Friday, June 30, 2023

Reviews at Amazon--May/June 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!


Aaron After School by Marlisa Kriscott

The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas

The Summer of Songbirds by Kristy Woodson Harvey

When You See Her by Barbara Boehm Miller

The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva


Best Served Hot by Amanda Elliot

I Didn't Do It by Jaime Lynn Hendricks

Anonymous Mom Posts by Jenifer Goldin

Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer

Cutting Teeth by Chandler Baker

Famous in a Small Town by Viola Shipman

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Book Review: The Roommate

Also known as The Flatmate (UK)

By Sara Steven

It was surreal returning to work after a five-month enforced sabbatical following the suspicious death of my best friend Livvy at a work event. I was grateful for the time away to grieve and had slotted straight back in work But a surprise awaited my return. Amanda Dowd, Livvy’s replacement, was firmly entrenched as my new flatmate in the company apartment. Something didn’t feel right, I felt on edge. But everyone seemed to love Amanda.

Even my ex-Jayden was blinded by her outgoing personality and model looks. Yet her desperation to become friends felt unnatural. When I began to receive calls, photos and presents supposedly from Livvy, I became spooked… someone was targeting me, watching me. With my job, home and life on the line, I had to find out who was doing this to me. I knew I hadn’t caused Livvy’s death; I still believed it was no accident. Someone else was guilty and I had to find out who before I was next… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Gemma Rogers is an expert at writing thrillers, and The Roommate is the latest great addition. I loved not knowing what’s really going on or who the real culprit is, with moments that made me question if even Ria, the main character, could be a suspect! Are the threats, the phone calls, text messages and macabre gifts actual events that have occurred, or is it all in Ria’s head? Even Ria questions that. 

As the synopsis indicates, everyone loves Amanda. Even the way she’s portrayed within the pages showcased a potentially likable character. There were glimpses of possible anarchy, particularly when Ria faces off with Amanda, seeking the truth. Yet, anyone would become defensive when there are accusations. Is Amanda the one who is pulling the strings, or is it someone else? I even sought out secondary characters who could potentially be the troublemakers, because it was the ultimate mystery. 

I appreciated the backstories provided for both Ria and Amanda. It helped to better understand where both characters come from, particularly with how Ria was raised and the type of homelife she had with her mother, and the relations that Amanda has with her family. It better explained their motives, too. Ria will stop at nothing to discover the truth about her best friend Livvy, even if that means risking her own life to do it. The climax to the story was riveting!

I was completely all in for this Single White Female-esque story! The Roommate will leave you guessing the entire time you read it, making it the ultimate page-turner.

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

Purchase Links: 
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Barnes & Noble

Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Her debut novel Stalker was published in September 2019 and marked the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband and two daughters.

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Thursday, June 29, 2023

Alli and Asha are at their a book giveaway

We are thrilled to have Alli Frank and Asha Youmans here to chat with us today. They have a lot to say and we really enjoyed their answers to our usual interview questions. Melissa read their previous novel, Never Meant to Meet You and gave it five stars. (Check out her review.) They're back today with The Better Half and Melissa is excited to read that one soon. Thanks to Megan Beatie Communications, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

ALLI FRANK: The robustness of a farm girl, the honed sophistication of a city woman, a dash of Jewish chutzpah, and a heaping cup of endurance athlete and voila, you have Alli Frank. Alli was raised in Yakima, WA, the only child of two parents who instilled in her that hard work coupled with a resilient spirit will take you far. She has been a teacher, curriculum leader, coach, college counselor, assistant head, private school co-founder, sometimes pastor, often mayor, and de facto parent therapist. A graduate of Cornell and Stanford Universities, Alli can still be found with her nose deep in a book or hunkered down watching movies, never one to miss a great story. Alli lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two daughters and terribly cute mini-Bernedoodle. When she needs good food (because she really hates to cook) she turns to her co-author Asha Youmans. Read Alli’s essays in the Moms Don’t Have Time to: A Quarantine Anthology, Frolic, and Medium. She is thrilled to be able to say she became a Tall Poppy Writer in 2022.

ASHA YOUMANS: Asha Youmans was raised in Seattle, WA, by an educational and civil rights pioneer father and a children’s hospital administrator mother, along with a sister and a brother she admires and adores. As a child, Asha read everything she could get her hands on from X-Men comic books to the Clan of the Cave Bear series to Camus. Enrolled in gifted programs while attending public school, Asha went on to graduate from one of America’s premier private academies, Lakeside School, from which her father, TJ Vassar, earned a diploma as the school’s first Black graduate. After receiving a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Asha returned to Seattle where she taught in public and private schools for nearly 20 years. Asha is a fabulous home cook who loves storytelling and connecting with others by making them smile. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband (who’s white), two ethnically ambiguous sons, and a dog that is part Yorkie and part who-the-heck-knows. In 2022, Asha joined with Alli as a Tall Poppy Writer.

Visit Alli and Asha online:

After a difficult five years, at age forty-three, Nina Morgan Clarke’s time has finally arrived. With an ex-husband relocated across the country, her father bouncing back after the loss of his beloved wife, and her daughter, Xandra, thriving at boarding school, Nina is stepping into her dream job as a trifecta: a first-generation, Black female head of the storied Royal-Hawkins School. To mark the moment, Nina and her best friend, Marisol, take a long-overdue girls’ trip to celebrate the second half of Nina’s life—which is shaping up to be the best part of her life.

As Nina’s school year gets underway, all seems to be progressing as planned. Before long, wunder-hire Jared Jones, two hundred pounds of Harvard-educated ego, relentlessly pushes Nina to her ethical limits. Soon after, dutiful Xandra accuses one of her teachers of misconduct. And most alarming, the repercussions of her trip with Marisol force Nina into a life-altering choice. Time is of the essence, and Nina must decide if she will embrace a future she never could have predicted. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and honest, The Better Half celebrates the absurdity and joy in life, and does so with an enviable grace and good heart.” 
—Mindy Kaling

The Better Half sizzles with sharp observations and even sharper wit from the first page to the delicious end. Alli Frank and Asha Youmans are a formidable team skewering the culture that forces women into roles while writing characters who both embrace, eschew, and finally succeed in their own powerful way.” 
—Ann Garvin, USA Today bestselling author of I Thought You Said This Would Work

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
Alli: That we are incredibly talented at writing “real” characters. We have had many readers ask us if the two of us have been divorced (nope both happily married) we write the thoughts and emotions of dealing with an ex-husband so accurately. Our ability to write with grace and truthfulness when it comes to female friendship is because we value the women in our lives so deeply. And what goes down with parents and kids, well, between the two of us we have over 40 years of working in schools. When you are an educator, you have THE front row seat to observe multiple generations as they move in and out of your classroom, in and out of your school. We do believe ourselves to be expert observers and then storytellers of humanity, the good, the bad and everything that exists in between.

Asha: My favorite compliment we have received is that readers want to be friends with our characters. To reach a person through words at such an intensity that they wish our imaginary cast was real speaks to our ability to accurately reflect humanity. When I was a young voracious reader myself, I learned valuable lessons in empathy through books and now I am able to impart the same for others. It is a joy to make people smile and laugh and teach through storytelling.

What are the easiest and hardest parts of writing a book together?
Alli: The easiest is the easiest for me to answer. Asha and I have very similar senses of humor. Even given all the ups and downs of the publishing journey we laugh hysterically together and yes, sometimes at each other! Bottom line, in this hard, hard industry we manage to have a lot of fun. The hardest part, hands down, are the outside attempts that have been made to question our working relationship as a Black and White co-authorship. People want to poke holes in what has only been a phenomenal creative partnership and life-long friendship.

Asha: What makes our partnership easy is the way we fit together like puzzle pieces: the complete picture cannot come together with one and not the other. Alli has the strengths that I am missing as a writer, and I have those strengths she needs to flourish as well. It is a beautiful thing to need and be needed by another person. The most difficult aspect of our writing journey is that with each book so far, we have faced obstacles that have forced us to pivot and change our working style: the Covid pandemic; moving to different states; Alli forcing me to get better at technology so that we can connect virtually. But even with all of that, I am still learning…so BONUS!

If The Better Half were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Alli & Asha:  We actually had to create a casting list for a presentation to Mindy’s Book Studio. Together, we have put a lot of time and consideration into this list:
Nina Morgan Clarke:  Meagan Good 
Fitzroy Morgan: Samuel L Jackson
Xandra Clarke:  Skai Jackson
Leo West:  John Krasinski
Marisol Garcia:  Gina Rodriguez
Roan Dawson:  Chris Colfer
Winn Hawkins:  Paul Bettany
Graham Clarke: Lance Gross
Jared Jones: Michael Evans Behling
Courtney Dunn:  Jaime Pressly

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
Alli: Season two of The Bear on Hulu. I think it is some of the most brilliant storytelling, acting and filming since The Wire.

Asha:  Though I am late to the party, I am finally catching up with AJ and the Queen. I watch as much content as RuPaul creates, and I am invested in this show. If RuPaul were to host a knitting hour where he simply sat and knit and talked about knitting…I would watch that.

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?
Alli: I live in Sun Valley, Idaho, and we just had the third snowiest winter on record and one of the wettest springs ever. While I am beyond excited for summer to be here, the wildflowers from such a wet and cold winter and spring are jaw droppingly indescribable. The hills surrounding my hometown are a magical mash up of a Monet painting crossed with a Visit Switzerland ad campaign. If Chick Lit Central were to visit me right now, we would go to Java on Fourth and get a Bowl of Soul, then go hiking for hours through the mountains and meadows bursting with flowers and then land at Grumpy’s for happy hour burgers, fries, and schooners of beer.

Asha: Seattle is my hometown and I have watched it grow and prosper for 50+ years. No visit is complete without touring the nation’s longest continuously operated farmers market, The Pike Place Market. Home of the very first Starbucks, source of fresh seafood, meat, bread, cheese, and fruit and vegetables, The Pike Place Market also features an eclectic collection of local artisans’ wares and a host of collectibles shops. My favorite spot is Golden Age Collectibles, a comic book store I have been a fan of since childhood. And finally, any trip to the market is only made better by sampling as much of the diverse restaurant cuisine as possible.

What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?
Alli:  If I am at home my favorite thing to do in the summer is trail running in the Pioneer, Boulder, and Sawtooth mountains with my Mini-Bernedoodle, Georgia. If I am on either coast with my family, I can play in the ocean for hours. There is nothing I enjoy more than feeling insignificant in the majesty of mother nature.

Asha:  My favorite thing to do in the summer is rafting down the Snoqualmie River with my girl squad. We pack a floating cooler, crank up a Bluetooth speaker, and gigglingly anticipate the spate of mini rapids we encounter. Washington state, where I live, is incredibly beautiful from the coastal beaches, to the peninsular rain forests, to the scorching deserts, and atop the snow-covered mountains. I have and always will live here, and I expect to spend the rest of my lifetime exploring this gorgeous region.

Thanks to Alli and Asha for chatting with us and to Megan Beatie Communications for sharing their 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 July 5th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Book Review: The Last Party

By Becky Gulc

‘On New Year's Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

He's celebrating the success of his lakeside holiday homes, and has generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year's Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects. She grew up in the tiny community, so the murder suspects are her neighbours, friends and family - and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn't who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him’. (Synopsis courtesy of Waterstones.)

I do enjoy a good thriller and Clare Mackintosh is one of my favourite authors within this genre, so I couldn’t wait to read her latest novel, The Last Party.

The Shore is a series of new and controversial swanky lakeside holiday homes for the rich on the Wales/England border, an investment by local celebrity singer Rhys Lloyd and his business partner Jonty. When Rhys is found dead following a New Years Eve party, where the rich and not so rich are invited and the invested and the bitter are invited – we’re left wondering who wanted Rhys dead.

Bring in DC Ffion Morgan for Wales and DC Leo Brady for England who need to work together cross-forces to solve the crime, a tad awkward when they find out they already know each other. With Ffion growing up in the area, she knows the locals, or thinks she does, but will this help or hinder the case? And can Leo’s fresh outlook bring resolution to the crime?

I really enjoyed the narrative – short chapters, the present, then the past, from the viewpoints of a wide-range of characters with tension and suspense slowly building throughout. I admit to finding the number of characters a bit much for the first half of the novel, I had to keep reminding myself who was who. For me part two of the novel is when I really got into it, the reveal at the end of part one surprised me and I was eager to see how everything would pan out.

The characters aren’t particularly likable aside from Ffion and Leo but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. We slowly learn most people have a motive for wanting Rhys dead, and he becomes more unlikable throughout as we learn more about him. In this sense the killer could have been anyone and in a way there was therefore no shock about the reveal, even though it wasn’t all as it seems and there is indeed a good twist at the end. 

Whilst I maybe wasn’t as gripped by this novel as I have been with other novels by Clare I did still truly enjoy it, particularly the second half. I believe there will be a series featuring Ffion and I would definitely read more novels featuring this lead character. 

More by Clare Mackintosh:

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Carolyn Mackler celebrates female a book giveaway

Photo by Sarah Klock
We're pleased to introduce Carolyn Mackler today and celebrate the publication of her debut adult novel, The Wife App. Melissa has this at the top of her TBR and she's excited to read it soon. Thanks to Simon and Schuster, we have THREE copies to give away!

Carolyn Mackler is the acclaimed author of the YA novels The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things; Infinite in Between; and The Future of Us, among others. Her award-winning novels have appeared on bestseller lists and been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Carolyn lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. The Wife App is her first novel for adults.

Visit Carolyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Three best friends decide they’re finally done with their ex-husbands taking their work as wives and moms for granted. They’re ready to monetize the mental load, stick it to their exes, and have a wild ride in the process.

Lauren, mother of twins, wakes up one morning to her Wife Alarm Bells sounding. She sleuths on her husband’s phone and stumbles on a dirty secret that explodes her marriage. Madeline has it all—a penthouse apartment, a perfect daughter, and no-strings-attached romps with handsome men. When she learns that she might lose her child to her ex in England, it stirs up a decades-old personal tragedy. Sophie, with too much FOMO and never enough money, obsesses over her ex-husband’s Family 2.0—all while keeping her true desires hidden, even from herself.

It starts as a joke during a tipsy night out, as Lauren, Madeline, and Sophie rail against everything wives do for free. Let’s build an app that monetizes the mental load. And maybe get revenge on our exes in the process? Soon, the Wife App is born, and before long, it’s the fastest growing start-up in New York City. But then life intervenes. Love intervenes. Ex-husbands intervene. And the consequences are bigger than anything Lauren, Madeline, or Sophie could have expected. Carolyn Mackler marks her debut into adult fiction with a hilarious rollercoaster ride of revenge and redemption that is at once a send-up of modern marriage and a celebration of female friendship and love in all forms. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Who wouldn't want a wife?  I'm not talking about sex here. Carolyn Mackler's delightful new novel is sexy but it's not about sex. Think of all the other services wives perform without getting paid and you'll get some of what this Wife App is all about. The Wife App is fresh, funny, empowering, and totally satisfying.”
—Judy Blume

“Carolyn Mackler’s The Wife App is a provocative, funny novel that poses serious questions: why does so much work in a marriage still fall to wives, and why aren’t these labors paid? Much to discuss!”
—Gabrielle Zevin, New York Times bestselling author of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
People have told me that my novels have helped them feel less alone with their quirks, and laugh about their foibles. It’s similar to marriage, right? It helps to have an army of female friends who serve as our reality checks. That’s one thing I tried to portray in The Wife App.
How is Lauren similar to or different from you?
Lauren definitely thinks a lot of the same thoughts I think, or has similar observations about people and the world. But she’s good at technology and I’m…well…I have a hard time updating my iPhone and I believe that happens automatically.
If The Wife App were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Fingers crossed! I would love to see The Wife App on a screen. I’d cast Anne Hathaway as Madeline – she is gorgeous and elegant with the dark hair and pale skin and broad smile and so much poise. Sophie would be played by Kirsten Dunst. She is so beautiful and, when she acts, I always imagine she’s juggling a million thoughts at once. As for Lauren, you’ll have to let me know! I’m too close to her to take that step back.
If you could invent an app right now to make your life easier, what would you call it and how would it work?
I’d invent a Wife App. When my husband—who works in technology—first read The Wife App, he said to me, “Carolyn, you’ve outlined an amazing business plan for an app. Someone is going to grab that and build it.” Once they do, I’ll hire a Wife to fill out all the camp forms and submit health insurance invoices.
What is your favorite summertime snack?
Fresh sweet red raspberries. I love those U Pick places but I have a hard time putting them in the bucket because I pop so many in my mouth.
What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend?
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I went with a close friend, which was perfect. It’s a total female-bonding kind of movie.

Thanks to Carolyn for chatting with us and to Simon & Schuster 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 July 2nd at midnight EST.

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Monday, June 26, 2023

Book Review: Will They or Won't They?

By Jami Denison

Bobby and Lindsay. Will and Alicia. David and Maddie. Hawkeye and Hot Lips. Sam and Addison. These are just a few of the many, many couples I have “shipped” in my decades of TV fandom, from soaps to sitcoms and every type of show in between. (A “shipper” is someone who roots for a relationship between two characters—or sometimes even real people.) In her second book, Will They or Won’t They, author Ava Wilder takes readers on a wild roller coaster ride of a romance, producing an absolute delight for shippers of all types of relationships. 

Shane and Lilah are the stars of the TV show Intangible – a seeming cross between Supernatural and The X-Files. Lilah left after the fifth season to make a movie, but it flopped, and now she’s back for the show’s ninth and last season. For years, their fans have yearned for the characters to get together on screen (and off-screen too.) But what the fans don’t know—what hardly anyone knows—is that Shane and Lilah had a secret relationship during the first season. After they broke up, they spent years sniping at each other until Lilah committed an unforgivable betrayal. But with both their careers on the line, Shane and Lilah have to make this season work. Can they do it without killing each other? Or falling in love all over again?

Reading Will They or Won’t They produces the same feeling of heady anticipation as shipping your favorite TV couple. In close third-person point-of-view, Wilder goes back and forth between Shane and Lilah as they lust after each other, loathe each other, and try to figure each other out. Wilder switches stereotypes by having Lilah the emotionally unavailable one. She constantly misinterprets Shane’s attempts at connection as teasing and hostility. Lilah’s defensiveness brings out the worst in Shane. Things get so uncomfortable that the network forces them to undergo couples counseling, where the two are finally able to open up to each other in a genuine way for the first time. 

Wilder doesn’t neglect the supporting characters in this cast – ex-girlfriends, co-stars, the paparazzi, crazy fans who spread rumors of secret babies (LIASON fans, I think you’re being called out here), dysfunctional family members. With plenty of flashbacks and a few cliff-hanger chapter endings, she draws out the tension and anticipation like a master. The sex scenes are so hot that readers will want to digest them in private. And unlike TV show runners, who are forced to deal with such complications as actors who want to leave a series early (thanks a lot, Josh Charles!!!) Wilder has complete control of her characters until the very end. 

Will They or Won’t They is a book readers will pick up over and over again, a book they’ll pass on to their TV-watching friends. It’s better than watching compilation videos on YouTube, which just reinforces the fact that your favorites rarely wound up together in the end.  

Who are your favorite couples to ship? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Also by Ava Wilder:

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Friday, June 23, 2023

What's in the (e)mail


The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella from Random House (NetGalley)
Women of Good Fortune by Sophie Wan from Graydon House (NetGalley)
The Connellys of County Down by Tracey Lange from Celadon (NetGalley)
The Stories We Cannot Tell by Leslie A. Rasmussen from BooksGoSocial (NetGalley)
Too Late by Colleen Hoover from Hachette (print)
Mom Com by Adriana Mather from Blackstone (NetGalley)
The Palace at Dusk by Angela Terry from Girl Friday Productions (NetGalley)
All the Right Notes by Dominic Lim from Forever (NetGalley)
A Winter in New York by Josie Silver from Ballantine (NetGalley)

Next-Door Nemesis by Alexa Martin from Berkley (NetGalley)

Fortune by Ellen Won Steil from Blankenship PR (NetGalley)
The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner from Gallery (NetGalley)


The Fairytale Life of Dorothy Gale by Virginia Kantra from Berkley (NetGalley)

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Book Review: Stars Collide

By Sara Steven

Eden Sands has been a star for twenty years, but it’s lonely at the top. Her mediocre marriage just ended, and her inner circle is smaller than ever. The stage is the only place she’s ever felt like she truly belonged, and yet, her last album flopped, and her upcoming tour hasn’t sold out. Eden’s desperate for her star to shine bright again, but when her team suggests a collaboration with an up-and-coming young star to give her a boost, she balks.

Anna Moss is pop music’s rising star. She’s idolized Eden Sands for most of her life—so it’s a dream come true when she’s invited to perform with her at the Grammys. Anna’s tired of being defined by her bubbly persona. She wants to be taken seriously as an artist, and a duet with Eden could be just what she needs.

As Anna and Eden rehearse, they soon realize they have more in common than their musical talents. Now they just have to decide if what is between them is a one-hit wonder or the making of a romance worthy of one of the greatest love songs of all time. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Stars Collide is a beautiful love story between two unlikely individuals. Eden has spent the majority of her life doing what others feel is best for her, following direction and the status quo. She is seen as a seasoned performer who keeps her distance from not only the public, but within her personal relationships. Anna is a lot more independent, yet no one takes her seriously. She’s just “a kid,” even though she’s an adult and wants to be seen as such. Her relationships have been fodder for the public, because she is a lot more open and willing to bare all. 

Eden realizes a duet with Anna could bring a younger demographic into the mix. Anna knows performing with Eden will potentially allow the public to see her as a talented adult performer. I really enjoyed that initial scene, when the two women work together. I mean, I love all of the scenes, but I could tell with that very first duet the type of potential magic that would be there, on and off the stage. There is a means to an end for both Eden and Anna, yet they end up getting a lot more than they bargained for. 

Eden brings out a more mature side to Anna. Anna gives Eden the allowance she needs to feel free. I don’t know any celebrities in a personal capacity, but I could imagine what they go through is a lot like what is described within Stars Collide. The difficulties at living a “normal life” under the scrutiny of the world. Eden is scared to leave her hotel room during tours, for fear that she’ll get mobbed. Anna has to wear disguises so no one recognizes her, just so she can explore and go out in public. They navigate the surreal together, first as friends, and then, as something that could be more.

From the get go, I was hooked on their story. The chapters flowed effortlessly, winding up until it hits a high crescendo that neither character can come back from. The steam factor was at an all-time high, which I had suspected would be the case, but much like the relationship between these two characters, I got a lot more than I bargained for in that department! It was a great read–a definite five-star experience!

Thanks to Over the River PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Rachel Lacey:

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Thursday, June 22, 2023

Viola Shipman is the cherry on the a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

It's always a pleasure to have Viola Shipman at CLC. For those who don't already know, Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, who was originally our Go-to-Gay. That started over 10 years ago! So when I found out that he was coming to my neck of the woods, I marked my calendar and drove out about an hour away to finally have the chance to meet him in person. And what a glorious meeting it was! Wade is so wonderful in person and he's also a terrific speaker, who had me laughing so much. His husband Gary was also at the signing. I had connected with Gary while working with Wade and he is as lovely as can be. I'm so thankful to know them both and I hope this won't be the only time to see them in person. 

Viola's latest novel is Famous in a Small Town, which is a delightful story about friendship between generations. There's also a lot of talk about cherries. Melissa really enjoyed it and you can check out her reviewThanks to Graydon House, we have TWO copies to give away!

With Wade and Gary during their Maryland tour stop

Wade Rouse is the USA TODAY, Publishers Weekly, and internationally bestselling author of 15 books, including five memoirs and ten novels. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction.

Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope ChestThe Recipe Box, The Summer Cottage, The Heirloom Garden, The Clover Girls, The Secret of Snow, The Edge of Summer, and A Wish for Winter.

Library Journal writes that Wade has “hit upon the perfect formula to tell heartwarming, intergenerational family stories by weaving together the lives, loves and history of family through cherished heirlooms.” 

Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly.

Also a noted humorist of four memoirs, Wade was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards in Humor (he lost to Tina Fey) and was named by Writer’s Digest as “The #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, We’d Like to Have Drinks With” (Wade was sandwiched between Ernest Hemingway and Hunter Thompson).

Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors. (Bio adapted from Viola's website.)

Visit Viola online:
Website * Wade's website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


For most of her eighty years, Mary Jackson has endured the steady invasion of tourists, influencers and real estate developers who have discovered the lakeside charm of Good Hart, Michigan, waiting patiently for the arrival of a stranger she’s believed since childhood would one day carry on her legacy—the Very Cherry General Store. Like generations of Jackson women before her, Cherry Mary, as she’s known locally, runs the community hub—part post office, bakery and sandwich shop—and had almost given up hope that the mysterious prediction she’d been told as a girl would come true and the store would have to pass to…a man.

Becky Thatcher came to Good Hart with her ride-or-die BFF to forget that she’s just turned forty with nothing to show for it. Ending up at the general store with Mary is admittedly not the beach vacation she expected, but the more the feisty octogenarian talks about destiny, the stronger Becky’s memories of her own childhood holidays become, and the strange visions over the lake she was never sure were real. As she works under Mary’s wing for the summer and finds she fits into this quirky community of locals, she starts to believe that destiny could be real, and that it might have something very special in mind for Becky… (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Much like the title of my new novel, Famous in a Small Town, I grew up in a tiny town in rural America and was famous (or perhaps infamous is a better word) for wanting to be a writer. 

I never dreamed I would ever meet a celebrity, and yet much of my life has centered around them. 

One of my first magazine interviews was when I was in graduate school at Northwestern University. I interviewed Oscar winner Patricia Neal about her recovery from a stroke. 

I worked at an elite prep school as communications director where I interviewed and worked alongside alumni who were extremely famous, from actors (like Vincent Price and Sterling K. Brown) to tycoons of business as well as senators and former presidents. 

I was a reporter and writer for PEOPLE, where I talked to Britney Spears and Melissa Etheridge and worked red carpets interviewing Laura Dern, Julianne Moore and Benedict Cumberbatch. And my “beat” for PEOPLE was the Real Housewives franchise, where I talked to reality stars from Beverly Hills to New Jersey. 

Ironically, this small town boy I never got nervous around big city celebrities. 

That is, until I was invited to the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night, a sort of Met Gala for celebrity authors (and normal, ol’ authors like me). 

There was a fancy step-and-repeat, camera crews from E! and Entertainment Tonight, flashbulbs popping. They weren’t there to photograph me; they were there to talk to Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ina Garten, Christie Brinkley, the famous names went on and on. 

I was seated at a book signing table next to a Kennedy. 

A. Kennedy. 

But I actually wasn’t nervous about any of these people until I saw Mary Higgins Clark, nearing 90 and still glamorous, enter the tent. 

She was a longtime idol of mine. My great aunts loved to read the “Queen of Suspense,” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world's most popular writers. 

I had long admired the publishing tales and literary lore surrounding her tireless work ethic and career reinvention. 

I approached Mary Higgins Clark when there was a break in her line, heart rapidly beating, and introduced myself. 

She had no clue who I was but acted as if she did. 

I told her of my admiration and asked if she had any advice. 

“Never give up!” she told me, before looking around the room. “Fame is fleeting. Talent is forever. Believe in yourself and fight for your work.” Then she looked me right in the eye. “If you want to admire me for anything, admire me for working harder than anyone else and being grateful.”

I immediately thought of my grandmother, Viola Shipman, the pen name I chose for my fiction to honor the working poor Ozarks woman whose sacrifices changed my family’s life and who worked harder than anyone I ever knew while still being grateful for the little things in life. 

We took a picture together, which I have framed in my writing studio. 

Ironically, Famous in A Small Town is inspired by women like Mary Higgins Clark and my grandmothers, fierce, independent women who also were kind, hardworking and never gave up. The main character, “Cherry Mary” Jackson became famous in her small town for doing something a woman had never been allowed to do: She entered Michigan’s Cherry Pit Spitting Championship and not only beat all the men but set a record for Guinness Book of World Records.  She refused to live by society’s rules and became famous for simply believing in the magic of herself. But she considers herself an ordinary gal. 

My Grandma Shipman used to watch the soaps on TV when she retired. On weekends, we’d go to the movie theatre. 

“Stars, they’re just like you and me,” she once told me after we walked out of a movie when I said I wanted to be famous.” They just seem bigger on film. The most important thing is to live a big life doing what you love while remaining simple.”

And that’s what I aspire to do to this day in both my life and my writing. 

But meeting authors I admire still makes me sweat. 

Thanks to Wade for a wonderful guest post and to Graydon House for sharing Viola's latest novel 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 June 27th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Spotlight: The Bookshop by the Bay

Jess is a high-profile lawyer in Charleston. Or was, until she catches her husband in an affair and retreats to her childhood home on Cape Cod to regroup and take stock of her life. Allison is a magazine editor, but is forced to step back from her career thanks to dwindling circulation. Flanked by their daughters, both friends find themselves seeking comfort in the place they grew up, trying to put the pieces of their lives back together.

When Alison stops by her beloved local bookstore one day and learns that the owner wants to sell, she and Jess spring into action and purchase it. Now that one of their favorite childhood haunts belongs to them, the two friends, along with the help of their daughters, reopen the doors of the cherished bookstore to the community. They also open themselves up to the possibility of romance, the bonds of mothers and daughters, and the magic of second chances.

Purchase The Bookshop by the Bay

"Anyone who’s ever wanted to turn the page on their old life or felt the whispered promise of a new dream, and a fresh start will fall in love with Pamela Kelley’s charming new novel." 
New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews

“Perfect for fans of Nancy Thayer and Susan Mallery, The Bookshop by the Bay is a delightful escape to the shores of Cape Cod in a story about love, friendship, and second chances. Anyone who’s ever wondered ‘what if’ should tuck this heartwarming novel into their beach bag.” 
 Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of Blush and Gilt

"Set in a coastal town so charming you’ll wish it was your own, and filled with characters so warm and familiar you’d gladly call them friends, The Bookshop by the Bay has all the ingredients of a perfect beach read. As refreshing as an ocean breeze, and brimming with heart, readers will savor this sparkling story of friendship, family, new love, and the unique magic that can only be found in coming home again." 
 Erika Montgomery, author of Our Place on the Island

Courtesy of Pamela's website
Pamela Kelley is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of women's fiction, family sagas, and suspense, such as The Restaurant and The Hotel. Readers often describe her books as feel-good reads with people you'd want as friends. She lives in a historic seaside town near Cape Cod. She has always been an avid reader of women's fiction, romance, mysteries, thrillers and cook books. There's also a good chance you might get hungry when you read her books as she is a foodie, and occasionally shares a recipe or two.

Visit Pamela online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The First Date Prophecy

Today we are pleased to feature The First Date Prophecy by actor Danny Tamberelli and his wife, author Kate (Detweiler) Tamberelli. If you like the nineties as much as Melissa does, you'll want to get this novel! It releases next week, but we have FIVE print copies to give away, thanks to Kensington!

Danny Tamberelli, 90s Nickelodeon star from All That and The Adventures of Pete and Pete, teams up with his real-life wife Kate Tamberelli for a zany, big-hearted, and truly laugh-out-loud debut rom-com set in Brooklyn, steeped in 90s nostalgia, and inspired by their very own love story. Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren & Emily Henry!

Brooklyn-based aspiring writer Lucy Minninger has no trouble putting the comedy in her rom-coms. It’s the romance part of the equation that’s the problem. But even as the rejection slips pile up, and her second dates dwindle, Lucy refuses to give up hope—or her HeartThrobs™ dating profile . . .

Former child star Rudy Riziero made his mark on some of the most popular kids shows of the ՚90s. But that early success has pigeonholed him into a stand-up routine riffing on his past work, while the slick single life he envisioned was clearly a fantasy. He’s actually ready for a relationship, if he could just find someone uninterested in who he used to be . . .

When Lucy and Rudy match online, they’re eager to meet. But after their first date ends in a psychic’s prophecy that is equal parts great fortune and certain doom, their flirty quips end and their search for answers to some of life’s big questions begins: Is there really one person for everyone? Do destinies really intertwine? Where can you find the best tacos in Brooklyn? 

And when it matters most, will they throw caution—and fate—to the wind, trust their instincts—and write their own futures? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“A joyous, nostalgic rom-com romp in which the authors’ love for each other dazzles through.” 
—Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of The Roughest Draft

“Will keep you entertained to the last page.” 
—Melissa Joan Hart

“A love story as delightful and idiosyncratic as its authors.” 
—Mara Wilson, actress, Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda

“A beautiful, fun, and complex love story.” 
—Screenwriters Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)

Kate and Danny Tamberelli are a wife‑and‑husband writing team; The First Date Prophecy is their debut rom‑com. Kate— Katelyn Detweiler—is a literary agent and YA author whose novels include The Undoing of Thistle Tate and The People We Choose. Danny is an actor, musician, and comedian who rose to fame on Nickelodeon shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete, All That, and Figure It Out. He currently hosts the podcast The Adventures of Danny & Mike, the live comedy show Nostalgia Personified, and is the bassist for the band Jounce. Kate and Danny live in Brooklyn with their son, and enjoy seeking out the finest food trucks their neighborhood has to offer. 

Visit Kate and Danny online:
Kate's website * Danny's website

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 June 25th at midnight EST.

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