Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Kristin Rockaway is keeping it real...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Kristin Rockaway to CLC today, to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, She's Faking It. Melissa really enjoyed this story, as you can see from her review. Thanks to Graydon House, we have one copy to give away!

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker and recovering corporate software engineer. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of code. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and trying to catch up on sleep. Her previous novels are How to Hack a Heartbreak and The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World. (Bio adapted from Kristin's website.)

Visit Kristin online:
Website * Twitter * Instagram

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you've received on your writing?
Just the other day, someone told me that reading my book helped her through a really dark, difficult time in her life. To me, this was the ultimate compliment. I write fun, funny stories with “HEAs” because I want to make people laugh, to ease their burdens, and to provide them with a temporary escape. Whenever someone tells me that my book made them happy and allowed them to forget their troubles for a while, then I know I’ve done my job.

How are you similar to or different from Bree?
In some ways, I was similar to Bree in my twenties. I’d been chugging along with my life, unsure of what I was doing or why I was doing it, allowing others to dictate my goals instead of defining them for myself. While I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out by now, I’ve at least determined what’s important to me and why, and I always strive to work toward becoming the best possible version of myself I can be.

Also? Just like Bree, I’m afraid of the ocean. I’ve lived in San Diego for close to twelve years now, and though I go to the beach quite often to lay on the sand, I rarely venture out into the water past my ankles.

If She's Faking It were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is always such a tough question for me! But I’ll give it my best shot:
Bree: Kaitlyn Dever
Natasha: Alexis Bledel
Trey: Diego Boneta
Mari: Francia Raisa
Rob: Lucas Hedges
Demi: Jennifer Connelly

What is your go-to social media app?
Instagram, and that’s almost completely because of the #bookstagram community. Bookstagrammers have really built a strong, supportive group, posting gorgeous photos and thoughtful reviews that foster a love of the written word with everyone who follows them. Through Instagram, I’ve been able to connect directly with readers, including participating in Instagram Live chats. Plus, I’ve found a lot of book recommendations, and discovered new authors!

Who is the most famous person you've ever met face-to-face?
The most meaningful celebrity encounter I’ve ever had was with Meg Cabot. I met her during a book signing at a writers’ conference last year, and she was extremely kind when I told her that she’s one of the reasons I decided to write the kinds of books I do. Her Queen of Babble series is classic chick lit gold.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a pretty advanced knitter. I’ve made everything from socks to sweaters to Estonian lace shawls. While it’s been hard to find the time lately to work on any substantive projects (momming + writing = no knitting!), it’s one of my goals to get back into it this summer after I’ve turned in a draft of my next manuscript.

Thanks to Kristin for visiting with us and to Graydon House 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 July 6th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Last Train to Key West

Today we are pleased to feature Chanel Cleeton's latest novel, The Last Train to Key West. Thanks to Berkley, we have one e-book (via NetGalley) for a lucky reader!

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's captivating new novel.

Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler's legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person's paradise can be another's prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez's family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can't deny the growing attraction to the stranger she's married, her new husband's illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston's trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women's paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

Photo by Chris Malpass
Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England, where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London, and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Visit Chanel 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 July 5th at midnight EST.

Friday, June 26, 2020

What's in the mail

Melissa A:
Well Played by Jen DeLuca from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Detour by/from Jennifer Ammoscato (e-book)
The Assignment by Liza Wiemer from Delacourte Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
Golden Poppies by Laila Ibrahim from Lake Union (e-book via NetGalley)
The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)
She Gets That From Me by Robin Wells from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The Wife's Choice by Emma Davies from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)
With or Without You by Drew Davies from Bookouture (e-book via NetGalley)
Recommended for You by Laura Silverman from Simon and Schuster (e-book via NetGalley)
Someone Else's Secret by Julia Spiro from Kathleen Carter Communications

In a Pickle by Cindy Dorminy from Red Adept Publishing (e-book)
As Luck Would Have It by Zoe May from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Wife Support System by Kathleen Whyman from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)
Under a Siena Sun by T.A. Williams from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book via NetGalley)

The Search Party by Simon Lelic from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
A Woman Alone by Nina Laurin from Grand Central Publishing (e-book via NetGalley)

Spotlight: The Mash-Up Summer

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I have yet to meet a Tracy Krimmer novel that I don't like. She grabbed me with Sparing the Heart and I've enjoyed everything she's written since then. Her "All That" series was fabulous and I still miss it!  Between all the television (such as Jane the Virgin), movie (such as Grease 2), music (such as anything from the eighties), and celebrity (such as Drew Barrymore) interests we have in common, I feel like she knows me and that her books are written with readers like me in mind! Therefore I'm excited to read The Mash-Up Summer soon. It published this past week and is only $2.99 for Kindle. Don't miss out on what could be your first Tracy Krimmer experience, unless, of course, you're a big fan like I am!

