Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review: The Missing Years

By Jami Deise

The haunted house story is one of the oldest genres of fiction there is – think Rebecca; The Turn of the Screw – and yet, with the latest domestic thriller craze showing no signs of stopping, it’s just as popular as ever. Lexie Elliott has followed up her bestselling debut, The French Girl (reviewed here) with The Missing Years, a haunted house story about a man who may or may not be actually dead.

Ailsa Calder’s father has been missing since she was seven – a diamond salesman who disappeared with his company’s diamonds. With her artist mother’s recent death, Ailsa, now in her twenties, has inherited half of a Scottish house known as the Manse. Since the other half belongs to her missing father, she can’t sell it unless she proves he is dead. When she moves into the house with her younger half-sister, Carrie, immediately Ailsa begins to feel that something isn’t right. Is the Manse haunted, or is one of the neighbors in the incestuous small town trying to drive Ailsa away?

Elliott’s creation of atmosphere is the most outstanding feature of her sophomore offering. The Manse is nestled in the Scottish Highlands, and Jacobite history and strong accents are as important to the story as the house’s mysteriously banging doors. The town boosts the same dynamic of clique-y twenty-something friends that The French Girl did, only in this case Ailsa is an outsider with no personal feeling about whom to believe. Still, she is quick to trust the words of one of the friends while doubting others. And since she barely knows her half-sister, Carrie is also not above suspicion. (I wanted to know why only Ailsa was left her mom’s half of the house… surely her other child would have inherited half of everything… or her second husband…) One character, Fiona, has a neurological condition called dyschronometria, and she insists that the Manse is a place where time folds onto itself. This explanation for the bizarre goings-on was unique, and I wished the writer had spent more time developing it.

While I enjoyed The Missing Years, I’ve read a number of haunted house stories lately that feature characters with secret pasts, and they’re all starting to blur together in my mind. And the ending didn’t work for me – the villain’s motivations could have been more easily reached. Still, the Scottish setting might attract Outlander fans who miss being told to “dinnae fash.” There’s even a Jamie!

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Book Review: The Forgotten Village

By Becky Gulc

‘1943: The world is at war, and the villagers of Tyneham are being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever.

2018: Melissa had hoped a break on the coast of Dorset would rekindle her stagnant relationship, but despite the idyllic scenery, it’s pushing her and Liam to the brink. When Melissa discovers a strange photograph of a woman who once lived in the forgotten local village of Tyneham, she becomes determined to find out more about her story. But Tyneham hides a terrible secret, and Melissa’s search for the truth will change her life in ways she never imagined possible.’
(Synopsis ourtesy of Lorna Cook's website.)

I don’t particularly gravitate towards historical fiction so The Forgotten Village  (US title is The Forgotten Wife) by Lorna Cook isn’t a book I would normally select. With a dual-narrative spanning two different points in time I was open to reviewing this however, and I’m very glad of it. This is such a quality debut novel by Lorna, I just loved it.

I was quickly immersed in the novel and enjoyed both narratives, the present story from Melissa was neatly linked with the tale of Tyneham from the forties. The characters from both narratives were strong and well-rounded, a perfect blend of characters and I had a particular soft spot for Lady Veronica and Anna (who features in both narratives) thanks to their strong friendship.

The book covers domestic abuse in a historical context but it manages to be sensitive to this whilst not overly dark. Tyneham is very much a character in this novel through both narratives, as a functioning village in the forties to a ‘lost village’ in the present I loved reading about this. There was a strong sense of pending change for the residents in the past, and a real sense of history at this abandoned village in the present, quite eerie. I didn’t realise until I finished the novel that Tyneham is an actual ‘ghost village’ and this has made the story all the more interesting for me, very cleverly bringing together fact and fiction.

Another thing this book does so well is the romance side of things, I felt characters fall in love, the frustration of forbidden love, just all written so well.

I can’t praise this novel enough, such strong writing and I know it is a novel I’ll remember for a long time to come.

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

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Viola Shipman is THE man....plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Wade Rouse a.k.a. Viola Shipman at CLC today. Wade used to write for CLC as our Go-to-Gay, but we're pleased to have him here as an author these days. Melissa A has enjoyed his previous novels written as Viola and is excited to check out his latest, The Summer Cottage. The cover looks so inviting. Thanks to Graydon House, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Wade Rouse is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction.

Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope Chest; and The Recipe Box. NYT bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank says of Wade and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage: “Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters. Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that novel.”

Library Journal writes that Wade has “hit upon the perfect formula to tell heartwarming, intergenerational family stories by weaving together the lives, loves and history of family through cherished heirlooms.” He recently signed a three-book book deal with HarperCollins. His next novel, The Heirloom Garden, will publish in April 2020.

Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly.

Also a noted humorist of four memoirs, Wade was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards in Humor (he lost to Tina Fey) and was named by Writer’s Digest as “The #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, We’d Like to Have Drinks With” (Wade was sandwiched between Ernest Hemingway and Hunter Thompson).

Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors.

