Friday, May 31, 2024

Book Review: Summer Fridays

By Allyson Bales

Summer 1999: Twenty-something Sawyer is striving to make it in New York. Between her assistant job in publishing, her secret dreams of becoming a writer, and her upcoming wedding to her college boyfriend, her is plate full. Only one problem: She is facing an incredibly lonely summer as her fiancĂ© has been spending longer and longer hours at work . . . with an all-too-close female colleague, Kendra. 

When Kendra's boyfriend, Nick, invites Sawyer to meet up and compare notes about their suspicions, the meeting goes awry. She finds Nick cocky and cynical, and he finds her stuck in her own head. But then Nick seeks out Sawyer online to apologize, and a friendship develops.

Soon, Sawyer's lonely summer takes an unexpected turn. She and Nick begin an unofficial ritual—exploring New York City together every summer Friday. From hot dogs on the Staten Island Ferry and Sea Breezes in a muggy East Village bar to swimming at Coney Island, Sawyer feels seen by Nick in a way that surprises her. He pushes her to be braver. To ask for what she wants. Meanwhile, Sawyer draws Nick out of his hard shell, revealing a surprisingly vulnerable side. They both begin living for their Friday afternoons together. 

But what happens when the summer is over?

Summer Fridays is a witty and emotional love letter to New York City that also captures the feeling of being young and starting out, uncertain what to do on your summer Friday. It’s also perfect for readers who remember when “going online” meant tying up the phone line, and the timeless thrill of seeing a certain someone’s name in your inbox. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

When I saw that this read was “You’ve Got Mail for a new generation, set in the days of AOL and instant messenger banter,” I knew I wanted to read it right away.  I absolutely LOVED the movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  It is up there as a favorite memory of all time. Also, when I saw that the setting was New York in late 1999 that sealed the deal.  I was an older teen during that time and LOVED whenever my family would take a trip into the city.

I assumed this would be a fluffier fun and flirty read based on the description and the cover but was pleasantly surprised it was so much more than that.  I started this on our last day of a long weekend camping trip and could not put it down.  We spent hours sitting in traffic and I was riveted.  When it was my turn to drive, I was secretly hoping my wife would get a second wind and carry on so that I could find out what happened to Sawyer and Nick. 

I felt so captivated by them and also reflective.  Both Sawyer and Nick are sorting through their own demons and I really enjoyed following along on their adventures and growth as well as what each of them brings out in the other.  Sawyer is tentative and in her head so much and I love the way that Nick handles that. 

“Look Sawyer, It’s pretty simple.  If you want to do something, you should do it.”

Who doesn’t need to hear that from time to time?  I think I do and it was such a refreshing and heartfelt response.  I also really loved how Rindell peeled back the layers with Nick.  His character processed so much of what so many of us did around this time.  The way that Sawyer impacts him is so captivating and raw.  Part of the story also occurs around 9/11 and I can still remember exactly where I was when our whole world was turned upside down. 

“When your home is attacked, you suddenly have a very clear picture of what- and who- your home is to you.”

It really made me reflect a lot on that time in my life. So many of us get lost in the mundane and I love that Nick’s character focuses on so many more important things.  He may be my new favorite male lead character. 

I also really enjoyed the love letter to New York City.  There are so many fun things that Sawyer and Nick do together and I really could not get enough!  Rindell’s writing is so descriptive and enthralling. I really cannot wait to dive into her backlist now.

If you are also a fan of You’ve Got Mail, New York City and Summer Friday adventures, definitely check this one out!

Thanks to Dutton for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase Summer Fridays here.

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Susie Orman Schnall is back in a book giveaway

We are so pleased to have Susie Orman Schnall back at CLC today. Her last visit was during the beginning of the pandemic, so we definitely missed her! Her latest novel, Anna Bright is Hiding Something, is about two women who are both trying to attain success no matter what it takes. Melissa enjoyed it and you can see her initial thoughts on her Bookstagram, as a review is forthcoming. We had fun chatting with Susie and we hope you'll enjoy reading her answers to our questions as much as we did. Thanks to BookSparks, we have THREE copies of Anna Bright to give away!

Susie Orman Schnall is the author of five novels about ambitious women: Anna Bright Is Hiding Something (2023), We Came Here to Shine (2020), The Subway Girls (2018), The Balance Project (2015), and On Grace (2014). She’s also a screenwriter currently shopping her first pilot and feature-length screenplay. A mother of three sons, Susie grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and now lives with her husband in New York. When she’s not reading or writing you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, playing around on Canva, or hiking to the top of a mountain. 

Visit Susie online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Anna Bright is committing fraud. But nobody knows it yet. Not the board of her multibillion-dollar company, not her investors, not the public breathlessly anticipating the launch of BrightSpot, and not the media—including Jamie Roman, a hardworking journalist for BusinessBerry. But when Jamie does learn about Anna’s misconduct, she embarks on a bicoastal journey to expose the crimes and make a name for herself as a journalist. It’s not long before Anna learns what the reporter is up to, however—and she’ll do anything to stop Jamie.

Especially now that BrightLife’s IPO is days away. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Engrossing, smart, and unforgettable, I loved Anna Bright Is Hiding Something, an intriguing cat-and-mouse game filled with crackling dialogue and characters so vibrant they practically leap off the page.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times best-selling author of The Spectacular

“Thought-provoking, sharp, and propulsive, Anna Bright Is Hiding Something is a modern take on female ambition and the lengths young women will go to in their quests to prove themselves. Readers will be captivated as Schnall forces her characters to walk the tightrope between integrity and opportunism. This gasp-out-loud read had me holding my breath to see who would be the first to fall.”
—Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Matchmaker’s Gift

“Timely and immersive, Anna Bright is Hiding Something captures a Silicon Valley icon on the verge of an IPO, and an up-and-coming journalist prepared to bring her down. Fast-paced and tautly written, Schnall deftly exposes the mercurial world of female ambition and the lengths one goes to succeed. An unputdownable read!”
—Rochelle B. Weinstein, author of What You Do To Me

What is one thing you'd tell the debut novelist version of yourself?
You’re going to deal with a lot of the lowest lows (rejection!) in this business, but it will also be an incredibly fulfilling experience. Keep going — butt in chair!! (And learn Canva because it will be very helpful!)
Whose narrative did you feel was easier to write: Anna or Jamie?
They were both challenging in their own ways, but Jamie was probably easier to write, solely because she was a more rational human being whose psychology I understood and could relate to. Anna is a narcissist and has a different value system from me, so she took a little more (fun) work to get right.
If Anna Bright is Hiding Something was made into a movie, what are some songs that would be on the soundtrack?
"Run the World (Girls)" by Beyonce, "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys, "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift and loads of other female power anthems.
If your life was a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
Julie Andrews in the voice of Lady Whistledown ;). Everything sounds delightful and exciting in the voice of Julie Andrews as Lady Whistledown.
If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?

I live right outside of NYC so if we wanted to go into the city, I’d take you to the Met and some of my favorite bookstores in NYC. If we wanted to stay local, we’d go to my favorite hiking spot and walk and talk! And then eat lunch of course. And maybe wine.
What is something you had a good laugh about recently?
Any number of snarky posts on the group text I have with The Thursday Authors (@TheThursdayAuthors). We are a group of seven and we support each other, share funny stories from our careers, and are great friends. I couldn’t do this job without my author friend network.

Thanks to Susie for visiting with us and to BookSparks 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 June 4th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Book Review: Dear Dotty

By Melissa Smoot

What’s a twenty-something gal to do when her parents announce a divorce after thirty years of marriage, she finds out her best friend has cozied up to her archnemesis, and she accidentally sleeps with the Wrong Guy? Turn to her great-aunt for advice, of course.

Rosie Benson has always struggled to fit in with her over-accomplished family, type-A roommate/best friend, and workaholic boss. But she’s nearly losing herself as she strives to become everyone else’s idea of perfect. When Rosie is abruptly fired from her job at a tech start-up where her boss was way too enthusiastic about synergy and company swag, the illusion that she has life figured out is shattered. Knowing she needs a push, her great-aunt Dotty—a globe-trotting, martini-swilling occasional nudist, and the only person Rosie has ever truly felt herself around—challenges her to pursue a long-buried dream, others’ expectations be damned.

But then Dotty dies.

And Rosie spirals.

As new details of Dotty’s past emerge through revelatory emails from her many friends, Rosie realizes that maybe her aunt’s life wasn’t as charmed as she thought. With her career, friendships, and family unraveling, Rosie must drown out the noise of the world telling her what she should pursue—boyfriend, babies, boss-babe role at a corporate job—and finally focus on what she actually wants. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Dear Dotty was such a feel-good story. I found myself laughing, crying, and getting frustrated on behalf of the main character, Rosie Benson. When Rosie lost her beloved great aunt, Dotty, my heart broke for her, but then Rosie starts to learn more about the amazing life that Dotty lived. The story encompasses many obstacles that Rosie must overcome, the biggest one being losing Dotty, but also issues with family, friends, and her current job.

I loved how Westlake used emails as a form of communication between Dotty and Rosie, and that she incorporated them into the story even after Dotty was gone. The relationship between Rosie and her longtime best friend and roommate, Marcia, went through many ups and downs and portrayed a realistic friendship of two women in their mid-twenties. Rosie also finds herself being criticized by family and I was rooting for her to stand up for herself and help them to understand the tough spot she had been put in. 

I really loved this book and how emotional, yet happy it was. It was wonderful to see the transformation in Rosie from start to finish and how she realized that sometimes following your heart is more important than living the life everyone else wants for you. I was shocked to find out that Dear Dotty is Westlake’s first novel, it was so well written. I hope she keeps gifting us with her fantastic stories and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Lisa Barr sets the a book giveaway

We are so excited to have Lisa Barr back at CLC today to celebrate the publication of her latest epic historical fiction novel, The Goddess of Warsaw. Melissa read it recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can see what she thought at her Bookstagram and she'll be reviewing soon, as well. We had a quick chat with Lisa and really enjoyed reading her answers to our questions. Thanks to HarperCollins, we have one copy to give away!

Lisa Barr is the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of WOMAN ON FIRE, THE UNBREAKABLES, and the award-winning historical thriller FUGITIVE COLORS. 

In addition, Lisa served as an editor for The Jerusalem Post, managing editor of Today’s Chicago Woman, managing editor of Moment magazine, and as an editor/reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Among the highlights of her career, Lisa covered the famous “handshake” between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and President Bill Clinton at the White House.

Lisa has been featured on Good Morning America and Today for her work as an author, journalist, and blogger. In exciting book news: Actress Sharon Stone is set to produce and star in the film adaptation of WOMAN ON FIRE. Lisa lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three daughters. (Bio adapted from Lisa's website.)

Visit Lisa online:

Los Angeles, 2005. Sienna Hayes, Hollywood’s latest It Girl, has ambitions to work behind the camera. When she meets Lena Browning, the enormously mysterious and famous Golden Age movie star, Sienna sees her big break. She wants to direct a picture about Lena’s life—but the legendary actor’s murky past turns out to be even darker than Sienna dreamed. Before she was a Living Legend, Lena Browning was Bina Blonski, a Polish Jew whose life and family were destroyed by the Nazis.

Warsaw, 1943. A member of the city’s Jewish elite, Bina Blonski and her husband, Jakub, are imprisoned in the ghastly, cramped ghetto along with the rest of Warsaw’s surviving Jews. Determined to fight back against the brutal Nazis, the beautiful, blonde Aryan-looking Bina becomes a spy, gaining information and stealing weapons outside the ghetto to protect her fellow Jews. But her dangerous circumstances grow complicated when she falls in love with Aleksander, an ally in resistance—and Jakub’s brother. While Lena accomplishes amazing feats of bravery, she sacrifices much in the process.

Over a decade after escaping the horrors of the ghetto, Bina, now known as Lena, rises to fame in Hollywood. Yet she cannot help but be reminded of her old life and hungers for revenge against the Nazis who escaped justice after the war. Her power and fame as a movie star offer Lena the chance to right the past’s wrongs . . . and perhaps even find the happy ending she never had.

A gripping page-turner of one of history’s most heroic uprisings and an actress whose personal war never ends, The Goddess Of Warsaw is filled with secrets, lies, twists and turns, and a burning pursuit of justice no matter the cost. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“Utterly gripping, The Goddess of Warsaw is a transformative and immersive story so powerful and captivating that I could not put it down. Rarely does a protagonist leap off the page and win over the heart like the unforgettable Bina Blonski. Truly one of the best books I’ve read.” 
— Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

"With its well-crafted plot, memorable characters, and a captivating blend of history and fiction, The Goddess of Warsaw is an enthralling page-turner that keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the very end." 
— Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of The Leftover Woman

"Utterly spellbinding and wholly unputdownable, Lisa Barr's latest historical fiction, The Goddess of Warsaw, is a dazzling tour de force that grabbed me from the first line and wouldn't let me go until I raced through its final, pulse-pounding pages."
— May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
A compliment that I received just yesterday from a book reviewer. She wrote, "The Goddess of Warsaw is the best piece of Holocaust fiction I’ve read … Lisa Barr knocked it out of the park."  

Yes … This, of course, made me feel great BUT the part that really made me tear up is this: "In a world filled with so much hate these days, I keep thinking about your quote for your protagonist, the legendary actress Lena Browning, as you highlighted her courage and perseverance. She tells the young actress (who is directing a film of her life):  'Scared? Hah! Fear is the heart of the whole damn story, young lady. I learned long ago that the secret to fighting back is to become empowered. If you run on fear, you lose, period.' Thank you for your powerful words – it’s a reminder for me to channel my own fear into empowerment to make this world a better place."  I read this, and BAM --  Mushball Central. 
What is one thing you'd tell the debut novelist version of yourself?
Don’t worry … it will happen. Keep following your passion. Stay in your lane. The ‘No’s” will one day turn into a big fat YES. Believe in yourself, write what you love, and I promise, you will get there. 
What is something you learned from writing your other novels that you applied to The Goddess of Warsaw?  
Righting the wrongs of history … that’s what I’m about, that’s what ALL my books are about. It’s about never giving up …a fight to the finish line. Those are the characters I gravitate toward – both in my book life and REAL life --  especially fierce and fiery women faced with AGAINST-ALL-ODDS scenarios with a choice: SINK OR SWIM . I choose SWIM for my own life and all my characters every single time..  I choose rising instead of falling, but like all of us –like LIFE itself-- nothing good comes easy. There are no straight lines, and I always find the road less traveled the most interesting to read and to write. My stories never  tie up in a pretty bow … but always, always … my books will leave you with HOPE. 
And just for fun, if your life was a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it?

It’s a toss-up between Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. Ladies, how ‘bout it? 

Thanks to Lisa for chatting with us and to HarperCollins 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 June 2nd at midnight EST.

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Book Review: Far from Home

By Sara Steven

The secrets of the past will unlock her future… Working in the fast-paced foreign exchange market in Canary Wharf, Amy never expected her job to drive her to collapse. With her doctor advising she take a month off work, when Amy receives a solicitor’s letter informing her of a surprise inheritance in Italy, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

But who on earth has left her a house in the sleepy Tuscan hills?

As she gets to know the town and its inhabitants, Amy discovers more about the mysterious man who named her in his will. Shocking family secrets come to light, leaving Amy questioning the life she knew.

The town of Sant’Antonio holds more than just secrets. Here, Amy meets Adam, a renowned TV journalist whose documentaries take him to dangerous places. But as their attraction grows, so do Amy’s worries. Her life is in England, while Adam’s is untethered and under constant threat… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I enjoy all of T.A. Williams’s books, but Far From Home held something even more special than usual. It felt like there were more emotional aspects to it, particularly because of Amy’s shaky foundation where family relationships and romantic relationships are concerned. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s dealing with a health scare, or that she’s been advised to take a break from the stressful life she’s been living and encouraged to take a much-needed break so she can find her bearings again.

I know I sound like I’m on repeat, considering how often I include my love of scenery within my reviews when referencing books I’ve read by Williams, but I love, LOVE the scenery! As always, I’m introduced to new places I would have never imagined going to on my own, but Sant’Antonio is going on my bucket list. I appreciated the parallels that are drawn between the dark, mysterious home that has been bequeathed to Amy, during a time when Amy herself feels lost and unsure of what her future holds for her, to the changes made to the home while Amy gradually makes changes within herself, too, very much influenced by the gorgeous landscape surrounding her, along with the friendly, warm characters who strive to make her feel like she belongs. The scenery becomes another important, pivotal character.

She gets much more than she bargains for and discovers just how much she truly does belong, considering the situation behind why she was given the home to begin with. Amy has to decide whether it is worth it to go “home” again, or whether Sant’Antonio truly can be the place she can settle roots into, regardless of what others think or want for her. The circumstances with Adam were interesting and it’s always nice to witness a potentially budding romance, but I enjoyed Amy’s evolution even more. A little bit of change here and there proves to be good for her, as well as her surroundings, and she begins to reconnect even more with those family roots she had always felt a little uncertain of. 

This wouldn’t be a Williams experience without a black Lab–and Max is just the cutest dog ever! When Amy is upset, he’s there to comfort her. I loved the scenes when Max would put a paw on her leg, or stare up at her with his soulful eyes. It added another important layer of emotion to a touching experience, making this the perfect five-star read!

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

Author bio:

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only ten years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels and I now also write cozy crime, but my first love has always been romance. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations and descriptions of food to make you drool.

Visit T.A. Williams online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter

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Friday, May 24, 2024

What's in the (e) a book giveaway

When We Chased the Light by Emily Bleeker from Lake Union (NetGalley)
The Leap Year Gene of Kit McKinley by Shelley Wood from Union Square & Co (NetGalley)
Here One Moment by Liane Moriarty from Crown (NetGalley)
If I Were You by Cesca Major from William Morrow (NetGalley)
We Could Be Heroes
by Phillip Ellis from Putnam (print)
Catch You Later by Jessica Strawser from Lake Union (NetGalley)
I'll Get Back to You by Becca Grischow from Penguin (NetGalley)
Somebody I Used to Love by Eve Ainsworth from Canelo (NetGalley)
Game On by Elise Eliot from Victory Editing (NetGalley)

The Bereaved by Julia Park Tracey from Sibylline Press (ebook)
My Vampire Plus-One by Jenna Levine from Berkley (NetGalley)
Casket Case by Lauren Evans from Random House (NetGalley)

In Any Lifetime by Marc Guggenheim from Kaye Publicity (NetGalley)

Melissa S:
The Lost Letters from Martha's Vineyard by Michael Callahan from William Morrow (print)
The Match and The Enemy by Sarah Adams from Random House (print)

One-Star Romance by Laura Hankin from Berkley (NetGalley)
Fang Fiction by Kate Stayman-London from Random House (NetGalley)

What could be in YOUR mail:

Seven Summers by Paige Toon

Thanks to Putnam, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Liv and Finn meet six summers ago working in a bar on the rugged Cornish coastline, their futures full of promise. When a night of passion ends in devastating tragedy they are bound together inextricably. But Finn’s life is in LA with his band, and Liv’s is in Cornwall with her family – so they make a promise. Finn will return every year, and if they are single they will spend the summer together.

This summerLiv crosses paths with Tom – a mysterious new arrival in her hometown. As the wildflowers and heather come into bloom, they find themselves falling for one another. For the first time Liv can imagine a world where her heart isn’t broken every autumn. Now Liv must make an impossible choice. And when she discovers the shocking reason that Tom has left home, she’ll need to trust her heart even more . . . (Courtesy of Amazon.)

“With Seven Summers, Paige Toon breaks your heart then stitches it back together with expert hands. An emotional rollercoaster about second chances, grief and everlasting love, this book wrecked me in the best possible way.”
— Carley Fortune, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A truly beautiful love story, heart-wrenching and heart-warming in equal measure.” 
— Beth O’Leary, author of The Road Trip
“Happiness and heartbreak, desperate dilemmas and delicious descriptions of the Cornish coast. I had no idea how this book was going to end. It’s going to be huge!” 
— Jill Mansell, author of Should I Tell You?

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 May 29th at midnight EST.

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Book Review: Happy Place

By Becky Gulc

‘Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Emily Henry's website.)

Every December/January I love seeing everyone’s top books of the year on social media. Emily Henry’s book Happy Place certainly made many ‘top’ lists last year so it quickly became one of many books I added to my TBR list for this year. I wasn’t familiar with Emily’s novels at the time but they certainly all looked like my cup of tea!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that sucks you completely into not only Harriet and Wyn’s (now complex) relationship, but also the relationships between this group of long standing friends. The narrative works really well, switching between the ‘now’ whilst the group are enjoying this last getaway to Maine cottage, a place which means so much to everyone, and the ‘then’, Harriet and Wyn’s back story. 

The love and connection Harriet and Wyn have leaps off the page throughout, both in the then and now, which keeps the reader questioning why on earth these two ever broke up in the first place. I definitely got frustrated at some points as I just wanted to know what had happened between them and I was eager for them to reconcile! 

I enjoyed the bond between Harriet, Sabrina and Cleo and how their relationships evolve over the novel. The novel is great at exploring how long standing friendships can shift over time; as people grow and get busy with their own lives; yet still remaining fundamentally important to one another. The novel seems realistic of how relationships evolve as we go through life and at some point serious discussions about the workings of these relationships need to be had!  

Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I’ll certainly be reading more of Emily Henry’s work.

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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sidney Karger takes us on the trip of a a book giveaway

Credit: Josh Towvim
We're pleased to welcome Sidney Karger to CLC. His sophomore novel, The Bump, released this week. It sounds like a whole lot of fun, and we are loving the cover. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to give away!

Sidney Karger is an award-winning screenwriter for film and television. He is a former writer/director with Comedy Central, MTV and AMC, among other networks, and contributing writer for Saturday Night Live, Billy On The Street, and McSweeney's. He currently lives in New York City with his partner and their Australian Labradoodle, Zelda. Visit Sidney at his website, and on Twitter and Instagram.

Wyatt Wallace is a practical, super organized director of TV commercials. Biz Petterelli is a child-actor-turned-magazine-writer who thrives on spontaneity. Though polar opposites, they are fully committed to their relationship and their life in Brooklyn with their dog, Matilda. They’re also about to have a baby together.

And they’re freaking out.

They’ve both dreamed of becoming parents, but now that it’s happening, they’re doubting everything. Their baby is due in a few weeks and instead of flying to California just before the birth as planned, Biz has a better idea. They could use one last hurrah, along with some serious “us-time” to mend the issues they’ve been having lately—before they get tied down by fatherhood and its impending responsibilities. So the daddies-to-be load up their 1992 Volkswagen Cabriolet and embark on an epic cross-country babymoon. They attempt to recharge at the beach in Provincetown, stumble through their impromptu baby shower in Chicago, and endure a Star Wars-themed wedding in Colorado before heading west for the baby.
But when they take several unexpected detours, old wounds are reopened and secrets spill out that could change their relationship for better or for worse, forcing the couple to reexamine the meaning of family while building their own. After all, what’s a road trip without a few bumps along the way? (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"With a fresh mix of Little Miss Sunshine and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Bump takes us on a laugh-out-loud and moving adventure. Wyatt and Biz are such vivid, relatable characters to root for as they navigate love and family with tears and hilarity. It's another sweet book from Sid and I didn't want this fun ride to end!"
—Molly Shannon, New York Times bestselling author, comedian, and actress

"The Bump is a journey. And like the best road trip novels it's an exploration of destinations beyond its characters' itinerary. Karger gives us a tender and humorous look at the evolving nature of gay relationships in an era of marriage equality and family. Fans of Best Men will welcome this follow-up."
New York Times bestselling author Steven Rowley

“Filled with laughter and love, the hysterical Sidney Karger does it again, giving us Wyatt and Biz on their bumpy cross country adventure to start the family they have always wanted. A gem! Perfect for fans of Steven Rowley!”
—Jane L. Rosen, author of Nine Women, One Dress

What is something you learned from writing Best Men that you applied to The Bump?
I kind of knew this before writing both books but it really hit home when writing The Bump and that lesson is don’t be precious with your writing. No matter what draft I’m on, I’m never afraid to throw things out and start over. Having this rule under my belt is liberating and always allows me to keep my writing fresh and crisp. While writing The Bump, I went through several drafts experimenting with different ways into the characters and story until I felt like it was working. Starting over is your friend!
What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

My favorite compliment is when I hear my writing has made someone laugh out loud or cry. To make someone openly emotional with words feels like such an accomplishment. One reader said they were annoying their partner in bed at night while they were reading Best Men because they were laughing out loud so much. That’s the highest compliment. It also makes me so happy when readers thank me for writing a book they so deeply connect to with characters that make them feel seen.
If The Bump were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Jake Gyllenhaal as Wyatt and Ryan Gosling as Biz. Is that asking too much?
What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I keep recommending Yellowface by R.F. Kuang to everyone who will listen. After writing two rom-coms back to back, I wanted to read something dramatic, a little darker and thrilling and this book really delivers on every level. It’s a wickedly satirical story about the book world and what lengths people go to in order to become an author. I couldn’t put it down.
If your life was a TV series, which celebrity would you want to narrate it? 
I love this question. Maybe someone like Brian Cox who could really give the story of my life some much needed gravitas and the occasional witty wink. Or someone surprising like Meryl Streep could narrate. Mrs. Streep could do various accents depending on her mood and then win all of the audiobook awards.
What is your favorite summertime activity?
Swimming! My parents taught me how to swim at a very early age so I turn into a fish whenever I hit the water and I never want to leave. Also, summer never feels complete unless we make s’mores over an open fire at least once. Swimming and s’mores is the perfect summer day.

Thanks to Sidney for chatting with us and Berkley for sharing his 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 May 28th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Book Review: The Return of Ellie Black

By Jami Denison

“Why did no one ever tell her that the most dangerous thing in the world isn’t natural disasters or wars or weapons? It is unremarkable men with beautiful smiles and even bigger promises.”

Most missing girls stories end when the girl (or her body) is found and her attacker is captured. But in The Return of Ellie Black, prolific author Emiko Jean’s first thriller, the book begins when Ellie is found. But the mystery, instead of being solved, becomes even deeper. 

It’s been two years since teenaged Ellie disappeared, and Detective Chelsey Calhoun is overjoyed when Ellie reappears from the woods in Washington state. But her elation soon turns to frustration—Ellie doesn’t want to talk about what happened or help track down her abductor. What is Ellie hiding, and why? Chelsey, the daughter of a police captain, whose sister was killed in a murder-suicide when she was a teenager, can’t stop worrying about the other girls that Ellie’s captor could hurt. But with no cooperation from her police colleagues and stymied by Ellie’s stalling, Chelsey flails, putting her own marriage in danger. And then Ellie disappears again, and everything Chelsey thought she knew turns out to be wrong.

The Return of Ellie Black starts like a police procedural, but it unfolds in surprising, and sometimes completely unpredictable ways. While Chelsey, with her cliched backstory, is a pretty stereotypical character, Ellie is a completely original creation. The point-of-view is mostly Chelsey and Ellie’s, although sometimes Jean slips into omniscient narration. Several chapters in Ellie’s point-of-view are told in first person, and Ellie directly addresses the reader: “Here is a tip for all the girls out there: Never let an abductor take you to a second location.” She’s sharp, achingly regretful of her teenage mistakes, and sympathetic. Her description of her initial abduction and the techniques her captor uses to make her compliant almost require a trigger warning. The scenes describing her life in the compound where he keeps her are gritty, heartbreaking, and terrifying. Ellie is also an unreliable narrator, which makes the twists in the last third of the book completely unforeseeable. 

Jean has garnered some incredible reviews for this book that specifically cite the twists—and there are many!—of its ending. Personally, I thought Jean worked too hard to tie every plot element together. Rather than being impressed with her thoroughness, I felt disbelief at all of the connections. And although her reviews credit Jean with a feminist social commentary, I felt there was an element of women being blamed for turning men into psychopaths.

Despite my personal issues with the ending, The Return of Ellie Black is a refreshing entry in the police procedural genre. Kudos to author Emiko Jean for writing outside her typical genre. Her men may be unremarkable, but her women are a force to be reckoned with. 

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Spotlight and Giveaway: A House Like an Accordion

We're excited to celebrate the publication of Audrey Burges's sophomore novel, A House Like an Accordion. Melissa loved her debut, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone (reviewed here), and has this new one in her five-book pile. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

A woman searches for her missing father in order to reconcile the many strange and fantastical secrets of her past before she loses herself completely in this deeply profound and magical novel by Audrey Burges.

Keryth Miller is disappearing.

Between the growing distance between herself and her husband, the demands of two teenage daughters, and an all-encompassing burnout, she sometimes feels herself fading away. Actual translucence, though—that’s new. When Keryth wakes up one morning with her hand completely gone, she is frantic. But she quickly realizes two things: If she is disappearing, it’s because her father, an artist with the otherworldly ability to literally capture life in his art, is drawing her. And if he’s drawing her, that means he’s still alive.

But where has he been for the past twenty-five years, and why is he doing the one thing he always warned her not to? Never draw from life, Keryth. Every line exacts a cost. As Keryth continues to slowly fade away, she retraces what she believes to be her father's last steps through the many homes of her past, determined to find him before it’s too late and she disappears entirely.

“Burges's A House Like an Accordion is a beautiful exploration of family and the threads that tie them together, whether magical or blood. Through Keryth's eyes, we see a poignant raw portrait of love and faith.”
—Roselle Lim, author of Night for Day

“A poignant look at the ties of family, A House Like an Accordion captivated me with its magic. I felt like I’d stepped into a contemporary fairytale I did not want to leave. Audrey Burges' words absolutely sparkle.”
—Erin A. Craig, #1 New York Times bestselling author of House of Roots and Ruin

Credit: Christy Davis -
From the Heart Images
Audrey Burges
writes novels, humor, satire, and essays in Richmond, Virginia. She has stories published or forthcoming in McSweeney's, Cease, Cows, Into the Void, Human Parts, Empty Mirror, The Belladonna, Slackjaw, and Points in Case. When Audrey isn't writing, she's being tolerated by her two rambunctious children and very patient husband.

Visit Audrey online:
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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 May 27th at midnight EST.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Book Review: Her Husband's Lie

By Sara Steven

She thought she trusted her husband with her life; but a lot can happen in a week…

Handsome doctor Matthew Delaney and his wife Nicole have a perfect life. So when Matthew suddenly vanishes, Nicole is in shock.

As Nicole searches for answers, she uncovers a trail of deceit leading straight to the mysterious Glasshouse – a staggering palatial home constructed out of cut glass and icy granite, clinging to the hillside in a gravity defying show of power and wealth.

But the more Nicole learns about the Glasshouse and all its secrets, the more she begins to doubt her husband. Matthew’s words before he disappeared were so reassuring, but now they are simply chilling…

‘Trust me, Nic, I’ll fix this.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

This is the second book I’ve read by Amanda Reynolds, and it won’t be my last. She’s the master of suspense, right until the bitter end. At first, it’s obvious to the reader that there is definitely something that Matt is hiding from his wife, Nic. And even though he pleads his innocence and swears that there is nothing more going on than what she is aware of, when he disappears, it only further shows what lengths Matt would go to in order to protect himself. I couldn’t help but really feel for Nic. As chapters go by, we learn more and more about how imperfect this seemingly perfect marriage has been for years. 

It wasn’t until the last few chapters that I discovered just how deep the darkness goes. Since it’s mostly told from Nic’s perspective, there are a few things that go on behind the scenes that aren't brought forward until the end, and at first I questioned it. Is the truth that is revealed the actual real truth? Or will there be another twist? It’s a pretty big reveal. Through it all I felt sidetracked by other characters who took my focus away from the bigger picture, which made it a nice distraction and even more of a shock because I wouldn’t have expected things to end the way they did. 

The interaction between the characters could at times be tough to read. Lily, Nic and Matt’s daughter, has a lot of contention towards her mother, later explained but still not easier to digest. Matt’s sister Grace appears to always be meddling in their family affairs, as much as Nic hates it, because both women have a difficult time understanding one another and don’t appear to really know the truth of what’s really going on. Matt has bamboozled them both, and even after Grace becomes aware of that fact, she still lives in denial. Nic has dealt with a lot of tragedy in her life, a fact that no one seems to take into account, and this lack of care only adds to the layers of deception from all corners. 

The ending is chilling. It flips the narrative on its head, keeping me engaged from start to finish. The perfect main character is the one who is errantly flawed, and Nic fits that description to a T. I really enjoyed Her Husband’s Lie, a definite five-star experience!

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

Amanda Reynolds
is a best selling author of psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Close To Me, published in 2017 by Headline, was adapted by NENT Studios UK as a major six-part TV series starring Connie Nielsen and Christopher Eccleston. The series aired in 2021, on Channel 4 in the UK and on Sundance AMC in the US, as well as many other countries worldwide.

She is the author of four further psychological suspense novels, Lying To You and The Hidden Wife with Headline, and The Assistant and The Screenwriter with Boldwood Books. Her sixth book, Her Husband's Lie, published in May 2024.

Amanda Reynolds lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their dog.

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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Book Review: A Friend Indeed

By Melissa Smoot

When single mom Jo Dykstra was at her lowest—jobless and penniless—her childhood friend Dana McFarlane helped her out bigtime by securing her a teaching job and thus an opportunity for a new life in the affluent Pacific Northwest town of Glebes Bay. So, when Jo gets a frantic late-night call from Dana, sobbing and desperate for help, it feels like a chance to help her friend in return.

The last thing Jo expects to see when she arrives at Dana’s oceanfront mansion? Her friend’s handsome and wealthy husband, Stan, dead, sprawled face down on the floor. Dana admits to killing her husband following years of secret abuse and begs Jo not to call the police. For nearly two decades, Dana’s marriage and family had looked picture perfect. Who’d ever believe that pillar-of-the-community Stan was a monster? Determined to cover up her husband’s killing and shield her kids from scandal, Dana convinces Jo to help her dispose of the body.

But the cover-up starts to crumble when a blackmailer threatens to expose their crime. Hounded by gossipy neighbors, ill-fated lovers, and zealous cops, truth and lies are laid bare between Jo and Dana, putting their families in danger and threatening to shatter a thirty-year friendship. Shocking and fast-paced, A Friend Indeed is a riveting tale about the power of friendship and the deadly weight of lies.

A Friend Indeed was amazing. Ray’s writing flowed easily from scene to scene and kept me engaged from the very first page. The story was full of suspense, mystery, and drama. As I read, I was trying to find the context clues that would tell me where the story was heading, but it kept me guessing and frantically reading to find out how it would end!

I loved the dichotomy of Jo and Dana’s friendship, and how one was extremely wealthy and the other was down on her luck, financially. Each time a new truth was revealed, it led me down a different path and it was not until the very end that we learned what really happened that fateful night that Dana’s husband was murdered. This was a fast-moving story with so many twists and turns. There was the perfect element of creepiness, from Dana’s enormous old home to the notes being left by a blackmailer. Someone was watching Dana and Jo, but who? 

You will stay up all night, desperate to get answers and find out the truth. This book was riveting, and I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list!

Thanks to Kaye Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Elka Ray:

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Friday, May 17, 2024

Book Review: The Mother Act

By Jami Denison

The average cost to raise a child to 18 in the United States has reached nearly $250,000. Add in college, maybe grad school, and that number can nearly double. The COVID pandemic highlighted the lousy daycare system in the U.S.; the pandemic may be over but the daycare teachers never returned. Women in heteronormative marriages report doing the vast majority of house and childcare, even when they work full time.  Republicans’ response to this crisis is to outlaw abortion, and now they’re coming for birth control. 

No wonder that birth rates have dropped to record lows, that 25 percent of Gen Zers have ruled out parenthood entirely. If having a baby means sucking up every spare dollar and extra minute, why would anyone agree to it?

In The Mother Act, novelist Heidi Reimer’s provocative debut, a woman who became famous for her show on the horrors of motherhood must confront the demons she gave her daughter.  This dual POV, time-hopping story is a masterpiece of character and theme, resonating with anyone who has been a parent or had one.

Sadie Jones always knew she never wanted to be a mother. Growing up in a rural, religious household, she witnessed her mother popping out baby after baby; as the oldest daughter, Sadie was expected to take care of them. Running away from home as a teenager, she found herself in New York City and became a guerilla actress, performing plays in open spaces and always questioning the patriarchy. 

The book doesn’t start with Sadie, however—her 24-year-old daughter Jude, also an actress, opens the action as she waits for Sadie before the opening of her mother’s latest show. Like The Mother Act, the one-woman show that made Sadie famous, Sadie’s current play is also based on Jude.  Will mother and daughter be able to reconcile, or will this play be the final nail in the coffin of their relationship?

Under a lesser-skilled hand, the character of Sadie could have been one note and shrill, a man-hating Feminazi. But Sadie loves Jude’s father, Damien, and her conflict between her art and her love is concrete and thoroughly explored. True, Sadie is a bit of a narcissist who has trouble understanding other people’s points-of-view. But as the book progresses and readers get to know Sadie at different ages, her choices become more understandable. It helps that she’s larger than life—passionate, expressive, the type of person who throws her entire being into her projects and performances. Who wouldn’t want to be around Sadie, have some of her light shining on them?

In contrast, Jude is a born introvert, only comfortable with her father and a few people from his traveling Shakespearean acting troop where she was raised. After briefly meeting the 24-year-old Jude, readers get to know her as a 13-year-old desperate to connect with the mother who abandoned her at two years old and has been an infrequent participant in her life since she was eight. Longing for her mother’s love, but rejecting Sadie’s self-absorbed attempts at parenting, Jude only feels confident when she’s performing a role in someone else’s play. 

The acting world is the spine of the book—Damien is a British Shakespeare actor who grew up in a family of acting royalty, and the novel is divided into acts, some of which are named for Shakespeare plays. An early chapter shows Sadie disgusted by Damien’s portrayal of Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew; that she is drawn to him anyway foreshadows the couple’s later issues. Acting is the thread that connects Sadie to Jude; as much as she wants to deny their similarity, Sadie’s fame makes it easier for Jude to book roles and harder for her to disavow her mother. 

The specificity of the characters’ challenges—Sadie trying to find funding for her movie; Jude trying to befriend actors who see her as daddy’s princess—at times work against the universal themes of the book. But they work in creating Sadie and Jude as real people, not just stereotypes. As the book progresses and Sadie weighs her love for Damian and his desire for a child against her lifelong opposition to motherhood, she faces a dilemma more typical to men: Should I become a parent only because my spouse wants a child? 

While the daycare challenges of COVID made it more acceptable to admit that mothering is tough, and parenting isn’t for everyone, these types of raw stories are few and far between. Movies like The Lost Daughter and The Babadook show the work but also imply the kids’ neediness is unique to the specific child and justifies maternal disengagement. By the end of The Mother Act, I felt that Reimer was falling into the same trap. 

Motherhood is hard, and even the most selfless woman with the easiest baby in the world would chafe under its demands. There are no bathroom breaks, no sick days, and most importantly, no pay. The most important job in the world is the most thankless. While Sadie Jones is a fictional character, and a particularly opinionated one at that, her dilemma has become more common as childrearing becomes less and less affordable. Authors like Heidi Reimer perform an important service by shining a light on the soul-sucking challenges of motherhood. But writers alone can’t change anything. Only voters who prioritize the needs of women over the religious values of certain men can do that. Hopefully, in November, they will. 

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

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