Friday, July 31, 2020

Reviews at Amazon-July 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!





Review (Goodreads)



Spotlight and Giveaway: Louisiana Lucky

Today we are featuring Louisiana Lucky by Julie Pennell. The cover looks enticing and what's inside sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks to Atria, we have one copy to give away!

From the critically acclaimed author of The Young Wives Club, a “heartwarming story about friendship, heartache, and self-discovery” (Karen White, New York Times bestselling author), comes a charming novel reminiscent of the works of Mary Alice Monroe and Kristy Woodson Harvey, about three sisters who win a huge lottery prize and learn what it truly means to be lucky.

Lexi, Callie, and Hanna Breaux grew up in small-town Louisiana, and have always struggled to make ends meet. For years, they’ve been playing the lottery, fantasizing about how much better life would be if they had the money.

For Lexi, it means the perfect wedding; for Callie, it means having the courage to go after her career dreams; and for Hanna, it means buying a house that isn’t falling apart and sending her bullied son to private school. When the incredible happens and the Breaux sisters hit it big—$204 million dollars big—all their dreams come true. Or so they think. Because it’s actually not a cliché—money isn’t the answer to everything, and it often comes with problems of its own.

Heartfelt, engaging, and featuring characters you’ll root for from the first moment you meet them, Louisiana Lucky is a satisfying page-turner from a rising star in women’s fiction.

Photo by Riser Vance
Julie Pennell was born and raised in Louisiana. After graduating from college, she headed to New York to work at Seventeen magazine. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two young sons, and is a regular contributor to Her writing has also appeared in The Knot, In Style, and Refinery29.

Visit Julie at her website and on Twitter and Instagram.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends August 5th at midnight EST.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Angela Terry's charming a book giveaway

Photo by Sarah Deragon
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I first met Angela Terry when she was a regular visitor to CLC, sometime after we had started out. She even told me how we had some mutual acquaintances in this small world. We continued to stay in touch via social media and I was thrilled to find out that she was publishing a novel. I knew I had to get my hands on it right away. And I'm glad I did because it was such an enjoyable read! (My review is coming soon.) I look forward to reading whatever she has in store next (as I hope this wasn't a one-time thing). In the meantime, Angela has TWO copies of Charming Falls Apart to share with some lucky readers!

Aside from us both hailing from the Chicago suburbs and moving to opposite ends of the country, we have a lot of favorite authors in common and we both were introduced to Chick Lit through the same novel (as you'll see from our interview). Nowadays, we are both fans of Schitt's Creek

Angela Terry is an attorney who formerly practiced intellectual property law at large firms in Chicago and San Francisco. She is also a Chicago Marathon legacy runner and races to raise money for PAWS Chicago—the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and two cats, and enjoys throwing novel-themed dinner parties for her women’s fiction book club. (Bio courtesy of Angela's website.)

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

Allison James is a people pleaser and rule follower, but the day before her thirty-fifth birthday, that all backfires: she is unexpectedly fired from the public relations firm she’s worked at for twelve years, only to come home and find out that her fiancé has been sleeping with her maid of honor.

Feeling lost, Allison takes her friend Jordan’s advice and uses the time off for some self-reflection. Over the next few months, she devours countless self-help books (albeit skeptically), schedules a soul reading with an astrologer/psychic/magician, and goes on a meditation retreat in Costa Rica, where she finally starts to feel like she’s getting her groove back.

Back at home, her desire to escape the condo she once shared with her fiancé makes her a regular at the new coffeehouse in her neighborhood, where she finds some guidance from (and eye candy in) the attractive owner, Eric. Between Jordan’s support, the Barnes & Noble self-help aisle, and the Tao of Eric, Allison gradually discovers that her old life wasn’t as perfect as she thought—and that if she truly wants to find her happily-ever-after, she’s going to have to start writing her own rules.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

Which authors inspired you to write Charming Falls Apart?
Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’s Diary was the first Chick Lit novel I read, and it’s been my favorite genre ever since.

Jane Green – The first Jane Green novel I read was Jemima J, and I’ve read everything else by her since then. Her writing style is so graceful, at times almost conversational, and her characters are incredibly well-developed. I learned a lot about writing by studying her books.

Sophie Kinsella – When Shopaholic came out, I was hooked. Her books are fast-paced, humorous reads. And no matter what crazy, improbable situations her characters get themselves into, they still feel relatable and I appreciate that a-ha self-awareness moment by the end. This helped with the inspiration for Allison.

