Friday, March 29, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
A Palm Beach Wife by Susannah Marren from St. Martin's Press
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards from HarperCollins (e-book via NetGalley)
The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)
The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (e-book via NetGalley)
The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke from Lake Union  (e-book via NetGalley)
The Friends We Keep by Jane Green from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry from Tandem Literary (e-book via NetGalley)

Under the Table by Stephanie Evanovich from HarperCollins

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone from Little Bird Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
Mine by Courtney Cole from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)

Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick from Rupa Publications
I Can’t Tell You Why by/from Elaine Robertson North
The Lives we Touch by Eva Woods from Sphere
Absolutely Smashing It! by Kathryn Wallace from Sphere
The Trouble with Rose by Amita Murray from HarperCollins UK
Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews from Sphere
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe from Henry Holt and Co.
Needlemouse by Jane O'Connor from Ebury Press

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raise a glass to Jamie a book giveaway

We welcome Jamie Raintree to CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her sophomore novel, Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard. Thanks to Graydon House, we have one copy to give away!

Jamie Raintree is voracious student of life, which is why she became a writer, where she could put all that acquired information to good use. She is a mother of two, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. She also teaches writers about business and productivity. Since the setting is always an important part of her books, she is happy to call the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado her home and inspiration. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Jamie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Mallory Graham is returning home to the heat and vines of Southern California in search of the peace she can’t find in the city. Her parents’ vineyard is an escape for tourists, but full of mixed memories for Mallory. It may also be the one place she can find the forgiveness she seeks. But can things ever go back to the way they once were—in the days before that long, hot, heartbreaking summer?

Growing up, it was Mallory and Kelly. Kelly and Mallory. Nothing could come between them. That summer before college, bucket list in hand, they greeted every sunrise and chased every sunset. Tattoos—check. Sleeping under the stars—check.

But when Mallory met Sam, everything changed. Older, experienced and everything Mallory never knew she wanted, Sam was her first taste of love—and the one adventure Mallory didn’t want to share with Kelly. But Kelly had her own secrets, too, until the night tragedy struck and their perfect summer—and their friendship—unraveled.

Now, after ten years away, Mallory is home and determined to make amends. No more secrets, no more half-truths. As Kelly slowly lets her guard down, Mallory convinces her to complete their unfinished list of hopes and dreams. But Mallory’s not the only one back in town, and when Sam reappears, Mallory risks making all the same mistakes—and maybe a few new ones—to try to heal that which was broken. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is something you learned from writing Perfectly Undone that you applied to Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard?

Something I learned while writing Perfectly Undone is that understanding a character’s motivation is paramount for bringing that character to life and making her relatable. So when I started writing Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard, I spent a lot of time getting into Mallory’s head and figuring out what makes her tick. What was fun about writing Mallory is that she has a really different way of approaching life than I do—she’s more carefree and trusting, whereas I’m very organized and like to take calculated risks! So it was a challenge for me to get into the mind of someone who jumps into situations head first without always thinking it through, but it was a challenge I enjoyed taking on. Mallory has such a pure, loving heart that even though things could--and sometimes do--go wrong, she has a way of bringing out the best in people and situations.

What was your inspiration for writing Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard?
There are many facets to this novel, each one inspired by different experiences in my life. And since I started writing this book over a decade ago, it has evolved a lot over time. I will say, I didn’t expect the friendship element to play as big a role as it has come to play and the inspiration from that has come from how my own friendships have evolved over time, as my friends and I have grown older, gotten married, had kids, etc. Our views on what a friendship should look like has had to evolve with all of these things and that’s a big part of what Mallory and Kelly have to learn as well.

If Midnight at the Wandering Vineyard were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is really easy for me because part of my planning process always includes choosing faces to go with my characters! It helps me visualize them more clearly as I write. So for Mallory, I chose Missy Peregrym who I’ve always admired. As Kelly, I would cast Molly C. Quinn who everyone might remember from Castle where she played Castle’s daughter. And as Sam, I would cast Matt Bomer because…well…I think that’s pretty obvious! Also, that buttoned-up, White Collar look and attitude exemplifies Sam’s character.

What is your favorite type of wine?
Moscato d’Asti is my number one go-to, but I’m happy with any sweet white.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I really loved Instant Family! I laughed and cried and I’m pretty sure my heart grew a size bigger. Definitely a must watch!

Who do you admire most?
There are a lot of strong, amazing women I admire. I’d say at the top of my list is Elizabeth Gilbert. I admire her perspective on creativity, her vulnerability, and her determination to follow her heart, no matter how messy it might be, or what other people might think.

Thanks to Jamie for visiting with us and to Graydon House 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 April 2nd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Book Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand

By Melissa Amster

Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship...but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.

Perfect for fans of
Roxanne and She’s the Man, Christina Lauren’s latest romantic comedy is full of mistaken identities, hijinks, and a classic love story with a modern twist. Funny and fresh, you’ll want to swipe right on My Favorite Half-Night Stand. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

A while back, there was this TV series called My Boys that I totally loved watching. My Favorite Half-Night Stand reminds me of that show, mainly because Millie's friends are all male and one of the guys (Ed) reminds me of Michael from that show.

After finishing Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, I knew I had to check this one out sooner rather than later. It was on par with Josh and Hazel in terms of humor and hot romantic scenes, as well as dual perspectives. However, I felt like Half-Night had more of a conflict, which I appreciated. I could relate to Millie about not always sharing everything about myself with my friends, even if I am a sounding board for them. I loved the e-mail exchanges between "Catherine" and Reid and the supporting characters were a lot of fun.

Overall, it was an enjoyable story and I am excited to read The Unhoneymooners soon, as well as Christina Lauren's previous novels.

Side note: After you read this novel, you might enjoy watching Sierra Burgess is a Loser on Netflix. It has a similar premise.

Movie casting suggestions:
Millie: Emma Stone
Reid: Chris Wood
Alex: Ryan Guzman
Ed: Evan Peters
Chris: Michael B. Jordan
Daisy: Laura Wiggins

More by Christina Lauren:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Spotlight: The Object of Your Affections

Paris Kahn Fraser seems to have it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband. Traumatized by a childhood of neglect and abandonment and fulfilled by her life without children, Paris has no desire to become a mother. But her husband, Neal, dreams of having a brood. Ever the cunning attorney, Paris hatches the world’s greatest marital compromise that will grant them both their wishes—if she can pull it off.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. There isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other. But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families, and even their own biology. While Naira always wanted to be a mother, this isn’t quite how she envisioned it. And though Paris doesn’t want to be a mother, it’s difficult not to resent the bond that’ll develop between Naira and Neal. Can they all truly embrace this modern family they’re about to create?

“Author Falguni Kothari’s exquisitely complex story of marriage, friendships, and unconventional choices reminds us that real love requires great courage.”
—Jamie Beck, bestselling author of When You Knew

"Complex, insightful and beautifully written...a book that will stay with you long after the final page.”
—Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author

"An intensely original and provocative story that tackles the complex challenges a modern woman faces within marriage. What makes a good wife? A good mother? What makes a woman lovable? Kothari grapples with love, ambition, friendship, and motherhood in this brave, insightful novel.”
—Barbara O'Neal, author of The Art of Inheriting Secrets

"A fascinating, captivating story about love, marriage, wealth and society, and the bonds of lifelong friendship.”
—Alisha Rai, author of Hate to Want You

Falguni Kothari writes unconventional love stories and kick-ass fantasy tales flavored by her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. An award-winning Indian Classical, Latin and Ballroom dancer, she currently elevates her endorphin levels with Zumba. She resides in New York with her family and pooch. Connect with Falguni at her website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Growing up in Mumbai, novelist Falguni Kothari didn’t have access to the kinds of books she writes today—love stories. Specifically, unconventional love stories with a feminist bent that draw from her heritage but are set in contemporary times. Her last novel, My Last Love Story (2018), was praised for posing “a fresh conceptual question about marriage and love” (New York Times), was deemed “a fascinating study of love, selfishness, self-sacrifice, friendship, devotion, and loyalty” (Kirkus Reviews), and was recommended to “fans of Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I Love You and JoJo Moyes’s Me Before You” (Library Journal).


I’m a STEM girl to the core. Nothing excites me more than new technology that improves our quality of life. We’ve come a long way from our cave-dwelling hunter-gatherer ancestors to an era where Space X is about to take us to the moon and back. With the advances we’ve made in medicine, we are living longer and reasonably healthier lives. And while new diseases are being discovered every day, so are their treatments…all pointing toward a positive progress.

Let’s look at what medical technology has done for fertility, in particular, through birth control, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. These days, women (and men) can take their fertility into their own hands and are no longer bound by a biological clock or a faulty reproductive system. They can choose when to have children, whether to have any children at all, and most importantly, how to have them.

In the last decade, surrogacy has been slowly climbing the fertility charts mostly because movie stars are opting to have their children through surrogates. In India, big-name directors and movie stars are eschewing traditional family models to become single parents through surrogacy and adoption. In the last three years, two single (by choice) men have chosen to fulfill their dreams of fatherhood through surrogates. They were tired of waiting for the perfect life partner to appear and decided to get on with their lives.

Reading about these single dads, I was struck by the fact that the need to nurture wasn’t just a woman’s prerogative. Fatherhood is as strong a calling as motherhood—I’ve seen his firsthand in my husband too. Conversely, the desire to put one’s career or self above everything else isn’t only a man’s shtick. The single dads also got me thinking about gender roles and societal myths that propagate motherhood as being a woman’s “true purpose in life.” That’s not to say that it isn’t or can’t be for a lot of women. But, what about the women who don’t wish to be mothers? The women who are fulfilled just as they are—childless, yet happy—surrounded by the people they hold dear, and the work they thrive on? Should these women be forced to have a child against their will because their spouses want children or society deems it so? And why should the spouse who does want a child be deprived of his desire either when medical advancements allow for a satisfactory compromise?

And yet, how many women (and men) end up compromising to societal mores? We live in a world where judgments have become as commonplace as breath. Our appearance, our intellect, our choices, our beliefs, nothing is exempt from comment. We judge others or are judged by them with the frequency of a status update. The larger the step off the beaten path, the harsher the judgment. And then there’s the guilt of either conforming to the rules and betraying yourself or following your heart and disappointing loved ones.

In The Object of Your Affections, I’ve attempted to address these issues and the stigmas attached to them through the points-of-view of two strong yet vastly different women who are best friends. In Paris, we have a protagonist who is happy just as she is…except she knows her husband wants a child, and has given up his dream of fatherhood for her. To assuage her guilt, she finds the perfect solution to the problem by asking her best friend, Naira, who is going through her own life upheavals, if she would agree to be a gestational surrogate. Of course, such decisions and intricate relationships are never without a cost, and both women come to realize it through the course of the novel. As in life, fictional stories must be fraught in tension.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Cats, Chaos, and Condo Board Wars

By Sara Steven

Recovering from an amazing-turned-terrible date, Hilary Brandt lives each day as best she can with her successful event planning career, flamboyant assistant, escape-artist cat, and eccentric roommate.

Most events run smoothly for Hilary, but occasionally, one goes awry and a client turns...evil. Relieved that her boss knows that type of client, Hilary quickly jumps into her next event, planning two parties for a very handsome executive.

When elections for condo board president come around, Hilary lets her friends and neighbors convince her to run against the by-the-letter, long-sitting president — also known as Hilary’s number one personal critic. As the election campaigns launch, the romance-that-almost-was reappears, a coworker tries to steal a client, and her opponent starts to fight dirty.

Hilary quickly realizes she may just be in over her head, but can she fight fire with fire? Stumble through the awkward encounters with the hot neighbor or swoony client? Fight for a new event when the election begins to meddle with her career? Or is the chaos just too much? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Cats, Chaos, and Condo Board Wars is a story with such well-written, unique characters- with Hilary becoming one of my favorite to date! She has her successes with her event planning career, has close-knit friendships, and lives in a lovely condo her grandfather had bestowed upon her, yet for all her successes, she has a hard time with standing up for herself and being assertive. Nothing showcases that more than the continual issues with the condo board president, Glover.

Glover is the perfect antagonist, a little bit Cruella Deville mixed in with Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. Whenever Hilary and Glover are on the page together, you can feel the drop in temperature! Hilary has tried desperately to get into Glover’s good graces, but Glover has made it her personal mission to make Hilary’s life a living hell, a feud that only escalates when Hilary runs against the evil president. Quite a few fantastic scenes of contention, a build-up into why Glover feels the way she does about Hilary, a shocking discovery.

