shift in time and the first half certainly has you on the edge of your seat as it draws to a close. I was pleased we got to see how life was treating Esme as a grown up, whether she’d been able to put the past behind her. The dynamic between Bea, her sister, and dad was interesting to explore in the second half and it offered hope in what was a very sad situation. We finally learn what happened to Phoebe.

Missing Pieces is a very well written novel, so moving and unapologetic in its exploration of grief. With a clever shift in the narrative it adds so much more to the story. I’d definitely read more by Laura Pearson.

Thanks to Agora Books for the book in exchange for an honest review and for including us on their blog tour.

Visit all the stops on the tour:




Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Always With You

By Sara Steven

A secret kept for more than twenty years. A daughter intent on finding the truth…

In 1994, twenty-one-year-old Evelyn Taylor left England to backpack around Australia. When she stopped off in the dusty outback town of Kununurra, she never expected to fall in love with the place - and the people. But Joe Sullivan captured her heart, and when her fun-filled year in Australia came to an end, saying goodbye to him was the hardest thing she’d ever done.

In 2017, Evelyn’s daughter, Libby, embarks on her own Australian adventure. Grief-stricken following her mother’s death, she’s determined to find the father she never met.

Little does she know that digging up the past will be more complicated than she ever imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Initially, Always With You feels as though it’s a story focused primarily on loss. The loss Libby feels after losing her mother, the loss she feels at not knowing who her father is. The loss Evelyn experiences when she has to say goodbye to the love of her life. But what this story really does, is catapult these characters and its readers into an adventure, a soul-searching adventure into the unknown while trying hard to find one’s self within that journey. It’s a parallel experience for both Evelyn, and Libby.

I really loved the way we get to see Evelyn’s experiences, as well as her daughter’s. While they feel similar, the motivation behind it is world’s apart. Evelyn wants to explore a life unknown, and Libby wants to walk in her mother’s footsteps, not knowing that ultimately she really is living her own existence. I felt the relationships between the characters were true to life, particularly when Libby is in search of her father. When she has to confront the man she is convinced she’s linked to, I could really feel the struggle within her, the struggle within him, it wasn’t forced or shallowly written. There were plenty of deep, touching moments that reached right into your chest and pulled hard on the heartstrings.

I fall for stories that have a “coming home” or reunion vein to them, when we get the opportunity to go back and see what changes have occurred, how people have evolved, how the scenery has changed. Having the chance to see it all through Evelyn’s eyes, first, then over twenty years later, the sometimes small and subtle, or very distinct changes that Libby witnesses was really such a unique experience, and really spoke to my nostalgic spirit. The give and take between Evelyn’s strengths and witnesses, and Libby’s, too, was the perfect balance for their story, a balance that touched me deeply and stirred my psyche.

Thanks to Hannah Ellis for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Hannah Ellis:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Charlotte Nash takes us on an armchair adventure...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Jen Dainer
We're pleased to welcome Charlotte Nash to CLC this week, as her latest novel, The Paris Wedding, published in the US this week! Thanks to HarperCollins, we have THREE books to give away!

Charlotte Nash was born in historic Lincoln, England and grew up in the sunny Redland Shire of Brisbane. Obsessed with horses and riding, she began stealing her mother’s Jilly Cooper novels at the age of thirteen, and has been enthusiastic for romance ever since. Always a little unconventional, she took a meandering path to writing through careers in engineering and medicine, including stints building rockets and as an industrial accident investigator. Now she writes romantic stories, and moonlights as a creative writing PhD student, studying how narratives engage the brain. She lives in a cozy Brisbane cottage with her husband and son, and a small flock of lovable chooks. Visit Charlotte at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.


Synopsis:
It’s been ages since Rachael West has seen the man she once believed she couldn’t live without. Receiving his wedding invitation was bittersweet—she was oddly touched he’s asked her, but knows that facing him on this day would be the hardest thing she’s ever done.

But her friends and family convince her to attend. After all, it’s an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris! Surely she can get through that one day, and discover all the delights of that magical city the remainder of the time.

So Rachael leaves her small town, setting off for the City of Lights with her best friend, two feuding neighbors, and a suitcase full of home-sewn couture in tow. She’s determined to let Paris work its magic—and it does by way of a handsome photojournalist. And before her adventure is over, Rachael will be faced with yet another choice. But this time, hers isn’t the only happiness at risk...


Which authors have inspired you?
Oh, so many. Jilly Cooper, because she was my first introduction to this type of genre, and wrote such big, bolshy, fun characters who had struggles that seemed so lifelike. Diana Gabaldon, because, you know, Jamie Fraser in a kilt (and jokes aside, the incredible freshness of Cross-stitch (now Outlander) when it first came out). More recently, Liane Moriarty, because she has such a keen ability to observe her characters and use just the right words, and JoJo Moyes for the same reason, and because I think she captures a truth about people that's hard to do.

What is something unique about your writing style?
This is a difficult question for an author to answer about themselves … people tell me that I write the landscapes and settings in a memorable way. I've always thought that people are so tied in to the places they live – either in a comfortable way, or as a point of friction – that rendering those places through their eyes is a critical part of forming the character and their stories. Besides that, I find some unconventionalities and cross-genre interests of mine sneak into my contemporary stories …

If The Paris Wedding were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Rachael West (our heroine) needs that wholesome, naïve quality, but also the capacity for great sacrifice and transformation. I'd be keen for Katherine Langford (from 13 Reasons Why) – she looks like she could convince us she came from a farm, but hold her own in a fashionable crowd.

Sammy (her best friend) is more street-smart, but an incurable romantic. A strong, supportive type but who tends to hold her own problems very close to her chest. I like Haley Lu Richardson or someone like her, even though she's younger than Sammy.

Matthew Grant (the man Rachael never got over) is an up-and-coming star physician, but straddling the uncomfortable territory between his roots and his new world. Someone like an older version of Tom Holland, who has that boyish quality but can still carry authority. Or Callum Turner, who's about the right age, look, and presence.

Antonio Ferranti (the dashing Italian-American photojournalist) needs an older actor with a rugged quality. Perhaps Justin Baldoni – his Ted talk about redefining masculinity showed such a great capacity for comfort with himself, but a critical eye for how the world is. Perfect for Antonio.

Where is your favorite place to spend money?
At my local café mostly! However, about once a year I go on a 'spree' of buying vintage fashion online (mostly eBay). I know which designers I like and my sizes and I go a little crazy buying too many boots and coats. I comfort myself that it's recycling (as well as a bargain).

What is your favorite thing to do at an amusement park or carnival?
Eat dagwood dogs. I think in America that's called a corn dog? (hot dog sausage on a stick covered with batter and deep fried). I'm a sucker for the food carts.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
At the cinema: Avengers: Infinity War. It's so surprising. On my home screen … I'll admit that I re-watch The Devil Wears Prada and Midnight in Paris over and over. They are so brilliantly structured and entertaining and funny, and yet have deeper things to say. I never tire of them. I'll stop there, otherwise I'll be recommending a whole shopping list!

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 19th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: Little Big Love

By Jami Deise

Even while the body-positivity campaign has gained traction, overweight and obese people are one of the few groups left that everyone feels free to shame and discriminate against. Although in the developed world, heavier people outnumber appropriately sized folks by nearly a third, they are still blamed for being lazy, undisciplined, unkept. Fashion designers won’t create for them. Employers freely discriminate against them. And yet, more and more research shows that folks with a higher body weight than recommended have multiple decks stacked against them, when it comes to stress hormones, gut bacteria, and even viruses that wring every calorie out of every bite taken. That old advice about just eating less and exercising more is outdated and nearly worthless.

U.K. author Katy Regan’s U.S. debut, Little Big Love, shows how emotional upheaval and the stress of poverty can contribute to weight issues. Two of its three first-person protagonists are overweight, the third is an alcoholic in recovery. Ten-year-old Zac Hutchinson wants nothing more than for his father to attend his 11th birthday party. But that’s difficult, as the man took off before he was born. At least that’s what Zac’s mother, 30-year-old Juliet, has always told him. But Juliet has her secrets, as does Juliet’s father, Mick. And Zac’s quest to find his father might reveal these secrets and shatter everyone’s world once and for all.

With her plans for the future derailed by early pregnancy, Juliet and Zac live on an estate (public housing) in the small English fishing village where she grew up and where her parents still reside. She has a job in a sandwich shop that pays her in cash because otherwise she’d lose her benefits; she doesn’t have a car. The one bright spot in Juliet’s life is her overwhelming love for Zac; a love so enormous she can’t see that her son is struggling with his own weight issues until Zac’s school lets her know he’s being bullied for it.

While Zac’s search for his father provides the backbone of the novel, I was more drawn in by the specificity of the voices of the three main characters, especially Zac’s, which always seems like a 10-year-old boy’s. Without ever judging her characters, Regan describes how the stress of poverty, bullying, and secrets can lead to comfort eating and weight gain. The supporting cast, such as Zac’s best friend Teagan and Juliet’s mother, are also specific and real.

If I had one criticism, it was that the book felt overly long. With three protagonists and the dual narrative of Zac and Juliet’s weight issues along with Zac’s search for his father, the pacing never drags, but there were times I wanted more action. And with its contemporary setting, it shouldn’t take that long to find a man with a distinctive name. Another relative is found on Facebook; no one ever does a Google search for Zac’s father.

Still, it’s the character work that will hook readers, and it’s the character work that will result in tears by the end of the book. Katy Regan’s U.S. debut will have readers looking up her U.K. offerings.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away!


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 18th at midnight EST.

More by Katy Regan:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A look at Karma Brown's life....plus a book giveaway

Photo by Jenna Davis
We're thrilled to have Karma Brown back at CLC to celebrate the publication of her fourth novel, The Life Lucy Knew. We've been fans of her writing ever since her debut, Come Away With Me, landed a spot on Melissa A's 2015 favorites list. Karma has one copy of her latest novel to share with a lucky reader!

Karma has always loved the written word. As a kid she could usually be found with her face buried in a book, or writing stories about ice-skating elephants. Now that she’s (mostly) grown up, she’s a bestselling author.

A National Magazine Award winning journalist, Karma has been published in a variety of publications, including SELF, Redbook, Today’s Parent, Best Health, Canadian Living and Chatelaine.

Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred. When not crafting copy or mulling plot lines, she is typically running or working on her downward dog, hanging out with her family, making a mess in the kitchen and checking items off her bucket list. Karma is currently wearing down her laptop’s keyboard writing her next novel.

Visit Karma online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
One woman is about to discover everything she believes—knows—to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail—right down to the dress she wore to their wedding—is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust—a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague.


When the life Lucy believes she had slams against the reality she’s been living for the past four years, she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)



What is a memorable compliment you've received for any of your books?
I’ve received many memorable, amazing compliments over the past few years and books, which has been so lovely! However, the one that sticks with me is also the most recent: at a library event a couple of weeks ago I met a woman my age whose husband died suddenly a few years back. She told me her coworkers had been suggesting she read my debut, COME AWAY WITH ME, and while it took her a few tries to open the book, once she read it she said the story resonated deeply and was a great comfort to her. There is nothing better than readers reaching out to tell you how your words, characters and stories have impacted them.

What is a piece of reader feedback you've used while writing The Life Lucy Knew?
I received a letter once—typed out on fancy stationary--from a woman who was upset with me because of a certain word I’d used in my sophomore book, THE CHOICES WE MAKE. I’m not sure what the word was (she never repeated it), but she was quite offended by it apparently. She closed the letter saying that as a writer I must have an excellent grasp of language and therefore, she added, “…you can do better.” I had a chuckle, wondering what the word was (I have some idea), and wrote her back to let her know I would most certainly think of her while writing future books. And you know what? While writing LUCY I would pause before using a curse word, asking myself if I really needed it or if a less dramatic word would do. Sometimes the curse word had to stay, but other times I found the character actually could get by with something a tad less, well, offensive.

If you could cast The Life Lucy Knew as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
I am terrible at this game, because I honestly don’t have crystal clear physical pictures of my characters, as strange as that may sound. However, if I were casting the book to movie, I could imagine Cobie Smulders as Lucy, Matt Bomer as Daniel, and Anders Holm as Matt.

Which piece of clothing have you owned the longest?
I have a jean jacket from when I was five years old—my parents were hippies, I was raised in the 1970s, and so the jacket is awesome and retro and covered in smiley face buttons and my mom’s hand-sewn patches—that I passed down to my daughter. She’s outgrown it now, but it hangs in her closet, ready to pass to her child many, many years from now.

What is your favorite way to escape?
Reading! Or going for a run or hike or doing a yoga class or walking a shell-laden beach. So, books and exercise, basically. I am happiest and most centered when I’m moving my body outside, or curled up in front of a fire with a coffee and a great book.