Emily Giffin – I picked up my first Emily Giffin novel Something Blue at the airport when returning home from vacation. I finished it at the gate and was blown away. I turned the book over to read her biography, which read, “After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time.” I was practicing law at the time, and it struck me that hers was the first “attorney bio” I read where I thought, “I want to do that!” That was the moment I decided to commit to my writing. I love how honest and complicated her characters are, and how effortless her writing style seems.

Jen Lancaster – My husband bought me a copy of Bitter Is the New Black when I had just started taking my writing seriously. Her books are hilarious! She really is that friend who says the things that you’re probably secretly thinking. I tried to channel this a bit with the other characters surrounding Allison.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character Allison?
Similarities: Like Allison, I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and later lived and worked downtown. We both like to run (though she’s a stronger runner than I am), drink too much coffee, and get weirdly emotional while watching Say Yes to the Dress. Also, I have both a mild fascination and healthy skepticism about self-help books.

Differences: We look different, she’s more extroverted and adventurous (I’m afraid of heights, so climbing Machu Picchu or zip lining in Costa Rica aren’t on my bucket list), and she’s in PR, whereas I went into law. Our families are also very different (thank goodness I don’t have a mother like hers!). The biggest difference though is that Allison is someone who has gone with the flow, ticking off what others think are the right boxes, and not really questioning anything about what she truly wants or who she is as a person until she’s forced to rebuild her life. I’m the person who questions everything and doesn’t mind changing course; and on some level I always knew I wanted to be writer and that everything else was secondary to that.

Even though Allison and I more different than similar, she’s someone I would be friends with. Some of my favorite scenes are with her and Jordan because they’re similar to the types of conversations and dynamics I have with my real-life friends.

If Charming were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Ha ha! I’ve been a huge fan of Chick Lit Central for years now and was secretly hoping that Melissa would answer this question for me. So, deep breath in and here goes:

Allison James: Elizabeth Olson
Erik Caulder: Charlie Hunnam or Simon Baker circa Devil Wears Prada
Jordan: Rashida Jones or Alia Shawkat
Neil: Ryan Reynolds
Kate: Lizzie Caplan
Stacey: Margot Robbie
Suzy: Emily Blunt
Paige: Anna Camp
Darren: Dan Levy
Theresa James: Catherine O’Hara in a brunette bobbed wig (I’m currently watching Schitt’s Creek and adore the character Moira Rose)

Side note from Melissa: My cast list is coming with my review... ;)

What is the strangest thing you purchased during quarantine?
Hmm, I can’t say I purchased anything unusual (fortunately/unfortunately we already had masks due to wildfires). Probably the strangest thing I didn’t purchase was toilet paper.

If we were to visit you in the town where you are currently living, what are some must-see places you would show us?
Since I feel that when people think of San Francisco, they already have cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge on their list, I would add these to the must-see list (and tell you to pack some walking shoes):

The Ferry Building – Inside the Ferry Building is a fun marketplace with various food vendors and eateries with a water view. And on Saturday mornings they have an amazing Farmer’s Market that is a must for foodies!

The Cliff House & Sutro Baths – The Cliff House restaurant is built upon the ruins of two previous Victorian Cliff Houses and has gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean. While we wait for our table, we’d check out the photo display of the old Cliff House and the once impressive Sutro Baths (only the ruins remain today). This part of the city has a certain romantic wildness to it and is a great place to experience the San Francisco that once was.

Lands End Trail and/or The Presidio – From the Sutro Baths, we would continue to explore the rugged San Francisco coastline by walking the Lands End Trail, which has gorgeous views of the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge, and is lined with wildflowers and Cypress trees. The nearby Presidio, a former military post, also has many trails and vista points. Some of the old buildings now house eateries and the Walt Disney Museum.

The Palace of Fine Arts – This beautiful structure was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition. It was designed to look like an old Roman ruin and sits in the center of a pond filled with swans and ducks. I think it’s one of the most magical places in the city.

The Tonga Room – This tiki bar in the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hob is totally touristy and totally fun. It used to be the hotel’s swimming pool, but in 1945 they changed it into a “lagoon” and a band comes out on a thatch-covered barge to play. They even have “tropical rainstorms.”

The Alcatraz Night Tour – I’ve heard it’s a must-see. I wouldn’t know because whenever I’ve tried to get tickets, it’s been sold out. We’d have to plan this excursion in advance!

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I’ve been on a great reading streak thanks to my book club. I just recently read and highly recommend Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore, The Guest List by Lucy Foley, and Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.

Thanks to Angela 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends August 4th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Wife Support System

By Sara Steven

We’ve got the balance all wrong. Instead of living with our partners, struggling to do everything by ourselves and only seeing each other now and then, we should do it the other way round. We should live together and see them now and then.

Erica knows her suggestion sounds extreme, but when her nanny leaves without notice, she’s extremely desperate. Polly and Louise aren’t convinced, but when circumstances force them to move into Polly’s enormous but run-down house, they have to admit that life’s much easier when the childcare and workload is shared.

At first, communal living seems like the answer to all their prayers - childcare on tap, rotas for cleaning, and someone always available to cook dinner (no more last-minute pizza delivery!). But over time, resentment starts to grow as they judge each other’s parenting styles and bicker over cleaning, cooking and whose turn it is to buy toilet rolls.

And as one woman has her head turned by a handsome colleague, one resorts to spying on her husband and another fights to keep a dark secret, they need each other more than ever. But can Polly, Louise and Erica keep their friendship and relationships strong? Or will their perfect mumtopia fall apart? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

This was an entirely unique story, particularly where familial living and friendships are concerned. After reading Erica’s suggestion on moving in with her friend Polly, while also convincing their friend Louise to join in on that decision, I couldn’t help but wonder what my own life would be like had I decided to forgo tradition and move in with some of my closest girlfriends. I think it would be equal parts fun and chaos, which is exactly what these three women experience!

Told from all three perspectives, we learn that Erica has continual guilt over being a working mother. She feels torn between a job she’s spent years cultivating and the relationship she has with her daughter. Then there’s Louise, who doesn’t feel secure in her marriage or in her own skin, period. Polly has secrets that she’s kept hidden for so long, she doesn’t know how much longer she can keep up the facade. They are all hurting in various ways yet have a difficult time coming to terms with that, or sharing those feelings with one another. I appreciated that each character lets the reader know their internal thoughts, so we fully understand what they’re up against, and really, it’s a lot.

The home that Polly shares with her friends felt like another character within Wife Support System, representing the inhabitants under its roof. From Erica’s shaky foundation to Louise’s lack of care when it comes to her appearance, or Polly’s need to hide asbestos (badness) within the walls, there is so much more than what is seen, but on further inspection, the home has good bones and potential. I felt that way about these touching characters who have a lot of fumbles along the way, or often feel stuck and that there is nothing more than can do to change their situations. Even when there are lifelines, they are overlooked.

Wife Support System focuses on change. Change within relationships, change within one’s self, the ability to see something for what it is and do what needs to be done to survive life. I appreciated the romantic moments, the parental ones, too, yet it was the sisterhood between Erica, Louise and Polly while facing change that really sealed the deal for me, watching them navigate through choppy waters and having each other’s backs as much as can be, given the situations that are thrown at them. It was a uniquely touching experience!

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Kobo * Apple

Kathleen Whyman is a writer for Writers’ Forum magazine, a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and her second book was recently long-listed for the Comedy Women in Print Unpublished Comedy Novel prize. Visit Kathleen on Twitter.

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Amy Poeppel's writing is music to our a book giveaway

Photo by George Baier IV
We're pleased to have Amy Poeppel back at CLC today to celebrate the recent publication of her latest novel, Musical Chairs. Melissa enjoyed it and has a review to share. Thanks to Amy, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas. She graduated from Wellesley College and worked as an actress in the Boston area, appearing in a corporate industrial for Polaroid, a commercial for Brooks Pharmacy, and a truly terrible episode of America’s Most Wanted, along with other TV spots and several plays. While in Boston, she also got her M.A. in Teaching from Simmons College.

She is married to David Poeppel, a neuroscientist at NYU and Director of the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt. For the past thirty years, they have lived in many cities, including San Francisco, Berlin, and New York, and had three sons along the way. Amy taught high school English in the Washington, DC suburbs, and after moving to New York, she worked as an assistant director of admissions at an independent school where she had the fulfilling experience of meeting and getting to know hundreds of applicant families.

Amy attended sessions at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit and wrote the theatrical version of Small Admissions, which was performed there as a staged reading in 2011. Amy’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Working Mother, Points In Case, The Belladonna, and Literary Mama. (Bio adapted from Amy's website.)

Visit Amy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.

Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With her trademark humor, pitch-perfect voice, and sly perspective on the human heart, Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. In the tradition of novels by Maria Semple and Stephen McCauley, Musical Chairs is an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity.
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you've received about your writing?
One of my very favorite authors—Marcy Dermansky of Very Nice and Bad Marie—said I have “a remarkable talent for creating the very best kind of mayhem” in my novels. This blurb made my day! I love creating characters and then putting them in situations that are challenging, surprising, and comedic. Marcy’s comment was later backed up by BookPage; they said, “Poeppel’s people are a mess, but her writing is crisp and breezy.” Mayhem and mess? That definitely makes me smile.

Which of the characters in Musical Chairs was the easiest for you to write and which was the most difficult?
In some ways Jackie was the easiest character to write. I loved bringing in a character who didn’t quite fit in and who was seeing the other characters for the very first time. Jackie feels out of place and nervous—I can relate to that—and observes the family members with a little disdain but also with admiration.

Will was probably the most difficult to write because I wanted him to be a really, truly good guy. There’s a danger in that because I didn’t want him to come across as too sappy or too good to be true. It was fun to find an edge to his character, just enough snarkiness to make him real, but enough loyalty and kindness to make him wonderful.

If Musical Chairs were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I would love to see Musical Chairs on the big screen! I would cast Debra Messing as Bridget and Hugh Jackman as Will. For Will’s love interest, Emma, I’d choose Leslie Mann, and I’d give Jude Law the role of Gavin, the handsome star violinist. Finally, I’d cast Michael Caine as Bridget’s famous father, Edward Stratton!

What is your favorite piece of classical music?
My son Luke introduced to me to a lot of classical music while I was writing Musical Chairs, which I truly appreciated! One piece I especially grew to love (and included in the novel) is Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor. It goes from dramatic and lovely to joyful and energetic, and listening to it is a pleasure.

What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic quarantine?
I’ve learned that I make no sense whatsoever. It seems I am perfectly content to be a hermit. I can go days in sweatpants, happily reading, writing, and taking solo walks without missing companionship in the least. But I have other days where I long to be with friends, crave in person conversations, and would do anything to walk into a restaurant just to be surrounded by people. So I guess I’m some kind of introvert/extrovert hybrid.

What is something that you had a good laugh about recently?
I’m finding it so hard to laugh these days! There was one especially grim day when I was despairing about the pandemic, while also wondering how on earth I would be able to reach readers in the middle of this crisis—Would anyone even know my book was coming out? Would anyone be excited to read it? And then I came up with an idea to make a book trailer with my family. I wrote a script and asked my kids and husband to be in it with me. We filmed the whole thing on an iPhone, and we laughed the whole time we were making it. Please check it on YouTube and let me know if you can tell that we were laughing between takes!

Thanks to Amy for chatting 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends August 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Book Review: The Spinster Diaries

By Jami Deise

Some of the world’s earliest novels were formatted as letters or diaries, and even today their stream-of-consciousness formats bring in new readers. Historians studying today’s era may look to Facebook status updates, tweets, and Snapchat stories as the most likely vehicle to chronicle lives; perhaps that’s why author Gina Fattore set her novel-in-diary form, The Spinster Diaries, in 2006.

Technically, Fattore’s heroine is “Journaling Through Anxiety;” anxiety derived from the fact that she’s just been diagnosed with a brain tumor (probably benign) and can’t decide what to do about it.

Fattore’s unnamed protagonist is a TV writer just like the author, but the book deals less with the day-to-day dealings of her job and co-workers and more with her obsession with eighteenth-century novelist and diarist Frances Burney, whom Fattore credits with inventing the chick-lit novel. As Fattore’s memoirist justifies her singleton life with a serenity that Bridget Jones would have envied, she chronicles Burney’s life as well. At the same time, though, it seems that Fattore’s heroine uses Burney’s life as a reason why she shouldn’t even try to date.

She’s also a huge fan of the Woody Allen movie Hannah and Her Sisters.

The book is marketed as a comedy, and for me, the most amusing parts of the novel were the heroine’s descriptions of her life as a TV writer. A 38-year-old size 14, she’s surrounded by thin blond “shoe girls” who believe all it takes to meet a man is reading a book at a certain café. There’s a little talk about the TV writers room, as well as a project she wants to develop on Burney. As a writer myself, I would have enjoyed more glimpses into her professional life.

I learned enough about Burney that I’m interested in reading the novels she wrote, Evelina, Cecelia: Or Memoirs of an Heiress, and Camilla and the Wanderer. Fattore’s book, however, is long on observation and short on plot. In a year filled with election drama, recession fear, and a pandemic, it feels more like a time capsule than a mirror.

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

Book Review: You May Kiss the a special giveaway

By Sara Steven

Archibald Hill is handsome, single, and he’s going to his best friend’s wedding ready to make a conquest or two. After all, everyone knows weddings are the perfect setting to get lucky.

Summer Knowles used to have a life—friends, family, a sister who’d do anything for her—until she blew it all away with a terrible mistake. Now, attending her twin’s wedding as the party’s undesirable number one seems like more than she can handle. So, when a tall stranger with smoldering ice-blue eyes offers her a therapy of seven nights of no-strings-attached fun, she might even ignore that he has a beard and accept.

Problem is, Summer has never been good at keeping sex and feelings separated… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

One of the things I love most when reading a book series is the reintroduction to some of our favorite characters. Having read From Thailand with Love, an exciting love story that focuses on Winter Knowles and Logan Spencer, I couldn’t wait to read about Winter’s twin sister, Summer. We learn that Summer has a lot to contend with, considering her past and the mistakes she’s made, which sends her into the arms of Archie, Logan’s best man at the wedding and in most other things, as well. We learned a little bit about Archie in From Thailand with Love, but it was nice to see a more behind the scenes look at who he is as a character this time around.

While Summer and Archie appear to be two opposing personalities, they have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Their relationships with loved ones is most important, which is why Archie wants to be there for Logan and Winter, and Summer will do whatever it takes to stand up for her sister, even if it means facing judgment and potential hostility. Archie is a bit of a commitment-phobe, while Summer is out for fun, with no strings attached. On paper, it looks as though the time they might spend together will go off without a hitch, yet deep down, they both have unresolved issues that lend into pushback. How much can they both avoid feelings, in order to engage in something that might mean more to them than either of them wants to let on?

While Bridesmaid focuses heavily on the potential between Summer and Archie, it was nice to see Summer face the music and deal with the fallout with her friends and family, even though it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. It would have been easier to run away, and not that she doesn’t think of that from time to time, but I appreciated the subplot that ran concurrently to what was going on romantically for her. When it feels like she has no else in her corner, Archie is there, only endearing me more to him.

I loved this latest addition to the First Comes Love series. I got to acquaint myself with some of my favorite characters, witness a budding relationship between two characters who say they don’t want more, but it’s obvious they do. Then there’s the moments of growth, not only for Summer but for Archie, too. You May Kiss the Bridesmaid can be read as a standalone, no problem. But, the other books in this series are phenomenal too, and worth the read. It’s another five-star rating from me!

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

Purchase links:
Amazon * Apple Books * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Google Play

Camilla Isley is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband on an adventure abroad.

She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

Visit Camilla online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * InstagramPinterest

Giveaway: Win one of three box sets of the first three books in the series – First Comes Love (Open worldwide; e-books)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. We are not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit all the stops on the blog tour:

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book Review: Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop

By Becky Gulc

‘Welcome to the glorious little Cornish town of St Felix – where romance and magic sparkle in the summer air

Kate thinks all her wishes have come true when she opens her own little craft shop in the idyllic harbour town of St Felix.

But she soon finds a mystery lingers in her new shop – a sixty-year-old love story told through beautiful paintings and intricate embroideries.

Jack, the owner of the nearby art shop, volunteers to help Kate unravel the mystery, but in doing so they realise their own lives share some uncanny similarities with Clara and Arty, their 1950s counterparts . . .

Can Kate and Jack put right a decades-old wrong, and maybe find their own happy ending on the way?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Little, Brown UK.)

I don’t know about you but I’ve found it incredibly hard to read throughout this pandemic, I’ve certainly wanted to, I’ve so wanted to escape our current reality through reading a good book, but I just haven’t managed it. However, I promised to review Ali McNamara’s latest release by the launch day so finally I have had the kick up the bum I needed to get reading again!

What a joy it was too to read this novel, an absolute tonic during these worrying times and it provided me with the escapism I was looking for. I just fell head over heels in love with the setting of St. Felix in Cornwall. I’m sure we’re all imagining trips away now, and this was just where I would love to go! It was great to hear there are two other novels set in St. Felix so I’ll definitely be adding these to my TBR list.

The central characters of Kate and Jack are fantastic, I warmed to each of them immediately and their chemistry jumped off the page. These are both strong-willed and independent characters with vulnerable sides. The challenges they’ve both gone through/face make it a very interesting ‘journey’ for the pair. In fact, all the characters were great and I’d love to see them pop up in other novels and learn more about them.

As described there is a bit of ‘magic’ at play in this story, and whilst it took me a little while to accept this element of the story, I was soon enjoying it and overall it was a really clever way of weaving the past and the present together into what turned out to be an interesting mystery for Kate and Jack to solve. I found the closing chapters really quite moving and very strong in bringing this all together and didn’t quite feel ready to say goodbye to St Felix and these characters.

Thank you, Ali, for helping me escape my reading rut through your wonderful book, I loved it!

Thanks to Little, Brown UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. Kate and Clara can be purchased here.

More by Ali McNamara:

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Robert Webb's dose of a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Robert Webb to CLC today! His debut novel, Come Again, recently published. Melissa finished it this past weekend and enjoyed the college memories it evoked. She's also big into the nineties, so setting it during that time scored bonus points for her. (A review is forthcoming.) Thanks to Little, Brown, we have THREE copies to give away!

Robert Webb is best known for his work as the Webb half of Mitchell & Webb in the Sony award-winning That Mitchell & Webb Sound and the Bafta award-winning That Mitchell & Webb Look, and as permanent man-boy Jeremy in the acclaimed Peep Show. In 2017, his call-to-arms memoir How Not To Be a Boy was a number one Sunday Times bestseller. Robert has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and the New Statesman, and now lives in London with his wife and daughters. Come Again is his first novel.

Visit Robert on Twitter.
Can you fall in love for the first time twice ... ?

Kate's husband Luke -- the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago -- died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friend and lost her job, and everything is starting to fall apart.

One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of orientation. And this is the day she meets Luke.

Kate knows how he died, and that he's already ill. But Luke is not the man that she lost: he's still a boy -- the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. If they can fall in love again despite everything, she might just be able to save him. She's going to try to do everything exactly the same...

"Funny, brilliant, clever and unpredictable; I gobbled it up." 
—Jenny Colgan, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner

What was a challenge for you when it came to writing a time travel novel?
I chose a time that I had fairly vivid memories of because the fall of 1992 was my own first week of college so I had a head-start with things like the clothes and the music. I didn’t worry too much about the sci-fi element of the book. I could have got wrapped up in all the paradoxes and the ‘if you change this in the past then how does it affect that in the future?’ stuff but it’s not that kind of story. For me the appeal of a character revisiting her younger self is entirely emotional. Here’s the husband she lost and he’s still just an annoying teenager. Here are her lifelong friends who don’t know who she is. Here’s her father, suddenly alive and well.

What was something you learned about yourself while writing Come Again?
Well, it’s my first novel so I guess I was starting to find out what kind of novelist I am. It turns out I’m someone who likes to plan a story instead of just launching into it with no idea about where it’s going.

When Come Again is made into a TV series, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Brilliant people who will be assured that they were the first choice for the part. Which is why I can’t answer the question. Sorry to be no fun.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?
We just re-watched all of Breaking Bad and now we’re on season one of New Girl which is great and really funny.

What is your go-to comfort food?
I can’t go far wrong with a baked potato with melted cheese.

Side note from Melissa: This takes me back to the nineties, when I would eat the same thing at 1-Potato-2 at the mall every week!

What are some of your favorite time travel movies and/or books?
Does Groundhog Day count? He’s kind of time traveling? If so, definitely that because it’s one of my favorite movies ever. I watched the Back to the Future movies with my girls (aged 9 & 11) and they were as much fun as I remembered. Something quite familiar about future Biff... More charmingly, the imagined 2015 involves hover boards but not cell phones. Oh well, you can’t get everything right.

Thanks to Robert for visiting with us and to Little, Brown for sharing his 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 28th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Looking ahead with Kristin a book giveaway

Photo by Phil Art Studio
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I first read a Kristin Harmel novel when I started CLC in 2010. I won a copy of Italian For Beginners and really enjoyed it. At some point, I connected with her online to tell her so and then received The Sweetness of Forgetting in 2012, which I loved. I met Kristin in person around the time that book was published, and she is delightful. About a year later, my entire family got to meet her when we went on our Disney World trip. She made a great impression on everyone and now my mom and sister read her books too. A little while later, she published The Life Intended and that became one of my favorite novels that I can't stop thinking about or recommending. Since that time, she has written a bunch of World War II and Holocaust themed novels, all which have been great and explored different sides of the situation. Her latest, The Book of Lost Names, is definitely a winner in this category. (Check out my review.)

Kristin is here today to share a letter she wrote to herself, to be read again in ten years from now. Thanks to Gallery, we have one copy of The Book of Lost Names for a lucky reader!

Kristin Harmel is the #1 international bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amelie, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into numerous languages and sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE magazine while still in college and spent more than a decade working for the publication. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE were the “Heroes Among Us” features—tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. One of those features—the story of Holocaust-survivor-turned-philanthropist Henri Landwirth (whom both Walter Cronkite and John Glenn told Kristin was the most amazing person they’d ever known)—partially inspired Kristin’s 2012 novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, which was a bestseller all over the world.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She travels frequently to France for book research (and—let’s be honest—for the pastries and wine) and writes a book a year for Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. (Bio adapted from Kristin's website.)

Visit Kristin online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of
The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Dear Kristin (circa 2030),
Hello from summer 2020, one of the strangest times I could possibly imagine! I’m sure you’ll remember that this was the summer of Covid-19, the summer of staying home and staying safe, the summer of grocery delivery and socially distanced activities.

Right now, I’m in the midst of dealing with it all, trying to juggle being a good mom to four-year-old Noah with being a writer with a new book out and another book due in a few months. Some days, it feels like too much, and I feel like I’m not quite making the grade in any area of my life. Some days, I feel like I’m failing at everything. Some days, I just feel overwhelmed. But other days, I remember that we’re all struggling right now, that this is uncharted territory, and that all we can do is our best.

In 2030, Kristin, you’ll be 51, so I hope you’re enjoying passing the half-century mark—and I hope you remember, especially with the perspective of the 2020 summer of Covid-19, that every year is a gift, even if you’re resenting the wrinkles on your forehead (which have, as of 2020, already begun their slow and sinister invasion). I hope you’ll remember that wisdom is beautiful, and that you’re ten years wiser than I am now, because you’ll have gone through trials and tribulations I can’t even imagine yet. You’ll have laughed, you’ll have cried, you’ll have ached, you’ll have learned. I hope you’ve always remembered to be good and kind and decent, because I know that sometimes, when things are dark, it becomes easier to let go of the core of who we are.

I hope you’ll look back at the summer of 2020 as one that changed your life—not just with the release of The Book of Lost Names—but by reminding you of the things that are important. I hope you’ll remember that prior to March 2020, you were going a million miles an hour. There were lots of fun, memorable moments in those years—frequent forays to Disney World, day trips to the beach, wild family reunions, book tours that took you all over the country—but now you know that staying home and slowing down is beautiful, too. You know Noah in a whole different way than you did before the pandemic. You spent slow, lazy afternoons together. You wrote while he sat on your feet watching episodes of Paw Patrol. You baked cookies and played with Play-Doh and listened to him make up songs and tell stories. You took daily walks and family bike rides and even pulled out the old inflatable pool, which, miraculously, was still intact.

I hope that ten years in the future, you’ve retained some of the lessons from the summer of 2020. I hope you’ve remembered the value of slowing down, of living with less, of discovering the small joys in life. I hope that you’re a better person, and a better mom, because of it. I hope you never again take for granted a trip to Disney World, or a flight to Paris, or a precious moment together with your husband and son. I hope you remember that the small things are everything—and that though the world you inhabit may be larger now, the things that matter are the things that are still right there in front of you.

And I hope you’re still writing—because if Kristin 2030 is anything like Kristin 2020, writing is where you find yourself, where you find your passion, where you find your release. Writing is what connects you with the world. Writing is the final piece of what makes you feel whole.
Finally, I hope that FRIENDS AND FICTION is still going strong. We founded it in the spring of 2020, and it is, for you, one of the best things that came out of the pandemic. In just a few months, you’re up to 12K members in your Facebook group, and tens of thousands of video views every week. I know you’ll be lifelong friends with Mary Kay Andrews, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry, and Mary Alice Monroe, so please do tell them that Kristin 2020 says hi—and that I want to thank them for this incredible journey, which has been one of the very best things to come out of the pandemic. In the midst of the darkness, we found our community—and it’s beautiful.

I hope you’re happy, healthy, and well. Please give Noah a kiss for me—and tell him that with every passing day, I love him more. I can’t imagine even imagine yet how much I’ll love him in 2030, because my heart is already so full of love for him, for my husband, and for this beautiful world around me.

See you in ten years!
Kristin 2020

Thanks to Kristin for the lovely letter and to Gallery for sharing her book with our readers.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 27th at midnight EST.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Mary Simses steals our a book giveaway

Photo by Capehart Photography
Introduction by Melissa Amster

We're pleased to welcome Mary Simses back to CLC today. When I saw that she had a new book publishing this summer, I was thrilled and knew that I had to get my hands on a copy. I really enjoyed The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café (one of my 2013 favorites) and The Rules of Love & Grammar and am excited to see what she has in store with The Wedding Thief. Thanks to Little, Brown, we have FIVE copies to give away!

When I was looking over our previous interviews, I came across her recipe for blueberry muffins and decided to give it a whirl. They were delicious, but I probably could make some tweaks to how I followed the recipe, in order to get to the color and consistency she was aiming for. Not bad for a first try though!

Mary Simses grew up in Darien, Connecticut and began writing stories as a child. After majoring in journalism in college, she worked for a few years in magazine publishing, but then decided to go back to school to become a lawyer. While working as a corporate attorney, Mary enrolled in an evening fiction writing class at a university in Connecticut and began writing short stories “on the side.” Several of her stories were published in literary magazines. She finally took the advice of a friend and decided to try writing a novel. That manuscript ultimately became The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, which was published in 2013 and later adapted as a movie called The Irresistible Blueberry Farm for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Mary has also written The Rules of Love & Grammar.

Mary enjoys photography, old jazz standards, and escaping to Connecticut in the summer. She lives in South Florida. (Bio adapted from Mary's website.)

Visit Mary online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

The Harrington sisters have never gotten along. Sara is a Type-A, career-focused event planner, and her younger sister Mariel is the opposite: bohemian, semi-employed, and recently engaged. When Sara's mother lures her back to Connecticut under false pretenses, she is perturbed to discover Mariel waiting for her, eager to reconcile their relationship -- and get some help with the final arrangements before her big day. The two sisters haven't spoken since the night Sara realized something was going on between Mariel and Sara's boyfriend, Carter Pryce. And now Mariel is about to marry Carter, the man she stole from Sara, the man Sara still loves.

When Mariel asks Sara to stand in for a bridesmaid who has to cancel at the last minute, Sara realizes it's the perfect cover to unravel the nuptials and win Carter back. Sara begins to slowly sabotage Mariel's picture-perfect wedding, but when she crosses paths with David Cole, he challenges her self-image as the jilted second-fiddle to her spotlight-stealing sister. Will Sara realize what a bridesmaid-zilla she's become in time to fix the damage before Mariel's big day?

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing The Wedding Thief?
The biggest reward was the fun I had putting Sara in what I’d call “cringy” but humorous situations and then seeing how she would survive them and go on (to maybe get into another one!). I love using humor in my stories. Lessons can be learned through humor, sometimes better than from any other vehicle.

One of the biggest challenges was to make Sara vulnerable, because she does kind of take over the page with her “I can do anything/fix anything” attitude. And her desire to ruin her sister’s wedding is a little harsh. (A little?!) Writing her internal narrative was especially important because I needed to reveal her soft spots.

Which character is more similar to you: Sara or Mariel? Why?
Hmm. I don’t think I’m like either one, but I guess I’d be “more similar” to Sara. She’s so organized and she’s such a planner. That’s me for sure. On the other hand, she has a habit of assuming her way is the only way to do something and, well … come to think of it I have been told that a couple of times. Yikes. Okay, so I guess I’m closer to Sara than I thought. I’d better stop here before I admit all my frailties ….

If The Wedding Thief were made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
That’s an easy question because there actually is a soundtrack in the book. I mention a number of songs, especially old jazz standards and songs from the Great American Songbook – music by the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and other musicians of that era. Sara’s late father enjoyed listening to that kind of music and Sara grew up loving it.

Here are all the songs mentioned in the book. These would form at least part of the soundtrack:

"What I Did for Love" (from A Chorus Line)
"Fly Me to the Moon" (performed by Frank Sinatra)
"My One and Only Love" (performed by Frank Sinatra)
"Where or When" (performed by Frank Sinatra)
"Witchcraft" (performed by Frank Sinatra)
"…Baby, One More Time" (performed by Britney Spears)
"Compared to What" (from the Swiss Movement album)
"Say It" (from the John Coltrane Ballads album)
"Come Away with Me" (Norah Jones)
"I Didn’t Know About You" (performed by Ella Fitzgerald)
"Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours" (performed by Stevie Wonder)
"I’ve Got You Under my Skin" (performed by Frank Sinatra)

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
They might be surprised to know that I’m an only child, because my last two books were about sisters. I have no complaints about being an only child, but I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to have a sister. Not having siblings is probably why I like writing about them.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
The other night I re-watched Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. It came out years ago (2013), but it’s a fun romantic comedy and I was glad to see it again. Besides Keaton and Nicholson, it has a great cast of supporting actors. And it’s about a woman who’s a playwright, which makes me like it even more.

Thanks to Mary for chatting with us and to Little, Brown 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 26th at midnight EST.