The romance in Cats presents itself as the typical love triangle, at first, with Hilary in the middle of Warren, a client whom she nicknames “Adonnis” for obvious reasons, and Neal, the man next door she’d had deep feelings for before he ran out on her after what she’d felt had been an amazing date. There are obvious signals and mixed signals, a road map of failed attempts and potential, it kept me guessing on who Hilary is interested in, who she really could see herself with, in the end, and showed me that this is anything but the typical love triangle!

And of course, there’s Eli, Hilary’s right hand man. Her junior event planner. He’s a fashionista character who balances Hilary’s edges out, at times the voice of reason, at times the one who helps her in achieving the voice she so desperately needs and has the courage she doesn’t. While it was more than fun to see the roughness of Hilary vs. Glover, it was sweet to see the closeness of Hilary and Eli, a true confidante.

While Cats is an obvious eventual love story, there is a more subtle lesson, of finding your way as best you can, of finding that voice even in times of fear. Of pushing yourself outside of the proverbial comfort zone, and Nikki LeClair has created an atmosphere that showcases that so well within her characters. It was a fun read, with an important message, a well-deserved five star experience!

Thanks to The Letterers Collective for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Visit all the stops on Nikki LeClair's blog tour:

March 20
Kindred Ink Press (Playlist)
March 21
Living Life With Joy (Review, Excerpt)
March 22
BreakfastAtShelbys (Review & Q&A)
Karan Eleni, Author (Excerpt)
March 23
Ellen Wilder (Excerpt)
March 24
Twenty Qs Book Clubs (Q&A & Excerpt)
March 25
Chick Lit Central (Review)
Jena C. Henry, Author (Review & Excerpt)
March 26
Chick Lit Goddess (Excerpt)

More by Nikki LeClair:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review: Hello, Stranger

By Sara Steven

Barbara Moran has never known how to be good.

As a child, she made strange noises, fidgeted constantly, and licked her lips until they cracked. She had "upsets" that embarrassed and frustrated her family. Worse still, she developed friendships with inanimate objects--everything from roller skates to tables to an antique refrigerator--and became obsessed with images of cathedrals.

She was institutionalized, analyzed, and marginalized, cast aside as not trying hard enough to fit in.

But after almost forty years, Barbara was given an answer for her inability to be like, and to connect with, other people: autism.

Hello, Stranger is the story of a misunderstood life that serves as an eye-opening call for compassion. Bracingly honest, Barbara describes the profound loneliness of being abandoned and judged while also expressing her deep yearning simply to be loved and to give love. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Reading about Barbara’s experiences proved to be an eye opener for me. I have a brother who is autistic, and he doesn’t have the ability to verbalize his thoughts or feelings. I’ve never heard him speak a single word. So much of my childhood consisted of trying to figure out what he needed, to go by his reactions, the emotions he’d display, and I couldn’t help but imagine that so much of what Barbara references from her own experiences could easily pertain to my brother.

While my brother’s diagnosis had come during the mid 1980’s, a time when I still feel there was so much to learn and understand about autism, Barbara’s childhood, teen years and much of her adult years were spent in the dark, shuffled between doctors who had no clue as to why she behaved the way she did, attempting to ply her with medications that only made her suffer more. All in the name of “progress”. Often, when she couldn’t become or live up to the person they’d wanted her to be, they would blame her. That she “acted up” on purpose. This was a hurdle we’d also faced with my brother, who would often behave in certain ways that was not relatable or accepted by many.

The friendships with inanimate objects really spoke to me, considering the toys or random artifacts my brother would carry around, depending on whatever was interesting to him at the time. One time, it was pencils, piles and piles of pencils he’d store inside a bag, and he’d take them out, one by one, focusing on the minute details of wood and graphite. There was the short-lived connection with balls; rubber, fiber, leather. All shapes and sizes, kept safe inside a carrier made of netting. There were many other connections he’d made with objects over the years, and while Barbara’s connection with her own special objects may sound far-fetched, I understand it. For her, this was a means in keeping sane during a time where her life was chaos, and a way for her to have someone (or something) that may have cared about her. It made me wonder if my brother had those same emotions about his own objects.

