Thursday, October 17, 2019

Sophie Kinsella's holiday treat...plus a book giveaway

Photo by John Swannell
We're thrilled to have Sophie Kinsella back at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Christmas Shopaholic. She's here today to get us in a holiday (shopping) mood. Thanks to The Dial Press, we have THREE copies to give away!

Sophie Kinsella has sold over 40 million copies of her books in more than 60 countries, and she has been translated into over 40 languages.

Sophie first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic, Shopaholic to the Stars and Shopaholic to the Rescue. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.

Sophie has also written nine standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Best Fiction in 2017, Surprise Me and I Owe You One.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, aged 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham.

Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She lives in the UK with her husband and family. (Bio adapted from Sophie's website.)

Visit Sophie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
'Tis the season for change and Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) is embracing it, returning from the States to live in the charming village of Letherby and working with her best friend, Suze, in the gift shop of Suze’s stately home. Life is good, especially now that Becky takes time every day for mindfulness . . . which actually means listening to a meditation tape while hunting down online bargains.

But Becky still adores the traditions of Christmas: Her parents host, carols play on repeat, her mother pretends she made the Christmas pudding, and the neighbors come ’round for sherry in their terrible holiday sweaters. Things are looking cheerier than ever, until Becky’s parents announce they’re moving to ultra-trendy Shoreditch—unable to resist the draw of craft beer and smashed avocados—and ask Becky if she’ll host this year. What could possibly go wrong?


Her sister demands a vegan turkey, her husband insists that he just wants aftershave—again, and little Minnie demands a very specific picnic hamper: Surely Becky can manage all this, as well as the surprise appearance of an old-boyfriend-turned-rock-star and his pushy new girlfriend, whose motives are far from clear. But as the countdown to Christmas begins and her big-hearted plans take an unexpected turn toward disaster, Becky starts to wonder if chaos will ensue, or if she’ll manage to bring comfort and joy to Christmas after all. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
The greatest compliment I have ever received was “effortless”. I love it when people think I just wrote a book all in one quick dash, because it feels “natural”. The truth is it takes months to plan, but if the book feels effortless then I have done my job! I am also very very happy if anyone describes my writing as funny.

Have you ever considered writing a kid's or young adult series about Becky's daughter Minnie?
That is such a fun idea! I have never thought about it, but I am always up for new plans and ideas, so who knows?

Which was your favorite Shopaholic novel to write?
I think it’s a tie between the first Shopaholic book - because that is where I met/created Becky - and this most recent book Christmas Shopaholic. I’m such a sucker for Christmas! I played carols while I wrote, I read Christmas magazines, I fully immersed in all things festive and I loved it!

What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Every year, my family watches The Muppet Christmas Carol. We sing the songs and quote the lines and I can’t imagine Christmas without it.

What is the best Christmas gift you have ever given someone? Received from someone?
Not exactly a gift, but we were thrilled to welcome my daughter into the world on 22nd December and bring her home from hospital on Christmas Eve. That was very special.

What is a favorite Christmas tradition in your family?
We play a brilliant game where you have to put on hats and gloves and scarves and eat a chocolate bar with a knife and fork. We also read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” every Christmas Eve before we put out mince pies and sherry by the fire for Father Christmas to find.

Thanks to Sophie for visiting with us and to The Dial Press for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends October 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Book Review: Absolutely Smashing It

By Becky Gulc

‘“SAM! AVA! Get downstairs, NOW. Have you done your TEETH? HAIR? SHOES? Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to be bastarding late again. No, I haven’t seen Lego Optimus Prime, and nor do I give a shit about his whereabouts. Sam, will you stop winding your sister up and take this model of the Shard that I painstakingly sat up and created for you last night so that I wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. I mean, so that you wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. No, it doesn’t smell of ‘dirty wine’. Well, maybe it does a little bit. Look, Sam, I haven’t got time to argue. Just hold your nose and get in the car, okay? AVA! TEETH! HAIR! SHOES!”

Gemma is only just holding it together – she’s a single parent, she’s turning 40 and her seven-year-old daughter has drawn a cruelly accurate picture which locates Gemma’s boobs somewhere around her knees. So when her new next-door neighbour, Becky, suggests that Gemma should start dating again, it takes a lot of self-control not to laugh in her face.

