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 year...plus 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


Synopsis:
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, http://gaic.info, 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.

Excerpt:
‘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)

Amy:
Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson from HarperCollins

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

Sara:
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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book Review: Waiting at Hayden's

By Sara Steven

From a fresh new voice in women's fiction comes a page-turning, relatable love story about the complicated nature of timing in modern-day relationships.

Childhood best friends Charli Anderson and Jack Logan fall madly in love during college and can't imagine a life apart. But when they land dream opportunities on opposite ends of the country following graduation, they are forced to make a heart-wrenching pact. In the hope of one day restarting their love story, they set a date to reunite in five years at their favorite restaurant.

Restaurant owner Gianna Hayden is thirty-seven, single, and one bad date away from giving up on finding the right guy when she meets Peter Clark on a dating website. Attractive, kind, and driven, he is exactly what she thought she was looking for. But as the day of Charli and Jack's reservation approaches, Gianna finds herself reflecting on the kind of passionate love her former customers once had and begins to question her bond with Peter.

These two riveting stories converge on the night of the fateful reunion. Gianna, Charli, and Jack are all forced to make difficult choices as they struggle to follow their hearts, and ultimately each must decide where their true feelings lie before time runs out.

Waiting at Hayden's is the first book to be published in the new reading experience format shopfiction™, which Costello coined and branded. The digital version of this book contains links to watch key scenes unfold and to shop the characters' clothes. The print versions contain web addresses to do the same. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I really enjoyed the premise to Waiting at Hayden’s. In this day and age, we’re used to getting what we want, when we want it, almost instantaneously. In relationships, we rely on social media, cell phones and video chatting. For Charli and Jack, the question becomes, will this relationship survive the distance and time, if all of that has been taken out of the equation?

It was an interesting and unique perspective, and provided a lot of moments where I could really feel the yearning between the main characters. Told from both perspectives and given over a gradual time frame, we’re given the backstory to their relationship, and there are moments where I questioned the validity of their love, and ultimately, whether they’d eventually end up together. Thrown into the mix are other characters who sweeten the pot, only making the reader more unsure of whether the pact will hold its weight or not, whether Charli and Jack will meet up at Hayden’s as they’d promised one another, or if the distance and time has changed them and their chances, forever.

I also appreciated the paralleling story of Gianna. I could feel her struggles with deciding on how far in she wants to go in her relationship with Peter, a very realistic situation. It can be easy making relationship decisions when someone is so obviously wrong for you, but what if the person looks good on paper? What if they’re a genuinely great person, who could potentially be a great addition to your life but it still feels as though something may be lacking? You start to wonder if that lacking element is YOU. It was a nice correlation to Charli and Jack’s story, balancing everything out nicely.

I did click on a few of the links in this shopfiction™ experience, to get a better idea of the types of outfits the characters were wearing in various scenes. It was a unique way to better see who they are as people. As the story progressed, I stopped clicking, mainly due to my getting more into the story, vs. the outfits worn. But I didn’t feel that took away from the experience. I had a wonderful experience, and look forward to more from Riley Costello!

Thanks to Riley Costello for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Kate O'Keeffe's books are just right....plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Kate O'Keeffe back to CLC today. Her latest novel, The Right Guy, recently published and she has an e-book to share with one lucky reader!

Kate O'Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good chick lit and romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke's Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he's a scruffy dog too. He's not: he's a cat. When she's not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries around the globe, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.

Kate has written the Amazon bestselling Cozy Cottage Café series, the popular chick lit stories, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy series, as well as some standalone titles, including One Way Ticket, coauthored with chick lit author Melissa Baldwin, and the fun holiday novella, I'm Scheming of a White Christmas.

Kate has another fun and feel-good romantic comedy coming soon, entitled Manhattan Cinderella. Set in New York City, it's a retelling of the classic Cinderella story, and is now available to pre-order. (Bio adapted from Kate's website.)

Visit Kate online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
She’s in hot pursuit of The One, he’s in hot pursuit of her. Can she see what’s been in front of her all this time?


When city girl Taylor Jennings reluctantly visits a psychic one sunny San Francisco morning, she gets a whole lot more than she bargains for—like a prediction she will “lock eyes” with The One within the next two weeks. So, when she looks up into a pair of green eyes belonging to her best friend’s big brother, Taylor’s running scared. She can’t fall for ladies’ man, Jake, not if she wants to keep what she holds most dear.

Jake Harrison is the successful head chef of the hottest new restaurant in San Francisco. He’s got everything he could want: a great job, good friends, and women falling over themselves to be with him. Problem is, he’s always had a “thing” for his kid sister’s best friend—ever since that one incredible kiss they shared as teenagers.

When the two are thrown together on a joint bachelor-bachelorette weekend in Cabo San Lucas, Taylor goes in search of The One, and Jake tries his best to deny what he’s felt for Taylor for far too long.



What originally inspired you to write romantic comedies?
I have always loved rom coms - the fun, the humour, the happily ever after. I mean, what’s not to love? When I decided to pursue a career as a writer it was an absolute no-brainer for me to write feel-good stories with a happy ending. I’d read and loved Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella and I wanted to write just like them. It’s been an amazing journey, and five years after my first book came out, I still love every moment of it.

What is a favorite compliment that you received on your writing?
I had a novel described as a cross between Bridget Jones’s Diary and Eat, Pray, Love once. That felt pretty good! I've also had a number of readers tell me my books remind them of Sophie Kinsella’s, which is also an incredible compliment. Sophie is our Chick Lit Queen, after all, and I would love to be half as good a writer as her.

If The Right Guy were made into a film, who would play the leading roles?
If you could make that happen, I would be so happy! Seriously though, Jake would have to be a young Robert Redford, but with green eyes (of course). Messy hair, stubble, broodingly good looking. Totally him. Taylor is more of a Jessica Alba type: cute, sweet, and effortlessly gorgeous - exactly the way we all are when we wake up every day, right? Ah, a girl can dream.

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
I thought Rob Lowe was gorgeous when I was really young, then he was eclipsed by Keanu Reeves (NOT in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, though, obviously) and then I moved on to Brad Pitt.

What is your astrological sign and how does it fit your personality?
I’m a Capricorn. I’m told we are ambitious and organised and maybe a little boring! I would say I’m somewhat ambitious, occasionally organised, and never boring!

What TV series have you been binge watching lately?
I’ve just binge-watched the latest series of Outlander. So good! I love a good time travel tale. Throw in a hot Scotsman in a kilt and I’m there for the long haul.

Thanks to Kate 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 March 18th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: Daisy Jones & the Six

We're excited to feature Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It has been receiving a lot of amazing reviews and we look forward to reading it soon. Thanks to Ballantine, we have THREE copies to give away!

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & the Six: The Band’s album Aurora came to define the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group’s split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Photo by Deborah Feingold
Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Previously, she worked in feature film casting, development, and various other roles in the entertainment industry before turning to writing full time. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, their daughter, and their dog.

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


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 17th at midnight EST.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Book Review: Just After Midnight

By Sara Steven

No longer tolerating her husband’s borderline abuse, Faith escapes to her parents’ California beach house to plan her next move. She never dreamed her new chapter would involve befriending Sarah, a fourteen-year-old on the run from her father and reeling from her mother’s sudden and suspicious death.

While Sarah’s grandmother scrambles to get custody, Faith is charged with spiriting the girl away on a journey that will restore her hope: Sarah implores Faith to take her to Falkner’s Midnight Sun, the prized black mare that her father sold out from under her. Sarah shares an unbreakable bond with Midnight and can’t bear to be apart from her. Throughout the sweltering summer, as they follow Midnight from show to show, Sarah comes to terms with what she witnessed on the terrible night her mother died.

But the journey is far from over. Faith must learn the value of trusting her instincts—and realize that the key to her future, and Sarah’s, is in her hands. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Catherine Ryan Hyde has a unique way of connecting two polar opposite characters and sending them into an even more unique situation. Her characters defy age or life circumstances, as witnessed in the connection between Faith and Sarah. An unlikely pairing. Yet, in trying to work through her own circumstances that have brought her to her parents’ beach house, Faith discovers that in getting to know Sarah, she’s learning that there is a lot more they have in common, despite their polarities.

There are a lot of past hurts in Faith’s life, something that Sarah can easily identify with. It’s the basis for their friendship, giving credence to Sarah’s trust in her newfound friend. So much so, that Faith ensures Sarah’s safety and travels with her, keeping watch over her, all in the name of protection. Mixed in are the obvious resentments Sarah still has over losing her best friend, her former horse, Midnight. It was interesting to have an inside look into the backstory on what the show horse life is like, the responsibilities that come with it. I appreciated the off-kiltered dynamic that presents itself with Sarah becoming the one in charge, the one that holds the answers. It was felt in the reactions other characters have with her, and helps to really identify the dynamics in the relationship between Faith and Sarah.

In the bond that Sarah has with Midnight, we learn more about her past, the obstacles she’s had to face, the ones that loom before her. We also learn that, true to form, the old adage of, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, is a real and true thing. Friendship shouldn’t be confined or limited. While Faith and Sarah are an unlikely duo, their friendship is inspiring, defying the odds. I appreciated the subtle twists and turns to Just After Midnight, too; the heavy darkness that settles in when you least expect it, complimented by the silver linings when you least expect that, too.

Thanks to Lake Union  for the book in exchange for an honest review. Just After Midnight can be purchased here.

More by Catherine Ryan Hyde:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Ayser Salman has a seat at our table...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Femi Corazon
We're pleased to introduce you to Ayser Salman. Her memoir, The Wrong End of the Table, published this week. We enjoyed learning more about her and hope she will make you laugh and smile, as we sure did! Thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Ayser Salman was born in Iraq before it became a curiosity, and moved to America as a toddler. She is a writer and producer and editor for companies like Universal Pictures, Miramax Films, Disney, The Weinstein Company, and FX. Ayser lives in Los Angeles, California.

Visit Ayser online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot (#FOMO)? That’s life—especially for an immigrant.

What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name and an unfortunate propensity toward facial hair is uprooted from her comfortable (albeit fascist-regimed) homeland of Iraq and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio—with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere you turned?

This is Ayser Salman’s story. First comes Emigration, then Naturalization, and finally Assimilation—trying to fit in among her blonde-haired, blue-eyed counterparts, and always feeling left out. On her journey to Americanhood, Ayser sees more naked butts at pre-kindergarten daycare that she would like, breaks one of her parents’ rules (“Thou shalt not participate as an actor in the school musical where a male cast member rests his head in thy lap”), and other things good Muslim Arab girls are not supposed to do. And, after the 9/11 attacks, she experiences the isolation of being a Muslim in her own country. It takes hours of therapy, fifty-five rounds of electrolysis, and some ill-advised romantic dalliances for Ayser to grow into a modern Arab American woman who embraces her cultural differences.

Part memoir and part how-not-to guide, The Wrong End of the Table is everything you wanted to know about Arabs but were afraid to ask, with chapters such as “Tattoos and Other National Security Risks,” “You Can’t Blame Everything on Your Period; Sometimes You’re Going to Be a Crazy Bitch: and Other Advice from Mom,” etc. This is the story of every American outsider on a path to find themselves in a country of beautiful diversity.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing The Wrong End of the Table?
Most challenging but ultimately rewarding was the fact that I was writing as myself whereas previously I’d written fiction or ‘hidden’ behind characters in screenplays. Suddenly it was Ayser, speaking as ‘Ayser’ -which was quite scary in how exposing it seemed. But there was a simplicity in the fact that all I had to do was be open and authentic and tell my stories. It was incredibly freeing. And that’s when the writing flowed.

What memoirs inspired you to write your own?
My Family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

If The Wrong End of the Table were made into a movie, who would you want to play your part?
Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously. He really disappears into a role.

