Friday, November 16, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt from Viking
My Virtual Life by Sharon Dempsey from Bloodhound Books (e-book via NetGalley)
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella from The Dial Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
An Impossible Thing Called Love by Belinda Missen from HQ Digital (e-book via NetGalley)
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner from Berkley (Amy won this from Goodreads.)

Jami:
For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt from TLC Book Tours (e-book via NetGalley)

Becky:
Not Just for Christmas by Natalie Cox from Orion Publishing

Sara:
There's Something About a Cowboy by Rich Amooi from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
The Military Wife by Laura Trentham from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)

Book Review: A Christmas Gift

By Becky Gulc

‘Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

I’ve known of Sue Moorcroft for years but have somehow only just read one of her novels after receiving A Christmas Gift for review. The book promises to appeal to fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley and I definitely agree with that, there’s a warmth to it that resonates with the work of these popular authors. Whilst I haven’t read any previous work, I know this novel is based in the same fictional location of Middledip as some of Sue’s previous novels, with some previous characters making cameos. I always find this appealing in novels, so I’m sure this will delight existing fans.

For me this book has lots of positives – strong sense of place and community, strong leading characters in Georgine and Joe, and lots of chemistry in the build up to Christmas! There’s also a lot of kindness which is always good especially this time of year. I loved how the character’s backstories were very contrasting but complimentary to one another; some serious issues are covered whilst remaining a light-read, a good balance.

Personally, I think I would have felt even more invested in the characters if the narrative was switched up a bit to relive some of the character’s history and their connection in ‘real-time’ rather than discussing it in retrospect; a minor thing that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment. I also felt I could have had greater connection and investment in the Christmas production element of the story. I felt more interested in everything else, which was a shame as this did feature quite heavily.

All in all I think this is a great novel that would be great to read any time of year. I’d happily read more novels set in Middledip and would love to see these characters pop up again!

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the other stops on Sue's tour.


More by Sue Moorcroft:


Thursday, November 15, 2018

With a dreamy far off look, and her nose stuck in a book....

By Melissa Amster

I am sharing this post that I wrote a long time ago for my personal blog. I felt it worked well for this theme month and I was thinking about it after taking my kids to a production of Beauty and the Beast this past week.

I kept this month's theme open to all Disney and fairy tale characters because I didn’t want to limit it to just the “princesses.” However, there is no one I can relate to more than Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

Picture from Look Magazine

The first reason is really obvious. She loves books!!! That was the first thing that I loved about her, aside from her beautiful singing voice. Her passion for books is so strong that she’ll read the same book twice and she’ll walk through the streets while focused intently on the story in her hand. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the Beast gives her his library. Such a romantic gesture! It reminds me of how my husband supports my love for books and built bigger shelves so I could display more of them. (And I still keep running out of room!) He is also supportive of my blog and everything surrounding it, such as going to meet authors. The gesture also reminds me of the first time I went to the used book store at the library. There must be millions of books there! I felt like the Beast had given me his library by showing me this store.

Another reason I’m like Belle is that I look for inner beauty. Sure, I can recognize if someone is physically attractive. However, if they are ugly on the inside, I want nothing to do with them. (It’s the same way that Belle felt about Gaston.) A person’s true beauty reflects through when they are kind and loving. Looks will fade over time but treating others as you would want to be treated is an eternal value.

Everyone in the town thought Belle was a bit peculiar and that she didn’t fit in with the people in the town, despite her inner and outer beauty. (It seems like they had a problem with her desire to read all the time. If that makes her odd, then that makes a lot of people in this world odd!) I believe that I don’t completely fit in to any one group in particular. I have friends and I get along well with people individually. When it comes to social situations, I tend to stand on the sidelines or on the outskirts of a group. Either I have nothing to say about the topic or I just look like I’m trying to blend in. I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. I didn’t cave into peer pressure when I was younger and wasn’t much of a wild party girl in college. (I even waited till I was 21 to drink alcohol.) I still do other odd things like reading during social situations (such as at baseball games, during my lunch break at work or even when people come over to visit and play games), singing out loud at random times, spacing out (going off into my own little world), etc.

Belle seems to talk about wanting more than a provincial life. She lives in a small town where the routines are the same every day. I live in a suburban area, but in a small town within that area. I love where I live, but I also feel like there's a sense of routine in my life. I try to rise above just going through the motions. While I'm extremely happy with my husband and kids, I also seek out things that make me an individual, as I don't like to lose myself by just being a wife and mother. (I am not one of those moms from 1950's television shows!) A while back, I read a book called "Here, Home, Hope," by Kaira Rouda, that voices aloud the things I'm usually thinking. I feel like I have done that with my book blog, while fostering my love for books at the same time. I'm sure Belle would have a book blog if she were a real person living in the 21st century. :)

There are a few other ways I am like Belle, such as being loyal to and protecting my family, having a stubborn streak, and talking to inanimate objects (just kidding about that last part). Overall, she is my favorite Disney character of all time and I’m proud to have so much in common with her!

"For once it might be grand, to have someone understand...I want so much more than they've got planned."

Picture from Revelist.com


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Review: Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop

By Sara Steven

Ivy loves Christmas. As owner of Christmas Every Day, the year-round festive store, you'd expect nothing less!

The only thing missing in Ivy's life is a dash of romance – something her twin sister Holly will not let her forget…

When her mother passed away, Ivy vowed to take over the running of her mother’s store and keep the Christmas spirit alive in the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

But all this changes when an enigmatic businessman moves to the town, threatening to bulldoze her beloved shop to make way for holiday complex.

Can Ivy save her shop before Christmas? Could there be a different side to the newest resident of Marram Bay that would make all her Christmas wishes come true?
(synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Nothing thrills me more than having the opportunity to go back to a great place within the mind of an author’s story. Marram Bay is that story. Having read Summer Secrets at the Apple Blossom Deli (reviewed here), it was so much fun to see the town from another perspective, from Ivy’s point of view.

Set within this idyllic location, you get the feeling that those who live in Marram Bay are encased in a bubble, where time slows down and the bigger cities and associated fast paced lifestyle has no place here. Ivy has become one with her town, running a Christmas-themed store that has been a fixture for generations, feeling settled within the day-to-day operations that come from owning a business. This doesn’t allow for much else.

When Seb, the enigmatic businessman enters her store, he represents much more than a hindrance to her way of life. He represents all that she has tried desperately to steer clear of, like the future. Going beyond the old-fashioned ways that she has held steadfast to, he pushes her into taking steps toward finding other methods of survival, for her business, and for her own livelihood. I appreciated how we can slowly see the growth and change that happens for Ivy, expanding on the list of what’s most important to her, fighting against the need to stay put in her comfort zone, while tentatively sticking a toe outside of it. There is a lot of push-pull that happens between Ivy and Seb, adding a nice layer of romance to this Christmas story.

Portia has a way with creating characters who fill you with light and joy. You find yourself imagining what it would be like to be neighbors with those who bring back a simpleness to what often feels like a chaotic world. Marram Bay finds a special place in your heart, with characters who are fun and unique, spanning from book to book, with special cameos and glimpses into the different viewpoints that make up what this town is all about. It truly is the perfect holiday read!

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review. Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop can be purchased here.

More by Portia MacIntosh:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lauren Clark knows how to be brave...plus a book giveaway

We welcome Lauren Clark back to CLC today. The last time she was here was in 2016, as Laura McNeill. No matter which name she goes by, she's a sweetheart and we're glad to reconnect with her. Lauren is here to talk about the Disney character she is most like, going along with our theme of Disney and Fairy Tales. She has TWO copies of her latest novel, The World Breaks Everyone, to give away (one print, one e-book).


Lauren Clark is the author of several award-winning novels, including Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stardust Summer, and Stay Tuned. She also writes suspense under the name Laura McNeill. Center of Gravity and Sister Dear have been published by HarperCollins. Visit Lauren at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Synopsis:
Every day, I wake up certain of only three things:

I am responsible for my mother’s death.
My father has vanished.
Someone wants me dead.

I’m on the run. It’s me against the world.

I cannot let it break me.

When sixteen-year-old Olivia Jacobs and her celebrity chef father are brutally attacked after his French Quarter restaurant opening, the shell-shocked Olivia finds herself on the run on the streets of New Orleans.

Who wants her dead? And why?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Be Brave! Merida: The Disney/Pixar Character Most Like Me

From the first moment feisty, headstrong Merida appeared in Brave, I loved the 16-year old Scottish princess. She is anything but a stereotypical royal—athletic, bold, brave, and daring—never a damsel in distress.

Much like me, Merida holds much curiosity about the world around her. She is a bit of a dreamer and often thinks about the legends and myths of her kingdom. I always loved to discover new places as a child, similar to Merida, who enjoys the outdoors. In the movie, you can tell that she loves spending time exploring the forests that surround her home. I probably would not have scaled Crone's Tooth and tried to drink from the fire falls, but I definitely cheered her on as she attempted what only the bravest kings have done.

One of my favorite games as a child was playing hide and seek, which we see Merida enjoying in the movie. She is very fond and protective of her younger triplet brothers, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. Like Merida, I also had younger brothers (not triplets, thank goodness!). She also shows her softer side with her horse, Angus, preferring to care for him herself.

Photo credit: Disney Wiki
Merida is devoted to her archery skills and though I have never found a loophole in an archery competition to “shoot for my own hand,” I do love playing sports and the challenge of friendly competition. I played soccer, field hockey, and softball in high school, and still enjoy swimming, though at a more leisurely pace!

Merida showed part of her tenacious personality when her cake spell went awry. When her mother turned into a bear, Merida didn't rely on anyone other than herself to fix it. I prefer to solve my own problems, as well, and tend to be stubborn and don’t want to ask anyone for help!

I could relate to Merida being often irritated with her mother; seeing her instructions on how to be a "proper" princess tedious and boring. Rather than following social etiquette and good manners, Merida takes control of her own destiny, despite her mother’s warning that her actions could harm the kingdom. I definitely saw my teenage self in Merida’s behaviors. While I was (overall) a well-behaved daughter, I did have some moments I look back on and wonder what in the world I was thinking!

Merida stands apart from many other Disney/Pixar heroines, as she made clear she wasn't interested in suitors. She even says, "I may never be ready for this." The final scenes of the movie, rather than centering on a love story, focus on her relationship with her mother—exemplifying that families can be repaired and strengthened through patience, bravery, and love.

I had such fun watching Merida grow and change throughout the movie. She begins the film, Brave, as a rebellious and impulsive girl but soon learns to become more understanding and open-minded. I definitely see my younger self in Merida—and I also see 16-year old Olivia Jacobs, the heroine of my new novel, The World Breaks Everyone. Both Olivia and Merida stay true to their core values and temperament throughout, remaining brave and loyal to those they love most.

Thanks to Lauren 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 November 18th at midnight EST.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: The Stranger in Our Home

By Jami Deise

The evil stepparent has been a trope of fiction throughout the history of literature, and from a biological basis, there’s good reason. With an evolutionary compulsion to promulgate one’s genes far and wide, it only makes sense to funnel resources to a biological child over a new partner’s. If that means leaving them in the woods to be eaten by a witch, so be it.

In Sophie Draper’s debut The Stranger in Our Home (published in the UK as Cuckoo), she brings this trope back to the beginning in what can best be called an adult fairy tale in the Brothers Grimm tradition. After the death of her stepmother Elizabeth, Caroline (Caro) moves back into the remote English farmhouse where she and her older sister grew up after the death of their father. Homeless after a painful break-up, Caro, an artist, plans to use the move to illustrate a gruesome book of adult fairy tales. But the memories of her punishing treatment by Elizabeth, odd coincidences, the isolated setting of the farmhouse in late fall, and the cruelty of the villagers (who refer to Caro’s sister as the flashy one and Caro as the crazy one), drive Caro to distraction. Why did Elizabeth hate her so much? Why do the villagers treat her as a pariah? And who is this boy popping into her mind whom she can’t remember?

Seeped in its gothic setting, Stranger is not a supernatural story, but its tone delivers that experience anyway. Although Caro is a passive protagonist and a bit too fragile, her personality works for the novel. The pacing does lag a bit at times, as the action unfolds over several months, but it never comes to a complete stop. With only a few characters, the reader feels just as isolated as Caro does, and that also works to the story’s advantage.

Stranger is a strong debut, especially in a marketplace where stories like The Haunting of Hill House get so much attention. My only real quibble is with the publisher’s decision to rename the novel for American audiences. Cuckoo has a sly double meaning that is only apparent at the end of the book, and it gave me even more appreciation for the author. Perhaps they thought that Americans don’t know as much about birds as we should.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review: England’s Lane

By Jami Deise

My high-school English teacher preferred British literature to American, and thus I spent my junior and senior years reading Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, and, of course, Virginia Woolf. We studied stream-of-consciousness and point-of-view, and now I know enough about contemporary fiction to wonder if To The Lighthouse would have been rejected for too much interior monologue, not enough plot, and that crime against humanity, head-hopping.

Woolf’s great niece, Emma, has a debut novel out, although as a non-fiction author she is already well-known in England for books about eating disorders. Not biologically related to her famous aunt, Emma certainly seems to have learned something about style from her literary predecessor. England’s Lanefeatures stream-of-consciousness, a non-linear narrative, and three protagonists whose thoughts sometimes seem to blend into each other’s. Reading it was an interesting break from my usual diet of tightly structured thrillers.

A type of novel that is sometimes dismissed as a “quiet book,” England’s Lane is mostly about Lily, who is having an affair with her older married colleague, Harry. Harry’s point-of-view comes into play, as well as the perspective of his wife, Pippa, who knows about the affair, suffers for it, and is paralyzed into inaction. Lily comes across well, despite knowing that Harry is married with two teenage sons. At the same time, Harry doesn’t come across as a villain either, although he is clearly selfish, and eventually his actions toward Lily veer into unhealthy ones. Pippa is the least prominent character, but she never disappears into stereotype.

Some of the dialogue was a little clunky at times, but overall, this quiet book works. England’s Lane told the timeless story of a love triangle – something British authors from Shakespeare’s time onward seem especially adept at telling.

Thanks to Busy Bee PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Kathy Cooperman shows her pride...plus a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Kathy Cooperman at CLC today. Her sophomore novel, The Very Principled Maggie Mayfield, published last month and we're excited to read it soon. Thanks to Lake Union, we have THREE copies to give away! 

Kathy Cooperman wrote Amazon bestseller CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB (one of Melissa A's 2017 favorites, reviewed here). She is an ex-improv comic, a recovering attorney (Yale Law), and a mom to four challenging children. Kathy lives in Del Mar, California. Visit her on Twitter.


Synopsis:
Maggie Mayfield, an elementary school principal in the upscale suburbs of San Diego, likes to do the right thing—for her students and, after her marriage takes a hit, for herself as well. What’s wrong with that?

To keep her cash-strapped school afloat, Maggie says yes to a sweet deal from Silicon Valley’s hottest for-profit education company. They’ll provide enough funding so that Maggie can keep her science, art, and PE teachers in exchange for some dopey beta-test program backed by handsome CEO Danny Z. No layoffs! Happy kids!

Professionally, everything’s flourishing. Personally, the right things are tingling—Maggie can’t resist Danny Z’s magnetism. But as the school year continues, Maggie senses that she might have been duped. As things take a turn for the worse, Maggie and her BFF assistant, Diane, must keep things good—by going a little bad.

Smart, funny, and unpredictable, The Very Principled Maggie Mayfield is a comedy of friendship, class warfare, good intentions, and occasionally necessary unprincipled behavior.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


“YOU ARE MORE THAN YOU HAVE BECOME” – NOW CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

Kathy Cooperman, here. I’m too klutzy to see myself as of the Disney princesses and too earnest/disorganized for its villains. So these days, I identify with Disney’s bumbling, but well-intentioned parents.

Disney has soooo many sweet, but lousy, parents (especially dads – it’s forgivable for dads to be lousy—sorry, but them’s the rules). Belle’s sweet, eccentric dad—“crazy, old Maurice”—constantly puts her in terrible situations. Seriously, Maurice’s “wackiness” works perfectly as a metaphor for the way parents’ addiction traps children – it’s as if Disney wrote a musical version of Shameless. Then, there’s the loving, but uber-controlling watery papa from The Little Mermaid—Triton is obsessed with preventing his daughter Ariel’s assimilation and intermarriage (like a watery version of Fiddler on the Roof).

Photo courtesy of Fanpop
But the bumbler I identify with most is—drumroll, please—Mufasa from The Lion King. To be clear, I do not have delusions of grandeur. I do not identify with Mufasa’s grander characteristics: his James Earl Jones’ voice coming out of a cloud, his flowing mane, the way he rules “everything the light touches.” I’m not organized or ambitious enough to rule everything the light touches. I can’t even keep my car clean.

No, what I identify with is Mufasa’s fierce—and ultimately ineffective—protectiveness for his child. Mufasa does great when something—a pack of hyenas—threatens Simba directly. Mufasa is not afraid to charge at any problem and muscle it to the ground. I have that quality. Though I’m a nebbishy, Jewish lady in my forties, I am formidable when my babies are threatened (by bullies, by a disability, by their own sadness, by ANYTHING!). You just have to point me the right way, and I. WILL. ATTACK.

But the problem for me – as it was for Mufasa – is that I don’t always know what the right way to attack is. Mufasa ran to protect his kid, and—in his eagerness to protect—he met his doom. Before I had kids, when I saw The Lion King in theaters and they got to the scene where Mufasa was dangling from a cliff and his eyes widen as he realizes Scar is going to shove him to his death, I thought Mufasa was thinking: “Oh, woe unto the Heavens, I have been betrayed. Noooooooo!” Years later, watching it again on a food-stained couch next to my toddler, I read that look differently. Mufasa was thinking: “Crap, who’s gonna pull my baby outta that furry traffic jam down there?! Who’s going to help him get into college?!”

My greatest fear as a parent is not that I won’t be able to control every force that threatens my children. I know that lightning may strike, tornadoes may scoop them up, etc. No, what makes my skin crawl is that I will be focusing on the WRONG threat and will thus fail to protect them from another TOTALLY AVOIDABLE THREAT. So, yes, Mufasa is my guy.

Thanks to Kathy for visiting with us and to Lake Union 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 November 13th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review and Giveaway: The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger

The Unscripted Life of Lizzy DillingerBy Sara Steven

She’s got a movie deal. He’s got the lead role. Can she choose between her family and her Hollywood crush?

Stay-at-home mom Lizzy Dillinger escapes the monotony of her humdrum marriage by writing down her daydreams. When her producer friend contracts her story for a movie and invites her on set, she jumps at the chance to leave the suburbs until the film’s in the can. But Lizzy’s big break gets even better when she learns the hunky character who starred in her daydreams will be played by her Hollywood crush, Ben Winters.

On location in Arizona, the desert gets even hotter when Lizzy and Ben strike up a flirtatious friendship. But her hopes of a celebrity fling shatter when a family visit brings her fantasy crashing into reality. Against the dazzling lights and the glamorous movie sets, her cookie-cutter life back home seems painfully bland. Torn between the man of her dreams and the family who helped define her, Lizzy must search her heart to find where her true passion lies... (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last six years, and could easily relate to how Lizzy feels. There is monotony at times, the daily workings of tending to your family, and often that means your own wants and needs aren’t met. It’s not so much that those in your inner circle wouldn’t want to ensure that you’re happy and fulfilled. It’s that you yourself forget what’s needed to feel that fulfillment.

Lizzy feels that lack of fulfillment, and along with those emotions are past experiences that not only affect how she feels, but the way her husband feels, too. There is a lot of baggage between this couple. It lends into her immediate attraction to Ben, a man who she has had a crush on from afar for several years. While reading through their interactions, I kept wanting to read on to see what I imagined would eventually happen. And while I knew the right choice would be to see her distance herself from Ben, I couldn’t help but want to see something come to fruition. Through her thoughts and dialogue, I could sense how youthful Lizzy feels when she’s around him. How free. It was hard not to want that for her.

There was a lot of banter in the dialogue between Lizzy and Ben, as well as the conversations she has with her friends. They make up a nice support system during her time of need. While I felt the dialogue at times could get really heavy in places where I would have liked to see more plot, it was in those moments where we learn a lot more about a woman who used to be a lot different than the person she is today. And, we don’t really know until the end of the story what she is going to do with her future, or who will be there. It made for an interesting read.

While I’m not entirely sure what my own decision would have been, had I been in her shoes, it was nice to live that experience vicariously through Lizzy. We’re given a very realistic approach to the struggles so many of us face when it comes to matters of the heart, and wanting to do the right thing for our own personal happiness, while still living a fulfilling life.

The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger banner


This is our stop during the book blitz for The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger by Marianne Hansen. This book blitz is organized by Lola's Blog Tours, who also gave me the book in exchange for an honest review. The book blitz runs from 5 till 11 November. See the tour schedule here.

You can find The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger on Goodreads

You can buy The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger on Amazon

Marianne HansenAbout the Author:

Marianne Hansen is a redhead who loves red lipstick and high heels. She earned a BA, MA and JD so she could ultimately stay home with her kids. She travels whenever she can and dreams of traveling when she can’t. She lives in Montana with her family.

She’s spent her life imagining alternative endings and wondering “what would happen if…”. She’s finally writing the answers down.

You can find and contact Marianne Hansen here:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads
Amazon * Instagram * Bookbub

Giveaway

There is a tour wide giveaway for the book blitz of The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger. One winner will win a signed copy of The Unscripted Life of Lizzy Dillinger and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. US Only.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

We have a friend in Anita Hughes...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Anita Hughes back at CLC to get us into the holiday spirit with her latest novel, Christmas at the Chalet. Doesn't the cover look cozy? Anita is participating in our Disney and Fairy Tales theme month by telling us which Disney character she can relate to the most. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy of Christmas at the Chalet to give away!

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

Her debut novel MONARCH BEACH was released in June 2012, followed by MARKET STREET and LAKE COMO in 2013. FRENCH COAST and ROME IN LOVE were released in 2015.

ISLAND IN THE SEA: A MAJORCA LOVE STORY and SANTORINI SUNSETS and her first holiday novel, CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, were released in 2016.

WHITE SAND, BLUE SEA: A ST BARTS LOVE STORY, EMERALD COAST and CHRISTMAS IN LONDON were released in 2017.

CALIFORNIA SUMMER was published this past June.

Anita lives in Dana Point, CA with her family, where she interrupts her writing to watch the glorious sunsets. (Courtesy of Anita's website.)

Visit Anita online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
It's the day after Christmas, and Felicity Grant is at a gorgeous ski chalet in St. Moritz for the biggest fashion show of her career. Felicity is a rising star on the bridal design scene, and this is her best collection yet. But when her boyfriend gives her a spa day instead of a diamond ring for Christmas, she has to face the possibility that she may never walk down the aisle in one of her own stunning designs.

And then there's Nell, the top model headlining Felicity's show. Nell is planning her dream wedding to her wonderful fiancé with one catch: her divorced parents can't stand each other and threaten to no-show if the other is there.

Add to that Felicity's race against the clock to create a special gown for a prestigious bridal salon, and what both girls need is a Christmas miracle. What better place to find one than in the Swiss Alps with its dark forests and sparkling vistas?

But for Felicity it's hard to recognize a miracle even when it's right in front of her, and for Nell one miracle might not be enough to fix the past. Can dreams really come true or is that the stuff of Swiss fairy tales?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Which Disney character am I most like?

I thought about this question as I start preparing for the holidays. One of the best parts about the holidays is Christmas with my children and I still remember a Christmas almost twenty-five years ago. My son was about three at the time, and he got a Buzz Lightyear toy in a McDonald's Happy Meal. Of all the Christmas presents (including real presents bought with much anticipation from the toy store) that was his favorite and it resulted in watching Toy Story again and again.

Twenty-five years later, that memory resonates with me because I am beginning to feel a bit like Woody - one of my favorite characters in the movie. Woody is the most loyal toy but he feels that Andy has outgrown him .He worries that he isn't really needed anymore and he'll be assigned to the toy box in the attic.

My children are mostly grown now and it's easy to feel a little like Woody - greatly loved by one's children but not really needed. It's common for mothers with adult children to feel like that - we long for the things that used to drive us crazy: days that revolved around a child's nap, the endless lines at Toys 'R' Us (which of course doesn't exist anymore) rainy afternoons when one tries anything to entertain the gloomy faces glued to TV or computer screens.

But just as I'm feeling a little "Woody" like, I get a text or a call from a child at college or one on the way home from work with some exciting update about their lives. Another daughter wants me to book a plane flight home or asks my advice on picking out a Christmas present. I realize that why I may feel like Woody, I'm still greatly needed after all. And if I happened to have kept that Buzz Lightyear toy (unbeknownst to my son), I'm confident that one day when he marries and has children, it will find a new home with his own son or daughter and my grandchild.

