Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Seeing a version of Andrea Lochen...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Andrea Lochen back to CLC today. It's been a while since she was last here, so it's nice to see what she's been up to and learn new things about her. Her latest novel, Versions of Her, publishes today. Find out more about it right here. Andrea has one copy to share with a lucky reader!

Andrea Lochen is the author of three novels, including Versions of Her. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Penguin 2013), was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “an engaging, satisfying read that explores friendship, love and who we really are when it truly matters.” A draft of the novel won the 2008 Hopwood Novel Award. Andrea’s second novel, Imaginary Things, was published by Astor + Blue in April 2015 and described as a, “a beautiful book, filled with vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and oodles of heart. With a page-turning plot and an utterly unique concept, Imaginary Things entertains, inspires, and provokes thought.”

Andrea earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at UW Milwaukee at Waukesha and was awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Andrea lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two small children, and adorably fluffy dog. In her free time, she likes to bake cupcakes and cakes, see musicals and plays, and read as much as humanly possible. (Bio adapted from Andrea's website.)

Visit Andrea online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

On the surface, Melanie Kingstad-Keyes’s life is the picture of success. She’s a tenure track professor at a prestigious university and has a perfect husband. But a recent miscarriage has left her reeling and her marriage tenuous. Selling her family’s Lake Indigo summer home, which she hasn’t visited in fifteen years, feels like the perfect distraction from her problems. Now, she only needs to persuade her younger sister, Kelsey, to go along with her plan. Stuck in a dead-end job, Kelsey Kingstad bounces from one doomed relationship to the next as she struggles to jumpstart her adult life. 

Carrying the guilt of her mother’s untimely death, Kelsey is reluctant to let go of the Victorian house filled with memories of her mom and their childhood.When the sisters find a mysterious hidden door, Melanie and Kelsey discover that they can directly view their mother’s younger years and learn all the secrets she never shared with them. 

Delving into her memories is fun at first, but Melanie and Kelsey quickly uncover difficult truths, throwing their own life choices into question and making them wonder if they ever truly knew their mother. Visiting the past may help them find closure, but the cost could be steeper than they realize. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is the inspiration behind Versions of Her?
The seed for Versions of Her came from an interesting question readers asked me when my first novel, The Repeat Year was published. In The Repeat Year, a woman gets the chance to relive a year of her life. At a lot of the author events, readers would ask me, “If you had the opportunity to relive a year of your life, would you do it? And if you could choose, which year would you pick?”
My answer was always, “No, thank you!” I couldn’t imagine being forced to relive a year of my life. But if I could relive just a day or two of my own choosing, I wouldn’t mind being a “fly on the wall” to observe some of my childhood memories, or even my mom’s childhood or young adulthood. How neat would it be, I thought, to get to witness my parents with me when my sister and I were little, or see my grandparents when they were much younger, or even get to watch my parents fall in love? With those thoughts, the premise behind the mysterious door that can transport the sisters back into their mom’s memories at the lake house was born.

Versions of Her is also very much a book about sisters and mothers and daughters. My sister and my mom are two of the most important people in my life, and I wanted to explore the complexity within these female relationships.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring novelist?
Surround yourself with a supportive writing community, because you can learn so much from other novelists. But don’t get caught up in the trap of comparing yourself too much to others and their writing careers; it will only make you unhappy. Instead, celebrate each small success you achieve and make sure to lift up other writers for their successes too.

If Versions of Her were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
For the take-charge, perfectionist, older sister Melanie, I think Rachel McAdams would be awesome. For the flighty, dog-loving, younger sister Kelsey, I think Amanda Seyfried would be perfect.

What is your favorite thing about the summer?
Everything except the mosquitos! It’s my favorite season, and in Wisconsin, it’s one of the nicest times of year to go outside, so it’s always chockful of fun events like barbecues, parades, county fairs, and weddings. I love watching my kids splash around in our plastic kiddie pool, eating popsicles on our patio, and taking my dog for long walks. I love the smell of fresh cut grass and the longer hours of daylight. I love wearing sandals! I love going on road trips and vacations with my family.

What is your go-to breakfast item?
This is kind of embarrassing to admit but Eggo waffles with a little Nutella spread on them. I know—definitely not the healthiest choice! But Nutella is SO addictive.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse/handbag?
Hmmm….let me go check. Three small snack-size baggies of pretzels, for some reason? Kind of crumbled up and probably stale. I just threw them away. As a mom of two little kids, I always pack snacks whenever we go anywhere, and apparently, pretzels are my go-to that no one ever wants to eat!

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 July 28th at midnight EST.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: The Heart Keeper

By Jami Deise

As writers, we are told to write what scares us. As parents, nothing scares us more than something happening to our child. Author Elizabeth Stone is credited with the famous quote that parenthood “is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” She is, of course, referring to the child’s body. But what happens when your child’s heart is walking around in the body of a stranger?

In The Heart Keeper, the latest book by Norwegian author Alex Dahl, (see my review of her earlier book, The Boy at the Door, here) forty-something mother Alison has everything – a beautiful home, a devoted husband, a loyal stepson and devoted daughter – until her six-year-old daughter Amalie drowns. After donating her daughter’s heart, Alison and her husband spiral separately down into grief.

The recipient of Amalie’s heart is Kaia, nearly the same age as Amalie and the perpetually sick child of a struggling single mom. Iselin had Kaia alone at nineteen, quitting art school in Paris and returning to Norway alone. They live in a basement apartment; Iselin sleeps on a pull-out couch in the living room. The two mothers couldn’t be more different.

When Alison’s stepson Oliver reads an article about brave little Kaia and her heart transplant, he realizes that Kaia has his sister’s heart. At first, Alison doesn’t want to know anything about Kaia. But after reading stories of transplant recipients adopting some of their donors’ mannerisms due to “cell memories,” she tracks down Iselin and slowly, subtly, begins worming her way into their lives.

The Heart Keeper begins slowly; the book starts after Amalie’s death, and Dahl keeps the details from the reader well into the book. With the slow pacing and the disparity between Alison and Iselin, I was afraid that the author was trying to make a case that Alison somehow deserved to raise Kaia. But Dahl is a much better writer than that, and the slow build is completely necessary for the story she tells.

As Alison’s mind gradually begins to betray her, Iselin’s life becomes better and better – not only because a healthy Kaia can finally enjoy life, but because Alison’s attention, financial and otherwise, broadens Iselin’s social and career prospects in a way she never could have foreseen. While puzzled by the older woman’s attention – Alison, of course, never tells her who she is or even that she had a daughter – Iselin never really questions it.

The characterization is so careful, the reader can’t help but root for an impossible ending in which Alison tells the truth and Iselin welcomes her help in raising Kaia. Perhaps in a Hallmark movie, but not in a psychological thriller. Even young Kaia, who would be a prop in the hands of a lesser writer, balances excitement over Alison’s attention with a wariness of a child who utterly loves her mother, warts and all.

The only issue I had with the book is the uneven treatment given to Alison’s husband Sindre. He has a breakdown early in the book that is never mentioned again; later she suspects he’s cheating; their relationship is never resolved. But this isn’t really their story anyway, although the death of a child often results in the death of a marriage. Rather, it’s the relationship between two mothers and one child – a dynamic that, since the days of King Solomon, has torn readers in two.

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Followers by Megan Angelo from Graydon House (e-book via NetGalley)
One For the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker from Lake Union
Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters from Putnam
Versions of Her by/from Andrea Lochen (e-book)
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano from The Dial Press (e-book via NetGalley)
The Birthday Girl by Melissa de la Cruz from Dutton (e-book via NetGalley)
The Arrangement by Robyn Harding from Gallery (e-book via NetGalley)
The Ingredients of Us by/from Jennifer Gold (e-book)
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson from St. Martin's Press (paperback)
The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas from St. Martin's Press (paperback)

Silent Night by Geraldine Hogan from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)

Losing My Inhibitions by/from Olivia Spring (e-book)
Surviving Valencia by/from Holly Tierney-Bedord (e-book)
Haben by Haben Girma from Grand Central Publishing  (e-book via NetGalley)
Off the Market by/from Audrey Wick (e-book)

Book Review: Starfish: A Rockstar Romance

By Sara Steven

Ambitious graduate Marin Collins accepts a four-month internship at a prestigious public relations firm to work on a tech account, but her plans are derailed when she’s assigned to go on the road with touring rock band Kings Quarters, hailed by Rolling Stone as the next big thing.

Enter Brad Osterhauser, the reluctant rock star who would rather be coding computer games than penning Grammy-nominated songs.

Traveling by bus, city to city with a group of practical joking bandmates and a greedy manager, Marin and Brad forge a friendship and forbidden romance over a shared love of Seinfeld episodes, stolen moments and Red Vines.

But when Marin’s accused of betraying her company and the band, will Brad come to her defense or believe she was disloyal to him for the sake of her career?

Told in alternating perspectives of Marin and Brad, Starfish is a contemporary romance of unexpected love, the redemptive power of music and hogging the bed. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

If I were tasked with using only one word to describe Starfish, that word would be STEAMY. The chemistry between Brad and Marin feels nearly combustible, the biggest reason for Marin to try everything she can to put a wall between herself and the guy. Told from both Brad’s and Marin’s perspectives, the blunt talk and bold emotion really drew me to their friendship and forbidden romance, hot and smoldering.

But there is more to Starfish. Well-written characters have well-intentioned backgrounds that let the reader see beyond their motives, and we learn more about the reasons behind Marin’s walls, and why Brad isn’t paving his own path in life. This lends into the insecurities both face, creating more of a gap, why it’s so hard to fall hard and let go. It added a much-needed push and pull in what Marin wants, and what Brad needs. Just when I thought they’d take the next step forward, they’d fall three steps back, only adding more and more to the anticipated build up.

It was interesting to imagine myself in Marin’s shoes, an ordinary girl who finds herself falling for a famous person, another stumbling block. I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of celebrity, or what it would be like to go behind the scenes of concerts and rock bands, and while she tries to find her way we’re right along with her, understanding the shock and at times, disorientation. There is too much going on and not enough time to figure it all out, lending into the divide of doing what her heart feels, versus what her head tells her she needs to do.

While I felt Marin’s boss overreacted a bit, given how much Marin gives of herself and tries so hard to prove she’s worthy of her job, it was a nice wrench to throw into everything, the alleged company betrayal, giving us a fresh, raw perspective on who Brad and Marin really are and how much they’re potentially invested in one another. If someone you’re falling for does you wrong, what would you do? Who do you side with? A worthy question for a five-star, worthy read!

Thanks to Lisa Becker for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lisa Becker:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Liz and Lisa introduce us to Lila...plus a book giveaway

We always love having Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke at CLC. Since they've written many great novels, we've had them visit for each one. So we decided to do something different in lieu of an interview this time around. Remember The Newlywed Game? Well, since Liz and Lisa have been best friends for 32 years, we decided to play a version of that here to see how well they know each other. And it looks like they did pretty well with their answers! They even have a few things in common.

Liz and Lisa's latest thriller, The Two Lila Bennetts, publishes next week. Melissa A couldn't put this one down! (See her review.) Liz and Lisa have one audio version for a lucky reader (or listener). If you don't read audio books, Goodreads has an e-book giveaway going through July 22nd. (There are 100 up for grabs!)

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are the authors of five novels, including Girls' Night Out and the Amazon Charts bestselling novel, The Good Widow. Liz and Lisa have been best friends for 30 years. They have also published three women's fiction novels with Simon & Schuster/Atria Books. Your Perfect Life is a hilarious and heartwarming story of two childhood best friends who switch bodies at their twenty-year high school reunion. The Status of All Things, is a cautionary tale of a woman who realizes she can change the course of her entire life by what she writes in her Facebook status. And The Year We Turned Forty follows three women who get the chance to relive the year they turned forty, a year they each made decisions that altered the course of their lives. (Bio adapted from Liz and Lisa's website.)

Visit Liz and Lisa online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest

Lila Bennett’s bad choices have finally caught up with her. And one of those decisions has split her life in two. Literally.

In one life, she’s taken hostage by someone who appears to be a stranger but knows too much. As she’s trapped in a concrete cell, her kidnapper forces her to face what she’s done or be killed. In an alternate life, she eludes her captor but is hunted by someone who is dismantling her happiness, exposing one secret at a time.

Lila’s decorated career as a criminal defense attorney, her marriage, and her life are on the line. She must make a list of those she’s wronged—both in and out of the courtroom—to determine who is out to get her before it’s too late. But even if she can pinpoint her assailant, will she survive? And if she does, which parts of her life are worth saving, and which parts must die? Because one thing’s for certain—life as Lila Bennett knew it is over.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Liz answered for Lisa:
Favorite Disney movie: Beauty and the Beast
Favorite type of cuisine: Sushi
Favorite time of day: Morning
Nickname growing up: Steinkers (Lisa: Slightly wrong as this was my nickname in twenties on but as a child through teens, it was Lis.)
Favorite musician/band of all time: Kenny Chesney
Biggest pet peeve: Wishy-washy people

Lisa answered for Liz:
Favorite Disney movie: Beauty and the Beast
Favorite type of cuisine: Italian (Liz: Sushi)
Favorite time of day: Morning
Nickname growing up: Lizzy
Favorite musician/band of all time: Depeche Mode
Biggest pet peeve: People chewing too loudly

Thanks to Liz and Lisa for playing our game and for sharing their 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 July 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book a Trip Hop

Chick Lit Chat HQ is throwing a party on Facebook to celebrate summer and lots of fun, romantic beach reads, and you're all invited! The Book a Trip Hop is happening this week, July 15th-July 21st, and we've got a multitude of great prizes up for grabs. In addition, you'll have the chance to meet and interact with 40+ bestselling, award-winning authors who all have wonderful books to share that will transport you to fabulous locations all over the world, including charming small towns, glamorous big cities, and relaxing spots near the water.

Want to know more about the hop prizes? Each participating author will be doing a giveaway* of books, gift cards, swag, and or vacation/summer-themed items. And our Grand Prize*, which you can enter to win on the hop's Facebook group page, is a designer beach bag filled with summer must-haves! (The Soul Journey ikat print scarf,
Privé Revaux sunglasses, Havaianas rose gold glitter flip-flops, rainbow unicorn pool float, Mar Y Sol Hadley tote, and Deco Miami nail polish/cuticle oil set shown in the graphic below are just a few of the items included in this incredible prize.)

And that's not all! We're also giving away TWO Bonus Prizes* on the hop group page: Yonanas Fruit Soft Serve Machines. With Yonanas, you can churn out 100% frozen fruits to create a yummy, summertime dessert without fat, dairy, refined sugar, or preservatives.

So, what are you waiting for? Click on this link and join the party at the Book a Trip Hop group on Facebook. We've got a virtual piña colada with your name on it, and you can chat about a variety of summer-themed topics with authors and readers! You'll, also, find a list of each day's featured authors and their page links in the pinned post on the group each day of the hop and that's where you can enter to win the Grand/Bonus Prize giveaways. See you there!

*The Grand and Bonus Prize giveaways are open to US residents only. However, ALL of the individual author giveaways are open internationally.

Book A Trip Hop Schedule

Monday, July 15th 

Tracie Banister (Host)
Brenda st. John Brown

Tuesday, July 16th

Wednesday, July 17th

Sophie-Leigh Robbins

Thursday, July 18th

Friday, July 19th

Saturday, July 20th
Laura Heffernan (Host)
Cat Lavoie

Book Review: The Good Sister

By Jami Deise

There is no love greater than the love a parent has for a child; no grief stronger than if that child dies. Perhaps that’s why thrillers so often focus on a dead or missing child; nothing draws in a reader faster than the parent’s worst nightmare, spelled out on the page.

British author Gillian McAllister’s latest thriller raises the ante on the dead baby thriller by adding another twist: The accused is the baby’s mother's younger sister. As such, the novel is more than a paint-by-numbers mystery; the relationship between the two sisters, and how they view themselves and each other, is just as important as what happened to baby Layla that October night.

The book opens with younger sister Becky on trial for smothering Martha’s eight-week-old baby. It moves back and forth in time to give a full picture of Becky, the flighty one who could never hold a job and had her own child at 19, and Martha, the older sister who did everything right: career, marriage, beautiful house, and only then pregnancy. With Martha being unable to find flexible child care during her maternity leave, and Becky hating her set-dressing gig, it seems only natural for Becky to step in when Martha needs someone to watch Layla. After all, Becky was a great mom to her own son, Xander, now entering the teenage years.

But Layla is a colicky child, and Martha takes advantage of Becky’s unwillingness to say no to her, leaving her with an infant who screams for hours. It could drive anyone over the edge. Did it drive Becky?

The story drew me right in, and the trial scenes are just as captivating as the back story. McAllister gives each witness’s point-of-view account of what they saw or heard that night, adding a Rashomon effect to the narrative. McAllister’s research shines through in the difficult scenes dealing with the baby’s death. These scenes are so detailed and authentic, it’s impossible to look away.

With such an emphasis on the relationships and the baby’s colic, it often feels more like women’s fiction than thriller; the mystery doesn’t really kick in until late in the book, when Martha starts to question who could have killed her baby if it wasn’t Becky. It’s a good combination – learning so much about the characters, I cared that much more about the outcome. And even though I guessed the ending, it still made me cry.

The Good Sister will appeal to fans of both genres, but it’s not a great book for new parents. The descriptions of Layla’s piercing, unending cries brought me right back to the earliest, most frustrating days of parenthood. And Layla’s final minutes are a reminder of just how fragile those new little bodies are.

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

More by Gillian McAllister:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Melanie Cantor's happy beginning...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Karla Gowlett
Today we welcome Melanie Cantor to CLC. Her debut novel, Death and Other Happy Endings, published last week in the US and last month in the UK. Thanks to Viking, we have two copies to give away!

Melanie Cantor worked for many years in PR and as a celebrity talent agent, and has dabbled in interior renovations, which led to her hosting a UK TV series where she tidied up people’s messy houses. She has since concentrated on writing; Death and Other Happy Endings is her first published novel. She has two grown up sons, a dog and lives in London.

Visit Melanie on Twitter and Instagram.

Given three months to live, what would you do?

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disorder and has only three months to live—ninety-ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family, and to put her affairs in order. Ninety days to come to terms with a diagnosis that is unfair, unexpected, and completely unpronounceable. Focusing on the positives (she won’t have to go on in a world without Bowie or Maya Angelou; she won’t get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s like her parents, or have teeth that flop out at the mere mention of the word apple), Jennifer realizes she only has one real regret: not standing up for herself to the three most significant people in her life.

Rather than rushing off to complete a frantic bucket list, Jennifer tackles this regret through letters (handwritten notes on nice stationery) to the three people who hurt her the most, to say the things she’d wished she’d said, but never dared. Before she can overthink it, Jennifer posts the letters to her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend.

At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. Her ex-boyfriend rushes to her side and she even starts to build bridges with her sister Isabelle (that is, once Isabelle’s confirmed that Jennifer’s condition isn’t genetic). Once Jennifer starts telling the truth, though, she realizes it’s hard to stop. And as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you. . .

In one sentence, what was your journey to publishing like? 
Tough and now all the more appreciated because of the failures that led to the eventual success.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges from writing Death and Other Happy Endings
The biggest reward was the initial excitement that this was not going to be published just in the UK but in the US too. What a thrill. And then it grew to nine other territories including Russia and China! Extraordinary. Now there is the reward and thrill of the reviews coming in and the engagement with readers.

The challenge includes making people who don’t normally read commercial fiction, appreciate that this is not just a quick pacy story (which it is) but one that will make you really examine your own life and get you thinking. If you like, it’s an intelligent easy read! Is that a thing? Well it should be!

If Death and Other Happy Endings were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
There is genuine talk that this could be made into a movie so I’ve been playing the casting game in my head, even though I probably won’t have any say in the matter. I’d love Kate Winslet to play Jennifer. She’s the quintessential English woman who would be perfect in the role. Gwyneth Paltrow to play Isabelle (let’s get her acting again,) Rachel Weisz as Olivia, and Helena Bonham Carter as Anna Maria. As to the male leads, Jon Hamm as Harry (can he do a British accent?) and Rufus Sewell as Leo (in fact I visualised him when I was describing Leo). If you don’t know him, check him out as Lord Melbourne in the TV series Victoria. The most gorgeous kind of sexy!

What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently? 
 I was on a blind date in a local Italian trattoria. As I was focusing on the man sitting opposite me (trying not to be disappointed) and listening to his chat, he suddenly stopped mid-flow to tell me my menu was on fire “and it’s flickering right near your hair.” I had inadvertently leant the paper menu against the tea light candle and it really was flaming up. All hell broke loose. The waiter started flapping wildly at the smoke alarm, the waitress was having to open and shut the door to let in air. Fortunately, as paper does, it stopped burning fairly quickly. Happily, without incident. I thought the whole thing hilarious. Sadly my date did not which as far as I’m concerned, summed him up.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend? 
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. It ticked two boxes for me. Firstly it was about a dog (I have a cute dog called Mabel who is effectively my third child). And secondly about the publishing world. It was a beautifully written book dealing in an original way with loss and friendship - obviously themes that interest me. It totally summed how dogs find their way into your heart when you least expect it as well as throwing an interesting look at perspective; how we can all remember the same event very differently.

What is the strangest thing residing in your purse or handbag? 
Probably the roll of dog poo bags. A dog owner should never be without them.

Thanks to Melanie for making us laugh and to Viking 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 July 21st at midnight EST.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Down by the bay with Nicola May....plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Nicola May back at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, Meet Me in Cockleberry Bay and share some other fun information about herself. Rachel's Random Resources has one copy of her novel to give away, as part of her blog tour. 

Award winning author Nicola May lives in Ascot in Berkshire with her rescue cat Stanley. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks and enjoying a flutter on the horses. Inspired by her favorite authors Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews, Nicola writes what she describes as chick lit with a kick.

Visit Nicola online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

Synopsis (may contain spoilers for The Corner Shop):
The cast of the runaway bestseller, The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay (reviewed here), are back – including Rosa, Josh, Mary, Jacob, Sheila, new mum Titch and, last but by no means least, Hot, the adorable dachshund.

Newly wed, and with her inherited corner shop successfully up and running, Rosa Smith seems to have all that anyone could wish for. But the course of true love never did run smooth and Rosa’s suspicions that her husband is having an affair have dire consequences.

Reaching rock bottom before she can climb back up to the top, fragile Rosa is forced to face her fears, addiction and jealousy head on.

With a selection of meddling locals still at large, a mystery fire and Titch’s frantic search for the real father of her sick baby, the second book in this enchanting series will take you on a further unpredictable journey of self-discovery.

Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

What is a favorite compliment you have received for your writing?
A new reader said that The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay had reignited his passion for reading. That was nice.

Which character do you identify with most in the Cockleberry Bay series?
It has to be Rosa, my heroine. I wasn’t fostered like she is; but I did lose my mum at a very young age; which caused me to grow up very quickly and caused me to experience heartache and grief along life’s windy path. She also has a naughty sense of humour!

If the Cockleberry Bay series were made into a TV series, who would play the lead characters?
I think Bel Powley is exactly how I imagine Rosa to look. Douglas Booth would make a delicious Josh.

What is something that you find to be extremely funny?
Everybody Loves Raymond is my favourite TV comedy. Has me laughing out loud a lot. So brilliantly written.

What is the last thing you purchased?
A pair of gorgeous Anne Klein sandals for my best friend’s birthday.

What movie would people be shocked to find out that you haven't seen before?
I have never watched any of the Star Wars films. If something is not set in real-time then I’m just not interested.

Thanks to Nicola for visiting with us and to Rachel's Random Resources for sharing Nicola's book with our readers.

Enter to win a signed copy of The Corner Shop on Cockleberry Bay (Open INT)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winner's information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. We are not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Visit the other stops on Nicola's blog tour:

Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Review: Have You Seen Luis Velez?

By Sara Steven

Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

As is the case with so many of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels, we get to see two people who are so vastly different from one another, form an unlikely bond. It’s something I admire so much about Hyde’s stories, because it unfolds in such a sweet and organic way. Both Raymond and Mildred feel like outcasts, and feel misunderstood. They have found common ground in each other, even when others don’t understand and even judge the friendship.

While Raymond goes on his search for Luis Velez, I was right there with him, hoping against hope that he’d been found. The voice of Raymond is so fitting of his age, the perspective realistic and honest as he ventures outside of his comfort zone in order to do something good for someone he cares about. An uplifting experience that reminded me that there is still goodness in people. Because, even though the characters created aren’t real-life people, the actions they take and the goals they have are all actions and goals so many of us can do and make in our own lives.

In searching for Luis, Raymond discovers that he has created a chain reaction within the people he’s reached out to, an outcome that changes him and the people within his world, Mildred included. It’s all told so simply, but the simplicity speaks volumes. I always feel like I’ve learned an important lesson when I read something from Hyde, and Have You Seen Luis Velez? is no exception. That, sometimes, it’s okay to stop and help someone, even when it feels like it might be an imposition to the walls we’ve put up around ourselves, or that we don’t have enough time or have the resources to do it. That sometimes, just a smile or being there can at times, feel like it’s more than enough, to not feel so alone in this world.

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Catherine Ryan Hyde:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Spotlight and Giveaway: Evening in the Yellow Wood

A few weeks ago, we featured a novel by an author named Laura Kemp. At the time, we accidentally tagged a different Laura Kemp. The two met on our Facebook page and we had a good laugh over the confusion. This time around, we're featuring the debut novel of the Laura Kemp we accidentally tagged last time. It's called Evening in the Yellow Wood and it sounds intriguing! It also sounds like there's an identity confusion involved. Laura has one signed copy to give away!

Abandoned by an eccentric father on the eve of her twelfth birthday, Justine Cook has lived with her fair share of unanswered questions. Now, ten years later, she leaves her life in southern Michigan and heads north to the mysterious town of Lantern Creek after seeing his picture in a local newspaper. Once there, she discovers her father has been living a double life and meets the autistic half-brother she never knew- a young man who is mute but able to read her mind. 

When a local girl who looks like Justine is murdered, she joins forces with sheriff's deputy Dylan Locke to capture the killer. But the more they dig for clues to the past, the closer they come to discovering a secret someone will kill to protect. Justine begins to show signs of supernatural power and faces her greatest challenge when she confronts an immortal enemy that has hunted her family for generations.

Laura Kemp is a teacher who loves to write about her home state of Michigan. Her debut novel Evening in the Yellow Wood was released in December of 2018 by Pandamoon Publishing. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University where she studied under Stuart Dybek, and has had her short fiction and poetry published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Word Riot, Tonopalah Review, SaLit and SLAB-Sound and Literary Art Book. Her short story The Pursuit of Happiness was a finalist in WMU's Trial Balloon Fiction Contest.. When not writing, Laura likes to hike, swim, read, and perform with her Celtic band, Si Bhaeg Si Mohr. She also likes spending time with her husband and four children.

Visit Laura online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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Giveaway ends July 16th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book Review: The Starter Wife

By Jami Deise

The domestic thriller space is getting more and more crowded, and it seems that authors offering stories of the “Do I really know my husband after all” type must constantly up the ante to keep readers engaged. Playing around with structure, point-of-view, and timelines are all tricks that writers use to keep readers a step or two behind them. In this genre, authors and readers are engaged in a subtle game: Authors need to provide readers with enough clues so that readers can figure out “who done it,” but too many clues make the ending predictable. But when the twists are opaque rather than subtle, readers finish the book feeling frustrated and cheated rather than surprised and satisfied.

Canadian author Nina Laurin’s latest thriller, The Starter Wife, works hard to distinguish itself from other novels with similar plots. She’s got a lot of competition, swimming in the same pool as such notables as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In Laurin’s telling, trophy wife Claire Westcott is the woman who suspects there’s something fishy about the suicide of her husband Byron’s first wife, painter Colleen May. Is Byron guilty, or is Claire losing her mind?

It’s difficult to be original with a plot that’s so familiar, so Laurin employs twists to keep readers guessing. For me, though, there were times I just ended up confused, wondering if the “I” was always Claire, or someone completely different.

The bigger problem is that Claire is unlikable, which makes it difficult to care if her life is in danger. In this genre, the unlikeable female protagonist isn’t necessarily a problem (think Amy in Gone Girl or Rachel in The Girl on the Train) if they are clever or funny or tragic, but Claire comes across as whiny and useless, preoccupied with a failed novel and making dinner.

Overall, the book didn’t work for me, but it did keep me reading until the last page. And I would recommend it to fans of the book (now a TV series) You by Caroline Kepnes; they might appreciate it a lot more than I did.

