Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Review: California Girls

By Melissa Amster

The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning-show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by the news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancĂ© sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I was hoping that California Girls was the next installment in the Mischief Bay series, but it's a standalone novel. However, it has a similar feel to that series and it would have fit in well. I was even hoping Zennie's best friend would be Hayley from The Friends We Keep. Mary Jo reminded me of the mom in Sisters Like Us at times.

The story was great overall. I felt a kinship with all three sisters. Some of the guys were too good to be true and Daniel is now my new book boyfriend. I had a great time reading it and didn't want it to end, even though I did want to know how things would turn out. I even got teary-eyed at one point. I hope there will be a follow up story or that the sisters will have cameos in other books.

Movie casting ideas:
Zennie: Margot Robbie
Ali: Haley Ramm
Finola: Shantel VanSanten
Daniel: Matt Long
Clark: Freddie Stroma
Nigel: Benjamin Walker
Treasure: Skyler Samuels
Glen: Jack Quaid
Bernadette: Jessica Williams

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

More by Susan Mallery:

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Joanne Serling is new to our neighborhood...plus a book giveaway

We'd like to welcome Joanne Serling to CLC today. Her debut, Good Neighbors, recently celebrated its first birthday. Joanne is excited to share TWO copies with some lucky readers!

Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. Previously, she worked in women’s magazines, high tech public relations and as Director of Public Affairs for American Express. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and children and is at work on her second book. (Bio adapted from Joanne's website.)

Visit Joanne online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group's loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

In one sentence, tell us what your journey to publishing was like.
The road was long and at times, difficult (looking for an agent for eight months!) but the results were joyful and life changing; I realized that with enough grit, I could reach any goal.

What is the inspiration behind Good Neighbors?
If you’ve ever had young kids, then you know how easy it is to jump into intense friendships with people you hardly know just because you both have kids that are the same age. I know I was often guilty of that, and I wanted to explore this phenomenon. I also wanted to write about denial and explore the gray space between empathetic acceptance and something more dangerous like deceit. I wanted readers to ask themselves what they would do if they suspected a friend or neighbor was subtly mistreating, or even abusing, a child. All of these ideas bubble up in my novel.

If a movie were made about Good Neighbors, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Good Neighbors explores the world of four suburban families who consider themselves “like family.” When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopts a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s morality and loyalty are soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

The story is told by neighbor Nicole Westerhof, an insightful if unreliable observer who has her own hidden demons. I have always considered Amanda Peet the perfect actor to play Nicole; she has incredible emotional range and can appear both likable and emotionally unsteady. Even more unreliable than Nicole is Paige Edwards, the beautiful yet cold adoptive mother who is slightly unstable and highly manipulative. I’m certain that Margot Robbie could nail this part. Two other friends complete this neighborhood tableau. Lorraine Weinberger is a good-natured gossip who stops by Nicole’s house nearly every day after work to rehash the day’s events and trade stories about Paige’s strange behavior. Drew Barrymore could pull off this part with aplomb. The fourth ‘friend,’ is Nela Guzman-Veniero, a corporate lawyer who works long hours in Boston. She has serious misgivings about being associated with the other neighbors and insists that “in Puerto Rico, you don’t get involved with your neighbors.” Tiffany Haddish, though neither Puerto Rican, nor as serious as Nela, would make this role her own, spicing up Nela’s brand of feisty resistance.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
My family loves when I make Pasta Carbonara. It’s much more decadent than the normal fare I prepare, so when I make it, it feels like a special occasion and everyone’s grateful and cheery. In reality, however, I love to bake more than I love to cook. If it’s snowing, I’m making cookies or brownies or my famous Nutella swirl cake.

