Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Review: Perfect Match



By Sara Steven

Sophia Jones is an expert in all things online dating: the best sites, how to write a decent bio, which questions to ask and the right type of photos to use. The only thing she’s not so great at? Picking the guys…

After sitting through yet another dreadful date with a man who isn’t quite what she expected, Sophia is just about ready to give up on the whole dating scene. But her flatmate, Kate, persuades her to give it one more chance, only this time she must create a profile describing her ‘perfect’ man.

Yes, he must look like Robert Pattinson and needs to own a multi-million pound business, but there are a couple of other deal breakers, too! So, when a guy comes along who ticks every box, surely there’s got to be a catch? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I think it’s funny how the synopsis states that Sophia is an expert in online dating, given she seems to have zero luck in finding anyone worth her time. There’s even a scene where her best friend attempts to assist her in creating a better dating profile that will really reel them in, and even that turns comical. I don’t really have any personal knowledge of what it’s like to online date, but many of the responses Sophia receives really cracked me up! And I have to assume similar responses happen out in the “real world”, adding a fun and realistic element to what she experiences.

But when the Robert Pattinson look-alike responds to Sophia’s profile, I felt much like she did: is this too good to be true? A classic tale of two individuals from completely opposite sides of the tracks ala Pretty Woman, it was hard not to be enthralled by the lovely dynamic between Sophia and Daniel- the Pattinson look-alike. Suddenly, she’s whipped into a frenzy of fancy restaurants and the opera, nights spent in his quite unattainable penthouse in the sky. During moments like this, the reader begins to see the cracks in this relationship, and the distance between two opposing lifestyles can really be felt.

So much of what we see in media often comes with a tagline that signifies, “love can conquer all.” No matter what. I didn’t get that tagline from Perfect Match. What I saw was an honest look at two people who are making a go of things in spite of their differences, and we’re not sure of the outcome or in which direction we want it to go along the way. I really liked that. It kept me wondering. Along with that are decisions Sophia has to make in order to find happiness, in spite of what others think. In many ways there was a lot of growth, considering some of her preconceived notions on what’s acceptable, and who’s acceptable. It’s not so much about a perfectly written profile to attract “the perfect man”, but about finding someone who is perfect for her. Along the way we’re greeted by some standout characters, like her boss Ted and Sandra, and her close friendship with Lyn, an unconventional friendship with an older woman who lives close by. More groundwork that sets the stage for who we discover Sophia to really be, and what (and who) she needs.

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Zoe May lives in southeast London and writes romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. 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! She adores animals and if she's not taking a photo of a vegan meal, she's probably tweeting about the dairy industry. She is half Greek and half Irish and can make a mean baklava. Zoe has a thing for horror films, India, swimming, hip hop and Radiohead. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of handbags having spent several years working in fashion copy-writing and could probably win Mastermind if this was her specialist subject!

Zoe loves to hear from readers. Visit her online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


More by Zoe May:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Samantha M. Bailey's edgy debut...plus a book giveaway

We're so excited to have Samantha M. Bailey here today! Her debut thriller, Woman on the Edge, recently published in print in Canada and as an e-book in the US (and will be available in print this spring). Melissa A. loved Woman on the Edge and will be reviewing it soon. All you need to know for now is that it will keep you up late at night because it's impossible to put down! She's also fortunate to have met Samantha a couple of times at Book Expos and had the chance to bask in her warmth and kindness. Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada, we have one signed copy for a lucky reader!

Samantha M. Bailey is a Toronto-based novelist, journalist, and freelance editor. Her work has appeared in Now Magazine, The Village Post, and Oxford University Press, among other publications. She was a writer-in-residence for Kobo Writing Life at Book Expo America 2013 and is the co-founder of BookBuzz, a promotional and interactive author-reader event held in New York City and Toronto.

Her bestselling debut psychological thriller, WOMAN ON THE EDGE, is published in North America with Simon and Schuster Canada, and the UK with Headline. It will also be translated in seven countries world-wide, including with Garzanti in Italy, Roca Editorial in Spain, Heyne in Germany, General Press in Hungary, Euromedia in the Czech Republic, Ikar in Slovakia, and Znak in Poland.

Samantha loves reading as much as she loves writing so if she’s not tapping away at her computer, she’s probably curled up on her couch with a book. (Bio courtesy of Samantha's website.)

Visit Samantha online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.”

She places her child in your arms. She says your name.

Then she jumps...

In a split second, Morgan Kincaid’s life changes forever. She’s on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms. Before Morgan can stop her, the distraught mother jumps in front of an oncoming train.

Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life. She also can’t understand how this woman knew her name.

The police take Morgan in for questioning. She soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.

Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
This is such a good question. Anyone who tells me WOMAN ON THE EDGE made them feel something—scared, sad, intrigued, excited, compelled—is such a wonderful compliment because that’s what I hope for with every novel I write. To move readers in some way. Also, anyone who tells me they want to read my next book, because this is a long-held dream and a long-term career for me. To have readers stay with me through this journey is all I’ve ever wanted.

What were the biggest reward and challenge with writing WOMAN ON THE EDGE?
The biggest reward is everything I learned in the course of writing WOMAN ON THE EDGE, the people I met along the way, and also, the incredible reception it’s received in the UK, Canada, and the US. I’m incredibly lucky to have such dedicated, phenomenal publishing teams at Simon & Schuster Canada and Headline. And I’m so grateful for the very long path I took to get here, because it’s made the realization of my dream that much sweeter.

The biggest challenge was in writing it. This is my first thriller, after starting out writing rom coms then moving to darker women’s fiction. My agent and I spent years revising the book, draft after draft. Never once did I think about giving up because I’m too stubborn, but I must have done an entire tear-down and re-build of the manuscript at least twenty times. I was very scared it wouldn’t happen for me, but then it did, and in ways I could never have imagined.

If Woman on the Edge were made into a binge-worthy TV series, who would you cast in the lead roles?
A binge-worthy TV series would be a dream! I don’t visualize any one actor or actress, or anyone I know at all, as I write, though I do completely visualize the characters. If I had to, or got to choose, I think I’d love to see Charlize Theron, Rose Byrne, Stana Katic, Nicole Kidman, or Cate Blanchett as Nicole, and perhaps Mila Kunis, Jennifer Connolly, Naomi Watts, or Amy Adams as Morgan.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
Now that we’ve just started a new decade, this question really resonates with me. In ten years, I’ll be fifty-six years old and an empty nester. That is shocking, and also a bit sad, to contemplate. Career-wise, I hope to have many more books out, to have had the chance to meet readers and authors in person at conferences and events and go to the places I have yet to travel to: Los Angeles, Hawaii, Western Canada, all the countries in Europe in which WOMAN ON THE EDGE will be translated and published. What I hope for most is health and happiness for my loved ones and me.

What did you do to ring in 2020?
I’m very close to my family, so I spent New Year’s Eve with my brother and his family. Every year, we eat, drink, dance, watch our kids hang out together, then we have a big sleepover. It’s low-key and exactly the kind of celebration I love. As the clock struck midnight, I took a moment to appreciate everything that’s happened to me this past year, this past decade, and to savor it because I know how blessed I am.

What is something funny that happened to you recently?
Many funny things happen to me because I’m a bit klutzy and awkward. Something recent that makes me laugh every time I think about it is my Canadian publication day. My amazing, rock star publicist, Jillian Levick, and I spent the entire day together. We started off in the green room for my spot on a morning television show, which was surreal. Then we went to a few Indigo bookstores—one of our beloved bookstore chains here that selected WOMAN ON THE EDGE as their Staff Pick of the Month for December at stores all across Canada—so I could sign stock. It was so exciting. I wanted to leave a message for my readers, along with my signature, so I started writing, “Happy Reading!” At the same time, Jillian and I were giddily chatting away. I looked down at one of the books I was signing and realized I’d written, “Happy Birthday!” We laughed until we cried. Then she bought that copy. And gifted me with a pair of reading socks, which was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Thanks to Samantha for chatting with us and to Simon & Schuster Canada 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 January 21st at midnight EST.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Review: Payback

By Sara Steven

In 1997 teenager Sophie White and her three girlfriends decide they want to lose their innocence before summer is over. Roping in her childhood buddy Gareth and his mates, Sophie holds a party to get 'the deed' over and done with, but the night doesn’t end as planned.

Twenty years later, the group are brought back together when Gareth is killed in a car accident and Sophie begins receiving threatening messages. It seems the party wasn’t as innocent as everyone thought and now someone wants payback.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Payback was incredibly suspenseful! It took roughly three quarters in before I began to have a firm grip on who I thought might be the culprit, and even then I was never entirely sure. A classic whodunit with a unique twist, it was hard for me to take breaks and stop reading, so inclined in finding out what would happen next for Sophie and her childhood friends.

The premise behind Sophie’s story was definitely unique. It’s not every day we read about a teenage “deed” pact, which was unnerving and a bit disturbing, given the age I am now and my status as mother to two boys, one of which is a teenager. Those emotions propelled me forward, and I loved the two degrees between the past, and the present. I felt like I was right there with Sophie in 1997, and with her now when she’s trying to piece together the fallout from over twenty years ago.

The different dynamics and the years that change the course of a friendship had been accurately portrayed here. Sophie took me back to a time when friendships had as a young adult meant everything in life, with the slow progression of change and potential demise for bonds that at one time had been thick and never ending. I felt that struggle for everyone involved, adding to the chaos in determining who can be trusted, and who can’t. The messages and nefarious packages, not knowing where it’s safe anymore- this all compounded into an epic build up, an eventual truth.

In many ways, Payback was a reflection on the way our world works. In an age of social media and instant cameras on every cell phone, nothing done and posted is “safe”, forever there for the world to see, even after the delete button. With the two different time frames, it was understood that even our actions from the past aren’t safe, and ultimately, it can come back to haunt us. Those powerful elements really added a touch of realism to everything, particularly for Sophie, who has so much to lose. This gives us a moment of reflection on our own childhood fumbles, and when Sophie says, “This was something I’d done when I was a wayward kid over twenty years ago”, we believe her because we’ve all been there and can understand the frustration in that. Given the coming-of-age elements gone wrong, not to mention the moments full of suspense, this was a well-deserving five-star read!

Thanks to Boldwood for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit all the stops on the blog tour.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Diane Chamberlain's latest work of art...plus a book giveaway

Photo by John Pagliuca
Introduction by Melissa Amster

In a short amount of time, Diane Chamberlain has become a favorite author of mine, and this is just after reading a few of her books. Her latest, Big Lies in a Small Town, which publishes today, is going to blow you away. It's such a powerful story about redemption. Check out my review.


I follow Diane's personal account on Facebook and have enjoyed seeing all the throwback photos she has been sharing. She's also really kind and gracious to her readers and I am honored to have her back at CLC today. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy of Big Lies in a Small Town, along with a paperback of The Dream Daughter (one of my 2018 favorites) to give away.

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small "books" as a child, she didn't seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor's appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master's degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole. (Bio adapted from Amazon.)

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


Synopsis:
North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What was the inspiration behind Big Lies in a Small Town?
I grew up in a town where large murals graced the post office walls. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I learned the origin of those huge paintings: they were part of the government program to put people, including artists, back to work after the Great Depression. I’ve never forgotten those murals and when it came time to think of a new story, I decided to put myself into the shoes of one of those government sponsored (fictional) painters. Only later did I decide to experience the mural from the perspective of an art restorer as well.

Which character did you feel more connected with: Morgan or Anna?
That’s a tough question! I have to say my connection to both Morgan and Anna was just about equal. Most of my readers seem to connect equally to them as well. They each have such an engaging and sympathetic story that my head and heart was with both of them throughout the book.

If Big Lies were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
It would be a very eclectic soundtrack, alternating between music from the forties and the 2010s, if you can imagine such a thing. “Tea for Two” and “When You Wish Upon a Star” interspersed with Post Malone and Ariana Grande? Hmm.

What is your favorite piece of artwork?
Oh, I have so many! I particularly love Klimt’s 'The Kiss’. That painting is vaguely the inspiration for the work of art that draws Morgan in and makes her want to be an artist.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
Generally I like somewhat heavy programs with very human characters (I loved Homeland and The Americans, for example), but right now, I’m deep in the world of Doc Martin. I love its quick moving storylines and kooky characters. I also can’t wait for Outlander to return!

What is something new you would like to try this year?
I’ve wanted to try a zip line for years. I love flying and anything that propels me through the air. We’ll see if it ever actually happens!

Thanks to Diane for visiting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her books with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends January 20th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway: The Other Mrs.

Introduction by Melissa Amster

As you may already know, I really enjoy Book Coffee Happy. It's one of the blogs I frequent regularly. When I found out that Jenny Share is a Mary Kubica fan (like myself), I asked her if she'd like to do a joint review at one of our blogs. She readily accepted my offer, and now here we are! I hope you will check out Jenny's blog soon, as it's so much fun. She not only talks about books, but she also gets personal with her readers. She has inspired me to do the same, so watch for a new column series right here! In the meantime, see what we both thought of Mary's latest novel, The Other Mrs. and enter to win a copy, thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications.

Synopsis:
She tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Melissa Amster:

I have two words that sum up The Other Mrs.: Deliciously creepy.

I couldn't put this novel down because I just had to know what would happen. I was trying to guess at various aspects of the story and ended up being completely floored by what actually happened. I didn't see that coming at all. I was so nervous for both Sadie and Mouse throughout the story. This is Mary Kubica's most intense novel to date and is on par with Don't You Cry for my favorite of everything she has written. It was very clever and well thought out. I already can't wait for her next novel!

I am curious as to how it will be made into a movie, as Netflix already has the rights to it. (I'm wondering the same about Sometimes I Lie being made into a TV series.) Here are some casting suggestions, in case they need them:

Sadie: Michelle Monaghan
Will: Daniel Gillies
Imogen: Ella Bleu Travolta
Fake Mom: Jodi Lyn O'Keefe


Jenny Share:

My name is Jenny and I'm the blogger behind Book Coffee Happy. I'm so excited to be guest posting on Chick Lit Central today!

Before I ever began writing my own blog, I loved reading Chick Lit Central and dreamed of the day when I would write my own book blog. About 16 months ago I took the plunge and Book Coffee Happy was born! Writing my blog has proven to be such a wonderful experience and I'm so thankful every day that I decided to follow my heart. Book Coffee Happy is a place where I review books, lead book discussions, and host book giveaways. Bits of my personal life get sprinkled in there as well :) I'm a former elementary school teacher and am currently a Stay at Home Mom, Wife, PTO President, and lover of all things books and coffee :)

I was ecstatic when Melissa reached out to see if I would be interested in joining her in a special side by side review of Mary Kubica's newest psychological thriller, The Other Mrs. I LOVE Mary Kubica and felt extremely fortunate to get my hands on an advance readers copy of her newest book before it's official release date (2/18/20).

It goes without saying that Mary Kubica is an absolute MASTERMIND at her craft. The writing in this book was amazing. The character development, the intricate storylines, the details...everything.

Admittedly this isn't my favorite book Mary Kubica has written due to the sheer amount of storylines and characters. So. Many. Storylines.

However...as all noteworthy psychological thrillers do...each character and each storyline all came together so brilliantly at the end.

This would be a perfect book to read in a short amount of time. I read it over the course of a few weeks and because of the vast amount of characters and storylines, it made remembering everything a bit difficult.

As each story was unfolding, I couldn't help but try to figure out how each would eventually get tied up (and I NEVER DO THAT). I probably thought of at least five different theories of how all of this was going to end and I'm happy to report that I was 100 percent wrong on every single theory :) The way everything tied together at the end completely blew me away! How does Mary Kubica even THINK of endings like that?!? Brilliant.

My heart was pounding throughout the last 100 or so pages and I couldn't put it down. That ending...wow.

Would I recommend this book? Yes! Would I recommend possibly creating a chart with characters and storylines to help you keep everything straight while you are reading? Yes! Would I recommend setting aside a large chunk of time to read those last heart pounding 100 pages all in one sitting? YES!

Thank you so much for having me today, Melissa. Collaborating with you on this has been such fun :)

I would so love to get to know each of you and would love to have you follow my blog, Book Coffee Happy! You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram (I'm obsessed with Instastories), and Twitter.

Happy New Year to all of you! May your 2020 be filled with lots of love, lots of smiles, and lots of books :)

Xo,

Jenny

Thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications for the book in exchange for an honest review and for sharing a copy 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 January 19th at midnight EST.

Friday, January 10, 2020

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid from Putnam
A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky from St. Martin's Press
The Other Family by Loretta Nyhan from Kathleen Carter Communications
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord from Wednesday Books
The Orphan Collector by/from Ellen Marie Wiseman
We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman from HarperCollins (e-book via NetGalley)
Perfectly Famous by Emily Liebert from Kathleen Carter Communications (plus swag)
The Bright Side of Going Dark by Kelly Harms from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
My One Month Marriage by Shari Low from Boldwood (e-book via NetGalley)
The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan from Tall Poppy Writers (e-book via NetGalley)


Sara:
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis from William Morrow
Erotic Fiction? by Hannah Lynn from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Dreaming of Verona by T.A. Williams from Rachel's Random Resources  (e-book via NetGalley)

Becky:
Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop by Jenny Colgan from William Morrow
Where Have All the Boys Gone? by Jenny Colgan from William Morrow

Book Review: The Cake Fairies




By Sara Steven

1960's Somerset is no fun for cousins Polly and Annabelle Williams. Mourning their non-existent love lives, and the mundanity of village life, their only pleasure is baking - until a chance encounter has them magically transported to the bright lights of London... in 2019!

Promised a chance of love, first they must teach the people of the future about the simpler pleasures of life by becoming Cake Fairies. Over the course of a year they set off on a delectable tour of the UK, dropping off cakes in the most unexpected of places and replacing the lure of technology with much sweeter temptations.

But will their philanthropical endeavours lead them to everlasting love? Or will they discover you can't have your cake and eat it? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Cake Fairies had a few different genres- a Pay It Forward theme, mixed in with foodie delectables, wrapped up in a Quantum Leap bow. Even with such vastly different genres, when those three elements were stirred up together, it made for a fun and unique read!

In the beginning, there was no way of knowing just how Polly and Annabelle would project into the year 2019. And once they get there, I felt right at home with the experience. Sometimes as a reader, a moment that displaces characters from one era to the next might feel jarring, but it was well-written and cleverly done, considering where they find themselves once they make that leap and all that unravels from there. In teaching others about simpler pleasures, I felt a yearning for those days, too. A time before cell phones and electronics that are a constant time suck. It was a nice reminder in taking a break and getting back to those basic roots of existence.

Polly and Annabelle were contrasting characters, at times reminding me of The Odd Couple. Polly is the more conservative one, while Annabelle has the charisma. Yet, leaping forward fifty years can do a number on a person, as witnessed by character evolution for both ladies. We get to see each one do something unexpected and against the grain, which was a nice experience. While a primary goal is to work towards finding love, I felt as though that took a backseat to doing nice things for other people, and hopefully finding that it manifests into others doing the same thing.

I would have liked to see a bit more reflection on the differences of 1960’s Somerset, vs. London, 2019. While there was mention here and there about how Polly and Annabelle don’t look the part, I didn’t get as much of a sense of how they felt about the experience. It seemed they fit in pretty quickly, but I think it would have been interesting to hear more about their reactions to various electronics and contraptions that they’re not used to and don’t know anything about. Aside from that though, I enjoyed the quest for love, and the desire in doing something good and decent, particularly in a time when a lot of people have forgotten what that looks like, and what it means to look out for our fellow man. It was truly a sweet read!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, churros, ice cream and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s rules.

The Cake Fairies is her fifth novel.

Visit Isabella online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit the other stops on Isabella's tour:


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Colleen Oakley is a dream come true...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Sarah Dorio
We're pleased to have Colleen Oakley back at CLC today. She was first here five years ago to promote her debut, Before I Go. Her latest novel, You Were There Too, published this week and it's already receiving some great buzz. Check out Melissa A's review for even more accolades. In honor of her latest novel being about dreams, she's here to talk about the topic. She's encouraging readers to share strange dreams with her, as well. She even has a copy of You Were There Too for one lucky reader!

Colleen Oakley is the critically acclaimed author of Before I Go and Close Enough to Touch. Colleen’s novels have been long-listed for the Southern Book Prize twice and short-listed for the French Reader’s Prize. Her books have been translated into 18 languages, optioned for film and have received numerous accolades including:

*Indie Next List Pick Jan 2015 and March 2017

*People magazine Best New Book

*Library Journal Big Fiction Debut

*Publisher’s Lunch Buzz Books

*Pop Sugar’s Books We Can’t Wait to Read

*Real Simple’s Best Books List

*Bookbub’s 12 New Books to Read If You Love Jodi Picoult

A former magazine editor for Marie Claire and Women’s Health & Fitness, Colleen’s articles and essays have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Parade, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire and Martha Stewart Weddings. A proud graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of journalism, Colleen currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids and the world’s biggest lapdog, Bailey. (Bio adapted from Colleen's website.)

Visit Colleen online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
Mia Graydon's life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too—unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of it, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he's been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


Only in My Dreams

I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer. I still remember dreams (and nightmares!) that I had when I was a young as 3 or 4. And I find them absolutely fascinating. Why do we dream? Why are they often so strange? Do they mean anything or are they simply a byproduct of neuronal activity (your brain processing information and creating new circuit connections) during the night, as some scientists theorize?

That’s why, when I was writing an article for WebMD a few years ago about sleep and I came across some research on dreams, it stopped me in my tracks. This study posited that there was enough anecdotal evidence to say that mutual dreaming—two people sharing a dream about each other on the same night—is a real phenomenon. I was flummoxed! I’d heard of it before—and of course I’d seen the movie Inception, but for the scientific community to support it, even though they had no idea why or how it happened—was incredible to me.

And as a novelist, it got my wheels turning. I, like a lot of people have nights when I dream of a specific person—usually someone I haven’t thought of in years. An ex-boyfriend, a crush, or even just a random acquaintance from high school. And I always wonder when I wake up from one of those—why did that person come into my mind just then? Does it mean something? And did that person dream about me, too? And I knew there was a really interesting story idea hiding here. While mutual dreaming usually happens to people who know each other really well—best friends, siblings, couples—I wondered, what would it mean if two strangers were dreaming about each other. And then ran into each other in real life?

What would that mean? Why would they be dreaming about each other? And to complicate things (because that’s what novelists do best), what if the woman was married to someone else when she ran into the man she’d been dreaming about? (Insert dramatic DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN! here.)

While I loved the story idea, I had one tiny problem—I had no idea what it could possibly mean! How would this end? So I dove headfirst into research where I learned all kinds of crazy things about dreams. Like, did you know Abraham Lincoln predicted his own death, by dreaming about it two weeks before he died? Or did you know that amazing ideas like Google and the double helix and the Beatles song yesterday were all first conceived in dreams? And don’t get me started on the Tumblr or Reddit threads were there are literally hundreds of stories of people who have dreamt of others and then met them in real life—whether at the bank or in a classroom or on the beach and swear it happened exactly the way that they dreamt it.

After a few weeks of reading books, interviewing experts and learning way more than I ever imagined I would about time theory and quantum physics, I finally knew exactly why my two characters were dreaming about each other and what it meant, and Mia, Harrison and Oliver began to come to life.

While the dreaming part of the novel was fun to explore, at its core, You Were There Too is a story about marriage after the bright and shiny has worn off it, and my attempt to answer the age-old question: Is true love a choice or fate? Because while dreams are fascinating—real life and real love are often way more complicated.

Feel free to come visit me on Facebook or Instagram and share your thoughts—and any weird dream stories of your own. Happy reading—and sweet dreams!

Thanks to Colleen 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 January 14th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Book Review: She's Got Game

By Sara Steven

Travel blogger Gwen Williams is about to live the dream—competing in the annual American Board Game Championship. She’s up against some stiff competition, namely legendary gamer and four-time champ Cody McKay. The seriously buff hottie and shameless flirt is going all-out to seduce her. That’s when Gwen lays her cards on the table: She never, ever mixes gaming with romance . . . until resisting Cody becomes a losing proposition.

As Gwen gives in to temptation, everything’s in play for a major heartache. With the rounds heating up and players eliminated, she knows she’s gambling a lot more than a seat at the final table in Vegas. But Cody’s kisses promise more than a fleeting romance. If she plays her cards right, Gwen just might walk off with the championship and the man of her dreams. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Heffernan, and my first venture into the Gamer Girls series, and while I’m not a self-professed gamer I do dabble with the occasional multi-player game board. Following Gwen’s steps while she works her way up to the American Board Game Championship reminded me of those nights in with my husband and his friends, the hours spent meticulously planning and strategizing, in order to come out on top!

Gwen’s personality is a contradiction. On the one hand, she’s fiercely independent and doesn’t want anyone or anything to stand in the way of that. Yet, there is a vulnerable side to her that craves affection and doesn’t want to be alone. Those conflicting emotions flare up when she runs into Cody. He’s a gamer, and she’s set strict rules on dating fellow gamers, yet she can’t help but feel drawn to him. I appreciated the back and forth where he’s concerned, how in one moment she can feel herself caving in on her rules, then reminds herself of the rules and backs out on making any sort of leap with Cody. I got the impression that Gwen is child-like in many ways, most likely a side-effect of the childhood she’s had and what she’s seen growing up. I think it’s hard for her to handle her emotions, getting the best of her at the worst of times.

I liked the two of them together, a couple of competitors who aren’t sure if they are willing to risk their dreams in order to take a chance on potential love. So often it felt as though Cody could do no right in Gwen’s eyes, but it was an obvious defense mechanism in order to protect herself from potentially making huge mistakes that might change the status quo of the life she’s used to, and the freedom and independence she desperately wants to cling to, another mode of protection. They are wonderfully flawed characters who jigsaw a beautiful picture when they come together, but it takes two to make it work, and it’s hard to know at times what that means for the both of them, either coupled or separately.

It was nice to see a gaming story from the female’s perspective, a viewpoint well represented by Gwen, and it was nice to hear that she wasn’t the only one showing up at the gaming table. Gwen introduces us to fellow gamers, male AND female, giving us the play-by-play with insight into a world that I don’t think a whole lot of people know about or understand. What I do know, is that there are other books in the Gamer Girl series, and I plan on playing my own cards right and checking them out!

Thanks to Laura Heffernan for the book in exchange for an honest review. She's Got Game can be purchased here.

More by Laura Heffernan:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Karma Brown's recipe for success...plus a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Karma Brown back at CLC today. Her latest novel, Recipe for a Perfect Wife, published last week. Melissa A. really enjoyed it and recently posted a review. Thanks to Kathleen Carter Communications, we have TWO copies to give away!

Karma Brown has always loved the written word. As a kid she could usually be found with her face buried in a book, or writing stories about ice-skating elephants. Now that she’s (mostly) grown up, she’s the bestselling author of four novels, and her debut novel, COME AWAY WITH ME, was a Globe & Mail Best 100 Books of 2015.

A National Magazine Award winning journalist, Karma has been published in a variety of publications, including SELF, Redbook, Today’s Parent, Best Health, Canadian Living and Chatelaine.

Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred. When not crafting copy or mulling plot lines, she is typically working out, making a mess in the kitchen and checking items off her bucket list with her family. Karma is currently working on a non-fiction project out early 2021, called TIME CHANGE (HarperCollins Canada). (Bio adapted from Karma's website.)

Visit Karma online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Synopsis:
When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home's basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner--1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life--including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie's secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister--even dangerous--side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What was the inspiration behind Recipe for a Perfect Wife?
I adore vintage cookbooks—the more food splattered and well-loved the better—and had this idea of an old house, a similarly-aged cookbook, a dark secret and two women—one modern, one from the past—and how the house, cookbook and secrets would link their lives. Having a young daughter, gender roles are often on my mind, and I wanted to explore the expectations we continue to place on women, wives and mothers even in these more progressive times. In some ways, this book is a love letter to the strong women in my life who came before me, while also a glimpse into my own feelings on marriage and the roles of women and men.

Which of your lead characters was the most challenging to write?
Without question, it was Alice, the book’s modern day “housewife.” I knew she would also be the one to challenge readers the most: she makes questionable choices; she seems to “have it all” yet can’t quite find happiness; she can’t always see the good that is right in front of her; she often makes her life more difficult than it needs to be. It would be easy to write her off as selfish, or even perhaps ‘unlikeable’ (which is a term I avoid applying to female protagonists, because I believe it’s unrealistic for characters—including women—to be flawless), but she’s complex and still young and simply trying to find her way. And her character arc had to showcase those realities.

If Recipe for a Perfect Wife were to become a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
Well, Nellie was an Elvis fan and likely played his debut record, Elvis Presley, on repeat, so without question he would make an appearance on the soundtrack. She was also influenced by her mother’s musical tastes, so artists such as Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire, Glen Miller, and Peggy Lee would have induced nostalgia. As for Alice’s playlist, I expect it would feature some fiercely talented ladies, including BeyoncĂ©, Lizzo, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga—and the Spice Girls might show up on her running playlist. I imagine the soundtrack would be fairly eclectic!

Since part of your novel takes place in the 1950's, tell us some of your favorite things from that era (movies, TV shows, music, etc.).
I have been a Mad Men fan since the first episode, and as mentioned above, I have a slight obsession with vintage cookbooks. Particularly those from the 1940s-1960s – despite many of the recipes seeming to be inedible to our more modern day tastebuds (hello, jelly salads!). I’m an early 70s baby, so I also grew up listening to a lot of the music that dominated that era—to this day I can still sing every word of Paul Anka’s “Diana” or “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers.

What is the strangest New Year's resolution you have ever made?
I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions, but do like to make a list of experiences for the year. And one of the things I’ve decided to try in 2020 is ‘floatation therapy’ after a friend declared it “amazing.” Basically, you float in salt-water in a pod or tank for an hour, and apparently the 850 pounds of Epsom salts (!!) they put in the water keeps you afloat while you relax. Now, I’m claustrophobic, don’t love hot tubs, and struggle to stay still for an hour…but what could go wrong?!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I have read a lot of great books this year, but the one that I still can’t stop thinking about is THE NEED by Helen Phillips. It’s a speculative thriller, with feminist themes and an insight on motherhood that was achingly bang-on. I described it as, “…tense and taut and evocative and heartbreaking and destabilizing and distressing and enlightening…” and I’m fairly sure it’s going to remain top of mind for me for a long, long time.

Thanks to Karma for chatting with us and to Kathleen Carter Communications for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends January 12th at midnight EST.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Review: How Quickly She Disappears

By Jami Deise

Since my two favorite genres are domestic thrillers and historical fiction, I was eager to read How Quickly She Disappears, the debut by Raymond Fleischmann that combines the two.

Taking place in pre-World War II Alaska, the protagonist is Elisabeth, a thirty-year-old teacher’s wife who never got over the disappearance of her twin sister, Jacqueline, who vanished when the girls were eleven. Now with a pre-teen daughter of her own, Elisabeth is isolated by her German background, self-absorbed husband, and small-town politics. When Alfred, who also has a German background, comes to town, Elisabeth feels duty-bound to host him. But after Alfred kills a local, Elisabeth is blamed. And Alfred complicates things even further by insisting that he knows exactly what happened to Jacqueline – and that she is still alive. If Elisabeth will do certain things for him, Alfred will tell her where Jacqueline is. But can this killer really be trusted?
The book alternates between the two timelines – the period just before Jacqueline disappears, and the present day of the novel.

While it’s written in close third person from Elisabeth’s point-of-view, there’s still space for the reader to be shocked and appalled at the manipulation by the villains in the book. As an eleven-year-old, Elisabeth has an up-close look at how an older neighbor turns Jacqueline against her family. And as an adult, Elisabeth’s obsession about her sister leaves her powerless to fight against the same kind of manipulation when it happens to her. With such few characters, the book feels claustrophobic, which helps the reader understand why Elisabeth was so susceptible to the manipulation. With no one to confide in, she has no escape.

How Quickly She Disappears is a strong debut, but I was expecting a stronger pre-war feel than the book conveyed. Similarly, the mystery of what happened to Jacqueline isn’t that complicated – it’s obvious pretty quickly what happened. Still, Alfred’s creepy machinations combined with Elisabeth’s puppet-like moves are compelling even without the historic or domestic thriller tropes. With a Silence of the Lambs type feel, the book will also appeal to readers who appreciate the depiction of the bond between identical twins.

Fleishmann’s confident writing previews an exciting career in the thriller genre. Perhaps his next book will be a sequel.

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

Friday, January 3, 2020

Book Review: Haben

By Sara Steven

Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn't see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents' harrowing experiences during Eritrea's thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.

Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.

HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman's determination to find the keys to connection.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Haben does not feel she has limits in life. The only limits that exist are the ones we place upon ourselves. I felt instantly drawn to this woman and her limitless quest for exploration, in seeking out adventure. I don’t think there’s enough of that type of spirit. In feeling as though there have been boundaries placed upon her in order to keep her safe, Haben found many ways to prove to her family and others that being Deafblind is not a reason for setting limitations. It’s all the more reason, as she puts it, to seek out “an opportunity for innovation”.

Her story takes us through her life experiences, starting out as a young child and carrying on through the years. It was interesting to learn the background story, in essence what has shaped Haben into the person she is today. There was one particular experience that really resonated with me. While attending college, she eats at the campus cafeteria nearly every day. And every day, she has no idea what is being served. While her senses are heightened, it’s hard to suss out what foods are on the menu. Not to mention the intensely loud noises that drown out any possibility of her asking the employees for help. In contacting the person in charge and trying to work out the details, I felt like I learned so much more about Haben. Even when faced with challenges, she doesn’t back down or give up, even when told that there really isn’t anything that can be done about her dilemma. Not to mention that in trying to obtain information that is readily available for other students, she opens doors for others who are in her shoes and fights to advocate for everyone.

I also felt like I was receiving an education in how to treat others better, and with more kindness. A term she uses is “ableist”, which is someone who has a social bias or discrimination against people with physical, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities. A good example of this is when a fellow student, upon hearing a conversation Haben has with a friend of hers, decides to come to Haben’s aid and reprimands Haben’s friend for joking around and saying something that was completely taken out of context. A heightened sensitivity that instead called Haben out for being Deafblind, versus genuinely wanting to defend her. It was an important moment to share with her readers, because it allows for the reader to see such an experience from the other side of the coin.

Haben’s story really is eye-opening. So much of what I know about blindness or hearing loss is all second-hand information, what I’ve seen on television or on the big screen. It was interesting to get Haben’s take on what life is like as a Deafblind person, how those opportunities for innovation have helped to shape this extraordinary young woman. A motivating story for anyone who wants to push outside of their comfort zones, and live life to the fullest.

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

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Beginning the year with Rochelle B. Weinstein...plus a book giveaway

Today Rochelle B. Weinstein is here to help us kick off 2020, which is also our milestone anniversary year. We're thrilled to have her here and excited to add her book to our TBR, especially after what Jenny at Book Coffee Happy had to say about it! (It's on her top 12 list, but she will be reviewing soon.) Thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Rochelle B. Weinstein is the USA Today bestselling author of emotionally driven women’s fiction, including Somebody’s Daughter, Where We Fall, The Mourning After, and What We Leave Behind. Rochelle spent her early years in sunny South Florida, always with a book in hand, raised by the likes of Sidney Sheldon and Judy Blume. Upon graduating from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, Rochelle moved to Los Angeles, where she handled advertising and promotions for major film studios and record labels at LA Weekly. After returning to Miami, she continued her passion for entertainment as a music-industry executive at the Box Music Network. When she’s not writing, Rochelle loves to hike, read, and find the world’s best nachos. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

Visit Rochelle online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
When Charlotte and Philip meet, the pair form a deep and instant connection. Soon they’re settled in the Florida Keys with plans to marry. But just as they should be getting closer, Charlotte feels Philip slipping away.

Second-guessing their love is something Charlotte never imagined, but with Philip’s excessive absences, she finds herself yearning for more. When she meets Ben, she ignores the pull, but the supportive single dad is there for her in ways she never knew she desired. Soon Charlotte finds herself torn between the love she thought she wanted and the one she knows she needs.

As a hurricane passes through Islamorada, stunning revelations challenge Charlotte’s loyalties and upend her life. Forced to reexamine the choices she’s made, and has yet to make, Charlotte embarks on an emotional journey of friendship, love, and sacrifice—knowing that forgiveness is a gift, and the best-laid plans can change in a heartbeat.


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I aim for authenticity and relatability in my work so when a reader writes to tell me how the novel spoke to them and how they felt a wide range of emotions (and tears), I feel tremendous gratification.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing This is Not How It Ends?
This Is Not How It Ends was originally rejected before I went through some pretty extensive revisions. The reward: seeing readers fall in love with the story.

If This is Not How It Ends were made into a movie, who would play the lead characters?
A bookstagrammer (@marisagbooks) nailed it! Blake Lively (Charlotte), Adrian Grenier (Ben), and Jude Law (Philip).

Do you make New Year's resolutions? If so, what is one you kept last year?
Honestly, I have rarely made specific resolutions, but I do try to be a better person, writer, mother, friend, etc. with each passing year. That said, this year I have the same goals plus one new one courtesy of Collen Hoover (Regretting You). "Sometimes you have to walk away from a fight in order to win it." I hope to be better at this in 2020.

If you could go back in time ten years, what would you tell the version of yourself from that time?
Writer: Keep going. Keep writing. You've got this. Never give up.

Mother: Breathe. Take it all in. This is a fast ride.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
11/22/63 on Hulu

Thanks to Rochelle for visiting with us and to Get Red PR 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 January 7th at midnight EST.