A childhood game leads Sadie to love. Will she follow the path?

Sadie Sherman just finished another year of teaching first grade. She loves her students and her job, but she is ready for summer break. She plans to go to Paris and live her best life, hopefully with a Parisian named Jacques. But her summer plans take a back seat to her parents’ recent request.

With her parents retired and ready to downsize, it falls to Sadie to clean out all her childhood memories that are stored in their attic. As she goes through boxes of school projects, journals, stuffed animals, and games, she comes across an old MASH game.

Teacher. Haletown. Red Ford. House. Zero kids. Zero pets. Marry Joey Bates.

Sadie is surprised that all the predictions have come true. All except one: marry Joey Bates. But as luck would have it, she runs into Joey one evening while out with some friends. Could this be fate fulfilling her MASH destiny? Or will a long-standing feud between their parents put an end to it before it even begins?

Tracy Krimmer loves coffee, books, and naps, and not necessarily in that order. She's convinced Drew Barrymore is her best friend--Drew just doesn't know it yet. Besides reading, she loves 80s and 90s music and binge-watching a great show on Netflix or Hulu.

Visit Tracy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Head Over Heels

Today we are pleased to feature Hannah Orenstein's latest novel, Head Over Heels. Melissa enjoyed her first two novels and is excited to check this one out soon. Thanks to Atria, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Named a best beach/summer read by O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Parade, PopSugar, Marie Claire, Bustle, and more!

From the author of the Love at First Like and Playing with Matches, an electrifying rom-com set in the high stakes world of competitive gymnastics, full of Hannah Orenstein’s signature “charm, whimsy, and giddy romantic tension” (BuzzFeed).

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.

Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

Perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jasmine Guillory, Head Over Heels proves that no one “writes about modern relationships with more humor or insight than Hannah Orenstein” (Dana Schwartz, author of Choose Your Own Disaster).

Photo by Sylvie Rosokoff
Hannah Orenstein is the author of Playing with Matches, Love at First Like, and Head Over Heels, and is a former competitive gymnast. She is the senior dating editor at Elite Daily and was previously a writer and editor at Seventeen.com. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Refinery29, and more. She lives in New York.

Visit Hannah online:
WebsiteTwitter * 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 June 30th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Book Review: Tell That To My Heart

By Sara Steven

Jemima Dewberry wears her heart on her sleeve. Her weakness for bad boys, coupled with her track record for making bad decisions has led to endless heartbreak. The only trouble is, she can’t seem to kick the habit.

On top of that, her “dream” job at Yorkshire Portions magazine hasn’t turned out to be what she’d hoped, and she seems to have developed the knack of annoying her boss without even trying. It doesn’t help that the new girl seems to have taken an instant dislike to her. All that’s keeping her there are her best friends Anna-Lisa and Aidey, who have picked up the pieces of her shattered heart more times than they care to remember.

When Jemima’s latest boyfriend turns out to be no better than the rest, the hurt and humiliation is almost unbearable. She declares she’s finally through with love, and swears off men for life. But when charismatic Caspar De Verre walks into the office with his dangerous good looks and mesmerising smile, she’s utterly captivated, and her promises to Anna-Lisa and Aidey not to let her heart rule her head are soon forgotten.

But is Caspar all he seems? Anna-Lisa and Aidey have their doubts. And Herbert, the happy-go-lucky black Labrador Jemima’s looking after, doesn’t seem to like him either.

As Jemima falls for Caspar’s charms she finds herself being forced to confront the struggle between her head and her heart. But which one will prove the most powerful?

And will Jemima get the happy-ever-after she so desperately craves? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I couldn’t help but feel for Jemima, or “Mim” as she’s known to her friends and family. She is a sweetheart of a character who does her very best where relationships are concerned, yet she can’t seem to find someone who will treat her the way she deserves to be treated. Add to that the constant contention with her boss, as well as the new girl Honey, who is the complete opposite of Mim. If I had a list of contemptible characters, Honey would be a quick addition to it. Mim’s work life would be completely volatile if not for her best friends, Anna-Lisa and Aidey. They provided a nice balance to the drama Mim finds herself in at nearly every turn.

It doesn’t get much better after Caspar is in the picture. While Mim falls head over heels for the new man in the office, Anna-Lisa and Aidey have a lot of issues with him. Even Mim has doubts that mingle with the obvious attraction she feels for Caspar. There are layers of intrigue and questionable opinions on who he really is and what he is about. She also questions his loyalty and the ultimate outcome he’s looking for when it comes to their relationship. I felt the utter confusion and profound murkiness that can only come from an undefined beginning. Mim isn’t quite sure where she stands.

There were plenty of scenarios within Tell That To My Heart that clearly defined who Honey is. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, with highs and lows for Mim. On the one hand, she can’t seem to escape the clutches of Honey, and then on the other hand, she doesn’t really want to escape the clutches of Caspar and wonders why she feels that way. She walks a fine line that only blurs into thinner margins the more in depth the storyline goes, and it made me wonder where her pressing point would be. How far will she go before she can’t take anymore? The catalyst comes by way of something sinister and completely unforeseen.

While I appreciated the ending and was glad to see how everything had come to fruition for Mim, I felt like it ended a bit abruptly. I would have liked to see a bit more. With that said, however, I enjoyed her story and really, her opportunity in making choices that might ultimately change the course of her life forever. And this has to be said: Herbert the black Labrador? A great character addition. He appeared life-like and lovable and made me yearn to add another pet to my family!

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

Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Eliza J. Scott is proud to be a member of the RNA. She lives in a 17th-century cottage in a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden, fighting a losing battle against the weeds.

When she's not reading or gardening, Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake.

Her biggest weakness is ginger biscuits dunked in tea.

Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heartwarming romance stories with relatable female characters. She enjoys exploring the dynamics of female friendship, with a key feature of her books being how women pull together and support one another when things get tough.

Eliza's novels will always have happy endings.

Visit Eliza online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit all the stops on Eliza's blog tour:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Robyn Harding's latest thrill ride...plus a book giveaway

We're glad to have Robyn Harding back at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, The Swap. Melissa has enjoyed Robyn's previous novels and is excited to check this one out soon. (It's next in her e-book queue.) Robyn is here to share a letter to the version of herself from 10 years ago and she has one copy of The Swap for a lucky reader!

Robyn Harding is the internationally bestselling author of The Arrangement, Her Pretty Face, and The Party, which was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. She has also written four novels of contemporary women’s fiction, a young adult novel, and a comedic memoir with an environmental focus. Robyn is the screenwriter and executive producer of the independent film The Steps, which premiered at TIFF and was the closing gala film at the Miami International Film Festival. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her family. (Bio adapted from Robyn's website.)

Visit Robyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.

After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging...that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Dear Robyn,

It’s 2010, and you have been publishing novels for six years. There have been some really big ups and some soul crushing downs. While you still love writing, you’re wondering if you need to change direction. A couple of your books have been optioned for film, and you’re intrigued by the medium and the industry. You’ve just started writing scripts. Don’t get your hopes up, baby. It’s going to be a tough journey.

But screenwriting will teach you a lot: about structure, dialogue, subtext, and character motivation. It will also teach you that, compared to the film world, publishing is a picnic! After a lot of fruitless hard work, you’re going to get a film made. It’s going to be an amazing process. You’ll meet famous actors. You’ll get to go to TIFF. You’ll be nominated for an award. Ultimately, you’ll realize that you’re not cut out for the film industry.

In fact, you’re going to think you’re done with writing, that it’s time to try something new. In 2016, you and a friend will decide to open an ice cream shop. You’ve always wanted to explore your entrepreneurial side, and it’s exciting to take on a new challenge. There’s just one manuscript still sitting on your computer that you want to finish and submit. That manuscript is for THE PARTY. And it’s going to change everything.

It turns out, that owning a business is not for you. (You thought writing was stressful and relentless. Ha!) THE PARTY will launch your career as a thriller writer. You’ll enjoy exploring your dark side and you’ll have a new appreciation for the publishing industry. And when the pandemic hits (2020 is going to suck), you’ll be one of the fortunate few whose job is not impacted. After all your experiences over the past ten years, you now feel solidified as a writer. Your imposter syndrome is still there, but it’s significantly less. Because now you know that you have never “arrived”. You have to keep learning, keep growing, and be open to change.

I really hope you’ll still be writing in ten, twenty, thirty years!

Robyn in 2020

Thanks to Robyn 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 June 28th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review: Agony Auntics

By Jami Deise

The advice column has changed a lot since the days of "Dear Abby," and syndicated columnists have dedicated fans who often log in for weekly online chats. While I don’t participate in the live versions, I do follow the Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax, Slate’s Dear Prudence; one of my favorite books of 2019 was therapist Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. While British rom-com author Julie Butterfield’s latest, Agony Auntics, doesn’t quite scratch the itch to read about the plethora of life problems that the columnists cover, it’s a fun, light story all the same.

Ellie Henshaw is in love with Logan MacDonald. Only issue is, he doesn’t know she exists. They work for the same company, and she has fallen in love with him by staring at the back of his head in the elevators. She’s too bashful to actually talk to him. So she writes to Fliss Carmichael, the “agony aunt” for The Digital Recorder. Ellie’s letter brings back sweet memories for Fliss on how she fell in love with her husband Jasper twenty years ago at their workplace. It also makes Fliss realize how far she and Jasper have drifted apart. Ruminating about her marriage, Fliss accidentally sends Ellie a very personal reply wondering about the future of her relationship. Thus begins a pen pal relationship of sorts, as the women cheer each other on and offer advice about their respective love lives.

Agony Auntics features the usual comedy of errors that fans of the genre will appreciate—ex-boyfriends who can’t get the hint, well-meaning best friends who only make things worse, romantic rivals. And there’s a subtext that goes unexplored: Is true love the fluttery feeling in the stomach, the rose petals on the bed? Or is it the long-time partner who shows up on time, does the dishes, picks up the kind of bread your mother likes? Butterfield seems to be heading in one direction, only to change course near the end.

While the main characters seem to have the maturity levels of the average seventh grader, Agony Auntics is a quick, fun read. It may not have the drama of today’s, “How do I survive COVID now that my husband’s mistress is quarantined with us” type of issues, but sometimes a lack of drama is just what the reader needs.

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Julie Butterfield belongs to the rather large group of 'always wanted to write' authors who finally found the time to sit down and put pen to paper - or rather fingers to keyboard.

She wrote her first book purely for pleasure and was very surprised to discover that so many people enjoyed the story and wanted more, so she decided to carry on writing.

It has to be pointed out that her first novel, Did I Mention I Won The Lottery is a complete work of fiction and she did not, in fact, receive millions in her bank account and forget to mention it to her husband - even though he still asks her every day if she has anything to tell him.

Visit Julie at her website and on Twitter.

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:

Friday, June 19, 2020

Book Review: Breakup Boot Camp

By Sara Steven

After weeks of training to whip Joanna Kitt into shape for her big day, her picture-perfect engagement to her high school sweetheart is torn in two, and Joanna is left out on her perfectly toned rear end. To put the past and her heartache behind her, she sets off for two weeks at the renowned Retreat House Breakup Boot Camp in Topsail Island off the coast of North Carolina.

Despite her sadness, Joanna throws herself into the experience hoping surfing, yoga, spa treatments, meditation, and talk therapy will be enough to help her get over the one man she’s ever loved. But she soon learns the Boot Camp is only the first step to healing her broken heart. Joanna will have to come to terms with the career she abandoned, the loss in her life she never fully accepted, and the role she played in the ending of her relationship.

When she meets Todd Aldrich, the handsome and mysterious hotel chef, she has the chance to take her renewed heart out for a test drive and see if she is ready for new beginnings and new love. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Beth Merlin’s Campfire series, I looked forward to reading Breakup Boot Camp, and it was another five-star experience! The premise behind the Retreat House in Topsail Island felt unique and fresh, not like anything I’ve ever read before. Joanna takes off for the coast of North Carolina in order to heal her broken heart, and I couldn’t help but wish for that type of place when I’d gone through my own heartbreaks in life. While the words “boot camp” are part of the title of the program, it feels more like a means in finding one's self again, in making lives whole. Where’s a Retreat House when you need one?

In attempting to rediscover who she is, Joanna discovers Todd, the hotel chef. I appreciated Todd as a character, considering he goes against what one would imagine him to be typecast as. There was an instant need inside me to see these two together, despite the damage done by Joanna’s ex. There’s also a conflicting sense of loyalty where he’s concerned. Having a relationship with the high school sweetheart means several years’s worth of time and commitment. That was felt deeply when reading between the lines of what Joanna wanted, vs. what she really needs.

Along with the romantic experiences are tight woman bonds that are formed at Retreat House. They are unlikely friendships, but just what Joanna needs, what they all need. While I appreciated the focus on Todd, I felt the bigger focus was on the amazing women Joanna meets along the way, friendships that I know will carry on in the lifetime of this character.

I thought it was clever of Merlin to add touches of her Campfire series into Breakup Boot Camp. Experiences like that always thrill me, because I feel even more connected to the new characters, by bringing out some of my favorites from the past. However, even if a reader hasn’t had the pleasure of reading the Campfire series yet, this novel can be read as a standalone, easily. But it will most certainly make you want to read the other books by Merlin. An inspiring, top notch read!

Thanks to Beth Merlin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Beth Merlin:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Kimberly Belle gives herself (and us) a pep talk...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Brandon Wattson
We're pleased to have Kimberly Belle back at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Stranger in the Lake. Melissa has read three of Kimberly's novels so far and has been blown away each time. She's excited to check out Stranger soon. Kimberly is sharing a letter she wrote to herself from 10 years ago and it's full of great tips for any aspiring novelist. Thanks to Emi Battaglia Public Relations and Park Row, we have TWO print copies to give away!

We noticed that Kimberly was here on June 18th of last year, as well. We may have to rename June 18th to Kimberly Belle Day at CLC!

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including her latest domestic suspense, Stranger in the Lake. Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Visit Kimberly online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Charlotte didn’t know her greatest risk was saying, “I do.”

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Dear Old Me,

That sure sounds strange, doesn’t it, especially considering that I’m the one who’s older—ten whole years, though let’s agree not to discuss our actual age. Invest in some good skin cream and stay out of the sun, that’s all I’m saying on that subject.

Instead, let’s talk about you: the starry-eyed baby writer.

First of that, that story you’re working on? Put it in the drawer. Go ahead, do it now. Yes, right now. I’ll wait. File it away on your hard drive and don’t look at it for…well, ever again. I know, I know, all those hours and words down the drain, but it’ll be fine, I promise. A few years from now, you’ll be relieved those words never saw the light of day. Think of this one as your practice book and move on.

Your next story, though, that’s where things get fun. That one will get you an agent, a publisher, a career. It won’t happen next year or even the year after, but I promise you it’s coming. And so don’t be dismayed when you get to The End on that book, and then realize you have to start over. When you know that the premise is good, but the technique could use some work. But ripping that story apart at the seams won’t be in vain. Stitching it back together is good practice for what’s coming, and in the process, you will find your voice.

Speaking of voice, don’t be afraid of yours. Go to conferences, talk to other authors, ask their advice and insights. Even the most successful authors have once stood in your shoes, and most of them are happy to take you under their wing. Be one of them when you become my age, and support the baby authors. You’ll make some fabulous friends this way, and besides: it’s good for the karma.

Right now, the road to publication feels endless. It feels filled with potholes and roadblocks, and you think you will never get there, but you are wrong. Things will go slow, and then they will happen all at once. By the time you become me you will have six books on the shelves, and you’ll be under contract for two more. You will get to put that coveted “bestseller” next to your name, and Hollywood will have come calling multiple times. Seriously, Kimberly, I can’t wait until you get here. The view is pretty spectacular.

In the meantime—and I know it’s hard—but try to be patient. Enjoy this part of the ride, when you are writing only for yourself. Hold on to the way writing makes you feel, the way your skin goes hot when you write the most perfect sentence, the way your lungs fill with tingly air. The second you sign that first publishing contract, you become a brand, and that art you love so much becomes a business. A fulfilling, challenging, rewarding, crazy-fun business, but a business nonetheless, one with deadlines and a whole new set of pressure. But I promise you, you will love every minute.

Until then, keep plugging away at your craft. Keep writing and learning and having fun. This is the best job in the world, and we are so darn blessed to have it.


Ps. Oh, and you might want to brace, because 2020 is a real zinger.

Thanks to Kimberly for visiting with us and to Emi Battaglia PR and Park Row 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 June 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about....TV shows

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about our favorite TV shows, just to keep things light and fun. Maybe you'll find something to binge watch after reading this!

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.

Sara Steven:

Those who know me would most likely describe me as an outdoorsy, fitness-minded individual. I appreciate a nice hike through the Arizona desert, a run in my neighborhood, and during Coronavirus times I’ve managed to convince my children to join me on bike rides and walks, or the occasional Barre workout video I managed to find on Youtube. While I appreciate the healthy side to life, I must admit to a little secret that only my closest friends and family are aware of.

I’m a closeted couch potato.

It’s a habit I’ve held onto since childhood, starting with my Saturday morning cartoons, or the summer vacations that brought about some of my favorite television shows on channels like Nickelodeon. Sure, I appreciate the great outdoors, but I’ve always felt like a great show is like a means to an end for my relaxation needs. Sometimes, it’s proven to be a great helper for my sanity, a chance to unwind and not think about the stressors of life. Call it an escape, or a tool in my toolbox, but I love the time I get on the couch, losing myself within great dialogue, even greater characters, oftentimes leaving me on the edge of a major cliffhanger or allowing me to solve the great puzzles that often come from suspenseful scenarios. Given everything going on in our world today and the fact that so many of us are living within a Groundhog Day-type scenario on repeat, more and more people are seeking the same means of escape that I do. ‘Tis the season for binge-watching, so I’d like to share what I’m either currently watching, or what I’ve recently finished watching, so you might possibly add a few new shows to your own repertoire.

90 Day Fiance, Any of Them (TLC): I never thought I’d get into this show, or any of the 90 Day Fiance shows, as much as I have. I’d held off on watching it, even after Melissa had suggested it. But, it sucked me in and it’s become a great conversation piece with friends and even my mother-in-law! Not to mention the opportunities at impersonating many of the cast from several different seasons. Debbie and her infamous “I’M DONE!” is my favorite.


Desperate Housewives (Hulu): When Desperate Housewives originally aired in the fall of 2004, I wasn’t interested in seeing it. It appeared to be a foo-fooey type show, yet I recently decided to give it a chance, just to see what all the fuss had been about. After the first few episodes, I was HOOKED. It’s so much more, with so many layers, not to mention the suspense, the danger, the twists and turns. This show is so much more than it seems. It’s worth a watch!

