Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Christmas in London - release day review & giveaway

Review by Deb Czajkowski
Since she was a young girl baking in the kitchen with her mother, Louisa has wanted to own her own restaurant that specializes in delicate pastries and unusual desserts. Beyond experience, that requires a commercial-sized sink full of cash.  Thus, twelve hour shifts at a bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side are the norm for Louisa, especially the week before Christmas. Louisa is just finishing up the trays of treats for the morning’s Christmas special (cinnamon rolls) when Noah dashes in for a shelf full of ─pause─ cinnamons rolls.

Noah is working his way through law school as a cooking show assistant.  Making problems ─poof!─ disappear is what he’s paid to do.  That includes dashing out in the rain when the show burns the cinnamon rolls they were supposed to film that day.  Or finding a substitute host ─“Please, Louisa! Pleeeease be our host!”─ for their annual Christmas Eve Dinner TV special at Claridge’s in London when the cooking show host has an allergic reaction to the secret ingredient (nutmeg) that was in Louisa’s prize-winning cinnamon rolls.

Of course Louisa must do it! After all, this predicament is (sort of) her fault.  And think of the publicity! So Louisa is off to London.  But will this trip prove delicious or disastrous?
The show’s producer, Kate, a graduate of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, is no stranger to London’s corner of the world. And it’s a small world after all when, on her first night in London, she runs into her college best friend, Trevor, while she’s dining at Claridge’s.

Both Kate and Trevor are currently unattached, and their secret attraction for one another still hovers under the surface. But their college years were fraught with misunderstandings and youthful heartaches. More than one heart was broken at graduation.  Although it’s now ten years later, the obstacles Kate and Trevor experienced in college are still there, and they appear to be just as insurmountable today as they were ten years ago. Even the sugar plum fairies see the dilemmas disturbing their dreams. Isn’t that indication enough to let the past be the past?

Anita Hughes’ novel, Christmas in London, is set in a magnificent city in which to be during the Christmas season. Hughes’ lovely descriptions of London sparkle with Christmas traditions and holiday cheer so magical that I both felt like I was there at Christmas but also dreamt of experiencing it all live and in person. Buckingham Palace, The Nutcracker at Covent Garden, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, just a few ‘musts’ to whet your site-seeing appetite and get you dreaming.  And that’s not even talking food!  Ah, the sweet treats the author describes will have your mouth watering and your fingers googling recipes.

Are you thinking, “Is Christmas in London a travel book?”  No, that’s just a bonus. Anita Hughes’ novel focuses on one week in the lives of two young women, Louisa and Kate. It’s a week filled with fun, fabulous food, and fairy tales. It’s a week marked with mistakes, mishaps, and misunderstandings. We glimpse visions of the future and visit haunts of the past. It’s a week that changes lives.

Should you wait for the holidays for Christmas in London. No need! Pour yourself a relaxing cup of hot tea, help yourself to a flaky, raspberry scone, and enjoy.  It is, after all, tea time somewhere!

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About the author:
Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

She lives in Dana Point, CA with her family, where she interrupts her writing to watch the glorious sunsets.

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Christmas in London by Anita Hughes

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Winter Solstice - pub week giveaway

Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn. 

It's been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that's about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they've experienced in years. And Bart's safe return isn't the family's only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she's finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn't be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love--and some of the things we endure--about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best. 

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About the author:
Elin Hilderbrand has a twin brother who is not a bestselling novelist. She does her best writing on the beaches of Nantucket, as well as on the charming streets of Beacon Hill in Boston. She has three magical children who beg her not to sing along to the radio or dance in public.

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Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Virtually Perfect - Pub Day Review & Giveaway

Review by Deb Czajkowski
People are saying Lizzie Glass is washed up, a ‘has been’, not marketable anymore, and Lizzie can’t very well disagree with them.  It’s been five years since she had her successful television show and her cookbook deal.  Today she’s no longer a celebrity, no longer in demand.  Invitations to parties and events stopped arriving ages (and ages!) ago.  And now her magazine column is being canceled.

Unemployed and seriously in need of income ─and some distance between her and New York would be a breath of fresh air as well─ Lizzie accepts the only paying job on her proverbial (kitchen) table: personal chef for wealthy Jim and Kathryn Silvester at their beach house ─correction: beach mansion!─ on the Jersey Shore.

Creative challenges are Lizzie’s specialty, thank goodness, because the Silvesters have very specific requirements. Jim loves meat but shouldn’t have it.  He’s only at the beach house on weekends, so that’s a help, but every weekend the Silvesters seem to throw a theme party.  Kathryn “I only eat paleo” seems to live for her parties, keeping everyone’s glass (especially hers) full. Son Nate supposedly only eats pizza and not the paleo kind! Daughter Zoe has her one gluten free cupboards that apparently have invisible do-not-touch signs on them.  But that’s not her only obsession. Zoe also has a website she calls The Clean Life, but the entire site smells more than a little fishy.

Lizzie soon discovers that challenge ─the verb─ may be the key word for this summer. Look out Lizzie!  Look out Silvesters!  The gauntlet(s) will be thrown down!

Virtually Perfect is a smorgasbord for reader. The life of the rich (if not famous). Great food menus for foodies (I do love good food!). Family drama (always good fodder for laughs). Intrigue (Who doesn’t love a mystery?). And romance (duh!). Author Paige Robert’s novel has it all.

No matter the month, reading a good book is always in season.  But as the temps drop and the leaves begin to fall, this is a great time to read Virtually Perfect. Just maybe it’ll remind you of the fun times you had this summer; help you laugh over family mishaps; encourage you to seek out fall flavors for fabulous foods; show you that life is messy ─everyone’s life─ at one time or another; make you smile as only love can do.

Fun and funny. Tasty and tempting. Drama and dilemma. Life and love.  Virtually Perfect.

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About the author:
Paige Roberts is a writer, journalist and author of the forthcoming novel, VIRTUALLY PERFECT. A graduate of Yale University and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she lives outside Philadelphia with her family and an ever-expanding collection of cookbooks.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Confectioner's Tale - Pub Day Giveaway

A sensual tale, set in Paris, of love against all odds, family secrets, and the art of confectionery.
At the famous Patisserie Clermont, a chance encounter with the owner's daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air. But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.
Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words “Forgive me.” Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.
A literary mystery and love story, The Confectioner’s Tale is as pleasurable as the finest French patisserie.

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About the author:
After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, LAURA MADELEINE changed her mind and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. The author of The Confectioner's Tale, she now writes fiction, as well as recipes, and was formerly the resident cake baker for Domestic Sluttery. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, eating cheese, and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom. She lives in the UK.

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The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine

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Monday, September 4, 2017

P.S From Paris - promo & giveaway

On the big screen, Mia plays a woman in love. But in real life, she’s an actress in need of a break from her real-life philandering husband—the megastar who plays her romantic interest in the movies. So she heads across the English Channel to hide in Paris behind a new haircut, fake eyeglasses, and a waitressing job at her best friend’s restaurant.
Paul is an American author hoping to recapture the fame of his first novel. When his best friend surreptitiously sets him up with Mia through a dating website, Paul and Mia’s relationship status is “complicated.”
Even though everything about Paris seems to be nudging them together, the two lonely ex-pats resist, concocting increasingly far-fetched strategies to stay “just friends.” A feat easier said than done, as fate has other plans in store. Is true love waiting for them in a postscript?

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About the author:
Marc Levy was born in France. When he turned eighteen, he joined the Red Cross, where he spent the next six years. In 1983, he created a computer graphics company based in France and the United States. Six years later, he co-founded an interior design and planning company with two friends; the company soon became one of the leading architecture firms in France.

At thirty-seven, Marc Levy wrote a story for the man that his son would grow up to be. In early 1999, his sister, a screenwriter (now a film director), encouraged him to send the manuscript to a French publisher, who immediately decided to publish If Only It Were True. Before it was published, Steven Spielberg (Dreamworks) acquired film rights to the novel. The movie, Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, was a #1 box office hit in America in 2005.

After If Only It Were True, Marc Levy began writing full-time. Since then, he has written 18 novels. His work has been translated into 49 languages and has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. 

Marc Levy currently lives in New York City.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Chesapeake Bride - promo & giveaway

New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart returns to the cherished Maryland shores of St. Dennis with THE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE the charming story of a jaded architect who meets the one man who could finally melt her heart—if she’s willing to let him in.

Cassidy Logan has sworn off good-looking adventurers, having just divorced the one she’d married. Now working with her father’s construction company to build ecologically friendly, historically accurate homes on the Chesapeake Bay, she’s designing them for Cannonball Island. Knowing there’s been no new construction on the island in almost one hundred years, Cass is sensitive to the heritage and history of the sparsely populated island, and has come up with plans so perfect she’s determined to buy one for herself to live in. Even the fact that Owen Parker—whom she dismisses as a lightweight and a player— seems to be everywhere she goes isn’t enough to deter her from building her dream house.

Owen is and always has been sinfully handsome and wickedly clever, a magnet for mischief as well as the girls in St. Dennis. He’s also a rolling stone, going and doing whatever appeals to him, from flying a mail plane in Alaska to working on a cattle ranch in Australia and a shrimp boat in Louisiana, to surfing and diving in Costa Rica. When an old friend offers him a job salvaging a sunken ship in the Chesapeake, Owen gladly accepts. Something’s been telling him it’s about time to head home to Cannonball Island, and a job is as good an excuse as any. He’s totally smitten with the pretty architect, but it seems he’s finally met a woman who’s immune to his charms. Sooner or later, Owen will have to face the reason why he always runs, because this time, leaving just might be harder than staying.

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Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories.  A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens. 

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The 10th book in The Chesapeake Diaries Series

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Where the Sweet Bird Sings - Review, 12 Things About & a Giveaway

Review by Deb Czajkowski
To say that today is a difficult day for Emma Hazelton would be the proverbial understatement.  Today Joseph Barlow ─ Grandpa Joe to Emma─ was buried.  Emma’s parents divorced when she was young, after which her father moved to California. Since then, Emma spent most of her non-school hours with Grandpa Joe, arguably making Grandpa Joe the most important male in Emma’s life. So, yes, today is a hard day for Emma.

But on this very day, 12 months ago, Emma buried her four-year-old son.  Joey died from a rare genetic disease, paralyzing Emma on the day he died and still immobilizing her today, one year later. That’s the “proverbial understatement” part of the difficult day.

One may argue that life still goes on for the living. Emma’s husband, Noah, though deeply saddened by his son’s death, has moved on ── to the point where he is talking about trying for another child.  In Emma’s world that is SO not in the realm of possibilities. Not just today, but ever!  Doesn’t Noah understand that they both carry a genetic gene that created a child born with only the ability to breathe and pre-destined for an early death?  How can he ask her to do this again? To carry and give birth to another disabled child that she must daily watch slowly die?

How quickly Emma’s outlook on life turned from hopeful to helpless.  Is her future truly to be so dismal? Childless and husbandless? Because isn’t setting Noah free the right thing to do, so that he can marry someone else and have the family he wants? The one she can’t give him?

To distract herself from the fateful future realities that she envisions, Emma begins a genealogy search for the familial link to Joey’s disease.  An old wedding photograph of her great-grandparents plays into her search in an unexpected way, giving her a key that unlocks more than one door ─doors that Emma didn’t even know existed!

You may have noticed above that I delineated only one character ─Emma Hazelton─ from author Ella Joy Olsen’s novel Where the Sweet Bird Sings. That’s because this whole novel is really Emma’s story, and everyone else in the book primarily facilitates her journey. In Emma’s life, Olsen beautifully braids together three strands: 1. Grief from losing a child; 2. Genetic diseases; and 3. Genealogy ─the potential for hidden secrets and surprises.  Three separate facets are cleverly combined into one piece, one journey, one life. Emma’s journey.  Emma’s life.

Historians study the past for many reasons, one being that we can often forecast the future from the past. In a very real way, that was true for Emma.  By looking into her family’s history, she gains knowledge and information that answer unspoken questions and satisfy a heartbreaking yearning.  It gives her hope again for her future in a unique and unforeseen way.

Finding hope and sweetness in your life in not always easy.  One place to find them both is Where the Sweet Bird Sings. Listen!  Do you hear it?  A Sweet Bird is singing just for you: Read me!

Deb’s Note:  Where the Sweet Bird Sings is Ella Joy Olsen’s second novel.  Her first novel is Root, Petal, Thorn.  It is not at all necessary to read her first novel before reading this novel.  However, if you have read Olsen’s first novel, connecting parts of Where the Sweet Bird Sings will be more meaningful to you.  Be hopeful.  Be happy. Enjoy.

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Twelve Things About
By Ella Joy Olsen

1)    Where the Sweet Bird Sings is my second novel. It’s “linked” to my debut, Root, Petal, Thorn. What’s a linked book, you ask? It’s not a sequel but it does have one or two characters in common. When you meet them on the page it will be like unexpectedly running into a friend from your book club while you’re on a beach vacation. A pleasant surprise! Each book adds richness to the other (and answers a few burning questions)…but they can be enjoyed in either order, or as a stand-alone read.

2)   The initial premise behind Where the Sweet Bird Sings is admittedly sad. Emma and Noah Hazelton have recently lost their young son to a rare autosomal recessive genetic disease, called Canavan Disease. It’s one of the Ashkenazi Jewish Genetic Diseases, and is similar to Tay-Sachs. Both Emma and Noah carry one copy of the mutated gene, but are both are symptom free.

3)   Because Canavan Disease is so rare, many couples don’t anticipate, or aren’t tested for a genetic predisposition. Such is the case for Emma and Noah. The book begins with Emma wondering how this disease appeared, seemingly from nowhere, to affect their child. She is compelled dig down to the roots of the condition, so to speak. So yes, there are some heartbreaking scenes…but the book is ultimately about hope and cobbling together a family from many places.

4)   Meanwhile, buried deep in an old roll-top desk, Emma discovers an antique wedding photograph of her great-grandparents. Right away she realizes her extended family isn’t quite what she believed it to be. Then, when her brother claims he’s long believed he was adopted, Emma knows she has a few things she needs to figure out. All this drives her to spend hours at the Family History Library trying to puzzle through her genealogical puzzle.

5)   The Family History Library is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and was specifically created for ancestral research. The materials available for public consumption are mind-blowing. Ancestry has long been big business for the Mormon Church but these days it’s huge everywhere. What is one of the first things people look for when researching their ancestry? They want to know if they’re related to anyone famous, most specifically, royalty.

6)   During my research I took a DNA test through the company 23andMe to authenticate the process. I didn’t discover anything too damning about my own genetic code, but here’s a secret. I am 3% Neanderthal. Don’t judge. And hand me that leg of mutton.

7)   While reading the 23andMe educational materials, I learned tons about human migration across the globe. How can a dribble of spit reveal your country of origin? Here’s the simplified version: Mutations in the genetic code occurred naturally over thousands of years as people migrated.  Since people didn’t go very far or very fast, those mutations are most common to certain geographical areas. The percentage of a specific mutation you have in your code, the more Northern European (or whatever) you are. Of course human migration is on super-speed now. People can go globe-trotting and find a mate on Tinder in hours. I’m not advocating this approach.  I’m just saying it’s an option.

8)   The title of the novel, Where the Sweet Bird Sings, is a nod to the concept of family trees. So, where does the sweet bird sing? In a tree, of course.  Actually, the title is a riff from a line in a Shakespearean sonnet, “Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang”.  I think the cover art riffs on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Both fantastic literary references.

9)   My main character, Emma, learns much about life at her beloved Grandpa Joe’s side. Many of the textural details of their relationship I stole from my own relationship with my Grandpa Ralph. The Butter Rum lifesavers, the hours of Solitaire he’d play at the kitchen table, the out of date mid-century modern home.

10)     There is an intense hospital scene in the book. I spent a fair amount of time in the hospital having my entire large intestine removed (but that’s another story), so I felt I could write about the hospital experience authentically. Even still, I sent the manuscript on to my good friend, Talli, who is an Emergency Room nurse to get all of the details right. I named the nurse in the book after her, as a thank you.

11)       I love to name a character or two after someone who helps me tremendously in the writing process. In Root, Petal, Thorn, Nathaniel is named after the son of one of my best readers.  It’s the least expensive, and most lasting, way to say thank you.

12)      I love to dress thematically for my book launch parties. I had a gorgeous “rose” dress for the launch of Root, Petal, Thorn. Now I’m on the hunt for a fabulous dress featuring a sweet bird singing. I may have to settle for a hat…

About the author:
Ella Joy Olsen was born, raised and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Rocky Mountains. Most at home in the world of the written word, Ella spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library System (and four decades browsing the stacks). She is the mom of three kids ranging from just-barely-teen to just-flown-the-nest-teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.

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Kensington Books is giving
one lucky winner a print copy of
Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen

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