Friday, October 30, 2020

Reviews at Amazon-September/October 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!




Book Review: Love Offline

By Sara Steven

Online dating isn’t working for introvert Emily. Although she’s comfortable swiping right in her PJs, the idea of meeting a guy in person fills her with dread.

So when her best friend challenges her to ditch the apps, attend a load of awkward singles’ events and find love in real life, Emily wants to run for the hills.

Then she meets Josh. He’s handsome, kind and funny, but Emily’s had her heart crushed before and knows he's hiding something…

Is Josh too good to be true? Can Emily learn to trust again? And if she does, will it lead to love or more heartache?
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

This was my kind of book. 

First of all, I loved the concept of having Emily disconnect from her phone and social media and dating apps, getting back to the basics of removing her face from a screen and getting out there and socializing in person again. I often have this love/hate relationship with technology and social media, so reading about Emily’s experiences made me want to do the same thing. Not to mention her supportive best friend Chloe who speaks my pre-mid 90’s language. While Chloe goes to the extreme when it comes to her lack of technology, it was nice having her challenge Emily in doing something outside the walls of her apartment, in an effort to get Emily to get outside of her comfort zone.

So much of Emily’s reason behind hiding away has a lot to do with past hurts. That was the other thing that I could relate to, well really, most of us could. There is a lot of fear and trepidation, and reading about her experiences when she finally does get out there contained moments of success and moments that were cringe-worthy. But along the road, she begins to remember who she’d been before the hurt and before she’d made the decision to let go of her own wants and needs in lieu of someone else’s, and that’s when Josh enters the picture.

Josh was well-written as the perfect heartthrob for Emily. Yet as mentioned in the synopsis, it appears that he has something to hide from her and isn’t always available when she needs him, very reminiscent of the types of experiences she’d had before. It was obvious that even when I could clearly see Josh for who he really is, it takes Emily longer to catch up to that, and in her mind, people are who they are not so much based on their character, but whether they are male or female, no matter what. 

There was a ton of character evolvement for Emily. In the beginning, we see a woman who is lost and too afraid to step outside and try to trust again, and gradually over time, we see her letting down her guard. Not only that, but it was nice to see a character that decides not to let another character define their happiness. If Emily does learn to trust again, whether it leads to love or more heartache, she knows she’s going to be okay, and that’s the most important lesson of all. I really enjoyed this deeply transitional, charming read!

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

Purchase Links:

Love Offline is available to read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited. It is also available to read for FREE in Prime Reading until late November. 

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women's fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin, which was released in July 2018, deals with being newly single in your thirties and beyond, dating, relationships, love, sex and living life to the full.

Olivia published three novels in 2019: Only When It's Love, Losing My Inhibitions, and Love Offline. The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, the hotly anticipated sequel to The Middle-Aged Virgin and Olivia’s fifth novel, was published in July 2020. 

When she's not writing, Olivia can be found making regular trips to Italy to indulge in pasta, pizza and gelato and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!

Visit Olivia online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Sorrow

Today we are pleased to feature Sorrow by Tiffanie DeBartolo. Thanks to Books Forward, we have TWO copies (and some book-themed swag) to give away!

From Tiffanie DeBartolo, author of God Shaped Hole, How to Kill a Rock Star, and Grace: The Jeff Buckley Story, comes Sorrow, a poignant story about friendship and love, art and music, and how these pursuits can save us from ourselves. 

Joe Harper has backpedaled throughout his life. A once-promising guitar prodigy, he’s been living without direction since abandoning his musical dreams. Now into his thirties, having retreated from every opportunity he’s had to level up, he has lost his family, his best friend, and his self-respect. 
But Joe finds an unlikely path to redemption when he starts working as a carpenter for the bohemian conceptual artist October Danko. The job returns him to his hometown, loaded with bittersweet reminders of his former life, in the shadows of his beloved redwood trees. As Joe’s relationship with October develops, he yearns to take a daring step toward a bold future, but struggles to escape the craven decisions of his past.

Sorrow is a stunning, moving novel that explores masculinity and suspended adolescence, all the while
begging the questions: Can courage be learned? And is it ever too late to follow your heart?

"This novel is a rare gem: a profoundly warm, witty story about art, love, and the journey of the soul from my all-time favorite author. Worth the wait! DeBartolo's emotionally rich characters remind us that it is both painfully difficult and astonishingly beautiful to be human."
— Colleen Hoover, New York Times bestselling author

“An art-infused story about love with achingly beautiful characters.”
— Tarryn Fisher, New York Times bestselling author

Tiffanie DeBartolo
grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where she insists there was nothing to do but read books and listen to music. It’s no surprise that after graduating high school a year early to study
philosophy at UC Berkeley, she became a writer and founded a record label. Her previous works include God Shaped Hole (2002), How To Kill a Rock Star (2005), the graphic novel Grace: Based on the Jeff Buckley Story (2019), and the film Dream for an Insomniac (1996), which she wrote and directed.

Tiffanie is the founder and Chief Executive Super Goddess of Bright Antenna Records, whose roster includes The Wombats, Sports Team, Wilderado, Prep, and more. She also co-founded the ShineMaker Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to making the world a better place. And she is a faculty member of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, where she teaches writing every June. She is also a runner, hiker, yogi, traveler, cook, poet, artist and feminist. Tiffanie lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband, Scott Schumaker, and her two Irish Wolfhounds, Dipsea and Kazoo.

Visit Tiffanie online:

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 November 3rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Book Review: Sunshine and Second Chances

By Sara Steven

Debs is newly single, Fiona is caring for her mum, Samantha is grieving, and Liv has the perfect life – or so she’d like her friends to think…

This year, these four life-long friends are turning fifty, and Liv is determined they will honour their promise to each other – made on a beach at sunrise twenty-nine years before – to celebrate this milestone together.

And what better place than a gorgeous villa where they will be spoiled and enjoy the stunning beaches, picturesque fishing towns and glorious climate of the Algarve?

But time away from home doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes it makes the thought of returning to your life too hard to bear. Especially with more than one gorgeous Portuguese man making hearts unexpectedly flutter...

It begins as a reunion in the sunshine, but little do the four friends know what life-changing decisions they’ll all be making before their flight home.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Sunshine and Second Chances was the perfect summer read and offered a wonderful escape from the trials of reality. Reading about the gorgeous Algarve in Portugal made me yearn to be there, an added plus one to this amazing quartet of women!

I enjoyed the four different personalities that are represented within this novel. Debs can be outspoken, yet she is hiding a lot of insecurities and has a difficult time seeing herself for who she really is. Fiona is trying to care for her mother, who has a medical condition. This at times can fill her with guilt, particularly if she makes a decision where she puts herself first. Samantha is grieving the loss of a loved one and trying desperately to reconnect with her son, while Liv seems to have it all, yet she feels as though she has nothing, at least, not where it counts. Even with the long-term friendship between them, it is difficult to be honest and to really admit to what life is like, and while this trip is meant as a fun girl’s getaway, it’s also a cathartic experience!

I appreciated the evolution that happens for all four of them. It didn’t happen overnight, either. It was a gradual transformation, for better or for worse, and we get to witness that while the women are at times pressed to their limits, or having to go outside of their comfort zones. There is a misconception that we have it all figured out the older we get, but it’s shown here that most of us really don’t, that sometimes knowing the right thing to do can be an even harder thing to decide on. In some ways, the simpler times had been when they were twenty-one years of age and felt as though their whole lives were ahead of them. That mistakes in those days could easily be made and just as soon forgotten.

I think what I really liked the most about Sunshine and Second Chances is that it’s a book written for someone in my age bracket! I felt inspiration and hope for the second chapter in my life, the life that begins after fifty. At the start of it all, we see that Debs has to work to come out of her shell, and Fiona has to accept that it’s okay to put herself as a priority, while Samantha has to learn to let go, and Liv has to speak up and let her wants and needs be known. In finding their way, I felt like I was finding my way, too. That there are plenty of adventures in store for me and it’s up to me to make it happen, no matter my age. That it’s okay to still dream and create lists and goals, that it’s okay to never stop living. To take trips to places like Algarve, and instead of saying, “No, that will never be me,” I can say, “Someday, it will be.” I only hope I can invite my own fantastic girlfriends along for that ride!

Thanks to Kim Nash for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Kim Nash:

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Spotlight and Giveaway: Love Your Life

Today we are celebrating the publication of Sophie Kinsella's latest novel, Love Your Life. Check out Melissa's reviewThanks to The Dial Press, we have one copy to give away!

From the #1
New York Times bestselling author of I Owe You One, an utterly delightful novel about a woman who ditches her dating app for a writer's retreat in Italy--only to find that real love comes with its own filters
Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers' retreat in coastal Italy. She's determined to finish writing the novel she's been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.
At the retreat, she's not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by "Aria," meets "Dutch," a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast--stretches of beaches, architectural wonders, aromas of olive groves and lemon trees, signature orecchiette pasta, and rainbow-colored houses that line the shore. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.
But then their real identities--Ava and Matt--must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there's the prickly situation with Matt's ex-girlfriend, who isn't too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can't love each other's lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

Photo by John Swannell
Sophie Kinsella
is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series, as well as the novels Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I've Got Your Number, Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life, Surprise Me, and I Owe You One. She lives in London.
Visit Sophie 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

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Giveaway ends November 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Tracy Krimmer takes us back in a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Tracy Krimmer back to CLC today. Her latest novel, The (Un)fortunate Fall published today and it's the second in the Rewind series. While it can be read as a standalone, it may contain spoilers for The Mash-Up Summer (reviewed here). Fortunately, Tracy has an e-book of The Mash-Up Summer for a lucky reader!

Here's what Sara had to say about The (Un)fortunate Fall: “It doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict how incredibly funny and charming The (Un)fortunate Fall is. I appreciated the unconventional manner in which Vivienne finds herself within a new potential romance, but what I love even more are the tight-knit relationships she has with her friends, the kind of friendships we all aspire to have in our own lives.”

In honor of this publication, Tracy has a fun guest post for us about all things nostalgic. 

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

Vivienne James loves going to the mall, but she's not there to spend her own money. As a personal shopper and owner of her own business, Exquisite by Viv, she's on the prowl for the latest and greatest items for her most exclusive clientele. When she bumps into Cal McDonald, Vice-President of a local bank, she's intrigued by his smile and charm. But she doesn’t expect him to offer her a job as his personal assistant, especially when an adult toy she purchased for her client comes flying out of her bag.

Vivienne's business means the world to her, but Cal's offer is so tempting. Unsure of what to do, her best friend makes her a paper fortune teller to guide her. The result is a promising future where all her dreams come true. Though she’d rather focus her efforts on individual clients and building a portfolio, Cal’s proposition ticks a lot of boxes and is in line with her fortune teller. It seems like a no-brainer.

But right when Vivienne’s decision is made, her family becomes caught in the middle of a heated political campaign with an unexpected opponent. Everything is falling apart, and Vivienne needs to pull together her life and her family before her business falls apart. Can Vivienne succeed at both or will her fortune teller lead her to ultimate failure? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Tracy Krimmer’s Top Five Things From the 80s & 90s

If there is anything I love more than a great book, it’s a throwback to the eighties and nineties, which is one reason I love The Goldbergs so much. The ABC show takes us back to 1980-something in every episode. Each time I watch the show, there is always a reminder of those days. I love it. 

I tend to clump the two decades together. I view the eighties and nineties as one in the same. There is so much to love about them both. Honestly, a top-five list of my favorite things from those decades is impossible. I’ll share some of my favorites, but know that the list is more like one-hundred items long! If you follow me on Facebook, I often post some of my favorites.

Jelly Shoes. They were squishy and came in many colors. I loved these shoes and thought they were so cool, and I was, too, for having them. I wasn’t if you haven’t guessed.

Riding my bike everywhere. Wow, have times changed. I’d tell my mom I was going to ride my bike and disappear for hours. That doesn’t happen anymore. 

Magazines. I loved Teen Beat and Bop. In the “old days,” we decorated our rooms by tearing out photos from magazines and hanging them all over the walls! I can still picture Corey Haim on my wall.

Roller Skating. This was one of my favorite things to do with my cousins. My aunt would drop us off for an afternoon of skating. Once I got into high school, I started attending All Night Skates!

The music. Honestly, there is nothing like music from the eighties and early nineties. I was obsessed with Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, and Madonna. I had all their cassette tapes (yes, tapes!)

I could go on and on listing Trapper Keepers, after-school specials, slap bracelets, and more. There was so much to love about that time period. I miss those simpler days. 

I’m in my forties now, and I wonder if the time I grew up in was simpler or just the innocence of childhood makes it seem that way. Either way, whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by today’s technology, political debates (ahem, arguments), and life in general, I know I can always look back on that time fondly.

Thanks to Tracy 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 November 1st at midnight EST.

Friday, October 23, 2020

What's in the mail

This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey from Quirk Books (e-book via NetGalley)
Hello, Summer and Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews from Tandem Literary
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig from Viking (e-book via NetGalley)
It's Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian from Harlequin (e-book via NetGalley)

In a Book Club Far Away
by Tif Marcelo from Tall Poppy Writers (e-book via NetGalley)
Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan from St. Martin's Press (e-book via NetGalley)
Love in Lockdown by Chloe James from Avon Books UK (e-book via NetGalley)
The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams from Harper360 (e-book via NetGalley)
You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes from Random House (e-book via NetGalley)

Trading Secrets by Rachael Eckles from Book Publicity Services (e-book)
It's Raining Men by Rich Amooi from Rachel's Random Resources (e-book)

Book Review: Simmer Down

By Cindy Roesel

Sarah Smith offers up two delicious enemies-turn-lovers in her new rom-com, SIMMER DOWN. Please, I'm not giving the ending away. It's a romantic comedy.

Nikki Dimarco knew life on the island of Maui wouldn't be all sunshine and Mai Tais when she moved there to help her mom run their food truck, Tiva's Filipina Kusinao. But then newcomer and candy for the eyes, British bad boy, Callum James rudely breaks the rules and moves his truck, Hungry Chaps in too close for comfort. Soon things are heating up and the smoking hot competition breaks out in a public fight that goes viral.

But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts seeing the sweet side of Callum and vice versa. But are they too proud to call a truce? Are they willing for their relationship to jump from the frying pan into the fire?

I absolutely loved SIMMER DOWN. This is Sarah Smith's sophomore effort after penning the successful FAKER. Her characters and plotting show a talent for making readers smile and enjoy happy endings. Let's all hope, one: we get to go to Maui and two: we meet a delish guy like Callum. I promise you'll end up loving to hate him.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What's cooking with Carol M. a book giveaway

We're pleased to welcome Carol M. Cram to CLC today. Her latest novel, Love Among the Recipes, sounds like a real treat. Carol is here to talk more about it and she has TWO e-books to give away!

Carol M. Cram loves the arts, food, travel, and writing novels about people who follow their passions.

Carol writes about women in the arts in her first three award-winning novels of historical fiction, The Towers of Tuscany (Lake Union Publishing, 2014), A Woman of Note (Lake Union Publishing, 2015) and The Muse of Fire (Kindle Press & New Arcadia Publishing, 2018) and matches her travel-inspired vignettes with pastel drawings created by her husband, Canadian artist Gregg Simpson in Pastel & Pen: Travels in Europe (New Arcadia Publishing, 2018). 

Carol expresses her enthusiasm for the written word, the arts, and her love of travel on Artsy Traveler and Art In Fiction, and on the Art In Fiction Podcast in her chats with authors who write novels inspired by the arts. She also teaches writing courses and mentors new authors--one of her favorite things to do.

Carol holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. She lives with her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, BC, where she also teaches Nia, a holistic dance/fitness practice. (Bio adapted from Amazon.)

Visit Carol online:

Paris may be for lovers, but cookbook author Genna McGraw is definitely not looking for love. She’s looking for escape and she's looking for a good runny Brie to pair with a smooth Bordeaux. Where better than Paris?

In Love Among the Recipes, Genna goes to the City of Light to get away from her philandering husband and write a “crossover cookbook/guidebook” that matches Parisian sights such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre with recipes for bistro-style French dishes. She also dabbles in romance with dishy French lawyer Pierre Leblanc and makes friends at her French class with Colorado transplant Marsha Renfrew and her snooty English boyfriend.

And then there’s big, blunt Bill Turner from Australia. Does he really eat crocodile steaks for tea?

But when Genna’s family crashes her new life in Paris, a crisis forces her to choose how she wants to live. Will she have the courage to embrace an uncertain future and risk losing everything? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How do you get past writer's block?
Ah, there’s the rub! I once suffered for several years from writer’s block (at least in relation to writing fiction) before I finally had my first novel published (The Towers of Tuscany in 2014). My problem was that I couldn’t get past needing to be perfect. I wanted every word I wrote to be exactly right the first time I wrote it. Of course, that’s impossible! I got over writer’s block when I finally gave myself permission to “be bad”; that is, to just get the words on screen and then to do the editing later. 

Now, I’m able to start writing a scene without worrying whether what I’m writing is “good”. And very often, when I reread the passage I just wrote, I discover that the writing is much better than I expected. 

I think the trick to getting over writer’s block is to just do a lot of writing and to be confident that you’ll correct errors and polish the words during the editing process. As I’ve discovered after completing four published novels, I’ll be reading every word I write countless times before I even let beta readers take a look, and then many more times after that until the book is ready to be published.

Another good way to combat writer’s block is to write every day. I set myself a word limit and make it a priority to meet it before I start any other activities such as marketing, blogging, or consulting.

Has the pandemic changed your writing in any way?  If so, how?
I’ve been writing full time for several years now so the pandemic didn’t have that big an impact on my writing process. However, two interesting things happened to my writing career as a result of the pandemic. First, I had to give up going to cafés to write—something I used to love to do. Now that restrictions are starting to ease here in British Columbia, I’m able to go to my local café again, but I don’t do so nearly as often as I used to. I just got out of the habit and so I do the majority of my writing at home. At least I’m saving a ton of money! 

Second, when the pandemic started, I was writing the sequel to The Towers of Tuscany which is set in medieval Italy. The novel was historical fiction and included all sorts of scenes involving plague, violence, etc., because, of course, 14th-century Italy wasn’t the safest of times. When our own 21st century plague hit, I decided that I wanted to work on something fun and light. As a result, I took out the manuscript for Love Among the Recipes that I’d written a few years ago and decided to get it ready for publication. I figured that if I wanted a break from the grim realities of this year, others may want the same. Love Among the Recipes is intended to be a fun, food-infused romp through Paris that is as crisp, sweet, and smooth as the perfect macaron!
What experience has had the greatest impact on your writing career?
I think one of the best things I did to jump start my writing career was to work with a mentor prior to publishing my first novel. I always advise new writers to find a mentor who will help them structure their novel and provide good advice about style and character development. When I worked with a mentor, I took the leap from wannabe writer to “real” writer capable of creating stories that people might actually want to read! I remember being so thrilled after my initial meeting with my first mentor (I’ve had a few) when she told me that I was on the right track. Yes, I had a lot of work to do to get my manuscript into shape, but I was encouraged to know that I wasn’t wasting my time. That was a good day!

The one thing no one would ever guess about me is . . .
I’m really, really good at wasting time! I have developed a reputation over the years as someone who works hard and is pretty productive most of the time. While that is true on the surface, I never really feel like I’m as productive as I could be because I know how much time I don’t spend working. Fortunately, I’m getting much better at not being so hard on myself and on recognizing that downtime isn’t wasted time!

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which book would that be?
Emma by Jane Austen (although any of her novels will do!). I frequently re-read Austen’s six novels and never cease to be amazed at how they can still make me laugh out loud. I’ll never tire of reading about Mr. & Mrs. Elton, Miss Bates, and fussy old Mr. Woodhouse. Austen’s characters are so incredibly memorable and yet how did she do it? No matter how many times I read her novels, I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly she did to make them so good. I just wish I could do the same!

What is your favorite "go-to" fall recipe?
Pumpkin pie, of course! As I write this, I’m about to start baking my first pie of the season for Canadian Thanksgiving (second weekend in October). I confess that often I buy my pumpkin pies, but this year I’m baking one from scratch. Since March, I’ve spent a lot more time in the kitchen cooking and baking.

~Interview by Tracey Meyers

Thanks to Carol 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 October 27th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about...Being Scared

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This month, in honor of Halloween, we're talking about the scariest things that have happened to us.

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:

This year, due to the global pandemic, there won’t be any trick-or-treating going on in my neck of suburban woods. This really doesn’t mean much for my teenager, other than missing out on potential sleepovers with his buddies, but my fourth grader looked forward to dressing up and walking around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and saying the obligatory “trick-or-treat,” his pumpkin-shaped bag stretched out in anticipation of whatever candy loot he can acquire. 

In lieu of the usual traditions on October 31st, we’re going to have a Halloween night sleepover with our boys, complete with junk food and scary movies. Well, as scary as the youngest child (and his mother) can handle. We’ll each have our pick and roll with it, possibly in sleeping bags, more than likely not making it past midnight, potentially passing out during Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas or Poltergeist or some other movie, making the best of a unique situation that has plagued us for most of 2020.

Scary movies got me thinking about scary things, in general. When I was a kid it was the zombie pets and children that come back to life in Pet Semetary, or the talon-like claws on the glove that Freddie Krueger wears in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and don’t get me started on not being able to sleep in my bed for a week after seeing The Exorcist. Those things had frightened me back then, but there are still some obvious fears in my life that have only become heightened the older I get. They are realistic and ever present, items that can’t be tucked away by sliding a VHS cassette tape into its case and sticking it onto a shelf.  