But Becky is very persuasive and before long Gemma finds herself juggling a full-time job, the increasingly insane demands of the school mums’ Facebook group and the tricky etiquette of a new dating world. Not only that, but Gemma has to manage her attraction to her daughter’s teacher, Tom, who has swapped his life in the City for teaching thirty six to seven year olds spelling, grammar, basic fractions – and why it’s not ok to call your classmate a stinky poo-bum…

It’s going to be a long year – and one in which Gemma and Becky will learn a really crucial lesson: that in the end, being a good parent is just about being good enough.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Little, Brown.)

Absolutely Smashing It is the debut novel by the blogger Kathryn Wallace and whilst I don’t even usually use the word ‘hoot’ I’d summarise this book as a hoot from start to finish!

There are two main characters in the novel, Gemma, a single mum who works full-time; she finds little time for herself. Then there’s Becky who moves in next door with her family. Becky is bored of being a stay-at-home parent and pretty much feels like a single parent given the hours her husband works. Becky is one outgoing vivacious woman and she doesn’t give Gemma much choice in the fact that they’re going to be friends. They’re soon making a pact to improve their lives for the better. This is a friendship that both of them need more than perhaps they realise!

This isn’t a novel I would ordinarily select, I’m just not drawn to novels which suggest they’re going to revolve around parenting and playground politics and I wasn’t familiar with the blog. I’m so glad I was sent this novel for review though because I actually loved it. This is an extremely funny novel, both women have a fantastic sense of humour (particularly Becky) and there are some very comical dating scenes for Gemma. And then there’s Gemma’s daughter Ava; she pretty much says everything you hope your child wouldn’t say in front of people but she’s ever so funny. She also shows she has a lovely heart when her new friend Rosie is going through a difficult time. Loved Ava!

I think the book reflects parenting so well, the daily struggles and guilt, along with the fun side! It’s very reassuring that we all go through the same things! The children were well-rounded and important characters in the novel and this was a strength for me. Tom, the new Year Two teacher, is very dreamy indeed and I was willing him and Gemma to get it together when their chemistry so was written so well! But a novel wouldn’t be the same if it was all plain sailing would it?

The book has likable characters who are striving to get the balance right in their lives and with the help of their new friendship they may just start getting this right, but not without funny moments aplenty. I loved this book and would love to see the characters return in future novels!

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Anita Hughes is decking the halls...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Anita Hughes back at CLC today. Even though we haven't bought our Halloween candy yet, she's here to get us in the mood for the winter holiday season with her latest novel, Christmas in Vermont. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy to give away!

Anita Hughes is also the author of Christmas at the Chalet, Christmas in London, Christmas in Paris, Emerald Coast, White Sand, Blue Sea, Santorini Sunsets, Island in the Sea, Rome in Love, French Coast, Lake Como, Market Street, and Monarch Beach. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel. She has her first historical fiction novel, The Light After the War, publishing in February 2020 under the name Anita Abriel.

Visit Anita online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
Emma can’t believe her luck when she finds an open pawn shop on Christmas Eve in Manhattan. She’s there to sell the beautiful bracelet her ex-boyfriend gave her when a familiar looking watch catches her eye. It’s the same engraved watch she gave her college boyfriend, Fletcher, years ago. On a whim, she trades for the watch and wonders at the timing.

Practical Emma thinks it’s just a coincidence, but her best friend Bronwyn believes it’s the magic of synchronicity that caused Emma to find the watch. Fletcher was the one that got away, and somehow Emma never quite moved on.

When Bronwyn finds out that Fletcher is in snowy Vermont at a romantic inn for the week, she can’t help but give synchronicity a push. She signs Emma up to help the inn keeper as the children’s activity coordinator. Emma agrees that a week filled with quaint shops and maple syrup would do her good… and maybe Fate really does have a Christmas gift in store for her. That is until she sees Fletcher with his daughter and fiancée.

Suddenly, the fairy tale trip seems doomed to fail… much like the innkeeper’s dwindling cash flow. It will take a miracle to save her heart and the inn. And that just might be what Fate has in mind.


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
One of my favorite compliments is that my books make you feel like you are right there on location with the characters. I often hear that readers want to book a trip to Rome or Paris because they felt transported when they were reading. Which is exactly how I feel when I am writing.

What inspired you to set this novel in Vermont?
I spent a month in Vermont when I was in college and I loved everything about it: the covered bridges and the incredible skiing and the quaint villages. I have always wanted to go back. Plus I think it is the perfect place to spend Christmas.