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

More by Nina Laurin:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Spending the summer with Kerry Lonsdale...plus a book giveaway

Today we welcome back Kerry Lonsdale to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Last Summer. Melissa A enjoyed this book and knows you will too. (See her review.) It's a stand-alone, so we're not spoiling anything by sharing the synopsis this time. Kerry has one copy for a lucky reader!

Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon Kindle bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale writes standalone and series based emotionally charged domestic drama, family suspense, and women’s fiction. Her books are sold worldwide in more than 28 countries and are being translated into 24 languages (and counting). Co-founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an international organization that boasts over 1,000 writers, Kerry resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, two naughty kitties, and an aging Golden Retriever convinced she’s still a puppy. (Bio courtesy of Kerry's website.)

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

Lifestyle journalist Ella Skye remembers every celebrity she interviewed, every politician she charmed between the sheets, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. The chance meeting with her husband, Damien; their rapid free fall into love; and their low-key, intimate wedding are all locked in her memory. But what she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ripped her unborn child from her. Ella can’t even recall being pregnant.

Hoping to find the memories of a lost pregnancy that’s left her husband devastated and their home empty, Ella begins delving into her past when she’s assigned an exclusive story about Nathan Donovan, a retired celebrity adventurer who seems to know more about her than she does him. To unravel the mystery of her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska. There she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her—she’s hiding them from herself. Ella quickly learns that some truths are best left forgotten.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received for your writing?
One word: unputdownable. To hear from a reader that they couldn’t put your book down, that they were so engrossed in the story that they read the book in one sitting? It’s the best feeling ever. I’ve been fortunate to receive such a compliment many times over for each one of my books, including Last Summer.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing Last Summer?
The biggest reward from writing Last Summer is the feedback I’ve received so far on the book. The early reader reviews have blown me away. I’m so pleased with how well the book has been received by readers.

The biggest challenge though was finishing the manuscript. The plot is complex and it took additional rewrites and a deep edit that emotionally took it’s toll. I was exhausted by the time the book reached my level of expectations. The blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. I’m tremendously pleased with the story’s execution.

If Last Summer were made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
Last Summer would be amazing on the big screen, and I envision a soundtrack that’s as much of a rollercoaster as the story is itself. As you know, I crowdsourced input on tracks. I have to give a big shout-out to the Tikis in the Lounge, my top reader group, for their suggestions. In the end, I put together a playlist that includes songs from Eminem and Massive Attack (perfect for Damien, for reasons that’ll be obvious when the book is read) to Steppenwolf and Van Morrison (some of Nathan’s favorites).

Fun fact: Eminem’s "Lose Yourself" is a top track played by corporate executives to psyche themselves up, and "Family and Genus" by Shakey Graves (also on the Last Summer playlist) is a top track played by downhill skiers and extreme sport enthusiasts. Nathan Donovan, one of the main characters, is a celebrity adventurer. Oh! Readers can find my Last Summer playlist here.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
The last book I read was The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth, a page-turning women’s fiction suspense. I also enjoyed Victoria Helen Stone’s False Step, the first thriller of hers that I’ve read. And the most recent romance I read was Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game. That was a fun read, and I recommend them all.

What is a favorite memory of yours from last summer?
Sunny, my Golden Retriever, only retrieves two things, driftwood and seaweed, and she’ll only retrieve when we toss those items into water. I know, she’s weird.

Last Summer we camped at Lake Almanor in northern California. Sunny could see the water from our RV site. When we took her for walks, she knew she’d get the chance to play in the water. On the way to the shore, she’d pick up a random stick and carry it the entire walk, something she never does. We’d reach the shore and she’d drop the stick at my husband’s feet. She’d then bound into the water, do an about face, and wait, tail wagging. My husband would overhand the stick and Sunny retrieve it. And like a kid who wouldn’t get out of the pool, we’d have to drag Sunny from the lake. She’d stay there all day if we let her.

She’s twelve now, and slowing down. I’ll never forget her playfulness with water.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse/handbag?
I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s an empty lip balm cannister. Why? I have no clue. Maybe I left it there as a reminder that I need a new stick. It’s not working. I think it’s been in there for months (discreetly tosses old lip balm).

Thanks to Kerry for visiting 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 July 14th at midnight EST.