In no particular order, although I’m sure my family would disagree with me, given the way I act when having to face my fears head on:

My children like to show me videos of people walking on scaffolding hundreds of stories up in the air, or dare devils who go rock climbing without any safety gear, and they particularly get a kick out of showing me skydivers, blending two of my fears together, heights and flying, which I’ll get into a bit later. I put myself inside the shoes of those people, and my first instinct is to want to urinate in my pants. In fact, I know that would happen if I did anything of that nature. Which is funny, because I jumped out of a two story window when I was a preschooler because I’d seen friends playing outside while I was forced into taking a nap, and I got it into my head that the best way to accomplish playing with them was to scoot a chair to my bedroom window and jump out of it. Maybe my fear of heights began after that experience, I’m not sure.

I went hiking with my teenager not too long ago, and afterwards, as we’re getting into our car, a honeybee decides it wants to join us. My son loves to recount my reaction to this, arms flailing about, screams loud and high-pitched, filled with deep terror as I’m scooting over into his side of the passenger seat, trying to get away. He laughed at me the entire time. The bee decided it didn’t want to deal with my theatrics and went on its merry little way, but this experience brought out the intense fear I have of all things bee-related. Honeybees and bumblebees and hoverbees don’t bug me as much, because they do their own thing. But—and just thinking of it makes me sick to my stomach—wasps are just, I can’t even. They’re nasty. If I see one, I run.

I don’t have as strong of a fear of flying, so much as being high up in the air inside of a plane and not being able to see the ground while I’m doing it. I knock on the plane before I enter it, a superstitious ritual I learned from an ex who is in the military and would often fly for deployments and training purposes. I figure if he could survive all of his flights after knocking on the plane, I’d pick up on his habit. And that’s where it gets a bit silly. I make my husband do it, and my children, too. Every single time we’re on a plane, I make sure I’m the last one on out of our group, so I can visually see that they really do tap their knuckles to the aluminum siding.

Bad weather is not my friend. I don’t mind rain or thunder, and a little bit of wind never hurt nobody. But when it escalates into a full-blown storm and we’re told to batten down the hatches, I’m not a big fan of that. There’s not much of that out here in Arizona, not even with the monsoons that sweep up on us during the summer months. In fact, it’s a welcomed break from the intense 115 degree weather that we often see in June, July, and August. But we moved to Arizona from Nebraska and I spent fourteen years of my life there, some of that preparing for tornadoes and high-wind storms that could cause significant damage. No matter what time, usually in the early morning hours, we’d have to wake the boys up and move down to our basement, leaving the television on as long as we were able to if the weather didn’t cut the power, and usually it did, watching the latest news reports to see when it might be safe to go back up to the main level. I think it’s the loss of control I feel in dealing with poor weather. It doesn’t matter what I want, a tornado is going to do whatever a tornado wants to do.

It feels like the more we learn about the pandemic, the less we really know about the pandemic. Having a child with asthma has made me feel a lot more concerned about it, a need to protect and do what I can to keep him from getting sick. This is the kid who ends up with bronchitis after a simple cold, so I can't help but have real fear at the possibility of anyone in my family getting Covid-19. This extends out and into everything we do now, choosing not to go into public restaurants or venues where there might be a lot of people, choosing to do a lot more outdoor activities and at times, vetting those we know to make sure they’re practicing social distance, too. Everyone says it’s the “new normal,” but it doesn’t feel normal, not at all. It makes me miss the simplicity of my younger years, where the biggest fears I had on my plate were the boogeyman or Pinhead, from Hellraiser. 

I wish for the days where we can get back to normal.

Melissa Amster:

I am not one for horror movies, and while I used to be a fan of horror books, I mostly just read psychological thrillers now. As far as personal scary experiences, I could mention the time I was watching girls at camp play with a homemade Ouija board and someone made an announcement over the loudspeakers around the same time. Or I could talk about how I thought the house I was babysitting at was possessed, thanks to the baby monitor being on the wrong channel. However, I want to talk about some real life scary experiences....the two times my kids wandered off. 

The first time was at F.A.O. Schwarz in the summer of 2008. My oldest was almost three at the time. We had gone with family to New York City for the day and the famous toy store was one of our stops. While we were walking around, my oldest somehow wandered off. I was freaking out because I didn't see him anywhere! I also was carrying around my (now) middle child when he was a baby. My oldest thankfully went back to the place he had wandered from and we found him right there. I got so mad at him and made him sit in the stroller the rest of the time. He was upset with me over that, but I'd rather him be upset for a little while than gone forever. The experience tainted the rest of my day though.

Fast forward to 2015, when my youngest was four. We were visiting my family in the Chicago suburbs for Independence Day and everyone was walking to this big park to watch the fireworks. My youngest wanted to walk with my sister, which was fine with me. However, when we got to the park, she let go of my sister's hand and just kept walking. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I'm guessing she was looking for my husband or me. When we realized she wasn't with any of the adults in our group, we were frantic. Fortunately, she was smart enough to realize she was lost and she approached a police officer for help. My cousin was able to find her that way and bring her back to us. Of course, I was really upset with her for doing that and I will admit that I made her cry from my reaction. Going to see fireworks since that time has not been as enjoyable. 

I consider myself lucky that my kids had only wandered off for a short period of time, but thinking about what could have happened makes me feel terrified and panicky. 

What is something scary that has happened to you? We're all ears (or eyes, in this case).

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Cookbook Club

Today we are featuring The Cookbook Club by Beth Harbison, which published this week. The cover is as tantalizing as the synopsis and it even has recipes. Thanks to William Morrow, we have THREE copies to give away!

MUST LOVE BUTTER: The Cookbook Club is now open to members. Foodies come join us! No diets! No skipping dessert!

Margo Everson sees the call out for the cookbook club and knows she’s found her people. Recently dumped by her self-absorbed husband, who frankly isn’t much of a loss, she has little to show for her marriage but his ‘parting gift’—a dilapidated old farm house—and a collection of well-loved cookbooks

Aja Alexander just hopes her new-found friends won’t notice that that every time she looks at food, she gets queasy. It’s hard hiding a pregnancy, especially one she can’t bring herself to share with her wealthy boyfriend and his snooty mother. 

Trista Walker left the cutthroat world of the law behind and decided her fate was to open a restaurant…not the most secure choice ever. But there she could she indulge her passion for creating delectable meals and make money at the same time.

The women bond immediately, but it’s not all popovers with melted brie and blackberry jam.  Margo’s farm house is about to fall down around her ears; Trista’s restaurant needs a makeover and rat-removal fast; and as for Aja, just how long can you hide a baby bump anyway?

In this delightful novel, these women form bonds that go beyond a love grilled garlic and soy sauce shrimp. Because what is more important in life than friendship…and food?

New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison started cooking when she was eight years old, thanks to the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. After graduating college, she worked full-time as a private chef in the D.C. area, and within three years she sold her first cookbook, The Bread Machine Baker to Random House. She published four cookbooks in total before moving on to writing bestselling women’s fiction, including the runaway bestseller Shoe Addicts Anonymous, and When in Doubt, Add Butter.

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

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 October 26th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Book Review: The Other Woman

By Cindy Roesel

THE OTHER WOMAN by Amanda Brookfield (BoldwoodBooks) is exactly what comes to mind. A story about two women, each being 'the other woman' in an affair. But THE OTHER WOMAN is also a slick page-turner, you won't put down until the end, about love, marriage, lies, secrets and fate.

"Life must change shape. Sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. And sometimes it takes time for us to know which one it is." ~THE OTHER WOMAN

Fran has had enough of her abusive marriage to husband Pete, so she leaves and gets on an airplane to be with her lover, Jack and freedom. Helena knows her husband is having an affair and she's made up her mind not to let him go. Jack is in the middle of this threesome and determined to leave Helena and be with Fran. They agree to meet at the airport and start their new lives, but it doesn't turn out that way.

Fran and Helena eventually have a showdown, and we realize Jack is not worth it. While reading a book about an affair, its normal to take a side. We readers get to spend a good deal of time with each woman and we get to understand "her side." But THE OTHER WOMAN made me really look at what each was experiencing and it wasn't bliss. I liked the fact that Amanda Brookfield developed these women beyond a bitch-fight. I could connect with Fran who was looking for an escape from abuse and for real love and Helena, an insecure woman only trying to hold on to what she believed was hers. Eventually we realize Jack's not worth it. Well, that's the way I felt. You may have a completely different take after reading THE OTHER WOMAN.

"Nothing, ever, is lost, good or bad." ~THE OTHER WOMAN

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK 

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of many novels including Good Girls, Relative Love, and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog, starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London.

Visit Amanda online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Sign up for Amanda's mailing list.

Visit the other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, October 19, 2020

Book Review: The Christmas Swap

By Sara Steven

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids' club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy's mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules's loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy 'Orphan's Christmas' with Chloe's friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’ve yet to see the movie The Holiday, but I’ve heard it’s about two friends who make a decision to swap homes in order to gain a much-needed change in scenery. The Christmas Swap felt very reminiscent of that, and there’s even mention of The Holiday within the pages of this story, but with three friends in tow there’s an opportunity for three times the fun, and three times the trouble! 

I loved the friendship dynamic between Chloe, Jules, and Lucy. I’ve had my own friendships that have spanned decades, and knowing how tight knit we are, practically family, it makes the decision to swap homes and celebrate the holidays elsewhere all the more believable. As with other novels by Sandy Barker, place becomes another character, so much so that I could feel the intense cold in Colorado, the incessant rain in England, and the sunny beaches of Australia. There is so much contrast for the girls because they’re going from an environment they are used to and completely shifting gears into another climate, even. It was an eye-opening experience, not only for the characters but for the reader, too. It was also fun to step in and see what sort of situations they might potentially get themselves into, particularly where the affairs of the heart are concerned. 

And speaking of, the three ladies all find themselves in potential romances, but the one that drew me in the most had been Lucy. The man she is interested in presents a bit of a conflict within the group, and there’s a particular scene that really had me fired up because of the way she’d been treated over it.  There is mention how Chloe, Jules and Lucy have rarely had a fight in the entire time they’ve been friends, and even then it would ordinarily become a disagreement. So, it was interesting to see where that would lead. 

Having read other books by Barker, I knew I would be in for a holiday treat, and I wasn’t disappointed. I know the holidays are still a couple of months away, but given the kind of year most of us have had, this felt like the perfect escape, a much needed respite. A definite five-star read!

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

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

Sandy Barker is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list. She loves exploring new places, outdoor adventures, and eating and drinking like a local when she travels, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, film buff, wine lover and coffee snob.

Visit Sandy online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit the other stops on the blog tour:

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Review: The Exit Strategy

By Jami Denison

A lot of the domestic thrillers I read center around a love triangle among a wife, her husband, and his mistress. Generally the wife is the pampered stay-at-home mom type, while the mistress is much younger and grasping and clever but not necessarily educated. When the women discover each other, they fight over which one the man in the middle truly loves. 

Lainey Cameron’s debut novel, The Exit Strategy, is a refreshing change from this pattern. When the two female protagonists discover they are involved with a cheater, they both dump him to the curb and work together to make him pay. Then they get on with their lives. 

When Ryn Brennan discovers text messages that prove her husband Todd is cheating on her, it’s only the beginning. For Todd’s girlfriend is Carly Santos, lead scientist of the biotech firm that Ryn, a venture capitalist, will be investing in. It’s her first major investment since being offered a partnership. Not surprisingly, Ryn and Carly’s initial meeting doesn’t go well. But as soon as Ryn tells Carly the truth about Todd, the women see that he is the true villain of the piece. 

Ryn and Carly are both highly intelligent women who are dedicated to their careers, and much of the book is dedicated to their teamwork in positioning Carly’s company. Author Cameron, who describes herself as a “recovering tech industry executive,” brings her detailed knowledge of the venture capitalism industry to bear, but never does the reader feel lost in the weeds of insider jargon. Their quest to launch Carly’s product is just as engrossing as their mission to rid themselves of Todd.

Cameron says that The Exit Strategy was inspired by “a decade of being the only woman in the corporate boardroom,” and the sexism that is so pervasive there. Her personal experience is invaluable, but may have led the book to feel too heavy-handed. With Todd being not only a cheater but a master-level manipulator, the subplot concerning the sexism that Ryn and Carly face at work feels like too much of a bad thing, and the message was muddied rather than amplified. And for me, the coincidence of Carly and Ryn’s business connection would have been more palatable had Todd also worked in venture capitalism or biotechnology. 

These quibbles are only minor irritants in what is overall a very enjoyable story. Usually in this scenario the reader roots for one woman over another; Cameron lets us root for both to be victorious. In a genre that often hints that the most important thing a woman can do in her life is choose the right man, it’s a relief to read a book where the women put themselves first.

Thanks to Lainey Cameron for the book in exchange for an honest review.