If Christmas in Vermont were made into a movie, who would play the leading roles?
CHRISTMAS IN VERMONT is a movie! It premieres on the Lifetime Channel on October 27th at 8 pm EST. The movie has a new title: NO TIME FOR CHRISTMAS. I haven't seen it myself so I'm excited for it to air.

What is your favorite Christmas song?
My favorite Christmas song is "G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

What is your favorite Christmas dessert?
Pumpkin pie with whipped cream!

Tell us about one of your Christmas traditions.
My children love their Christmas stockings. I always stuff them with useful items: scotch tape, socks, a hairbrush. They pretend to be disappointed but those things come in handy and they love them!

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

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

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Giveaway ends October 22nd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review: Call Me, Maybe



By Sara Steven

What happens when you meet your teenage heart-throb – when you’re both all grown up?

When Cassie was fifteen, all she wanted was to marry Jesse Franklin, the bassist from her favourite band, Franko. Now she’s single, in her late twenties and wondering what happened to that teenage dream.

A chance encounter on Facebook soon leads to a transatlantic hook up, and soon, Jesse and Cassie are having a long-distance love affair spanning five thousand miles.

Cassie is on cloud nine – until she hears something that makes her think that Jesse might not be all that he seems. They say never meet your heroes – but what happens when you fall in love with them…?

Are Cassie and Jesse star crossed lovers, destined to be together? Or should Cassie have left her crush in the box marked 'teenage memories'? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Call Me, Maybe was an interesting take on what might happen if your innermost teenage dreams came true. While reading about Cassie’s yearnings from the nineties, I tried to recall who set my own fifteen-year old heart on fire. For me, it was Heath Kirchart, skateboarder. The first time I caught sight of Heath kickflipping it in the documentary Barbarians at the Gate, was the first time I knew what it was to fall for a celebrity. So much so, I wrote his name on the cover of one of my journals. Surrounded by hearts. It was benign and something I knew deep down would never come to fruition, but I felt hooked, just the same.

That’s the same feeling for Cassie. Only, in her world, she’s given an opportunity to make a connection with her celebrity crush. Those benign walls are no longer there, allowing her the chance to get to know Jesse Franko in real life. Initially, it’s a fun ride. I felt like I was right there with Cassie during the initial conversations on Facebook, the transatlantic hook up, the long-distance relationship that feels destined to work, considering the surreal nature of everything. Only, much like in real life, people are people. Who we imagine our celebrity crushes, or really, any celebrity to be most likely will not measure up to who they are when you meet them in the real world, and Cassie discovers this about Jesse.

Through this unrealistic encounter comes a very realistic approach that could fit any scenario where you meet someone you don’t really know as well as you thought you did. The more time that Cassie spends with Jesse, the less sure she is on whether she fits. Jesse has his own secrets he has to work through, unresolved issues that are the root of everything. Through all of this, it’s obvious that expectations are set too high, and that no one is perfect. Not even the guy you used to have on a poster on your bedroom wall.

Jesse is a complicated man and difficult to get to know (he’s working on it), while Cassie appears to be an open book about most things, yet when it comes to her emotions and how she feels about Jesse, she clams up. Having two personalities come together too quickly can be jarring for anyone, even for those who are well-written characters in a novel. Throw in a messy past and an unclear future, and now we really see how they'll get by once the glossy sheen of former celebrity has been removed, those teenage dreams replaced by realistic expectations. I’m not sure what would have happened for me had I ever found a way to connect with Heath Kirchart back in those days, but if I had, I can only imagine it could have been a messy, wild, unpredictable ride, too- much like the one Cassie and Jesse take us on. This reader can only hope!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Kobo


Stephie Chapman was born in England in the mid 1980s, which makes her thirty-something (but if you ask, she'll probably tell you she's 27). Now, she lives on the South coast of the UK, has a day job to keep her holiday budget topped up, and two kids and a husband to keep an eye on.

Call Me, Maybe and Jetplanes to Jupiter were born out of a healthy appreciation of bass guitars (and the dudes who play them), and Franko was very much inspired by her favourite band as a teenager. So now you know.

Get in touch on FacebookTwitter, and at Stephie's website.


Visit all the stops on Stephie's blog tour:


Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Review: The Stranger Inside

By Jami Deise

As a resident of Pinellas County, Florida, I’m lucky enough to share the area with some of the best crime fiction writers in the country, including Lori Roy, Michael Koryta, Gale Massey, and Lisa Unger. (We also have one of the best book reviewers around, Tampa Bay Times’s Colette Bancroft, who plays a pivotal role in organizing the area’s annual Festival of Reading.) With her recently released 17th novel, The Stranger Inside, Unger does much to cement her reputation as one of the most compelling writers in the genre.

When Rain Winter was twelve years old, she escaped a killer who murdered one of her two best friends and held the other hostage. Years later, her tormentor was killed by a vigilante. Now Rain is a married mother who has put aside her career as a journalist to concentrate full time on raising her daughter, Lily. But when the vigilante strikes again, Rain is drawn to the case – putting her marriage and maybe her own life in danger.

Thematically, The Stranger Inside leans heavily on ideas around trauma – what it does to children in particular, how it can create different psyches that allow the victim to box off what happened and keep it separate. Although part of Rain remains tormented by what she did not do the day her friends were taken – she even began calling herself by a different name – the question of identity is not specific only to victims of trauma. Indeed, Rain is just as torn in two by her roles of mother and journalist, and it is this “stranger inside” that readers (crime fiction readers are mostly female) will find has the most resonance. In a society that tells women that their children must always come first, every mother learns to question any action she takes that does not directly benefit her child.

The narrative itself is split in two, between Rain’s third-person perspective and the first-person perspective of the vigilante. Unger reveals rather early on who this vigilante is, and I don’t want to spoil it by naming the person. But by taking the “who” out of the equation, Unger gets the reader to focus more on the themes than the details. I was struck by how much Rain’s “mother versus reporter” crisis was exacerbated by her husband’s refusal to take responsibility for their daughter. Every time she went to work, he interrupted her with questions about the location of a toy or needing guidance on how to comfort a crying toddler, sending the message that motherhood was her only job and no one else could be trusted to do it. Similarly, the vigilante also feels "only one" responsibility -- spurred into action by the inability of the justice system to convict the murderers.

Unger does an excellent job creating tension and building momentum while working in a plot that is strongly weighted to the past. Still, I was expecting the climax to unfold in a certain way, and was surprised and honestly a little disappointed by the direction Unger decided to take. Then again, maybe I should not have been surprised. Unger is a mother as well as a writer; perhaps the most obvious authorial choice was one a mother just couldn’t bring herself to take.

Thanks to Park Row for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Lisa Unger:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ashley Farley introduces us to new friends...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to have Ashley Farley at CLC today. Her latest novel, Life on Loan, published on Tuesday. She's here to tell us more about it and share some other fun facts about herself. Ashley has one signed copy of the book and a cute tote bag for a lucky reader!

Ashley Farley is a writeaholic, exercise junkie, photography enthusiast. The author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series, Ashley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you've read the last word, then she's done her job.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she's lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, a piece of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she's able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit Ashley online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
After thirty years, college friends Lena Browder and Olivia Westcoat have met again by chance at an unexpected crossroads: an airport lounge in Atlanta. Lena is running away from home and her demanding family. Olivia is trying to find her way after a painful divorce. With their old selves in the rearview, they toast to a new beginning—and it starts with a spontaneous dare.

Agreeing to trade houses for a month of rediscovery, Lena will stay in Olivia’s Charleston condo. Olivia’s retreat? Lena’s isolated river cottage in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Two perfect getaways. Thirty-four days to reset.

With fresh new perspectives and the renewal of a heartening friendship, Lena and Olivia find their passions, reinvent themselves, and reclaim what they’ve lost. When unexpected romance blooms and careers take new detours, it’s also a time for courage and risk. Now they’ll have to make hard choices to follow through on their promise for a second chance and finally have the lives they dream of. (Courtesy of Ashley's website.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
Although I never get tired of hearing it, readers often tell me how much they relate to my characters, their personalities and life experiences. Readers view my characters as friends. When the novel ends, they are sad to see those friends go. Knowing I’m touching the lives of my readers in such a meaningful way is the motivation I need to keep writing.

Who do you relate to more in Life on Loan, Lena or Olivia?
Lena, for sure. Having been married for thirty years, unlike Olivia, I’ve never been through a divorce or faced with finding love again. On the other hand, like Lena, I’ve often felt like my family takes me for granted. That’s not to say there isn’t a part of me in Olivia. There’s a part of me in each of my characters. While I share my love of photography with Lena, I share my love of writing with Olivia. Both women show resilience and determination as they chart new paths for themselves, and I believe many middle-aged readers will relate to their experiences.

If Life on Loan were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Sandra Bullock would play Olivia as she’s one of my all-time favorite actresses. She can rock any role. She’s attractive, and she would bring some steaminess to Olivia’s romance with Alistair. I would want someone who can bring a sense of humor to Lena’s role. Perhaps Sally Field in her younger days.

What is something you have loaned out to someone recently? What is something you have borrowed recently? 
I chuckled to myself in thinking about my answers to these questions, which happen to be one in the same. I’m fortunate to belong to a club where I can swim laps in an outdoor heated pool all year long. I kept a wetsuit vest on hand for extreme temperatures. My friend, who isn’t as brave about cold weather, borrowed my vest so many times I finally gave it to her. Now, on the rare occasion that I need to use it, I borrow it back.

What is your favorite food and beverage to have in the autumn months?
My answer is not very original. I’m among the millions who live for anything pumpkin spiced. Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice coffee is my absolute favorite. I’d drink it year around if they’d make it available. As for food, I’d have to say Buffalo Chicken Dip. It is super easy to make and oh so delicious at football tailgate parties. A big fan of pears, I love a pear and blue cheese salad with a citrus vinaigrette dressing.

What was your most memorable Halloween costume?
In college, a group of friends and I dressed up like babies. We didn’t win any prizes for most creative costumes, but we certainly had a good time. And it was easy to throw together. Although I consider myself a creative, I struggle when it comes to designing costumes.

Thanks to Ashley for visiting with us and for sharing her book (and tote bag with swag) with our readers. Thanks to SparkPoint Studio for coordinating the interview.



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 October 16th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway: The Giver of Stars

By Melissa Amster

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job--bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I've mainly read the Me Before You trilogy and One Plus One, all taking place during the present time. So this novel felt different in comparison to what I was used to from Jojo Moyes. However, she has proven she can write beautifully about different time periods.

The Giver of Stars was engaging and difficult to put down. The story was very interesting. I never knew about the traveling libraries until now. I liked that Jojo included multiple perspectives instead of only focusing on Alice. The camaraderie between the women was enjoyable to read about, as well. Some aspects reminded me of what today's society is like.

This novel is perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah and Ellen Marie Wiseman, as well as anyone who loves a good story. I definitely recommend checking it out for a cozy night in front of a fire this autumn. (If it will ever cool off in some places!)

Movie casting suggestions:
Alice: Lily James
Bennett: Armie Hammer
Margery: Alana De La Garza
Fred: David Harbour
Sven: Joel Kinnaman
Izzy: Zoé De Grand Maison
Mr. Van Cleve: William H. Macy

Thanks to Viking for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy to give away. 

Check out an excerpt from an interview Viking did with Jojo Moyes:

THE GIVER OF STARS is based on the true story of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. How did you discover this piece of history?
I was reading an edition of the Smithsonian Magazine online and came across an extraordinary series of pictures of women on horseback. They were on rough, mountainous terrain, clutching parcels of books, gazing out proudly. I read the accompanying text, about the real-life horseback librarians of Kentucky, and knew immediately that I wanted to write a book about them.

Libraries play a key role in THE GIVER OF STARS, and keen readers will notice you often include a library in your novels. Why are libraries so meaningful to you?
I was built in a library. My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up so the weekly visit to the local library was a key part of my education, and my love of reading. Libraries are one of the few resources where people can be sheltered, educated and entertained without having to pay, and it pains me that they are under such threat. Without knowledge, people have fewer opportunities to move upwards.

Literacy and censorship are huge issues in THE GIVER OF STARS, something that affects the women of the novel very differently from the men. Why did you choose to focus on these issues, and do you feel they are still relevant today?

I think they’ve never been more relevant. We live in an age where the very notions of truth and facts are under attack—without knowledge we are prey to anyone who can work up a smart speech. Without knowledge women have little control over their own bodies. There are numerous ways in this book in which the acquisition of knowledge changes lives—protecting their homes, educating their families, liberating themselves from marriages.

THE GIVER OF STARS is your first novel following the Me Before You trilogy. How did it feel to step away from characters you’ve been writing for so long?
It was tough leaving Louisa behind, but I fell so hard in love writing this book that from the moment I arrived in Kentucky I pretty much forgot her. I have never enjoyed writing a book like I enjoyed writing this one: I wrote when I was meant to be on holiday, at weekends, whenever I could spare half an hour to sit down. I didn’t want to leave it, or these women. That rarely happens. So in that respect it was the loveliest way to leave Me Before You behind.

What are the main themes of the book? What do you want people to take away from reading THE GIVER OF STARS?
I wanted to write a book about women who had agency, and did worthwhile things, rather than simply existing in a romantic or domestic plotline. These women achieved epic things, and, more importantly, supported each other while doing it. I reject the constantly pushed narrative that says women must always be in competition with each other; in my experience other women have been my greatest friends and supports and I wanted to show that. Mostly I want to entertain and transport the reader a little, to make them laugh and cry. I really hope readers enjoy reading THE GIVER OF STARS as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

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 October 15th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: If I Had Two Lives

By Sara Steven

As a child, isolated from the world in a secretive military encampment with her distant mother, she turns for affection to a sympathetic soldier and to the only other girl in the camp, forming two friendships that will shape the rest of her life.

As a young adult in New York, cut off from her native country and haunted by the scars of her youth, she is still in search of a home. She falls in love with a married woman who is the image of her childhood friend, and follows strangers because they remind her of her soldier. When tragedy arises, she must return to Vietnam to confront the memories of her youth – and recover her identity.

An inspiring meditation on love, loss, and the presence of a past that never dies, the novel explores the ancient question: do we value the people in our lives because of who they are, or because of what we need them to be?
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

If I Had Two Lives presents with a stark, raw view of the world, yet within the rawness we see moments of beauty and hope. As the child is thrown into an abyss of madness, not knowing where she is or really, who she is, the reader feels every emotion and we see her struggles in fighting against the horrific situation she’s in. In many scenes, there is uncertainty with her mother. In many others, bonding and finding her way with the soldier or the only other girl in camp. It’s this delicate balance between what’s good and what isn’t that shapes and molds what we see and the changes that are reflective within the protagonist.

There are no names given to many of the characters within this book, and they are not needed. It isn’t important. What makes each character stand out are the well-devised blueprints for each one, how they ebb and flow around the child who turns into a girl, and then a woman. Those blueprints carry out and lend into who she looks for going forward, because in essence, she’s always looking for the two friends who are so important to her, in everyone she has an encounter with. In doing so, she can hopefully mend bridges and try to repair the damage from all those years ago. And through it all, an undercurrent of matriarchal strife. The biggest catalyst for the protagonist is her need to rectify what has gone wrong in her relationship with her mother, possibly one of the biggest forces in her life.

Every chapter, every sentence is filled with honesty. I appreciated that we got to witness the growth of this little girl, could feel and believe that she’s just a child in the beginning, who later transitions into a young woman, with the voice of someone who is grown but there are parts to her that are not. Through all of it, there is no holding back of what she sees and the experiences she might have. Even when it’s tough to read, even when in some moments, it might hit a little too close to home for this reader. Yet that gave me more reason to continue on. In the moments of despair, I clung to the moments of hope, much like she had. A way out of a dark tunnel she can’t seem to find her way out of. A beautifully tragic story of perseverance and acceptance.

Thanks to PR by the Book for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, October 4, 2019

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

Melissa A:
The Empty Nest by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)
Extracurricular, Book 2 by/from Josie Brown (e-book)
An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen from St. Martin's Press  (e-book via NetGalley)
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward from Ballantine (e-book via NetGalley)
Monarch Manor by/from Maureen Leurck
Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer from Random House
Every Last Drop by/from Sarah Robinson (e-book via NetGalley)
The Puzzle of You by/from Leah Mercer (e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoerg from Tall Poppy Writers (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Let It Be Me by Laura Chapman from Lola's Blog Tours (e-book)
Christmas in Chamonix by Sasha Wagstaff from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)

Becky: 
The Second Life of Nathan Jones by/from David Atkinson


What could be in YOUR mail:

Faithful Lies by Chelly Bosworth.

Chelly has TWO signed copies for some lucky readers!

One solid friendship. Two separate journeys. Can they hold on to their dreams, without falling apart?

Mary Crossfield thinks she has the perfect marriage... until she realizes just how controlling her husband has become. When he demands they start a family to carry on his name, she finds herself torn between the man she loves and the life she truly wants. A desperate search for answers leads her on a challenging path of self-discovery where she uncovers intriguing family secrets, including what really happened to her mother, who vanished when she was an infant.

Smart, beautiful and driven, Lorelei Harper is poised for a fabulous career in New York City. After years of hard work and determination, she's ready to take the Big Apple by storm... just when her best friend Mary needs her the most. As she chooses between friendship and her dreams, Lorelei meets a handsome stranger, and suddenly moving across the country takes on a new allure-- escaping romance before it has a chance to break her heart.

Each at a crossroads, Mary and Lorelei navigate the intricacies of friendship, betrayal, heartache and loss. But can they do it together? Or will their longtime friendship crack under the strain of their trials?

Full of fun, eclectic characters, the intrigue of long-hidden lies, and the searing beauty of true love, Faithful Lies is an immersive beach read that will leave you laughing, crying, and feeling as though you've made a new circle of friends.


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 October 9th at midnight EST.

Book Review: Twine

By Sara Steven

When Juniper Kowalski, a mediocre artist and graduate of one of the best art schools in the country, gets pregnant by her married lover, she ends up back in Gobles, Michigan, living in her dead grandma’s trailer. She fears that her new life as a hotel maid, and as the best friend of a subrural call girl, has fulfilled some bleak fate. But Juniper’s pregnancy also ignites a will to create. Every hurt that she’s ever suffered begins to emerge as confrontational, public art.

Family lore has taught Juniper disdain for men. But it’s not hatred for her absent father, abusive grandpa, or even her baby daddy, causing her issues. It’s facing actual love from a big, flawed, breathtaking man. “Twine” celebrates a quietly radical view of small-town life, ambition, and motherhood. It is the story of a young woman who needs no hero, and what she does when he shows up anyway. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

There was a subtle charm to Twine, an underlying quiet within a world of noise and chaos. I felt at peace, like I wanted to take more than just a moment to appreciate and respect what I have around me, who I have around me. Juniper brought that out in me.

You can’t typecast Juniper. It would be too easy to categorize her as just a young, unwed mother. There is a spark there that goes beyond her circumstances, and in many ways, representative of so many of us who choose to stop going for our dreams and aspirations, because we’ve placed ourselves inside a labelled box. Juniper blends it all together, making it feel attainable, and real. She finds herself in less than ideal situations, but can’t sink. She won’t allow it. There is plenty of struggle and many hard times, but there is good there, too.

Much of Twine is representative of the relationships had within our families, particularly mothers and daughters. The bond that can be present there. I could see the effects of Juniper’s childhood, how at times she is the one who parents her mother, a dynamic that has made Juniper a much more mature individual, given her young age. The way she strives to find a way out of the patterns she’s seen growing up where men are concerned. It’s a major reason she is hesitant when the “big, flawed, breathtaking man” comes into her life. From her experiences, nothing good can come from a relationship. But she can’t help but find herself in one, anyway.

I appreciate how the synopsis focuses on the fact that Juniper doesn’t need someone to save her. She really doesn’t. What she needs is someone to show her that there is real love in the world, and while this may come from romantic relationships, it’s the bonds of family that are the building blocks, all along. Twine was a different type of novel, quirky and at some moments, unrefined, that aforementioned subtle charm that really hooked me. I loved the honesty and tenacious attitude of Juniper, a worthy five-star read.

Thanks to SparkPoint Studio for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Kelly Simmons is going places...plus a book giveaway

Today we're pleased to welcome Kelly Simmons to CLC. Her latest novel, Where She Went, published on Tuesday. It sounds intriguing and we're excited to check it out and share more about it with you. Kelly has THREE copies to give away!

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and creative advertising director who started writing fiction over fifteen years ago, while studying creative writing and screenwriting at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her critically acclaimed novels {STANDING STILL, THE BIRD HOUSE, ONE MORE DAY, THE FIFTH OF JULY and WHERE SHE WENT}, she has stuff on a few back burners: developing a TV series, writing a memoir, perfecting her dessert game.

She's a visiting teacher for Drexel University's Storylab and is a member of The Liars Club writing mentorship collective, The Tall Poppy Writers, Womens Fiction Writers Association, and Binders Full of Women Writers. (Bio courtesy of Kelly's website.)

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


Synopsis:
What happens when your worst fear comes true?

Her only daughter has just gone away to college, and Maggie O'Farrell knows she's turning into one of those helicopter parents she used to mock. Worrying constantly, texting more than she should, even occasionally dropping by the campus "just to say hi." But Maggie can't shake the feeling that something terrible is about to happen to Emma. And then, just as Maggie starts to relax, her daughter disappears.

The clues are disturbing. An empty dorm room where Emma was supposedly living. A mysterious boy described as Future Husband in her phone. Dorm-mates who seem more sinister than friendly. As Maggie combs over the campus looking for signs of her daughter, she learns more about Emma's life than she ever thought possible.