If money was not an issue, where would you go on vacation right now?
I am currently watching a documentary TV series called Tough Rides created by two brothers Ryan and Kyle Pyle who took a 60-day motorcycle journey around the entire perimeter of India. If I could, I’d get on a plane right now and check out the memorable sights they document in this unforgettable country. But then, I love to travel and there are very few countries I’m not eager to visit. I was lucky enough to visit China for a month when I was still in high school and it gave me the travel bug. I spent the summer after I graduated college in Israel and Egypt and then moved to Seville, Spain for a year to teach English-as-a-Second Language. I’m proud to say that I’m still fairly fluent in Spanish, although my accent is truly awful.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I’m a reading fiend so I can’t recommend just one. I really enjoyed CLOVER BLUE by Eldonna Edwards, a coming-of-age story set in a in 1970's California that’s coming out this May. It’s a fast read with wholly original characters that forces you to consider whether there’s such a thing as a healthy cult, and whether a heinous crime can ever be forgiven. Other favorites from the last few months are MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION by Ottessa Moshfegh, THE WINTER SOLDIER by Daniel Mason, and THE GREAT BELIEVERS by Rebecca Makkai.

Thanks to Joanne for chatting with us and sharing her book with our readers!

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

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Giveaway ends February 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: From Runway to Love

By Sara Steven

Living the dream life as a model in New York City used to be enough for gorgeous Olivia Fulton. Now even the fame isn't enough to bring her out of her funk. A series of events bring Olivia face to face with the regrets of her past. Add in the collapse of her three-year relationship and reconnecting with long-lost friends, and Olivia may finally be able to learn—the hard way of course—that everything she thought was important really isn't.

A surprising love interest begins to teach Olivia about the person she truly wants to be. However, this is not compatible with her current life, and in order to be that person, Olivia may have to give up everything she's worked for. Torn between terror and exhilaration, Olivia must now decide if she's capable of this type of change. Will she even be able to open her heart to love again? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

From Runway to Love is the third installment in the Love in the City series, with the first two reads giving us backgrounds into Olivia’s best girlfriends, with Stacy in On the Road to Love, and CJ in All You Need is Love. I enjoyed their points of view, and was eagerly anticipating Olivia’s. This last installment doesn’t disappoint!

It was enlightening to witness such a big change in Olivia, in where her priorities lie and what’s most important to her. You get the impression that there was a time when the world had her on a pedestal, and it’s been a weighty fall. The change began in On the Road to Love, but you really see it and feel it when it comes from her own perspective. I enjoyed reading up on all three ladies and what life has thrown at them, but I felt most connected with Olivia. Maybe because I felt she had a lot more to lose, and the biggest transformation. Melissa Baldwin has done a great job of showcasing that, while still making Olivia into one of those characters you would love to get to know, to befriend, and has this flawless way of being the coolest person in the room. You can’t help but want to get to know her.

While we’re used to only imagining what it would be like to have others worship us, it’s something that Olivia has to deal with. We get to see what that’s like, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. This makes it hard for her where relationships are concerned, on whether she can find someone who meets the certain criteria society tells her she should look for in a mate, no matter what her personal feelings are. That can be a tough way to live life, and we get to see that struggle.

While From Runway to Love is about Olivia and her quest in finding love, it’s also about her relationships with her best friends, mending bridges with family, finding a sense of direction and a place within the other people who she discovers are most important in her world. It’s an all-over quest, making her a much-needed well rounded individual, and someone you want to continue to get to know, because she’s just that great. I had a great time in reading her story, and reading all of the books in this series.

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Melissa Baldwin:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Alyson Richman is on cloud nine...plus a book giveaway

Alyson Richman Credit Jeanine Boubli
We're thrilled to have Alyson Richman with us to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Secret of Clouds. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

Alyson Richman is the #1 international bestselling author of seven novels including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture. The Secret of Clouds centers around the transformative bond between a mother and her son, and a teacher and her student. A story that will make readers examine what it means to actually live life with a full heart.

Alyson spent her childhood in both Long Island and Japan, and is the daughter of an abstract artist and an electrical engineer, and graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies. She herself is an accomplished painter, and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel.

Alyson's novels have been published in thirty countries and twenty languages. Her books have received critical acclaim in both the United States and abroad, where they, have been bestsellers in, not only the United States, but, also, several countries. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel, The Rivers of Grace. (Bio courtesy of Alyson's website.)

Visit Alyson online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her—until she needs that strength the most.... (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How did you decide to write a contemporary novel after writing historical fiction?
I didn’t set out to write a modern-day story, but sometimes inspiration strikes and you just know in your heart that you need to pursue a particular subject matter.

