Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Laurie Gelman is at the head of her a special giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Laurie Gelman to CLC today. Melissa A enjoyed her debut, Class Mom (reviewed here), and is excited to read the follow-up, You've Been Volunteered (published July 16th.) Thanks to Over the River PR, one winner will receive copies of You've Been Volunteered and Class Mom, a fabulous “Ron’s Gym and Tan” T shirt, and the chance for Laurie Gelman to Skype into their book club!

Laurie Gelman (yes, her husband is that Gelman of Live with Kelly and Ryan fame) is a New York City-based writer and mother of two who spent 25 years as a broadcaster in both Canada and the US – including stints on Good Morning America, The Early Show on CBS, and The Mom Show – before trying her hand at writing novels. Her first book, Class Mom garnered rave reviews from several places including The New York Times, People magazine, and Good Housekeeping, and it was just included in Parade’s list of books Mom will love. Gelman’s writing has been compared to Lauren Weisberger’s, Maria Semple’s and Sophie Kinsella’s. Visit Laurie on Twitter and Instagram.

If you’ve ever been a room parent or school volunteer, Jen Dixon is your hero. She says what every class mom is really thinking, whether in her notoriously frank emails or standup-worthy interactions with the micromanaging PTA President and the gamut of difficult parents. Luckily, she has the charm and wit to get away with it—most of the time. Jen is sassier than ever but dealing with a whole new set of challenges, in the world of parental politics and at home.

She’s been roped into room-parenting yet again, for her son Max’s third grade class, but as her husband buries himself in work, her older daughters navigate adulthood, and Jen’s own aging parents start to need some parenting themselves, Jen gets pulled in more directions than any one mom, or superhero, can handle.

Refreshingly down-to-earth and brimming with warmth, Dixon’s next chapter will keep you turning the pages to find out what’s really going on under the veneer of polite parent interactions, and have you laughing along with her the whole way.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I have been told that I write very realistic dialogue. I really loved that compliment!

How is Jen similar to or different from you?
I am the voice in Jen's head but she is much braver than I am. She really says what she thinks while I only think it. I probably get in less trouble that way.

If you were to cast Class Mom and You've Been Volunteered as a TV series, who would play the leading roles?
Well, I, along with most humor/chick lit writers, would love to have Tina Fey play my main character. Dream on, right? For the rest of the cast, I'm open to suggestions.

What is a favorite memory of yours from elementary school?
Once a week, my third-grade teacher, Mrs. New, would invite two students to have lunch with her in the classroom so she could get to know us better. I remember when it was my day I felt so special.

What is the strangest thing currently residing in your purse or handbag?
My spinning shoes. I really need to take them out.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I have gone blue in the face telling everyone how much I loved Bohemian Rhapsody. I haven't loved anything as much since then.

Thanks to Laurie for chatting with us and to Over the River PR for sharing a fun prize package 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 August 5th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Checking in with Fiona a book giveaway

Today we welcome Fiona Davis to CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Chelsea Girls. Thanks to Dutton, we have TWO copies to give away!

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Fiona's books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City. (Bio courtesy of Fiona's website.)

Visit Fiona online:
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From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I think the recent Publishers Weekly review of The Chelsea Girls has been my favorite so far – it said that “Davis’s tale of one friendship’s strength will stun and satisfy readers.” I love that: stun and satisfy. Exactly what I hoped it would do as I was writing and researching it the past couple of years.

Which of your two lead characters is most similar to you and why?
Definitely Hazel, who’s a shy girl pushed into acting by her family, even though it doesn’t really suit her character. I came to New York as an actress, and although I enjoyed every minute, I imagined there was probably something else that would suit my introverted nature better. Turns out it was writing historical fiction, which is immensely challenging and fun. In the novel, Hazel becomes a playwright for the Broadway stage.

If The Chelsea Girls were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?
Hazel Ripley could be played by Brie Larson. Her face is fierce, intelligent, and guarded. For Hazel’s best friend, femme fetale Maxine Mead, it would be Jessica Chastain. She’s a redhead who can play sassy and sweet.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
I recently finished Fleabag, and loved the way the lead character was this flawed, funny woman who’s just trying to figure things out. I particularly adored Olivia Coleman as her sweetly vicious stepmom.

What is the oldest item of clothing you currently own?
I have a silk scarf that I bought when I first came to New York. Back then, I was a girl who tended toward jeans and a tee shirt and I remember thinking how grown up the scarf seemed. It’s a mix of gorgeous autumnal colors – browns and hazels – and I still adore it.

What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?
I was recently out to lunch with a friend, bemoaning the difficulty of picking a title for my next book, which is set in the New York Public Library. She suggested placing a buxomy girl on the cover under the title “Stacked!” which I thought was hilarious. Not gonna happen, but I’m still laughing about it.

Thanks to Fiona for chatting with us and Dutton 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 August 4th at midnight EST.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway: I Can't Tell You Why

By Sara Steven

An engrossing and emotionally true novel about the love triangle from hell – an agent, Dani, her star client and a paparazzi photographer programmed to expose.

Sometimes even the most grounded people make bad decisions – decisions that even they cannot explain. And sometimes bad decisions take on a life of their own . . .

Having an affair is inconceivable to Dani and yet she’s having one with Alex. He’s married, he’s an actor and she’s his agent. Then Dani meets Sean, a paparazzi photographer with a formidable reputation. It’s a profession that makes him unpredictable at best. A dangerous trait when his motivation to expose becomes personal.

Can Dani dig her way out of a bad situation that she thought that she was too smart to get into? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

There is a camera lens present within each primary character, an interesting perspective for I Can’t Tell You Why. A scene between individuals showcases what each person is really thinking, and while this vantage point might sound a bit confusing, it wasn’t, and it added depth to not only the primary characters, but to the scene.

The depth, we discover, isn’t always pretty. Given what the reader finds out about Dani’s past, it’s hard to fathom she’d have an affair with Alex. Yet, we learn through her experiences that we’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to the right and wrongs in this world. I appreciated the vulnerability and honesty reflected in Dani’s decisions, up for judgement and not considered ideal. I could really feel the agony in wanting to break free, yet not being able to. It also helped that given all outside appearances, she has it together. She’s successful, she appears to be a born leader, but in her dealings with Alex, she is anything but. A huge contrast that only added to the secrets and lies.

Her relationship with Sean is also an interesting conundrum, and I never knew for sure if this was someone she genuinely wanted to pursue, or if he was a much-needed distraction from the chaos. It really could have gone either way, a flip-flop of emotions that delved into realistic territory for many of us who have conflicted feelings about someone we are in a relationship with, but aren’t entirely sure what that means. She finds herself in, as described in the synopsis, a “love triangle from hell”, but I felt it was more than that. At some point, she has to make a solid decision that could potentially change the course of her future. But what’s the right decision?

Told with a simplistic perspective that doesn’t oversimplify, I Can’t Tell You Why made sense, in showing the inner workings of someone who is struggling with poor choices that, at the time and in the moment, feel right. While there were sections that felt a little slow at times, there were plenty of scenes that were engaging and picked up quickly, leaving me feeling just as breathless as Dani did, while she’s trying to get through her sticky situation.

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Elaine Robertson North spent 25 years working in marketing and communications in the media and entertainment industries. This included seven years marketing national newspapers and a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio and film. I Can’t Tell You Why is her first novel.

Elaine lives in North London with her husband and their two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found looking harassed on the school run, cheering on the side lines of her sons’ football matches or singing her heart out at her local branch of Popchoir.

Visit Elaine online:
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Enter to win one of five paperback copies of I Can’t Tell You Why (Open Internationally)
*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 winners’ 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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Giveaway ends August 2nd.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Book Review: Lady in the Lake

By Jami Deise

When Baltimore-based author Laura Lippman published her first book, Baltimore Blues, starring romantically challenged PI Tess Monaghan, some critics referred to her series as “chick lit with a gun.” While some may have been insulted – it was the latter part of the 1990's, and Bridget Jones and her friends were all the rage – Lippman embraced the title, and Tess went on to star in 11 more books, the latest published in 2015. Later, Lippman branched out into stand-alone crime novels, becoming one of the most celebrated authors in the genre. Her 2003 release, Every Secret Thing, was made into a movie in 2014 starring Diane Lane. With the freedom earned by her success, Lippman’s last several stand-alone novels have explored themes and structures originally introduced by other authors: Wilde Lake was an homage to To Kill a Mockingbird; Sunburn to Double Indemnity, and her current release, Lady in the Lake, to Marjorie Morningstar. While all Lippman’s works are compelling—I still get chills thinking about I’d Know You Anywhere -- Lady in the Lake could be her most impactful yet.

Confession: I’ve been a Lippman fan since her first release, devouring books by her and her fellow female-PI-series authors Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Mueller while commuting on the D.C. metro back in my working mother/PR director days. With Lippman’s Baltimore background and the fact that she and I both attended high school in Columbia, Maryland, I was especially appreciative of her work. She’s one of the favorite authors I share with my mother, who graduated from Forest Park High School in Baltimore in 1959, just like a major character in Lippman’s book After I’m Gone. More recently, I’ve been lucky enough to take classes with her through St. Petersburg’s Writers in Paradise conference; as a teacher, she’s just as confident as she is a writer. Other instructors I’ve had are reluctant to give their opinions and advice on a student’s plot choices; Lippman does not hold back.

I read Marjorie Morningstar a few years ago at the separate suggestion of both my mother and Lippman; each had cited the book as a favorite. Set in 1930's New York City, the novel follows Marjorie Morgenstern as she embarks on a career as an actress while pursuing an ultimately doomed relationship with a fellow aspiring thespian, Noel. Eventually Marjorie, while hard-working and attractive, is neither talented enough to succeed as an actress, nor desperate enough to marry Noel (whom, in my reading, appears bi-polar). She settles down to become an upper middle-class Jewish housewife. The book ends on an epilogue from the point of view of Wally, a younger man who had idolized Marjorie and who eventually did become successful in the theatre world. Seeing her as an “old woman” of 39, he’s grateful that he didn’t end up with Marjorie after all. Published in 1955, the book spent half a year on the New York Times bestseller list, creating controversy over its portrayal of Jewish New York City. For me, reading it in 2017, it mostly reinforced how women in the years before legal birth control were valued almost solely for their virginity. As conservatives work toward making abortion and birth control illegal again, I wonder if we will return to these days where a woman is only seen as worthwhile if she’s pure. While Lady in the Lake takes place in the early 1960's, as the Republican party works toward moving the clock backwards, the themes that Lippman explores are, unfortunately, timeless.

Lippman’s Morningstar-inspired character, Maddie Schwartz, begins the novel as a Mrs. Dalloway, fretting about dinner party guests for her home in Pikesville, where the upper middle-class Jewish folks of Baltimore live. But what if Marjorie, egged on by Wally’s dismissive treatment of her, decides to reclaim her life after spending her entire adulthood as a married mother? This question seems to be Lippman’s way into her story. Although her husband seems to adore her, with her son nearly college-age, Maddie is ready to reclaim life on her own terms. She leaves her husband, moves into a seedy apartment, takes an inappropriate lover, and talks her way into a job at the Star newspaper, re-claiming a dream she’s had since high school. When the body of an African-American woman is found in a lake in a Baltimore park, Maddie investigates the story – no one else seems to care about the victim, nor her ties to a local black businessman/political candidate.

Lippman, a former newspaper reporter who continued to work for the Baltimore Sun even as Tess Monaghan gained popularity, uses her own skills and journalistic tenacity to make Maddie a natural newshound. (However, my one quibble with the book is that the true identity of a young girl’s killer is rather obvious—Maddie should have figured it out and been prepared. But there’s a fabulous twist at the end that I did not see coming that makes up for it.) Still, like Marjorie Morningstar, this book is about so much more than the mystery of who killed Cleo Sherwood. A 1960's Baltimore where no one cares about the death of a young black woman is not so different from a 2019 Baltimore where no one cares about the deaths of young black men. A 1960's Baltimore where a female reporter isn’t taken seriously isn’t so different from the 2019 media industry, where a woman can be sued for creating a “shitty men in media list” to warn other women about the men in the profession who can’t keep their hands to themselves. A 1960's Baltimore where women are judged for whom they sleep with isn’t so different from a 2019 America where states are conspiring to take away women’s reproductive choices. And Maddie’s divorce story resonated particularly with me, a 51-year-old aspiring author whose husband of 28 years abruptly divorced her less than a year ago in order to date other women.

The book ends with an epilogue that reveals that Maddie goes on to a long, trail-blazing, award-winning career in journalism. However, it seems that true love has passed her by. Her ex-husband seemingly remarried a much younger woman less than a year after Maddie left him; her inappropriate lover went on to marry and have a family of his own. But Maddie, Lippman implies, had to choose between a career and finding love again; she chose a career. For whatever reason, she could not have both.

Although Maddie did get to experience marriage and motherhood, she reminded me so much of women I worked for in the 1990's. A generation older, they had sacrificed their personal lives in order to have careers, and they seemed to resent women like me who bought into the myth that we could have it all. We could not, of course. The years I worked full time while trying to raise a toddler –the mid-to-late 1990's; the Clinton years -- turned out to be the peak years for full-time working moms in this country. With daycare becoming more and more expensive and difficult to find, mothers began throwing in the towel, becoming helicopter moms and PTA presidents, using everything we learned about project management, fundraising, and communication to give our children a boost while our husbands’ careers took off. (I note that this is true specifically for upper middle-class mothers. Other women had no choice but to work, sometimes putting their children in substandard day care to make ends meet.)

There’s never been a time where women have been able to “have it all.” Will there ever be? Or a time when people aren’t judged as less worthy because their skin is dark? A quote most often attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. states that the arc of moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Books like Lady in the Lake reinforce my fear that the arc is actually a pendulum. Crime fiction holds up a mirror to society and reveals its biggest, darkest flaws. What’s bad for the country is very, very good for authors like Lippman. Rome may be burning, politicians may be fiddling, but our best writers are recording every minute of it.

Thanks to Faber & Faber for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Laura Lippman:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Elyssa Friedland is cruising a book giveaway

We're glad to have Elyssa Friedland back at CLC today. Her latest novel, The Floating Feldmans, published on Tuesday. Melissa A gave it five stars and said it was humorous and heartwarming. Check out her review. Elyssa has a copy of either Love and Miss Communication or The Intermission (winner's choice) for any reader who purchases The Floating Feldmans. (See giveaway details below the interview.)

Elyssa Friedland attended Yale University, where she served as managing editor of the Yale Daily News. She is a graduate of Columbia Law School and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm. Recently, she has written for The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, POPSUGAR, and Bustle. Prior to law school, Elyssa wrote for several publications, including Modern Bride, New York magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, CBS, Yale Alumni Magazine, and Your Prom. Elyssa grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in New York City with her husband and three young children. THE INTERMISSION was praised by The Wall Street Journal, SheReads, PureWow, POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles and featured in USA Today. Her debut novel, LOVE AND MISS COMMUNICATION, was praised by Cosmopolitan, Glamour and InStyle magazines as well as numerous other publications. (Bio courtesy of Elyssa's website.)

Visit Elyssa online:
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Sink or swim. Or at least that's what Annette Feldman tells herself when she books a cruise for her entire family. It's been over a decade since the Feldman clan has spent more than twenty-four hours under the same roof, but Annette is determined to celebrate her seventieth birthday the right way. Just this once, they are going to behave like an actual family.

Too bad her kids didn't get the memo.

Between the troublesome family secrets, old sibling rivalries, and her two teenage grandkids, Annette's birthday vacation is looking more and more like the perfect storm. Adrift together on the open seas, the Feldmans will each face the truths they've been ignoring—and learn that the people they once thought most likely to sink them are actually the ones who help them stay afloat.
(Courtesy of Goodreads.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
That I'm hilarious. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I can make people laugh. Especially because our world can be so sad and tragic that the ability to escape into a book and have a good laugh is great medicine.

