Friday, April 3, 2020

Book Review: Extracurricular (Book 3)...plus a special giveaway

By Melissa Amster

**Synopsis contains spoilers for the series**

Check out my reviews for book one and book two.

In the third and final installment of the Extracurricular series:

A tragic death catalyzes a power play for control of Ashbury Academy’s trustee board. Daniel’s covert actions, however, have Audrey questioning his vow to protect Lavinia’s legacy at the school.

The arrests resulting in the FBI’s investigation into Miranda’s college admissions fraud bring tragedy to some of the families involved, and unexpected opportunities to others.

Can Ashbury Academy survive this scandal?

An even bigger question:

Will Audrey’s marriage—and her family—fall apart after her long-held secret is finally revealed? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Extracurricular (Book 3) is equally enjoyable as the first two books in the series. The story went places I wasn't expecting. I enjoyed watching the events and misunderstandings unfold. I wish certain people in real life received consequences the way some characters in this series did.

The politics of the school board was confusing to follow, along with certain ways money was being handled. However, that did not take away from my enjoyment at all.

I love this series and wish it would continue, perhaps into a generation where Charly and Chuck are adults and we see what's happening in their lives down the road. All three novels are such easy and quick reads, as well as delightfully entertaining. This series is also a great distraction from everything going on right now.

Josie Brown is a pro at writing scandalous stories, which I knew ever since I started reading her novels. I look forward to reading whatever she comes up with next (hopefully another series)!

Binge-worthy TV series casting ideas:
Audrey (present): Rachael Leigh Cook
Egan (present): Henry Cavill (can be aged like on This Is Us)
Lavinia (present): Tina Fey (aging rule applies here too)
SallyAnne: Ginnifer Goodwin
Lionel: Matt Czuchry
Miranda: Emily Swallow
Charly: Mackenzie Foy
Chuck: Lino Facioli
Fawn: Belle Shouse
Daniel: Brandon Routh
Bliss: A.J. Cook
Tallulah: Lake Bell

Thanks to Josie Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has TWO e-book sets of the three-book series to give away!

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 April 7th at midnight EST.

More by Josie Brown:

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Amy Sue Nathan's virtual beach vacation...plus a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have Amy Sue Nathan back at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, The Last Bathing Beauty, which published this week. It looks great and we can't wait to check it out. Amy has one copy for a lucky reader!

Amy Sue Nathan is the author of Left to Chance, The Glass Wives, and The Good Neighbor, published between 2013 and 2017 by St. Martin’s Press.

Amy has been blogging since 2006, and launched the Women’s Fiction Writers blog in March 2011.She teaches writing workshops and freelances as a fiction editor and writing coach and is trained in the Story Genius method.

Her stories and essays have appeared in print and online in over two dozen publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Parent, Writer’s Digest, Huffington Post, and online in New York Times and Washington Post blogs.

Amy was born and raised in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism. She moved back there after twenty-six years away, and is the proud mom of two grown children and a willing servant to one rescued grey cat named Riggins aka Good Boy. In addition to being a writer and book coach, she is a former-vegetarian, not-so-secret crafter, chocolate enthusiast, and lipstick collector. (Bio adapted from Amy's website.)

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


Synopsis:
A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.

Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.

Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
My favorite compliments are always when a reader says she wishes she could be friends with the characters in the novel or meet them for coffee.

What inspired you to take a historical angle with The Last Bathing Beauty, when your previous novels have been more contemporary?
I learned about the history of South Haven and was compelled to bring it to life on the page. The Catskills of the Midwest. (Picture Dirty Dancing + The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Lake Michigan) How could I not?

How is Betty similar to or different from you?
This is my first novel not extracted at all from any corner of my life, so Betty isn’t like me—unless you want to count the fact that she likes lipstick and so do I.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
I watched the WWII documentary The Ghost Army, which includes my great-uncle – my grandmother’s younger brother—who just passed away three weeks shy of his one hundredth birthday.

What is one of your self-care habits?
Every morning I jot down five things I’m grateful for. Sometimes (rarely) it’s deep, mostly it’s right to the point and simple with things like hot coffee, a sweet cat, and cable TV.

What is your favorite hobby or sport?
Does listening to audiobooks count? Even though reading is part of my jobs as an author and writing coach, listening to an audiobook or podcast is a favorite pastime. I used to be crazy for crafts, but after downsizing 3 1/2 years ago, I don't have the space.

Regarding sports--I don't play any at all and I'm not a sports enthusiast unless the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, or Flyers are playing for a national championship--and then I buy all the gear. When my kids were young I was rampant supporter of their teams of course, and now that they are working professionals (they are 28 and 24) I'm still their biggest fan.

Thanks to Amy 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 April 7th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Review: The Move

By Sara Steven

When Lexi Blake was twelve years old, a fortune teller gave her the following cryptic message:

In your thirtieth year, once the dog jumps over you, your life will change in the most unexpected ways.

Lexi is thirty now and the following unexpected things have occurred:

•While walking through Central Park enjoying a beautiful fall day, Lexi eats dirt when a careless dog owner throws a frisbee at her head. A dog jumps over her.

•Lexi gets a promotion that pays less than her current job.

•Her crush announces that he’s engaged.

•Her apartment turns condo and she can’t afford the down payment.

In order to escape her bad luck, she takes a vacation to visit a good friend in Creek Water, Missouri. But as it turns out, fate has a lot more in store for Lexi Blake. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Having read The Event, the first book in the Creek Water series, I highly anticipated reading the second installment and learning more about the additional characters within this small, idyllic town. And of course, I had just as much fun if not more so, in Lexi and her unconventional journey in finding where she belongs.

I appreciated the metaphysical nuances that dot Lexi’s world, even when she least expects it and at times, doesn’t want to. From the fortune teller to some of the townspeople, it added an element of mystery and intrigue, while also developing a deeper connection for Lexi with her family, and the past. At first, hearing about a life change that stems from a dog jump would seem silly, but Lexi soon learns that so much begins to unfold with that one strange event, and it was nice as a reader to live vicariously through her actions, to go from knowing only one way of living to completely re-rolling everything. She goes from being a die-hard New Yorker to an extended stay with a friend in Creek Water, a far cry from what she’s used to. There is this sense of wiping the slate clean and beginning again, a refreshing experience.

Lexi’s potential love interest, Beau, is the epitome of a Byronic hero. At times she doesn’t know whether to love him or hate him, and isn’t even sure of what he thinks of her or what he wants of her. It doesn’t help that he seems to be taken, or maybe he isn’t? His mixed signals have her going all over the place, and this type of contention only seems to add fuel to the potential couple and is a nice added layer for the reader, in trying to suss out what the outcome will be. Will they, or won’t they?

The biggest storyline here, though, is the one that is a classic Dineen favorite: the story of family. From Lexi and her family, to the original characters we first discovered in The Event, all of the dynamics better project a theme that begs us all to appreciate the little things, the simple, easy life, the people who support us and love us, even if at times they drive us completely crazy. It slows down the incredibly fast-paced experience so many of us can relate to, letting us take a pause and a breather and enjoy our discoveries. While The Move could easily be read as a standalone, I'm looking forward to reading the third book in this series next. Another fantastic, five-star read!

Thanks to Whitney Dineen for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Whitney Dineen:

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Reviews at Amazon - February/March 2020

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


Melissa A:

Review
Review 
Review 

Review 
Review 
Review 

Review
Review 
Review 

Review (Goodreads)
Review

Review 
Review (Goodreads)








Leslie Hooton has a transformative story...plus a book giveaway

Today we welcome debut author Leslie Hooton to CLC to celebrate the recent publication of Before Anyone Else. Thanks to Turner Publishing, we have one copy to give away!

Leslie Hooton has earned a B.A. and M.A. from Auburn University and J.D. from Samford University. She has been accepted to the Sewanee Writer's Conference, and has studied with Alice McDermott, Jill McCorkle, and Richard Bausch. Growing up in a small Alabama town, think, To Kill A Mockingbird, Leslie became intrigued by people. Everyone had their own unique stories. Visit Leslie at her website and on Instagram.


Synopsis:
As a designer of upscale restaurants, 30-year-old Bailey Ann Edgeworth can go into an empty space and immediately see what it would take to transform it into a beautiful and memorable spot. She learns transforming her own life is another proposition entirely. It can get messy and it doesn’t always go according to a neat blueprint. Bailey’s brother, Henry, and his best friend Griffin are stars in the restaurant field. They are known as the “Color Wheel Boys” because of their renowned Buckhead restaurants Vert, Blanc, and Noir. Bailey is determined to chart her own course; to not be forever known as Hank’s daughter, Henry’s sister, or “whatever” she is to Griffin.

Bailey’s dreams propel her to New York where her vision garners accolades and fame. After a perceived rejection by Griffin, she rushes into an impetuous marriage with an enigmatic English chef. Their combined charisma and desire lift them to the top of the culinary world. Just when she seems on the verge of having it all, a shocking betrayal throws Bailey's world into chaos. She begins a spectacular downfall complete with secretive drug use, shady associates, and her career in turmoil. Just what are the secret ingredients to transforming food, a dilapidated building, and one’s own life into something extraordinary?

Before Anyone Else examines the complicated relationship between love and ambition and explores how our earliest relationships and experience, shape us into who we ultimately become. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"The romantic debut we have been waiting for"–Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis


In one sentence, what was your journey to publishing like?
It was a circuitous 25 year journey ending with publication in the middle of a pandemic. Need I say more?

What was the inspiration behind Before Anyone Else?
My love of design and my love of eating out plus tasty cocktails combined with my fascination with transformation both in rooms and in people.

If Before Anyone Else were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
For Griffin: Ryan Reynolds or Justin Hartley from This Is Us
For Elliot: Matt Czuchry from the Resident and Gilmore Girls
For Bailey: Saoirse Ronan or Emma Stone

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
Zoeys Extraordinary Playlist

What is your favorite quote and where is it from?
"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom" - Marcel Proust

What is your favorite thing to eat for dessert?
In the summertime, key lime pie. In the winter months, warm carrot cake. Why limit yourself to only one? That’s just like limiting yourself to one pair of shoes.

Thanks to Leslie for chatting with us and to Turner Publishing 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 April 6th at midnight EST.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Magnolia Sisters

Today we are pleased to feature The Magnolia Sisters by Michelle Major. Doesn't the cover look enticing? We hope you'll fall under Magnolia's spell. Thanks to Kaye Publicity, we have one copy to give away!

An inheritance brought her to Magnolia, but love just might keep her there…

Avery Keller arrives in Magnolia, North Carolina, with one aim: collect her inheritance and quickly put the quirky town in her rearview mirror. But the father who didn’t acknowledge her when he was alive has left Avery a mess to sort through—along with two half sisters she’s never met and a gorgeous single dad living next door. Soon her plan to keep this colorful, close-knit community at a distance gets complicated….

Grayson Atwell has rescued plenty of people in his firefighting career. His work and his little girl, Violet, are his entire world and there’s no time for anything—or anyone—else. But the vulnerability beneath Avery’s prickly façade brings out a fiercely protective side of him. Despite her protests, Gray can see that Avery’s falling under Magnolia’s spell—just like he’s falling for her. Now the only question is: How can he convince her to give them both a chance at forever?

Michelle Major grew up in Ohio but dreamed of living in the mountains. Soon after graduating with a degree in Journalism, she pointed her car west and settled in Colorado. Her life and house are filled with one great husband, two beautiful kids, a few furry pets and several well-behaved reptiles. She’s grateful to have found her passion writing stories with happy endings. Michelle loves to hear from her readers.

Visit Michelle 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 April 5th at midnight EST.

Friday, March 27, 2020

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Find Layla by Meg Elison from Skyscape
Two Like Me and You by/from Chad Alan Gibbs
The Day I Disappeared by Brandi Reeds from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
What it Seems by Emily Bleeker from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
Good Boy by Jennifer Finney Boylan from Celadon
With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt from Algonquin (e-book via NetGalley)
The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan from Wunderkind PR
The Essence of Perfection by Nita Brooks from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)
ImPerfectly Happy by Sharina Harris from Kensington (e-book via NetGalley)

Jami:
The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

Sara:
Make You Mine by Fabiola Francisco from BareNaked Words (e-book)

Excerpt: How Not to be a Loser

Today we are featuring an excerpt from How Not to be a Loser by Beth Moran, thanks to Boldwood Books

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner - at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Excerpt:
‘Hey, Mum. I’m starving, are there any of those cookies left?’

I clicked save and pushed my chair back to face him. ‘Hi, Joey, and yes, I had an okay day, thanks. How was yours?’

‘Oh. Sorry, yeah. It was good, actually.’ He paused, mid-search of the snack cupboard, to offer an apologetic smile. ‘We did this experiment in science where we had to heat up this white stuff, and— WHAAAAAAT!?’

In an instant, my strapping thirteen-year-old reverted to a frightened child, leaping up to sit on the worktop, cookie packet hugged protectively to his chest.

‘How long’s that been there?’ he shrieked.

‘Not long.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me the biggest spider in the universe was right behind me?’

It was a pointless question. We had been through this too many times before. Joey knew that the reason I hadn’t told him was because of what would inevitably happen next.

And, in line with the rest of the day’s predictability, it did. After a brief negotiation about Joey’s phobia, the value of the spider’s life and what I was willing and able to do about both these things, given that I didn’t think it was quite worthy of calling either the police or pest control, I ended up scooping the monster arachnid in both hands and facing my own worst nightmare.

‘Ready?’ Joey looked at me with solemn eyes as he gripped the door handle. He tried to keep his voice steady, but the rise and fall of his chest betrayed his terror.

I nodded, aware that my own eyes, while the exact same light brown as my son’s – caramel, his dad used to call them – were darting wildly like two wasps caught in a Coke bottle.

Before I had time to take another wheezing, shallow breath, Joey flung the door open and ducked behind it. I threw myself forwards, crashing against the door frame, eyes now firmly squeezed shut, and flicked my hand outside. A sudden gust of wind sent me reeling back in panic.

‘CLOSE THE DOOR!’ I gasped, clutching at my heart as it careened about my ribcage and stumbling back into the middle of the kitchen.

‘Is it gone? Are you sure it’s gone?’ Joey garbled back.

‘Yes! It’s gone. CLOSE THE DOOR, JOEY, NOW!’

I heard the door slam, took another two calming breaths and forced my eyes to take a peek. ‘Oh, please.’

The spider levelled me an ironic gaze from the welcome mat. It was so humungous I could see the lazy challenge in each of its eight eyes.

‘What? What? What is it? Is it still here?’ Joey spoke from where he’d scrambled behind me.
‘It might be.’

‘WHAT? Where-is-it-what’s-it-doing-is-it-moving-is-it-near-me-how-is-it-still-inside? MUUUUUM!’

‘It may have blown back in and now be sitting on the mat.’

‘Then throw it out again!’ Joey whined, the good nature that insisted we went through this palaver, rather than simply squashing the spider, hiding behind his fear. ‘Maybe you could lean right out this time, make sure it’s really outside.’

While I contemplated this impossibility, the spider took a couple of exploratory steps across the mat.

My teenage son screamed at a pitch that would have been unreachable if his voice wasn’t currently breaking, and before I could react, the spider was pinned to the mat beneath two fork prongs.

We stared in awed silence for a few seconds. The spider waved one leg, like a feeble farewell.

‘Joey, I can’t believe you hit it from that distance. You are one impressive athlete.’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt it.’ He grabbed my arm, distraught. ‘It was, like, an automatic reflex thing.’

‘It’s pretty cool, though. Maybe you’re actually a superhero and now you’re thirteen your powers are starting to manifest.’

‘A superhero wouldn’t murder an innocent life with a fork.’

‘They might kill a bug by accident while still learning to control their new capabilities.’ I put one weak arm around him, as the bug in question assumed the classic death curl, as best it could while stabbed in two places.

‘You’re still going to put it outside, aren’t you?’

‘It’s dead. Can’t it go in the bin?’

Courtesy of Beth's website
Beth Moran is the author of three previous romance novels, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women's network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. Beth’s first novel for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day, was published in September 2019

Visit Beth online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter



Visit the other stops on the blog tour (click on the pic to enlarge):

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Who Rescued Who

Today we are featuring Victoria Schade's debut novel, Who Rescued Who, which published on Tuesday. Isn't the cover adorable?!? Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

The plan was simple: Elizabeth would ignore the fact that she was unjustly fired from her dream job, fly across the pond to settle an unexpected inheritance in her father's home country and quickly return to reclaim her position among the Silicon Valley elite. But when Elizabeth stumbles upon an abandoned puppy, she's shocked to realize that her brief trip to England might turn into an extended stay. Her strict itinerary is upended completely by the pup's dogged devotion, and soon the lovable puppy helps her to connect with a tight-knit community of new friends on two legs and four, from the aunt and uncle she didn't know existed, to a grumpy coffee shop owner to two very opinionated sheep. Along the way Elizabeth is confronted by long-kept family secrets, hard truths about her former life and a new romance that might lead her to question everything she knows about love. Because sometimes rescue magic happens on both ends of the leash.


Victoria Schade is an award-winning speaker and dog trainer who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband--and many dogs.

Visit Victoria online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Photo by Jeff Reader

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 March 31st at midnight EST.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about...Friendship!

We recently started a new column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about friendship! We're 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:

Is it possible to become close friends with someone you've never met in person?

The answer is a resounding YES!!! And I have your proof right here. While I make friends with a lot of people I meet online, one of them comes to mind often because of the type of friendship we have.

Let me start with how we met. This story goes back to 1995, when I became friends with a guy I met online because he liked my handle, which was "Magenta" at the time. He was a Rocky Horror fan and we connected over that fact and met up every once in a while at the movie theater where it was playing. We were both in serious relationships, so it was never more than a platonic friendship. Several years later, he moved out west and we stayed in touch sporadically. Around 2007 or 2008 (after I had already moved out east), we connected via Facebook and he shared about this woman he met and how he had proposed to her. For some reason, I asked him to introduce us online. In the beginning, she and I commented on each other's posts or noticed things we had in common. A few years later, I asked her to join a blog project group that I was in with my best friend and one of her friends. We got to know each other through this project and started e-mailing a lot on the side. At one point, we did blog posts where we pretended to do a Freaky Friday like switch (here's my side of it).

Around this same time, I had invited her to write guest book reviews for CLC and eventually asked her to join as a review associate. I admired her dedication and thought she wrote great reviews. All the while, we were still e-mailing each other or messaging almost daily. Over time, we have built up to several e-mail "novels" that we try to stay on top of, even when life gets in the way. When some local friends got me into 90 Day Fiancé, I paid it forward to her and now we text our commentary during the "Tell Alls." We have tons of inside jokes, thanks to that show along with our wacky sense of humor. We also talk about other TV shows that we have in common, our love for The Princess Bride, relationships, motherhood, our lives growing up, and sometimes more serious topics. We have yet to meet in person, but I know when we finally do, it will feel like we've known each other that way the whole time.

So the next time someone tells you that you can't possibly become close friends with someone you met online, share this post with them.

P.S. If you haven't guessed by now, the friend I've been referring to is our very own Sara Steven! :)

Sara Steven:

I’ve maintained a friendship with a close friend of mine for nearly thirty years now, and just yesterday as I wrapped up an email to her, the last paragraph of what she’d sent to me focused on the fact that she’s always seen herself as the type of person who didn’t have many friendships. She’s always been more of an introvert, so that viewpoint didn’t surprise me. What did is that she’s noticed how, if she really got down to it and focused on her support system, she is not lacking in the friendship department at all. In fact, she has quite a few that she’s cultivated over the last several years, in which she replied, “Take that, social anxiety!”

My response to her was how we’re gleaning from one another’s personalities. How I’d always been seen as the social butterfly, picking up friendships like slipping various collectible rocks into my pocket to save for later, while she’d always remained at a distance and had a more scrutable eye for people. I’m digging into her introverted mannerisms while she’s picking up on my extroverted vibes, an interesting shift that widens the gap but brings us closer together the more we age.

And the older I get, the less friendships I have. The less amount of people I want in my tight circle, to join the ranks of my support system. It’s strange, because I feel like I’ve spent so many years trying to make friends with everyone, to get along, to feel that special acceptance a friendship can invoke. But with time and distance and a shift in priorities- family, children, me- I’ve held fast to some, and let go of others.

Not that it’s been easy. I once blogged about my penchant for collecting people.  It’s hard letting anybody go, but with age comes wisdom, and some of the friendships I tried so hard to hold onto, were the same ones that proved to be the most damaging, or toxic. It took a long time for me to see that. I guess that’s where I picked up on my own scrutable eye, in becoming more careful on who I let in.

The other thing I’ve let go of, are the judgments I’ve had against maintaining “real” friendships- the ones you maintain in person, vs. the ones you have with someone online. I used to believe you’d never really get to know someone through an online connection. That it didn’t count if it wasn’t in person. Boy, was I totally wrong. A good example of an amazing friendship that has spanned over a decade would be the one I share with Melissa, my co-conspirator on this blog post. We’ve yet to meet in person, but we chat nearly every single day! She’s definitely become a part of my support system, and I’m grateful for that. Really, I’m grateful for all the friendships I have, the people who are in my corner, whether they’re in my vicinity or not. Particularly now, with everything going on in the world.

In whatever capacity, and however we view our own friendships in the world- in person, online- cherish them. Develop your own scrutable eye, and hold close to you the wonderful people who are a support for you and in return, allow you to be a support for them, as well. I think it gets harder the older we get, in maintaining friendships and making new ones. It makes what we have all the more important. We need our friends, right now, more than ever. Maybe Woodrow T. Wilson had something when he said “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” It really just might.

Your turn! Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you.

Book Review: Grown-Up Pose

By Jami Deise

What does it take to become a grown-up? Are the trappings of adult life—marriage, career, baby, home ownership—enough, or does true adulthood mean more? In Toronto writer Sonya Lalli’s latest novel, Grown-Up Pose, the author explores what it means to be an adult through the eyes of her thirty-something heroine, a married mother of one who walks away from her family to try to find what really makes her happy.

Protagonist Anu Desai had only ever dated one man—her husband Neil—and even waited till their wedding to sleep with him. That’s what good Indian girls did, and even though Anu is Canadian, her parents, friends, and husband all have Indian heritage. Growing up, Anu felt pressured to follow their rules, and usually complied – for instance, becoming a nurse when she really wanted to be a yoga teacher. But now Anu feels trapped by her husband, five-year-old daughter, and the expectations that an Indian wife and mother should take care of everything domestic all on her own. When the novel opens, she is already separated from Neil, and because he has partial custody of their daughter and a mother who dotes on her, Anu has plenty of time to date (an American man her parents were never approve of) and explore who she really is.

Even though Anu is a thirty-something Indian-Canadian woman, she seemed more like a middle-aged American man to me. Her belief that her feelings of boredom and discontent were more important than her commitments is typical of the midlife crises that lead men to affairs, divorce, convertibles and other life-shattering decisions. Similarly, rather than taking responsibility for the fact that her career, marriage, and child were all the results of decisions she had made, Anu blames her parents and Indian society for her predicament.

What keeps Anu from being a complete narcissist is her guilt and confusion, along with her friends’ disbelief and anger. Life without the responsibilities of husband and child isn’t a music video, and again and again she’s forced to confront what she’s given up to pursue the life she thought she wanted.

Although episodic at times, Grown-Up Pose is a thoughtful look at the emotional milestones toward adulthood. While career, marriage, children, and home ownership represent the outward signs of maturity, it’s the unseen markers such as gratitude, responsibility, self-sacrifice and commitment that are the true harbingers of being a grown-up.

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

More by Sonya Lalli:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Making ourselves at home with Christina Lauren...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Ever since I picked up Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, I have become a fan of Christina Lauren's novels. I think I learned shortly after finishing it that Christina Lauren is the combined first names of two authors. They write so seamlessly together that I truly thought they shared one mind. Since finishing Josh and Hazel, I've also enjoyed My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Roomies, and their latest (out today!!!), The Honey-Don't List (review coming soon). I'm excited to check out their other novels that I missed the first time around. Thanks to Leo PR, we have one copy of The Honey-Don't List for a lucky reader, whether they are devoted fans or new to Christina Lauren's writing.



Left to right: Lauren and Christina

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The #1 international bestselling coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fifteen New York Times bestselling novels. They are published in over 30 languages, have received multiple starred reviews, won both the Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year from RT Magazine, been inducted into the Library Reads Hall of Fame, named Amazon and Audible Romance of the Year, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and been nominated for several Goodreads Choice Awards. They have been featured in publications such as Forbes, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Time, Entertainment Weekly, People, O Magazine, and more. Their third YA novel, Autoboyography was released in 2017 to critical acclaim, followed by Roomies, Love and Other Words, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, My Favorite Half-Night Stand, The Unhoneymooners, and Twice in a Blue Moon.

Lauren Billings (but everyone calls her Lo) has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and before she made writing her full-time job, would spend her days doing nerdy research-type things wearing a lab coat and goggles. She is silly Mommy to two littles, wife to one mountain biking homebrewing scientist, and an unabashed lover of YA and romance.

Christina Hobbs (but you’ll always hear Lo call her PQ) used to spend her days in a junior high counseling office surrounded by teenagers. These days you can find her at her desk, writing or watching BTS videos. She lives in Utah with her husband and daughter, thinks she’s the luckiest person in the world to write books with her best friend, and is an unapologetic lover of boy bands and glitter. (Bio adapted from Christina Lauren's website.)

Visit Christina Lauren online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest 


Synopsis:
Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together...
(Courtesy of Amazon.)


What have been some rewards and challenges with writing books together?
One of the joys of co-authoring is that we have each other for the highs AND the lows. We get to write and create and travel with our best friend, and no matter where we are in the process, the other person is usually right there. The largest challenges are probably geography and different writing speeds.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
If someone says that we gave them an escape from real life for a few hours we completely feel like we've done our job.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
We're always watching Survivor. Christina is waiting for season two of The Kingdom. Lo is watching Next in Fashion.

What is your #1 guilty pleasure?
We don't believe in guilty pleasures. Love the things you love and who cares what anyone thinks. Christina loves BTS and will talk about them to anyone who will listen. Lo loves to cook. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday because there's nothing she loves more than cooking for the people she loves.

If you could put something in a time capsule to represent 2020, what would it be?
A giant burning dumpster? LOL it's only March, so we'll give it some time to turn it around.

Thanks to Christina Lauren for visiting with us and to Leo PR for sharing their book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends March 29th at midnight EST.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Book Review: Thirty-Life Crisis

By Sara Steven

Lisa Schwartz's stories and musings are all about watching her friends adult like pros, while she tries to understand why she doesn't want or can't seem to find all the things they have for herself. Like a big sister who's already seen it all, Lisa will take readers through her own life experiences to say that one thing we all need to hear: you are so not alone. Unabashed and unfiltered, Schwartz's voice and candor will appeal to anyone in their thirties who just can't deal with the never-ending Facebook feed of friends' engagement photos and baby pictures, the trials of figuring out where their passion meets their career, and everything in between.

So, if you've ever had to figure out...

Parenting Your Parents (Yikes)

Gender Reveal Parties (It's an actual thing.)

Discovering That Your Boyfriend Likes Boys (Surprise!)

Online Shopping Away Your Anxiety (Don't)

or Gender Reveal Parties (Seriously. It's an actual thing.)

This book is your new best friend. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’m not thirty. I’m nowhere near it. I plowed through it over a decade ago, but Thirty-Life Crisis really can apply to anyone! While my lifestyle differs immensely from the one Lisa Schwartz lives, I can really identify with her feelings and thoughts on various subjects, not only from the outsider looking in perspective, but from the inside, too, considering I had my first child in my late twenties. Back in those days, Facebook wasn’t a thing. If you wanted a bunch of friends and family to partake in photo viewings, you’d have to send a large massive email with a ton of photos attached, or you’d have to use a photo sharing website like Photobucket- is that still a thing? There were no gender reveal parties, not in my circle anyway. And shopping online was doable, but not the preferred method of choice.

Even with our age difference and our lifestyle differences, I can understand Lisa’s point of view on all of it and then some. Most likely because we’re looking at the same thing from different sides of the lens, and she infuses a ton of funny and deep wisdom into each and every chapter written. Now more than ever, I could identify so much with Parenting Your Parents. And I’m still not sure what the appeal is with Gender Reveal Parties, a sentiment echoed by Lisa. (this particular chapter really got me going in the laughter department) I was drawn to her story of meeting someone uber famous, a nameless woman she never identifies, most likely to keep anonymity, and having an opportunity to actually spend one-on-one time with this woman, revealing high levels of vulnerable honesty you wouldn’t expect from the reader or from the celebrity. Of course, I really, REALLY want to know who the celebrity is, but I guess I’ll have to live on hypothesis alone.

Every chapter is honest and raw, comedic and with deep emotion and truth. Reading about Lisa’s experiences with her former boyfriend, you get to learn a lot more about how graceful she is, and how she isn’t apt to let people go due to past hurts. It was interesting to read his own introduction, combining it with her own perspective, garnering more pieces that complete the picture of who Lisa really is, and she doesn’t hide that, not once. It made for an interesting read.

For anyone looking to read a book that is motivating, that inspires you to follow your dreams and go for what you want out of life, Thirty-Life Crisis is right up your alley!

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Book Review: The Runaway Girl

By Jami Deise

Although the themes of the Titanic story are timeless, there’s something about the world we’re living in today that makes the issues surrounding the tragedy seem especially relevant. In the early part of last century, poor immigrants were seen as vermin; class and money determined a person’s life prospects (especially in Europe); corporate profits were more important than customer safety. Sound familiar?

I’ve always been a sucker for stories about Titanic, so much so that when pitched a historical romance on board the ship, I bit, even though I don’t read that genre. But The Runaway Girl: A Titanic Love Story definitely proved a worthy diversion. Author Jina Bacarr’s novel, a revised version of her earlier book, Titanic Rhapsody, is a wonderful coupling of James Cameron’s version of the tale with My Fair Lady.

Framed for a crime she did not commit, housemaid Ava O’Reilly—a 19-year-old whose fiery personality and flaming red hair garner unwanted male attention and female jealousy everywhere she goes—eludes the Irish police and boards the Titanic, hoping for a better life in the country where streets are paved with gold. Onboard, she runs into Lord “Buck” Blackthorn, a penniless gambler whose title is the only thing of worth he still owns. His childhood best friend Fiona, the Countess of Marbury, is in love with him, but Buck has arranged the Lady’s engagement to his best friend Trey, a wealthy New York playboy who needs to marry a member of the peerage to have access to his trust fund. In this world, love and marriage don’t go together like a horse and carriage—money and marriage do.

When Fiona’s lady’s maid twists her ankle and has to leave the ship, Buck arranges for Ava to take her place. But soon Buck finds himself falling for the feisty Irish girl himself… and so does Trey. As the romantic entanglements play out, the ship has a date with destiny…

Told in third person from Ava and Buck’s pointsof view, the characters are pretty stereotypical for a romance, but that doesn’t make the story less enjoyable. I loved Titanic (the movie), and reading The Runaway Girl, which uses many of the same tropes, felt like watching a gender-switched version of that story. Unlike Cameron’s movie, Bacarr’s story does not end when the Carpathia docks in New York City, and the twists that happen on dry land are nicely set up earlier in the book.

While The Runaway Girl has not turned me into a romance fan, the book should be a big hit for any reader who enjoys the genre. And if you’re a Titanic fan who does not ordinarily read romance, I urge you to make an exception for this book. You’ll be glad you did.

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

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spotlight: The New Guy


Sam Huxton doesn’t do one-night stands, especially not with men she’s just met! But the hot guy at the bar was hard to resist and their one night together is one she’ll never forget.

But one night is all they share – no names, no numbers, just some much needed fun…

Until the same guy walks into Sam’s life the next day as her new employee. Sam never mixes business with pleasure and makes it clear an office fling with Ryan is off-limits. But after-hours…one thing can lead to another. Can Sam trust her heart and her business with the new guy?

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author Bio:
A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

Visit Kathryn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

Visit the other stops on the blog tour:

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Book Review: Safe House

By Jami Deise

In February, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on charges of rape and criminal sexual assault. While stories about Weinstein circulated around Hollywood for years, his arrest garnered expressions of disbelief, relief, and anger. But not just anger at Weinstein. Anger at the women who accused him (“they’re liars” as well as “why didn’t they come forward earlier”), anger at the women who’d taken his cash and signed NDAs, anger at the female lawyer who represented him and insisted she’d never been raped because she’d never put herself “in that position.”

Why is it when a man commits a crime, the women around him are often blamed? He had a bad mother. His ex-girlfriend is a jealous liar. His wife must have been in on it. There’s even a famous phrase in crime fiction, “Cherchez la femme.” Look for the woman.

In Safe House, Jo Jakeman’s fabulous sophomore novel, Steffi Finn has learned this lesson the hard way. She lied for her boyfriend Lee to the police, claiming he was home on the night a local woman was murdered. He swore he was in before nine pm, and she had been too drunk to remember that he came home. But when a second woman died, she couldn’t ignore the coincidences anymore. She went to the police, and Lee was tried and convinced for the murders. Even so, Steffi was sentenced to 10 months in prison for her initial lie. Because of it, it seems the entire world blames her for the death of Lee’s second victim. She’s sent so much hate mail in prison—while Lee gets love letters from besotted women who think he’s innocent and Steffi is the real killer—that when she’s finally released, she changes her name and moves to a small English seaside town to hide. Now Charlie Miller, she tries to avoid her neighbors, but there are no secrets in these villages. Especially since someone seems to know exactly who Charlie is… and wants to make her pay for what she’s done.

Safe House is a gripping psychological thriller that also has a political subtext. Why is it so much easier to blame the girlfriend than the man who actually committed the crimes? Why are women held to a much higher standard, blamed when things go wrong around them, when men escape responsibility time and again? Why do women often blame other women when they are victimized by men?

Jakeman writes in a non-linear fashion, tracing Charlie’s efforts at building her safe house in Cornish in between chapters detailing her relationship with Lee. Lee is a marvelous manipulator, making Steffi doubt and blame herself whenever things go wrong with her boyfriend, making her jump through hoops for his affection. A cold, selfish father primes Steffi to be vulnerable to Lee’s manipulative behavior. It’s not surprising that she initially believed his story about coming home that night; the only surprise is that she went to jail for it.

The author ramps up the tension by alternating Charlie’s third-person point-of-view with narration by two people out to get her, including one who knows exactly where Charlie is. As Charlie ends up becoming friendly with her neighbors despite her best efforts to avoid them, anyone of them could be the one thirsting for revenge.

Safe House is a terrific book by an outstanding author, and I look forward to reading what’s next from her.

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

More by Jo Jakeman: