Friday, November 30, 2018

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
The Inbetween Days by Eva Woods from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
How to Be Second Best by Jessica Dettman from HarperCollins AU (e-book via NetGalley)
Hangovers and Hot Flashes by/from Kim Gruenenfelder
I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan from Lake Union
The Dream Peddler by Martine Fournier Watson from Viking
Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)

Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union (e-book via Netgalley)

The Suspect by Fiona Barton from Berkley (e-book via Netgalley)
Sophie Last Seen by Marlene Adelstein from Suzy Approved Book Tours (e-book)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: Not Just for Christmas

By Becky Gulc

‘Charlie hates the holidays, and this year is shaping up to be her worst yuletide ever. Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her flat is out of bounds after a gas leak, and her mother has gone to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her fifth husband. Finding herself single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie hesitantly agrees to dust off her wellies and spend the festive season in Devon, looking after Cosy Canine Cottages, her cousin Jez's dog-care centre.

However, her plans for a quiet rural Christmas with only the four-legged friends for company are dashed as soon as she meets Malcolm the deaf Great Dane, Hugo, his gorgeous (but engaged) owner, and Cal, the undeniably attractive but unbearably haughty and patronising local vet...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Orion Publishing.)

I’m a dog-person. I’m a Christmas-person. I was sold by the cover and the synopsis for Not Just for Christmas, but would this novel live up to my early expectations? Absolutely! This is a novel which really delivers what it promises and it was a great book to read in the early build-up to Christmas.

Charlie is someone who dislikes more things about Christmas than she likes, someone who doesn’t care much for dogs. So the book lends itself to great comedy moments when she finds herself recuperating (at least in theory) at her cousin’s place in Devon who runs a kennel, only for her cousin to take a last minute Christmas break and leave Charlie in charge of things. But with only a couple of dogs to care for, surely it will be easy? And Charlie will surely get lots of alone time, just her and Audrey Hepburn over Christmas won’t she? Not quite.

This book was a lot of fun, very funny and I whizzed through it; pure reading pleasure. I felt like I was at the cottage too and pictured it vividly. I loved how Charlie throws herself into things full-throttle, caring for the dogs (even if she taps into new acquaintances for some tasks..she’s a sensible woman!); getting to know the locals; not saying no when she really should! All the characters were great, human and canine! There are quite a few dogs to get to know and I adored each of them, it would be impossible not to warm to these doggies.

Christmas felt natural in this novel. It was inviting, engaging and you feel love in the air and are urging something to come of it for Charlie as she’s such a likable and no-nonsense character. I truly adored this book and would love to read more featuring these characters, and more of Jez (Charlie’s cousin) as I could see potential for a follow-up there definitely. More please Natalie.

Thanks to Orion Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on Natalie's tour.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Glynis Astie is an independent a special giveaway

Today we welcome Glynis Astie back to CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Girls' Night Out. The title may sound familiar because of a book that came out this summer. However, Glynis' version is not a thriller. It's more like the classic chick lit that inspired our blog to begin with. Glynis is here to help us close out Disney and Fairy Tale month and she has an e-book and a set of cocktail glasses to give away!

Glynis Astie never expected in her wildest dreams to be a writer. After thirteen years in the Human Resources Industry, she decided to stay at home with her two amazing sons. Ever in search of a project, she was inspired to write the story of how, in only six short months, she met and married her wonderfully romantic French husband, Sebastien. The end result became her first novel, French Twist.

As this was just the beginning of their epic love story, Glynis continued to chronicle their adventures in the sequel, French Toast, and the final installment in the series, French Fry. After she finished milking her life story for all it was worth, she decided to write straight-up fiction with Gamer Girl, which infused her beloved chick lit with a hint of fantasy. She then realized there were a few ounces left in her real-life French fairy tale, and added French Roast to the mix. She is currently considering writing a prequel to the series, and is therefore questioning her definition of “final installment.”

When Glynis is not writing, she is trying to keep the peace amongst the three men and two cats in her life, finding missing body parts (Lego pieces are small!), supervising a myriad of homework assignments and keeping a tenuous hold on her sanity by consuming whatever chocolate is in the vicinity. (Bio courtesy of Glynis' website.)

Visit Glynis online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest

Jayne, Amanda and Holly have been through everything together. From triumph and heartache to panic and pure bliss, these girls have lived, learned and always had each other’s backs. With the arrival of adulthood, their daily gossip gatherings have dwindled to monthly margarita mixers, making girls’ night out absolutely integral to their survival. Problems with work, men and anything else under the sun now have to be broken down in a few inebriated hours.

Jayne is determined to become a respected news anchor or die trying. After enduring grueling schedules, humiliating assignments like the Great Herring Shortage of 2018 and her snobby mother’s continued insistence that life as a socialite is a much better option for a woman of her “age and abilities,” she is this close to reaching her goal. If only she weren’t so distracted by her insufferable new boss’ smoldering eyes…

Amanda thinks she has it all. She earns the big bucks, has an amazing fiancé and an attitude that just won’t quit. But when an unexpected event throws her life off course, she feels shaken to the red soles of her designer stilettos. Will her battle to regain her former equilibrium be too much for the girls and Countess Cherry Bomb, Amanda’s drag queen bestie, to handle?

Holly is lost. She’s tried every career from animal taming to human resources, but nothing seems to fit. After her latest round of bad decisions, she returns to her small hometown in Connecticut to try to figure out what to do next. If she could just stop pining over the boy next door—and keep her pushy friends out of her love life—she would have a real chance of getting her act together.

With a new year ahead of them, these girls are determined to conquer the world. Will they rise to the occasion or crumble in defeat? One thing’s for sure, their girls’ nights are going to be full of surprises!

When I first considered the question of which Disney character is most like me, I wondered if I would find a suitable answer because I am, quite frankly, a total dork. When I think of Disney characters, my mind immediately goes to the princesses—their beauty, their grace, their intelligence…you see where I’m going with this. But as I perused the pages of a friend’s princess book, the answer came to me. Merida!

Picture from Disney Wiki

Granted, I look NOTHING like her and I have no archery skills to speak of, but I felt an immediate kinship with her. Why, you ask? Well, Merida is impetuous, independent, wicked smart, passionate, Brave (hee!) and, let’s face it, pretty darn awkward. Many times my impetuous nature has gotten me into situations where my passion and bravery have needed to take over—with a small assist from their sidekicks, intelligence and humor. Did I make it through the situations unscathed? Yes. Did I come through without embarrassing myself? Absolutely not. But you can’t have everything! You know what they say—that which does not kill you (as in death by embarrassment) makes you stronger.

Also, Merida and I spent the early portions of our lives without companions, with our interests engaged elsewhere. I was a bit of a wallflower when I was younger, so I didn’t really start dating until after I had graduated college. By then I had a lot of catching up to do, which wasn’t helped by the aforementioned awkward personality. I did get some really good stories for my first book though! As the years went by, most of my girlfriends got married while I focused on my career. (It may have taken me a little while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.) I wasn’t thrilled to be alone, but it didn’t mean the end of my world either. I had things to do! And then, one day, this amazing Frenchman walked into my life. I knew immediately that I wanted to get to know him better, so I approached him and started a conversation which lasted the whole night. We had our first date the next day and five weeks later, I asked him to marry me! That crazy impetuous nature of mine struck again! I’m happy to report that sixteen years later, we are still happily married.

But wait, there’s more! I, like Merida, am very outgoing, rather stubborn and um, as my boys frequently tell me, LOUD. I often start conversations with strangers, stop to talk to anyone I know while we’re running around town, have very definite opinions on everything—which I readily share—and will always yell my head off when my sons are playing sports or, you know, performing in band concerts. I’m just so excited to see them having fun! What can I say? I’m spreading the joy.

While I’m thrilled to share many admirable qualities with Merida, there are a few things which have escaped my grasp. I really wish I had her athletic nature and her awesome curly red hair. I guess I’ll just have to make do with my two left feet and my shiny brown hair. Life goes on!

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 December 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Book Review: Go On, Girl

By Sara Steven

Executive, wife, and mother of an outgoing first-grader, Sydney Clayton crushes her day-to-day obligations at work but flounders in the cutthroat world of parental politics.

She manages to avoid the local drama until she’s faced with an ultimatum: join the Forest River PTA or risk her daughter becoming a social outcast. Sydney reluctantly becomes treasurer, and takes the recently vacated position of the president’s sidekick. If protecting the children’s freedom of speech, one best friend ban at a time, isn’t complicated enough, Sydney and her husband receive an unexpected offer for their house they don’t think they can refuse.

Embroiled in the deception and manipulation rife among the elementary school moms, Sydney struggles. Should she sell the home she worked so hard to build in a town where betrayal runs rampant? Or should she stay put to avoid the fallout from uprooting her child? As Sydney focuses on what is best for her daughter, and lets go of her judgments, she finds friendship can develop in very unexpected ways. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

While my personal experiences with the PTA involves the occasional after school sign-up or yearly volunteer work at the carnival, I have noticed the subtle nuances that come from the higher-ups on the Association’s social ladder. It’s well known that in order to feel as though you’re part of the scene, it’s a good idea to join the PTA ranks. In fact, I was once cornered by a friend of mine who insisted I join and told me that it was “for my own good”.

There are a lot of subtle and less-than-subtle nuances when it comes to Sydney’s experiences with her daughter’s PTA. A lot of reading between the lines where her participation is concerned. In joining, she’s giving her daughter a sort of immunity from becoming an outcast and not feeling as though she belongs. But in order to achieve that, Sydney has to become the lackey, doing anything and everything required of her, not to mention maintaining her full time job and her household. The politics of it all is nothing short of overwhelming.

Go On, Girl was a constant tipping of the scales, never really in favor of one decision over the other. Should Sydney continue with the PTA, no matter how much it disturbs her life? Or, should she say screw it, and walk away, knowing what that could potentially mean for her daughter? Thrown in are the glimpses of humanity from various women on the PTA, only further diverging the scales, so you never really know how to make the right decision. As is often seen in real life, the image people portray rarely matches up to what’s really going on beneath the surface, and there is plenty of mirage-like quality to the characters and the individuals who make this PTA what everyone thinks it is, even though none of us have a clue of what’s behind the veiled facade.

In my own life, I managed to sidestep my friend when someone else had garnered her attention, and whether I’d lost out on an opportunity deemed “for my own good”, I’ll never know for sure. There are a lot of dramatic antics that are several degrees above what I’ve experienced, that really add to the fun and chaos that makes Go On, Girl tick, from one veiled moment, to another.

Thanks to Hilary Grossman for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Hilary Grossman:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Go-to-Gay AND Chick Lit Cheerleader: A Disney-fied District

Thought you saw the last of Jen and Keith in October? Think again! They're back today to participate in our Disney and Fairy Tales theme. Their topic is current and very clever. We'll let them take it from here....

If We Could Elect the Heroes We Want

Jen: This month the election cycle dominated our lives, and now that it is over, Keith and I would like to add our two cents worth. Inevitably, some of your candidates won and some lost, but we are on the ticket here at CLC, and bringing you our wish list of DISNEY characters we’d love to see in office. I know many of you wish the election cycle was over...that was so silly of you because when you wish upon a star… (NOTE: Be prepared to break into random song throughout the entire read).

I named my pick for POTUS, Veep and thought I’d throw in a couple of other Washington D.C. jobs too. Keith picked out some prime characters for some other cabinet positions. If this goes well, Melissa might let me pick my dream Love Boat crew! And they’d all whistle while they worked. But I digress… If Keith and I were to fill every political position available, we’d be here all day like a hanging chad wishing for someone to put us out of our dangling misery. Why? Because we like you…and you have holiday things nipping at your heels to attend to so let’s get on with the show!

Picture from Disney Wiki
J: For President, I have to go with Mufasa from The Lion King. Friends, we’d hear James Earl Jones’ voice all the time. All. The. Time! I could listen to him command a room and make proclamations from the rising to the setting of the sun in my circle of life. That booming baritone. The powerful tenor and spot on diction. Just saying the name “Mufasa” should be enough to earn this character 100% of the popular vote. James Earl Jones was meant to voice the leader of the free world.

Picture from Disney Wiki
J: My pick for Vice President is none other than Genie. We need him to balance out Mufasa as President. The serious and the satirical. Can you imagine the Laurel and Hardy comedy routine? Genie makes things happen. He gets down to the business of decision making by simply following directions. Three wishes? You’ve got it! If you’re nodding off in one of Vice President Genie’s meetings or while attending one of his public appearances, then that’s your own fault! You’d have to be on your toes because you’d never know if John Wayne or Jack Nicholson were about to make a sudden impressionable appearance. Genie on the ticket in 2020!

Picture from Disney Wiki
J: As long as we’re pretending Disney characters are running the government, this next choice seems logical if not superior. Maximus, the glinty-eyed steed from Tangled is my pick to head the Department of Defense. This is the horse you want on your side in dark alleys! Maximus is all that and a bag of oats—he follows orders better than any four-legged creature I’ve ever owned and can track down a fugitive like Walker, Texas Ranger. My golden retrievers can’t find their own tennis balls in daylight, but this horse has mad skills. He also knows when it’s time to be reasonable, shake hooves, and play nice. Yes, he sucker-punched Flynn right in the kidney when Rapunzel wasn’t looking but you and I both know Flynn is not Mr. Innocent either. And this horse can sword fight! I mean, c’mon people! Mr. Ed could learn a thing or two about diplomacy and swashbuckling from this horse.

Picture from Disney Wiki
J: Secretary of Education. Maleficent. No kid would skip school ever. EVER!
K: But, NEVER accept an apple from her.

Picture from Disney Wiki
K: Attorney General. Woody. Come on. Who else would be 100% honest and after nothing but the truth all the time? Woody would never let us down, and would always fight for equality for all. Plus, he could start all his meetings by saying, “There is a new sheriff in town.”

Picture from Disney Wiki
K: Secretary of State. Ursula, the Sea Witch. Oh sure, she is a “villain,” but she is my all-time favorite villain, so she must be on the list. Plus, the Secretary of State negotiates lots of diplomatic deals, and Ursula negotiated for Ariel’s VOICE, people. She gave up her VOICE to the woman. Ursula has skills that need to be used with Russia and Iran.

Picture from
K: Supreme Court Justice. Elsa. OK, a spot isn’t exactly open on the Court right now, but eventually one will be available. Who better than a young, independent woman to lead us in to the next decade?

What do you think? How did we do? Who else would you like to see working in Washington, instead of at Disney Studios?

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 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 and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spotlight and Giveaway: Memoir Mania!

Today we are featuring two memoirs that have recently been published. Thanks to SparkPoint Studio, one lucky reader will be receiving a copy of both!

Two Minus One
(November 6th)

“You can quit waiting for the other shoe to drop: I’m in it for life.” Those are the fateful, repeated words that help convince Kathryn Taylor to remarry, retire from her thirty-year profession, sell her home, and relocate in support of her new husband’s career. But five years later, in a car packed with food she has carefully prepared to nourish her husband’s dying brother, the other shoe does drop. Without any explanation, he tells her he is done with the marriage.

With this, the life Taylor has come to know is over. Relying on the strength of a lifelong friend who refuses to let her succumb to the intense waves of grief, she slowly begins to find her way out of the shadows of heartache. Over the course of two years, through appointments with attorneys and therapists, purging shared belongings, and pushing herself to meet new people and do new things, Taylor not only regains a sense of control in her life, she also learns to enjoy the new friendships she’s formed—and to savor her newfound strength.

Kathryn Taylor was born at the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago, Illinois and spent much of her life in the Chicagoland area. She is a retired teacher and had taught in the schools of Illinois, California, and Virginia before her retirement and relocation to South Carolina. It was there where she wrote her book, Two Minus One: A Memoir following the unexpected abandonment by her second husband. An avid reader, enthusiastic traveler, and incurable beach lover, she resides outside of Charleston, SC, which affords her the opportunity to enjoy all three of her favorite past times. This is her first book. Visit Kathryn at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Broken Whole (November 13th)

At the age of thirty-five, desperate to salvage a self that has been suffocating for years―and to save her two-year-old son from witnessing a miserable relationship between his parents―Jane Binns leaves her husband of twelve years. She has no plan or intention but to leave, however, and therein begins the misadventures lying in wait for her.

Over the years that follow, Binns falls in love with Steve, a man eighteen years her senior who has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since his return from military service in Vietnam forty years prior, and who has a talent for making her feel heard. Despite his inability to provide anything more than a spurious connection, run on a mercurial and erratic schedule, and despite his repeated rejections of her love, she continues to pursue him. During their off periods, she dates other men―but she inevitably compares each new suitor to Steve, and all of them fall short. Ultimately, it takes the loss of her father in the summer of 2014, followed by the death of her ex-husband five months later, for her to finally let go of Steve―and, in the process, fully unearth the self she’s been chasing all along.

Jane Binns grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She holds a BS from Eastern Michigan University, an MS in education from Syracuse University, and an MFA in prose from Naropa University. In 1998, she was awarded the Jack Kerouac Award for Prose. She was the managing editor of Bombay Gin with Lisa Birman from 1998 to 1999. She is an English composition instructor at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO, and has worked in online learning assisting faculty, students, and staff with the online platform since 2006. Visit Jane at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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 25th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review: Three Days Missing

By Melissa Amster

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing--vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Three years ago, as well as this past summer, my daughter wandered off in a crowded space for a few minutes. The panic at not knowing where she was felt overwhelming. Thankfully, we found her quickly and she was even more upset than we were. Having shared this, I can't even imagine what it must have felt like for Kat to not know where her child was for THREE days! Scratch that...I can imagine that it must have felt like the world was ending.

Three Days Missing is the second novel I've read by Kimberly Belle (the first being The Marriage Lie, which is being made into a movie) and I am still very impressed by her writing style and her ability to keep me guessing each time. I was in suspense from the moment it was revealed that Ethan was missing and I had no idea where the story would lead. There were so many twists and turns! It was definitely a page turner that was difficult to put down. I just had to know if Ethan would be okay....or not. Kimberly uses a lot of detail that makes the story come to life without the descriptions taking away from the narrative. This situation is hard to read about as a parent, but Kimberly handled it in a sensitive way.

The only issue I had was that some of the political discussions during Stef's scenes got confusing. I also think the story could have used an epilogue to see how things were going for the characters a few months later.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a powerful mystery/thriller.

Movie casting suggestions:
Kat: Claire Danes
Stef: Michelle Monaghan
Andrew: Alexander Skarsgård (reminded me of his character in Big Little Lies and I kept picturing him)
Lucas: Josh Holloway
Mac: Cole Hauser
Sam: Sam Page
Josh: Ethan Suplee

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

More by Kimberly Belle:

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.)

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

Not Just for Christmas by Natalie Cox from Orion Publishing

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

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 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.

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.