Kelly Simmons delivers another gripping novel in
Where She Went, an unforgettable story of letting go and the secrets that surface when the person keeping them is gone. (Courtesy of Amazon.)


What was the biggest reward and the biggest challenge with writing Where She Went?
The biggest reward was having my college age daughters as beta readers and getting their approval and feedback that i handled the world of college correctly! And the biggest challenge was trying to keep the voices of mother and daughter discrete and separate, but not in an obvious way. I didn’t want to impersonate a young person, but get inside her head and understand her.

How are you similar to or different from Maggie?

I’m similar in that i did not go to college and i was fascinated and taken in by the college experience. I used all those feelings to create Maggie’s perspective of how great college seemed to be. But she is a more of a loose cannon, tougher, and more forceful person than i am. But who knows what i would become if i were in her position, with my child missing, and no partner to help me, and no sleep and no money and ???? Who knows if i could become Maggie.

If Where She Went were made into a movie, who would play the leading roles?
I continue to see Sandra Bullock as Maggie, and Alexis Bledel (from Gilmore Girls) as Emma. But she’s too old! I need to rethink. . . .

What do you like most about October?

Fall is my favorite season (although i’m fond of spring as well) — when i lived in California that was what i missed about the Midwest —autumn. I love the changing leaves and pumpkins on porches. And soup. I love soup!

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
Booksmart! It was so funny. And no one has seen it! Go watch it. Trust me. I’ve seen it three times already with my daughters, it’s a mom and daughter movie. Although a tad racy and profane, so don’t bring a sixth grader!

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
I find everything funny. Recently my husband and I forgot when his friends were coming to visit. First he screwed up the date and tried to pick them up when they weren’t there. We called and were like “where are you?” And they were like, we’re home watching TV! Then he screwed up the time they were arriving the next day. And they were standing on the dock calling us saying, “where are you?????” Then when they left, we brought them to the wrong dock. They were hysterical, they were like, you don’t want us here! This is a sign that you don’t love us! I guess what I’m saying is I find everyday failure kind of funny!

Thanks to Kelly 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 October 7th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Book Review: Mother Knows Best

By Jami Deise

As a teenage soap fan, my favorite story lines always involved unknown children suddenly appearing, questionable paternity, baby switches, and other complications of the standard “husband plus wife equals baby” equation. In domestic thrillers, parenthood is a key factor as mysteries about a child in danger have become a standard trope in this genre. And as baby-making has moved out of the bedroom and into the laboratory over the past few decades, all kinds of storyline complications are possible. Fiction writer and bioethicist Kira Peikoff combines these elements in her latest medical thriller, Mother Knows Best. When a baby is illegally created using the DNA of three parents, what happens when the child begins to question her identity?

Ten-year-old Abby feels smothered and trapped by her mother’s panic attacks and secrecy. She has no idea that eleven years ago, Claire—desperate to avoid creating another child with her dead son’s fatal genetic illness—broke legal and ethical medical rules to create her, with the help of fertility doctor Robert Nash and Nash’s assistant and lover, Jillian. Even Claire’s husband didn’t know the truth about Abby’s conception. Now Abby has no idea that her innocent queries may have tipped off the one person who’ll do anything to get to her.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints and during different timelines, but Peikoff’s straightforward prose makes it easy to follow the twists of the plot. The story is based on very real scientific and ethical questions in fertility and genetic disease, and readers with some knowledge about mitochondrial DNA will recognize its plausibility very early on. For those who are not familiar, Peikoff’s voice is so accessible that even those who got Cs in high school biology won’t have any issue understanding the science.

Although the structure of the book makes the plotting somewhat predictable, Peikoff throws a curve ball at the end that I did not see coming (along with one that I did). The novel is a very quick read, and although the villain is a bit one-dimensional, that does not take away from the enjoyment of the story.

Mother Knows Best is Peikoff’s fourth medical/ethical thriller, and I was surprised I hadn’t heard of her before its publication. Her plotting, scientific and medical knowledge, and careful detail remind me of Robin Cook (while her characterization surpasses his). I look forward to making my way through her back list in anticipation of more books to come. With health care costs surmounting, scientific breakthroughs commonplace, and conservative lawmakers in charge of many states, Peikoff has plenty of material to work with.

Thanks to Meryl Moss Media for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Kira Peikoff:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Reviews at Amazon--September 2019

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

Melissa A:


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Review (Goodreads)
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