Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Faking Christmas

We are always glad to feature Kerry Winfrey's delightful rom-coms at CLC! Her latest, Faking Christmas, is now available and we are celebrating with a giveaway. Check out Melissa's five-star reviewThanks to Berkley, we have one copy to share with a lucky reader!

Laurel Grant works as the social media manager for Buckeye State of Mind, an Ohio tourism magazine and website. She most definitely does not run a farm . . . but one tiny misunderstanding leads her boss, Gilbert, to think she owns her twin sister Holly’s farm just outside of Columbus. Laurel only handles the social media for the farm, but she’s happy to keep her little white lie going if it means not getting fired—she cannot be jobless again.

And keep it going she must when Gilbert, recently dumped by his wife, invites himself over for the farm’s big Christmas Eve Eve dinner (as advertised on Meadow Rise Farm’s Instagram, thanks to Laurel herself). Laurel immediately goes into panic mode to figure out how she can trick Gilbert into thinking she’s basically the Martha Stewart of rural Ohio and keep her job in the process.

Laurel and Holly come up with the perfect plan—all Laurel has to do is pretend to own the farm for one dinner. But Laurel shows up at the farm to find an unwelcome guest is waiting: Max Beckett, her nemesis since Holly’s wedding. The annoyingly attractive man she hates will be posing as Laurel’s husband just for the evening, but when a snowstorm traps them all for the entire weekend, Laurel is going to have to figure out how to survive with her job and dignity intact. Whatever the case, this promises to be the most eventful Christmas in ages. . . .

"Kerry Winfrey was made to write a Christmas romance, and Faking Christmas fills the bill perfectly! A cozy Hallmark Christmas movie in book form, it's warm and sweet, quirky and just a little silly. The kind of Christmas story I'd want to re-read every December."
—Jen DeLuca, author of Well Traveled

"Kerry Winfrey never misses! This take on a Christmas classic is so full of charm, swoon and smiles that I'm ready for a re-read and I just finished it! If ever there was a perfect holiday rom-com, Faking Christmas is it!"
—Lynn Painter, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Wager

“Like Mariah Carey performing 'All I Want for Christmas Is You,' Kerry Winfrey hits all the right notes in this super cozy and charmingly chaotic enemies-to-lovers romcom. Faking Christmas is a story you'll want to snuggle up with again and again—the perfect comfort read for the holiday season. I enjoyed every hilarious, heartfelt moment of this delightful book!”
—Sarah Adler, author of Mrs. Nash's Ashes

Photo by Alex Winfrey
Kerry Winfrey is the author of the romantic comedies WAITING FOR TOM HANKS , NOT LIKE THE MOVIES,  VERY SINCERELY YOURS, and JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG, all published by Berkley. She’s also the author of two YA novels. She lives with her family in the middle of Ohio. (Bio courtesy of Kerry's website.)

Visit Kerry 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

Giveaway ends October 1st at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Friday, September 22, 2023

Book Review: The Christmas Orphans Club

By Allyson Bales

Hannah and Finn have spent every Christmas together since college. Neither has anywhere else to go—Hannah’s parents died, and Finn’s disowned him when he came out. Their tradition of offbeat holiday adventures only grows more outrageous with time. When the pair starts their adult lives in New York City, they add stylish Priya and mysterious Theo to the group, solidifying a found family and sense of belonging they’ve always craved.

But now, when Finn announces a move to L.A., this Christmas may be their last. Hannah is terrified of losing the family she’s built for herself, even as her boyfriend nudges her toward commitment. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with the things he’s about to leave behind—namely, his unexpressed feelings for Theo. Does growing up mean growing apart? This Christmas the changes these friends fear may be exactly what they need. . . . (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The lead up to Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year!  The weather is cozy, you're coming off that turkey or tofu turkey glow and feeling thankful after Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite thing to do starting December first was to watch Christmas movies with my cousin.  She absolutely loved the Hallmark channel but I loved movies with a little more...substance and drama!   This book reminded me of the perfect blend of Elf and Love, Actually.  It really gets you into the holiday spirit but also centers around friendship, love, and has that substance.    

There is a friend group that reminded me so much of my friends from college.  Hannah and Finn meet in their freshman year.  I related to and had some much in common with Hannah.  She is a Jersey girly and loves music, the movie Garden State, and read Goosebumps as a kid.  She is also fiercely loyal and quite the worrier.  Finn loves fantasy novels and the TV show Parks and Recreation, and is a bleeding heart.  They both are alone on Christmas and come together to celebrate every year.  Later on they meet Priya and Theo and their holiday adventures become more outrageous!

While this book revolves around this quirky and endearing friend group celebrating Christmas each year, there are more deeply layered themes surrounding found family and how friendship can change over time.  I really can relate to this and to be honest, struggled a lot like Hannah. 

“Lately it feels like we have so much less time for each other.  It used to be a given that the four of us would spend our weekends together.  We didn’t need restaurant reservations or concert tickets to bind us to a date and time.  If we didn't have something to do, we’d find something to do.  But now it takes thirty emails and a Google Calendar invite each month in advance to lock in a date, and even then there’s a fifty percent chance at least one person bails.”