The Secret of Clouds was initially inspired by a story a dear friend and teacher shared with me, about how every year she assigns her third-grade class to write a letter to their future eighteen-year-old selves, and she holds onto those letters until the week they graduate high school a decade later. One year, she tutored a child who was too sick to attend school, but she still gave him the same writing assignment as the rest of her class, keeping his letter with those of her other students. When it was eventually time for him to graduate, many emotional and poignant memories of those home-tutoring sessions returned to her, and she realized just how deeply this one particular student had transformed her. I was immediately struck by this profound and life-changing connection between a teacher and their students, which can transcend time and distance, and I wanted to explore that more deeply. Although the actual student whom my friend tutored had cancer, I decided to create a different backstory for my character that involved a little-known part of modern-day history, so that my readers who have loved my historical novels still felt they could learn something new while reading this book. I chose to have my student be a child of Ukrainian immigrants with a congenital heart defect that is believed to have resulted from his parents’ exposure to the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. It was my hope to show how Yuri’s mother, a Soviet-trained ballet dancer, and his father, a scientist, find their lives in America unexpectedly turned upside down by the tragedy in their home country.

Which authors have been your inspiration?
Kristin Hannah and Alice Hoffman are huge inspirations for me, as each of them has written both contemporary and historical novels. I once had the privilege of having coffee with Kristin Hannah, and she told me that having written in the romance, contemporary and historic genres, every time she started a new project, she tries to give each of those differing readerships a little bit of what they all wanted with each book. I think that’s a smart and sensitive way to make sure that you can continue to keep the various segments of your readership interested and looking forward to each new book that you write, and to hopefully also bring in new readers as well.

If you could cast a movie version of The Secret of Clouds, who would play the leading roles?  
Maggie, as a young and enthusiastic teacher, is a very upbeat personality who is still trying to navigate the challenges of her professional and personal life. I can see Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone playing her very well. When I was writing Yuri, the 12-year-old boy that Maggie is called into tutor at home, I had the face of Jacob Tremblay in my head. He was so amazing in both Room and Wonder.

What is your go-to movie snack?
I’m definitely someone who prefers sweet to salty, so I’m going to have to say M&M’s would be my snack of choice.

What is the last thing that made you laugh really hard?
My children share a bathroom that is down the hall from their bedrooms. One night, my daughter came downstairs and said, “You’re not going to believe this!” I walked upstairs to find a trail of toilet paper running from the bathroom, down the hall and down two steps, toward my son’s bedroom. He was so tired that he didn’t notice that he had brought the paper all the way into his bed. I found him asleep with the paper still adhered to his foot!

What music is currently playing in your car (or on your iPod, mp3, etc.)?
Teddy Thompson, Adele, and Passenger, and I’ll always be an Ed Sheeran fan. I love that his songs are like short stories, much like Harry Chapin’s, which I’ve adored ever since I was a twelve-years old. His songs play a key role in The Secret of Clouds.

Thanks to Alyson for chatting with us and Berkley 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 February 24th at midnight EST.

Friday, February 15, 2019

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

Melissa A:
Under the Table by Stephanie Evanovich from William Morrow (e-book via Edelweiss)
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin from St. Martin's Press (Jami also got this via NetGalley)
A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell from St. Martin's Press
Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer from St. Martin's Press
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Dear George, Dear Mary by Mary Calvi from St. Martin's Press
Between the Lies by Michelle Adams from St. Martin's Press
Mother Country by Irina Reyn from Thomas Dunne
Husband Material by Emily Belden from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Malibu Bluff by Janna King from Kathleen Carter Communications
Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling from Twelve Books (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan from Anna Robinson Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
Made Again by/from Sara Stackpoole (e-book)
The Childfree Society Club by/from Jaclyn Jaeger (e-book)
Surviving the Holidays: Hell-i-Daze by/from Olivia Michele Giacomini (e-book)

Jami:
Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen from Little Bird Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)

What could be in YOUR mail:

A random assortment of books!

Print copies are US only, but if you are outside of the US and win, we'll send some e-books your way.

