The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-31-15

Sunday Post

I’ve gone weeks with relatively few blog tours, but next week is chock-full of them. Lucky for me, they are all for books that I am really anxious to read, so it should be a real treat of a week.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Current Giveaways:

One copy of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

beyond galaxy's edge by anna hackettBlog Recap:

Memorial Day 2015
A- Review: Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
B Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (137)



moonlight on butternut lake by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review)
Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear (blog tour review)
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (blog tour review)
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato (blog tour review)

Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway

love and miss communication by elyssa friedlandFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available:
Genre: chick lit, women’s fiction
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: May 12, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world…and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts

Evie Rosen has had enough. She’s tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She’s over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it’s time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear–she’s done that too!)

And that’s when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie just may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn’t mean you can unplug from life.

My Review:

Love and Miss Communication is an adorable fluffy, downy chick of a chick lit story, mixed with some multi-generational women’s fiction backbone and a loving but slightly stereotypical dose of Jewish grandmother guilt complex.

There’s also some interesting commentary on the fulfillment, or lack thereof, in our 24/7 always connected, always available technologically driven lives in the 21st century.

Evie Rosen starts out the story addicted to the internet, and it is not making her happy or fulfilled. Instead, it makes her discontented and consistently lowers her self-esteem at every turn.

It also gets her fired.

We all forget that our employers have the right to monitor anything we do on company computers and/or company equipment. Like Evie, for many of us, our jobs are who we are.

Evie is a senior associate attorney at a “white shoe” law firm in New York. She expects to make partner. She’s earned it, devoting all of her waking hours to her job and neglecting her friends, her family and herself in the process.

Instead, she is fired. She’s a great attorney, but she is also the company’s single biggest user of the company internet for personal business. She constantly checks Facebook to find out who is doing better than she is, and she Googles everyone she meets.

She’s obsessive. She’s so obsessive that when she Googles her famous chef ex-boyfriend to find out what he’s up to now, she discovers that the man who said he didn’t believe in marriage has, in fact, gotten married.

Barfing all over her laptop is the last straw. Google-induced vomiting destroys her computer. And after a few hours searching New York for a safe place to log on, Evie finally decides that enough is enough. It’s time to stop living vicariously through her computer and start living in real time. With real places and real people.

Of course, she goes a bit too far the other way, but that’s Evie – obsessive and compulsive about it.

While her friends and family are busily exchanging emails and evites and unthinkingly leaving her out, Evie has to deal with a family crisis. Her beloved grandmother Bette, who has equally obsessively been pushing Evie to find a husband and get married, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Evie is forced to deal with the fact that her time with her grandmother is finite, and possibly ending even sooner than she hoped.

Little does Evie know that her grandmother is using her very real and very scary diagnosis to make one last effort to get Evie’s head out of her own ass and recognize that there is someone out there for her – if only she can be herself long enough to make a real connection – without the false expectations raised by technology to steer her wrong.

Escape Rating B: I liked Evie a lot. It’s easy to sympathize with her desire to disconnect. Technology is ubiquitous and its ability to create and foster tiny niches is separating us from each other. And it is SO easy to get obsessed chasing every connection and driving ourselves crazy that everyone else seems to be doing so much better than we are.

And Evie’s “aha” moment over the keyboard was epically tragicomic.

However, one of the cornerstones of the story is Evie’s relationship with her grandmother Bette, or more obviously, Evie’s relationship with Bette’s desire to see her married, and if possible to a “nice Jewish boy”, albeit a grown up one. Evie is 34 at the beginning of the book, a boy would be a bit young.

But the cultural markers that define Bette, her use of Yiddish in an attempt to weed out the goyim, the extreme way that she wields guilt, all seem as if they belong to an earlier generation. Bette acts and sounds like someone from my own grandmother’s generation, but I’m more contemporary with Evie’s mother.

The guilt-tripping Jewish mother/grandmother is a stereotype that while funny and even endearing for those of us who had one, seems a bit dated. While it is true that in this story, Evie would be happier if she found the right person, the drumbeat that she must at all costs gets a bit wearing.

What was more interesting was Evie’s internal conflict, that she always wants what she can’t have, to the point where it almost costs her what she really wants. Again, she has an “aha” moment that is slightly tragic and slightly funny, and also nearly results in more vomit.

Evie is person who lost someone important to her, her father, at a relatively young age, and is afraid to let herself love again out of fear that she will lose again. So she keeps fixing herself on the unattainable, in the impossible hope that she won’t get hurt again. Except that she does, and she hurts herself most of all.

When she finally gets it all together, it’s cathartic both for Evie and for the reader. But after Evie’s life balancing and society rejecting year of eschewing technology for real connections, I wish that her happiness had embraced some elements that weren’t totally traditional.

Which does not mean that I didn’t enjoy following Evie’s journey to her authentic happiness. Because I certainly did.


The publisher is graciously providing one copy of Love and Miss Communication to one lucky winner. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.

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This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Interview with Author Sheila Roberts

I’m so hyped today. Of course I am, I’m hyped on chocolate! Again! My guest today is Sheila Roberts, and she’s here to introduce us to her first yummy (review here) book about Life in Icicle Falls, Better than Chocolate. True love IS better than chocolate, but most of us will agree that chocolate is pretty damn good.

Marlene: Sheila can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Sheila: Thanks so much for hosting me! I’d be happy to. Here’s Sheila in a nutshell. I love to read (and write). My family is hugely important to me and so are my friends. I’m a real party girl – love to play games, any kind of games, love to bake and entertain. I’m big into tennis and I drag my hubby out dancing on a regular basis. Right now I’m in the process of learning how to golf and I think I might have discovered a new addiction.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing for us. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sheila: Definitely a plotter. I like to have a map of where I’m going. I may take some side trips on my writing journey but at least I know how I’m going to get to the end of the journey.

Marlene: What can we expect of Better Than Chocolate?

Sheila: A good read. At least that’s what I hope you’ll get. My motto is: Read Sheila for a Good Time. That’s what I try to deliver.

Marlene: There are lots of romances about family companies, but what inspired you to write about a chocolate company (Yum!)?

Sheila: Well, when I was creating my town of Icicle Falls (which is, by the way, my ideal town), I asked myself what I’d want to see in it. And a chocolate factory came to mind. I’m a bit of a chocolate addict and if I was going to own a business that’s the kind of business I’d want.

Marlene: Would you like to share your favorite scene from the book with us?

Sheila: You know, I have a lot of favorite scenes, but probably my top one is the scene where my heroine, Samantha Sterling, is having a nightmare. I won’t give it away, but let me just say it involves being chased by giant candy bar monsters and then by our hero. Oh, and there’s a vat of chocolate, too.

Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Sheila: Probably my grandmother – but that’s pretty ancient history we’re talking! We always had books around our house and I remember how excited I was when I got my very first library card. One of my favorite childhood books was The Wind in the Willows. Our Seattle neighborhood had a Carnegie library. It wasn’t a huge building but it was gorgeous. I can still see it in my mind’s eye – the brick building, the stone steps, the hardwood floors and the bench in the children’s book section. How the light fell through the windows in the late afternoon. What a great place!

Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

Sheila: Only me. I’ve always written, ever since I was kid.

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Sheila: Pride and PrejudiceGreat writing and a great study in human nature.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Sheila: Well, I think if people enjoy humor and want a laugh they’ll want to read my books. I hope the books also are encouraging (some of them, like Small Change and Bikini Season, are actually self-help fiction – I’m especially fond of Small Change because I think I included a lot of helpful money-saving tips). Finally, I think I spin a good yarn. So, if you’re looking for fun, a good story, and some encouragement then I’m the girl for you.

Marlene: Would you like to tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects? What’s next on your schedule?

Sheila: I have some fun reads looming on the horizon. In November Merry Ex-Mas, a holiday tale of wives and their exes will be out. And that one is great fun. We even made a music video for it, which you can find on Youtube. (Look for Merry Christmas Mama and you’ll see me getting hauled off by Santa!) Then come spring I’ll have a novel out titled What She Wants, which is about a group of poker buddies learning to solve their woman problems  in a very unusual way.

Marlene: Do you really think there’s anything better than chocolate? Maybe coffee? Tea? Wine? Margaritas? 😉

Sheila: Nothing is better than chocolate… but don’t tell my husband I said that. 🙂

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Sheila: Somewhere in between. Not a bad place to be.

Maybe nothing is better than dark chocolate, or even milk chocolate. But I’m not so sure about white chocolate. Frankly, I’m not sure white chocolate IS chocolate, but to each their own. 

Thanks so much, Sheila, for being such a wonderful guest today!

Review: Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts

Format read: print ARC provided by the publisher
Formats available: Mass Market paperback, ebook, Large Print book
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick-Lit
Series: Life in Icicle Falls
Length: 400 Pages
Publisher: MIRA
Date Released: September 25, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations, ever since Great-Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks as if they’re about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank—and that would be a disaster, not only for the family but for the town of Icicle Falls, Washington. Can Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, come up with a way to save it?After Samantha does some brainstorming with her mother and sisters, inspiration strikes. They’ll have a chocolate festival! Time’s running out, but the Sterling women are determined and the town’s behind them, so everything’s bound to go smoothly….

Or not. Events seem to be conspiring against Samantha, and her mother’s attempts to help aren’t helping. To make matters worse, the fate of her company is in the hands of her archenemy, Blake Preston, the bank manager with the football-hero good looks. It’s enough to drive her to chocolate. But Blake’s also enough to convince her that (believe it or not) there’s something even better than chocolate.

Let’s get this one out of the way right now, there are very few things better than chocolate. But true love might be one of them. And that’s the whole point behind this heart-warming story of a woman who has less than two months to rescue her family’s chocolate company–and by extension, the small town that depends upon it.

The romantic love story in Better Than Chocolate takes a back seat to the family love and the small-town neighborly affection and support type of love, but that’s absolutely okay. Because this is one of those stories where the heroine needs to get everything together (and so does the hero, just differently) before she’s in the right place for her happily-ever-after. The HEA is the chocolate syrup on this sundae.

Samantha Sterling’s first love has always been her family’s business, Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company. And that business is in dire straits, also because of family. Samantha’s mother, Muriel, stepped from marriage to Sam’s father Stephen, directly into a second marriage to Waldo. That business was her family’s legacy to their daughters, but nothing was ever put in writing, and Muriel wanted to please her new husband. Waldo had no head for business. At his death, Samantha found herself assessing the horrible damage.

She had less than two months to save everything, and no idea how to do it. She also held a load of resentment toward her mother, who had no head for money, and just trusted her husband implicitly, instead of her daughter.

Icicle Falls, Washington, depends on two things, steady employment from Sweet Dreams, and tourist money from skiers. Tourism is down because of the recession, and it’s been a warm winter, with not much snow.

If Sweet Dreams closes, it’s not just the death of the Sterling Family legacy, but it will deal one heck of a blow to the town’s economy. So Samantha tries to plead with the bank for one last chance to turn things around, only to discover that the new bank manager is unable, or unwilling to give Sweet Dreams another extension. And that Blake Preston, the new manager and former football hero from Icicle Falls High School, is just as hot in a suit and tie as he was when he was a high school senior and she was a lowly freshman.

Too bad he’s Scrooge. Or maybe that should be Mr. Potter, the venial bank manager from It’s a Wonderful Life. Blake Preston is the enemy.

If the bank won’t give her a loan, Samantha has to find another way to save the company. And that’s when her sister comes up with the brilliant idea for a Chocolate Festival. Before Valentine’s Day. Less than six weeks away.

The story of Better Than Chocolate is the whole town pitching in, often with hilarious results, to make the Icicle Falls First Annual Chocolate Festival a roaring success. As successful as the festival is, it still isn’t enough to save Sweet Dreams.

Samantha needs an angel. Maybe a frenemy will do.

Escape Rating B+: I think that how readers are going to feel about this book will depend a lot on what they are expecting. I enjoyed the small-town feel of Icicle Falls, and loved how the town both pulled together to get the Festival ready, and how some of the long-standing feuds still had impact. There are some people who can’t let go of their high school grudges, even 10 or 15 years later, even if the whole town will get hurt in the process. It’s petty but it feels real.

The character of Sam’s mother Muriel drove me crazy. On the one hand, I love the support group that picks her up. The LAMs (Life After Marriage) are awesome. That Muriel dove into a tailspin when she was widowed is understandable. But that she was so totally clueless about money gave me the heebie-jeebies for a character who is around 60, not 80. This particular stereotype is one I truly dislike.

The romance between Sam and Blake isn’t the main point of the story. The story is saving the company and pulling off the chocolate festival. It’s also about Blake figuring out how to be his own man and not a corporate whipping boy. But the best parts are the Sterling women negotiating their new places in each others’ lives and in Sweet Dreams. Sam learns that the way to save the company is not to try to do it all herself, but to bring out the best in everyone.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Q&A with Lauren Clark, Author of Dancing Naked in Dixie + Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Lauren Clark, the author of the absolutely terrific (check out my review here) Dancing Naked in Dixie to Reading Reality. I had the chance to cook up a few questions for Lauren, just in time for the release of Dancing Naked. (I love that title! And it fits so perfectly)

Tell us a little bit about Lauren Clark…

I am a mom of two school-aged boys, wife of a medical professional, daughter of a nurse practitioner and a college dean (also avid readers). I have a master’s degree in journalism and worked in TV news on-air for six years before deciding to write fiction. I love yoga, Pure Barre, travel, flavored coffee, the color pink, the ocean, my historic home, friends, laughter, and my family.

Is there a real Eufaula? Or what place, or places, were the inspirations for Eufaula Alabama?

Yes! It is a lovely place about three hours southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. I visited Eufaula and attended the Pilgrimage many times when I lived in Dothan, Alabama. It’s a magical place–the historic homes are marvelous, the people are so friendly, and Eufaula has a real sense of ‘community.’

Dancing Naked in Dixie is a terrific title. Can you tell us what brought that particular line to life?

I wanted a title that expressed unbridled joy and happiness–like the exhilaration of new love, the heady feeling that makes a person want to “dance naked.” I actually came up with the title before I wrote the book. Not something that usually happens, at least for me!

You refer to both Dancing Naked in Dixie and your first book, Stay Tuned, as women’s fiction rather than romance. What do you see as the difference?

The major difference, I believe, is my focus on a strong female protagonist who has a major challenge in her life. The crux of the story is finding a solution to that problem, or making a change in her life. That’s how she eventually finds happiness, not through finding the man of her dreams (although that part is an extra, added bonus if it happens!).

Let’s talk about casting. If Dancing Naked were made into a movie, who would you want to see playing Shug and Julia?

Gosh, I love the thought of Emma Stone playing Julia, though one of my editors had a dream that Dancing Naked was made into a movie and Reese Witherspoon was the lead role!!! My best friend wants me to say Matthew McConaughey for Shug, and although he doesn’t have dark hair, I have to agree that he’d be a great choice.

There are so many strong women in Dancing Naked. Is there one in particular who is your favorite? And why?

I love Julia. She’s me in so many ways (klutzy, coffee-drinker, loves to travel), but I have a great relationship with my parents and I am NOT allergic to bees! I love that she has both a physical and personal journey to go on–and that the two mirror each other and allow her to grow as a career woman, daughter, and person. Julia is terribly unorganized, however, and that’s one of my strong points (or I would never get any writing done)!

Who introduced you to the love of reading?

My parents shut of the family television all summer, every summer. As a result, I spent LOTS of time at the local library and carried stacks of books back and forth every week. I must have read one hundred books a summer. My parents and my grandparents are/were also big readers and bookstore lovers, so I think I was destined to be an avid bookworm.

Who or what influenced you to become a writer?

I’d played around with writing fiction after I got out of TV news, but didn’t get serious about it until about 7 years ago. I hired a freelance editor to help me with two stories I’d written and am forever grateful for her help and encouragement. Stay Tuned was the third novel I finished.

Do you plan your stories out to the nth degree, or do your characters sometimes take over?

I do outline pretty extensively, meaning that I do a sentence or two for each chapter and plan out the entire story beforehand. Yes, sometimes the characters surprise me!! For example, I didn’t plan on Mary Katherine being quite so scheming and deliberate, but I was having so much fun with her that I expanded her role, especially near the end of the story!

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

One of my favorite novels is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It’s a fabulous story about how a family disintegrates when one of the children is born with a life-threatening illness. An ending rarely surprises me, but this book did–and made me cry! (Do NOT see the movie version) Other highly recommended reads:  The Green Mile, The Poisonwood Bible, The Secret Life of Bees, and anything by Sophie Kinsella.

Tell us a little bit about what comes next for you after Dancing Naked in Dixie

I am working on story about The Pie Lab, which is an actual restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. It’s a great little place, has wonderful pies (both dessert pies and quiche/taco/lunch-type pies), and provides a place where local folks can get on-the-job training. My protagonist is a young woman who’s vowed never to return to Greensboro (her hometown), but is forced to do so when her husband leaves her for another man.

Since on your website you admit to being a “non-reformed coffee drinker,” I’ll have to ask a different final question. Morning person or night owl? 

Morning. Early morning, much to the chagrin of my husband, who likes to ‘sleep in’ until at least 8 a.m. on the weekends!

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Dancing Naked in Dixie

Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark lives up to its teasing, tantalizing title. Every single bit of it. And it’s marvelous, in more and surprising ways than you might expect from the breezy picture on the cover.

Globe-trotting travel writer Julia Sullivan sputters that she’d rather dance naked for her next assignment than go to Alabama. However, she’s going to Alabama, and there is no way she’s getting out of it.

Julia’s been in kind of a slump recently. Like two years recently, ever since her mother died. She’s used her jet-setting, travel-writing job as a way of avoiding, well, pretty much everything. Especially her own problems.

What she hasn’t been doing is actually connecting with any of those fantastic places that she’s visited. Which means that her travel writing hasn’t been what it used to be. And the new editor of Getaways magazine is just the person to make sure she gets back on track. Or make sure she goes out the door. The new editor is her very much estranged father.

And he’s sending her to Eufaula, Alabama, to cover the Annual Pilgrimage, and do it right, damn it, or get fired.

Even if Julia would rather dance naked than find herself in the Heart of Dixie.

But once she gets there, after leaving her luggage behind and suffering one mishap after another, Julia discovers a few things.

Being forced to slow down a little gives her a chance to do some real travel reporting again, and not just take pictures. Connecting with the people of Eufaula makes her connect with herself again. And even though it hurts, it’s a good hurt.

And about that reporting…there’s some shady dealing going on under the shady porches of sleepy Eufaula. A real estate developer is doing something underhanded with the city council, and against the historic commission.

But the head of the historic commission, well, there’s just something about Shug Jordan that’s touched Julia’s heart in all the right places. It’s too bad he already has a conniving witch of a fiance.

And Julia’s just in Eufaula to write a story, go back to New York and save her career. If her story does its job, it should save the Annual Pilgrimage, too. She’s not supposed to be an investigative journalist. And she’s not planning on falling in love with a small town in Alabama or with a man named after a Football coach. Not a city girl like her. Not going to happen.

Escape Rating A: This is the story of Julia’s journey. She does happen to get the guy at the end, but really, that’s the icing on the cake. Or maybe even the sprinkles on top. For this reader, the real story was in Julia getting her act together all the way across the board and the HEA is the prize.

Julia starts out pretty messed up for really good reasons. And she’s been running away from her problems through travel, which is not a bad way to do it if someone else is footing the bill.

But going to Eufaula makes her face everything, and she does. She also falls in love with the place and almost all the people. And she solves some really, really big puzzles in her own life. She makes some good friends, heals some old wounds, and gets a fantastic reward in a terrific guy.

But reading her journey is what makes the story so good.