What so was motivating about Barbara’s story, was her ability to survive during the most difficult time in her life. Not only was she not living up to what “normal” had been perceived as, but she wasn’t sure who she was, or where she fit in. As the synopsis indicates, it’s an honest look into one woman’s struggle in finding her identity, while opening the eyes and hearts of those who had a narrow view on what being different means. Research has come such a long way since those days, and even since the time my brother had been diagnosed, with much more compassion and understanding. It was nice to verbally hear a voice, one that could very easily be that of my brother’s.

Thanks to KiCam Projects for the book in exchange for an honest review. Hello, Stranger can be purchased here.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Susan Meissner is having a great a book giveaway

Photo by Stephanie Carbajal
We're thrilled to have Susan Meissner at CLC today! Her latest novel, The Last Year of the War, published on Tuesday. Melissa A recently enjoyed it and will be reviewing soon. (She also enjoyed a bunch of Susan's earlier novels.) Berkley has one copy for a lucky reader!

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing. (Bio courtesy of Susan's website.)

Visit Susan online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943—aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.

The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How much research did you have to do in order to write The Last Year of the War?
As a native and long-time resident of Southern California, I’ve long known what happened to Japanese-Americans living here in the US during World War II, but until just prior to writing this book, I hadn’t known that the same thing had happened to a smaller number of German Americans, so I had a lot to learn. The best resource I found on the topic is The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell. It is an excellent nonfiction look at the arrests, detainment, and repatriation of roughly 4000 German immigrants, all of whom were legal residents of the Americas. There is also a terrific website set up by the German American Internee Coalition,, much of it maintained by the now-grown children of former internees. I had lived in southwest Germany in the early 1990's, so I was able to tap into my own memories of living in that country, but I still had to spend many weeks researching what it was like for civilians living there during the time of the Allied bombings and subsequent occupation.

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing The Last Year of the War?
The most rewarding aspect was meeting and talking with the former internees. Their mothers and fathers have all passed but many of the American-born children who were interned with their parents are still here with us to share from the standpoint of their humanity, not just history, about what it was like to live through this time. The challenge of any historical work I undertake is reconnecting with a past that is slowly disappearing. There is a little left of the former Crystal City internment camp, just a few cement foundations and a partially filled-in former swimming pool. The eyewitnesses are now all in their twilight years. In addition, there is the added dimension of knowing this was a difficult time for everybody involved. Complex decisions have to be made in a time of war. I’m not saying I would’ve made better decisions, but I do believe that fear led the way with respect to those in charge when wisdom would’ve perhaps taken us all down different roads. Fear doesn’t always result in wise decisions, but it does always prompt us to make them.

If The Last Year of the War were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Filming would have to start today for me get my pick for Elise as a teenage girl! I would want to reel in the awesome talents of Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven on Stranger Things. She’s a captivating actress and able to make you believe she really is the person she’s playing on screen. For Elise as an 81-year-old woman retelling her story I have my eye on Ellen Burstyn who is mostly of Irish, German and French-Canadian dissent, according to IMDb. She’s been in films for decades, and I last saw her in House of Cards as Elizabeth Hale, Claire Underwood’s problematic mother. If I could go back in time and nab Keiko Agena, who played Rory’s best friend Lane Kim on The Gilmore Girls, that’s who I would pick to play Mariko.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Sometimes I like to read outside my genre; it’s a rare treat as usually I am reading for research or for the two book clubs I’m in. But I recently asked my publicist for an early copy of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, a book set in the current day by fellow Berkley novelist Anissa Gray. I kept seeing its beautiful cover in early pre-release publicity and I was intrigued. Now out, it’s a beautifully woven story of sisters and family dynamics and regrets and hopes and dreams. This is her debut, but Ms. Gray is a fantastic writer and I think we will be seeing more from her.

If we were to visit you in the town where you currently live, what would be some must-see places to check out?
San Diego is full of such lovely places. We have the best zoo in the world and I’m not just saying that, we really do. And right near the zoo is Balboa Park, whose beautiful museum buildings and organ pavilion are of the Spanish Renaissance style. So beautiful. You must also cross over the Coronado Bridge and check out the Hotel Del Coronado, and then walk along the Silver Strand beach and watch the wind surfers. And then of course my favorite bookstore is Warwick’s, the oldest and greatest indie bookstore in San Diego in beautiful La Jolla. Old Town should also be on the list because it is San Diego’s ode to its beginnings, and you can enjoy some dynamite Mexican food and margaritas.

What is the strangest thing in your purse/handbag at the moment?
I have the lamest handbag ever. I never have anything good in it. Ever. Right now I have empty cough drop wrappers. One of those is surely the strangest thing in it because the only other things inside at the moment are a wallet, a pair of sunglasses, a pen, one tube of lipstick and some keys. I never have aspirin or a Kleenex or a nail file or a mirror or a comb. I suppose that means the strangest thing in my handbag in the moment is gobs of free space.

Thanks to Susan 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 March 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Book Review: The Last Woman in the Forest

By Jami Deise

Lately I’ve been pitched quite a few books about women and their dogs in the wilderness. Some might see that as a sign that I need to head into unforgiving nature with my German shepherd. I, however, read these books while grateful for the comfort and security of my suburban Florida home. Sometimes I read them outside on the swing in my backyard, but then the mosquitos chase me indoors. Thus is the extent of my outdoor adventures.

My latest entry in the literary world of snow and woods came courtesy of Diane Les Becquets, whose second novel, The Last Woman in the Forest, combines wilderness tales with women’s fiction and mystery. Marian Engström works as a dog handler in the woods of Canada, using the canines to track endangered wildlife. Devastated by the death of her co-worker and lover, Tate, Marian begins to wonder if Tate could have been the serial killer who’d brutally murdered several young women in nearby and other wilderness areas over the years. She reaches out to Nick, the retired forensic profiler who’s dying of cancer and who made a name for himself tracking this killer. Can Marian and Nick find out the truth about Tate before Nick succumbs to his disease?

The prose in The Last Woman in the Forest reads more like literary fiction than suspense, with third-person point of view that lingers on the description of snowy woods. (There are also several detailed descriptions of murders, which are jarring in juxtaposition to their picturesque locales and might trigger those sensitive to violence.) Les Becquets alternates between Marian and Nick’s points-of-view (the murders come from the victims’) and past and present. Reading how Marian and Tate fall in love, how he woos her with compliments but then leaves her cold if she questions him or does something he disapproves of, made me wonder about the fine line between a serial killer’s psychosis and typical male dating behavior.

Because Tate is dead when the book opens (his cause of death isn’t revealed till much later, but it’s clear from the beginning that Tate died alone in the woods), the book lacks the feeling of suspense and high stakes that a killer on the loose would provide. While Les Becquets does establish that someone out there doesn’t want Marian to continue her investigation, these moments are so few and far between that they do not add up to that feeling of hot breath on the neck of the protagonist.

I enjoyed Les Becquets’s voice, and I liked the blend of women’s fiction and suspense. Even though I guessed the ending, the combination of these genres and the alternating timelines gave the book’s structure an unpredictability despite the binary nature of its central mystery. I also enjoyed seeing Marian’s growth from the uncertain new dog handler to a confident woman ready to face the truth about her boyfriend and its consequences.

Very few women will ponder the question of whether the man they love is a serial killer. But thematically, the dilemma is much broader than that: How many of us have wondered, at one time or another, whether we really know the person on the pillow next to us at all?

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

More by Diane Les Becquets:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Excerpt from Wildflower Park: Oopsy Daisy

Wildflower Park - Part 3: Oopsy Daisy by Bella Osborne

Life’s not always a walk in the park…

When Anna is dumped by her fiancé, she moves in to her own place on the edge of the gorgeous Wildflower Park and pledges to stay off men and focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives an accidental text from a mystery man, could it be the new start she needs? Or someone she really shouldn't be falling for?

Anna’s neighbour Sophie is a stressed-out mum-of-two with a third on the way. Her husband is a constant frustration, and their children are a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces.

Luckily, Anna and Sophie have each other – and Wildflower Park proves to be a sanctuary as they map out a path to find the happiness they both deserve…

Fantastically funny, this irresistibly heart-warming novel will charm fans of Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell.

‘Oh, I’m not leaving them.’ Anna did a sigh of relief followed by a sharp intake of breath and she almost inhaled a marshmallow. If she wasn’t leaving the children was she expecting to move them in too? Sophie continued. ‘I’m going to get up early so I’ll be there when they wake up and then they’re off on holiday with the Kraken for two weeks.’

Anna was hugely relieved about this. She’d forgotten Karen was taking the children away for a while. ‘It might do you both good to have two weeks together without the children.’

Sophie was already shaking her head. ‘No way. I can’t do this any more.’ Her voice cracked and she pulled a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose loudly. ‘This isn’t what I wanted, Anna. I wasn’t meant to end up like this. I don’t know how it happened.’ She looked wretched sitting crossed-legged in the chair with her swollen belly stretching her top to the max. She was six months pregnant and she looked it. ‘I had plans … big plans. I was going to go places … see stuff. Not stay in the Midlands and wipe bums for the rest of my life.’

Anna put down her drink and went and gave Sophie another hug. She hated to see her like this. ‘What needs to change to make you happy again?’

Sophie sniffed. ‘Swapping Dave for Hudson would be a start.’ She gave a hiccup of a laugh.
‘You’d soon get fed up with his pretty face and perfect body. Yuk.’ Anna gave a pretend shudder, passed Sophie back her hot chocolate and Sophie gave a brief smile. ‘And I bet he leaves wet towels on the floor too.’

‘If it means he’s walking around naked, that’s fine with me.’ Sophie sipped her hot chocolate and gave herself a creamy moustache. ‘Hmmm,’ she said contentedly and Anna wasn’t sure if it was the hot chocolate or the thought of a naked Hudson making her emit the happy sound.

‘Dave isn’t all bad, though. I’m sure we can come up with a list of his good points.’ Anna scanned the room for a pen and paper. She had various ways to solve problems.

‘I’m not workshopping my marriage,’ said Sophie emphatically.

‘Fair enough.’ She had a point. ‘How about Relate counselling?’ Sophie shook her head. ‘Then how do we resolve this?’

‘I don’t think we can,’ said Sophie and she sniffed back more tears.
Anna’s phone pinged and she quickly scanned the message. Thanks for a great evening. Hope you got home safe. C.

Anna couldn’t hide the small smile before her eyes darted back to Sophie. Sophie was watching her. ‘It’s just Connor. Carry on,’ said Anna, gesturing with her hand.

See excerpts from part one: Build Me Up Buttercup and part two: A Budding Romance.

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel.

In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella's stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication.

Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays.

She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping). (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

For more about Bella, visit her website or follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Thanks to Avon for including us on Bella's tour. Visit all the other stops:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: Tomorrow There Will Be Sun

Dana Reinhardt's debut novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun, published last week. We're excited to feature it today and thanks to Viking, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Two families take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; but the idyllic façade soon begins to melt away. Despite the picturesque accommodations—sunning and swimming with their dearest friends in the world along for the ride— Jenna can’t seem to get out of her own head. Her husband Peter acts secretive and defensive about calls from a certain coworker, while their daughter seems entranced by their friends’ ne’er-do-well teenage son. The expansive property feels like tight quarters as tensions mount and the weather grows stormy. As the two families fold in on themselves, news of a rift between local cartels in Puerto Vallarta drifts unnoticed in the background. The doting staff reassures them that there is nothing to worry about, so they don’t—until they’re forced to reckon with very real trouble in paradise.  

Funny, suspenseful, and sometimes plain old drunk, TOMORROW THERE WILL BE SUN is a book fit for any bag, whether you’re jetting off for your own vacation, or curling up at home only wishing to be transported far, far away.

“TOMORROW THERE WILL BE SUN is escapist fiction without the empty calories, a witty and wise tale of all the ways reality bites. Dana Reinhardt is the Nora Ephron we’ve all been missing.”
—Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of The High Tide Club

"A smart, funny novel about what happens when a family must contend with itself in paradise. If you can't escape to your own gorgeous villa, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is the next best thing."
—Laura Dave, author of Hello Sunshine

Photo by Chelsea Hadley
Dana Reinhardt lives in San Francisco with her husband and two teenage daughters. TOMORROW THERE WILL BE SUN is her debut adult novel. Visit Dana at her website and on Twitter and Instagram.

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

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Giveaway ends March 24th at midnight EST.

Friday, March 15, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Prophetess by Evonne Marzouk
Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb from William Morrow
The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr from Great Thoughts' Great Readers (won in giveaway)
The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion from Text Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
Postcards For a Songbird by Rebekah Crane from Skyscape
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff from Crooked Lane Books (e-book via NetGalley)
The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause from Kathleen Carter Communications
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez from Forever (e-book via NetGalley)
My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson from HarperCollins

Envy by Amanda Robson from HarperCollins UK
Everything is Just Fine by Brett Paesel from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)

Fifty, Four Ways by/from Katherine Cobb (e-book)
Starfish by/from Lisa Becker (e-book)
Until the Last Star Fades by/from Jacquelyn Middleton (e-book)
The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne from Little Bird Publicity (e-book via NetGalley)
If I Can Make It Here by/from Jamie Rose (e-book)

Book Review and Giveaway: The Things We Cannot Say

By Jami Deise

Kelly Rimmer’s novel about two sisters dealing with opioid addiction, Before I Let You Go, was one of my favorite books of 2018 (see my review). I was surprised to hear that she followed up that contemporary sociological portrait with an historical fiction offering, but I was so impressed with her writing, I had to take a look. It was not a wasted read by any means. Even though the two books are so different that it’s almost a surprise they were written by the same author, they are both extraordinary novels.

If you loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Rimmer’s The Things We Cannot Say is a must-read. It begins in the Soviet Union in 1942, as the narrator marries Tomasz Slaski in a refugee camp – hardly the wedding she’d imagined to her childhood sweetheart. In present-day Florida, Alice deals with a meltdown from her son Eddie, who is on the autism spectrum and non-verbal. The meltdown makes her late in visiting her grandmother Hanna, who’s had a stroke that has left her non-verbal as well. In fact, the only way Alice’s “Babcia” can communicate is with Eddie’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication app. Frantic and seemingly aware that her time is short, Babcia is suddenly desperate for Alice to go to her native Poland and research people Alice has never heard of. Her grandfather, Tomasz, is on that list, which is confusing… Tomasz died of dementia a year ago. Why is he on the list?

I’ve read many historical novels that alternate between a World War past and a modern present, and I’ve almost always found myself bored with the less-than-life-threatening dilemmas of the modern-day protagonist. That was not the case in Rimmer’s novel, as Alice’s devotion to Eddie and the enormity of his needs are an overwhelming, heartbreaking challenge for the sympathetic mom. In the past, Alina is a teenage girl in newly occupied Poland, pining for her love Tomasz who has gone off to college, and avoiding work around her family’s small farm. When the Nazis come, her life is turned upside down in an instant.

Both of these first-person narrators are so well-drawn, readers will feel a pang of regret each time the narration changes. And the mysteries begin right away: Is Alina Alice’s grandmother, even though Alice’s Babcia is named Hanna? If so, how do Alina and Tomasz find their way back to each other? We already have Alice’s assurance that her grandfather Tomasz died only a year ago, so what is the mystery there?

The Things We Cannot Say kept me up all night reading, and then it broke my heart twice over. It also served as a prescient reminder, in the form of a line from Tomasz, reminding his wife that they must always remain vigilant, because the Holocaust also began with little slights and annoyances.

Kudos to Kelly Rimmer. I look forward to reading everything else she ever writes.

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

Visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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

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Giveaway ends March 20th at midnight EST.

More by Kelly Rimmer:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Spotlight: Knowing You

An abrupt change; a new friendship; a dark secret...

Kind-hearted Violet has never fitted in, but despite being bullied at school is now content. She is dating ambitious Lenny, has her dream job in publishing and runs a book club at the local retirement home.

However, when her relationship with Lenny begins to falter, Violet, hurt and alone, seeks the advice of her new flatmate, Bella. She changes her image and with her head held high aims to show that she doesn’t need Lenny in her life to be happy and successful.

Her long-term friends Mable and Farah worry about Bella’s influence and slowly Violet starts to distance herself from them. When she was a child, her closest confidant and companion was a boy called Flint. Her mother didn’t approve of their closeness and he suffered a terrible end. She won’t let the same thing happen to Bella, no matter what anyone says...

Knowing You is about friendship and knowing who to trust with your deepest secrets; it’s about taking control of your life and not being afraid to stand out. Perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan, Gail Honeyman and Amanda Prowse.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple * Google * Kobo

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK and her passion, second to spending time with her husband and children, is writing. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.

In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category.

Visit Samantha online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter