Friday, December 30, 2022

Reviews at Amazon--November/December 2022

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon (or Goodreads) accounts, as either they've been sitting in our 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!


Ten Years by Pernille Hughes

The Santa Bet by Tracy Krimmer

Wild at Heart by Stacy Gold


Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Typecast by Andrea J. Stein

Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman

The Friendship Breakup by Annie Cathryn

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

The Chemistry of Love by Sariah Wilson

An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen

Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

Gigi, Listening by Chantel Guertin

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron

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Thursday, December 29, 2022

Book Review: The House in the Pines

By Sara Steven

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend's sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed....

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they'd been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can't account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer--the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother's house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father's book that didn't stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank's cabin....

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

When I say The House in the Pines kept me guessing, that’s an understatement. Will Aubrey’s cause of death have some sort of supernatural foundation? Can the same be said for the young woman Maya sees in the YouTube video? How is Frank tied to it all? The truth was so shocking, I didn’t even see it coming!

At first, I wasn’t sure what sort of past Maya had that would feed into her secret addiction. Like nearly everyone else in her life, I didn’t know the depth or extent of what she has gone through, and it’s obvious she holds onto self-medication because it’s a way to escape. Then the YouTube video. It seemed to be a trigger for her, opening up old wounds, reminding her of what she’d witnessed several years prior when her friend Aubrey had died. 

I’m not always a fan of flashback chapters, but I felt it really worked here. We get to see the present Maya, who is taking us right along with her while she sleuths what really happened to her best friend, along with past Maya, giving us background information into the type of friendship she’d had with Aubrey. Then there’s Frank, an absolute enigma. From the get go, Maya had no interest in him, barely noticing his existence. Yet, suddenly, as though he’d cast some sort of invisible spell on her, she finds him fascinating and wants to spend every waking moment with him. Interactions with him were equal parts interesting and downright scary, because I never knew what was going to happen from one scene to the next. 

The information provided regarding Maya’s dad was also interesting. I don’t know if the story needed that extra element or not. I felt like it would have stood just fine on its own, but regardless, it was still so captivating and engrossing. I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to know how it would end, and I wanted to know what really happened to Aubrey and the woman in the video. The House in the Pines was creepy. Addictive. Suspenseful. It was a plain out psychological thriller, and worth the five stars I’ve given it!

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

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022 Top Picks

There were so many great books published in 2022 that it was very hard to choose between the ones we read. Here are some of the books that topped our lists. (We limited ourselves to five each.) However, any book we gave glowing reviews and five stars to this year is definitely recommended for your TBR! 

Links are to reviews. 


The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Sophie Go's Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron

Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer

I read over 100 books this year, most being contenders for these top five spots. I am featuring some other top picks for the year at my personal blog (those picks include YA reads and books published in other years).


The Helsingor Sewing Club by Ella Gyland

Bad Penny by Michele Gorman

The House Sitter by Ellery Kane

The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

Driven by Kerena Swan


The Love of My Life, Rosie Walsh – “Not all lying spouses are hiding murder or mafia ties in their past. Sometimes the secrets are about sadness, loss, and love.”

Home or Away, Kathleen West -- “These hockey parents hold up a mirror to modern parenting, which treats the successes and failures of children as life or death. Childhood is over way too quickly, and these sports obsessions make it even shorter.”

Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez – “Take My Hand is an important work, the type of novel that could be taught in high school English classes. Because of that, in the south, it will probably be banned.”  

The German Wife, Kelly Rimmer – “Rimmer’s work does what great fiction always does: Makes us question our world and our actions in it.”

The Displacements, Bruce Holsinger – “The scariest things aren’t events that can’t happen. They’re the events that can.”

What were your top picks for 2022?

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Book Review and Giveaway: The Christmas Party

This is our post during the blog tour for The Christmas Party by Mikayla Davids. The Christmas Party is an addictive psychological thriller with a jaw dropping twist.

This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours and the tour runs from 19 till 31 December. You can see the tour schedule here.

