Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Bunco - A Comedy About The Drama of Friendship

Bunco: A Comedy About The Drama of Friendship is a new book by Robin Delnoce. It is recommended for fans of Bridesmaids, Desperate Housewives, and Bad Moms. Thanks to Book Publicity Services, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

We all have “those” friends.  Maybe you’ve known them since childhood, or met in college, or while waiting for a child’s practice to end. Maybe you found yourself living on the same street. There’s no single path to friendship. Relationships don’t follow a script and neither do the lives of smart, funny, complicated suburban women.

Jill, Anne, Mary, and Rachel met years ago through a neighborhood group that regularly got together to play a dice game called bunco. Although players have come and gone, they continue to use bunco as an excuse to abandon their day-to-day responsibilities and enjoy food, drinks, and the company of their best friends. 

When new neighbors move in under the cover of night, the foursome sees an opportunity to expand their bunco circle. But within hours, suspicions run rampant as the odd behaviors of the newest residents are interpreted differently. Are they quirky, or kinky? Diabolical, or misunderstood? Time after time, as the truth sheds light on some secrets, more emerge. Each woman finds herself shocked by the friends she thought she knew.

Through the friendly banter, intimate confessions, and tongue-twisting insults, you may see yourself or your friends in these characters. Wipe away tears of laughter and loss as you join the four metaphorical rounds of bunco, and feel part of the conversation. Whether engaging in playful exploits, providing unconditional support, making uncomfortable sacrifices, or winding up in handcuffs again, these ladies are those rarest of friends who become true family. Of course, families don’t follow a script either, unless it is a plot-twisting, slightly off-color comedy about the drama of friendship. And bunco, sort of.

Robin Delnoce has the kind of sense of humor that would crush any political aspirations. Her off-color humor amuses most but offends a few, and she has been known to issue a post-party apology or two. After twenty years of being caught in her verbal crosshairs, her husband kindly suggested she shift her energies to a more constructive outlet.

Visit Robin online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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Giveaway ends September 28th at midnight EST.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Book Review: Island Affair

By Cindy Roesel

Pack your bags, we're heading down to Key West for an ISLAND AFFAIR (Kensington) to remember.

Sara Vance arrives for her special family holiday, only to find out her so-called boyfriend isn't coming. Sara is stuck on the tarmac as a single for a family couples only weekend! She's had enough problems getting her family to think she's finally got her life together and now she's dumped. What is she going to do?

How about asking a hunky firefighter who is standing there listening to her plight and ready to help out. Luis Navarro has everything you want in a man, including a big heart.

Sara asks and he agrees to be her fake boyfriend for the week. We know where this is going. Luis makes a big impression on the family and helps everyone feel more familia. Everyone wants to know, where did she find this guy? As the week goes along and they succeed near misses with their story, the one thing they agreed to do isn't working. They find themselves falling head over heels for one another.

Sara is a sweet character. She's struggling with an eating disorder and doesn't believe she fits into her family of over achievers. Luis is the perfect ying to her yang, effortlessly just being himself while helping her feel better about herself.

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

More by Priscilla Oliveras:

Friday, September 18, 2020

What's in the mail

Melissa:

Lana's War by Anita Abriel from Atria (e-book via NetGalley)
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner from Berkley  (e-book via NetGalley)
Not My Boy by Kelly Simmons from Sourcebooks (e-book via NetGalley)
The Roommate by Rosie Danan from Berkley  (e-book via NetGalley)
Mom Walks: Starting in Fifth
by/from Rebecca Prenevost (e-book via NetGalley)
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Do No Harm by Christina McDonald from Gallery
Millicent Glenn's Last Wish by Tori Whitaker from Kathleen Carter Communications
Anywhere For You by Abbie Greaves from William Morrow (e-book via NetGalley)
A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley
The Echo Wife
by Sarah Gailey from Tor Books (e-book via NetGalley)
Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Girl Gone Mad by Avery Bishop from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood by Little, Brown (e-book via NetGalley)
The Holiday Detour by Jane Kolven from Bold Stroke Books (e-book via NetGalley)


Jami:
She Lies Close by Sharon Doering from Titan Books (e-book via NetGalley)
We Hear Voices by Evie Green from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
A Mother Like You by Ruby Speechley from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters from Random House
The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin from Random House

Sara:

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)
Secondhand Love by/from Annie Hoff (e-book)
Love is a Battlefield by/from Whitney Dineen (e-book)

Book Review: Stuck On You


By Sara Steven

Sadie doesn't have time for finding love. She's too busy as PA for famous artist Damian Banks. When she's not arranging exhibitions, she's organising his dry cleaning or dumping his never ending stream of girlfriends.

But when she strikes up an unusual friendship with her desk share buddy, she finds a confidante and a new potential love interest. Problem is, they've never actually met...

