Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chilling out with Kelly Harms...plus a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Kelly Harms back at CLC today! Her latest novel, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, comes out tomorrow. Melissa A really enjoyed it and has a review to share. And Kelly has one print copy for a lucky reader!

Kelly Harms is an author, a mother, and a big dreamer. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her sparkling son, Griffin; her fluffy dog, Scout; and her beloved Irishman, Chris. Before this Midwestern life, she lived in New York, New York, and worked with many of her author-heroes as an editor at HarperCollins and then as a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

When she’s not lost in a book that she’s either writing or reading, you can find her on the water, in the water, or near the water. (Bio courtesy of Kelly's website.)

Visit Kelly online:
Website * Facebook * Instagram

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing The Overdue Life of Amy Byler?
This book is about a single mother, and I have been a single mother since my son was just one year old. I am not Amy Byler, not by any means, but in the writing of this book I had to go into my own heart and mind and face the confusion of messages women receive about single parenting, and motherhood in general. Yes, just as we see in the media, we’re saints, superwomen, survivors. But we’re also normal, flawed, and probably exhausted. The letters from readers are all the rewards I need: They have made it clear that all moms, single or not, work-in-home or work-outside-the-home, need to be seen for more than their dairy-free cupcakes and color-coded family schedules. (Though I do value the skill involved in both of those things as well.)

What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with aspiring novelists?
You’ve already been told to read a lot, I hope. Let me add, read widely. When starting out, you may get some push back from agents or publishers if your book is informed by a world of literature, and not just that of your own genre. But the readers will love you for it down the line. And also, it’s just fun. I keep dropping other book titles into my own books and on this last one, you could have an entire intro to YA reading list out of Cori's emails alone.

If you could cast Amy Byler as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
Melissa is SO MUCH better at this than me. Mostly because I use proper names like “the guy from the water movie with the hair.” (That’s Jason Momoa by the way.) Please just see her casting ideas but add that I want a cameo as the bartender at the Dead Author, an imaginary bar on the Upper West Side based extremely closely on a place I used to meet my publishing friends after a long day at the book factory. In my book version of this bar, nerds drink half price. When Amy asks the bartender how she knows if a patron is a nerd, she nods her head to Amy’s sexy librarian date and says “they usually make themselves known.” He makes a latin pun within minutes.

Melissa A: Thanks for the casting love!

What would you do if you got a “momspringa"?
I hate to say it, because it is exactly what Amy’s friends denied her from doing in the book, but as I’m currently under deadline for book four, promoting this book, selling a house, and doing the end of school year madness (cello recital, swim team, school plays, and so forth) while my handsome Irishman travels for work, I’d probably nap by a body of water for half of it. Like Amy, I’d want to read for the other half, because I have a new book by Kristin Harmel on my nightstand and it has to wait til next week and it’s literally all I can think about. Oh, and I’d hike. Hiking makes my brain work again.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Let me look at my Kindle… Very last one was Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans which I finished on Friday. It was a sale purchase. Who am I to resist a Book Bub set in WWII Britain about eccentric amateur criminals? It was delicious, but it’s been out for ages. The latest new releases I gobbled down were The Curiosities by Susan Gloss, I’m Fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagan, and earlier this year (but it stuck with me) True Places by Sonja Yoerg.

What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Don’t tell my agent, but I may take a month off from new writing this summer while I bask in the sunshine with my kiddo and just work on editing. I’m afraid just admitting this will jinx me, but I’m hoping for one of those summers out of a novel with lots of wandering around our green, park-filled neighborhood aimlessly, reading in sunlit locations, and popcorn-and-kid-movie cuddle-ups on rainy days.

Thanks to Kelly for chatting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends May 5th at midnight EST.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Reviews at Amazon--March/April 2019

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!



Melissa A:


Excerpt from Wildflower Park: Rooting for You!

Wildflower Park-Part 4: Rooting for You! 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.

Anna watched Sophie hugging her bump as she panted fast. This was it – she was going into labour in Wildflower Park in the middle of a fireworks display. It was dark and cold and the last place you’d want to give birth.

‘Right!’ said Anna and Hudson together, both appearing to want to take charge of the situation. Anna raised an eyebrow. ‘I’ll call Dave. You call an ambulance,’ instructed Anna. Hudson didn’t argue and got straight on his phone.

‘Dave. The baby’s on its way. Where the hell are you?’

‘Crap. I’m stuck in traffic about three miles from home. It’s total gridlock. Tell her to hold on,’ said Dave.

‘You can tell her,’ she said, holding the phone to Sophie’s ear for him to repeat his request.

‘Hold on? You f—’ Thankfully everything Sophie said was drowned out by the stream of fireworks whizzing into the sky.

‘Ambulance is on its way,’ said Hudson. ‘They’ll come to the main entrance. I’m guessing they’ll take her on a stretcher.’ The operator was still on the phone.

‘I don’t want to go on a stretcher,’ wailed Sophie. Anna felt for the ambulance crew; she was a whole lot of person to carry across the park.

Hudson must have been having the same thoughts. He whispered to Anna. ‘Can they manage her all the way from here?’

‘I heard that, you know!’ said Sophie and she started to groan loudly.

Anna swivelled round. ‘There aren’t many other options.’ She surveyed the vast crowd around them as the fireworks continued to crash and bloom above.

Hudson was speaking to the emergency services operator and his expression was grim. He whispered to Anna, ‘Ambulance is stuck in traffic. Gridlock. About three—’

‘Miles away,’ finished Anna. ‘Bugger. Dave’s stuck in the same traffic jam.’ Sophie let out a strangled cry. ‘We have to move her,’ Anna said, turning to Hudson. ‘Either to the main entrance or inside. She can’t stay here.’ Anna pointed to Sophie’s house. ‘That’s her house.’

Hudson thrust his phone at Anna. ‘I’ve got an idea.’ He squeezed his way through the immediate crowd and was swallowed by the darkness.

Anna rubbed Sophie’s back whilst listening to updates from the ambulance service and oohing and ahhing at the fireworks with Petal. It was multitasking at its most extreme.

She wished Hudson hadn’t left her. Every time Sophie winced she felt frightened and helpless. The fireworks display came to an impressive crescendo and the crowd in the park erupted into applause, including the children. With the fireworks over it was dark again and a wind whipped around them. Anna feared for the baby’s safety if it arrived now.

After a few minutes she heard Hudson’s voice over the crowd. The people started to disperse and Hudson emerged pushing a very old wheelbarrow. Sophie looked up. ‘Bloody hell. You have to be joking.’

‘You need to get to hospital,’ said Hudson and he pointed at the wheelbarrow. ‘Cinders, your carriage awaits.’

‘I am not going all the way in that thing.’

‘No, but we might be able to get you closer to the ambulance.’

Sophie’s face registered alarm. ‘I don’t think there’s time. It’s coming.’

Hudson rushed to her with the wheelbarrow, which was full of potato sacks. ‘Come on,’ he said, like it was the most normal thing to hop in a wheelbarrow. Sophie gave him a murderous glare but with a lot of help from him and Anna she clambered on board.

‘If this bollarding thing breaks.’

‘All stops to Birmingham hospital,’ said Hudson, and he set off across the park at an impressive pace.

‘My go next,’ shouted Arlo, clapping his hands.

Anna relayed the plan to the operator and they confirmed the ambulance was making progress and should be at the main gates in a few minutes. ‘Perfect timing,’ said Anna, herding the children after Hudson.

‘Arghhhhhhhhh!’ screamed Sophie.

‘Arghhhhhhhhh!’ hollered Hudson hitting a pothole and almost wrenching the barrow from his fingers. ‘Don’t you dare give birth in the wheelbarrow. I can’t push two of you.’

‘You’re about as funny as haemorrhoids,’ said Sophie, clamping her teeth together and making a strangled screech.

They could hear the approaching siren and it spurred them all on. The gates came into sight and blue lights flooded the entrance.

The paramedics quickly took over and within minutes Sophie was safely in the back of the ambulance. Anna went to get in with Petal in her arms and the paramedic stopped her. ‘Sorry, love, no children allowed in the ambulance.’

‘But they’re her children,’ protested Anna.

‘Doesn’t matter. Sorry.’