The Christmas Party book cover
The Christmas Party
by Mikayla Davids
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Age category: Adult
Release Date: 12 November 2022
A family reunion. A shocking secret. A night to die for…

On a snowy December night, the Bailey family are gathered at an isolated hotel in the English countryside. They’re reuniting for the first time since the accident that shattered their lives ten years ago.

It’s a time for love and forgiveness. But more than one guest has an ulterior motive:

The perfect daughter
The alcoholic

The single mother
The liar

The handsome husband
The adulterer

The beautiful sister
The jealous sibling

The murderer…

As the clock strikes midnight, one member of the party is found dead at the foot of the grand marble staircase.

Everyone is a suspect. But which one of them is a killer?

This completely addictive psychological thriller is packed with chilling twists that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of The Hunting Party and The Chalet.


Review by Sara Steven

The Christmas Party focused heavily on the estrangement between three sisters and their mother, who lived through a horrible event in their past, unable to truly move on. While two of the sisters, Sasha and Leah, have managed to maintain some semblance of a relationship with their mother, the third sister, Erin, has not been part of the family circle in over a decade. The reason behind it is spread out over the course of the novel, and while I feel it might not have needed its own chapters told from Erin’s past perspective in order to allow the reader the chance to see what caused the rift, the event itself is a believable reason. It made sense.

Each sister has their own reasons for wanting to be reunited, and many of them aren’t meant to repair family ties and work on their damaged relationships. Erin wants to show off where she is in her life, while Sasha had to be dragged kicking and screaming, mostly sticking around due to morbid curiosity and feeling as though she needs to respect her mother’s wishes. Leah wonders if the isolated hotel holds a potential love interest; someone who can provide and make life easier for her. The sisters shroud their true meanings for attending the party with supposed family love, until more than one truth slips out, threatening to unravel everything.

At first, I wasn’t sure what would make this book a thriller, feeling more like it might fit under the drama category. Yet, when a dead body is found splayed out “starfish style” on the floor, I could totally see why The Christmas Party is labeled that way. I honestly had no clue “who dunnit.” There are so many people to choose from, and many have a motive. In fact, there’s a scene at the end of one chapter which made me think it could be Erin, but when Erin accuses Sasha, I could see why she did that. Their mother isn’t off limits either, but really, the best thrillers are the ones that aren’t so obvious, and the answer isn’t obvious here. 

Despite its wholesome title, The Christmas Party was anything but. It’s a thriller. It’s drama. It’s filled with some twists and turns, and it was fun trying to figure out who was murdered, and even better, why it was done in the first place, while all of it is set in a gentle, peaceful setting, meant to elevate the starkness of reality. It was a fun, suspenseful experience. 

Thanks to Lola's Blog Tours for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads * Bookbub * Amazon

The Christmas Part graphic

Mikayla Davids author picture
About the Author:
I'll let you into a little secret... Mikayla Davids isn't my real name, it's just the pen name I write under. I could be the person sitting opposite you on the train, furiously tapping away at a laptop, or the woman scribbling in a notebook on the table beside you in Starbucks. Everyone has their secrets. And this is mine.

But I will tell you I've lived and breathed fictional worlds all my life. I've been the child who spent hours in the library, the teenager who stayed up turning pages way into the night, the publishing editor who poured every working hour into helping authors achieve their dreams of being published. Now I'm the secret writer who's finally ready to share my own stories.

I write about family dramas, complicated relationships and everyday moments that can suddenly turn into nightmares.

I hope you've been gripped and entertained by my novels. I'd love to hear from you if so, you can contact me across any of my social media pages or sign up to my newsletter.

Author links:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram
Amazon * Goodreads * Newsletter

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Christmas Party. Two winner both win an ecopy of The Christmas Party by Mikayla Davids and get to name a character in the sequel to The Christmas Party (US Only).

For a chance to win, enter the Rafflecopter below:
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Giveaway ends January 6th.

The Christmas Party square tour banner

Lola's Blog Tours graphic

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Book Review: I Told You This Would Happen

By Sara Steven

**Synopsis may contain spoilers for Look What You Made Me Do**

When a new string of deaths share an eerie likeness to her dead sister’s preferred murder method, Carrie Lawrence is on the hunt for a copycat killer.

Carrie's sister is dead.

Four months after losing her sister, Becca—a serial killer unknown to everyone else in their town—Carrie Lawrence is finally free of her manipulative clutches. From now on, she's keeping her hands clean, no more hiding dead bodies in the middle of the night, no more lies.

She's never been happier.

Then she attends a meeting of the Brampton Kill Seekers, a group of amateur local sleuths, and learns that a recent victim left behind a note that incriminates her in their disappearance. All of a sudden, the quiet, law-abiding life she's been planning starts to unravel.

She's never had so much to lose.

In her frantic quest to keep her secret dead and buried, she discovers someone nefarious lurking in the shadows...someone who'll go to any lengths to bring her dark truths to light. Now if Carrie wants her secrets to stay hidden, she'll have to get her hands very, very dirty. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I read the book that had come before this one–Look What You Made Me Do (reviewed here)–which made me even more excited to see what had become of Carrie, and to find out if she could truly move on or if she’d have unwanted ties to her former life with her sister. Along with that are a lot of hidden lies and secrets that Carrie has to keep from those closest to her, for fear of having the potential perfect life she’s been dreaming of her whole life removed and thrown away, along with her freedom.

The Brampton Kill Seekers was an interesting group. I thought it was a good way to move the plot forward, since everyone who is part of the group has an interest in finding out who the new serial killer might be, along with deciphering a note that was left behind by one of the victims. It was a total twist when it’s discovered that the clues were left for Carrie all along, and she has to try to decipher it all as best she can, or risk losing it all. 

From the first book and into the second one, I’d had my doubts about Carrie’s boyfriend. It was something her sister Becca had brought up and had never wavered on, so while I enjoyed finding out what the note meant, I also wanted to see what would become of Carrie’s boyfriend and if he’s more malicious than what was let on. It was really great how the people you think you can’t rely on, who are seen as the most dangerous, can become the closest allies, while characters seen as reliable and dependable could very well be Carrie’s undoing, and you never know for sure which way things would go. It kept me guessing until the very end. 

I Told You This Would Happen was a great follow-up to Look What You Made Me Do. The bad guys, the supposed “good” guys, and characters like Carrie who toe the line between what can be viewed as good vs. evil, with plenty of drama, suspense, and intrigue. It was a definite five-star experience!

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

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Friday, December 23, 2022

What's in the (e)mail


The Wife App by Carolyn Mackler from Simon & Schuster (print)
Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding from Gallery (NetGalley)
Hazel Fine Sings Along by Katie Wicks from Wattpad (NetGalley)
The Fiancée Farce by Alexandria Bellefleur from Avon (NetGalley)
Her Unexpected Match by Lacey Baker from Entangled (NetGalley)
In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune from Tor (NetGalley)
Anatomy of a Meet Cute by Addie Woolridge from Blankenship PR (print)
Starring Adele Astaire by Eliza Knight from William Morrow (NetGalley)
The Tiffany Girls by Shelley Noble from William Morrow (NetGalley)
The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev from Mindy's Book Club (NetGalley)
No Two Persons by Erica Bauermeister from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren from Gallery (print)
Five First Chances by Sarah Jost from Sourcebooks (NetGalley)
On Fire Island by Jane L. Rosen from Berkley (NetGalley)
Pride by Victoria Christopher Murray from Gallery (NetGalley)
Unexpecting by Jen Bailey from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Love Wager by Lynn Painter from Berkley (NetGalley)
A Light in the Forest by Melissa Payne from GetRed PR (NetGalley)
Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey from Avon (NetGalley)
The Greedy Three by Karen Katchur from Wunderkind PR (ebook)
The Ideal Man by T.J. Emerson from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
The Backup Groom by/from Rich Amooi (ebook)
One Day With You by Shari Low from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Aaron After School by/from Marlisa Kriscott (ebook)

The Shortest Years by/from Kelly Simmons (ebook)
Everything's Fine by Cecilia Rabess from Simon & Schuster (NetGalley)
Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown from Harlequin (NetGalley)
At Sea by Emma Fedor from Gallery (NetGalley)
Regrets Only by Kieran Scott from Gallery (NetGalley)
Kismet by Becky Chalsen from Dutton (NetGalley)
Not So Perfect Strangers by L.S. Stratton from BookSparks (NetGalley)
Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Goodnight from Paris by Jane Healey from Get Red PR (NetGalley)

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Book Review: Listening in the Dark

By Sara Steven

This remarkable anthology includes essays from Jessica Valenti, Lidia Yuknavitch, Jia Tolentino, Samantha Irby, Meredith Talusan, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Amy Poehler, America Ferrera, Ada Limón, Huma Abedin and many others, who all share how intuition has helped to shape and alter their life choices.

Have you ever had a feeling about something that you just couldn’t explain, but knew was right or wrong? Something that was telling you in your gut what decision to make, which direction to go in, or what to believe? For generations, women have been taught to ignore their intuitive intelligence, whether in their personal lives or professional ones, in favor of making logical, evidence-based decisions. But what if that small voice or deeper knowing was our greatest gift, an untapped power we could use to effect positive change?

Edited by award-winning author, activist, and actress Amber Tamblyn, Listening in the Dark is a compilation of some of today’s most striking women visionaries across industries—in literature, science, art, education, medicine, and politics—who share their experiences engaging with their own inner wisdom in pivotal, crossroad moments.

Filled with deeply personal and revelatory essays, Listening in the Dark will empower readers to reconnect with their own unique intuitive process, to see it as the precious resource it is, and to be unafraid to listen to all that it has to say and all that it has to offer. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Initially, I wanted to read Listening in the Dark because there were a few names I’d recognized, like Amy Poehler, America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn–the latter two actresses who I loved seeing in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchise. And Amy Poehler is so fun to watch, and so funny. I wasn’t sure what to expect from their written reflections, or any of the stories from the other authors, too. 

What I found were intimate accounts of what it’s like to rely on your female intuition, and how often, we don’t trust it. I can really relate to that right now, given recent situations I’ve been in where I had felt red flags, yet I didn’t listen to that inner gut intuition. This led to issues that might have been avoided had I relied on trusting myself. Many of the writers point out that often, women can feel stagnant when it comes to their intuition. If they speak up, they’re told, “Oh, it’s not as bad as you think it is.” Or, “That’s all in your head.” I’ve experienced that before, but never considered it as a way to diminish my inner voice. The authors shed an important light on that, and so much more, speaking directly from the heart. It really resonated with me.

The writing had been beautifully done. We often see celebrities as one-dimensional and stick them in a box depending on what we most associate them with, but Amber Tamblyn is as gifted an author as she is an actor. There was one particular story where she shared an interesting take on intuition when it comes to friendship, and I really felt for her and her experience with loss and grief, and recognition. Another author shared her own tragic story of how intuition had guided her towards assisting one of her children, but had seemed to fail her with her other child, and even in that desperate time, she managed to come through that experience with a better understanding of herself and of the world

I’m not always the best judge of character when it comes to using my best judgment, and it seems the older I get, the worse I can be at relying on my intuition. But after Listening in the Dark, I am more compelled to believe in myself and those gut feelings, even if it means at times diverting from what others think is the right decision, or the right path for me. I enjoyed this woman’s collaboration on such an important topic!

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

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Melissa Payne lights the a book giveaway

Credit: Eric Weber 2020
We're pleased to have Melissa Payne back at CLC today. Her latest novel, A Light in the Forest, released last week. It sounds really interesting and we enjoyed learning more about it. Thanks to Get Red PR, we have TWO copies to give away!

Melissa Payne is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Secrets of Lost Stones, Memories in the Drift, and The Night of Many Endings. She first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children, where she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds. The truth in those children’s stories was piercing and painful, written to invoke a call to action in the reader: to give, to help, and to make a difference. Melissa’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear. 

Visit Melissa online:

After running away from an abusive relationship with her two-month-old baby, Vega Jones — guided by an old photo of her late mother — finds safety and acceptance in the tiny Ohio town “full of nobodies” her mom left years ago.  

Although she’s welcomed by the locals, like artistic police officer Heff and big-hearted farmer Eve, she soon learns about a tragedy that happened years ago in the area woods — an event that has a connection to Vega herself. But even in this welcoming community, there’s an undercurrent of something unsettled, talk of a tragedy that unfolded in the woods years ago, and a mystery connected to Vega in ways she couldn’t have anticipated. 

As a mother on the run and following a path of mounting risks and illuminating secrets, Vega discovers that even during the darkest of times, there’s light in unexpected places. 

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing A Light in the Forest?
Every book comes with its own unique challenges. Sometimes that’s related to the story itself, other times it’s real life. For this book, it was a blend of the two. With this story as with all my novels, my aim is to write real people. Characters that readers can relate to even if they think they have very little in common. We all have some common ground, and most of us seek similar things: acceptance, love, belonging, relationships, family, community. We might look different but at the heart of it, most of us aren’t that different in what we want for ourselves and those we love. I try to write all my characters from that common ground, from the inside out. And when a reader connects to my characters, identifies with their struggles, desires and hardships, it is always rewarding.

I wrote this book during a profoundly difficult time that challenged my focus and ability to write. It wasn’t easy, but with my own support system, I was able to finish this story and I hope that it’s the better for it.   
What is something you learned from writing your previous novels that you applied to A Light in the Forest?
I have learned that there is no perfect writing schedule or setting. Yes, we love to imagine authors in beautiful writing spaces with books everywhere, lots of leather, a desk made from some exotic wood, whiskey in a hidden cabinet for celebrating and an old-fashioned typewriter where all the magic happens. But my experience is that creating stories happens side by side with the messy realities of life. Getting to ‘the end’ can be a struggle and looks different each time. Sometimes I write at my desk, other times in coffee shops, often in the car waiting for a kid, on a plane, or in a waiting room. I’ve learned to keep my expectations low and write messy, even if I know I’ll have to rewrite that scene or character or dialogue. Sometimes just getting to the end is the start and however that looks is exactly right for that moment because I’ve learned that for me, the true magic happens in the revisions.   
If A Light in the Forest was made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

"Oh My My"/Little May, "Stand Like an Oak"/Rising Appalachia, "You’re Not Alone"/Allison Russell  "Faded"/Conor Maynard, "Resilient"/Rising Appalachia, "Canary"/Joy Williams, "Coming Down"/Tyler Childers, "No Glory in Regret"/John Moreland, "Dead Middle"/Goodnight Texas, and "Redemption"/Nathanial Rateliff 
Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
The White Lotus which I can’t binge because I have to wait every week for the new one to come out. But it’s so, so good and worth the wait. And please don’t judge me, or do, it’s okay, my family does, Love is Blind which I just finished, all three seasons. I have no excuse, I just love the idea of best friends being perfect for each other.  

Who is your favorite celebrity named Melissa?   
Melissa McCarthy because I think she is hilarious and talented and have loved her since she played Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, and of course only loved her more after Bridesmaids.

Tell us about a memorable winter holiday gift you received. 

The year Santa brought me my very own Care Bear. It was Friend Bear and she had flowers on her stomach and a little peach lock of hair coming out between her ears, and I’m pretty sure she might have been my best friend for a bit. I still have her, but she’s very hard, not plush or cuddly at all and none of my kids ever took to her. Except my dog. He loved her very much.  

Thanks to Melissa for chatting with us and to Get Red PR for sharing her book with our readers.

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

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Giveaway ends December 27th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Book Review: Love and War in the Jewish Quarter

By Sara Steven

A breathtaking journey across Iran where war and superstition, jealousy and betrayal, and passion and loyalty rage behind the impenetrable walls of mansions and the crumbling houses of the Jewish Quarter.

Against the tumultuous background of World War II, Dr. Yaran will find himself caught in the thrall of the anti-Semitic Governor General, the most powerful man in the country. Dr. Yaran falls in love with the Governor General’s defiant wife, Velvet, upending not only the life of the doctor’s beloved daughter, but the entire community. In his quest to save everything and everyone he loves, Dr. Yaran will navigate the intersections of magic, science, lust, and treachery. His sole ally is the Governor General’s servant, an exotic eunuch, who will do anything to aid his mistress in her dangerous quest to attain forbidden love. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Love and War in the Jewish Quarter is a unique and eye-opening experience. While I feel I’ve learned a lot about World War II, I haven’t seen much out there about the experiences a Jewish community goes through while trying to survive in 1940s Iran. Whenever Dr. Yaran has to travel in order to assist the Governor General, I feared for him, but I appreciated seeing the world through his viewpoint. There is a particular scene where there are several violent marching men and the Jewish Quarter knows it is safe to stay indoors, not be seen–yet, Yaran has been tasked to help the General, so he must go. It’s that, or risk death by the hands of the General. Which is the lesser of the two evils? It seemed he lived his life by that motto. Going with what is the lesser of the evils in a world where it is nothing but.

The story of Tulip the eunuch was so sad, only adding more ire to my feelings towards the General. For some, human life is not precious. And, even after Yaran does all he can for the General, it doesn’t mean feelings will change. Yaran and Velvet are like a trauma-based Romeo and Juliet–born out of a way of life that is hard, doing what they can to attain what little beauty and love they can find. It’s hard to imagine anything good could come from loving someone who is married to violence and anti-Semitism. Things aren’t so easy for Yaran, either. They want him to find a woman who can be a mother to his little girl, but not Velvet. No one supports their relationship, other than Tulip, and even that ebbs and flows depending on the risk.  

Yaran’s little girl was an interesting character. Born from tragedy and also from a strange, rare circumstance, she became an advanced child who could talk in full sentences and accomplish other feats at a very early age. If anything, that was the one part that I had a hard time reconciling with. It seemed even as an infant she could do things that a lot of children can’t do. I get that she is written in such a way to show that her extraordinary circumstances allowed her to do extraordinary things, but I still snagged on that fact whenever I read scenes with her in it. It didn’t seem as believable to me. But that aside, I enjoyed who she was as a character, particularly when it comes to orchestrating what becomes necessary in order for Yaran to be happy. 

There were a lot of moments that dealt with doing what is considered right by society, or culture, or religion, and trying to reconcile doing what is right for yourself. This concept played out on both sides of the coin, eventually leading Yaran and Velvet to really reconsider what it would mean to have a relationship during a time when they would never feel as though they are accepted. The way that played out felt realistic and honest, and I was eager to see how things would turn out for them.

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

More by Dora Levy Mossanen:

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

J.J. Maya warms up our a book giveaway

We're thrilled to have J.J. Maya at CLC today. We featured her debut novel, Warpaint, a couple months ago and we are now sharing her second book in the Beauty Shop Girl series, Willow. It can be read as a standalone, but there may be some spoilers for Warpaint, so you may still want to read that one first. J.J. is here to talk about her books and share some holiday favorites. She even has THREE copies of Willow to give away!

J.J. Maya was born in a beautiful remote Scottish village. At the age of 19 she went to live in London and has been living in big cities ever since.

She graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a Masters Degree in Television Fiction Writing. Her Interiors writing has appeared in Wallpaper*Magazine, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and I-Escape.

In collaboration with her American Editor, Amy Tipton, J.J. writes laugh-out-loud British Romantic Comedy set in the USA. As a result, there are endless discussions over the correct spellings of words!

J.J. draws upon her experience working as a Flight Attendant and Makeup Artist as the inspiration for her romantic comedy debut novel, Warpaint. (Bio courtesy of Amazon.)

Visit J.J. online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

(may contain spoilers for Warpaint):
The beauty shop girl is back … and she’s on a new mission!

When Willow’s former boss, Mrs. G, invites her to Tallulah’s Tearoom for a chat, she can’t believe her luck. Good old Mrs. G only wants her to set up three new beauty pop-up stores in London, New York, and San Francisco!

She’s come a long way since her days behind the make-up counter in Glasgow, and she knows it.
Still reeling with excitement, she returns home to tell her boyfriend Jake about Mrs. G’s generous offer. But for some reason, he’s not happy. Typical Jake! Thankfully, she’s had just about enough of men and decides to leave her disastrous love life behind. The following day she jets off to the West Coast, brimming with optimism and excitement.

Soon-to-be-divorced and Jake-free (thank goodness for that!), she knows what she must do.

Put herself first.

Put her love life on the back burner.

And make Mrs. G’s pop-up stores the latest talk of the beauty world.

With only herself and her career to focus on, this is Willow’s chance to shine.

Will she succeed?

Or will Lady Luck interfere and throw another life-changing quandary in her way?

Find out in this light-hearted and laugh-out-loud adventure as Willow juggles business, mishaps, make-up, ex-lovers and much, much more. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
This is one of the latest reviews on Willow and I really like the wording:

"Once again J.J. Maya is soothing my brain with her lovely flowing writing.
I love Willow’s character – her strong decision making and leaps of faith. She’s accepting that bad things do happen but life’s too short to slow down. She’s kind and works hard but doesn’t let others take advantage of her. She embraces life but always with glamour!
The story of Willow's latest adventure is told effortlessly and at a continuous pace. And of course all the underlying humour is uplifting for a reader. I could read a book of J.J. Maya's every week!"

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing both Warpaint and Willow?
Warpaint was originally seeded as a TV pilot while I was working on my MA TV Fiction Writing master’s degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. I developed the script into a screenplay, which subsequently received a table reading at Working Title Film in London. Their advice was to write the book and reconnect with them when it was finished. But I couldn’t end the story at Warpaint, I was enjoying the characters so much, my Editor, Amy Tipton at Feral Girl Books urged me to write the sequel, which is now Willow. I wrote Willow, intending to complete The Beauty Shop Girl trilogy by this time next year.

If Warpaint and Willow were made into a TV series, who would you cast in the leading roles?
The Scottish actress, Kelly McDonald, (Trainspotting) is my original Willow. I could see and hear Kelly when I was writing Willow’s dialogue. I am also intrigued by Anya Firestone in Bravo TV’s Real Girlfriends in Paris. I love her character and her iconic style. My Willow loves to dress up in her ‘widow’s wardrobe of black dresses.’

The actor Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) was my Rick, love him or hate him, I’m sure Paul would do the ‘bad boy’ role justice. In my dreams, Cillian Murphy would play the part of Jackson, who is Willow’s best friend. I would style him with long black hair, a floppy fringe, black nail polish and black leather winklepickers. There’s a new character in Willow, but I don’t want to give too much away. His name is Patrick, that’s all I’m going to say about him!

What is your favorite winter holiday movie?
My favourite winter holiday movie has to be It’s a Wonderful Life, mostly because it is so heart-tugging but also because James Stewart reminds me of my grandpa! Love, Actually and Klaus would be my second and third choice.

What is your favorite winter holiday song?
My favourite holiday song is "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses.

What is your favorite winter holiday treat?
Hot chocolate and churros from Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid would be my memorable winter holiday treat.

Thanks to J.J. for chatting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.

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Monday, December 19, 2022

Book Review: How to Kill Your Family

By Becky Gulc

‘I  have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit.

When I think about what I actually did, I feel somewhat sad that nobody will ever know about the complex operation that I undertook. Getting away with it is highly preferable, of course, but perhaps when I'm long gone, someone will open an old safe and find this confession. The public would reel.

After all, almost nobody else in the world can possibly understand how someone, by the tender age of 28, can have calmly killed six members of her family. And then happily got on with the rest of her life, never to regret a thing.

A wickedly dark romp about class, family, love... and murder’. (Synopsis courtesy of Waterstones.)

How to Kill Your Family is the debut novel from journalist Bella Mackie. It quickly gathered fantastic reviews upon release so I had to buy it and read it for myself.

Grace Bernard is not someone you initially expect to champion, as outlined in the synopsis she kills several members of her family, planning each and every murder meticulously. Somehow however Grace as a protagonist is someone you will route for throughout. 

Grace is cold, calculating and hellbent on revenge for her late mother’s wishes not being granted. Grace is vulnerable and I felt sorry for her at times. She’s certainly an interesting character to get to know.

The book manages to be darkly humorous and I laughed out loud a fair few times reading this novel. It also felt extremely fresh, it’s not easy to compare it to any other books I’ve read as it’s simply unique and I loved that. I also didn’t see the ending coming and I was so mixed up by how I felt about this and that is no bad thing!

If you’d like to read something a little darker, but something which brings humour too, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Also by Bella Mackie:

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Friday, December 16, 2022

Book Review: Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

By Sara Steven

A city bookshop owner heads to the English countryside for a holiday reunion— only to face her childhood enemy.

Elinor Noel—Nory for short—is quite content running her secondhand bookshop in London. Forever torn between her working-class upbringing and her classmates’ extravagant lifestyles at the posh private school she attended on scholarship, Nory has finally figured out how to keep both at equal distance. So when two of her oldest friends invite their whole gang to spend the time leading up to their wedding together at the castle near their old school, Nory must prepare herself for an emotionally complicated few days.

The reunion brings back fond memories, but also requires Nory to dodge an ill-advised former fling. When she falls quite literally into the arms of Isaac, the castle’s head gardener, who has nothing but contempt for the “snobby prep school kids,” the attraction between them is undeniable. And as Nory spends more time with Isaac during the wedding festivities, she finds herself falling hard for the boy she used to consider an enemy. Nory and Isaac explore their common ground, but pressures mount on all sides, and Nory must decide what kind of life she wants to live and what sort of love is worth the risk . . . (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I could relate with Nory. There are friends I’ve grown up with who had a different upbringing than I’d had, and even though that’s the case, we’ve found common ground, particularly now that we’re adults and those divides don’t seem to matter as much. I love how Nory could see that with her friends, too, even though there might have been some past events that she’d rather not revisit. It provided a good dose of conflict at first with Isaac, because he’s still stuck on remembering the group of kids as just that–kids. He can’t get past some torturous moments that have stuck with him since childhood. 

He still takes issue with Nory, too. Not only because of something that had gone down between the two of them back then, but because of the company she kept and still keeps. And while she isn’t overly fond of him, either, in an effort to get away from a potentially awkward situation, she runs into him and despite everything, there is real attraction and mutual respect. Can she get past his narrow view of her friends, and can he do the same? Even Nory’s brother becomes a stumbling block to potential romance–he’s best buds with Isaac and doesn’t want them to go any further than as acquaintances. Some of the best conflict moments crop up between Nory and her brother–it was really great to read.

Along with Nory’s story are side stories that reflect what her friends are dealing with. One friend has a tough time with intimacy in his marriage, which leads him into looking elsewhere, while another friend has the same issue yet deals with it by shutting out anything that can even remotely become labeled as a relationship. Even while reading about their own troubles, we discover that they’re still connected to Nory as a support, or at times, a hindrance. Even the wedding becomes at risk, and Nory isn’t sure if it comes down to her, or if it’s more than that. 

At one point, Nory makes a decision that could potentially damage what she’s developed with Isaac, and it felt like it had come out of nowhere. While the subject and plot had seemed to brew into that kind of direction, it still seemed out of character and a total surprise that she would take the kind of liberties she does where Isaac is concerned. While her friends rally around her and point out that her decisions were always made with the best of intentions, I could totally understand why Isaac felt the way he did about it. I think there could have been a better way, but then again, it made for a huge fight between the two characters.

Nory was a very likable character. She was often up for sticking up for herself and for those she loves, particularly when her friends and Isaac show that they have a tough time of letting go of the past and not wanting to move on to the now. I rooted for her and for what she could have with Isaac, even when the chips were down. I loved Nory’s bookstore. I loved the scenery and where the story takes place. It felt like an amazing winter wonderland, made even more so by the budding feelings between Nory and the man who she’d once thought of as an enemy. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe really is a unique holiday experience!

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

More by Jenny Bayliss:

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