Visit Viola online:
Website * Wade's website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Adie Lou Kruger’s ex never understood her affection for what her parents called their Cozy Cottage, the charming, ramshackle summer home—complete with its own set of rules for relaxing—that she’s inherited on Lake Michigan. But despite the fact she’s facing a broken marriage and empty nest, and middle age is looming in the distance, memories of happy childhoods on the beach give her reason for hope. She’s determined not to let her husband’s affair with a grad student reduce her to a cliché, or to waste one more minute in a career she doesn’t love, so it becomes clear what Adie Lou must do: rebuild her life and restore her cottage shingle by shingle, on her terms.

But converting the beloved, weather-beaten structure into a bed-and-breakfast isn’t quite the efficient home-reno experience she’s seen on TV. Pushback from Saugatuck’s contentious preservation society, costly surprises and demanding guests were not part of the plan. But as the cottage comes back to life, Adie Lou does, too, finding support in unexpected places and a new love story on the horizon. One cottage rule at a time, Adie Lou reclaims her own strength, history and joy by rediscovering the magic in every sunset and sandcastle.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What did you learn from writing Viola's previous novels that you applied to The Summer Cottage?
Sense of place is important to me in my work. All of my novels are set in Michigan resort towns along the coast of Lake Michigan, and they are central to the story line. In The Summer Cottage, I actually made the location and the cottage as big of characters as my protagonists. They live and breathe and speak to Adie Lou, the main character. Moreover, this is a more contemporary novel – younger, funnier, more romance – but I retained the themes that are central to all Viola novels: Family, memories, history, heirlooms, forgiveness as well as giving voice to women whose voices are often overlooked in our lifetimes, seemingly ordinary women on the surface – good, kind, hard working women like my mother and grandmothers – whose lives are truly extraordinary simply by the way they live and the impact they have on those around them. I’m deeply proud of this novel and the way that each one I write seems to grow and change while retaining those themes I hold dear.

What is a favorite compliment you received on any of Viola's novels?
When readers are shocked to learn that a man wrote the novels. It happened a lot when my first novel, The Charm Bracelet, was published; many women readers would show up at events and be absolutely shocked to see me take the stage. “That’s a man,” they would say in a Shakespearian whisper. But it still continues to happen. In fact, just a few weeks ago at Literary Orange, a large, day-long author event sponsored by the Orange County (CA) Library System, a woman ran up as I took the stage and yelled, “Viola’s a man!” That’s the ultimate compliment: That I’m writing female characters, of all ages, and women’s lives and emotions well enough to have readers believe it was written by a woman.

My other favorite compliment is that my novels are reconnecting readers to their family histories and memories. Hundreds and hundreds of readers have attended events the last few years, bringing along their mother’s, grandmother’s and family’s charm bracelets, recipe cards, quilts, McCoy vases, holiday ornaments and photos to share with me. In the process, they’ve told me how my work has not only touched them deeply but also reconnected them to their family’s history. They are writing it down so it doesn’t get lost, sharing their memories with family and remembering from where they came. They are also sharing and reading my books among the generations – daughters and mothers, sisters and cousins, grandmothers and granddaughters – just like my grandmas did with me.

If you could cast The Summer Cottage as a movie, who would star in the lead roles?
Authors always love to cast film versions of their books in their heads! For The Summer Cottage, I would cast the leads as:
Adie Lou – Kristen Bell
I think she would bring just the right blend of intelligence, strength, fragility, humor and charm to Adie Lou, a woman is starting over by starting at the beginning, a woman who learns how to dream once again.
Scooter – Kyle Chandler
He would be ideal as the former small-town high school football star with a heart of gold who has lived a rough life but has now realized who he is (and who he loves)
Evan – Lucas Hedges
As the tender, emotional, supportive son of Adie Lou, who helps his mom achieve her dreams while coming to peace with his parents’ divorce, he would be perfect
Iris Dragoon – Meryl Streep, Annette Benning, Joan Collins
SO many good choices to play the “Dragoon Lady,” the rich preservation committee chair and society matron who makes Adie Lou’s life and renovation a living hell, but who, underneath all the wigs, makeup and pretense, is not that different from her at all. Such a rich role!
Trish – Maya Rudolph
Perfect for the funny, cutting but loving best friend and attorney who tells it like it is but is always there to support you (and get you into trouble)

What are you looking forward to this summer?
My tour for The Summer Cottage, as well as everything about summers in Saugatuck, Michigan (the resort town where I live and where The Summer Cottage is set)! It’s like living in a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. We hike the dunes, spend afternoons on the golden sand beaches, boat and swim in Lake Michigan, visit wineries and U-Picks, gorge on blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, ice cream and good wine, head to Friday night art auctions on the lagoon at Ox-Bow (an artist colony affiliated with the Chicago Institute of Art), watch theatre at the Center for the Arts, and I read on my cottage’s screened porch, write in my tree-top carriage house and eat at one of the great restaurants in town with friends. It’s like summer when I was a kid.

Lake Michigan sunset

What is the last movie you saw that you'd recommend?

I loved The Wife! I loved the novel as well. Glenn Close was stunning (and should have won the Oscar for Best Actress), the screenplay was compelling, the supporting cast terrific, and I loved watching how a woman responsible (literally) for her husband’s literary success slowly implodes. A smart movie (and book) for book lovers and readers.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
I’m a total klutz. I fall or trip constantly. Every year, it seems, I break a toe or a finger or injure myself in some idiotic way, tripping over one of my dogs, or falling over a slipper in the middle of the night. At work once, I fell backwards over an open drawer on my desk while I was talking on the phone. I split open the rear end of my pants but didn’t realize it until someone told me as I was walking into a meeting. A few weeks ago, I literally walked head-first into a door jamb while carrying laundry, eating a mouthful of food and totally engrossed in my mind about a scene in the next book I’m writing. I had a huge bruise, knot and wound on my head and had to attend book events looking as if I just went 10 rounds with Ronda Rousey. Now, I have a permanent scar. And something will happen again soon … I just don’t know when.

Thanks to Wade/Viola for visiting with us and to Graydon House for sharing his 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 28th at midnight EST.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: Amazing Grace


By Sara Steven

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary - and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she's a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks…

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

A funny, feel good romance about finding your own path and changing your life for the better – readers of Cathy Bramley, Jill Mansell and Josie Silver will love this uplifting read. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

There were plenty of moments and situations in Amazing Grace that really spoke to me, coming from the perspective of being a parent as well as knowing what it’s like to co-parent. Grace tries hard to establish some sort of normalcy, not only for her son but for herself, as well. It’s not always easy when there are others involved, and there is always the constant struggle in wanting to do what’s right, and wanting to do what’s right for yourself and your family. Should she give her ex a chance, or should she move forward with the new relationship in her life?

Grace is also trying to find herself and the woman she’d been before her marriage. She discovers that she used to be a lot more adventurous and outgoing, and I could really feel this sense of wanting to incorporate more of that in her life. I think so many of us can recall a time where we felt a lot more courage in the things we wanted to do and pursue, a youthful exuberance that wanes a bit with age. It’s a big reason Grace can be a lot more open and willing to allow the potential for a new relationship, in the form of Vinnie. There is a scene shared between Grace and her son, Archie, regarding this newfound relationship, that was very honest and realistic, particularly when it comes to how children feel when divorced parents begin dating again, only adding to her confusion. I could tell just how much she wants to do what’s best for Archie. But at what cost?

There are sweet moments that are shared between Grace and her mother, too, in an unconventional, unique way. I am on the fence on how important those moments really are for the strength of the story, since Grace’s experiences and the characters who support her were more than strong enough. I’m not sure the dialogue was really needed, although it did provide a bit of backstory to better understand the inner workings of Grace and her newfound relationship with Vinnie. The other scenes and moments really flowed and led into the beauty of a woman who is ultimately facing so many of what could be considered life’s toughest changes, and she’s trying to do it with dignity. I really enjoyed Grace’s story, from a relatable standpoint, and from an inspirational one, too. It reminded me that, even though we age, it doesn’t mean we have to stop living. Her lessons can apply to anyone, no matter their situation in life.

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

Amazing Grace can also be found at Amazon UK, Apple, and Kobo.

Kim Nash lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture and is a book blogger at Kim the Bookworm.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association's Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can't quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She's also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Amazing Grace is her debut novel with Hera Books and was published on 10th April 2019

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sally Hepworth is one tough mother...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Mrs. Smart Photography
We welcome Sally Hepworth back to CLC today to celebrate the upcoming publication of her latest novel, The Mother-in-Law. Melissa A enjoyed this book and you can check out her review right here. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy to give away!

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives (2015), The Things We Keep (2016), The Mother's Promise (2017) and The Family Next Door (2018). Her books have been labeled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing.” Her novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 15 languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. You can find her at her websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram. (Bio courtesy of Sally's website.)

Synopsis:
Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they'll never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.


But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.


That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something... (Courtesy of Goodreads.)


What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to The Mother-in-Law?
That is a tough one. For me, every book is a different beast with its own unique challenges, so it’s hard to think of a specific thing I learned or applied. Of course, with every book I write I feel a greater sense of confidence that I will actually finish it, so that helps. But The Mother-in-Law was actually a fairly straightforward book to write. The characters came to me fully formed and the story really grew from there. One thing that was a challenge with this book was that it was my first ‘crime’ novel, so I spent a lot of time speaking to police about murder and pressing charges and all sorts of wonderful, exciting stuff like that. That was a highlight. I really felt like I was Olivia Benson and the world was an episode of Law and Order SVU.

Which character do you identify with most in The Mother-in-Law?
I really enjoyed writing both Lucy and Diana and I identified with both of them in a lot of ways. In fact, the fun part of this book (apart from being Olivia Benson) was getting to explore misunderstandings and looking at the way we interpret (and misinterpret) the actions of others. And could there be a relationship more fraught with misunderstandings than the Mother-in-Law / Daughter-in-Law relationship? Probably not. That said, the more I wrote each character, the better I understood them.

If The Mother-in-Law were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I haven’t given this a moment’s thought, but off the top of my head … here is my finalized cast:
Diana - Glenn Close
Lucy - Reese Witherspoon
Ollie - Dermot Mulroney (I love you, Dermot).
Patrick - Vince Vaughn.
Tom – Wallace Shawn
Nettie – Maggie Gyllenhaal
But again, haven’t thought about it.

If we were to visit you in the town where you currently live, what would be some must-see places to go?
My favourite beach in the world, Red Bluff Beach, is right at the end of my road, and it’s simply the best. There’s a secret beach there you can only get to by boat, or by climbing over the rocks. When we go there, my daughters pretend to be Moana, trapped on the island of Motunui. Also the city of Melbourne is beautiful. It’s full of laneways and art, good coffee, and great food. We also have a great music scene in Melbourne.

What is your favorite way to spend your "me time"?
In bed with a book.

What is the strangest dream you remember having recently?
Last night I had a dream that I was getting ready for my wedding and I found out my husband-to-be had cheated on me. We called off the wedding and my friends and I had a party instead. It never occurred to me, in my dream, that I was also cheating on my husband-to-be, as I am already married with three kids!

Thanks to Sally Hepworth for chatting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends April 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Snow in April

The header for this post is somewhat fitting, given what's been going on in the Midwest lately. However, our Chick Lit Cheerleader is here to talk about a different kind of snow. We'll let her do the honors...

Side note: Jen is not about to bite off someone's hand. She's just really excited about the return of Game of Thrones and her son's hand was photo-bombing.



You Know Everything, Jon Snow.

CLC READERS, THIS IS YOUR ONE AND ONLY GAME OF THRONES SPOILER ALERT!

     Dragons, medieval battles, and chamber pots aren’t really my thing. Ice zombies, a teen girl assassin, and witty royals who drink wine and they know things? I’ll bite. And drink to that.
  Game of Thrones, aired this past weekend. A series based upon the bestselling books penned by George R. R. Martin. Isn’t that a great name to have? With not one, but two middle initials? Jennifer L. L. Tucker doesn’t roll off the tongue in quite the same manner, I know.
  The final season premiere of HBO’s hit drama,
     Mike and I began watching GoT towards the end of season one. It was one of those, “You have to watch this new show!” quotes from friends that piqued our interest. FOMO is how we stumbled onto Breaking Bad. This same set of friends, years earlier, animatedly described how Mr. White and Jessie—a high school chemistry teacher and his subpar former student—were killing it as meth cooks and drug lords.   
     “But isn’t Game of Thrones just dragons, and jousting, and battlefield tents filled with complete dining room sets?” I sneered.  Although I was leery, my internal voice reminded me these friends didn’t let you down with the drug empire-building brother-in-law of a DEA agent show, so why would they start now?
     Luckily for us, Game of Thrones was immediately addicting. Over the past seven seasons, I’ve gleaned some insight on life along the way.
Jen with talent booking manager and friend, Sabrina Adams, at FOX59 Studios in Indianapolis, IN. Sabrina knew Jen was a huge fan of Game of Thrones and hooked her up with a signed rubber duck butt—yes, a rubber duck butt—from Hodor, actor Kristian Nairn. 

1.      Whoop It Up Everyday!
One day you’re living the dream in King’s Landing, engaged to the heir next in line for the Iron Throne, and your dad just happens to be BFFs with the ruler of Westeros. The next? The dude who’s carried a torch for your slain mom since childhood, gives you to a psychopath in marriage even though you’re already married. Sounds like a 1980s episode of The Young and The Restless, doesn’t it? Yet it’s just another day for poor Sansa Stark. Make each day count. Live life to it’s fullest. And even on your worst days, remember it could always be worse. You could be sequestered with Ramsay Bolton’s dogs, who haven’t eaten all week, and you smell like a mouthwatering, medium-rare pot roast.
2.      Who Runs the World? Girls!
Even in this bad-boy kingdom, the women are serious and not to be dismissed. Arya Stark is an assassin, ninja, badass! Brienne of Tarth, a sword fighter of legendary proportions who took down the Hound. Yara Greyjoy captains a fleet of swashbucklers from the Iron Islands. Melisandre might be a little intense with the whole burning people at the stake thing, but she did resurrect Jon Snow. So, she’s got that going for her, which is nice. Daenerys Targaryen was sold into marriage by her sniveling brother yet emerged a queen with armies, riches, and seriously adorable baby dragons. Cersei Lannister, you’re a woman who gets stuff done and I respect that. Not so much your methods (and the whole sleeping with your brother thing creeps me out) but you live your best-drunken life every day, dish out consequences, and always pay your debts. I can get behind that idea of making it work, honey. This is but a handful of countless examples of the power women who get it done in the realm. 
3.      I © Baby Dragons!
I do, I do, I DO!  Along with Medieval furnishings, the many wardrobe evolutions of Khaleesi, and—gulp—Jaime Lannister! What?! Sometimes, even detestable people and things we once turned our noses up at can become beloved. Like guacamole and talk radio; allegedly. Again, not so much of a fan of Jaime’s sister-love thing, or the Brandon Stark crane technique-kick out the castle window. But chew on this: without Bran’s fall, he may not have become the all-seeing, raven-man-boy he is today.
4.      You Know Everything, Jon Snow    
Jon Snow, I believe you do know everything unlike Ygritte claimed. You never compromise your loyalty. You believe in making peace when it’s unpopular. Although humble, you lead with confidence and bring out the best in everyone. More importantly, you never take no for an answer—you always find a way. You’ve got the best posse of bros, period! And you’re in it to win it for the greater good even if the result is your own death. See? You do know everything, Jon Snow. Okay, well you know almost everything except one critical piece of your genealogy. The rest of the world is dying for you to read your 23andMe results report.
     As we prepare to bid farewell to the series, there’s one other tiny detail I want to cover. While I’m fully aware Jon Snow is but a character played by actor Kit Harington, I implore you—Kit—grow back the beard. I’m with your wife on this one. I saw you all baby-faced on SNL; the shock and horror of it all! In the case of your facial hair removal, please grow it back immediately. Otherwise, you know nothing, Jon Snow. 