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 February 20th at midnight EST.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Kaya Quinsey will warm your heart....plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Kaya Quinsey here today to share her thoughts on Valentine's Day. She has an e-book of her novella collection, Love, Amour, Amorefor one lucky reader. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Kaya and her publishers at Books To Go Now decided to put together a compilation of her three sweet romance novellas to mark the occasion. But whether it's Valentine's Day or not, it's always a good time to celebrate love.

Kaya Quinsey is the author of Paris Mends Broken Hearts, Valentine in Venice, A Coastal Christmas, which are all featured in Love, Amour, Amore: A Collection of Three Love Stories From Around The World. She holds her undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology. Her work has sold in seven countries and been translated into foreign languages. Kaya’s passion for culture, travel, and psychology blend for a reading style that is fun, full of surprises, and easy to read. A romantic at heart, Kaya’s writing offers a contemporary twist to traditional love stories. Through her stories, she hopes to inspire readers to fiercely chase their dreams. Visit Kaya at her website, Twitter, and Instagram.


Synopsis:
Love, Amour, Amore: A Collection of Three Loves Stories From Around The World, is just that - a compilation of Kaya's three romance novellas, which take place in Venice, Paris, and the fictional coastal community of Pebble Shores. Love, Amour, Amore is an anthology featuring the stories Valentine in Venice, A Coastal Christmas, and Paris Mends Broken Hearts. All three stories offer something a little different - a story of love rekindled, love found where it is least expected, and finding love after loss.

Valentine in Venice is about rekindling that first love. Valentine Wells returns to Venice. After having visited ten years earlier when she was just sixteen years old, it was where she had impulsively met Lorenzo Dipachio. Her first kiss. Her first love. Now twenty-six, Valentine is a successful wedding photographer in Chicago. Still impulsive, Valentine is recently divorced after being married for about a minute in Las Vegas. And she doesn't miss the irony of being a divorced wedding photographer. Also dealing with her mother's recent diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's, Valentine's father convinces her that she needs a break. Now that she is back in Venice, Valentine wants to prove to herself that she's no longer the impulsive, daring girl who got married (and quickly divorced) in Vegas to a man she barely knew. Now, she is living by a new set of rules: planned, cautious, and carefully executed.


But her plan is challenged when she falls (literally) into the path of her first love, Lorenzo. And with Valentine's Day around the corner, will Valentine be able to keep herself from making another big mistake?

A Coastal Christmas is about finding love where (and when) it is least expected. Successful broadcaster Jessica Beaton has it all: the perfect New York City apartment, high-flying career, and handsome boyfriend. And with Christmas around the corner, she has her sights set on one thing. A ring.


But Jessica is humiliated when her co-host and boyfriend, Brett Fanshaw, almost proposes to her on-air before backing out, leaving her dumped and embarrassed on national television. In the midst of her heartbreak, Jessica leaves to go home to Pebble Shores for the holidays for the first time in years.

While retreating at her family's seaside cottage to evaluate her life, Jessica finds herself butting heads with Dean Adams, the mayor of Pebble Shores, who isn't thrilled to have the media spotlight shed on their small town. Jessica couldn't imagine anyone being more of a Grinch. Over the Christmas season, Jessica finds herself more enamored with life in Pebble Shores, the community spirit, and to her own surprise, Dean Adams. Can a small-town mayor and big-city broadcaster have the romance that Jessica always dreamed of?

Paris Mends Broken Hearts is about finding love after loss. Gwendoline Delacroix finds herself fleeing Paris in a desperate attempt to escape the memories that haunt her in her French countryside chateau. Following the aftermath of WWII, she had become a widower and desperately missing her husband, Jean. Although her loyal and quirky staff do their best to keep her afloat, Gwendoline eventually takes charge and in a quick turn of events, finds herself at the Hotel de la Belle Paix - the hotel run by her brother and sister-in-law in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Over the summer, Gwendoline finds work at an animal sanctuary run by an eccentric aristocrat. With new friends, an elderly cat, and a glass of wine in hand, Gwendoline proves to herself and everyone else that there is life after lost love.