Which character do you identify with most in The Floating Feldmans?
Elise. Definitely Elise. I'm in the sandwich generation. I have to manage my parents and my children and it can be exhausting!

If The Floating Feldmans were made into a binge-worthy TV series, who would play the leading roles?
Annette: Annette Bening
Elise: Leslie Mann
David: Robert DeNiro
Mitch: Paul Rudd
Freddy: Milo Ventimiglia
Rachel: Ariel Winter
Darius: Michael Cera

What was your most memorable vacation with your family?
Israel. We went for my parents' 70th birthdays and nobody killed each other. So I would say it was a huge success.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Well, it was to my husband. Let's just say he accidentally texted something personal and meant for me to the guy who services our pool. And now we are avoiding that guy at all costs.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf. It's a great, multiple POV story about modern suburbia.

Thanks to Elyssa for chatting with us and for sharing one of her previous novels with our readers.

In order to be eligible for your choice of either Love and Miss Communication or The Intermission, please purchase The Floating Feldmans in any format and send the receipt to by July 30th at midnight EST. One winner will be chosen at random from all entries. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Book Review: When Polly Met Olly

By Sara Steven

Polly and Olly were never supposed to meet…

Polly might spend her days searching for eligible matches for her elite list of clients at her New York dating agency, but her own love life is starting to go up in smoke.

Even worse, she can’t stop thinking about the very person she’s meant to be setting her latest client up with… surely it can’t get any worse!

But then Polly bumps into oh-so-handsome Olly, who heads up a rival agency, and realizes that perhaps all really is fair in love and dating war...
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

This was my first venture into a novel that details the inner workings of the matchmaking business, and I found it to be an interesting and unique experience. The way that Polly enlists her clients and finds a match for them, it was eye-opening and even a little shocking at times. That feeling is evident in Polly, as well. She has her own dreams and aspirations, none of which had ever included becoming the middle man for potential couples.

I really liked the dynamics between Polly and Olly. Just the name rhyme itself presents as quirky and cute. He’s a much older man who views life as formulaic, while Polly has always had a “take it as it comes” approach. This could be why she feels she’s been sitting on the sidelines of her own world for so long, and what draws her to Olly. He is steadfast and successful, making his own aspirations come true. Yet, there are a lot of hidden agendas and conflicts of interest that throw a wrench into everything, making her question his motives and what he really wants.

While Polly is trying to help others find love and stumbles and falls into her own love life in the process, I felt her story encompasses more than that. Like so many of us, she’s trying to find her way. Find the career that she can feel passionate about, work on growing more of a backbone when it comes to what she needs and at times, deserves. It’s not an easy road to walk on, and we get to see that growth and development in Polly, which lends into her ability to find the right person who ultimately compliments her, and makes her a better person.

Two relationships worth mentioning in Polly; Polly’s friendship with Gabe, and her working relationship with Derek, her boss at ‘To the Moon and Back’. Gabe is Polly’s roommate, and best friend. He’s her compass, a reflective mirror into her own insecurities. She sees a lot of her own shortcomings in the way he chooses to live his life, and he calls her on it, and in turn they both become a support for the other in living to the fullest. Derek becomes a much-needed confidante, an unexpected one for Polly. He really has her best interest at heart, even when it’s inconvenient for her. It was nice to see and be part of their banter and back-and-forth dialogue, the polar opposite of Olly and the relationship she has with him. While the primary focus is Polly and Olly, and what will eventually happen for them, it’s in the friendships that we learn more about how Polly ticks, making her a likable character, one we want to root for.

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

Purchase links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Zoe May lives in Oxford and writes romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She spent her twenties living in London, where she worked in journalism and copywriting before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe could not resist writing a novel about dating, since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple's top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as 'a laugh out loud look at love and self-discovery - fresh and very funny'.

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading.

Visit Zoe online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit the other stops on Zoe's blog tour:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Seeing a version of Andrea 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 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