Friday, May 31, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable from St. Martin's Press
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary from Flatiron (e-book via NetGalley)
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane from William Morrow (e-book via NetGalley)
Mom's Perfect Boyfriend by Crystal Hemmingway from Galbadia Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
If Only by Melanie Murphy from Hachette Ireland (e-book via NetGalley)
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart from Delacorte Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Well Met by Jen DeLuca from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane from Scribner (e-book via NetGalley)
Pain by Zeruya Shalev from Other Press
Foam on the Crest of Waves by Silke Stein, won from Book Coffee Happy
Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler from Crown (e-book via NetGalley)

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey from Avon
The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore from HarperCollins

One Little Secret by Cate Holahan from Meryl Moss Media (e-book)
The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister from Putnam (e-book via NetGalley)
The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
The Perfect Son by Lauren North from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Bride Squad Runaway by Caroline Grace-Cassidy and Lisa C. Carey from Black and White Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
Twine by Monica Duncan from SparkPoint Studio (e-book)

Book Review: A Dog Called Valentine

By Sara Steven

When an unwanted Valentine’s Day present is dumped at the shelter, volunteer Lily decides to foster the poor dog herself. A little attention is all he needs to blossom into a loving pet, ready for his forever home. Plus, helping a poor, rejected animal will distract her from her own problems. Win, win. Right? Wrong. Valentine needs more than a makeover if he’s going to be adopted. He destroys her home, hates to be groomed and when he behaves better for a perfect stranger than he does her, Lily swallows her pride and begs the good looking but quiet stranger for help

After losing his canine partner in a horrific moment that upended his future, sexy and stoic Shane turns to books, walks in the park and remodeling his grandmother’s home. No more intense K9 officer career, no more dogs, no more risks. But it’s hard to ignore the misunderstood mutt at the park and his well-intentioned, but clueless, handler. Shane reluctantly agrees to give her a few tips and tricks, but that’s all. He won’t care. He won’t get invested. And once Valentine finds his new home, his life can go back to normal.

But Shane doesn’t bargain on a new normal in town and, suddenly, Valentine’s Day will never be the same. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I appreciated getting to see both sides of A Dog Called Valentine, through the eyes of both main characters. Told through both perspectives, it enabled me to have a better idea of what Lily and Shane go through, not only in respect to their personal lives, but how they see one another. There is a sense of loneliness for Lily, almost as if she doesn’t feel she deserves love. And Shane has gone through a lot of tragedy, that it’s hard for him to imagine letting anyone in. It’s by pure chance that they meet up, all thanks to the star of the book, Valentine.

I’m a huge animal lover, and reading about this big, beautiful, gangly dog, it made me yearn to add a sweet boy just like him to my already full house! (I have a dog, cat, and guinea pig) I liked that there were honest truths to owning a dog like Valentine, that it’s a lot of work. There were a lot of good animal training tips thrown in, too, which could come in handy with my own dog. So much of the relationship that forms between Lily and Shane can be seen through the relationship they form with Valentine. It’s completely symbiotic.

It would have been easy to create a fluff piece based around the love two people have for a dog, but Snopek has created a truly touching experience, one that focuses on the story of Valentine, and the relationship that forms between Lily and Shane. None of it is easy. I was drawn to Shane’s past, so much so that I felt emotional over quite a few moments he has when coming to terms with his past, and trying to find a way to move past it. No fluff. All depth. I highly recommend A Dog Called Valentine for anyone who enjoys animals, the concept of finding love in the most unusual of circumstances, and for anyone who knows what it’s like to go through the trials of life that shape who you are, one experience at a time.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Patti and Kaira play a book giveaway

You may be seeing two books titled The Favorite Daughter this summer. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you! Kaira Rouda and Patti Callahan Henry just happen to have books with the same title, but completely different story lines, publishing within weeks of one another. We invited them both here today to tell us about some of their favorite things. Thankfully, the only similarity there is their love for movie musicals. Thanks to Berkley and Graydon House, we have a copy of each book to give to one lucky reader!

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels, including the historical fiction, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and her upcoming contemporary Southern fiction novel—The Favorite Daughter, coming June 4, 2019.

Some of Patti’s other books include Losing the Moon, Where the River Runs, When Light Breaks, Between the Tides, The Art of Keeping Secrets,  Coming Up for Air, And Then I Found You,  and The Bookshop at Water’s End.

Growing up in Philadelphia as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Patti learned early the value of storytelling. At the age of twelve, her family moved to South Florida where Patti found the sanctuary of libraries and began her slow but steady journey into understanding the power of story to navigate confusing times in life. Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work, and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she now lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband. (Bio adapted from Patti's website.)

