Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Reviews at Amazon--January/February 2023

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!


The Darkness of Others by Cate Holahan

Single All the Way by Portia MacIntosh


The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff

Never Meant to Meet You by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

Chick Magnet by Emma Barry

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

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Amanda Elliot serves up a hot story!

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Funny coincidence: I recently found a copy of It's My Party and I Don't Want to Go by Amanda Panitch for my daughter, as she is having her Bat Mitzvah this year. Then I was doing research for Amanda Elliot's interview and I found out she is the same one who wrote It's My Party...! I love book coincidences (and when my daughter and I have shared interest in the same author). I am pleased to introduce Amanda today and I know you all will enjoy learning more about her. I just added her latest adult rom-com, Best Served Hotto my five-book TBR pile and I'm excited to read it soon!

Amanda Elliot lives with her husband in New York City, where she collects way too many cookbooks for her tiny kitchen, runs in Central Park, and writes for teens and kids under the name Amanda Panitch. (Bio courtesy of Amanda's website.)

Visit Amanda online:
WebsiteTwitter * Instagram

Foodie influencer Julie Zimmerman is crushed to discover that her dream position as a restaurant critic for major newspaper The New York Scroll has gone to yet another uppity reviewer, aptly named Bennett Richard Macalester Wright. While her social media account @JulieZeeEatsNYC has racked up a respectable fifty-thousand followers, Julie still craves the prestige and dining opportunities afforded to a distinguished paper like the Scroll. 

When Julie runs into Bennett at a local food festival, she doesn’t hesitate to confront the annoyingly handsome critic about his outdated views on social media and the changing landscape of restaurant reviewing. On a whim, Julie decides to post the resulting footage and is shocked when the post goes viral. Hoping to attract a younger crowd to the Scroll, Bennett proposes that he and Julie partner up to review some of New York’s hottest restaurants on their respective social media channels. Seeing this as an opportunity to finally gain some repute in the restaurant critiquing world, Julie begrudgingly agrees.

 Though Julie is initially put off by Bennett’s snobby attitude, after sharing delicious meals and competing over foodie trivia and their seriously lacking cooking skills, Julie finds herself drawn in by Bennett’s genuine love of food that rivals her own. When the chemistry between them boils over, Julie and Bennett will have to decide how much heat their relationship can take.

Best Served Hot is a sweet, spicy, absolutely delicious romance! Julie and Bennett's love story will leave you smiling, while the food scenes will leave you hungry. I recommend reading with takeout menus within reach.”
—Jen DeLuca, USA Today bestselling author of Well Matched

"Best Served Hot is the perfect recipe for a fresh, fun, and foodie-licious romcom: A spunky and relatable main character with a decent serving of edge and a hilarious inner voice; a sexy yet strong love interest with a side of cinnamon roll; a large helping of diverse and well-fleshed out supporting characters; and a healthy dash of spice in the bedroom! Warning: do not read on an empty stomach unless you have seriously amazing plans for dinner! Delicious fun."
—Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen on TV

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
I love hearing that when someone was having a bad day, they read my book and it made them feel better, or at least crack a smile. 

How was your experience of going from writing middle grade and YA to writing adult rom-coms?
While writing a book is never easy, I honestly find writing adult books easier than writing YA or MG books. It's a lot easier for me, an adult, to get into an adult mindset than it is to go back into the mindset of a kid or teen. Otherwise, it's not all that different - I still structure the story with the same story beats and draft/revise in similar ways.

If Best Served Hot were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
A younger version of Matthew Gray Gubler as Bennett, definitely. I'm not sure about Julie! If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Side note from Melissa: I'm excited to do some casting once I read it!

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
I'm late to it, but I'm absolutely loving Derry Girls, a dark comedy about a group of teenage girls growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It's dry and funny and yet totally nails its serious, emotional moments.

What is the last restaurant you went to where you had a completely positive experience?
One of my favorite neighborhood haunts is Jing Fong, which has the best dim sum. I was lucky enough to eat there with two author friends, so the company was great and everything was delicious. Don't sleep on the turnip cake!

Who was your role model when you were growing up?
Probably my parents. In terms of author role models, I was (and still am!) a huge fan of Neal Shusterman and Gail Carson Levine.

Thanks to Amanda for chatting with us and to Kaye Publicity for arranging the interview.

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Monday, February 27, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Mother Next Door

Leah Mercer just released her latest domestic suspense novel, The Mother Next Door, and we're excited to tell you about it. Melissa has it in her TBR and hopes to read it soon, as she loves Leah's books. Leah has TWO copies to share with some lucky readers!

I glance over at Lou’s house as I pull onto my drive, surprised that it is still in darkness. Lou and the kids should have been home from school long ago. I should be preparing a delicious meal for my children as they tell me about their day. But Lou’s car is nowhere to be seen…

The night is drawing in and Lou has still not returned. I try not to panic, but deep down I know something is wrong. Lou is the most dependable friend. Our children are at the same school. We always help each other out, and she cares for my two like only a mother can.

As a storm rages outside and local news reports tell everyone to stay indoors, a feeling of deep dread starts to swell. Then the call comes. The police have found Lou’s car, with my children’s schoolbags still inside along with Lou’s phone. But they are nowhere to be seen.

Clutching my husband’s hands, willing our children to be found safe and sound, I try to silence the voice inside my head. I’ve not been honest. I’m being punished for what happened all those years ago.

And then I get Lou’s message and I know that if I want to see my children again, I need to tell the truth to everyone I love.

What I don’t yet know is that Lou has been keeping her own dark secret. And once the storm passes, nothing will ever be the same again.

A gripping and addictive psychological suspense about dark obsession, intense motherly love and how far we will go to protect those we love the most. Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Adele Parks and Sally Hepworth. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Leah Mercer
 was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada. Her first ambition was to be a journalist, but after completing a master’s in journalism, she soon realized she preferred anything other than reporting the news. After trying her hand at public relations, teaching and recruitment in various countries around the world, she finally settled in London and returned to writing… fiction, this time. Her first two novels, Who We Were Before and The Man I Thought You Were, were shortlisted at the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Leah loves books, running, and visiting historic houses with her husband and their son.

Visit Leah online:

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

Giveaway ends March 5th at midnight EST.

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Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: You Be Mother

By Becky Gulc

If you’re like me every so often you’ll stumble across recommendations from trusted reviewers and book lovers on social media that just jump off the page, they manage to sell a book to you in so few words and without looking much into it, you just have to get hold of it. You Be Mother is one of those books. I don’t think I’d select this book ordinarily but I’m so glad I was introduced to this one. So what’s it all about?

What do you do, when you find the perfect family... and it's not yours?

The only thing Abi ever wanted was a proper family. So when she falls pregnant by an Australian exchange student in London, she cannot pack up her old life in Croydon fast enough, to start all over in Sydney and make her own family.

It is not until she arrives, with three-week-old Jude in tow, that Abi realises Stu is not quite ready to be a father after all. And he is the only person she knows in this hot, dazzling, confusing city, where the job of making friends is turning out to be harder than she thought.

That is, until she meets Phyllida, her wealthy, charming, imperious older neighbour, and they become almost like mother and daughter. If only Abi had not told Phil that teeny tiny small lie, the very first day they met...’ (Synopsis courtesy of Waterstones.)

This is a wonderful novel and I was truly immersed in Abi’s world as she navigates the early days of motherhood in another country. Abi is pragmatic, strong but vulnerable, calm, and such a good mother to Jude. As a reader, I really felt for her as we learn how difficult her upbringing was; how she’d carried on regardless as best she could and never felt sorry for herself. The backstory of Abi and her family was quietly introduced throughout the novel and it was very moving and sad at times, particularly towards the end of the novel (without including any spoilers).

As the synopsis outlines, life in Sydney isn’t straightforward. Whilst Abi appears to be a natural mother, Stu finds it more difficult to adapt from being a free-agent to suddenly being a father and partner and still studying for the future he wants. Throw in a controlling mother/mother-in-law and Abi has her work cut out for her in Sydney.

Abi meets Phil, an older neighbour, and I loved their relationship; a friendship built on perhaps mutual loneliness and longing for the mother/daughter relationship that was lacking in their ‘real’ everyday lives. But Phil has children, they’re just not in Australia and will Abi still be as important to Phil when they’re back on the scene? And with Abi not being forthcoming about her own true situation after a misunderstanding, is this a relationship that can last?

It's not straightforward. I was bereft at times and I questioned the actions of both Abi and Phil, wanting to bang their heads together! Many of the characters could be frustrating, but they were all raw and all felt very real! I couldn’t have been happier with the closing chapters; just perfect, perfect. I was almost reminded of one of my very favourite pieces of literary fiction when I read this book, I know the book, the locations, and the characters will stay with me for a long time to come. Meg Mason is definitely an author to try if you haven’t already.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: In the Event of Death

Today we are pleased to feature Kimberly Young's thought-provoking debut novel, In the Event of Death. Thanks to Emi Battaglia PR, we have THREE copies to give away!

When the Recession crushes their splashy event business in Silicon Valley, Liz Becker and Gabbi Rossi realize that parties are on hold—but funerals must go on.

Planning a memorial with flowers, music, and food isn’t that different from a wedding, right? But Liz has had a crippling fear of death since losing her younger sister in a childhood tragedy. Knowing her husband and twin sons depend on her income, she reluctantly agrees to produce end-of-life events. As Gabbi promised, the money starts rolling in. When an old real estate tycoon hires them to plan his “after party,” Liz finds an unlikely mentor. Just as things are looking up, she learns that someone she loves has a serious illness. Death planning gets personal. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“In this poignant story, Kimberly Young explores one woman’s struggle to come to terms with a childhood trauma that threatens to cripple her just when her family needs her the most. In the Event of Death will challenge the way you think about death, and make you laugh and cry while you rejoice in a family’s resilience.”
—Tracey Lange, New York Times bestselling author of We Are the Brennans

In the Event of Death is that rare novel that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Young perfectly captures the angst of middle age in this beautifully written story where one woman—sandwiched between her unpredictable teenagers and ailing parents—realizes she can’t hold everything together and might as well embrace the messiness of life.” 
 Malena Watrous, author of If You Follow Me

Kimberly Young began her career as an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant and worked with clients ranging from startups to Apple. She received her MFA from Stanford University, where she was a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellow. Born in the Midwest and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has three grown children and now splits her time between California and the mountains of Idaho with her husband. In the Event of Death is her first novel, dedicated in loving memory of her mother.     

Visit Kimberly online:
Website * 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 February 28th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Book Review: The Woman with the Cure

By Jami Denison

In the gym a few weeks ago, I eavesdropped on two women discussing the immunization schedule of their babies. One woman had gotten the polio vaccine for her child but had balked at additional shots. The second woman eschewed them all, saying that children’s immune systems were strengthened by forgoing vaccines. It took all my willpower to keep my mouth shut. Where are new mothers getting their medical information these days? How can they possibly know so little about how the immune system works? 

Historical fiction author Lynn Cullen’s latest novel, The Woman with the Cure,  focuses on the scientific community’s fight to cure polio and specifically on Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, a researcher who devoted her life to sick children. Dr. Horstmann, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2001 at the age of 89, would have been horrified to learn about how lies about autism and “fake news” on the internet contributed to the trend of vaccine refusal. 

In 1940, Dr. Dorothy Horstmann was fighting for her career. As a female doctor, it was almost impossible for her to find placement after her residency. And as a woman over six feet tall, her height made her even more of an oddity. It was hard for her to be taken seriously as either a doctor or a woman. But with America’s entry in World War II and many doctors headed off to war, Dorothy finally found herself with opportunities to do what she dreamed of doing—discovering exactly how the polio virus infiltrated the body and did its damage. 

Still,  Dorothy’s gender meant she was often treated as second-best, and her ideas discarded or stolen. Dr. Horstmann was convinced that the virus traveled from the gut to the nervous system via the blood, but when her experiments didn’t immediately bear this out, she was forced to move in different directions. Meanwhile, most of the scientific and medical communities were focused on the dueling investigations of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. When Salk’s vaccine ended up killing and paralyzing children, it seemed the world might never trust the vaccine hunters again.  

Although Cullen began work on The Woman with the Cure before COVID became a pandemic, it’s easy to see how living through that crisis influenced her work on the book. The scenes of anguished parents and empty beaches easily could have taken place in the summer of 2020. The book spans twenty years; the research into a polio vaccine took even longer. Reading about this, I was struck again about how lucky we were that the creation of the mRNA vaccine model allowed scientists to develop a COVID vaccine relatively quickly. 

The book itself is a bit choppy – obviously, with such a long timespan, Cullen couldn’t tell a strict linear narrative, and she hopscotches over years. In addition, with so much research about the fight against polio, Cullen couldn’t contain herself to just Dorothy’s point-of-view. Several chapters are told from the points-of-view of other women involved in the fight, including another female researcher. Rather than rounding out the story, these chapters distract the reader and make it more difficult to follow Dorothy’s throughline. I was interested in Dorothy’s personal life and in her friendship with one of her lab’s animal trainers; I didn’t need a chapter from the point-of-view of the man’s wife. Conversely, watching the politics and the rivalries and the jockeying for credit from Dorothy’s point-of-view was fascinating and depressing, knowing that her name was nearly lost to history.  

Thanks to Dorothy’s work, polio was once eradicated in the western world. But this year, it was found again in the wastewater in New York City. Reading The Woman with the Cure reminded me of reading historical fiction about World War II. These books were once a warm reminder of how the world faced the worst and triumphed. Now they serve to warn us that what goes around, comes around. 

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

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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Lacey Baker spreads the love...plus a book giveaway

Today we are pleased to welcome Lacey Baker to CLC to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Her Unexpected Match, which is the first book in the Crescent Matchmaker series. Thanks to Entangled Publishing, we have one copy to give away!

Lacey Baker, a Maryland native, is a wife, mother, nana, and an author. Family cookouts, reunion vacations, and growing up in church have all encouraged Lacey to write heartwarming and inspirational stories about the endurance of family and finding love. She is the author of the Sweetland series and Hallmark Channel Original Movies: A Gingerbread Romance and Christmas in Evergreen: Bells are Ringing. She also writes contemporary romance under the name A.C. Arthur.

Visit Lacey online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Off the picturesque shores of Maryland sits the island community of Crescent Island, where the only thing sweeter than the local bakery is the town’s famed matchmaker. When cynical writer Allie Sparks agrees to take a job covering the human-interest story of an astrology based matchmaker with a 100 percent success rate, she’s sure she’ll debunk the mythical woman. But she didn’t plan on running into her best friend’s charismatic older brother once she gets there.

Ryan Parker has only two weeks to land an angel investor for his fledgling barbecue restaurant before he has to give it up for good. He wonders if the stars have finally aligned when Allie lands in his lap— figuratively and literally, thanks to his overly affectionate golden retriever puppy—with a background in marketing and willing to help him woo the investor. But if Allie doesn’t find real love on Crescent Island and publishes her negative review, it’ll put everything Ryan’s worked for in jeopardy.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing? 

One of the things I love hearing from a reader after they’ve read any of my books is that the story felt so real to them, or that they could in some way relate to my characters and what they experienced. For me, this means that I did my job. That I was able to tap into some very human themes and emotions and that makes me feel good.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing Her Unexpected Match?
 I’d have to say the biggest challenge was not being able to convince my husband that we needed to spend a month on a real coastal island while I was writing. The reward was definitely in creating a whole new place full of interesting people. That’s always a highlight to writing the first book in a small town series for me.

If Her Unexpected Match were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles? 
Funny you should ask because I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to this series and on it are my inspirations for some of the characters in Crescent Island. Most often I will use an actor for inspiration, call it wishful thinking. 😊 So, for Allie my inspiration was Aja Naomi King and for Ryan my inspiration was Anthony Dalton. 

Which TV series are you currently binge watching? 
I actually just binge watched the entire Teen Wolf series—for probably the twentieth time—in preparation for the movie. And now, I’m attempting to watch the new Wolf Pack show. But I don’t really have the patience to wait for weekly episode releases so I might just stop watching until the first season is complete and then binge it.

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see? 
Definitely St. Michael’s, Maryland because it’s a beautiful Eastern Shore town that gives me such calming vibes. And of course, while we're there we’d go to The Crab Claw restaurant and have steamed crabs while looking out to the Miles River—similar to a scene with Ryan and Allie in Her Unexpected Match.

What was the last thing you had a good laugh about recently?
Just this morning I was telling my husband about a dream I had last night, where we owned a tiger that eventually tried to eat us. I was so disturbed by this dream that re-telling it in the light of day had my heart pounding in fear again. His immediate response was silence, then he frowned and asked, “Well, what did we name him? ‘Cause I don’t know any good tiger names.” I didn’t laugh immediately—because I was still dream-traumatized—but a couple hours later I thought about it again and I did wonder about a good name for a tiger.

Thanks to Lacey for chatting with us and to Entangled 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 February 26th at midnight EST.

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: Alice Alone

By Sara Steven

On the day that her youngest child leaves home, Alice Hatton discovers two disturbing truths in a matter of hours.

The Empty Nest cliche is true.

And she does not love her husband Peter at all.

Now in her fifties, Alice is appalled to realise that she is no longer considered her own person, but is instead defined by her relationships – mother to her adult children, wife to her husband. Horrified by the thought of spending another thirty years with Peter in their North London suburb, Alice decides to take matters into her own hands.

What follows is a triumphant and liberating breaking of all the rules. But when Alice must cope with loss for the second time in as many years, she discovers what even the most apparently ‘respectable ‘woman is capable of. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Alice Alone is an interesting perspective on pushing through with a loveless marriage. The way both characters describe their lives and their relationship felt nothing short of sad and laced with marital duty. For so long, Alice had her children to tend to, and to turn to. But once she becomes an empty nester, she discovers just how much is lacking within her marriage. Peter feels the same way, but there are tones of familial understanding; the type of relationships and marriages that were seen within his own life weren’t ones based on happiness or fulfillment. Marriages were based on obligation. It feels like one big obligation for this relationship, and Alice has had enough. 

The way in which Alice takes matters into her own hands had been shocking, but yet it had come as no surprise. The more shocking elements consisted of the ways she’d gone about it, and how quickly her choices revved up until it felt completely out of her control. The author did a great job of portraying that image as well as the emotions that Alice feels. There seems to be a real disconnect with the sorts of consequences that can come from her actions. Maybe because she feels she really doesn’t have anything to lose. That kind of freedom can certainly feel liberating.

The loss she experiences later on wasn’t unexpected. A large part of me had hoped for the best for her, because I wanted to see good things happen in Alice’s life. For so long, she’s been an extension of everyone else and for everyone else, but has never really had something for herself. Funnily, Peter has his own epiphanies due to personal experiences, which leads him to see his wife in a new light. As one grows closer, the other pulls away, which makes the other draw even closer, and you wonder if this could mean a new beginning for this relationship, or not. 

The story takes place in the eighties, and maybe I missed something–but I didn’t know that until about 20% into the book. That could very well be my own issue of skipping a page or two, or not recognizing the era, but it was a bit jarring for me so far in. I think indicating the time period within the first few pages would have been beneficial, because time periods can help dictate the societal norms of that era. But again, maybe it had been mentioned and I missed it. The ending was an unexpected one, and something I didn’t see coming. But given Alice and her characterization, it felt right. Alice Alone was an open, honest read and wholeheartedly steered clear of pulling any punches.

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

Purchase Links:
Amanda Brookfield
is the bestselling author of many novels including Good Girls, Relative Love, and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London and has recently finished a year as Visiting Creative Fellow at University College Oxford.

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Friday, February 17, 2023

What's in the (e)mail

Love Buzz by Neely Tubati-Alexander from Harper Perennial (NetGalley)
Riley Weaver Needs a Date to the Gaybutante Ball by Jason June from HarperCollins (NetGalley)
The Glow by Jessie Gaynor from Random House (NetGalley)
The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Hook by Victoria Helen Stone from Lake Union (NetGalley)
The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley by Courtney Walsh from Thomas Nelson (NetGalley)
Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr from Forever (NetGalley)
It's Not a Cult by Lauren Danhof from Alcove Press (NetGalley)
A Little Ray of Sunshine by Kristan Higgins from Berkley (NetGalley)

The Last Word by Taylor Adams from William Morrow (NetGalley)
The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
The Beauty of Rain by Jamie Beck from Montlake (NetGalley)
Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer from MIRA (NetGalley)
With My Little Eye by Joshilyn Jackson from William Morrow (NetGalley)
Behind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters from Forever (print, won from @lgbtqrepinbooks)
The Sister Effect by Susan Mallery from Harlequin (NetGalley)
The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady from Berkley (NetGalley)
You Were Always Mine by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza from Atria (NetGalley)
Angel at the Paradise Hotel by Teresa O'Driscoll from John Hunt Publishing (ebook)
All We Could Still Have by Diane Barnes from Lake Union (NetGalley)
The Sweetest Revenge by Lizzy Dent from Putnam (NetGalley)

Melissa and Sara:
The Charming Winter by/from Tracy Krimmer (ebook)

Addicted for Now by Krista and Becca Ritchie from Berkley (NetGalley)
Ten Dates by Rachel Dove from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva from Henry Holt (ebook)
The Last Word by Katy Birchall from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Wild with All Regrets by E.L. Deards from BookSparks (NetGalley)
The Last Wife by J.A. Baker from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
The Good Patient by Alex Stone from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)

Will They or Won't They by Ava Wilder from Random House (NetGalley)

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Book Review: The New Person

By Melissa Amster

Single mother Roxy Novak works days at a dentist’s office and delivers food at night, making the best life she can for herself and her son, Aero. When her wealthy ex-husband decides to ask for full custody, telling her Aero will be better off living with him and his Instagram-famous new wife, Roxy is stunned and scared. How can she possibly get the money to fight back?

Meanwhile, Nora and Owen Finnegan have been trying to have a child for years without success. After their latest surrogate suffers a miscarriage, they start the search again—and find Roxy, who sees a chance to salvage her own dreams of family by fulfilling theirs.

But family is never simple, and neither are dreams. Nora, Owen, and Roxy hope that their surrogacy journey will lead them to what they want most in the world. All three will get more than they expected. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I have only read one other novel by Loretta Nyhan, prior to this one, and I remember enjoying it (see my review). So I was definitely interested in checking out her latest, The New Person. Right from the beginning, I was instantly drawn into the plights of Roxy, Nora, and Owen through their alternating narratives. 

The main characters were so genuine and flawed, which made them relatable even though I never had the same experiences. I have a hard enough time thinking about my older son going to college in another year or so, which makes it easy to understand why Roxy doesn't want to spend a single day away from her son during the summer, let alone if her ex-husband gets full custody. And while I'm thankful to have never experienced infertility, I know how long the road has been for others I care about, and I can appreciate Nora and Owen's desire to start a family so much that they'll do whatever it takes. I really liked Vinnie and Marla as side characters. They were both quirky in different ways. 

I also love that this story takes place in Chicago and the nearby suburbs. At one point, they visited The Enchanted Castle, which was a favorite place to go when I was in high school and a bit beyond. (Like a WAY better version of Chuck E. Cheese.) 

The ending felt a bit anticlimactic to me after all that everyone went through, but it did allow for closure. 

This was a thoughtful story that is perfect for fans of Camille Pagán. Loretta has a similarly engaging way of drawing readers into a story and I think it would be cool if she and Camille wrote a novel together. (I know Loretta has co-written novels in the past.)

Movie casting suggestions:
Aleeza: Sofia Pernas

Thanks to Lake Union for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Loretta Nyhan:

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Thursday, February 16, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Someone Else's Shoes

We're pleased to feature Jojo Moyes's latest novel, Someone Else's Shoes, which was published last week. Melissa is reading it now and loving it so far. Thanks to Viking, we have THREE copies to give away! 

Who are you when you are forced to walk in someone else’s shoes?

Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. Nisha is determined to hang onto her glamorous life. But in the meantime, she must scramble to cope--she doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in.

That’s because Sam Kemp – in the bleakest point of her life – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag--she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence that makes her realize something must change—and that thing is herself.

Full of Jojo Moyes’ signature humor, brilliant storytelling, and warmth, Someone Else’s Shoes is a story about how just one little thing can suddenly change everything. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“Nobody writes women the way Jojo Moyes does—recognizably real and complex and funny and flawed—which is what makes her novels an auto-buy for me.”
—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Credit: Claudia Janke 
Jojo Moyes
is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Giver of Stars, Still Me, Paris for One and Other Stories, After You, One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind, Me Before You, The Last Letter from Your Lover, The Horse Dancer, Night Music, Silver Bay, The Ship of Brides, and The Peacock Emporium. She lives with her husband and three children in Essex, England.

Visit Jojo 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 February 21st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Social Media

We've been running a column series (for three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about social media, which is how we stay connected with you all!

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. 

Melissa Amster:

If not for social media, Chick Lit Central wouldn't have been possible. So I am actually thankful to it for that reason alone. And this is just when I was mainly using Facebook. I also wouldn't have connected with Sara. I met her through her husband a while back, which might not have happened without us all being on Facebook. I don't see myself just emailing with him and being like "hey, can I meet your wife?" It was a lot easier for us to make a connection via Facebook and it's been going strong ever since! I connected with most of the authors we feature on Facebook, as well as our review associates (although Jami told me she found CLC through Twitter). So when it comes to this blog and all the connections that go along with it, social media is definitely a positive experience.

Facebook is how I stay in touch with a majority of my friends. It's how I've reconnected with friends I thought I'd never hear from again. It's an easy distraction when I've had a long day and need to look at funny memes to pass along to my friends. It's also the main way I spread the word about all our blog posts. I use Twitter and Instagram too, but in different ways. I don't really interact on CLC's Twitter account, aside from posting our latest updates at the blog. I will sometimes interact via my personal Twitter account, but I am not on there as often as I'm on Facebook. Twitter is just too chaotic. I do use it to share my personal blog posts, as Facebook thinks those are spam and the only way for people to see them is through a tweet. With IG, I share the latest blog post updates from CLC, as well. I also have a Bookstagram, which I totally love. I've connected with some other really cool Bookstagrammers and even invited one to guest review for CLC!

There are downsides to social media though. It feels very noisy, like there's too much to keep up with and if I miss a post, sometimes I never see it again. The political climate has made things more intense on Facebook and Twitter, with people attacking each other over their beliefs. People have used social media in unsafe ways, such as trolling, doxing, cyberbullying, etc. I also get the feeling of FOMO when I'm on social media and I see people posting pictures from vacations, concerts, adventures, etc. It all can be too much after a while. Then I have to sit back and think of the reasons I do enjoy having social media around and I try to focus on those to feel better. I am glad social media wasn't around when I was in middle or high school though. I don't even want to imagine how people would have misused it back then. Only 1/3 of my kids currently is on social media, but he's also very careful and uses privacy settings. He only shares his posts with people he trusts and he allows me to see what he's doing on there. My other two currently have no interest in social media and I'm fine with that!

Overall, I am thankful for the connections I've made via social media and it has been mostly a positive experience for me, personally. 

Sara Steven:

Lately, Facebook has been showing me past posts and memories–the thoughts and opinions, the moments I’d felt were worthy enough to share with my online circle. Today, this memory popped up:

It was around the time I’d initially joined Facebook, a former devout MySpace fan who had held off as long as she could before she’d jumped from one sinking social media ship to something glittery and far more active, in those days. The ultimate sharing experience. 

I used to love social media. I’d been fascinated by America Online (AOL), as much as many other 90s teens had been when introduced to a means in which to connect with the outside world. Well, outside my own small corner of the world. Then there was MySpace. Then Facebook. And that’s where I’ve settled since 2009–fourteen years of socially connecting with family, friends, people who would later become my friends because they were friends of friends, and so on. In the beginning, I posted something daily or multiple times a day, like pictures of my kids or my spouse, or my house and the backyard of my house. Pictures of myself, sometimes posing, sometimes attempting to look natural so it didn’t look like I was posing. Nature shots. Memes. Inspiring quotes. Places I had traveled to. Vacation shots. Whimsical moments. And nothing thrilled me more than that quintessential "like" reaction from people who had paid attention, or even better: When they’d leave a comment. 

Somewhere in recent years, Facebook (and other social media outlets) began to lose that special glitter for me. It’s not that I’m not on there daily. I still am, and I still love to see what everyone else is up to, or give them likes and loves and cares, or comments. I scroll through my feed and pay my social media respect while maintaining important conversations with at least two good friends of mine who use Facebook messenger as their means of correspondence. I still post pictures on occasion, like when my children turn a year older, or when there’s an important milestone to be had. I’m sure plenty of people think I’m no longer active there, and I guess in some ways I’m not. For some reason, it’s gotten a lot harder for me to share my personal life with others via social media, and I’m not sure where that has come from. 

I don’t have any issues with social media. Obviously, if I still use it. I am on Twitter and eagerly promote the authors and books I’m reading for Chick Lit Central, the blog I’ve been part of now for over a decade, “a place where people can discuss chick lit books, read reviews, meet authors and win books,” yet I have a tough time promoting myself. It’s like I’ve lost interest in doing so. 

I attempted to make a New Year’s resolution this year that I would try to be better about my social media lack of interest. That I’d share more; do more. That maybe by upping my media presence, it would enable me to take more photos–something else I haven’t been as good at as the years have gone by. At some point I took on this mentality of wanting to be part of the moment, versus always being the one snapping photos of the moment, but it means a lot less memories that will forever live on in photo or image form. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get that zest back for social media platforms, or if I’ll find a better way to come out of my shell and share more. Maybe it’s some sort of love/hate relationship with it all that I need to figure out for myself. In the meantime, it’s been fun looking back at the old posts I’ve shared over the years, and the musings I’d had with not just myself but with others, too. Even if it was merely to say Happy Valentine’s Day to others.

My first shared photo on Facebook– when my eldest was three years of age.
He’s seventeen now!

What role does social media play in your life?

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Book Review: The Sporty One

By Sara Steven

Twenty-five years ago, The Spice Girls, a girl band that began after five women answered an ad in the paper, released their first single. 'Wannabe' became a hit and from that moment and, almost overnight, Melanie Chisholm went from small town girl to Sporty Spice, part of one of the biggest music groups in history. 

Beginning in her bedroom in the north-west of England dreaming of performing on stage, THE SPORTY ONE follows the meteoric rise of the Melanie and The Spice Girls, from the incredible highs of becoming one of the world’s most recognizable pop stars – playing at Wembley, conquering the BRITs, closing the Olympics – to the difficult lows. For the first time ever, Melanie talks about the pressures of fame, the shaming and bullying she experienced, the struggles she has had with her body image and mental health, and the difficulty of finding yourself when the whole world knows your name. 

THE SPORTY ONE is an incredible story of resilience, hope and how you can find your power.(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I love The Spice Girls! I think many of us who grew up in the 90s can relate to that sentiment. I’d recently seen Melanie compete on Dancing With the Stars and had questioned what she’d been up to and had wondered how her life had turned out, and I feel as though I was left pretty satisfied with that by reading her book, The Sporty One. While so much of it focused on the past, we do get a taste of her life in recent years, and what a life it’s been!

I sometimes get the impression of perfection when I read about celebrities. That they’ve lived a charmed life. That wasn’t the case for Melanie. She had more than humble beginnings and used her performances as a means of escape from the trials she’d had as a child. Melanie’s voice is nothing but honest. She doesn’t sugar coat anything–the relationship she’d had with her parents, and later, her stepfather, or the tough experiences she’d had at school when she wanted nothing more than to just live in harmony with everyone else. She is a self-described peacemaker, and I could really get a sense for that when she describes the way things were for her with other children and later, the teens she went to high school with. It wasn’t an easy life. 

Like any big Spice Girls fan, I eagerly anticipated the chapter that would give us the lowdown on how it all had come to be, and Melanie supplied that, and more. I had no clue that there had been a different young woman who had been chosen initially to join the fab five, before Emma Bunton had come along. I can’t even imagine anyone other than Baby Spice in that role, but it happened, and Melanie talks about that experience. She talks about the arguments and disagreements, the various characteristics of the girls and ultimately, how much they all helmed and paved the way for their own success. The Spice Girls did not have fame handed to them. They had to work for it. 

There were moments in certain chapters where it felt like messages had become redundant, or Melanie’s story repeated here and there, but for any fan, it’s a great book to add to your to-be-read pile! I enjoyed learning more about her, and the other Spice Girls, from someone who actually lived the experience.

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

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