When it comes to holidays, I personally love any occasion that can be celebrated with chocolate. So whether you have someone special in your life, are having a Galentine's Day celebration with your best friends, or are taking advantage of indulging in some me-time, I hope you enjoy! Given the international destinations within Love, Amour, Amore, I thought it would be apropos to feature some of the Valentine's Day traditions across the world.

In Germany, while Valentine's Day is certainly celebrated, it is an adults-only kind of celebration. No mass giveaways of Valentine's Day cards in kindergarten for them! The Germans seem split when it comes to giving flowers or chocolate. According to Statista, 48-percent of gift-giving Germans give flowers/plants and another 48-percent give chocolates, pralines, and sweets. Which would you prefer? As they say in Germany, einen frohen Valentinstag!

On Valentine's Day in South Korea, it's the women who give men gifts as a token of their affection. But don't worry - these gifts are reciprocated shortly after on White Day, another holiday one month later on March 14th where the men have a chance to shower their loved ones with presents. Another month later on April 14, there is an entire day dedicated to singles!

In the small, romantic fishing town of Camogli in Italy, Valentine's Day celebrations are expanded over an entire week! Innamorato a Camogli, or 'Lovers in Camogli', is a week-long celebration that leads up to Valentine's Day where the whole town is transformed into a lover's paradise. You can put your name, along with your sweethearts, on a red paper heart and string it up along the harbour on a fishing net, enjoy art and poetry competitions, and celebrate with a fantastic dinner. Buon San Valentino!

It seems like Parisians get to celebrate La Saint-Valentin every day, living in the most romantic city in the world. But they amped up the romance a notch higher in 2017, when the Paris Metro line allowed certain stops to have 15-second love-filled messages broadcast over the train's speaker systems. That would certainly be one way to brighten up your loved ones morning commute!

In North America, I remember Valentine's Day as having been a big deal in elementary school. Getting the perfect cards, filling them out for the whole class, and receiving them in turn always felt so special. It always brightened up February! According to Statista, candies, sweets, and chocolates reign as the top gift for adults in the USA at a whopping 63-percent, followed closely by flowers and plants at 40-percent. But the most money spent on Valentine's Day in the United States comes from dining out at a restaurants together.

With new traditions emerging each and every Valentine's Day, I can't wait to hear what fun, thoughtful, and appreciative trends come up this year. And ultimately, it doesn't matter how much you spend or what you do, Valentine's Day is a chance to show your significant other, friends, pet, or family just how much you care. How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?

Thanks to Kaya for a lovely guest post and 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 February 19th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Puppy love

We welcome our Chick Lit Cheerleader back today to bring us some Valentine's themed laughs. This time, she's involving her dogs and anything goes!

We'll let Jen take it from here...


To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

Welcome to February. The shortest month of the year that feels like it lasts an entire year, right? Nothing much happens in February. That is, unless, you love the Super Bowl, Punxsutawney Phil and chubby little cherubs haphazardly assaulting unsuspecting people with arrows. I love all three of those things, so this is the month for me! Love is in the air. Love to love you, baby. Muskrat love. Puppy love. You name it and I’m a sucker for it. Especially puppy love.

I can’t get enough of baby dogs. Tiny paws. Chunky bellies. Puppy breath. Saggy skin. They putter around and flop about like the after effects of a martini binger. Pee-pot fur balls of love with sharp baby teeth that leave a mark. What’s not to love?

Mike and I both grew up with dogs in our respective homes. For him, a Boxer, named Chuck, who promptly waited for Mike’s return to the bus stop Monday through Friday. I lived with a Lhasa Apso, named Jin Jin, who I tortured by dressing in baby clothes while my best friend fed her pads of butter. As soon as we purchased our first home, Mike and I wanted to fill it with the pitter patter of four little feet. Our agreed upon baby-buffer was an eight-month-old Golden Retriever. Although, I’m not sure Theo was much of a maternal intermediary. I was eight-weeks pregnant with our oldest when we brought him home.

Theo

Theo, definitely more red than golden in color, joined our home in December of 1995. He was instantly my boy. He’d bark up a storm any time Mike sat next to me on the couch or gave me a kiss. Thank God I was already pregnant when Theo came home because that definitely wasn’t going to happen on my dog’s watch. Theo lost his canine mind when Mike only held my hand. So, you get it. He was the jealous type.