Visit Patti online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Ten years ago, Lena Donohue experienced a wedding-day betrayal so painful that she fled the small town of Watersend, South Carolina, and reinvented herself in New York City. Though now a freelance travel writer, the one place she rarely goes is home—until she learns of her dad’s failing health.

Returning to Watersend means seeing the sister she has avoided for a decade and the brother who runs the family’s Irish pub and has borne the burden of his sisters’ rift. While Alzheimer’s slowly steals their father’s memories, the siblings rush to preserve his life in stories and in photographs. As his secret past brings Lena’s own childhood into focus, it sends her on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Kaira Sturdivant Rouda is an accomplished business leader, entrepreneur, national speaker and internationally bestselling and award-winning author. A former magazine editor, and society columnist, Kaira won the Stevie Award for Women in Business for creating the first female-focused residential real estate brand, Real Living, and growing the brand to more than 22 states before its sale to Berkshire Hathaway. Her first book, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, led to a national speaking tour where she inspired thousands.

Turning to a full-time writing career, her most recent works are Best Day Ever and The Favorite Daughter (published May 21, 2019). Active in the areas of homelessness, food security, and empowering women and girls, in her twenties, as a volunteer, she created the first walk-in emergency shelter for homeless families in Central Ohio. Kaira has received numerous awards for her community service, including the national Kiwanis Service to Mankind Award, among many others.

She lives in Southern California with her husband, Congressman Harley Rouda, and her four twenty-something children. (Bio courtesy of Kaira's website.)

Visit Kaira online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect lie.

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Patti's favorite...
Movie of all time: My Fair Lady — it never ever gets old!
Thing to do in the summer: Read in a beach chair or hammock and disappear into a story.
Ice cream flavor: Caramel — no contest with anything else. :)
Thing about where you live: The green green springs.
Month: March when the world comes alive again.
TV series to binge watch: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel right now.
Thing from the 1980s: NOT the clothes or hair — probably the music!
Part about writing books: Finding and opening into an entirely new world! Allowing inspiration and imagination take me to places I hadn’t expected.

Kaira's favorite...
Movie of all time: The Sound of Music
Thing to do in the summer: Be at the beach with family and friends
Ice cream flavor: Lavender
Thing about where you live: The beach!
Month: May
TV series to binge watch: Dead to Me
Thing from the 1980s: Falling in love with my husband
Part about writing books: When a reader tells me they loved it!

Thanks to Patti and Kaira for visiting with us and Berkley and Graydon House for sharing their books 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 June 4th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: One More Lie

By Jami Deise

When their young children lie, most parents are horrified, wondering where they’ve gone wrong and whether their children are on the road to psychopathy for sneaking a cookie. But lying is a normal behavior, a sign that children are beginning to understand actions have consequences. Catching their child in a lie can lead to a teaching opportunity and a chance for parents to form closer bonds with their kids. Of course, that assumes a normal child and a relatively harmless lie.

In British author Amy Lloyd’s latest novel, One More Lie, Charlotte’s lies are anything but harmless. Released from prison, where she’d been since the age of ten, Charlotte has to lie in order to fit into her new life, with a new job and a room at a halfway house. But with mandated therapy, an ankle bracelet, and a parole officer, that’s difficult. Plus the British press is spreading the word that the two notorious child killers have been freed, with new names and new lives. And even though Charlotte knows she’s not supposed to talk to Sean – her literal partner in crime – when he reaches out, she can’t help herself. After all, he’s the only one who knows the truth. And she still can’t remember all the details about how Luke died. Only that she lied about it.

One More Lie goes back and forth in time, and while it’s usually in Charlotte’s point of view, later in the book Sean’s point of view comes into play as well. Charlotte already had a tragic childhood even before Luke’s death, being raised by an aunt and uncle after her father killed her mother and burned down their house. Ostracized at school – whether due to poverty or her background is never made clear – Sean is her only friend, a redhaired boy a year older who lives with his father in a filthy apartment above a video store. In present day, Charlotte comes across as naïve and easily victimized – an easy target for the wrong type of person. And unfortunately, there are many of those wrong types in her life. So vulnerable and passive, it’s impossible to believe that she was involved in a child’s death.

One More Lie reminded me strongly of Baltimore author Laura Lippman’s 2009 novel Every Secret Thing (later a movie), which also revolved around young adults who were let out of prison after having killed as children. Lippman, however, does a better job of keeping the momentum going in the present-day timeline as strongly as events build in the past. Lloyd’s climax isn’t quite a compelling as Lippman's, perhaps because the central question of the former's novel deals with whether Charlotte will ever remember the details of Luke’s death.

Personally, I was intrigued by a “nature versus nurture” question, and disappointed that Lloyd didn’t follow that thread more deliberately. She never questions whether Charlotte’s paternity doomed her to violence; it seems the British press did not link her father’s actions to hers, either. The thread she does pursue raises a juicy question, though: How many lies are too many?

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

Also by Amy Lloyd:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Suzy Krause aims a book giveaway

Photo by Kiersten Taylor
We're pleased to welcome Suzy Krause to CLC today. She is the debut author of Valencia and Valentine (coming June 1st from Lake Union) of which we have been hearing lots of good buzz. Thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Suzy grew up in the village of Frontier, Saskatchewan, two hours from the nearest McDonald's, one hour from the nearest movie theatre, half an hour from the nearest swimming pool. She now lives in Regina—the Queen City!—and it has all of those things and she doesn't really use any of them. It's small compared to New York, but compared to Frontier, it's basically a megalopolis.

Suzy is a writer and a music lover. She's been blogging (here and elsewhere) for over a decade, but she also writes, from time to time, on various arts, entertainment, and lifestyle websites. Valencia and Valentine is her first novel, inspired by her time working as a debt collector in Saskatoon (she received a lot of death threats that summer).

Writing a book has been on her to-do list since she was six-ish, so it's good that she did it. You'll be able to read V&V in June 2019, and a second is on its way for July 2020—please hold your horses; these things take time. (Bio courtesy of Suzy's website.)

Visit Suzy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Valencia is afraid of many things; most things actually: social interaction, public restrooms, germs, driving on highways, physical contact with other humans. These fears are all-consuming and have controlled and informed her entire adult life. As she approaches her thirty-fifth birthday, a milestone year that happens to be one of her two greatest fears (the other is flying), she’s challenged by her therapist to confront both at once by flying somewhere right before her birthday. She’s never been anywhere so the possibilities are endless—and overwhelming. That is until she begins a telephone romance with a man from New York, and suddenly has a destination in mind. There’s only one problem, her newfound love interest might not actually exist.

Mrs. Valentine is a lonely elderly woman with a larger-than-life personality. At eighty-seven, she’s obsessed with death, but not in a morbid way. More as something that’s going to happen to her soon, so she might as well embrace it—and think about it and talk about it to anyone who’ll listen. Something that takes her new cleaning woman by surprise on her first day of work, a job she discovers is more about the company—and the listening ear—than it is about cleaning. Mrs. Valentine relishes the attention and interest in hearing her life’s story—a tale of storybook love and incredible adventures around the world with her beloved, Mr. Valentine, before his mysterious and sudden disappearance.

As the stories of Valencia and Mrs. Valentine unfold, it seems they have nothing in common—outside of both being wonderfully odd and endearing human beings. But, life is never as straightforward as it seems.

In one sentence, tell us what the road to publishing was like for you.
Full of optimistic and naïve ideas that probably caused me to dream a lot bigger and go a lot further than I would have if I’d been firmly rooted in reality.

What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with aspiring novelists?
Get yourself a blog! A small, personal place where you write about things completely unrelated to your book as often as you can. Blogs are great for three reasons:
1. Writing practice and developing a strong “voice.”
2. Networking.
3. Preventing burnout by giving you something else to temporarily focus on when you’re in the thick of writing a novel.

If Valencia and Valentine were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Let’s aim high. Meryl Streep would be Mrs. V and Kristin Wiig for Valencia!

What TV show are you currently binge watching?
Well, I was binge watching Kim’s Convenience, but I’ve reached the end of season four, so I need something new until the fall. Something as good as Kim’s Convenience.

What is the strangest thing residing in your purse/handbag?
A Blockbuster membership card. I have had so many different wallets since Blockbuster died; I don’t know why I keep transferring that card over…

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
While eating spaghetti the other night, my two-year-old coughed funny and a spaghetti noodle went up into her nose and I had to pull it out of her tiny little nostril. It was probably seven inches long and my five-year-old thought it was the best thing he’s ever seen.

Thanks to Suzy for chatting with us and to Kathleen Carter Communications 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 June 2nd at midnight EST.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Review: Surviving the Holidays: Hell-I-Daze

By Sara Steven

The Holidays. They follow us year round, and sometimes these cherished days can be wonderful, but let's face it--sometimes they are just brutal! Whether it's New Year's or Valentine's, Fourth of July or even birthdays, we all gotta do what we gotta do to survive them all! Miss OMG walks us through the year and lightens the load with her hysterical anecdotes that are sure leaving you laughing out loud! Miss OMG has been writing for decades as journalist, (Michele Giacomini), and in more recent years as a "bloggist." In this book, she celebrates the humor of life's year-round celebrations. From pointing out the madness of the holidays, to crappy gift-giving, Miss OMG shares her thoughts on surviving the holidays that will leave you laughing and turning the pages to discover what crazy story she shares next… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

While the book’s title might lead you to believe that it’s a story focused primarily around the potential turbulent times of the winter holidays, Surviving the Holidays: Hell-I-Daze is actually a hilarious play-by-play of all the crazy antics and misfires that can happen with every single holiday and the days all around it, all year long! Broken up in monthly fashion, Miss OMG gives it to us straight, with horrifically insane yoga experiences, family dysfunctions and her own blunders, all in the name of trying her best.

I could relate with a lot of what Miss OMG points out, the feelings and thoughts that I keep to myself when it comes to the craziness that crops up when trying to plan something that appeals to my entire family. When she talks about how things were done in the past (a good example of this is her take on Easter egg hunts) it reminded me of simpler times, when all that was required were egg baskets and eggs. Now, there are huge events planned, bunny costumes worn by weary parents, special eggs for various children based on their age, and their interests. There is frustration to the voice of Miss OMG, yet an understanding that she will go to great lengths to do what needs to be done, all in the name of family. Many parents can identify with that.

There are several moments of comedic humor, so many events and planning and slip ups and mishaps, it felt like reading something a good friend of mine who I don’t mind being open and honest with, when it comes to my own frustrations with parenting, might have written in order to soothe and calm the inner voices that make me wonder, “Am I doing this right?” Miss OMG responds with a , “Yes. You’ve got this,” even if the outcomes are often times less than perfection. She shows us that, in the end, we all survive and come out of it okay.

Thanks to Miss OMG for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tracie Banister just keeps a special giveaway

We're excited to have Tracie Banister back at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, In the Swim of Things. Melissa A is currently devouring this novel and she knows you all will enjoy it too! Tracie has a special giveaway going on in conjunction with her release blitz! See the end of this post for more details.

An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play she penned. (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she also starred in and tried to direct the production.)

Tracie’s dreams of authorial success were put on the back burner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills. Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for 12 years. When it ended, she decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time. She is the proud winner of the 2017 Independent Press Award (Romantic Comedy) and a Bronze Medal in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards (Chick Lit).

In the Swim of Things is Tracie’s sixth novel and thanks to this book, she can now check another occupation off her fantasy list. She has no doubt that writing about a mermaid is much easier than actually being one!

Visit Tracie online:
Author Newsletter – The Banister Buzz

A sexy, sun-soaked tale about a tail-wearing girl who makes a lot of waves—perfect for fans of Lauren Layne, Meghan Quinn, and Christina Lauren.

Ocean-loving Kyra Goodwin had to give up her dream of becoming the female Jacques Cousteau in order to take care of her father and brother, but being a mermaid at the Cape Cod Aquarium is pretty fintastic as far as alternative careers go.

Of course, life as a half-fish/half-woman isn’t all sunken treasure and Ariel twirls. Kyra has to deal with perpetually pruney fingers, eyes irritated by saltwater, and bratty kids on the daily, plus her glam alter ego can make dating really weird. (So many men have pervy siren-of-the-sea fantasies!) When she meets hunky surfer Cade, and he’s into her without knowing what she does for a living, Kyra thinks she’s finally won the romance lottery.

Unfortunately, Kyra’s plans for a carefree summer of catching waves with her new boyfriend run aground when Sea Star Beach, a place that holds great sentimental value for her, is taken over by a big-city developer who wants to build an exclusive resort. Kyra’s crusade to save her beloved beach threatens both her job and her relationship with Cade as does her growing closeness with her irresistibly broody merwrangler, Declan, whose precocious daughter is intent on playing matchmaker.

When a new family drama arises just as Kyra receives an offer that would turn her greatest desire into reality, she’s torn. Will she do what’s expected of her, or dive in and follow her heart?

When you’re a writer, you never know when inspiration might strike. A couple of years ago I was watching House Hunters International and saw a story about a woman who was relocating from the US to New Zealand. She was a professional mermaid, so there were several shots of her swimming in her tail. I’ve always loved mermaids and was fascinated to learn that you could actually make a career out of being one! Thus, the seed was planted for me to write a story about a woman who worked as a mermaid at an aquarium.

Photo credit: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park website

Research is my jam, and I do a lot of it before I start writing a story so that I can get into the right head space. So, I went on a deep dive into the history of mermaid performers, going all the way back to 1947 when Weeki Wachee Springs opened in Florida and featured beautiful mermaids who could do amazing underwater tricks. The Weeki Wachee Mermaids became a huge tourist attraction, even luring actors like Elvis Presley and Esther Williams to stop by for a visit! The mermaids, who came from all over the world to try out for a coveted spot in the pod, became celebrities in their own right, performing in sold-out shows and being treated like queens wherever they went.

Photo credit: Coney Island USA website

Seven decades later, the Weeki Wachee Mermaids are still going strong and their popularity has spawned similar shows all over America, as well as a thriving mer-culture that includes conventions (MerMagicCon, Mer-Mania), the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, and a whole cottage industry of mermaid-themed products. I watched some very informative vlogs done by a variety of professional mermaids to get the scoop on what it’s like to live the life of a siren-of-the-sea and you’ll find those tidbits scattered throughout In the Swim of Things.

One of my favorite things to research for this book was how mermaids achieve their look, using everything from cleverly-applied makeup and glittery nail art to hand-decorated bras that complement their tails. How they get in and out of those tails is another secret I include in the book. For now, I will tease that it’s quite a time-consuming ordeal!

Photo credit: Instagram accounts @spejldame @twi_star @_stephsnails_

I hope you’ll enjoy Kyra’s watery adventures in In the Swim of Things. Purchase the book during my Release Blitz (May 15th-31st) and you can enter to win a prize pack that any mermaid fan is sure to love!


Purchase a copy of In the Swim of Things (only $1.99 for Kindle!) during the Release Blitz (May 15th - May 31st, 2019) and you could win an incredible prize pack inspired by the book’s mermaid heroine and its beachy setting in Cape Cod. People who purchased In the Swim of Things during the pre-order period are also eligible for the giveaway!

Paperback version can be purchased here.

This prize pack includes:

"You’ve Mermaid My Day" Pedestal Candle Holder

3-Wick Salted Ocean Air Candle

Mermaid Squad Gift Set, inc. Travel-Sized At The Beach Ultra Shea Body Cream & Shower Gel & Beautiful Day PocketBac Hand Sanitizer

Mermaid Stemless Wine Glass with Inscription “It’s Okay to Drink
Like a Fish If You’re a Mermaid”

Mermaid Tribe Sea Glass Necklace by Lita Sea Glass Jewelry (seafoam-colored
sea glass on 18” sterling silver chain)

Mermaid Key Chain/Purse Charm (antique gold mermaid pendant with
stunning beads and a sassy tassel)

Bath & Body Works Shea-Infused Mermaid Socks

Mermaids in Paradise: An Artist’s Coloring Book

Crayola Colored Pencils (36 premium quality pencils)

To enter this giveaway, e-mail Tracie Banister at traciebanister at gmail dot com with your proof of purchase. Entries will be accepted until 11:59PM Eastern US time on Friday, May 31st when a winner will be selected via random drawing. This is an international giveaway, so anyone who buys In the Swim of Things within the allotted time frame is eligible to win. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Go-to-Gay: Man's (and Woman's) Best Friend

We're so glad to have our Go-to-Gay, Keith Stewart, back at CLC this month. He and our Chick Lit Cheerleader have something in common besides being funny and writing entertaining posts....they both love dogs! Keith is here today to talk about his dogs and share some special memories of them.

Take it away, Keith!

Dog Days

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

I have always been a dog person. I grew up with dogs who lived inside the house with us and dogs who lived out in the yard. There was Freddie, Mack, Ginger, Tiny, Wynonna, Biggun’, H.D., and Spiegel. Some of them were with me for years, some only for months. All of them gave me love and companionship no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the situations.

As an adult, I have had three dogs. Cole, the Cocker Spaniel, came with Andy when we got together. After Cole passed, we adopted Dudley from the humane society, then Duke a few months later.

For 12 years, D & D ruled our homes and our hearts. Duke was a massive, 150-pound Chocolate Lab. Dudley was a svelte 70-pound “Heinz 57” mixed breed of unknown origin. People were always taken aback when they met these two ginormous house pets who thought of themselves as lap dogs.

Last month, we unexpectedly lost both our boys—one to cancer, the other to old age ailments—within a week of each other. To say we are devastated is an understatement. The grief is real and raw. The instant loneliness when walking in the front door to an empty house is overwhelming at times.

We have spent the past few weeks remembering good and funny times we spent with them. Like the time we left them in our sun room for a few hours while we went to a football game. I was teaching several accounting classes at a local college at the time, and had given tests the previous week. I had four large stacks of papers to grade on the table in the sun room. When we came home, it looked as if it had snowed inside. The stacks of papers were shredded into confetti. Nothing was salvageable or readable or gradable. Duke blamed Dudley. Dudley blamed Duke. All my students immediately loved them since I had no choice but to give them all an A for that test and move on to the next.

Reading always helps me feel better, so I have started looking for books that have dogs featured in them to help me with the grief. I thought I would share a few with you, and hopefully, you can share some with me that I may like to read this summer. Here is a few I found so far:

Southernmost by Silas House

The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman (our former Go-to-Gay)

Stay by Allie Larkin

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Dog Years by Mark Doty

How have you dealt with losing a pet? Any books you can recommend? Thanks in advance from this Dog Dad.

Keith Stewart is the author of Bernadette Peters Hates Me – True Tales of a Delusional Man. A native of Appalachia, he splits his time between his hometown of Hyden and nearby Lexington, Kentucky. His blog is You can find him on Twitter at @Shiglyogly and Facebook at @AMSCOT (A Strong Man’s Cup of Tea). He is a regular contributor to and the He lives with his husband, Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley.

Book Review: The Trouble with Rose

By Becky Gulc

‘A missing sister. A broken heart. A whole lot of trouble…

Rilla is getting married. Except she isn't. She's running away – from her confused fiancé Simon, her big mad family, and the memories nipping at her heels.

Her sister Rose would know what to do in such times of crisis.

But the trouble is, Rose is the crisis. She disappeared years ago, and Rilla's heart went missing too.

Where is Rose? And who is Rilla without Rose?

If she's to rescue some happiness out of all this chaos, she needs to find out.’ (Synopsis courtesy of  HarperCollins UK.)

The synopsis of this The Trouble with Rose intrigued me, and I looked forward to discovering what happened to Rose. I thought the opening chapters were strong and comical at times, such as the wedding where no one ended up getting married, the subsequent interrogations by Rilla’s GIF (Greater Indian Family). However, I was left wondering when we’d find out more about Rose. She features through Rilla’s memories, but I kept anticipating a build up to a search that was a little slow to come. I was beyond halfway through the novel when this aspect of the story really moved along and this frustrated me a bit. I never felt like giving up on the novel though, there were plenty of good points. I loved learning about Rilla’s family, they could certainly make you feel claustrophobic at times and whilst she has a difficult relationship with her parents there is plenty of laughter and lightness to be found, particularly through the scenes with her flatmate, her ‘sister’ and a scene-stealing cat.

I loved the last third of the novel in particular. This is where we the search for Rose begins and we learn what has happened to her all those years ago. This was where I felt I understood Rilla the most; I bonded with her as a character, I could understand her somewhat abrupt manner. I felt for her; this is a woman who has been carrying around a lot of anger, guilt and frustration for so long, I just wanted the family to talk to one another. It was very moving at times, yet the balance is right as it maintains those comical moments through to the end. This is a great debut and I’m glad I stuck with it.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

At home with Jamie a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Jamie Brenner back at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Drawing Home. Melissa A really enjoyed this novel and will be reviewing soon. Jamie has one signed copy to share with a lucky reader!

Jamie Brenner grew up in suburban Philadelphia on a steady diet of Norma Klein, Judy Blume, and Judith Krantz novels (more on that here). After studying literature at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Jamie moved to New York City where she started her career at HarperCollins Publishers, then later Barnes& and before returning to books and becoming an author. Her novel The Forever Summer is a national bestseller. People Magazine says of her latest novel, Drawing Home, “the pages practically turn themselves.” Jamie lives in New York City and spends her summers visiting the beach towns that inspire her novels. (Bio courtesy of Jamie's website.)

Visit Jamie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Summer has started in idyllic Sag Harbor, and for Emma Mapson that means greeting guests at the front desk of The American Hotel. But when one of the town's most famous residents, artist Henry Wyatt, dies suddenly, Emma learns he has mysteriously left his waterfront home - a self-designed masterpiece filled with his work - to her teenage daughter, Penny.

Back in Manhattan, legendary art patron Bea Winstead's grief at her lifelong friend and former business partner Henry's passing turns to outrage at the news of his shocking bequest. How did these unknown locals get their hands on the estate? Bea, with her devoted assistant Kyle in tow, descends on Sag Harbor determined to reclaim the house and preserve Henry's legacy.

While Emma fights to defend her daughter's inheritance, Bea discovers that Henry left a treasure trove of sketches scattered around town. With Penny's reluctant help, Bea pieces them together to find a story hidden in plain sight: an illustration of their shared history with an unexpected twist that will change all of their lives.

Drawn together in their battle for the house, Emma and Bea are forced to confront the past while facing a future that challenges everything they believe about love, fate, and family. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing Drawing Home?
The most rewarding part was getting to know the people of Sag Harbor – the head of the historical society, the librarians, the owner of the book store, the owner of the water taxi. I made a lot of new friends. The most difficult part was just typical novel-writing challenges of getting the story to all come together in a satisfying way. I always have an idea in my head that makes perfect sense but having it unfold over 400 pages is a different matter entirely!

Which artists inspired the characters of Penny and Henry?
Henry was loosely based on the work of artist Donald Judd, but the story about the estate was based on the events surrounding the estate of late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham (Here’s the original article that inspired it.)

Penny is based loosely on my own daughter who has struggled with anxiety and OCD. Writing Penny was a way to work through some of what I was going through as a mother.

If Drawing Home were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Emma Stone as Emma, one of the Hemsworth brothers as Kyle, and Maggie Smith as Bea.

What are you looking forward to most this summer?
I visit some of the same book stores every summer and it’s like seeing old friends after a year apart. I am really looking forward to these visits!

What is the funniest thing you've seen or heard recently?
Someone in Sag Harbor posted a “Lost cat found” poster with info like: not friendly, etc – with a photo of a ferret on the street. It was so funny!

If we were to visit you in the town where you live, what are some must-see places you would take us to visit?
New York City is always best off the beaten path. I always tell people who have never been here that you should skip Times Square and head to the West Village of the Lower East Side to really experience New York City.

Thanks to Jamie for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends May 28th at midnight EST.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Elegant Elizabeth a book giveaway

Today we welcome Elizabeth Bartasius to CLC. Melissa A met her through a friend and took an interest in her novel, The Elegant Out, which was recently published. Thanks to She Writes Press, we have three print copies and an e-book for some lucky readers!

Elizabeth Bartasius is the best-selling author of the debut novel, The Elegant Out, praised by Kirkus Reviews as “…a riveting tale of maturing womanhood and an insightful peek into the creative process.” She lives in the Caribbean with her husband. Connect with her and access her private creative gallery at her website and visit her on Facebook.

After escaping an abusive relationship, Elizabeth finds herself struggling with immense feelings of inadequacy. Stuck in a small-town, eight to five job, she dreams of characters and plot lines—when she’s not thinking about babies. She wants another. Gabe, her love, does not. When her writing coach praises her talent and encourages her to write, Elizabeth dives in, resolved to pursue her dream of publishing once again and put her ideas about pregnancy on the back burner. But then everyone around her, from her cousin to the couple-that-never-would, starts announcing their own pregnancies, and her baby obsession comes rushing back—accompanied by a deep depression.

Frustrated with Gabe’s refusal to give her another child—as well as his questioning of her motives—Elizabeth finds herself considering a separation. Writing, meanwhile, becomes a tool for beating herself up over her inability to find her voice. Ultimately, she must face an abusive past to answer a complex question: Is having babies the answer, or simply a distraction from her immense feelings of inadequacy and fear—an elegant out? If she fails to uncover her truth, Elizabeth fears she might remain strangled, her voice squelched forever.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What were the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of writing The Elegant Out?

Originally, this book began as a letter to my best friend. It was wonderful to connect with her over and over again in the scenes. She’d remark that we hadn’t talked in weeks, and I was always thinking, “Didn’t we just connect this morning?”

Overall, I feel proud of the work I created, of the raw-ness, of the beauty in what I like to call my pearl sentences. How many times do we start a big project like writing a book, and then ditch it? This one, I actually finished.

One reader described the story as “The War of Art as a Novel.” It was a war, a constant trick to get myself to sit down and write. When it was time to write the last chapter I was sick in bed, and didn’t want to face the book at all. But I had only one week before the New Year. No way, did I want to enter yet another year not having completed that book. So, I brought my laptop into bed with me. I’d write, then fall asleep. Write, then sleep, until it was done! On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I celebrated the completed work.

How is Elizabeth from your novel similar to or different from you?
Well, for one, I am older and a published author. ☺

Being on this side of the journey now, brings a confidence and evolution that the protagonist just couldn’t access. Yes, Elizabeth from the novel is based on me, but she is only a very small part of me. Yes, I went through many of her emotional struggles and overcame those hurdles, but I don’t recognize her much when I read the book now.

If you could cast a movie version of The Elegant Out, who would play the lead roles?
Emily Blunt as Elizabeth.
Chris Hemwsorth as Gabe, thank you very much.
Anne Hathaway as Maureeeeeeen.
Maggi Smith as Granny.
And the voice of the Monkey Muse will be Benedict Cumberbatch.
Yes, please, let’s have that! ;-)

If we were to visit you right now, what are some must-see things you would take us to visit?
Great! Come visit the islands.

Buck Island: Captain Carl’s sailboat cruise to snorkel at Buck Island Reef National Monument. We will be on the lookout for trunkfish, blue tang, trumpet fish, large brain coral and much more. If we are lucky we’ll spot a squad of squid. Then, Captain Carl will sail us to the other side of the island and set anchor for a picnic on the beach, a short 20 minutes walk to the stunning views at the island’s peak, and some always-loved playtime in a postcard-perfect location.

Rainforest: On another day, we’ll take the meandering drive through the ‘rainforest’, where we will stop at the side of the road for lunch at Merryn’s Nidulari gypsy food truck. It’s pure farm-to-table, made-from-scratch deliciousness!! Bellies full, we’ll continue down the hill to Rainbow Beach where we can nap under a sea grape tree to the sound the sea, then refresh ourselves in the calm, turquoise water when we wake.

Bioluminescent Bay: We have one of only 7 bioluminescent bays in the world. It’s magic! The local see-through kayak company will take us out for a lovely evening ride. Once the sky is dark, and we enter the bay, you will see millions of teensy tiny organisms all lighting up like stars as your boat skims through the water agitating the little guys and forcing their bright glow. And there are some jellyfish in the water too, the size of tennis balls. Yep, they glow too. Pretty special place.

What is the strangest thing in your purse/handbag at the moment?
There is nothing in my handbag right now. Like Marie Kondo told me to do in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I only put in my purse the items I need when I leave the house, then empty it when I return home.

When I do leave the house, I usually only carry around my cell phone (which holds the driver’s license & credit cards) a small journal with a black fine-point sharpie to write with, and a shawl, in case I get a little chilly.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
Transfer by Apple Gidley. It’s the second in a series of historical fiction set on the island of St. Croix. Beautifully written. Wonderful characters. Intriguing backdrop. A great snuggle-up-in-bed and escape to another time. I just loved it!

Thanks to Elizabeth for chatting with us and She Writes 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 May 27th at midnight EST.

Friday, May 17, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Where She Went by/from Kelly Simmons (e-book via NetGalley)
Love-Lines by Sheri Langer from Absolute Entertainment (e-book)
The Nine by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg from SheWrites Press
Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne from Gallery Books
The Elegant Out by/from Elizabeth Bartasius (e-book)
Donna Has Left the Building by Susan Jane Gilman from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)
The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister from Putnam (e-book via NetGalley)

Paper Chains by Nicola Moriarty from William Morrow
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter from William Morrow
The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons from Harper

The Understudy by Sophie Hannah, Clare Mackintosh, B.A. Paris, and Holly Brown from MPRM Communications

Dying to Meet You by Rich Amooi from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
I Can't Tell You Why by Elaine Robertson North from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Squared Away by Alicia Dill from Mindbuck Media (e-book)
To the Stars and Back by Camilla Isley from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)

Book Review: Love is Like a Soufflé

By Sara Steven

Zoey is Dalton’s sister and Adrian’s friend, with whom her Aunt Vic would really like to see her get married. At barely thirty, she has started her own catering company with Sally, her best friend, who rather likes Dalton. She never listens to advice from Fran, her mother, or from Nana, her beloved grandmother, because she would rather come home at night and confide in Sushi, her cat.

But otherwise Zoey’s life is fairly simple. Even more so when she meets Matthew Ziegler, the most influential food critic in New York. An utterly unbearable guy who seems set on putting her food to the test, right down to the smallest details… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Zoey has had a long-term friendship with Adrian, so it seems the two should ultimately end up together. Yet Matthew quickly becomes a contender, throwing Zoey into a twisted love triangle that she can’t find her way out of, no matter how hard she tries. Adrian could quite possibly find himself within the arms of a beautiful model. Or, is that Dalton’s destiny? Sally is in the picture, too, but will it be Dalton or Adrian?

The premise of Love is Like a Soufflé plays out like a romantic “Whodunit”, where the reader bounces from character to character, trying to figure out who is going to end up with who! I really appreciated the unexpected match-ups, and the chemistry between all of the characters, particularly Zoey and Adrian, and Zoey and Matthew. There were moments where I wanted to see her end up with someone she’d known for most of her life, yet newfound passions within a new relationship made for an exciting turn of events. It was a lot of fun to read.

I also appreciated the friendship dynamic between Zoey and Sally. For better or worse, the two women stick together through some tough situations, and while it’s not always graceful, it’s always real. Initially, it felt as though there was a lot of room for growth within this relationship, the need to speak up and speak with honesty. I liked seeing the changes that cause a definite cause and effect for them both.

There were also plenty of revelations where Zoey’s family is concerned. The contentions felt between daughter, mother, and grandmother. Each person adds their own unique piece to this funky dysfunctionally functional family, with all of the love interests only adding extra spice to the pot. An acerbic, funny, "soufflé of a read"!

Thanks to Sassy Fiction for the book in exchange for an honest review.