Fuller House (Netflix): This was a slice of my childhood, brought back to life. I never realized how important the show had been to me in my youth, until I got to relive the experiences all over again with the reboot.

Insecure (HBO): I’d watch any show or movie, just to see Issa Rae. There is something almost magical about her, where you can’t really turn away or do much else, other than engage with each and every scene she’s part of. You want to see what she’ll do next.

Killing Eve (AMC): Two dynamic female characters, the kind that you love to hate, and hate to love, along with a lot of mystery and intrigue.

Queer Eye (Netflix): I’m not much of a crier, but this show gets me teary eyed with nearly every episode. While the Queer Eye cast intends on helping someone with their outer appearance as well as the environment they surround themselves with, it’s so much more than that. It’s an all-over feel good from the inside, out.

Reunited Apart with Josh Gad (YouTube): This 30-some minute show that is always for a good cause fills me with joy, with every single episode aired. The last one that recently aired had been most of the cast of Ghostbusters, and I was instantly filled with childhood nostalgia. The next one: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I can’t wait.

Teen Mom (MTV): I know, I know. This is one of my guilty pleasures, whether it’s the original Teen Mom, or Teen Mom 2. I’m admitting to it.

Upload (Amazon): Melissa recommended this one to me, and I’m so glad she did! The show consists of an interesting premise where the afterlife is concerned, with equal parts humor and intrigue.

Westworld (HBO): I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Westworld, but I was instantly hooked after the first episode! The science fiction aspect combined with old time roots that are based on the original Westworld movie from 1973 really sticks with you. And who can forget: “It doesn’t look like anything to me.”

Workin’ Moms (Netflix): The trials and tribulations of motherhood, told from a really humorous perspective that doesn’t hold back on any of the punches!

Melissa Amster:

I was originally going to do a top ten list of my favorite TV shows, but then realized it was nearly impossible. So I've decided, instead, to talk about shows I was hooked on during different parts of my life.

I was introduced to cable during my elementary school years, and along with that, Fairie Tale Theatre. It was this show where famous people acted out fairy tales. Some of the stories were much darker than Disney, but it went over my head during my childhood. I also enjoyed Fraggle Rock a lot. And then there was Nickelodeon, with Today's Special, Nick Rocks, and You Can't Do That on Television. When I was in middle school, Don't Just Sit There and Fifteen consumed my time after school. I was addicted to Double Dare at one point in time, as well. On network TV, I loved Family Ties (I had such a crush on Michael J. Fox) and Punky Brewster. I was also really into an animated series called Beverly Hills Teens. And then came Full House when I was in sixth grade. D.J. and Stephanie reminded me of myself and my sister. That show stuck with me throughout middle school, high school, and into my first year of college.

When I was in high school, I didn't watch as much TV. I was more into movies during those years. However, I enjoyed Saved by the Bell, Degrassi High, Saturday Night Live, and Ren and Stimpy. During my senior year, I started getting into Seinfeld. During the summer between high school and college, I was introduced to Animaniacs and became addicted to it. I (sort of) met the actor who does Wakko's voice. (At least he let me take a picture of him at an event at our local mall.) Some other shows I really enjoyed during my college years were Party of Five, The X-Files, Dawson's Creek, My So-Called Life (I met Ricky in person!!!), South Park, and, of course, Friends. I still watched Saturday Night Live occasionally. You're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned Beverly Hills 90210. I watched it in the first couple of seasons and then lost interest. Later I got back into it, only to lose interest again. It was a fair-weather show for me.

Jess Harnell a.k.a. Wakko Warner

My sister and I with Wilson Cruz in 2003 (he was in Tick, Tick, Boom)

After college, I stayed hooked on Friends and Dawson's Creek while they were still hanging around. Freaks and Geeks premiered the autumn after I graduated and I was really into that show. Too bad it was only one season (just like My So-Called Life). After one of my close friends came out to me, I started watching Will and Grace and it reminded me of our friendship a lot. We even had another mutual friend whom I referred to as Jack. I also was a big fan of Sex and the City and Six Feet Under.

When my husband and I were dating, we would watch South Park and Family Guy together, and later we got into Curb Your Enthusiasm. The autumn after we got married, a woman at work told me about Desperate Housewives and I couldn't get enough of it. My husband got into it and we'd watch together. I'm now enjoying it vicariously through Sara and remembering things I forgot. After I became a mom for the first time, I started watching Ugly Betty, Firefly (another one-season hit), and Arrested Development (the latter two were with my husband, as he thought Ugly Betty was the same as The Devil Wears Prada.) There was a point in time when I was into American Idol, but it only lasted a couple of seasons (one of them being the season with Adam Lambert). Leading me into the next decade were Glee and 90210 (the new series on the CW that I liked way more than the original).

This past decade has brought some great television entertainment, thanks to Netflix and Hulu for the most part. (Although network stations did account for a bunch of favorites, as well.) I am just going to list the majority of shows I have loved between 2010 and now (in no particular order): Orphan Black, Stranger Things, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Younger, The Bold Type, Jane the Virgin, How I Met Your Mother, The Goldbergs, Schooled, Manifest,The Mindy Project, This is Us, A Million Little Things, Fuller House, Modern Family, Will and Grace (reboot), Parenthood, Smash, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pen15, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I recently watched and loved Upload, Unorthodox, Little Fires Everywhere, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Never Have I Ever, and Dead to Me. I am currently halfway through Schitt's Creek and can't get enough of it! And my guilty pleasure these days is 90 Day Fiance, like Sara mentioned above (as I got her into it and now we talk about it all the time).

So there you have the couch potato side of me. Did you see any of your favorites listed here? Did this bring back some memories? Please let me know in the comments.

Book Review: The Sweeney Sisters

By Jami Deise

If you miss those great Nancy Meyers rich people rom-coms, with the beach settings and the clothes and the houses with amazing kitchens, Lian Dolan’s latest novel, The Sweeney Sisters, may be right up your alley. Plot, character, setting, and dialogue all come together smoothly to create a colorful tale perfect for these shut-in days, and very reminiscent of Meyers’ films.

Adult sisters Liza, Maggie, and Tricia grew up in preppy Southport, Connecticut, the red-haired daughters of literary giant Bill Sweeney. It’s been fifteen years since their mother Maeve died of cancer, and Bill dies in his sleep one June evening. Now the sisters—perfect housewife Liza, who lives down the street from their childhood compound Willow Lake, flighty artist “Mad Maggie,” and perfectionist lawyer Tricia—must find the hidden memoir that Bill owed his publisher. But when the will is read, a secret is revealed: Bill fathered a child with their next-door neighbor. Serena Tucker is the fourth Sweeney sister.

As much as I loved all the visual details, for me, this book was a deep dive on how to develop character. I tend to be drawn toward more plot-driven work, so I found Dolan’s book educational as well as entertaining. Bill Sweeney is never shown alive, but through his daughters’ recollections, he appears as larger-than-life as they describe him. All four sisters are vividly, uniquely drawn, and Dolan gives them all very specific voices. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Dolan has four sisters of her own. After finishing the book, I felt like part of their family.

My only quibble is that Dolan uses an omniscient viewpoint, which has fallen out of favor lately as “head-hopping” confuses readers. I was expecting to get each sisters’ viewpoint, but when the point-of-view changed to their conversation partner, I found it distracting.

While the sibling interaction in the story is timeless, The Sweeney Sisters is also a timely reminder of what a can of worms those over-the-counter DNA tests are. Since many of us have a lot more time to read than we ever did before, I recommend Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance as a non-fiction chaser to this novel.

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

More by Lian Dolan:

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Susie Orman Schnall shines her light on us...plus a book giveaway

We're so glad to have Susie Orman Schnall back at CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, We Came Here to Shine. Susie radiates light and kindness and we're so pleased to have had her here for multiple visits. We Came Here to Shine is a delight (check out Melissa A's review) and we can't wait to share it with you. Susie is here today to talk about her writing journey via an imagined letter she’d write to her 10-year-ago self. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one print copy to give away! 

Susie Orman Schnall is the award-winning author of THE SUBWAY GIRLS, THE BALANCE PROJECT, and ON GRACE. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, HuffPost, POPSUGAR, Writer’s Digest, Harper's Bazaar, and Glamour; and she is also a frequent speaker at women’s groups, corporations, libraries, bookstores, and book clubs. Susie grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and now lives in New York with her husband and their three sons.

Visit Susie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Set during the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two intrepid young women―an aspiring journalist and a down-on-her-luck actress―form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of endless possibility, confront adversity, and find out what they are truly made of during the glorious summer of spectacle and opportunity…

Vivi Holden is closer than she’s ever been to living her dream as a lead actress in sun-dappled L.A., but an unfair turn of events sends her back to New York, a place she worked so hard to escape from. She has one last chance to get back to Hollywood―by performing well as the star of the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair. Everything seems to be working against her, but her summer in New York will lead to her biggest opportunity to find her own way, on her own terms…

Maxine Roth wants nothing more than to be a serious journalist at the iconic New York Times, but her professor has other plans. Instead, he’s assigned her to the pop-up publication covering the World’s Fair―and even then, her big ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts. Max didn’t work this hard to be the only―and an unheard one at that―woman in the room.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that shows them to be the daring, bold women they are, and one that teaches them to never stop holding on to what matters most, in the most meaningful summer of their lives.

“Set at the wondrous 1939 World’s Fair, Orman Schnall’s latest bursts like a technicolor movie right off the page, as her two heroines battle for their rights in what’s very much a man’s world, forging a remarkable bond in the process. An ode to female friendship that pulses with momentum and left me breathless.”
—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

We Came Here to Shine is an exceptional work of historical fiction, illuminating the challenges of women in a world that wants to control them. There are conflicts and challenges at every turn, leaving the reader wondering how the characters can emerge from it all. Yet the skillful storytelling of Schnall succeeds at creating an ending that is both surprising and believable. Pick this one up if you enjoy books with friendship, love, struggle, triumph, and a bit of Hollywood in New York.” 
—Camille Di Maio, Bestselling author of The Memory of Us

"We Came Here to Shine is a perfectly crafted and dynamic tale of female ambition, professional rivalry, and family secrets, all set against the sensational backdrop of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. An unlikely friendship between a struggling Hollywood starlet and a budding female journalist becomes the extraordinary centerpiece of this beautifully-told story, which reveals not only the glamorous and optimistic side of the Fair, but the sordid reality of what goes on behind the scenes. With masterful attention to historical detail, Susie Orman Schnall has gifted us with a remarkable novel about the challenges women face and the courage they must summon in order to lead the lives they deserve." 
—Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Wartime Sisters

I’m going to take the liberty of writing a letter to myself nine years ago instead of 10, because exactly nine years ago, in the late winter of 2011, I had just begun writing my first novel.

Becoming a novelist, if that’s what I was even doing (at the time, I would have laughed uproariously in disbelief and maybe a bit of horror if anyone had even suggested that’s what I was doing) was a complete pivot for me. I had spent the past two decades since graduating college working in marketing and corporate communications and raising my three very-close-in-age little boys.

In early 2011, I was out for dinner with two girlfriends, bemoaning my lack of professional direction in between sips of wine, when I first mentioned the idea of potentially writing a novel. The ensuing conversation and my friends’ unmitigated enthusiasm for the idea sealed the deal. I had no idea how to write a novel so I promptly enrolled in a course.

During the entire week leading up to the first class, I was nervous. What had I signed up for? How could I even think this was something I could do? Who did I think I was that I could write an entire book? And if I did write an entire book what made me think anyone—outside of those who had my name in their contacts—would ever want to read it?

I told myself two things:
1) Just take the first class.
2) If after the first class you don’t want to take the second class, you don’t have to. (By the way, Current Me would never let Old Me get away with that. Current Me would force Old Me to take the whole course, to step outside her comfort zone, and to stop being all dramatic about it.)

I took the first class and did the homework. Then I took the second class. And the third. And by the end of that course, I had not only learned valuable lessons of novel writing, I was also several chapters in to a manuscript that would eventually become my first published novel, ON GRACE.

If I could go back now and tell that hesitant and apprehensive forty-year-old a few things, this is what I would tell her:

You already are a writer. Just by sitting in that chair and opening that file, you have become a writer.

You may be new to novel writing but you’ve been preparing for this your entire life. Remember all those poems you wrote to those cute boys who wanted nothing to do with you (the ones you still sometimes stalk on Facebook to this day, shhhhh!)? Remember all those short stories you received As on in high school? All that reading you did in your college lit classes? All those newsletters and annual reports and marketing proposals and presentations you wrote in your early jobs? That was all foundation building. Choosing perfect words. Combining them to create sparkling sentences. Combining those to create effective paragraphs and so on. Don’t be so sure you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve already been doing it. May be a different “it” but it’s certainly a cousin, maybe even a sister.

You may not believe this but if you keep taking that class and keep churning out the words, you’re going to develop really great discipline and skills, which, in addition to writing chops, are inarguably as important to becoming a novelist.

And you’re certainly not going to believe this, but if you finish that first novel, you’re eventually going to end up writing another one. And another. And another. And even another. And even though one of those ended up in the electronic version of a drawer, the rest were published. And they live in bookstores! And in libraries! And on the shelves of people you’ve never met!

Here’s a cherry on top of it all. By becoming a novelist you’re going to meet your people. All those other women out there who love the books. And who get why you don’t actually mind sitting in your office all day alone typing. They get why it’s so awful and why it’s so magnificent. They’ve been where you want to go and they’ll help answer your questions and give you advice and support you and text you really nice things when you think you can’t do it anymore. They will become your community and you will wonder how you ever got along without them.

So, Self Nine Years Ago, I hope you paid attention to all of that. I hope knowing what’s on the other side will help you get through the months of revisions, all the rejection letters from agents, the loneliness, more rejection letters, the self-doubt, and all the other things.

You can do it. You will do it. And it will be beautiful.

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

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

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Giveaway ends June 21st at midnight EST.