Like Hannah, Finn, Theo, and Priya, I spent nearly every day with my friends from college and my early twenties.  They were more than just my friends, a lot of them have become my family.  As we have gotten older and life has become more complicated, the shift of time spent and getting together every day has changed.  I think so many people go through these changes and I love the way Freeman explores this.  I also really enjoyed her writing style.

There is so much funny banter, alternative points of view, and a non-linear timeline that really keeps you laughing and invested in the story.  I also loved all of the pop-culture and music references.  Freeman also explores sexual identity and grief in a relatable way.  There were so many sweet and funny and also more serious and heartfelt moments in this amazing book!

If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit with a little more depth than a Hallmark movie, this one is perfect and one I highly recommend!

Also I did not know Becca Freeman has a podcast, Bad on Paper, but I do now and WOW!  I started listening on my way into work today and I now can't wait for Becca and her co-host Olivia Muenter to become part of my daily routine! 

Thanks to Viking for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase The Christmas Orphans Club here.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review: Things We Do For Love

By Sara Steven

Daisy Bach, a therapist, has always been certain that she did not want to have children. Her childhood experiences with an overbearing and controlling mother, Verity, who tore the family apart, further cemented this decision. However, at the age of forty-five, Daisy finds herself reconsidering this choice. Unfortunately, her decision to try and conceive is complicated by her mother's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. With strained family relationships, Daisy faces the daunting task of caring for her elderly parents while also attempting to conceive. As she navigates this challenging time, Daisy is forced to confront her deep-seated resentment towards Verity. This journey leads her to re-evaluate her beliefs about motherhood, forgiveness, and the true meaning of a "happy" family. Will Daisy find a way to reconcile with her past and make peace with her present? Only time will tell. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I appreciated the different viewpoints provided by key characters in Things We Do For Love. We delve into the inner workings of Daisy, along with her sisters Iris and Heather, and moments with both Verity and her husband Sol provide even more background into this family and the struggles that can come when managing a loved one with a brain disorder. 

There is undeniable realism here. At one point, Daisy becomes insistent on finding a caregiver for her mother, because she doesn’t want to be the one who is “stuck” taking care of her. Her feelings stem from the resentment she has towards Verity, the way Daisy had been raised and never felt like she measured up to Verity’s impossible standards. I feel like a lot of media we see that shines a light on Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders will portray a strong family unit that despite everything, will pull together for the greater good. In reality, it isn’t always like that. Sometimes, there are stumbling blocks and a lot of deep-seated issues that need to be worked out first. It’s apparent there is a lot of that for Daisy.

It was also incredibly insightful to see Verity’s perspective. She highlights on just how much she focused solely on the family for decades, doing everything she could for her children and husband, with feeling loss at seeing those reins slip slowly from her fingers. Maybe she has been too hard on everyone, including herself, but it is tough not to feel for her and at some points, even identity with her point-of-view.

Things We Do For Love is a complex, relatable experience. Having a family member of my own who had dementia and seeing how that affected not just him but everyone around him, I could really relate to not only Daisy’s story, but Verity’s as well.  

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

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Vered Neta has lived in three different countries for the last six decades, so trying to trace her origins is a thrilling quest. Nowadays she lives in Tenerife on an off-the-grid finca creating a self-sustained life for her and her partner while writing her novels and scripts.

Her stories are character-driven dramas, giving voice to the untold stories of women and their triumphs in today's society. Her mission? To illuminate the world with kindness and positivity, one story at a time.

Vered's words have touched countless lives through her multiple books on motivation and relationships. Her book "Financial Independence for Women" sold over 50,000 copies.

In 2010 Vered was awarded the TIAW World of Difference Award, an award given to women whose efforts have advanced women's economic empowerment locally, regionally or worldwide.

Visit Vered online:
Website * Facebook

Visit all the stops on Vered's blog tour:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Beginning the day with Jackie Fraser...plus a book giveaway

Today we are pleased to welcome Jackie Fraser to CLC to talk about her latest novel, The Beginning of Everything. We enjoyed getting to know her and we hope you will too. Thanks to Dell Books, we have THREE copies for some lucky readers!

Jackie Fraser is a freelance editor and writer. She's worked for AA Publishing, Watkins, the Good Food Guide, and various self-published writers of fiction, travel and food guides, and self-help books. She reads a lot (no, really), in multiple genres, and is fascinated by the Bronze Age. She likes vintage clothes, antique fairs, and photography. She also likes cats. Visit Jackie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

After escaping a bad relationship, Jess Cavendish is running and leaving it all behind, carrying just a few treasured belongings in her knapsack. She needs to start over, but that means sleeping where she can and making the most of her slim savings. Luckily, she comes across a recently sold, unoccupied house. It couldn’t hurt to stay there while she saves up enough to get her own place, right?

Gethin Thomas is also looking to move on after the end of a long-term relationship. He’s returned to his hometown, anxious to renovate the fixer-upper he bought and move out of his sister’s cramped guest room. When he walks through the door one morning, he finds Jess, who’s ready to run again, and surprises them both by offering to let her stay. It feels like the right thing to do, but Jess doesn’t want a handout. They strike a bargain: Jess will help with the restoration, furnishing, and decorating in exchange for room and board.

While they peel wallpaper and shop for new furniture, an unexpected friendship develops as they bond over music and food, and slowly open up to each other about their pasts. When it’s time for Gethin to move in, he convinces Jess to be his official housemate and she agrees—so long as he lets her pay rent. The connection between them soon shifts to an attraction that seems both inevitable and overwhelming, and Jess must decide what she wants. With so much hurt in her past, can she risk loving again? She was brave enough to reach for a new life—and now a future she hadn’t even dreamed possible could be just within her grasp.

“A charming book about hope for a new life full of love!”
—Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of All the Days of Summer

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I had a nice one last week actually, when someone said my first novel was ‘quite possibly the loveliest book I’ve ever read’. I mean, wow! Twice I’ve had comments that the book was comforting to people who’d lost their partners, which was very unexpected and surely one of the most amazing things anyone could say about something you’d written. Like all writers I am inclined to remember negative comments more than positive ones, so I only read my four- and five-star reviews. There is nothing more satisfying than when someone ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do with your writing, so any review where the reader is on board with my efforts makes me very happy.

How is Jess similar to or different from you?
Her life has been a lot less settled than mine, so she’s maybe more uncertain or less self-assured than I am (most of the time), but we were definitely similar sorts of teenagers, and we share an interest in gardening. Our families are very different though. We’d get on, I think – I know or have known lots of people a bit like Jess.

If The Beginning of Everything were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is one of those questions I’m really bad at! I can never think of anyone when people ask this. It would be nice to cast a Welsh actor for Gethin, so maybe Ioan Gruffudd. He’s about the right age and has good hair. Olivia Colman looks good with a crop, and she’s such a brilliant performer she could play anyone, I think she could do Jess justice.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
I don’t watch much TV, but I did binge Good Omens 2 recently and I am always up for multiple episodes of What We Do in the Shadows.

What is your favorite autumn activity?
As a recovering goth I love spooky season and am always keen to purchase more unnecessary Halloween nonsense. I also like going out to look at the leaves changing colour, and enjoy the change from sandals to boots. We usually go on holiday in the autumn and the light is always amazing, I love that heavy sunshine you get on clear autumn days.

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?
Jane Austen used to come to dances in my town and she shopped here as well. That party where she met the man she was engaged to for five minutes is just round the corner. There’s a nice selection of things to look at for Janites, her various homes are not far away and the Hampshire countryside is delightful. Perhaps we could look at her house and then have afternoon tea. If you’re not bothered about Jane Austen, we’re only forty minutes from Stonehenge in one direction, or the delights of London in the other.

Thanks to Jackie for visiting with us and to Dell 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

Giveaway ends September 26th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...School (Again)

We've been running a column series (for over three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we are talking about school, since it's back-to-school season and all. You are not having déjà vu if you've been following our columns for a while. We talked about school a couple of years ago, but this time we're doing something different with our thoughts on the topic. 

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:

I’m currently in my hometown of Salem, Oregon, visiting a close childhood friend of mine. She had a housewarming party over the weekend that I was unable to attend, but I saw enough of the photos and videos to know it was like a mini-reunion with several of our former classmates from high school, middle school, and some even from elementary school! 

I’d originally planned on writing about my two sons and how much transition we’ve all had this year, with the oldest starting his freshman year at Arizona State University, and his little brother is now a middle schooler, but thinking about the mini-reunion and my own school years reminded me of how much transition I’d dealt with myself when I was just a kid. 

My college freshman has only been enrolled in two elementary schools during his youth. Moving from Nebraska to Arizona after his fourth grade year was more difficult on me than it was on him, I think, largely due to feeling conflicted on making him start over at a brand new school, where he knew no one. The middle schooler has only ever known one school his entire life–well, now two, if you count his middle school. But he's with the same children he’s grown with since kindergarten; the same familiar faces are all he’s ever known.   

By the time I hit sixth grade, I’d gone to five schools. FIVE. And the funny thing is, they were all schools in the same city! It’s not like I left town or moved to another state. 

The roster looks something like this:

Liberty Elementary School: First and Second grade years. It was close enough that I would walk there, alone. Which is something I would have never been comfortable with for my own kids at that age, but it was also the eighties and parents were a lot more free-range in those days. I still remember some of my teachers, particularly my first grade teacher, Mrs. Jarvis. The school counselor there was also pretty amazing. So amazing, that she had a school named after her years later! But due to a district change and where I lived, I moved on to...

Salem Heights Elementary School: For my third and half of my fourth grade year. I was bussed there due to how far away it was from where I lived, which never made sense to me and still doesn’t. Maybe Liberty was overpopulated and they needed to move some kids around to other schools. I mostly remember the bond I formed with one friend with hearing loss, who had taught me sign language and I’d become fluent. I loved communicating with her. But then I moved from my mother’s home and ended up living permanently with my father, which meant...

Four Corners Elementary School: I only went to this school for the remainder of the fourth grade year. I recall Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car” was a huge hit around that time and we’d all sing it during recess while swinging around on the monkey bars. The move from Liberty to Salem Heights had been tough for me, with having to make adjustments with new teachers and students, but with Four Corners, I felt like I could tackle the newness. I built some resiliency.

Swegle Elementary School: We moved to another part of Salem and my fifth grade year was spent at Swegle. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Weatherbee, a name I will never forget, and amazingly enough, one of my classmates at Swegle ended up becoming a classmate later on during high school, later leading me to her sister, who I’m still best friends with to this day. I decided to participate in the school spelling bee that year, but was knocked out of the running when I had to spell “occasion.” 

Brush College Elementary School: We moved again to the West Salem district–another area of town I was unfamiliar with. A new school I was unaccustomed to. The resiliency I felt before had worn off some. I think age and awareness, the need to be accepted made me more nervous and edgy. When I walked into the doors of Brush College, I saw a girl there in the lobby area, and after seeing me standing around looking lost, she asked me if I were new or needed help. She was this little lanky blond thing, sweet. I tried to find my voice, letting her know that yes–I’m new. She asked me if I knew who my teacher would be and what grade I was in, and when I said I was a sixth grader and was in Mrs. Shacher’s class, her whole face lit up.

“I’m also in Mrs. Shacher’s class!” she said.

I never knew how brash and strong and amazing she’d become, some thirty plus years later….she’s my longest childhood friendship, and the one I’m currently visiting. 

There are times I reflect on my childhood and I wish I’d been able to stick with one school long enough to form long-lasting bonds. Some friendships I remember feeling fiercely loyal to, but then I’d move and as hard as we would try, we never stayed in touch. I love that my two sons have friendships that span years, or that my oldest has his “core four”--four friends he’s had since we moved to Arizona who are his closest friendships. I love that my youngest has best friends he’s had since kindergarten. I’m glad I’ve been able to foster that. But I think I learned a lot from how much I moved around, how often I had to change schools and meet new people. I think it’s helped to shape who I am today, and of course–some friendships have stood the test of time, no matter what. My childhood bestie and I are proof of that. 

Melissa Amster:

Since I last posted about this topic, I found out that my favorite teacher is retiring next year. That makes me feel old, considering he started teaching my freshman year. Anyway, he has worked hard and made a huge difference for many students and I hope his retirement will be relaxing and enjoyable.

On to something else now...

This is the last year all three of my kids will be in grades K-12. That is because my oldest will be graduating next summer and then going to college. I am not ready for this and I do not want to talk about this topic much. It just needed to be said. 

Instead, I really came here to talk about what an uninvolved parent I am. I care about what my kids do at school and how they are doing with their grades, but when Back-to-School Night comes around, I do not attend for any of my kids. I attended one time at my oldest's middle school and it was torturous. Trying to find all the classrooms and then sitting through syllabuses and rules and not understanding what half of the class was even going to be about. So yeah, it was a long and dragged out night and I am not into that. 

Another thing was signing up for middle school and then high school. My husband gets to do all that fun stuff because it just overwhelms me and it will never get done if I am in charge. And don't even get me started on the college process. I actually sat through a virtual meeting because no one else was available to do it at the time. I mostly copied and pasted screenshots from the presentation though. I just can't bring myself to get involved in college application stuff. I trust my son knows what he is doing and my husband can help with that too. 

Don't even get me started on PTA or PTSA or whatever other parent thing you want me to join. I don't sign up for those. The most I do is volunteer to send treats to school with my kids on teacher appreciation days. I just don't have the bandwidth to volunteer. However, last year I offered to help one of the nights at my son's school play and then just stood around doing nothing because they didn't end up actually needing my help. I don't think I'll be doing that again!

I usually do not read the weekly newsletters or listen to the weekly update calls. Those just tend to annoy and overwhelm me. If I need information, I will seek it out. I also don't help with homework because most of it is stuff I forgot from my years of going to school or it is just too complex to even ponder. 

One thing I do, however, is attend IEP meetings for two of my kids. Thankfully, the meetings are pretty straightforward and easy to get through and hearing good things about my kids will never get old! That's about as involved as I get.

I've been through school once and that was more than enough for me. As long as my kids continue to do well at their schools, I'm happy. I don't need to be heavily involved.

I saw this posted on Facebook recently and was amused.
Just change Beyonce to Broadway shows... 😂
(For the record, if it was necessary for me to see the teacher, I would!)

What are your thoughts on school?

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Book Review: Perfectly Nice Neighbors

By Jami Denison

Good fences make good neighbors, so the saying goes. Kia Abdullah knows her allusions, and when she begins her new novel, Perfectly Nice Neighbors, with a broken fence, it’s clear that the two families sharing this fence are going to be broken as well. 

When Salma Khatun and her family move into the English estate of Blenheim, she’s eager for a fresh start. The pandemic led her husband Bil to lose his Pakistani restaurant, and their son Zain’s problems at school forced them to leave their old neighborhood. But the new start falters almost immediately. Zain’s “Black Lives Matter” banner is ripped out of the ground, and when Salma puts it inside the window, the window is painted over. Could the culprit be her next-door-neighbor, Tom? 

Tom, a white advertising executive, has a blond wife, Willa, and a partially deaf son, Jamie. He claims he’s not racist; he would disapprove of any neighbor who planted a banner (they’re prohibited in the neighborhood), parked too close to his driveway, or let the dog squeeze under his fence. Salma is haughty and needs to know her place. 

As the adults go at each other with an escalating series of tit-for-tat, Jamie and Zain form a tentative friendship. But as the stakes get higher, it’s clear that someone is going to get hurt.

Neighbors is an almost perfectly structured book, with a lean cast and a fast pace. Tom, Willa, Salma, and Zain are all (third person) point-of-view characters; Bil and Jamie seem to share a vulnerability that leaves them prey to bullies. 

Of all the characters, Salma is the most well-rounded. A teacher, she tries to understand the people around her, how the events in their lives have shaped them. Still, she admits that tall, blond Willa brings out a visceral reaction in her—she just doesn’t trust white women. Readers won’t trust her, either—newly pregnant after years of trying, Willa still smokes and drinks behind her husband’s back. More broadly, she’s a snob who thinks she married beneath herself, and her friends are snobs, too. 

Tom doesn’t come off too well, either. He admits to anger issues, and he thinks that should absolve him of racism because he’s an equal opportunity rage-a-holic. He rarely takes responsibility for his actions, always blaming others. Readers will not empathize with Tom or Willa, and their points-of-view seem to be included in order to ramp up the tension rather than to try to balance a story of two families. 

Abdullah’s previous book, Next of Kin, is daring in both plot and plot twists. Her trademark is to leave scenes early and let readers erroneously fill in the gaps. Neighbors is such a straightforward read that it seems impossible she’ll be able to do this. Don’t let your guard down! 

The book climaxes with a nice twist, but the ending is downright chilling. Abdullah begins the book referring to one cliché--Good fences make good neighbors—and ends with another one: What goes around comes around. 

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

More by Kia Abdullah:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Cleat Cute

Today we are celebrating the publication of Meryl Wilsner's latest sapphic rom-com, Cleat Cute. It is perfect for fans of Ted Lasso, Bend it Like Beckham, and A League of Their Own. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Grace Henderson has been a star of the US Women’s National Team for ten years, even though she’s only 26. But when she’s sidelined with an injury, a bold new upstart, Phoebe Matthews, takes her spot. 22-year-old Phoebe is everything Grace isn’t—a gregarious jokester who plays with a joy that Grace lost somewhere along the way. The last thing Grace expects is to become teammates with benefits with this class clown she sees as her rival.

Phoebe Matthews is too focused on her first season as a professional soccer player to think about seducing her longtime idol. But when Grace ends up making the first move, they can’t keep their hands off of each other.

As the World Cup approaches and Grace works her way back from injury, a miscommunication leaves the women with hilariously different perspectives on their relationship. But they’re on the same page on the field, realizing they can play together instead of vying for the same position. With every tackle the tension between them grows, and both players soon have to decide what's more important—being together or making the roster.

"Wilsner breaks new ground with a sporty twist on the meet-cute trope...Fans of the popular Apple TV show Ted Lasso and the classic sporty romance film Bend It Like Beckham will cheer for this sexy sapphic romcom that fills a gap in the heretofore male-dominated sports-romance genre." - Booklist

"Wilsner makes this sports romance a winner." - Publishers Weekly

Credit: Brooke Wilsner
Meryl Wilsner writes happily ever afters for queer folks who love women. They are the author of Something to Talk About and Mistakes Were Made. Born in Michigan, Meryl lived in Portland, Oregon and Jackson, Mississippi before returning to the Mitten State. Some of Meryl's favorite things include: all four seasons, button down shirts, the way giraffes run, and their wife.

Visit Meryl 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

Giveaway ends September 25th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Book Review: Sycamore Circle

By Melissa Smoot

There's a lot going on in Joy Howard's life. She's got an ex-husband who starts acting like he doesn't want to be an ex anymore, a sixteen-year-old daughter in need of a guiding hand and a lot of rides to dance practice, more orders for paintings than she has time to paint, and a roster of tutoring clients who sometimes need far more than she can give.

What she doesn't have is time for a new relationship.

Samuel "Bo" Beauman is a lot of things. He's a counselor for transitioning ex-cons, a good friend to many, a construction worker, a brother and son, and even a part-time model for a high-end sportswear catalog. He's also a man searching for redemption.

One thing he isn't is a man in need of a girlfriend.

But none of that seems to matter when Bo hears Joy's kind voice in a crowded coffee shop. He instantly knows she's someone he wants to know better. The two of them hit it off--much to the dismay of practically everyone they know--but Bo doesn't care what other people think. He feels at peace whenever he's with Joy, and he won't let her go without a fight.

When Joy starts getting mysterious texts and phone calls from unknown numbers, she tries to ignore it. But instead of going away, the messages escalate and Joy realizes she can't handle it alone. But she is juggling a jealous ex-husband, a handful of students with little to lose, and a brand-new boyfriend who spent several years behind bars. Who can she trust? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Sycamore Circle is the second book in the series The Rumors in Ross County, by Shelley Sheppard Gray. You do not have to read the first book in the series, Edgewater Road, to understand Sycamore Circle, but I am glad that I did. I felt it gave me more of a background into the characters that reappeared in the second book. 

Sycamore Circle takes place in a rural Ohio town near Amish country. Many of the main characters are men that have served time in prison for various crimes. Although they are ex-cons, they are all trying to put good back into the world and move forward in their lives with the help of Lincoln Bennett. Lincoln started a program to rehabilitate and help former prisoners assimilate back into life on the “outside”. He and his men help them find places to live, jobs, and even provide a lot of advice and counseling. 

One of Lincoln’s men, Bo, happens to meet the kindest woman he has ever met and is falling hard for her. Joy has a teenage daughter, is a literacy tutor, and everyone adores her. What could an ex-con and a wholesome mom possibly have in common? The story takes many twists and turns and had me reading into the wee hour of the night just to find out what would happen. 

If you are looking for a feel-good book with just the right amount of suspense, this is perfect. The author does a great job of making you wish all the characters were real people and that you really want to know them.

I really liked this book and am enjoying the series overall. The stories are packed with friendship, loyalty, romance, mystery, and suspense. It is the perfect mix. I am really excited to read the next installment and hope I won’t have to wait too long!

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

More by Shelley Shepard Gray:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Friday, September 15, 2023

What's in the (e)mail

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Mrs. Porter Calling by AJ Pearce from Scribner Publicity (print) 
Don't miss out on our giveaway!
Right on Cue by Falon Ballard from Putnam (NetGalley)
Break the Glass by Olivia Swindler from Lake Union (NetGalley)
Very Very Lucky by Amanda Prowse from Lake Union (NetGalley)
The Heirloom by Jessie Rosen from Putnam (NetGalley)
She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The (Fake) Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Little Liar by Mitch Albom from HarperCollins (print)
Mighty Gorgeous by Amy Ferris from BookSparks (print)

Technically Yours by Denise Williams from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Puppet Maker by Jenny O'Brien from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams from Grand Central (NetGalley)
Chasing Dreams at Wagging Tails Dogs' Home by Sarah Hope from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Stuck With You by/from Aimee Brown (ebook)

Radiant Heat by Sarah-Jane Collins from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Excitements by CJ Wray from William Morrow (NetGalley)
Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne from Berkley (NetGalley)

The Hike by Lucy Clarke from Putnam (print)

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to these books on Speechify!

Book Review: Thank You for Sharing

By Allyson Bales

Daniel Rosenberg and Liyah Cohen-Jackson’s last conversation—fourteen years ago at summer camp—ended their friendship. Until they find themselves seated next to each other on a plane, and bitterly pick up right where they left off. At least they can go their separate ways again after landing...

That is, until Daniel's marketing firm gets hired by the Chicago museum where Liyah works as a junior curator, and they’re forced to collaborate with potential career changing promotions on the line.

With every meeting and post-work social gathering with colleagues, the tension (and chemistry) between Daniel and Liyah builds until they’re forced to confront why they broke apart years ago at camp. But as they find comfort in their shared experiences as Jews of color and fumble towards friendship, can they ignore their growing feelings for each other?

With sexy charm and undeniable wit, Rachel Runya Katz's sparkling debut, Thank You For Sharing, proves that if you're open to love, anything is possible. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Speakeasy Survival Club #17 Meeting Notes

Secretary:  Allyson

Siobhan:  amazing Irish graphic artist 
Daniel:   cinnamon roll, thoughtful
Jordan:  rock climber and Daniel’s BFF
Liyah:  salty and then she’s sweet

Rule Addition: 12:  You MUST read this book! 

Additional notes: Thank you so much Rachel Runya Katz for allowing me to read this wonderful story and meet these characters!

What an amazing debut! I definitely hope it is part of a series!  I need to know what happens to the characters and miss them already!  There is amazing diversity and representation in this book and I fell in love with these vivacious 20 somethings!  I am older than that but Liyah, Daniel, Siobhan, and Jordan were relatable and so fun and reading this reminded me so much of my twenties. 

Liyah and Daniel met at sleepaway camp many years ago and had a falling out.  They meet again years later and the meet cute is a DISASTER, but I loved it!  Liyah is sassy and prickly and Daniel is softer and sweet and their dynamic had me laughing out loud and making heart eyes.  I have never been to a sleepaway camp but my best friend has and to this day still talks to her friends that she met there.  Have you been?  This book made me want to go back in time and beg my parents to let me go!  

I loved Liyah and Daniel’s friendships.  I loved Jordan and Siobhan’s support and really hope to read more about what ends up happening to them!  Together with Daniel and Liyah, they start the Speakeasy Survival Club where they get to vent, gossip, and support one another.  Found family is so special in books and I think we all need more of that.  A safe place to really be yourself with friends you call family is so important.

Katz does an amazing job of writing such a layered story.  There are subplots that I really enjoyed, especially centering around Liyah’s job as an exhibition developer/designer and her goal to become a curator.  Liyah works at the Field Museum in Chicago and I have always wanted to go there.  It was interesting to learn about what is done to keep museums running and functioning.  I also really loved the way Katz explored more sensitive topics.  As a mental health therapist, I found the representation of the therapeutic process very relatable.  I loved the healing journey that was showcased in this book!  

If you love a slow burn romance with a dual point of view and fun friends you can’t get enough of, read this book immediately!  Rachel, please write us more!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase Thank You For Sharing here.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

AJ Pearce has found her calling...plus a book giveaway

Credit: Jenny Smith
We are pleased to welcome AJ Pearce to CLC today. Her latest novel, Mrs. Porter Calling, released last month. It's part of a series but can be read as a standalone. Thanks to Scribner Publicity, we have THREE copies to give away!

AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire, England. She studied at the University of Sussex and Northwestern University. A chance discovery of a 1939 women’s magazine became the inspiration for her series The Emmy Lake Chronicles, which also includes Dear Mrs. Bird and Yours Cheerfully. She lives in the south of England.

Visit AJ online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

London, April 1943. Young Emmy Lake is doing her part in the war effort by spearheading the “Yours Cheerfully” column, a hugely popular advice column in Woman’s Friend magazine. The postbags are full, and Woman’s Friend is thriving. Cheered on by her best friend Bunty and missing her husband, Captain Charles Mayhew, as he’s away fighting, Emmy is dedicated to helping readers face the increasing challenges brought about by over three years of war.

But in Mrs. Porter Calling, Emmy’s world is turned upside down when glamorous socialite, the Honorable Mrs. Cressida Porter, becomes the new publisher of the magazine, and wants to change everything readers love. Aided by Mrs. Pye, a Paris-obsessed fashion editor with delusions of grandeur, and Small Winston, the grumpiest dog in London, Mrs. Porter fills the pages with expensive clothes and frivolous articles about her friends. Worst of all, she announces that she is cutting the “Yours Cheerfully” column as it's not the magazine’s responsibility to deal with the reader’s problems. Her vision for the publication’s future seems dire and Emmy becomes determined to fight back.

Emmy and her friends must find a way to save the magazine they love, but can they rescue Women’s Friend while juggling the real implications of war-torn London and personal tragedy?

Perfect for book clubs and fans of The Paris Library and Lessons in Chemistry, Mrs. Porter Calling, a standalone novel with continuing characters, is a beacon for anyone who’s ever experienced the frustration of a nasty boss and for those who’ve experienced loss, heartbreak, or hardship and found comfort in their chosen families. It’s all at once heartwarming, funny, and uplifting, and serves as a moving tribute to friendship.

“Clear a space on the shelf reserved for your favorite comfort books. Mrs. Porter Calling is the rare novel that manages to be deep as it is delightful. Funny, endearing, heartbreaking, and uplifting – it’s a thoroughly entrancing story about friendship, work, and finding the best in life, even during the worst of times.”
Nina de Gramont, author of The Christie Affair

“Immersive... Pearce enhances the [story] with lively characters, showing how they find joy in simple pleasures and humor in the face of loss.” 
—Publishers Weekly

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I love it when readers say that my writing has made them laugh and cry, and that they feel as if the characters are real people. That’s a wonderful compliment.

If you could tell the debut novelist version of yourself one thing, what would it be?
Know your characters well enough and they’ll come up with story lines for you. That sounds a bit mad, but the better I know them the more I understand what they care about and what they’ll really fight for to make a good book.

If Mrs. Porter Calling was made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Someone said to me the other day that Jenna Coleman would be wonderful as Emmy Lake which I think is a brilliant idea. Rachel Weisz would be perfect as Monica Edwards who is super cool and a mentor figure for Emmy. Bridgerton’s Jonathan Bailey and Luke Thompson would both be lovely as Charles, or if the film could wait a few years, his older brother Guy.

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?

100% Barbie. I loved it. We’re all going again this week.

If your life were a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
Sir David Attenborough: “There, just visible in the distance as she eats a packet of chocolate chip cookies, is that most elusive animal of all – the author hiding from her editor having just missed a really important deadline.”

What is your favorite autumn beverage?
Hot chocolate in a huge mug with marshmallows on the top. Which in my house is totally acceptable during any season!

Thanks to AJ for visiting with us and to Scribner 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

Giveaway ends September 19th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Book Review: A Storm of Infinite Beauty

By Allyson Bales

Scarlett Fontaine is a true Hollywood legend—a singer, actress, and beloved fashion icon. But Scarlett dies tragically at just thirty-six years old, leaving behind no children. Or so the story goes…

Gwen Hollingsworth is the curator at a museum dedicated to Scarlett’s life. She’s also sole heir to Scarlett’s fortune as a descendant of the star. But all is not well in Gwen’s world. She’s dealing with a messy marital separation and is struggling to move forward. So when Peter Miller, a biographer and photojournalist, comes to the museum with shocking claims about Scarlett—a life of exile in Alaska, a baby born in secret—Gwen’s whole world is turned upside down. Again.

Determined to uncover the truth, Gwen and Peter set out for Alaska together but soon find themselves on a path toward something far deeper and more meaningful than either of them ever expected.

A Storm of Infinite Beauty takes readers on a breathtaking journey from a lush vineyard in Nova Scotia to a rustic lodge in Alaska where old family secrets are revealed and the quest for true happiness begins. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Well I just finished going down a rabbit hole about the earthquake in Valdez Alaska on March 27th, 1964 and WOW.  Julianne MacLean opens this story with an account of that day that completely grips you and pulls you into the story right away.  I also recently returned from a two week road trip with my wife where we traveled through Nova Scotia and found myself visualizing a lot of the places we had seen while reading this beautiful story.

A Storm of Infinite Beauty introduces us to Gwen, a thoughtful woman suffering through some of her own personal tragedy, who runs the Scarlett Fontaine Museum.  The Museum is dedicated to Gwen’s distant relative, Scarlett, who passed away when she was only thirty-six.  Peter Miller, a notorious Hollywood paparazzi, is interested in writing a story about Scarlett’s life.  Together Gwen and Peter take a journey to Alaska to find out what happened to Scarlett.  

Immediately I was immersed in this story.  MacLean’s writing transforms you right onto the page as if you are there with the characters.  The descriptions of Alaska are so enthralling and have now made Alaska one of my top places to visit. I also enjoyed the way the story was structured and was captivated by it being told in three parts with dual timelines. 

I found this to be a combination of women’s fiction and mystery.  Gwen is a character I immediately connected with and was rooting for.  She has been through some difficult things and I love that she uses music to cope and feel understood.  I don’t know about you but music that makes me feel seen and understood is so helpful to me.  I love that she listens to Scarlett’s music as a way to process.  To follow along on Gwen’s journey was very powerful and will resonate with so many readers.  Peter also really grew on me.  What he shared about his experience with being a paparazzi was very interesting.  In a time where paparazzi have such a reputation it was interesting to get a more human view of their work. 

This is my first read by Juilanne MacLean and I did not know what an amazing backlist she has!  She is definitely going to be an author I read more from and really recommend her stories if you love women's fiction with captivating and descriptive story telling!  

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

More by Julianne MacLean:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: This Time Could Be Different

Today we are celebrating the publication of Khristin Wierman's sophomore novel, This Time Could Be Different. Eat Pray Love meets Office Space; perfect for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid. Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Madeline is a compulsive overachiever, which is why at forty-nine years old, she is the senior vice president of a prominent bank. This bleeds into every aspect of her life, from her skincare routine to her devotion to being always available. She works with her best friend, Emma, who is juggling her own chaotic life: career, marriage, and motherhood to a teenage daughter. Both women have nothing but opportunity ahead of them. There’s a problem, though – Madeline is miserable.

So, she sets out on a mission to find purpose in her life and untangle the roots of the habits she wants to change. She reluctantly tries yoga, meditation, and other suggestions from her new age-y therapist. It feels like she’s risking everything, but that just might be what it takes for her to find fulfillment.

(Trigger warning at the bottom of this post.)

“There are plenty of laugh-wince moments to enjoy in this novel...Both an insightful depiction of therapy supporting growth and a dead-on skewering of corporate culture.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Khristin Wierman has put on the boxing gloves and taken out the meditation candle to delve into the underbelly of the workplace and the choices it forces women to make. This thought-provoking page-turner captures the very real drama of working in corporate America as a woman.” 
—Arielle Eckstut, co-creator of America’s Next Great Author

Credit: Ben Krantz Studio
Khristin Wierman spent twenty years rising through the marketing ranks of Fortune 500 companies, building a career that was lucrative, ego-boosting, and a little bit soul-crushing. So she quit―and then had no idea what to do with her life. Writing novels ensued. Born and raised in a small East Texas town—which means she came into this world a Dallas Cowboys fan and ardently believes “y’all” is a legitimate pronoun—Khristin enjoys playing golf with her husband and stepson, poker, yoga, chocolate, the Golden State Warriors, and the daily adventure of life with an adorably imperfect cat named Rocco. She lives in San Francisco, California. Visit Khristin at her website and on 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

Giveaway ends September 17th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!








TW: Language, childhood emotional abuse and trauma, verbal abuse