With Christmas just around the corner, can Sadie put herself first for a change and find what she's been looking for all along? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I couldn’t help but picture Lucy, Sandra Bullock’s character in Two Weeks Notice, when I see the interaction between Sadie and Damian, a man reminiscent of Hugh Grant. Sadie is Damian’s go-to for nearly everything in his life, which often gets in the way of allowing Sadie a normal existence. Where it differs though, is through the unique situations and circumstances that Sadie finds herself in with being Damian’s PA. It’s not often an assistant has to break up with her boss’s girlfriends! That right there shows the originality and outward funny that Portia MacIntosh brings to her characters and her stories. 

Another awkwardly funny scenario: When Sadie brings Damian home for the holidays. That scene alone, in where he’s practically inviting himself along when he knows that Sadie has requested the time off to spend with her family, speaks volumes on the type of character that Damian is. But at the same time, it’s hard not to find him likable. Over the course of Stuck On You, we discover how the preconceived notions had for how each character presents themselves and who they truly are will change. Damian isn’t who he really is at all, and Sadie might not feel as trapped in their codependent working relationship as she thought she’d been. 

The premise behind the relationship Sadie has with her desk share buddy is an interesting one. At times I feel it limits her from fully pursuing someone else or even determining the best employment for her, because she doesn’t want to let that potential relationship go. I thought it was sweet how it all plays out, and while I had a clue as to how it would go, it was still nice to see that come to fruition.

The biggest thing to learn from Stuck On You is that you never really know what to expect. Appearances aren’t everything, not really. I love how we get to discover that, too, right along with the primary characters who made this book so much fun! 

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US 

Portia MacIntosh is a bestselling romantic comedy author of 12 novels, including It's Not You, It's Them and Honeymoon For One. Previously a music journalist, Portia writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real life experiences.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: A Palm Beach Scandal

Today we are featuring A Palm Beach Scandal by Susannah Marren. Although it is the second book in a series, it can be read as a standalone. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy to give away!

From Susannah Marren, author of A Palm Beach Wife, comes her next book set in the exclusive, glamorous world of Palm Beach. Marren follows two sisters as one offers the ultimate selfless act to the other, proving the very meaning of family, in this novel of artifice and intrigue.

Veronica and Simon Cutler and their dazzling adult daughters, Elodie and Aubrey, strike an enviable pose, the ultimate Palm Beach family. In a town where social aspirations, wealth and charm prevail, they are transcendent. While the sisters are polar opposites, they are fiercely loyal to each other. When Elodie receives the shocking news that she is no longer able to conceive a baby, she turns to Aubrey.

Aubrey, a free spirit, isn’t interested in marriage or children, yet when her sister asks her to carry her child, she can’t say no, despite her mother’s warnings. And then one stupefying secret, meant to be buried forever, is unearthed and no one in the Cutler clan is able to turn back. As the family is shaken to their core, Aubrey and Elodie must realize their places in the world and the lives they want to lead.

In the midst of the unforgiving opulence of Palm Beach, A Palm Beach Scandal is a story for our times, a captivating tale of discovery, sisterhood, and love for others where you least expect it.  

Photo by James Maher
Susannah Marren is the author of Between the Tides and A Palm Beach  Wife and the pseudonym for Susan Shapiro Barash, who has written over a dozen nonfiction books, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends, and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping. For over twenty years she has taught gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and has guest taught creative nonfiction at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City.  

Visit Susannah online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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

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Giveaway ends September 22nd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about...Music

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about music! 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Melissa Amster:


I have always had music in my life and it has been "instrumental" for me. I vaguely remember singing "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer while my uncle played it on the piano when I was really young. I liked the "toot toot, beep beep" part. Since I have so much to say about music, I've decided to do something similar to what I did in the TV post...I'm going to share my music influences during various parts of my life. 

The first pop influence in my life was Michael Jackson. I listened to the Thriller album (or cassette) every day and made my Charmkins dance to his songs. I got to see him in concert around that time, which was so exciting! A few years later, I became obsessed with Madonna and listened to her various albums all the time. I even made an art project about her in fifth grade and dressed like her for costume day at camp. I also liked Wham and Whitney Houston and saw both in concert. (As you may have noticed, I have some sort of concert curse.)

Moving on to middle school, I started out listening to Tiffany and Debbie Gibson all the time. When we'd go on our family vacation to Florida, I'd sit on the porch to watch the sunset while playing my Tiffany cassette over and over. When eighth grade came around, I was sucked into the fandom of New Kids on the Block. Talk about being obsessed! I even got a hat like they wore. My best friend, sister, and I went to see them in concert on my best friend's birthday. I cried when I saw Joey through my binoculars. (Who knew that I'd meet him about 15 years later when he starred in Wicked?!?)

Left to right: Me, Joey, my sister

In high school, my tastes changed quite a bit. I started listening to musicals more often. When I was a freshman, my school performed Working, and I liked it so much that I listened to the original cast recording all the time after that. When Wayne's World became a movie in 1992 and played "Bohemian Rhapsody," I was fixated on learning every single word to that song. And then came Nirvana. I don't even know how many times I listened to Nevermind, but it kept me sane on all the bus rides to and from school. I was into Disney music at the time, as well. I couldn't get enough of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Newsies. I even made a Disney music mix for when we had a Disney theme for Homecoming during junior year and I played it all the time. That was also the year my school did How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and I listened to that soundtrack, as well. I also listened to Miss Saigon, Les Miz, Guys and Dolls, and Into the Woods a lot. Toward the end of senior year, it was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat coming out of my speakers all the time.

During my various years of college, I was big into Toad the Wet Sprocket, Green Day, Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Counting Crows, Jill Sobule, Barenaked Ladies, No Doubt, Gin Blossoms, etc. I also listened to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Shock Treatment soundtracks a lot. Later, I was all about the soundtracks for Clueless, Empire Records, and Pulp Fiction. That all changed when I got the original Broadway cast recording of Rent at the end of 1996 and memorized it all by the time I saw it on stage a year later. I also started getting into country music toward the time I graduated college and then bought myself Shania Twain and Dixie Chicks CDs. (I even saw the latter in concert in 2000.)

As an adult, I still listen to Broadway music all the time, especially with my older son. We take car trips just to get out of the house and listen to our favorite cast recordings, such as In the Heights, Wicked, Heathers, Legally Blonde, The Last Five Years, Dear Evan Hansen, Jagged Little Pill, etc. Of course, I went through a Hamilton phase in 2016, but then got satiated from it. I sometimes listen to the radio, but all the songs sound the same after a while. I currently like "Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa though. I tend to listen to eighties and nineties music whenever possible, but my kids aren't fans, so it's hard to do so when they are around. My workout music is always the nineties station on Pandora. Another music influence has been Frank Sinatra, whom my late paternal grandpa liked. I'd also play Ella Fitzgerald's music a lot. My favorite modern version is Jamie Cullum. I love his voice and songs. 

I could go on and on about music, but I hope this gives you a taste of my interests. 

Sara Steven:

It’s been awhile since I’ve been tasked with a music-themed topic. I think Melissa and I were still involved in our monthly blog group project when I blogged about the various songs that would get me through the day. My last top ten post related to music is from 2012! 

Looking at that list compared to the songs I have on my playlist now, I don’t see any similarities. I’m not sure if nearly a decade has changed my taste in music, or maybe my experiences are different, requiring a change in palette. Either way, music is still a huge component in my world and I rarely go a day without listening to something. While many choose to use an app for their musical playlists, I’m still plugging the phone in and switching up the songs I can listen to; moving files over, removing files... I know it’s easier to use an app, but for some reason, I feel like I need to work at creating the perfect catalog, depending on the type of music I need on any given week. 

I’ve decided to share a list of my top ten must-have songs, just like in the old days. However, I won’t be scouring the depths of an MP3 player like I would have back then. I wouldn’t even know where to find it. The forward progression from 2012 to 2020 has led to an advance in technology for even the likes of someone like me, someone who swore she’d NEVER own a Smartphone. (I’m looking at my Samsung Galaxy S10e, even as I type this) Either way, maybe you’ll find a new song you’d like to add to your own list—whether that’s from Pandora or Spotify or if you’re like me, with an old school MP3 playlist on your phone. In no particular order:

I think this comment says it best; when you pull up this music video on YouTube, you’ll see that a commenter left a reply that says: “If you’re listening to this song in 2020...you’re a legend!” 

When I listen to this song, it does just what it says it will do. I feel motivated! Self motivated, to be precise. This is a good one to have on your playlist while out for a run or when you’ve got a ton of stuff to accomplish in the day. I first heard it while watching HBO’s Insecure and I really liked it.

It’s trippy and chill and full of delicate angst. 

My fifteen-year old introduced me to this song. He discovered it while playing a video game, Tales from the Borderlands. It wasn’t one of his favorites, but I really like it. It’s not a song I’d think to find on a video game, but it goes to show you, you never know where you’ll find good music.

I first heard this song while watching Breaking Bad. I liked the beat and the downward progression during the chorus. 

This really helped me out while I was dealing with some health stuff earlier this year. I’m not ordinarily into country-infused sounds, but this reminded me of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” in sound and melody. It’s another one found on Tales from the Borderlands.

Yelle: "Que Veux-tu" (Madeon Remix)
This song has been on playlists of mine in the past, then I forgot about it. But old home movies reminded me of the times my youngest son would dance his little toddler feet off while listening to it! My husband and I had ideas of dressing up as the characters from this music video, but it never happened. But the song lives on!

It’s Shakira. ‘Nuff said.

This reminds me of the 90’s and the 2000’s and all of it in between. 

This song makes me think of missed opportunities and broken promises, or two ships passing each other by, even though the two ships never wanted to pass one another by. It’s beautiful and mournful and yearnful. This is another one I found on Insecure.

Your turn! Tell us your music influences and/or favorite songs!

Pamela Redmond keeps us young...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Mark Hanauer
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I have been a fan of Younger ever since it first graced my TV screen. It's funny, sexy, creative, and wildly entertaining. It's no secret that I'm #TeamCharles. So I'm really excited to have Pamela Redmond here today, as she wrote the novel that the TV series is based upon and now has a sequel called Older. I am sure it will keep me entertained while waiting for season seven to finally show up! Pamela is here today to share her thoughts on writing and the TV series. Thanks to Gallery, we have TWO copies for some lucky readers!

Pamela is the New York Times bestselling author of both humor books and novels, including Younger, now a television show created by Sex & The City’s Darren Star, and its sequel Older. Her other books include the historical novel The Possibility of You and the bestsellers How Not To Act Old and 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By The Time She’s 30. Pamela is also a name expert and the co-creator with Linda Rosenkrantz of a groundbreaking series on baby names and the world’s largest baby name website Nameberry. She lives in Los Angeles with one son and near the other, though she frequently visits New York where her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live. You can learn more about Pamela in this profile in The New York Times or this story in The Star-Ledger. (Bio adapted from Pamela's website.)

Visit Pamela online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
New York or Los Angeles? Romance or commitment? Younger…or older?

Liza Miller never dreamed that anyone would be interested in her life, let alone buy a book about it. But everything changes when, on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, she publishes a thinly veiled novel about a woman posing as a millennial called Younger—which her old friend Kelsey wants to turn into a TV show.

Liza is off to Los Angeles to help Kelsey write the pilot. But that means leaving behind her on-again off-again boyfriend Josh, her pregnant daughter, and her best friend Maggie. Can Liza find happiness in her new adventure if it means leaving everyone she loves?

Yet as Liza is swept up in the heady world of Hollywood, she finds herself thinking less and less of her life back home in New York. And when she meets Hugo Fielding—the devastatingly handsome and incredibly flirtatious Brit playing her boss on the show—she toes the line between having a crush and falling in love.

Torn between New York and Los Angeles, a familiar love and a risky one, an established career and a shot at stardom, Liza must decide if it’s too late to go to the ball...and if she even wants to. From the author of the beloved Younger, this is an endearing, hilarious, and relatable tale of second chances and new beginnings that proves: the best thing about getting Older
 is that you finally get to be yourself.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

How are you similar to or different from Liza? I’m similar to Liza in that I’ve changed my life and done a lot of new things after 40. I’m different in that I’m very honest about who I am. Pretending or telling a lie doesn’t even occur to me until days, months, or even years later, when I’m thinking about turning some event from my life into fiction. What were the biggest reward and biggest challenge with writing Older, given the direction the TV series took Younger? The biggest reward was writing about characters who were so well-known and fully-realized, from the original novel Younger which I updated last year and from the amazing work over six seasons of Younger TV by Darren Star, Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, Debi Mazar, Nico Tortorella, and Tess Albertson. The biggest challenge was to create a story that didn’t step on the toes of all the wonderful plot lines that have developed over the six seasons on Younger TV but stayed true to the characters and their world. Also, to create a hero who could hold a candle to the dreamy Charles! What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring novelists? Take classes! It’s hard to find a good class on novel writing because you can’t really workshop a novel over the course of a few months. But TV writing and screenwriting classes can teach you a lot about plot structure and short story writing classes can teach you to create compelling characters. Best, you’ll meet other writers you might want to continue meeting with in a private group. Who would you love to see as a guest star on Younger for the final season? Me! What is something you learned about yourself during the pandemic? That the thing I love best is what I do all the time anyway: Sit alone in a room typing. Going out and getting together with other people is nice, and I miss restaurant meals and traveling for sure, but it’s not central to my happiness. What is your theme song? "I Will Survive." The character Sutton Foster (this is part of the meta-ness of Older) sings it at an important and meaningful event in the book. But telling you which one would be a spoiler!


Thanks to Pamela for chatting with us and to Gallery 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.  


Giveaway ends September 21st at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Spending the day with Olivia Lara


We are pleased to welcome Olivia Lara to CLC today to feature her debut novel, Someday in Paris. Enter for a chance to win a copy over at Goodreads! (E-book; US only.)

Olivia Lara was born and raised in Bucharest in a family of booklovers and storytellers. Since university she has worked as a journalist and marketer in Romania, France and the United States. She is currently a marketing executive in San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, young daughter and four cats. 

Visit Olivia online:

Synopsis:
Finding the one is only the beginning... 

1954. Zara is fifteen the first time she meets Leon. During a power cut in a small French museum, the two spend one short hour in the dark talking about their love for art, Monet and Paris. Neither knows what the other looks like. Both know their lives will never be the same. 

1963. In Paris, Leon no longer believes he will ever find the girl he lost that night. After dreaming about him for years, Zara thinks she has already found him. When they meet at an exhibition, they don't recognize each other – yet the way they feel is so familiar... 
Over the course of twenty years, Zara and Leon are destined to fall in love again and again. But will they ever find a way to be together? 

'It's about dreams and taking chances. Missed opportunities and mistakes. Loss and sacrifice. But above all, it is about love. The kind of love that survives time, distance... even death. The kind of love I wish for you.' 

A magical new love story about star-crossed lovers, perfect for hopeless romantics and fans of One Day and The Notebook

'An epic, sweeping romance about soulmates and second chances' ~Holly Miller

'An absolutely unforgettable love story' ~Mandy Baggot 

'A deeply moving, richly evocative story of love, loss and the power of hope' ~Miranda Dickinson 

Purchase Links:

What is something you learned about yourself while writing Someday in Paris? 
Oh, so many things. I wrote manuscripts before, but never showed them to anyone and didn’t finish them 100%. This was the first time I felt I had something special, a story that I couldn’t get enough of and thankfully I also felt confident enough in it to show it to my husband. He loved it and urged me to try and publish it. I’ll forever be grateful to him for this (and countless other things). 

I learned to trust my instincts and listen to the characters. I learned that I can only write what I believe in, and I can only spend months and months with characters I have strong feelings for (not always love). That I am a hopeless romantic. That I tend to write as much as I talk. Which is A LOT. That writing is rewriting. That, while writing a book is a solitary endeavour, publishing a book takes a village of dedicated, talented people. That finding the right agent who will champion your book and love it as much as you do is probably the most important decision you’ll make in your publishing career. I learned that characters can stay with you long after you write ‘the end’ and the only way to fill the void they left in your heart is to write a new story and allow other characters to invade your imagination. 

What were the biggest reward and biggest challenge with writing Someday in Paris? 
There were so many rewards, truly. And they keep on coming. Someday in Paris has only been published three months ago, and I’m sure more wonderful things will happen. The look in my husband’s eyes when he finished reading it. My agent’s reaction when she read Zara and Leon’s story, my editor’s reaction. The first early reviews from readers floored me. Their love for Someday in Paris was a dream come true. I feel that with every person who reads and loves my debut novel, I’m getting all the rewards that I need. 

The biggest challenge? I’d say it was figuring out how to tell the complex story of Zara and Leon, over twenty years, and keep it within a ‘decent’ word count. Deciding what to include and what not to kept me up at night as we were going through edits. Thankfully, both my agent and my editor are brilliant, and their guidance was incredibly valuable in this process. 

If Someday in Paris were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
Oh, I love this question. And, actually a lot of readers mentioned they would definitely see Someday in Paris made into a movie, so…who knows? Maybe someday… 

To be honest, when I wrote the book, I imagined real people; I saw their faces and they weren’t those of famous actors. So, unknown, new actors would work just perfectly for me. But, if we’re talking about known actors, hmm, let’s see.

Zara — Marion Cotillard or Emma Watson 
Leon — Matthew Goode or Alexander Skarsgård 
Vincent — Jake Gyllenhaal or Oliver Jackson-Cohen 
Nicole —Amanda Seyfried or Margot Robbie 
JJ — Tom Hanks (because Tom Hanks is always the answer) or Kevin Costner     

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend? 
Emma. I quite enjoyed this version. 

What do you do to maintain those gorgeous curls of yours? 
All my childhood and way into my adolescence I wanted to have perfectly straight hair like everyone else and I used to keep my hair in a ponytail. In time, I learned to appreciate the unruly curls. I think they maintain themselves...haha. I don’t do anything special and usually just try to let them be. 

What is the cutest thing one of your cats did recently? 
Pumpkin, our Maine coon mix, who sometimes stays with me while I write or edit, insisted on contributing to my latest manuscript with lots of ‘hhkhuukh’ and “lklklkl”. My agent is going to have a blast reading the draft.

Thanks to Olivia for visiting with us and to Rachel's Random Resources for coordinating the interview.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review: My Christmas Number One


By Sara Steven

Cara doesn’t do sexy and she only does ‘Happy Christmas’ under duress. She is, after all, a serious musician, and her stubborn streak is born from her struggle to recover from a serious injury.

Javi lives for escapist fun - in his music, and in his life - especially since he’s always failed at life’s more serious challenges, including marriage and fatherhood.

Javi and Cara are forced to record a Christmas single together, but neither of them have plans to spend any more time with each other than they absolutely have to. With Christmas traditions that couldn’t be more different, and outlooks on life that are worlds apart, the chemistry just shouldn’t work. But the magic of Christmas can bring even opposites together… (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

My Christmas Number One felt like a departure from the typical holiday stories I’ve come to expect with “Christmas” in the title. I expected lots of snow and mistletoe, but what I discovered were hot tropical nights and palm trees! And it worked well. This non-traditional holiday story featuring two polar opposite characters really dug in, not to mention the musical background that tied everything in and where it should be. 

As indicated in the synopsis, Cara is very much an introvert, with quiet sensibilities that show her English roots. Javi is loud and extroverted, proud of his Columbian roots. Their musical styles couldn’t be any more different from one another, but much like what we get to see as the story unfolds, the differences complement. As uptight as Cara appears to be, it’s hard to fault her for it, given what has happened in her past. It’s done a lot to shape the person she is today. And Javi appears to be the loveable Peter Pan-like man who doesn’t really want to deal with feelings or relationships. There is a lot of baggage spread out between them. Just when I thought they would make some progress as individuals and as a potential couple, then the setbacks would set in. It made the relationship an interesting one to watch.

The secondary characters really added to the chemistry, too. I loved Javi’s daughter, Bea. Maybe it’s the nod to the holidays, which, even though this isn’t a traditional holiday story, it is still there—but, Bea reminded me of Sam, the boy in Love Actually. Much like Sam, Bea loves to play the drums and her personality is very preteen acerbic. The interactions she has with her father are very telling, in terms of what their relationship is like and why it’s like that. Then there’s Cara’s father, Gordon. He frustrated me to no end. There are reasons behind it and why he feels like he must protect Cara at all cost, which gave allowances for his behavior, but while I wanted to see what would happen between Cara and Javi, I also wanted to see if Cara would ever stand up to her father. 

What I loved most about My Christmas Number One was that it was a raw, honest read. There are situations both main characters are dealing with and watching their insecurities and stumbling blocks get stripped away one by one was a beautiful experience. In the end, when you love someone, it goes beyond the surface of looks or talent or fame, or any of the other things that can fade over time. It’s about acceptance and trust and respect, and seeing someone for who they really are, a lesson all of the characters must learn within this book. With its music and dancing, adventures and more than not, misadventures combined with everything else, this was a worthy five star read!

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

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Leonie Mack is a debut romantic novelist. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings! 

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: In Case You Missed It

Today we are featuring In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk. Thanks to HarperCollins, we have THREE copies to give away!

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…


‘Swoops you up and fills your heart with such joy’ 
~Giovanna Fletcher, bestselling author of Some Kind of Wonderful  

‘It might be the funniest and most relatable of ALL BOOKS EVER’ ~Lucy Vine, bestselling author of Hot Mess 

‘I loved it’ 
~Mhairi McFarlane, bestselling author of If I Never Met You

Lindsey Kelk is an author, journalist and prolific tweeter. Previously a children’s book editor and columnist for Marie Claire, Lindsey is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles. She is published in 22 countries and her novels, including the I Heart series, the Tess Brookes About a Girl series and standalones, have sold over two million copies worldwide. You can connect with her and her community of fans at her website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

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Giveaway ends September 15th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Kim Gruenenfelder does the time warp...plus a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Kim Gruenenfelder back at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, My Ex's Wedding. This sounds like such a fun story with an eye-catching cover and we're excited to check it out soon. Kim has THREE e-books (PDF) to give away!

Kim Gruenenfelder grew up in and around Los Angeles and began her career in TV at the age of 19. She has written feature films, episodic teleplays and two stage plays. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son, and continues to avoid anything even remotely resembling a real job. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

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Synopsis:
It’s 1998, and Samantha Evans has no regrets about her life. She’s one of Hollywood’s most sought after ghostwriters of celebrity autobiographies, shares a tranquil house in the hills with her best friend Liz, and is in the throes of a new romance with Eric, a gorgeous doctor. Life could not be better.

But Sam’s perfectly curated world is about to completely unravel. Her descent into madness begins the night she meets Eric’s childhood best friend, international superstar Isabella Robles. A narcissist prone to temper tantrums, “Belle” is in town for her latest (and fifth) “wedding of the century.” To make matters worse, she is marrying Dave, Sam’s ex-husband.

Things quickly go from awkward to just plain weird. Isabella hires Sam to write her memoirs. Then makes her a bridesmaid. Then cajoles Sam to join Dave in Hawaii for his bachelor party. Adding to the chaos, Sam bickers with Joe, Dave’s best man and the bane of Sam’s existence, receives unsolicited advice from client Vanessa, a diva from the '80s, and tries to stay calm as a series of fortune tellers mess with her head.

So maybe no one’s life goes according to plan. Maybe some days you gotta suck it up and go to your Ex’s Wedding. And maybe finding the love of your life isn’t accomplished through a series of steps, but through a really ugly bridesmaid’s dress and an open bar.
(Courtesy of Kim's website.)


“My Ex’s Wedding is the very definition of a fabulous Chick Lit read. It's full of humor, what-ifs, and ultimately, rewards. When a book makes me laugh on the second page, I know it's gonna be a winner, and as ever Kim Gruenenfelder does not disappoint. Buy it, read it, then put it on your bookshelf to re-read. You won't be sorry!”
--Whitney Dineen, bestselling author of the Creek Water Series

What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to My Ex's Wedding?
This not only came from writing novels but also from writing screenplays – make sure every scene has a reason to be there. Make sure every character has something they want anytime they interact with each other. Even if the character could not verbalize what they want, their behavior shows it. Make it funny. You can and should go deeper when talking about relationships, but find the humor in things when you can. Weddings can get ridiculous: so much humor to be mined from that.

How did you decide to set My Ex's Wedding in the late nineties?
I actually started this book in 2005 after A Total Waste of Makeup was sold to St. Martin’s in a two book deal. At the time, my editor and I thought a book about a ghostwriter would be interesting, since so many books on the New York Times bestseller’s list had not been written by the person claiming to write the book, but by a ghostwriter. I thought it was a world readers didn’t know much about and that intrigued me. But the book had to have some similarities to Makeup; it still had to be a romantic comedy. I still set all of my books in Los Angeles, since that is where I am from, and in the realm of the entertainment industry, since those are most of the people I know. Took awhile to write, and during that time Makeup sold well. So St. Martin’s asked for a sequel as my second book, and Wedding got shelved.

But in my head I needed to finish it. When going back and looking at it years later, I saw lots of relics of the '00s I found funny. So I decided to really run with that and go back further: what if we had no social media? What if we still had answering machines, music videos that were watched on TV, appointment TV? And what if I showed that no matter which century you are living in, people don’t change much: there are good ones, bad ones, ones who make us crazy. And relationships don’t change too much. But a little. 90% of however you were together a million years ago will still be who you are now. But that other 10% is important.

If My Ex's Wedding were made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
I know several music supervisors that could handle this better but “Sex and Candy”, “Livin' La Vida Loca” if it came out by 1998, some Guns 'N Roses for the men whose wives or girlfriends drag them to the movie. And, of course, “Against All Odds”, which Dave’s band covers and has a hit with.


Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
Going against what I normally watch, I watched all episodes of United We Fall in two days, because Will Sossa is a character actor you’ve probably never heard of, but he makes everything better. Very tame family oriented show, but made me laugh out loud a few times and that’s all I want from a sitcom. My son and I are watching this show Worth It, which is a Buzzfeed show on YouTube where two guys go to restaurants to get meals at “drastically different price points”: they’ll go to a $1 a slice pizza place than get a $2,000 pizza from another restaurant, and decide which one is “worth it”. I like it because it was all shot before Covid and people actually shake hands and eat indoors and hug: talk about nostalgia. I watched Mrs. America the last two nights. It’s not just about Phyllis Schlafly, it’s about the women’s movement in the 1970s. As a woman’s history major, I found it fascinating. Finally, I love Bojack Horseman, so I still binge watch those. But the show is a little dark.

Are you friends with an ex-boyfriend?
I’m friends with several. And I married one. ☺
I am actually pretty lucky when it comes to exes. I only dated nice guys. I have a few bad first date stories, some of which are kind of funny. But if I saw the guy a second time, he was and is a good guy. Things just didn’t work out. (Which probably means I’m the crazy one.) I never dated musicians, stand up comedians, or actors - so many friends have awful stories about dating artists who make their living in the spotlight. I never had the self confidence to be with someone who had to be caught: if someone wasn’t nice to me, I moved on.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Didn’t happen to me per se, but I overheard a little girl ask her Mom if reindeer could get Covid. I knew where she was going with that, and it made me laugh.

Thanks to Kim 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 September 14th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Samantha Vérant cooks up a great story...plus a book giveaway

Today we are thrilled to have Samantha Vérant with us to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux. Just from e-mailing with Samantha, we can tell that she is a total sweetheart. We hope you will enjoy getting to know her as much as we have. Thanks to Berkley, we have an a print copy and an e-book (NetGalley) of The Secret French Recipes to give away!

Samantha Vérant is a travel addict, a self-professed oenophile, and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, at home French chef. She lives in southwestern France, where she's married to a sexy French rocket scientist she met in 1989 (but ignored for twenty years), a stepmom to two incredible kids, and the adoptive mother to a ridiculously adorable French cat. When she’s not trekking from Provence to the Pyrénées or embracing her inner Julia Child, Sam is making her best effort to relearn those dreaded conjugations. (Bio courtesy of Samantha's website.)

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Synopsis:
A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes.

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the one percent of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she's dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is a favorite compliment you have received for your writing?
We authors are told not to check our reviews, but I do. For me, it’s like checking in on your baby and books have a really long gestational period. With that said, a reviewer from the advance copy of THE SECRET FRENCH RECIPES OF SOPHIE VALROUX called the writing “delightful, passionate, and fierce” and mentioned the many layers to the story. Another reviewer could smell and picture the scenery and scents. And quite a few people have warned: “do not read this book when hungry.” All of these compliments tell me I’m doing something right. And that truly makes me happy and fills me with inspiration.

How are you similar to or different from Sophie?
I’ve made the move from writing memoir to fiction and I write what I know. There is a lot of Sophie in me. She tries to come off as strong, although not at her weakest point. She’s a klutz. She has an open heart and loves to cook to nourish the people around her. With her, I suppose I created an alter ego or fantasy. Sure, I may be married to a sexy Frenchman, but I didn’t inherit a massive château.

If The Secret French Recipes were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I Googled hot French actors to cast Rémi, the love interest. The research was fun and I discovered Sébastian Dupuis. Sophie was a bit harder to find. She needed to be fierce and beautiful with long black hair and green eyes. Megan Fox kept popping up…and then I found Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman. As for Grand-mère Odette: hands down Catherine Deneuve.

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
The last book I read was WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Caroline Leavitt and I adored it. I’ve also been reading a lot of debut authors, members of a group I’m in. There have been so many amazing reads and I could go on and on. During confinement, I read and reviewed over 30 amazing books––all noted on Goodreads.

What is your go-to dessert recipe?
Any kind of fruit crumble or, lately, chocolate truffles.

What is something you have learned about yourself during this pandemic?
Aside from that I can make sourdough bread from scratch, I’ve learned how important connecting to/with people is–– and not just over Zoom. I really miss my family. Unfortunately, thanks to the pandemic, I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel back to the U.S. Alas, along with my husband and kids, I have a large network of friends in France and we do our best to keep each other’s spirits up.

Thanks to Samantha for visiting with us and to Berkley 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 September 13th at midnight EST.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Book Review: More Than

By Sara Steven

“You are obese, Mrs. Moriarty.”

Peggy Moriarty is stunned by her doctor’s words. She knows she’s let herself go a bit, but she thinks the young, skinny physician is exaggerating. Her husband’s death fourteen years ago left her to raise their twins, Grace and Greg, alone. But now that they’re teenagers, doing their own things, her only hobby is watching Messages from Beyond, a show about a medium who connects the grieving with their deceased loved ones.

When the twins leave for college, they give Peggy a gift certificate for an exercise class. At first, Peggy is insulted. But once the sting wears off, she realizes if she gets in shape, she might gain the confidence she needs to go on her favorite TV show and talk to her husband one last time.

With help from her new friends at the gym and Carmen Tavarez, the mother of Grace’s boyfriend, Peggy begins to emerge from her prolonged grief and spread her wings. She may soon discover that her sum is more than a mother, a widow, and her body. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

At the start of More Than and even beyond it, I could feel Peggy’s depression. Her mannerisms and the random thoughts she has throughout her days felt true to life, depicting what someone goes through while dealing with such a significant loss in life. I had the impression that Peggy completely shut herself off from the world, opening up as a conduit for her children, but no one else. Not even herself.

The catalyst is the boot camp class her children have given to her as a gift. This becomes the real potential turnaround in her life. I could feel every inch she gains and the three feet that slips away at every turn while she’s trying to figure out whether or not her well-being should be a priority, whether there is more to life than her favorite TV show and the two children who no longer require her care. There is so much transition, so much healing that Peggy has to work through, and piling on empty nest syndrome only adds to her unsteady world. Even in her successes with boot camp, she has a hard time allowing herself to be the number one reason she should focus on her health. Her reason for wanting to get into shape has everything to do with her deceased husband, hoping if she looks more in line with how she looked before he passed away, that he won’t judge her. That he’ll accept her, if she ever gets the chance to talk with him with the help of a medium.

Above all else, More Than is a metamorphosis, much like the cover depicts. Peggy has to re-discover who she is, because she has no clue. She’s spent so much of her life immersed within her children, or her husband, she’s forgotten who she is. It was beautiful to witness the gradual progression in who she had been, vs. the potential she can become, and along the way I felt like I was right there with her, cheering her on and hoping against all hope that she would find her path to freedom and acceptance.

I had a really hard time putting this book down, from start to finish. The immense highs and lows wouldn’t let me go. Peggy is in inspirational character, but far from perfect, allowing me the opportunity to see my own struggles within hers. A definite five star read!

Thanks to Diane Barnes for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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