What is a memorable experience for you from working at the production studios?
As a producer/editor I’ve had the opportunity to work on so many fantastic projects, doing behind-the scenes docu-shorts and other content. The two experiences I’m most proud of are the ‘making-of’ vignettes for the musical numbers in Chicago when I was at Miramax; and more recently FX’s Pose, creating short docu-pieces following the real lives of the cast & crew.

What is something that made you laugh really hard recently?
I’ve been listening to the audio book of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, as well as repeatedly watching both of his stand-up specials. His bit on why Idris Elba should not play James Bond kills me every time.

What is your favorite comfort food?
I can’t believe I’m admitting this but - Chicken pot pie - and it needn’t be the gourmet kind. Those frozen ones you get in a two-for-one deal at Target which are loaded with preservatives.... But keeping true to my heritage I also love plain basmati rice with salt.

Thanks to Ayser for chatting with us and to Get Red PR 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 12th at midnight EST.




Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Spotlight: Between the Lies

Chloe Daniels regains consciousness in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. She doesn't recognize the strangers who call themselves family. She has no sense of who she is—or was.

She can't even remember her own name. But once Chloe returns to her childhood home, she slowly starts to piece together the details of her life. A house by the sea. A successful career. The car crash that caused her to lose it all...

Her loved ones tell her that they want what’s best for her and so does her therapist. But how can she put her trust in those she doesn’t know? And why are certain details from others’ stories about who she is, and what really happened to her, not adding up? Chloe has a deep, visceral sense that someone is lying to her, that there is a world of dark secrets she cannot access—yet. The person she used to be may be gone. But the new Chloe will stop at nothing in her quest to find the truth...even if it kills her.

Between the Lies can be purchased here.

Michelle Adams is a British writer living abroad in Cyprus for the last four years. She is a part-time scientist and has published six science fiction novels under a pseudonym, including a YA dystopian series. She is also the author of If You Knew My Sister. Visit Michelle at her website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Confessions of a Bookaholic currently has a giveaway for this novel! Enter at Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Camille Di Maio is no stranger to us...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Camille Di Maio back at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Beautiful Strangers. Melissa A is no stranger to Camille's writing and has enjoyed all her novels, including this one. (See her review.) Thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy to give away!

Camille Di Maio recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of twenty-one years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too.

Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. (Bio courtesy of Camille's website.)

Visit Camille online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram



Synopsis:
A legendary hotel on the Pacific becomes a haven where dreams, love, and a beguiling mystery come alive.

1958. Kate Morgan, tethered to her family’s failing San Francisco restaurant, is looking for an escape. She gets her chance by honoring a cryptic plea from her grandfather: find the beautiful stranger. The search takes her to Hotel del Coronado, the beachfront landmark on the Southern California coast where filming is underway on the movie Some Like It Hot.

For a movie lover like Kate, it’s a fantasy come true. So is the offer of a position at the glamorous hotel. And a new romance is making her heart beat just as fast. But as sure as she is that the Coronado is her future, Kate discovers it’s also where the ghosts of the past have come to stay. Sixty years ago a guest died tragically, and she still haunts the hotel’s halls.

As the lives of two women—generations apart—intertwine, Kate’s courageous journey could change more than she ever imagined. And with the Coronado wending its way through her soul, she must follow her dreams…wherever they may lead.
(Courtesy of Goodreads.)


The Beautiful Strangers is your fourth novel. How did you feel while writing it in comparison to how you felt with writing The Memory of Us?
There were so many differences in writing the two books. I was a brand-new writer with The Memory of Us and there was so much to learn about craft and about trusting my instincts. It is also a tear-jerker book. I love it so much and it has a huge piece of my heart. And thankfully, readers really embraced it! But writing The Beautiful Strangers was just pure fun. I have a lot more confidence as a writer and a better-tuned sense of what works and doesn't. So it didn't take seventeen drafts to write it like it did for my first book! Readers will not need tissues for this one - it has ghosts, movie stars, love, family drama and a beach setting at one of America's most iconic hotels.

How much research did you have to do for The Beautiful Strangers, especially with Marilyn Monroe's part in the story?
Researching the ghost was a challenge - I read the inquest about the woman who died on the steps of the hotel in the 1800's and who is supposedly the ghost. But there were many differing thoughts as to who she was, why she died, and where she came from. I had to choose the path that made the most sense or had the most research. The Marilyn Monroe research, on the other hand, was abundant. Tony Curtis wrote a great memoir about working on Some Like It Hot and there are other great resources about the filming of that movie and of her life in general. Because the piece of her life that I needed only took place over a few weeks, I was able to focus on that time period. And a little extra just to get a true sense of her character - on and off the set.

If The Beautiful Strangers was to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Oh, this is always a fun question and one that I'm less adept at answering than some of my readers! But off the top of my head, I would cast Rachel Weisz as the ghost, Emma Stone as Kate Morgan (the 1958 young woman), and Eddie Redmayne as Sean. The ages might not be quite right, but they do fit the pictures of what I have in my head. And as to who would play Marilyn? I can't even imagine!

If you could take us on a tour of the town where you live, what would be some must-see places to visit?
I live just a couple of miles from Colonial Williamsburg, so there is SO much to see. Especially for history lovers. Colonial Williamburg has some amazing speakers and re-enactors and authentic food. It's become a normal part of my life to see horse-drawn carriages, hear the noonday cannon, or to see a Jefferson-like person stopping in for coffee at my favorite cafe. Nearby, history lovers would enjoy Jamestown and Yorktown. I love going to the beach at Yorktown as well. And Busch Gardens is quite close, too. It's also less than an hour to drive to Richmond which is full of its own wonders.

Tell us about your longest friendship.
My longest and dearest friendship is with my ex-neighbor, Elmie. She is a nurse and an amazing mom and just solid gold inside and out. Moving to Virginia from Texas was wonderful, but I very much miss having her three doors down from me. She is the perfect sounding board for all things in life - gentle but honest, and we can definitely pick up after time apart and feel like no time has passed. She's like another sister to me.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I absolutely loved A Star is Born. The music...the acting...the heartbreak. It was perfection on every level.

Thanks to Camille for visiting with us and to Get Red PR 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 10th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Book Review: This Much Country

By Jami Deise

As a Florida gal, I was never that interested in Alaska until I read Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. That amazing novel gave me an appreciation for the state and its resilient community of nature-loving residents.

I still hate the cold, though. To me, it’s cold if it’s under 78 degrees.

Author Kristin Knight Pace does not hate the cold, but one thing she and I have in common is being jilted in a painful, life-altering divorce. Hers drove her to Alaska – mine drove me three miles away from a beach home I loved. Still, her memoir, This Much Country, was inspiring even for heat-loving, electricity-appreciating, one-dog-at-a-time readers like myself.

Even before her big move, Pace was always a risk-taker, embracing the outdoors and moving cross-country after high school to live with a boy she’d met on the internet. She marries him and lives a full, adventurous life with work and dogs in Montana until that day in 2009 when Alfred tells he he’s met someone else and wants a divorce. Lost and heartbroken, Pace accepts an offer to live in a friend’s Alaska cabin for a few months rent-free in exchange for taking care of his sled dogs.

It’s a decision that changes the trajectory of her life.

As a writer, Pace isn’t much prone to introspection. Her feelings are portrayed through action rather than thought. Still, the actions are impressive enough that the mental hand-wringing isn’t missed. While life in Alaska isn’t quite as bleak as described in Hannah’s novel, it’s still plenty cold and plenty challenging. It’s no big deal to accidentally leave your boots in your car overnight in the lower 48, but in Alaska, it could be the difference between life and death, or at least life and frostbite.

Since the Amazon synopsis reveals it, it’s not a spoiler to say that Pace ends up remarrying and participating in the two biggest dog-sled races in Alaska. Her grueling training and dog-care regime, and her willingness to face her fears and conquer them to reach her goals, are the most compelling parts of the book.

I have no desire whatsoever to do anything as grueling as a 5K, much less the Iditarod, but reading about Kristin’s triumphs was definitely motivating. As an outdoor gal and dog-lover, that race was the pinnacle of Pace’s life. What is your personal Iditarod? This Much Country might encourage you to find out.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.