Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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

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

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

Visit Rich on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

Purchase Links:

Amazon US * Amazon UK * Amazon CA * Amazon AU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 favorite TV shows now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Visit the other stops on Rich's tour!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review: Connectedness

By Sara Steven

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

Chillin' on the couch with Jennifer Haupt

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

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

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

Visit Jennifer online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

My top 5 shows when I was a kid:

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

Top 5 now:

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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

CLC TV picks

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

Melissa A:

Top 5 from childhood/teen years:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa S:

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And my top 5 adult series:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Book Review: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win

By Jami Deise

When I reviewed Jo Piazza’s Fitness Junkie last year (co-written with Lucy Sykes), I was impressed with the contemporary feel of the novel. Reading it made me feel like I had been plopped right onto the Upper East Side of New York City in 2017. Piazza’s current release, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, feels even more ripped-from-the-headlines. (Piazza also ghost-wrote the novel tie-in to the TV series show Younger – Marriage Vacation. When does this woman sleep?)

Protagonist Charlotte Walsh is a Senate candidate for Pennsylvania during the 2018 election, and reading Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win felt like spying on a real candidate. For someone as invested in politics as am I, reading the book is less of an escape from reality and more of an immersion into it. Readers who disdain politics might not reach for this book, but with a protagonist as strong, smart, determined—and flawed—as Charlotte, the novel is worth a read, even for those who don’t know Tammy Baldwin from Tammy Duckworth.

Charlotte seems based on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, minus the personal tragedy. Like Sandberg, Charlotte is COO of a Silicon Valley company worth billions, and she and her husband Mark are part of the one percent of the one percent. She’s written books, had twins through IVF, and now she’s the Democrats’ best hope for taking the Pennsylvania Senate seat from an entrenched male Republican. The only thing she has to do is move back to her godforsaken Pennsylvania hometown, deal with her jealous alcoholic brother Paul, make sure Mark feels appreciated while he takes care of their three daughters under six almost single-handedly, and shake every hand in the state. Oh, and keep a giant secret about her marriage. No problem, right?

I wonder whether Piazza trailed a Senate candidate for a year to write this book, because it feels so authentic. She shows Charlotte kissing up to donors, judging county fair pie-baking contests, handling “gotcha” questions by the press, and other timeless details of campaigning. There are also the Twitter insults, the tracker from the rival campaign, up-to-the-second polling, Trump references, and a savvy Teen Vogue journalist, which place this election firmly in the current decade. Any fantasies that running for office would be fun are quickly dispelled by this book.

Charlotte does like to win. She’s also in the race because she feels Washington is broken like never before, and she’s a “fixer” who can help fix it. (That was also the name of her book.) But as the campaign grinds on, eating away at her sanity and her marriage, it also begins to eat away at her soul.

While there were plot elements I disagreed with (for instance, Mark is from this same small Pennsylvania town; having him a “fish out of water” would have been a stronger choice), overall, I loved this book. It reminded me of the Robert Redford movie The Candidate, although Charlotte is much better suited for politics than Redford’s character was. And there’s a plot twist about three-fourths of the way through that Piazza subtly sets up, which explodes all over the novel and takes it to a higher level. Charlotte becomes both more human and more monstrous when this happens.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was its ending. In fact, I hated how Piazza chose to end it. With endings being the most important element of a book, practically defining how a book is classified, I don’t know why she picked the ending she did. I still recommend the book, and I loved everything that led up to the ending. But my recommendation comes with a warning: When you reach the last page, you will be disappointed.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jo Piazza:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Liz and Lisa's night in...plus a book giveaway

L to R: Liz and Lisa
Happy pub day to Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke for their latest novel, Girls' Night Out (reviewed here)! They're here today to tell us which TV shows they would watch on a girls' night in. But do they have any in common? Find out below and then enter for a chance to win one of TWO copies, thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications.

Liz and Lisa have been best friends for 30 years. They created this website to celebrate books women (and men!) love and to have a place to dish about reality TV stars. They have also published three women's fiction novels with Simon & Schuster/Atria Books. Your Perfect Life is a hilarious and heartwarming story of two childhood best friends who switch bodies at their twenty-year high school reunion. The Status of All Things is a cautionary tale of a woman who realizes she can change the course of her entire life by what she writes in her Facebook status. And The Year We Turned Forty follows three women who get the chance to relive the year they turned forty, a year they each made decisions that altered the course of their lives. (Adapted from Liz and Lisa's website.)

Visit Liz and Lisa online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Top five favorite shows from when we were kids/teens

  • Growing Pains
  • The Cosby Show
  • Quantum Leap
  • Fantasy Island
  • Love Boat
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Fame
  • Family Ties
  • The Facts of Life
  • Beverly Hills 90210

Top five favorite shows now

  • Billions
  • Bosch
  • The Affair
  • Game of Thrones
  • Million Dollar Listing L.A.
  • This is Us
  • Imposters
  • Timeless
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Although it’s a love/hate relationship)
  • Dietland

Thanks to Liz and Lisa for another fun visit and to Kathleen Carter Communications for sharing their 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 July 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Book Review: In a Jam

By Sara Steven

Andie Carson has to do three things to inherit her grandmother’s lottery winnings—sober up, spend a month running her grandmother’s Georgia coffee shop, and enter homemade jam in the county fair. If she can’t meet those terms, the money goes to the church, and Andie gets nothing. She figures her tasks will be easy enough, and once she completes them, Andie plans to sell the shop, take the money, and run back to Boston.

After a rough breakup from his crazy ex-fiancée, Officer Gunnar Wills decides to take a hiatus from women. All he wants is to help make his small town thrive the way it did when he was a kid. But when wild and beautiful Andie shows up, Gunnar’s hesitant heart begins to flutter.

Gunnar knows that Andie plans to leave, but he’s hoping to change her mind, fearful that if her coffee shop closes, Main Street will fold to the big-box corporations and forever change the landscape of his quaint community. But convincing her to stay means getting close enough to risk his heart in the process. Even though Gunnar makes small-town life seem a little sweeter, Andie has to decide if she’s ready to turn her world upside down and give up big-city life. One thing’s for sure—it’s a very sticky situation. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I love the way In A Jam instantly draws you into its small-town diorama, creating connections with Andie and Gunnar, and the rest of the Georgia crew. I couldn’t help but feel taken in by them all, even the ones who give Andie her fair share of contention and hardship. There is a protective quality to the characters who want nothing more than to keep their small-town lifestyle alive, a quality that Andie is suddenly thrust into and has to make do with, sink or swim.

There was the perfect amount of give and take between the romantic notions of Andie and Gunnar. I appreciated how true to life it felt, despite the attraction. Moments of awkwardness and uncomfortableness that can only come from having to learn more about a person, and what they’re about. And when outside sources throw wrenches into what some might think should be smooth sailing, that only adds to the conflict. I really enjoyed that dimension to the story.

What touched me more than anything were the friendships formed, ones that you know are going to be life lasting. I felt that the most with the interactions between Andie and the coffee shop occupants. I could picture what it might be like to have the ones you love the most visit you daily, and that’s the kind of love Andie finds while she’s working hard to fulfill her end of the bargain, in order to receive her grandmother’s lottery winnings. She may be new to the town, but soon the town envelops her within its open arms, only adding to the confusion on what the right decision will be, when she finally receives the money. Should she stay, or should she go?

I read In A Jam in in two days’ time, because it was such a fun, sweet read. Andie makes the perfect protagonist with a few antagonistic qualities that will continue on long after you’ve finished reading her story, a small-town diorama that never lets go.

Thanks to Cindy Dorminy for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Cindy Dorminy:

Friday, July 20, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Designer You by/from Sarahlyn Bruck (e-book)
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen from St. Martin's Press
The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman from Kathleen Carter Communications
An Excellent Choice by Emma Brockes from Thoughts on This 'n That (won in a giveaway)
Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis from WhoRuBlog (won in a giveaway)

The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club by/from Holly Tierney-Bedord (e-book)
Counting On You by Laura Chapman from Lola's Book Tours (e-book)

Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
The Wives by Lauren Weisberger from HarperCollins UK
A Year at Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino from Orion
A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood from Scholastic
A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes from Agora Books

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What's on Kerry Lonsdale's DVR...plus a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Kerry Lonsdale back at CLC. She's celebrating the recent publication of the third book in her "Everything" series, Everything We Give (reviewed here). While we wish this series could go on forever, we also know there are other great stories inside that creative mind of hers and we can't wait to read what she comes up with next. In the meantime, she's going to tell us what TV shows she enjoys watching and she has one copy of Everything We Give for a lucky reader! (Be sure to read the first two books in the series though!)

Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon Kindle bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale writes standalone and series based emotionally charged domestic drama, family suspense, and women’s fiction. Her books are sold worldwide in more than 25 countries and are being translated into 22 languages (and counting). Co-founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an international organization that boasts over 1,000 writers, Kerry resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, two naughty kitties, and an aging Golden Retriever convinced she’s still a puppy. (Bio courtesy of Kerry's website.)

Visit Kerry online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Award-winning photographer Ian Collins made only one mistake in life, but it cost his mother her freedom and destroyed their family, leaving Ian to practically raise himself. For years he’s been estranged from his father, and his mother has lived off the grid. For just as long, he has searched for her.

Now, Ian seemingly has it all—national recognition for his photographs; his loving wife and their adoring daughter. Only two things elude him: a feature in National Geographic and finding his mother. When the prized magazine offers him his dream project on the same day that someone from his past returns bearing a message for Ian but putting a strain on his marriage, Ian must make a choice: chase after a coveted assignment or reconnect with a mysterious woman who might hold the key to putting his past to rest. But the stakes are high, because Ian could lose the one thing he holds most dear: his family. (Adapted from Amazon to remove spoilers.)

Top 5 TV Shows as a Kid (this is going to date me):
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Bewitched
  • The Facts of Life
  • M*A*S*H

Top 5 TV Shows Now:
  • This Is Us
  • Outlander
  • The Affair
  • Lost In Space (Just finished binge watching the 1st season of the remake)
  • The Goldbergs (I watch with my son and I’m hooked.)

Thanks to Kerry for sharing her favorite shows 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 July 24th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Go-to-Gay: Watch what you read

We're glad to have Go-to-Gay Keith Stewart back at CLC this month to talk about our theme...TV. He had fun with this topic and it shows. He even gave some inspiration for our next theme month...

We'll leave you in Keith's capable hands now. Please feel free to answer his questions in the comments.

When Books Become TV: Keith’s List of Top Television Shows Based on Books

I was happier than a kid on the last day of school when I find out the topic of this month’s post was “Television.” Television and I go back a long way. From the days of the RCA with a bunny-eared antenna sitting on a rickety stand in our 1970’s family room, to the current sleek 70-inch flat screen hanging on my living room wall, I have always been a TV watcher.

I know this is primarily a book lovers website, but I must admit, just between us squirrels, nothing gets on my nerves more than someone who says she doesn’t even OWN a television.


I always want to go after that snoot who says those words to me at a party or a gathering. I mean, COME ON. What kind of person doesn’t need and use—at least occasionally—a television? A barbarian, that’s who.

My own husband is almost one of those people. Thankfully, the rise of the do-it-yourself and home improvement channels saved our marriage. I don’t think I could have survived another twenty years of never seeing him veg-out on the couch for a Sunday afternoon. I am so grateful he never uttered the words, “I’d rather experience life’s adventures rather than watch them on TV,” to me. That would have been marital suicide.

There are so many things I love about television—24-hour news cycle, constant pop culture, entertainment, education—it was hard to narrow down what to write about this month. In fact, I think this is television’s Golden Age. With the onset of binge-watching and a broader variety of production companies getting into the industry, watching TV has never been better. There is something for everyone, and it is GOOD.

Because I know we are all bibliophiles, I decided to make a list of the top television shows that are based on books. When I started researching, I surprised to see how many there are out there! So, to narrow it down I only selected shows that I watched. For instance, BONES is a popular show based on a book series written by Kathy Reich, but I have never watched it, so it didn’t make my list. That said, here is the list.

Keith’s Top Television Shows Based on Books

1. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones may be, and let me put this in a way that I don’t oversell it, THE BEST ON TELEVISION EVER. It is based on A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE book series by R. R. Martin. So freaking good. Plus, one word: DRAGONS.

2. Little House on the Prairie

How could Little House on the Prairie NOT be on this list? I think I have seen every episode at least five times. So much of my childhood was spent with Mary, Half-Pint, and the younger one—who I never really liked—that I feel like they are family (except for the one whose name I can’t remember). The show was, of course, based on the autobiographical book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

3. The Handmaid’s Tale

This show, based on Margaret Atwood’s iconic book of the same name, is truly a must-watch in these uncertain and ever-changing climates. Although the book is a scary look at what society could become, seeing it on the screen in this day and time is TERRIFYING.

4. True Blood

OK, one thing you need to know about me is that if there is a vampire show available, I will choose it for all my lists. Sure, it isn’t as thought provoking as some, or as morally educating as others, but once you see the vampire Eric Northman you won’t care about anything else ever, you will be a fan. The show, based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries book series by Charlaine Harris, is actually really good, so don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

5. Orange is the New Black

Based on the autobiography ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK by Piper Kerman, this show is riveting. It is a nice change from the old women prison television shows, such as Prisoner: Cell Block H (Surely, I am not the only one who remembers that show?). The story lines are intense, and the acting is superb.

Honorable Mentions:

Big Little Lies

Based on the same-named novel written by Laine Moriarty, this is one of my favorite new shows on television right now. It would have made the full-fledged list had it been on for more than one season. It is one reason I say this is the Golden Age of television. Plus, the same guy who plays the vampire Eric Northman in True Blood is in this.

Vampire Diaries

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Vampires. What can I say? The show is based on the Vampire Diaries book series by L. J. Smith.

So, how did I do? Do you agree or disagree? What would you have chosen? What can’t you believe I left off the list? Let me know in the comments!

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.

Book Review: Campaign Widows

By Jami Deise

There’s a common saying that Washington, D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people, and if you’ve ever seen a coterie of pretty young staffers orbiting around a fat wrinkled white man that folks call “Mr. Speaker,” that’s only half of it. The Hollywood part comes in when players are more concerned with the game they’re playing than with the people whose lives are affected by the laws that are passed or blocked on Capitol Hill.

Two novels about politics that hit the shelves this summer are getting a lot of press: romance writer Aimee Agresti’s Campaign Widows, and Jo Piazza’s Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win (review coming soon). Piazza’s book is for those who know the difference between a primary and a caucus; Agresti’s is for readers who like all the romance and drama of the race but might not be able to articulate the difference in the platforms of the two major political parties. It’s good to have choices!

The concept behind Campaign Widows is a look at the people who are left behind when their significant others hit the road during a presidential campaign. That road starts in January in Iowa and doesn’t end until November, leaving bodies and marriages along the way. The person left behind is in the odd position of wanting their significant other’s boss to win, but knowing that if the boss loses, life returns to normal.

The characters in this dilemma are Cady, a TV producer whose new fiancé works for a candidate; Jay, an internet producer whose boyfriend is a reporter assigned to another candidate; Reagan, a mother of toddler twins whose husband works for a third candidate; Madison, married to a Trump-like fourth candidate; and Birdie, a fundraiser with interest in all the campaigns and a husband who has his own life.

Campaign Widows is a funny book that follows the presidential election year, with events occurring at a fast clip—some predictable, some inspired. However, I had a lot of trouble keeping straight who was who. With multiple third-person points-of-view, the reader not only needs to remember each character’s storyline, but also their significant other, and which candidate the significant other works for. And there are other people in the main characters’ orbits as well to keep track of. Reading the book requires such a mental juggling act that I completely missed that Jay’s significant other, Sky, was male until I was almost done with the book. (However, I wholeheartedly approve of the completely blasé approach Agresti takes to same-sex relationships.)

Part of the reason why the book is difficult to follow is that Agresti takes care to never use the words “Democrat” or “Republican.” While that keeps the narrative from taking sides, it also prevents the reader from slotting characters into one camp or the other, which might have made it easier to keep track of everyone.

Although the story takes place in an alternate 2016, Agresti has created candidates that are more outlandish than the reality TV billionaire who became president of the United States. And it made me wonder, will 2020 bring a return to presidential candidates who were governors and senators… or will it be a contest between Kim Kardashian, Oprah, and Elon Musk?

When reality is more unbelievable than fiction, thank goodness we have authors like Agresti to escape with.

Thanks to Graydon House for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sharing screen time with Louise Miller...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Nina Subin
We are so excited to have Louise Miller at CLC to celebrate the publication of her sophomore novel, The Late Bloomers' Club. Her debut, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living was one of Melissa A's 2016 favorites. Does Late Bloomers measure up? See her review to find out! Louise is here today to share some of her favorite TV shows. Thanks to Viking, we have a copy to share with a lucky reader.

Louise Miller is a writer and pastry chef living in Boston, MA. Her debut novel, THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING was selected as an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association, a Library Reads pick by Librarians across the U.S., and was shortlisted by the America Library Association’s Reading List Council for best women’s fiction in 2017.  Louise is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Louise online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small-town's efforts to do right by their community, and the power of a lost dog to conjure up true love.

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had.

Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams. (Courtesy of Goodreads.)

Top 5 from when I was a kid/teen:

1. The Muppet Show. I lived for Sunday Nights—Jiffy Pop and The Muppet Show. Fozzie the Bear was my favorite.

2. The Waltons. I loved—love, if I am being honest—everything about this show. I wanted to live on Walton’s Mountain. John Boy was one of my first crushes. I still think that John Walton is the best dad on television. People think of The Waltons as a syrupy-sweet show, but it was actually was quite human, and often dealt with difficult topics. But I watched it because I wanted to be a part of that big, rambling family.

3. Cheers. Maybe it was because I grew up in Boston in a working-class family, and all the characters felt familiar to me, but I was obsessed with Cheers as a kid. Sam and Diane were the first couple I seriously shipped.

4. Gilmore Girls—I added this to my “kid” list, even though I watched it in my 20’s. How could I not love this show? More than any one character, the thing I loved the most about Gilmore Girls was the town of Stars Hollow. It made me want to create my own town. I was thrilled when Bon Appetit Magazine compared my debut novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living with Gilmore Girls—a dream come true.

5.Guiding Light. Some people were General Hospital people, but we were strictly a Guiding Light family. We all watched it. My sister. My dad. My grandmother. Misty, our cocker spaniel. Don’t get me wrong, I love streaming, but I miss those days when you had to get together to watch a show when it aired.

Top Five now:

This is actually pretty difficult—there is SO MUCH good programing out there, and I feel super behind on shows I want to watch. But here are the shows I carve out time for:

1. Project Runway. I have never missed a season. There is something so wonderful about watching people make things. It is such a satisfying show to watch. And I love Tim Gunn with my whole heart. Judge I always agree with: Nina Garcia. She is a badass.

2. Great British Bake Off. Come for the baking, but stay for the kindness the contestants show each other. Plus it gave us the word scrummy, which is basically the best adjective ever.

3. The Good Fight. This is THE BEST SHOW (not) on television. The only way to watch this The Good Wife spinoff is streaming on NBC All Access. It is worth the $10/month that the show is on. The writing is so, so good. The cast is amazing. And the casting director obviously has NYC theater connections, because almost every character actor/guest star has been on Broadway.

4. Two book adaptations:
  • Dietland. I loved Sarai Walker’s subversive debut novel Dietland, and am obsessed with the television adaptation. It is so creatively filmed, and the star, Joy Nash, is incredible. The whole cast is.
  • Sweetbitter. Another fantastic novel adaptation, which has me convinced that television is the best medium to translate books into. Both the book and the television show are the most honest and accurate depictions of what life is like in a restaurant. Beautifully made.
5. The Good Place. This show was 100% not what I expected. Funny, weird, philosophical, smart, and totally surprising.

Thanks to Louise for visiting with us and Viking 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 July 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: The Summer Wives

By Sara Steven

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound as a naive eighteen year old, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. Although a graduate of the exclusive Foxcroft Academy in Virginia, Miranda has always lived on the margins of high society. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda is catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the Island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans--the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph helps his father in the lobster boat, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph has enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and has a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the Island for nearly two decades. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The time transition between who Miranda had been in the 1950’s, and who she becomes nearly two decades later was well written and well explained. I could sense the growth and maturity, while still feeling the yearning she has for the past she left behind. The same distinct details work for the other primary characters as well, like with Isobel and particularly with Joseph. Real depth and sincerity when it comes to the passing of time, and given what each person has had to endure over so many years, they seem to find themselves when Miranda comes back to the island. It felt true to the situation.

I was transported back in time, back into an era I’ve always wanted to be a part of. The scenery, the way the characters communicate with one another, the way they dress and behave felt very reminiscent to what those decades would have been like, the years of prosperity and protest. And there are so many intricacies to The Summer Wives, beginning with the multiple story lines of various characters, stories that ultimately weave and blend in together, creating a masterpiece of subtle mystery. It felt like skipping a rounded pebble into a still lake, the wake of it undulating into everyone and everything. Hidden secrets and lies that are better left unsaid and untold, but as is the case with secrets and lies, the truth will eventually come out.

This island, it's like a secret society, and I’d been given the privilege of looking inside and discovering why the relationships are dissolving, why there is so much contention and hidden motivations, the kind that ultimately leads to everyone’s undoing.

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

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