A few months later, for Valentine’s Day, Mike bought me a beautiful pair of gold hoop earrings. Not quite doorknocker-sized. Not similar to elbow macaroni. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, my earrings were just right. Not only did I hormonally sob when I opened the gift box, I ugly cried. This gift was a financial stretch for us. New home. New baby coming. Tiny-dog nation invasion. These are not most budget-friendly circumstances. I was moved. This token meant so much.

The following day, I wore my new earrings to work. They didn’t leave my ears until I crashed on the couch that evening. Three months pregnant and plagued with night sickness, I pretty much became one with our sofa every evening. Mike worked Thursday nights, so it was just the baby, baby Theo, and me. Fighting the urge to lose my shortbread cookies, I took off the hoops and dropped them on the end table. My eyes fluttered as I tried to sleep. Theo was bounding about, prancing and leaping. “Theo, shhh…” I instructed. “Mommy need sleepy!” With eyes closed, I continued to hear him have a heyday. A glimmer caught my eye as he flung something shiny into the air then proudly pranced as he retrieved it. Good, he’s occupied, I thought. Where the heck did he get a piece of tinfoil from?

And then it hit me.

My earrings. My earrings!

That mutt shoplifted my gold hoops! Theo was flinging them into the air then chomping on them. “What did you do?” I demanded as he proudly cocked his head and panted. On the carpet laid my earrings, less than 24-hours old, flecked with countless baby teeth punctures. “You are a bad, bad dog!” I screamed. “I only wore these once! How could you do this?!” Theo barked as I snatched my earrings off the floor and sobbed. No mercy. No remorse. Just a puppy who was pissed I took his pretty shiny things away.

And that, my friends, was the first of many things my four-legged children have demolished over the years. All our dogs have, in some fashion, matched or trumped Theo’s Valentine’s Day jewelry massacre. Henry ate not one, but two bags of Halloween Reese’s peanut butter cups; foil and all. Jack, God rest his soul, loved to eat the eyeballs off Webkinz stuffed animals. None of these incidents were funny then, but totally knee-slapper stories now. No matter what they devoured, where they inappropriately pooped, or the science fair projects they destroyed I loved them all. And I never again left my jewelry on the end table. First time shame on you…you know the rest.

With Jack and Henry

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, February 12, 2019

Hearts and Flowers Hop


Valentine's Day and Chick Lit--they go together like . . . well . . . hearts and flowers! And that's why Chick Lit Chat HQ is throwing the Hearts & Flowers Hop on Facebook to celebrate the most romantic of time of the year. From Monday, February 11th through Sunday, February 17th, we're going all out with (virtual) chocolate and (BYO) champagne, along with lots of luuuuuurrrve--and you can join in the fun at Cupid Central a.k.a. our Facebook events page.

We've got 40+ Chick Lit and Romantic Comedy authors giving away all kinds of LOVEly gifts*, including books, swag, gift cards, and Valentine's-themed goodies. Plus, as usual, we'll be handing out one whopper of a Grand Prize* on the hop page
--a sterling silver Elsa Peretti Open Heart Pendant from Tiffany's that comes in one of those iconic blue boxes every woman dreams of receiving! But that's not all, there will also be THREE Runner-Up Prizes* of beautiful, colorful, Fun Size Burlap Wrapped Bouquets from Farmgirl Flowers. What's not to love? Come party with us, meet some of your favorite authors, and discover some new ones to add to your must-read list!


*The Grand & Runner-Up Prize giveaways are open to US residents only. However, all of the individual author giveaways are open internationally.



GRAND PRIZE!


Runner-Up Prize

Schedule:

Monday, Feb. 11th 
Tracie Banister (Admin/Host) https://www.facebook.com/tracie.banister
Laura Chapman

Tuesday, Feb. 12th
Annabelle Costa

Wednesday, Feb. 13th
Angie Ellington

Thursday, Feb. 14th

Friday, Feb. 15th
Whitney Dineen  

Saturday, Feb. 16th
Maggie Aldrich
Avril Tremayne 



Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway: The Military Wife

By Sara Steven

Harper Lee Wilcox has been marking time in her hometown of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina since her husband, Noah Wilcox’s death, nearly five years earlier. With her son Ben turning five and living at home with her mother, Harper fights a growing restlessness, worried that moving on means leaving the memory of her husband behind.

Her best friend, Allison Teague, is dealing with struggles of her own. Her husband, a former SEAL that served with Noah, was injured while deployed and has come home physically healed but fighting PTSD. With three children underfoot and unable to help her husband, Allison is at her wit’s end.

In an effort to reenergize her own life, Harper sees an opportunity to help not only Allison but a network of other military wives eager to support her idea of starting a string of coffee houses close to military bases around the country.

In her pursuit of her dream, Harper crosses paths with Bennett Caldwell, Noah’s best friend and SEAL brother. A man who has a promise to keep, entangling their lives in ways neither of them can foresee. As her business grows so does an unexpected relationship with Bennett. Can Harper let go of her grief and build a future with Bennett even as the man they both loved haunts their pasts. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I have friendships with both women and men who are in the military, or are a military spouse. The work and dedication that goes into not only protecting our country, but protecting the families on the home front of those who support their military service member is a huge feat, accomplished daily by the ones who are in the thick of it. Having been a military spouse myself, I was interested in reading Harper’s own experiences and finding a sense of authenticity within- and it was there, at large, within her thoughts, her actions, and in what she experiences. A raw, honest read.

With points of view that shift between Harper, Noah, and Bennett, we’re given the full picture. Harper has a hard time with getting past her husband’s death, trying desperately to shield that reality from their son. Bennett lives with survivor’s guilt, so even with the spark of potential he feels for Harper, he has a hard time getting past the fact that he’s the one who made it home, when Noah didn’t. Threaded in are Allison’s experiences with her own husband, who is struggling with PTSD. Within each vantage point, the puzzle pieces of everyone’s life begins to fall into place, with some of the biggest questions slowly answered. Like, what really happened to Noah? And, can Harper really move on?

The budding romance between Harper and Bennett feels shaky at first, much like what I’d imagine it to be in “real” life. Harper wonders if Noah would accept Bennett, if she’s somehow minimizing his memory by moving on and finding love again. I could feel the tension with that, the hesitancy. It made for a very satisfying read, because the path to get there is drawn out, but in the best of ways. It gives us a chance to see the transformations, good or bad, with every character.

I appreciate the deep emotional subject matter that encompasses The Military Wife. It’s not often that we find a novel that delves into the world of what being in the military is all about, and while I could identify with some of it, having lived it myself, it was also an eye-opening experience that was well worth the read, and well worth the five stars I’ve given it.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away!

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

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Giveaway ends February 18th at midnight EST.

More by Laura Trentham:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Book Review: The Secret to Falling In Love



By Sara Steven

Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, Insta's and Snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.

That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if, for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!

Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.

If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve tried hard to do what Melissa has done. Go offline, and completely cut myself off from anything even remotely related to technology. While my reasons for cutting the social media umbilical cord are different from the ones Melissa encounters, not to mention her own personal catalyst behind it all, I could appreciate how much she struggles in trying to live a “normal” life while disconnected.

It’s nice to see the slow transformation. As though she’s climbing out of some dark hole and seeing the world for the first time, through new eyes. I imagine most of us would feel that way if we did away with our phones and laptops for thirty days. It enables her to make better personal connections with people, lending into the opportunity to meet two men who couldn’t be more different from one another, but fulfill various needs and wants within her.

There are a lot of lifestyle choices Melissa makes at the beginning of The Secret to Falling in Love, living as though she’s not a thirty-something. The more time she spends honing her career, and attempting to form relationships with her two potential suitors, it solidifies her friendships and better centers who she is, as a person, putting into perspective what’s really important and what really matters in life. This new perspective allows her better insight into which man is right for her. IF they even are.

I’m not sure if I could ever completely go cold turkey when it comes to the internet and my beloved wifi, but I’ve done well in cutting back a ton and remembering to unplug every so often. Melissa learns not only the secrets needed in her own life to fall in love, she learns how to forge the relationships that help to make the person she wants to be, and discovers the person she already is.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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