Thanks to Anita for visiting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends November 11th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Book Review: Nine Perfect Strangers

By Melissa Amster

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I've read several of Liane Moriarty's books. My favorites so far are Big Little Lies and What Alice Forgot. After reading Nine Perfect Strangers, I'd like to add that to the list.

Going into the novel, I didn't quite know what to expect. However, it captured my interest quickly. I had a hard time putting it down and was concerned for the characters when I had to do so. Each character had a compelling, and sometimes heartbreaking, story. I was initially worried that there would be too many people to keep up with, but it wasn't a problem at all. I enjoyed getting to know everyone and felt like I was part of their group by the end. I liked how they connected and bonded with each other in different ways.

My only concern is that some parts of the novel seemed a bit far-fetched, but I've never had those experiences so I can't say one way or the other.

Overall, Nine Perfect Strangers was engaging and thought-provoking. It made me look at winning the lottery in a new way, as well.

Casting suggestions (since Big Little Lies was moved to the US for a TV series, I didn't focus on the actors being from Australia all that much):
Frances: Mira Sorvino
Lars: Kit Harington
Heather: Gabrielle Anwar
Napoleon: Matthew Lillard
Zoe: Angourie Rice
Jessica: Dakota Blue Richards
Ben: Luke Bilyk
Tony: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Carmel: Michelle Trachtenberg
Masha: Donna Murphy (It was really hard to cast this role, but when I saw her come up on IMDb, it was like kismet!)

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

More by Liane Moriarty:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Excerpt: I Invited Her In


Synopsis:
Imagine the worst thing a friend could ever do.

This is worse.

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.

Excerpt

Liam turns to his dad and playfully asks, “What are you wait­ing for? I’m ready.”
They’re out the door and in the car before I can ask if he has his football kit, whether he’s getting himself home from train­ing this evening or hoping for a lift, whether he has money for the vending machine. It’s probably a good thing. Me fussing that way really irritates him. I usually try to limit myself to just one of those sorts of questions per morning.
The girls, however, are still young enough to need, expect and even accept, a barrage of chivvying reminders. I check the kitchen clock and I’m surprised time has got away. I gulp down my tea and then shout up the stairs. “Girls, I need you down here pronto.”
As usual, Imogen responds immediately. I hear her frantic footsteps scampering above. She starts to yell, “Where is my hairbrush? Have you seen my Flower Fairy pencil case? Who moved my reading book? I left it here last night.” She takes school very seriously and can’t stand the idea of being late.
Lily is harder to impregnate with any sense of urgency. She has picked up some of the vocabulary that Liam and his friends use—luckily nothing terrible yet, but she often tells her older siblings to “chill” and she is indeed the embodiment of this verb.
I drop the girls off at school with three minutes to spare be­fore the bell is due to ring. I see this as a bonus but honestly if they’re a few minutes late, I don’t sweat it. I only make an ef­fort with timekeeping because I know Imogen gets stressed and bossy otherwise.
I’m aware that it’s our duty as parents to instil into our chil­dren a sense of responsibility and an awareness of the value of other people’s time, but really, would the world shudder if they missed the start of assembly?
I wasn’t always this relaxed. With Liam, I was a fascist about timekeeping. About that and so much more. I liked him to fin­ish everything on his plate, I was fanatical about him saying please and thank you and sending notes when he received gifts. Well, not notes as such, because I’m talking about a time be­fore he could write. I got him to draw thank-you pictures. His shoes always shone, his hair was combed, he had the absolutely correct kit and equipment. I didn’t want him to be judged and found lacking.
It’s different when you’re a single mum, which I was with Liam. I met Ben when Liam was almost six. Being married to Ben gives me a confidence that allows me to believe I can be two minutes late for school drop-off and no one will tut or roll their eyes. I didn’t have the same luxury when Liam was small.
Suddenly I think about Abigail Curtiz’s email and I’m awash with conflicting emotions.
There are lots of things that are tough about being a single parent. The emotional, physical and financial strain of being en­tirely responsible for absolutely everything—around the clock, a relentless twenty-four-seven—takes its toll. And the loneliness? The brutal, crushing, insistent loneliness? Well, that’s a horror. As is the bone-weary, mind-wiping, unremitting exhaustion.
Sometimes my arms ached with holding him, or my back or legs. Sometimes I was so tired I wasn’t sure where I was ach­ing; I just felt pain. But there were moments of reprieve when I didn’t feel judged or lonely or responsible. There were moments of kindness. And those moments are unimaginably important and utterly unforgettable. They’re imprinted on my brain and heart. Every one of them.
Abigail Curtiz owns one such moment.


About the Author:
Adele Parks one of the most-loved and biggest-selling women’s fiction writers in the UK. She has sold over 3 million books and her work has been translated into 25 different languages.

1500+ 5 star reviews have kindly been written by her fans on Amazon.co.uk 🙂

She has published 15 novels in the past 15 years, all of which have been London Times Top Ten Bestsellers.

Adele was born in the North East of England, in 1969. She enjoyed a traditional 1970’s childhood, watching too much TV and eating convenience food because nobody minded if kids did that in those days. Since graduating from university, where she studied English Language and Literature, she worked in advertising and as a management consultant. In 2010 Adele was proud to be awarded an honorary doctorate of Letters from Teesside University.

Visit Adele online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including us in Adele's blog tour. Visit all the stops on the tour.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cathy Lamb's magical pixie dust...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Cathy Lamb here today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, The Man She Married. She's helping us kick off our Disney and Fairy Tales theme month by telling us which Disney or Fairy Tale character is most like her. Cathy also has one print copy of The Man She Married to give away!

Cathy Lamb is the author of No Place I'd Rather Be, My Very Best Friend, The Language of Sisters, Such a Pretty Face, and many more compelling novels. She started her career by freelance writing about 200 articles on homes, home décor, people and fashion for a local newspaper.

Cathy suffers from, "I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease" which prevents her from getting much work done unless she has a threatening deadline. She likes to hang with family and friends, walk, eat chocolate, camp, travel, and is slightly obsessive about the types of books she reads. She also likes to be left alone a lot so she can hear all the odd characters in her head talk to each other and then transfer that oddness to paper. The characters usually don't start to talk until 10:00 at night, however, so she is often up 'til 2:00 in the morning with them. That is her excuse for being cranky.

She adores her children and husband, except when he refuses to take his dirty shoes off and walks on the carpet. She will ski because her children insist, but she secretly doesn't like it at all. Too cold and she falls all the time.

She is currently working on her next book and isn't sleeping much. (Bio adapted from Amazon.)

Visit Cathy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest


Synopsis:
When Natalie Shelton thinks back to how things were before the car accident, she remembers a great marriage. She and her husband, Zack, seem as strong and dependable together as the houses he builds. They live in Portland, Oregon, and Natalie is co-owner of a successful accounting firm. They’re happy, she’s almost sure of it.

Yet as Natalie lies trapped in a coma, unable to communicate though aware of everything around her, she realizes that her husband is hiding something. Zack has always been reticent about his past, which she attributed to an unhappy childhood. Now the strange calls he’s receiving, the apologies when he thinks she can’t hear him, and her fragmented memories from the morning of the accident suggest a deeper secret.

When she finally awakens, Natalie is determined to find out the truth. Sorting through clues as her brain heals, she realizes she has a rare opportunity—to reexamine the life she’s made and the man she’s made it with. But as answers come to light, she faces surprising, heartrending decisions, as well as a danger that could upend her world once again, as Zack’s past finally catches up with them...
(Courtesy of Amazon.)




Image credit: Disney Fairies
The Disney character who most reminds me of myself is…Tinkerbell.

She’s imperfect and never tries to be perfect.

She’s snappish sometimes.

She’s loyal.

She’s a fighter. She’s sometimes annoying.

I don’t try to be perfect, ever. I can get snappy. I am loyal to my beloved family and friends. I’m a fighter when things in life go very badly. I’m sure I can be annoying.

And can I add one more thing? I wish I could fly like Tinkerbell.

If a genie popped out of a bottle and told me I had one wish and it had to be a purely selfish wish, I’d be flying within the hour!

Thanks to Cathy 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 November 6th at midnight EST.