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

Book Review: The Lives We Touch

By Becky Gulc

‘In our lives we'll meet something like eighty thousand people. Most of them just in passing, sitting beside them on a bus, buying a latte from them, overtaking them too fast on the motorway. Others will become friends, lovers, family. Some will stay in our lives forever, and some will be swept away by the flow of life. But we touch all of these people in some way, tiny or huge, making more of a difference that any of us can imagine.

Rosie is in a coma, unable to reach out to the world or communicate. She only has one chance to make it back to consciousness - but she's slipping deeper and deeper into a maze of memories and it's going to be hard to find her way out.

Daisy, Rosie's sister, is devastated by the accident. She's always been the good, dependable girl to Rosie's free spirit - but some of Rosie's attitude seems to be creeping into Daisy's dull existence. Can Daisy find the courage to be herself?

It only takes one tiny step to change a life forever...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Little, Brown UK)

One of my favourite novels of last year was the memorable and uplifting How To Be Happy by Eva Woods so I was more than keen to read her latest novel, The Lives We Touch. (US title: The Inbetween Days.)

This novel is a story of two sisters, Rosie and Daisy. When Rosie is hit by a bus one day she is left in a coma, seemingly isolated from family and friends there are question marks over whether this was an accident, or a suicide-attempt. Despite a clear falling out Daisy is devastated by the accident and her life is turned upside down, she is determined to find out more about Rosie’s recent life and what may have driven her to think she had no way out. And with no one knowing who the mysterious Luke is that Rosie called out for just after the accident Daisy has her hands full.

Just like Eva’s previous novel I was immediately immersed in her writing. It begins with a captivating opening chapter on the lives touched by Rosie’s accident, not those who knew her but witnesses and those delayed in their everyday lives by what happened. The narrative then switches between Rosie and Daisy.

Rosie, in her coma, is experiencing locked-in syndrome –she wants to remember, she wants to wake up, make people know she can see them and hear them, she just can’t. Cue several people from Rosie’s past who help her to remember what she needs to through visiting her memories. Through these we learn more about Rosie’s past, her relationships, pivotal moments leading her to where she is now. She’s a complex character, not instantly likable, but I grew quite attached to her in the end. I admit the steps back in time took a bit of getting used to but they soon felt natural to the story.

Daisy’s story remains in the present; a kind caring individual that strives to please but has perhaps forgotten to think about what she wants from life along the way. I loved Daisy’s story!

This is another fabulous novel by Eva and yet again a novel I feel I will remember and recommend for a long time to come. It’s moving, thought-provoking, and had me gripped until the very end. If you haven’t tried Eva Woods yet please do!

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

See what's cooking with Stephanie Evanovich...plus a book giveaway

We're so excited to have Stephanie Evanovich at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Under the Table. Her books are always a treat and we're excited to check this one out. Thanks to William Morrow, we have THREE copies to give away!

Stephanie Evanovich has been crafting stories since she could form sentences. Born and raised in New Jersey, the Garden State, her fertile imagination kept working overtime as she raised her family and rooted for their teams. Sons, sports and storytelling finally combined to create her New York Times bestselling debut novel, Big Girl Panties. Since then she's written two more books: The Sweet Spot and The Total Package. A firm believer in the power of high-octane coffee and happy endings, you'll find her at her desk working on the next story with her hyperactive pup, Griffin, doing her best to distract her. (Bio courtesy of Stephanie's website.)

Visit Stephanie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Suffocating in a dead-end marriage, Midwesterner Zoey Sullivan fled to New York and moved in with her older sister Ruth, a carefree, vivacious beauty with a string of eligible bachelors at her beck and call. Giving herself three months in the city to clear her head and find a direction, Zoey dodges calls from her ex Derek, and distracts herself by cooking and catering a few private dinners and parties. Pursuing her passion for cooking was never an option when she was with Derek, and now Zoey relishes her independence.

When Zoey’s meets reclusive millionaire Tristan Malloy, she’s blown away by his kitchen—a marble and stainless steel temple worthy of the culinary gods—and charmed by his impeccable gentlemanly manners. But despite his firm body, handsome looks, and piles of cash, Tristan—a computer programmer—is shy and more than a little socially awkward. Zoey is sure that Tristan has all the right raw ingredients—and she’s the right person to spice them up turn him into a delectable dish.


But Zoey’s unprepared for just how well her makeover works. Tristan turns out to be even sexier once he’s gained a little confidence and the right wardrobe. Beneath the gorgeous package, Tristan is a great guy who deserves a woman who really appreciates him. Slowly but surely, Zoey realizes she may have found her perfect match—but does Tristan even know how her feelings have changed? Is that warm look in his eyes gratitude for the new and exciting world she’s ushered him into, or something more? And what will happen when Zoey’s ex comes to town, looking to win her back? (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What did you learn from writing your previous novels that you applied to Under the Table?
That when it comes to writing, there's always room for improvement. It's a craft you never stop learning about. That's probably true about most creative art endeavors - acting, music, painting. Oh, and that you can't be afraid to try new stuff. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. And that's okay. It's all part of the process.

What is a favorite compliment you've received on your writing?
Whenever somebody takes the time out of their day to reach out with kindness is instantly a favorite. I recently had a bookkeeper write and tell me that she listens to my audio books at work and it makes her feel like she's living a more interesting life than just crunching numbers. As a former number cruncher, I was deeply touched, because I could relate to it. But it's no less profound than the person who wrote to tell me that one of my books brought them a little joy while they were going through a particularly challenging time in their life. Everything's relative.

If you could cast Under the Table as a movie, who would star in the lead roles?
Zoey: Kirsten Storms
Tristan: Josh Swickard
Ruth: Chloe Lanier
Derek: Chad Duell
Blake: Bradford Anderson

And yes, if you watch General Hospital, you'll sense a theme.

What is your favorite thing to cook for dinner?
I'm going to go with meatloaf, if for no other reason than my family goes bonkers when I make it. Nobody talks when we have it, it's just a bunch of "mmmmm's" while eating. They're so easy to please.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
The Sisters Hemingway by Annie England Noblin. I love Annie's books. She's such a good writer. Sisters has it all, family drama, secrets and beautifully developed, interesting characters.

Which game show would you totally win if you got to be a contestant?
I love this question! I am a game show freak. We always have them on. I know I would win at Supermarket Sweep (It's all about getting the shopping list and a bonus). But since you can only see that one in re-runs, I'd have to go with The Price is Right.

Thanks so much for letting me stop by Chick Lit Central to spend some time with you and your readers!

Thanks to Stephanie for spending time with us and to William Morrow 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 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spotlight: Tiny Hot Dogs

Today we're featuring Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani. Check out an excerpt and recipe from this enticing new memoir.

From awkward schoolgirl to Caterer to the Stars, Mary Giuliani weaves together a collection of hilarious memories, from professional growing pains to her long journey to motherhood, never losing her sense of humor and her love for everyone’s favorite party food, pigs in a blanket.

Mary’s utterly unremarkable childhood was everything she didn't want: hailing from a deeply loving yet overprotective Italian family in an all-Jewish enclave on Long Island. All she wanted was to fit in (be Jewish) and become famous (specifically a cast member on Saturday Night Live). With an easy, natural storytelling sensibility, Mary shares her journey from a cosseted childhood home to the stage and finally to the party, accidentally landing what she now refers to as “the breakthrough role of a lifetime,” catering to a glittery list of stars she once hoped to be part of herself.

Fresh, personal, and full of Mary's humorous, self-deprecating, and can-do attitude against all odds, you’ll want to see where each shiny silver tray of hors d’oeuvres takes her next. You never know when the humble hot dog will be a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success, in building a business or simply making life more delicious.

Praise for Tiny Hot Dogs:
“Mary Giuliani is not a name: it is a promise. Like a guarantee on the box, her name attached to an event, a book, a menu, a meal, is a golden ticket to good times. Mary makes me smile, laugh, cry happy tears, and she always leaves me hungry for more of her wisdom, her humor, and her stories. I raise my glass in a toast to the hostess with the mostest to celebrate this, her most personal, touching, and delicious work yet!”
—Rachael Ray

“No one tells a story like Mary Giuliani and she does it with great recipes, too! To read her deeply personal memoir is to feel that you’ve connected with a dear friend who’s thoughtful, funny, and truly unique. I love this book!”
—Ina Garten

“Giuliani’s entertaining memoir is packed with satisfying stories and recipes that readers will guiltily enjoy.”
Publishers Weekly

“Giuliani has chutzpah to spare in these life-filled, rib-sticking (and-tickling) stories.”
Booklist

Mary Giuliani is an author, party and lifestyle expert, and founder and CEO of Mary Giuliani Catering and Events. Mary has appeared on The Barefoot Contessa, The Chew, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Moltissimo with Jimmy Fallon, and is a regularly featured guest on The Rachael Ray Show. Mary's first book, The Cocktail Party (Eat, Drink, Play, Recover) came out in 2015.

Connect with Mary:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram





Friday, April 12, 2019

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

Melissa A:
The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel from Gallery
Golden Child by Claire Adam, won from Cindy Reads and Writes
Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Dear Lily by Drew Davies from Bookouture  (e-book via NetGalley)
Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes from St. Martin's Press
Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams from Avon UK (e-book via NetGalley)

Amy:
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal from HarperCollins

Jami: 
One More Lie by Amy Lloyd from HarperCollins  (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
The Last Dance by/from Aimee Brown (e-book)
Banished from Memory by Mary Sheeran from JKS Communications (e-book)
Relatively Sane by/from Whitney Dineen (e-book)
The Ice Cream Parlour by Isabella May from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)



What could be in YOUR mail:

Manhattan Cinderella by Kate O'Keeffe

Kate has one print copy to give away!


A lost shoe. An heir to a music kingdom. A chance for a fairy tale ending.

22-year-old New Yorker Gabriella Davis aspires to be pop music's next big thing. Desperate to protect her kid sister, she's got to succeed. But first, she needs to get away from her narcissistic stepmother who has her working her butt off as assistant to her band.

Super-hot singer Cole Grant is a country boy at heart, so when he leaves his native Tennessee for New York, he's about as comfortable as a deer on ice. He's determined to make the most of this chance of a lifetime, but with the explosive family secret Cole needs to keep, this is one opportunity that might just blow up in his face.

A taxi, a lost shoe, and a chance meeting bring Gabby and Cole together. Their attraction is instant. But with so much at stake, neither one is in the market for love.

When City meets Country and fame and fortune beckon, can they open their hearts to one another? Or will the secrets they hold keep them from finding their happily ever after?

Manhattan Cinderella is a sweet and sexy contemporary romance retelling of the Cinderella story for fans of Lauren Layne. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

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 17th at midnight EST. (Enter to win before you turn into a pumpkin!)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Getting to know Susannah Marren...plus a book giveaway

We're excited to have Susannah Marren at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, A Palm Beach Wife. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have FIVE copies to give away! (And isn't the cover gorgeous?!?)

Susannah Marren is the author of Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife and a pseudonym for Susan Shapiro Barash, who has written thirteen nonfiction books including Tripping the Prom Queen and Toxic Friends. She lives in New York City and teaches gender studies in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College.

Visit Susannah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Amid the glamour and galas and parties of Palm Beach, Faith knows that image often counts as much if not more than reality. She glides effortlessly among the highest of the high society so perfectly that you would never suspect she wasn’t born to this. But it wasn’t always so; though she hides it well, Faith has fought hard for the wonderful life she has, for her loving, successful husband, for her daughter’s future.

In this town of secrets and gossip and rumors, Faith has kept a desperate grip on everything she holds so dear, built from so little. And yet even she—the only one who knows just how far she has to fall—never suspects from which direction, or how many directions all at once, betrayal will come.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)



What did you learn from writing Between the Tides that you applied to A Palm Beach Wife?
When I wrote Between the Tides, I knew it would be a female driven story, one where I understood the protagonists so well that I could almost conjure them up. I was keenly aware of their hopes and desires from the start. I also knew the ending of Between the Tides when I had only written a few pages. This was applicable to A Palm Beach Wife too – I knew from the start how it would end and I was involved with the characters from the very beginning. And because I have published nonfiction books (under my real name), these topics fueled both Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife. The themes include how women truly feel as mothers, wives, daughters, friends, mothers in law and daughters in law, colleagues. What is the price of these roles and what is loyalty to oneself? In both novels, the place becomes almost a character in the story. Palm Beach plays a big part in how this novel unfolds.

I am intrigued with how a woman who is put to the test and faced with great changes in her life will react—a woman in survival mode. This applies to both Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife.

What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with aspiring authors?
I would advise aspiring authors to never give up and to write as much as possible. Also as a writer it is important to constantly read a variety of writers and styles. If one is able to find a writing workshop or form a writing group, it is useful and makes one feel less isolated. Any community of writers helps and provides a method of support and encouragement.

If A Palm Beach Wife were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
What an interesting question because the characters are so vivid to me. I would cast Amy Adams as Faith and Zoey Deutch as Katherine. I would cast Lily James as Diana and Susan Sarandon as Mrs. A.

Where did you go for your last vacation and what was the most memorable part of it?
My last vacation was in Los Angeles this past Christmas. I was there with family and it was memorable for that alone. The weather was cooler and windier than I had expected, a trip to the Getty Museum was quite extraordinary and since we were by the beach, we walked along the water every day.

What is your go-to breakfast item?
I would always opt for cold cereal with organic whole milk, blueberries and cashew nuts. And a tall glass of ice water. I once read that it is very important to drink a big glass of water as soon as one gets up in the morning. If I had more time, I’d opt for whole wheat pancakes with pecans and rasberries, and at a restaurant I always look for this sort of dish on the breakfast menu.

If you could have lunch with any three celebrities (living or dead), who would you choose?
I would love to be at lunch with Kate Chopin who wrote The Awakening. I would ask her all about Edna Pontellier, her main character, and how she imagined her. I’d ask Daphne Du Maurier to join us to discuss her novels Rebecca and Don’t Look Now and what influenced these gothic works. The third guest would be Louisa May Alcott, to talk about how Little Women, an American classic, has a heroine who resists traditional roles and behaviors of the time.

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

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

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Giveaway ends April 16th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Connecting with Diane Wald...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Diane Wald to CLC today. Her novel, Gillyflower, publishes next week and thanks to SparkPoint Studio, we have one copy to give away!

Diane Wald was born in Paterson, NJ, and has lived in Massachusetts since 1972. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has published more than 250 poems in literary magazines since 1966. She spent two years on a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and has been awarded the Grolier Poetry Prize, The Denny Award, The Open Voice Award, and the Anne Halley Award. She also received a state grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts. She has published five chapbooks and won the Green Lake Chapbook Award from Owl Creek Press. Her book Lucid Suitcase was published by Red Hen Press in 1999 and her second book, The Yellow Hotel, was published by Verse Press in the fall of 2002. WONDERBENDER, her third collection, was published by 1913 Press. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Carey Reid, and their charismatic cats.Visit Diane on Twitter. (Bio courtesy of She Writes Press.)


Synopsis:
Boston, 1984. Even in a world without cell phones, messages come through loud and clear if one is listening. When thirty-something Nora Forrest travels to Manhattan to see a Broadway play starring her idol, an aging Irish actor named Hugh Sheenan, she doesn't know whether what happens in the theater that night should be credited to witchcraft, extrasensory perception, synchronicity, or simple accident--and she knows that many people would tell her nothing had happened at all. Told through the voices of four people, Gillyflower is a story about intersections and connections--real, imaginary, seized, and eluded. It's a book about everyday magic, crystalline memory, and the details that flow through time and space like an electrified mist. It's a detective story, a love story, and a coming-of-age story--for the never really young and for the almost old. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What was your inspiration for writing Gillyflower?
I wanted to explore and communicate my lifelong belief that there’s a lot more going on in life than the things that are easy for us to observe on the surface – and that you need to be tuned in to all that in order to m make your life richer. I like to say that the book is based on experience and not experiences, if that makes any sense. In other words, it’s not autobiographical, but the situation that the protagonist finds herself in is one that reflects something that happened to me a long time ago. I also wanted to celebrate the choices that women are free to make.

In one sentence, what was the road to publication like for you?
Because I’d only published books of poetry before, following this road to fiction was like taking an illegal U-turn! I had to shore up my nerve and put myself out there – and I think because of that, I ended up in a great place.

If Gillyflower were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I’ve thought about this a lot because I think it would make a terrific movie. Nora would be played by Sally Hawkins (with an American accent) or maybe Emma Stone. Hugh would be played by Bill Nighy or Jeremy Irons or Hugh Grant. Leon is definitely a role for Eddie Izzard.

What do you like most about the spring?
I love the things that happen in my yard: the sturdy shoots of giant allium rising out of the dark earth, the surge in morning birdsong, the delicious glass of wine with my husband on our patio on the first warm evening, the way the air smells drifting off the brook at the edge of our woods….

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I would have to say Patti Smith: Dream of Life, which is a documentary by Steven Sebring. It’s not a new movie, but I only discovered it recently.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse or handbag?
Today that would probably be a tube of enzymatic toothpaste for cats.

Thanks to Diane for chatting with us and SparkPoint Studio 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 15th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Peacock Emporium

Today we are celebrating the US publication of The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes. Viking has one copy for a lucky reader!

Jojo Moyes became a household name with her #1 New York Times bestselling Me Before You series, especially for her trademark memorable characters and complex, true-to-life relationships. Moyes brings all of that to THE PEACOCK EMPORIUM, now available in the US for the first time. It’s a rich story of a young woman with a complicated past who finds both satisfaction and salvation in a quirky shop she opens in her small town.


Athene Forster was untouchable. Dubbed the “Last Deb,” she was gorgeous, rich, and could have anything—or anyone—she wanted, including young heir Douglas Fairley-Hulme. Two years into their marriage, however, scandal engulfs the couple after a young salesman catches Athene’s eye, ultimately causing her fall from grace.

Thirty-five years later, Suzanna Peacock is drowning in the shadow of her late mother, Athene. Unhappy in her marriage and desperate for a fresh start, Suzanna opens The Peacock Emporium, an eclectic shop that attracts an eccentric cast of characters. In her new role, Suzanna begins opening up, and even finds a true friend in Alejandro, a male midwife. But despite her efforts, Suzanna is unable to escape the specter of her mother. Through heartbreak and laughter, Suzanna learns that only by confronting the ghosts of her past can she finally begin to live in the present, and discover that the key to her history, and her happiness, may have been in front of her all along.

Photo by Stine Heilmann
Jojo Moyes is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Still Me, After You, Me Before You, Paris for One and Other Stories, The Peacock Emporium, The Horse Dancer, One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover, Silver Bay, and The Ship of Brides. She lives with her husband and three children in Essex, England. For more information, visit Jojo at her website and on Facebook, 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 April 14th at midnight EST.