Anna watched Hudson who had Arlo by the hand and was showing him round the ambulance. ‘Hudson, you’ll have to go with her.’

‘Me?’ His eyebrows shot up in alarm. ‘I’ll take the kids and you go.’ He held up Arlo’s hand.

Anna was torn. She tried to pass Petal to Hudson but she started to cry and clung to Anna. Anna’s expression conveyed exactly what needed to happen.

‘Okay,’ said Hudson, and he climbed in the back while the paramedics did final checks and started to close the doors.

Anna heard heavy breathing behind her. ‘Wait! I’m here, I’m … here …’ wheezed Dave, dashing towards the ambulance.

‘Plugging hell, Dave, talk about last minute,’ said Sophie, pulling the oxygen mask off her face but the look of relief was evident.

Dave motioned for Hudson to get out but he was already undoing his seatbelt. ‘Good luck, buddy,’ said Hudson, vacating the spot next to Sophie. She gave a weak wave as the doors shut. The siren whooped into life and the ambulance pulled away. Arlo was shouting and clapping excitedly and Petal was copying.

The siren ebbed away and they were left standing together in the dark. Hudson rubbed sweat from his forehead. ‘I had better return this,’ he said, motioning towards the wheelbarrow.

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

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 sharing the excerpt.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Book Review: The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live

By Sara Steven

Maybe you know a Marjorie Moore; maybe you are one. She’s dauntless, desperate and a little bit delusional. Yet her insatiable desires and misguided antics shed light on our own search for escapes—and search for self—and perhaps that is why we cheer her on wholeheartedly.

Marjorie Moore always wants more—and as a result, often feels she ends up with less. Forever searching elsewhere, she is consumed with wanting, or in her opinion, needing. Feeling trapped by her town and her family, she escapes through shopping, pill popping, and fantasizing about a possible affair with a friend from high school. Her credit card debt “forces” her to sell prescription drugs—which she secures at her receptionist job at the local hospital—to her dysfunctional friends. As her web of lies at home and work unravels, Margie struggles to become present in her own life.

Astute and provocative, Grotheim’s prose captures many of life’s dichotomies—duplicity versus authenticity, recklessness versus stability, and searching versus finding—in this moving debut novel. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Marjorie’s story is a huge reminder in finding joy in the things we have, and in the people who are in our lives. At times, that can be a really hard task. She seems to always want what’s on the other side of the proverbial fence, prompting her to choose poorly and make rash decisions, and while there are plenty of moments that are completely cringe-worthy, those moments were a total page turner. From the overspending to the drug peddling, to the attempts at rekindling something with a man she’d had a crush on in high school, she’s trying to fill a void and isn’t sure where the void had ever come from, to begin with.

Marjorie is a perfectly created mess of a character, but you can’t help but feel for her and what she’s going through. With every misguided step she takes, with every poor choice, at the root of it all is a scared girl who doesn’t feel as though she’s enough for the people she surrounds herself with. A “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, wanting to create an illusion of perfection when she is far from. An example are the descriptions on how Marjorie will see something in a magazine or on the computer, something she feels will improve her home, to make it more appealing for everyone else’s judgement, and take that image and tape it to the walls of the space that intended item is meant for, a dreamscape that allows her to escape reality, the central theme to this story. There is no want to make herself happy or to have any sort of appreciation for what she already has, but to create a life she thinks that everyone else imagines she should be living. It’s a sad situation, one that you can’t help but sink yourself into.

Even though I knew ahead of time the troubles she keeps finding herself in, I wanted to see her follow through and witness it all come to fruition. I wanted to continue to sink in, to see what would come from her fumblings and bumblings, because what Marjorie goes through is a very human experience. In every misstep, we learn a little more and come to appreciate what we, the reader, have in our own lives. That, even though the grass looks greener on the other side, it might not be, not really. And that, ultimately, it’s okay to want to live a happy, fulfilling life that starts within our own self realizations. We get to witness Marjorie's journey into finding that, making this a true five star read.

Thanks to Big Sister Productions for the book in exchange for an honest review. The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live can be purchased here.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A new start for Jessica Goodwin...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Jessica Goodwin back to CLC today. Her latest novel, Starting From Scratch, is now available and Jessica has five e-book copies to give away! 

Jessica Goodwin is an author, blogger, and freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Since 2010, she has written six books and hundreds of articles. Two of Jessica’s books, Here We Go and The One Who Got Away, have appeared on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list.

​As a Mother Hustle panelist, Jessica writes about balancing her time, interests, and priorities as a mother, student, and writer. Her writing has also appeared on several parenting sites such as Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Hyland’s, and Tribe Magazine. Additionally, she has written articles for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Falls Church News Press. For fun, she blogs about her family’s adventures at Go With The Goodwins. (Bio courtesy of Jessica's website.)

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

Cookie Walker has lost the love of her life, but she knows life must go on. She just doesn't know where to get started.

After getting booted from the PTA, she decides there’s no better time than the present to make some big changes. Her family is dealing with change, too. Her three children must adjust to life without their father, her sister is struggling to get pregnant, and her parents' business is failing.

Even with all that going on around her, Cookie starts spending a lot of time with Dylan Cooper, a friend of the family who is in the middle of a nasty divorce. While Cookie is glad to have found someone who understands her feelings of loss, she’s completely oblivious to the fact that Cooper has developed romantic feelings for her.

The small-town gossips, however, are already talking. Is Cookie moving too fast? Can she juggle three kids, a new business, and a possible new romance?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to Starting From Scratch?
That the only way a novel (or an article, or a blog post, or whatever) is going to get written is if you sit your butt down on the chair and get to work. Whenever I get an idea for a story, it tends to build and build in my head so that it’s all I can think about, and then I toss and turn in bed at night, imagining the characters and different scenes. I can't sleep, and that’s when I know I need to get to work. It doesn't matter what else is going on - other projects, housework, school work, whatever... That idea needs to work its way out of my head. Once I start plotting out my ideas and writing, I can finally sleep again!

In what ways do you feel connected with Cookie?
I first started writing Cookie’s story in the fall of 2016. The idea was all there, I just had to get it out. In December of that year, my family lost our home to a fire. We had to move to a temporary apartment while our house was rebuilt. We were dealing with so much loss and devastation that I couldn’t write Cookie’s story – her story of starting over – until we finally got our situation squared away. I wanted so badly to lose myself in a story, but we had the insurance company and contractors to deal with, plus a two year old… and then finally, I just said to heck with it and jumped back in. Like Cookie, I’d had enough grieving and feeling sorry for myself and just had to get busy.

If Starting From Scratch were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I love, love, love Jenna Fischer. I know she’s well-known for playing Pam on The Office, but I absolutely adore her as Lena on the show Splitting Up Together. As for Cooper, I keep picturing somebody like Justin Hartley (Kevin from This is Us) or Scott Michael Foster (Nathaniel from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.) One of those guys in a sheriff’s uniform? Yes, please!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I just recently finished Big Magic by Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love. She has a lot of great things to say about being open to inspiration and not being afraid of your ideas. A must-read read for anybody interested in writing, art, or other creative pursuits!

What is the strangest thing residing in your purse/handbag?
Play-Doh. I’m a mom, so I usually have all kinds of kid stuff in my bag. The kid’s four now, so I’ve been able to scale back, but I usually have snacks, lollipops, hand wipes, the usual mom-emergency kinda stuff.

What was the last cooking disaster you experienced?
I’ve been pretty lucky in that I haven’t had any major disasters recently. A couple close calls, though! The worst thing I can think of is that we had some friends visiting from out of town and I attempted to cook breakfast for 8 of us… It was one of those meals where NOTHING finished cooking at the same time. The eggs took forever to cook, the bacon was nearly burned, the toast was cold so the butter didn’t melt, you know what I mean? It was like the ONE meal where we didn’t go out somewhere to eat and it was a mess. I felt so bad. I like to think I’m a pretty decent cook, but that was not my best showing! I can pull off a near-flawless Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings, but that morning, I felt like couldn’t even scramble eggs correctly! From now on, when we have guests, we just get donuts or go out for breakfast! LOL!

Thanks to Jessica for chatting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends April 30th at midnight EST.

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.

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:

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

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.)

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.


     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.