Which TV show are you currently binge watching?
We are a Netflix-only house, so I’ve binge watched a lot of programs in the past couple of years. We’ve been re-watching THE OFFICE and THE MINDY PROJECT—two shows guaranteed to make me laugh—and recently finished the first season of MINDHUNTER, which is about the early FBI profiling of serial killers in the 1970s. It was dark and disturbing and highly addictive!

Thanks to Karma for visiting with us 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 June 17th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: Dreams of Falling

By Jami Deise

Although I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers lately, I will always have a soft spot for a certain type of historical fiction – the novel that mixes past and present, with a present-day heroine trying to figure out what exactly happened in the past, while that past unfolds for the reader through the eyes of the past-day heroine. Books such as Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours or Jojo Moyes’s The Girl You Left Behind are great examples of this genre, but even the best books tend to fall into a specific trap: The present-day heroine pales in comparison to the past-day protagonist because there is hardly anything else going on in her life other than trying to solve the past mystery.

Karen White’s Dreams of Falling does not have this issue, and with so many mysteries unfolding at once, it made me realize that sometimes an undistracted heroine is the better choice. Present day is Georgetown, South Carolina, from which protagonist Larkin fled for New York City after something happened her senior year of high school. Now 27, she’s returned because her mother, Ivy, has taken a bad fall at the burnt remains of her dead mother Margaret’s ancestral home. She’s lying in a coma, and Bitty and Ceecee, Margaret’s girlhood best friends, try to reach her. Ivy was a distant mother and Ceecee, who practically raised Ivy, also practically raised Larkin as well. Larkin is estranged from pretty much everyone in town, including her father and high school best friends, so her homecoming would be awkward even without her mother’s life hanging in the balance.

Honestly, I was very confused for the first several chapters, not only trying to keep track of who was whom and how everyone was related to each other, but also of the various mysteries that White introduced. Why was Larkin estranged from everyone? What was Ivy doing at the old homestead? Why was Ivy such a distant mother, and who was this man waiting for her in her coma-dreams? It’s the author’s job to plant questions in the mind of the reader, but when the reader ends up confused rather than intrigued, it’s because there are too many questions. And in this novel, they don’t all pay off.

I kept at it, though, because I really enjoy this type of structure, and eventually it became clearer who was who. There are three points-of-view: Ivy’s coma narration and Larkin are first-person present day, while Ceecee’s third-person-point-of-view takes place in the early 1950s. Hers was the plot I found most interesting. A preacher’s daughter who was completely eclipsed by the more-worldly Margaret, Ceecee is self-aware enough to realize her admiration for her friend is tinged with jealousy. As the reader already knows from early on that Margaret dies in a fire, these sections are overlaid with a tension that Ceecee herself is unaware of, which is what makes this type of structure so enjoyable.

As the book progresses, past and present collide as Larkin starts to question exactly what happened the night of the fire, as well as everything after. (Although it’s strange that neither Larkin nor Ivy ever had questions before.) Her high school drama, as well, comes into play as her estranged father and former best friends press her to resolve the past.

The ending, while fitting, left me a little unsatisfied. As I reached the final pages, it became clear that a lot of the mystery was artificially built up by White’s refusal to correctly label a pivotal relationship in the book. I was also frustrated that a lot of Ivy’s past seemed to have been left on the cutting-room floor, such as why she was such a distant mother. And the reader learns next to nothing about the man in Ivy’s coma dream, while a similar man in Ceecee’s past is firmly three-dimensional.

The dynamic of the southern setting, girlhood best friends now senior citizens, and a strained mother/adult daughter relationship reminded me a lot of Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, although without the sense of humor (and regrettable incidences of child abuse) that made those books such a hit. While I found the beginning chapters of Dreams of Falling to be confusing and the ending somewhat lacking, Ceecee’s story alone makes the book worthwhile, as well as this quote from Larkin’s high-school best friend Mabry: “Sometimes we think we’ve changed, when really all we’ve done is grow into the person we were always meant to be.”

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

More by Karen White:

Friday, June 8, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella (paperback) from St. Martin's Press
Providence by Caroline Kepnes from Random House
One Summer Day in Rome by Mark Lamprell from Flatiron Books
In Her Bones by Kate Moretti from Atria (won from Goodreads)
Crave by Christine O'Brien from St. Martin's Press
The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang from Lake Union
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston from St. Martin's Press
Bedside Manners by/from Heather Frimmer
Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley from Berkley
Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger from William Morrow
Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
Sock Mate Theory by Naomi Griffin, won from Goodreads (e-book)
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)



Sara:
Soul of Stone by/from Traci McDonald (e-book)
Summer on the River by Marcia Willett from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
What My Sister Knew by Nina Laurin from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)

Becky:
On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond from Pan
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green from Pan
The Greek Escape by Karen Swan from Pan

Book Review: It Started with a Tweet

By Becky Gulc

‘Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall.

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy's problems - a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Jean-Marie, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.
But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

If anyone hasn’t heard of Anna Bell yet, she’s an author worth checking out. I’ve reviewed a few of her books now and have enjoyed them all. It’s great when you find an author whose books you continually look forward to reading; your ‘go-to’ author you know won’t disappoint, and Anna Bell is definitely one of my current favourites. So as you can imagine, I was pleased to receive her latest book, It Started With a Tweet, for review.

Daisy is a social media addict whose constant use leads to quite a major slip up on a night out when she drunkenly posts using her work account instead of her personal one. Cue Daisy suddenly finding herself without a job. Daisy is also increasingly playing gooseberry at home where she lives with her loved-up best friend. So when her sister Rosie suggests a detox break in Cumbria, she reluctantly agrees. But this detox trip isn’t quite what Daisy had in mind. Luxury it is not.

As usual, Anna cleverly weaves in social media platforms into her novel to make give it that contemporary feel. Again, it delivers on having a traditional ‘chick lit’ feel whilst being very current in delivery.

The idea of exploring life without access to a mobile and the Internet was an interesting one. We probably all like to think we could manage, but could we? Well, I enjoyed Daisy’s journey, and struggle, to live life offline. There are plenty of funny moments in this novel concerning Daisy’s desperation to get online. There are also moving moments and a real sense of getting back to basics which I loved. I personally love getting away to remote places that have no/poor signals, so enjoyed the isolated setting of the novel in Cumbria and all this had to offer.

As well as a literal need to get back to basics, there were some lovely moments between the characters who couldn’t rely on phones or social media to ‘connect’ with each other. Daisy and Rosie aren’t actually that close at the beginning of the novel, but it was moving to see how this relationship developed. I also enjoyed the sweet notes between Daisy and a love interest, it all felt very romantic.

Another great read from Anna Bell. Put down your phones for a few hours and enjoy a detox through reading! Looking forward to the next one.

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

More by Anna Bell:

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Janis Thomas grants our wish...plus a book giveaway

Janis Thomas was here in November to talk about dinner parties and feature her recent novel at the time, What Remains True. So we were thrilled to find out that she already has another book coming out next week, All That's Left of Me. She's giving away a signed copy right here!

Aside from her three critically-acclaimed humorous women's fiction novels and Murder in A-Minor, the first in her musical murder mystery series, Janis Thomas has written over fifty songs, and two children’s books which she wrote with her dad. When she isn’t writing or fulfilling her PTA duties, Janis likes to play tennis, sing with her sister, and throw lavish dinner parties with wild menus for friends and loved ones (hence the topic of her "night out" post). Janis lives in Southern California with her husband, their two beautiful children and two crazy dogs.

Visit Janis online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
I wish…

It starts with a simple wish, and Emma Davies hardly notices when it comes true. She’s too preoccupied with a life she isn’t happy in—the spark in her marriage has fizzled, her career is headed nowhere and her boss is a misogynist. Her teenage daughter has grown distant, and her heart breaks daily for her teenage son with cerebral palsy. But soon Emma discovers her wishes are coming true, and she realizes that she has been given the power to change her life. Either that, or she’s going insane.

Emma begins testing her newfound gift, making calculated wishes and learning one important rule—once granted, they cannot be undone. Over time, she grows bolder as she builds up to the one wish she both fears and desperately longs to make. But when Emma finally gets everything she’s asked for, will it be worth the price? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is a memorable compliment you've received about your writing?
Recently, I was told my writing was reminiscent of Anna Quindlen. That was very flattering because I think she’s amazing and I can only hope to have the career she’s had. For WHAT REMAINS TUE, I received many reviews and emails from readers that said my book helped them through their own grief. As an author, that’s probably the best compliment I could ever receive.

Which piece of reader feedback from your previous novels have you applied to ALL THAT'S LEFT OF ME?
That’s an interesting question….Every story is unique, just like every reader is unique. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to please every reader, so my goal is always to tell the best story I can, and write it in the manner in which I feel it should be written. Having said that, there are probably fewer F-bombs in ALL THAT’S LEFT OF ME than there were in my previous books. 😊 (Spoiler alert—there are still a few!)

What is something interesting you learned while writing ALL THAT'S LEFT OF ME?
One of the main characters in ALL THAT’S LEFT OF ME has cerebral palsy. I did a lot of research about this condition, and I was overcome by emotion when reading stories about individuals who are challenged by this. Their strength and resilience, courage and optimism are inspirational. I take so many things for granted in terms of my own health and the health of my children. People with cerebral palsy, their families and loved ones, they don’t have that luxury. But, for the most part, they face their challenges with grace, and in many cases, humor. Reading/watching their stories gave me renewed perspective.

If you could cast ALL THAT'S LEFT OF ME as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
I was just talking to some friends about this!
-Emma: I think Carrie Coon would be amazing, but she’s a few years too young. Mireille Enos would also be an interesting choice. Kate Winslet could probably knock it out of the park.
-Colin: Michael Sheen
-Josh: Finn Wolfhard
-Katie: Raffey Cassidy
-Owen: Bradley Cooper
-Dolores: Judi Dench
-Dante: Idris Elba

What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?
My favorite thing to do in the summer is spend uninterrupted time with my kids. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I love those days when we don’t have anywhere to be or anything to do and we can just hang out, swim, watch movies, play games. College and adulthood loom in the not-so-distant future, so I will soak in every single moment I have with my children before they go out into the world!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Hhhhmm. Funny things happen to me all the time! But, you know, maybe only funny to me….I’ll share a funny-strange thing that happened. My mom’s name was Sharon Lambe. (You’ll understand why I’m telling you this in a minute.) A little while back, I was missing my mom desperately. I spent a whole day in a funk, thinking about her, talking to her picture, wishing I could call her, angry that she wasn’t here. The next day I was at my monthly Southern California Writers Association meeting. I arrived late and sat at a table next to an older couple I’d never met before. They seemed lovely, but because I was late, I didn’t get to speak with them before the meeting began. At lunch, I turned to greet them. The woman introduced herself and her husband. She said, and I’m quoting word for word, “I’m Sharon, and this is Lamb.” I burst into laughter and tears simultaneously. Coincidence? Probably. But I took it as a sign that my mom is still with me.

What is your theme song?
Do I have to pick just one? I think it depends on the day. Some days it would be "Walking on Sunshine." Other days it might be "You Can’t Always Get What You Want." For the most part, though, as I get older, the one that resonates the most with me is "Both Sides Now." I’ve loved that song since I was a young girl, but I didn’t really connect with it until I reached middle age. And I love it even more now that I do.

Thanks to Janis for chatting with us 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 June 13th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: The Ever After

By Melissa Amster

Josie and Frank Moore are happy…at least Josie thinks they are. As parents of two young girls in the Chicago suburbs, their days can be both busy and monotonous, and sometimes Josie wonders how she became a harried fortysomething mother rather than the driven career woman she once was. But Frank is a phenomenal father, he’s handsome and charismatic, and he still looks at his wife like she’s the beautiful woman he married more than a decade ago. Josie isn’t just happy—she’s lucky.

Until one Saturday morning when Josie borrows her husband’s phone to make a quick call—and sees nine words that shatter her world.

Now Josie feels as if she is standing at the edge of a sharp precipice. As she looks back at pivotal moments in the relationship she believed would last forever, she is also plunging ahead, surprising everyone (especially herself) with how far she will go to uncover the extent of her husband’s devastating secret.

With her “conversational writing style and a knack for making readers care about her characters” (
The Washington Post) bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen paints a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a marriage before and during a crisis—and of a woman who fears that the biggest secret of all may be the one she’s hiding from herself. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I've probably said this before, but I want to say it again for those of you new to this blog: Sarah Pekkanen had me at The Opposite of Me (2010) and hasn't let go since. The Ever After is her latest domestic drama. While it has a different feel from her previous novels (perhaps the cover contributes to this in a way), it's every bit as good!

Josie is instantly a sympathetic character and I found myself feeling the way she felt each time a new aspect of the secret was revealed. I could easily relate to her in regards to the stresses (and joys) of motherhood. The dialogue and emotions were genuine throughout. Even though Frank deeply hurt her, it's easy to feel bad for him too. I found myself hoping that things would get resolved between them. I think because Frank reminded me of my husband in a lot of ways (aside from the secret).

The only thing that didn't work as well for me was that a sense of place wasn't established. I know that it took place in the Chicago suburbs, but given that I grew up in that area, nothing really stood out to me as being unique. Perhaps if they had gone to Portillo's or Lou Malnati's for dinner? In any case, the story might as well have taken place in the DC suburbs, like in most of Sarah's previous novels.

Overall, it was a great story with a well-defined arc. I sometimes forgot I was reading a book, as I became so absorbed. Off to check my husband's phone now...  Just kidding!

Suggestions for the big screen:
Josie: Marley Shelton
Frank: Ed Helms
Karin: Kathryn Hahn
Amanda: Bonnie Somerville
Dana: Leslie Bibb
Sonya: Mary Lynn Rajskub
Mike: Dermot Mulroney

Thanks to Atria for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have TWO copies for some lucky 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 June 12th at midnight EST.

More by Sarah Pekkanen:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Spotlight and Giveaway: Switch and Bait

We're excited to feature Switch and Bait by Ricki Schultz, which is publishing on June 12th. This is Ricki's sophomore novel and it sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, we have TWO copies to give away!

Synopsis:
A charming, hilarious romantic comedy — a modern retelling of Cyrano featuring an online dating profile ghostwriter — told with sharp insight and sarcastic wit, for readers of Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, or Jennifer Weiner.

We switch. I bait.
Let me help you snag a date.

All through college, Blanche Carter was known as the love doctor in her sorority. Now she's parlayed her talent into a unique consulting business: she runs the online dating profiles of Washington D.C.'s most eligible women.

Armed with a battalion of rules, Blanche expertly helps her clients optimize their profiles and ace that first date. But although she'll happily message handsome strangers (and fend off dick pics) for other ladies, Blanche's most important rule is the one she has for herself: no relationships. She's seen too much heartbreak to believe in real love anymore.

When a former fling pops up among the matches for one of her favorite clients, Blanche gamely messages him on her behalf. Blanche is definitely over him, and this is how she'll prove it. But if she doesn't watch out, Blanche might end up not only screwing over a client — and possibly tanking her entire business — but breaking her rule about love as well…

Ricki Schultz's trademark irreverent humor and wry insight into the absurdities of modern dating are both outrageously funny and genuinely moving in her unforgettable new novel.

Although she is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and has spent the most time there, Ricki Schultz has also lived in Georgia and Virginia. (She promises she's not a drifter, though.) In addition to writing, she has molded the minds of tweens & teens as a middle school and high school teacher in both the CLE and the ATL — and she also spent a year teaching writing and communications at the college level. She's back in Atlanta now, and she owns the cutest beagle ever (Molly).

Visit Ricki 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 11th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: When Life Gives You Lululemons

By Melissa Amster

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada--Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who's just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito's and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let's be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly's ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She's working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily's lost a few clients. She's hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She's the former face of L'Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It's all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina's arrest for a DUI--with a Suburban full of other people's children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan's most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they'll navigate the social landmines of life in America's favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths--and the lies--that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Since I enjoyed both The Devil Wears Prada and Revenge Wears Prada, I was excited to read about Emily's life and learn more about her perspective. Emily, Miriam, and Karolina are three very different women who somehow manage to bond over a disastrous situation. I really liked reading about all three women and seeing what was unfolding in their lives. They were all easily relatable, even if I've never been in their shoes for certain situations.

When Life Gives You Lululemons is deliciously snarky and humorous throughout. There were some interesting shock factors that came into play. The only real issue I had was with the passage of time. It felt like time went by too quickly to work for what was happening in the story. Like several months would pass, even though it felt like only a few weeks.

Overall, I enjoyed this story as much as the previous two and I think it would be fun to get some type of prequel novel from Miranda's perspective.

Dream movie cast:
Of course, Emily Blunt will still play Emily and Meryl Streep will still play Miranda
Miriam: Natasha Lyonne
Karolina: Katja Herbers
Miles: Taylor Kitsch
Paul: Chris Klein
Graham: Eion Bailey
Regan: Britt Robertson
Ashley: April Bowlby
Alistair: Ben Barnes

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the book in exchange for an honest review. They also have one copy for a lucky reader!


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

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Giveaway ends June 10th at midnight EST.

More by Lauren Weisberger: