RELEASE DAY BLITZ & REVIEW: “The Brothers of Brigadier Station”

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“The Brothers of Brigadier Station” by Sarah Williams

Blurb:

She came to the outback to marry the love of her life. She just didn’t expect him to be her fiancé’s younger brother.

When Meghan Flanagan, a vet-nurse from Townsville, moves to Brigadier Station in outback Queensland to marry the man of her dreams, she is shocked to discover that perhaps her fiancé isn’t the man she wants waiting for her at the altar. The man she’s destined to marry, just might be his younger brother.

Cautious of women after a disastrous past relationship, Darcy is happy living on his beloved cattle station, spending his spare time riding horses, going to rodeos and campdrafting. He didn’t expect the perfect woman to show up on his doorstep. Engaged to his brother.

With the wedding only hours away, Meghan must make the decision of a lifetime. But, her betrayal could tear the family apart. She knows all too well the pain of losing loved ones and being alone.

Now that she has the family she so desperately wants; will she risk losing it all?

Set in the drought stricken plains of Julia Creek, North Queensland and the coastal city of Townsville this is a rural romance that will leave you asking: Will she marry the right man, for the right reasons?

The Brothers of Brigadier Station is the first in the Brigadier Station series and can easily be read as a standalone. Each of Sarah’s stories are linked so you can find out what happens to the other brothers and your favourite characters in future books.

My Review:  Some readers shy away from sticky situations like this one, though I was intrigued. I’ve been searching for a country romance for a long time and this was exactly what I wanted! “The Brothers of Brigadier Station” starts quickly and I instantly fell in love with the storyline.

Meghan has a heart, so hurting anyone is hard on her, but she can’t help how she feels, even when it comes to brother vs. brother, much less the rest of her life. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, but this book was sweet and sexy, and, at times, nail-biting. I definitely recommend it for a great summer read. Besides, what’s sexier than a cowboy?! While this is the first book in the series, I definitely look forward to reading more of the author’s books!

I give “The Brothers of Brigadier Station” 4 stars!

**Click HERE to get your copy of “The Brothers of Brigadier Station” now!

**About the author: Sarah Williams spent her childhood chasing sheep, riding horses and picking Kiwi fruit on the family orchard in rural New Zealand. After a decade travelling, Sarah moved to tropical North Queensland to enjoy the heat and humidity and play with Crocodiles.

When she’s not absorbed in her fictional writing world, Sarah is running after her family of four kids, one husband, two dogs and a cat. She helps to run the local writers centre and supports her peers achieve their publishing dreams.Sarah is regularly checking social media when she really should be cleaning.

Sarah is regularly checking social media when she really should be cleaning.

**Contact Sarah: Website   Facebook   Twitter

*****

**Click HERE to see other stops on Sarah’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!

RELEASE DAY: “The Beach House Cookbook”

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**A comment from the blogger: I’ve been waiting for this cookbook since the first time I heard about it. Having the privilege of receiving advanced copies of her books, I quickly became a huge fan–not only of Mary Kay’s books, but her characters, too. This cookbook has arrived just in time for Mother’s Day, so I urge you to order a copy for your mom (and why not add one for yourself, too, because I did–sorry if I ruined the surprise, Mom!).

“The Beach House Cookbook” by Mary Kay Andrews

Perennial New York Times bestselling novelist Mary Kay Andrews brings to your kitchen a gorgeous cookbook full of her favorite recipes that Publishers Weekly has called, “a true primer on Southern cuisine.” Presented with the breezy air that have made Andrews’ novels a summertime favorite, THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK is sure to find a place at your kitchen table. From an early spring dinner of cherry balsamic pork medallions and braised Brussels sprouts with bacon, to Fourth of July buttermilk-brined fried chicken, to her New Year’s Day Open House menu of charcoal-grilled oysters, home-cured gravlax, grits n’ greens casserole, and lemon cream cheese pound cake, this cookbook will supply ideas for menus and recipes designed to put you in a permanently carefree coastal state of mind all year long.
You don’t need to own a beach house to enjoy Mary Kay Andrews’ recipes. All you need is a year-round appetite for delicious, casual dishes cooked with the best fresh, local ingredients. The book’s 16 carefree, crowd-pleasing menu plans are designed around holidays and occasions (“Low Country Boil,” “After a Day at the Beach,” “Game Day Dinner,” “Lazy Weekend Brunch,” “Easter Lunch”), but the 90+ delectable recipes can be mixed and matched to highlight your favorite apps, sides, mains, desserts, and beverages.
*****
**About the author: Mary Kay Andrews is the New York Times bestselling author of 24 novels, including The Weekenders, Beach Town, Save the Date, Ladies’ Night, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former features writer for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she finds an outlet for her passion for cooking, entertaining, and decorating with vintage finds at the homes she shares in Atlanta and Tybee Island, Georgia, with her husband, Tom, and their two grown children, Katie and Andy, as well as grandchildren Molly and Griffin. THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK is her first cookbook.
**Contact Mary Kay Andrews: Website   Facebook   Instagram   Twitter

BOOK REVIEW: “Kim vs. the Mean Girl”

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“Kim vs. the Mean Girl” by Meredith Schorr

Blurb: High school sophomore, Kim Long, is no stranger to the “mean girl” antics of Queen Bee Hannah Marshak. When Hannah steals Kim’s diary and in front of the entire class reads personal (not to mention humiliating) entries Kim wrote about her crush, Jonathan, Kim vows to enact revenge.

Kim and her loyal best friend, Bridget, come up with the perfect plan to put the evil Hannah in her place once and for all. But will their scheming have the desired effect of getting even, or will Hannah emerge more celebrated by her peers than ever?
Kim vs. the Mean Girl can be read as a young adult standalone novel, set in 2000, but is also a prequel to the popular Blogger Girl adult romantic comedy series. Told in the dual perspectives of teenage Kim and Hannah, fans of the series will get an inside look into Kim’s early passion for reading, writing (and Jonathan), and find out why Hannah is so darn mean.

In Blogger Girl we meet the irrepressible Kim Long and her nemesis Hannah Marshak. Kim vs. the Mean Girl takes us back 
to high school with Kim and Hannah 101 in this delightful prequel. I gobbled it up in one byte…er, I mean bite (this is the era before a cell phone was in every backpack). When Kim declares war on Hannah, it takes some unexpected, and at times amusing, turns, and though the enemies don’t emerge as friends, or even frenemies, they each come away the better for it. A fun read for all ages. — Eileen Goudge, New York Times bestselling author.

My Review: I loved “Blogger Girl,” so when I heard that it was getting a prequel, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to read it. Well, “Kim vs. the Mean Girl” was everything I hoped it would be…and more!

From the beginning, I was so excited to be reacquainted with Kim and Bridget–and even Hannah (I loved how we got to her younger self’s POV, and, oddly enough, at times, I felt sorry for her). While I don’t read the YA genre, this one didn’t like one but rather more like a prologue. As I mentioned my love for “Blogger Girl,” it makes me want to read it again, especially now that I know more about their teenage years. Whether or not you read “Kim vs. the Mean Girl” before or after “Blogger Girl,” you will not be disappointed.

I give “Kim vs. the Mean Girl” 5 stars!

**Get your copy of “Kim vs. the Mean Girl” now!: Amazon   Nook

RELEASE BLITZ: “Brew or Die”

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“Brew or Die” by Caroline Fardig, (the fourth book in the JAVA JIVE MYSTERIES series)

Blurb:

Nashville’s perkiest private eye—coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley—goes undercover in the party-planning industry to solve a suspicious death in this thrilling cozy mystery from USA Today bestselling author Caroline Fardig.

Inspired by her past sleuthing successes, Juliet Langley has officially joined the ranks of Nashville’s licensed private investigators. Her best friend, Pete Bennett, doesn’t worry that her detective work might interfere with her full-time job running his coffeehouse, Java Jive. He just wishes she would spend her free time rejoining the local music scene instead of tailing cheating spouses. But when one of Java Jive’s baristas, Shane, asks Juliet to look into the suspicious death of his fiancée, Pete encourages her to plow full steam ahead.

Since his fiancée died on the job, Shane suspects that her party-planning colleagues are up to something criminal—and will do anything to keep it quiet. After Juliet recruits Pete to go undercover with her at a wedding showcase, she discovers that white lace and black satin have a way of hiding big, fat secrets.

If that weren’t enough to fill her plate, her latest P.I. job has her crossing paths with her ex, Detective Ryder Hamilton. They’re barely on speaking terms, but to solve the case, they might have to cooperate. No matter where Juliet goes, she’s brewing up trouble.

**Click HERE to get “Brew or Die” now!

*****

**GIVEAWAY**

**Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway**

*****

**About the author: Caroline Fardig is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig’s BAD MEDICINE was named one of the “Best Books of 2015” by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

**Contact Caroline: Website   Blog   Mailing List   Twitter   Facebook

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: “The First Year” by Genevieve Gannon

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Blurb: The first year of marriage is hard no matter what. Throw in jealous exes, high-pressure careers and two wildly different families, and the degree of difficulty goes up a few more notches. Determined to beat the odds, one couple comes up with a plan to keep their romance alive – but life has other ideas.

Saskia is an up-and-coming jewellery designer, waiting tables at a trendy cafe to keep her fledgling company afloat. Andrew is a corporate lawyer who wants to be known for more than his family’s money. They’re passionate about their work and each other, but with Andy’s job in jeopardy and Saskia’s jewellery label taking off, the pressure is taking its toll.

As life pulls them in different directions, the two of them are forced to decide: Just how important is their marriage? And how hard are they willing to work to protect it?

“A clever and entertaining read-into-the-wee-hours-of-morning story about love, creativity and the things that make us tick. Genevieve Gannon writes with passion and wit in a story you’ll relate to whether you’ve struggled through love, art or the wrath of public transport ticket inspectors.” Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between

“I honestly haven’t enjoyed reading something so much in years. Such a great story! Something to really revel in. I related to Saskia so much but Genevieve managed to make Andy equally compelling.” Georgina Penney, author of Fly In, Fly Out.

“Genevieve Gannon writes with a fresh and funny narrative voice … chick lit at its very, very best.” Tess Woods, author of Love at First Flight

**Get your copy now of “The First Year”: Amazon   iBooks   Google Play   Kobo   Barnes and Noble

*****

Author Interview

What is your new novel about? The First Year is a novel about a newly-in-love couple who got married way too fast. Andy Colbrook is a high-flying lawyer with a snobby family and Saskia Hill is a bolshy jewellery designer whose father has done several stints in jail. On their honeymoon, Andy offers to support Saskia so she can quit her day job at a café and devote herself wholly to her art. But Saskia’s fledgling business is only just recovering from the financial blow it suffered when her ex-fiance cheated on her then ditched her with the bill for the wedding, and she is uncomfortable being reliant on her new husband. Tensions begin to emerge. Things are exacerbated when Andy discovers his law firm is in financial trouble. Despite their best efforts to keep the flame alive their marriage begins to suffer. Then Saskia makes a discovery that blows her world apart.

What inspired the book? This one came about slowly. When I sat down to write my first two novels, the concepts were fully formed in my head. I rejigged the stories and characters a lot, but when they were finished, they were how I had imagined them from the beginning. With The First Year, I found myself unsure what I wanted to do. I had an idea of following a couple day-by-day through their first year, but I didn’t know what would happen to them over that time. I thought the concept of the first year of marriage being the hardest was a good one to explore in a romantic comedy. So I wrote a few chapters and scene fragments, then I hit a bit of a wall. I knew I wanted Andy to be a corporate type, and Saskia to be an artist, but I didn’t have much more detail than that. Then one day I came across an article about a designer who had made the same discovery Saskia makes in the book. I did a bit of research and it turns out it is a really common problem. I don’t want to spoil the plot by revealing the big discovery, but once I had that I knew what I wanted Andy and Saskia’s story to be.

What makes the main character who they are? Saskia Hill comes across really brash but she’s actually quite vulnerable. She loves a man, Andrew Colbrook, who wants to support her as she builds her business, but the idea of being reliant on him conflicts with her feminist values. She eventually accepts his offer to back her financially until she is established, but it never sits right with her and ultimately is the cause of much tension.

One of my favourite lines in the book comes when Saskia receives a letter from her mother-in-law addressed to Mr and Mrs Andrew Colbrook. She has not changed her name and when the letter arrives she asks of Andy, “What am I? Some sort of subsidiary of you?” I feel like this sums her up perfectly.

Do you base your characters on real people? My characters are original creations, but inevitably I find myself incorporating traits of family and friends. Usually it’s just a little thing to give the character a ring of authenticity. When trying to *show* rather than *tell* – something that a lot of writers struggle with – I find it helpful to think about how real people display their emotions – the way their postures change, the tone of their voice, what they do with their hands and eyes. Sometimes I’ll lift a small anecdote (with permission) or give a sly nod to a friend by including a personal joke. But generally I try to ensure the characters are wholly their own people.

How long did it take you to write The First Year? I am often asked this question but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to answer it properly. For about a year, I had a few fragments of this story and a vague concept but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Then I made the discovery that revealed the plot to me and it was all very fast. It took me about three months to write a three chapter sample, a synopsis and a plot outline. I pitched it to HarperCollins in November, got the go ahead in December and had completed the manuscript by June. It was quite a fast process because I had been thinking about the characters and the supporting players for so long. As is always the case, it needed some major reworking and I relied heavily on my amazing beta-readers. But it basically took one year of procrastination and six months of furious writing.

What is your typical writing routine? I used to write at night and on weekends but now that I live in Sydney I find myself getting up early and writing before work. I assume that’s because it gets hot and sunny here very early. That being said, I still try to get some writing in after work. And I can be found most weekends in a café somewhere with a pile of manuscript pages and a laptop.

People love to ask writers if they are planners or pantsers. I think I’m a combination of both. I like to have a plot outline before I begin, but sometimes it is very vague and details emerge – and characters are created or killed off – as the writing progresses.

Where do you write? I do a lot of writing at my dining room table – but I far prefer to write in cafes. It’s not always possible, of course. Sometimes you have a burst of creative energy at 2am when all the good cafes are selfishly closed, and realistically it’s just not possible to mainline lattes for eight hours and a Saturday or Sunday. But my preference is definitely to write in a café. When I was living in Melbourne I would write a lot at Milkwood in East Brunswick (try the white beans on toast) or a Minor Place (more white beans, these come with Dukkah and avocado). Another favourite is a café called True North in Coburg. They have lovely booths that I like to spread out in, and do great sandwiches with heaps of vegetarian options.

What book do you wish you had written and why? This is a complete departure from the type of fiction I write, but I am in awe of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Lionel Shriver creates so much tension and complexity. I adore her prose and the way she uses a million little perfectly phrased observations to make-up the story.  I love the way she tricks the reader into thinking they know what is happening, only to discover all is not as it seems as the narrative slowly reveals itself.

Who are you favourite writers? This is such a difficult question to answer because there are so many, and I turn to different writers for different things. I love Caitlin Moran for the sheer joy she gives me with her hilarious stories. No less important is the strong feminist message in everything she does. I really admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s skill as a story-teller, and Gillian Flynn for the ease with which she spins complex narratives, imbuing her characters with light and shade. Jeffrey Eugenides remains an all-time favourite. Whenever I’m asked about my favourite books Middlesex is always at the top, and his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was hauntingly, devastatingly beautiful. Oh, and Michael Chabon for so many reasons, especially inventiveness.

In terms of my own genre – which I consider to be a loose grouping of contemporary chick lit with rom-com tendencies –  I LOVE Lauren Sams who wrote She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. I also can’t go past fellow HarperCollins authors Tess Woods and Sunni Overend. The Regulars by Georgia Clark is great fun.

Who is your favourite literary character? I have racked my brain, trying to come up with an answer that isn’t a total cliché, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennett is a sublime literary creation, and has to be my favourite character. She’s clever, sensitive, witty and warm. She loves her sister Jane and her friend Charlotte Lucas, and she’s loyal but not without flaws. She speaks her mind and isn’t intimidated by those who think them better than she is. At a completely different end of the spectrum is Uncle Oswald, a recurring character in the short stories of Roald Dahl. Uncle Oswald is a hilarious, wealthy, horny old man who often finds himself entangled in pseudo-scientific schemes with hilarious outcomes.

What are you working on at the moment? Having just finished a book I’m a bit of a free agent at the moment. I have two ideas that are in the very early stages, so I’m playing with both of them, thinking about the characters and deciding which one to commit to. I have just started a new job as a feature writer so I am finding that at night I’m spending the time I would normally dedicate to fiction thinking about feature ideas. That being said, I want my next venture to be a departure from my usual books. Neither of the concepts I’m currently playing with could be described as romantic comedies. The First Year has parts set in a court room, which came about because I spent the past few years covering courts as a journalist and my two new ideas are also inspired in part by that part of my job.

What would you do if you weren’t a writer? This one is tricky because writing is both my hobby (fiction) and my livelihood (journalism). My other hobby is baking, so perhaps if it all falls in a heap I could retrain as a pastry chef. I have made a few wedding cakes for friends, and I really enjoy playing with flavour ideas and pretty shapes. Strangely, when it comes to savoury meals I’m terrible, but I have mastered cakes.

What are you reading right now? I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty which I devoured, barely lifting my eyes to draw breath. Liane dazzles me with her ability to tease and entice. I am also reading Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. I cheated on Sweet Bitter with Moriarty because I found myself at the airport without a book and knew I couldn’t go wrong with one of Liane’s books.

Coffee, wine or something else? I am completely addicted to coffee. I don’t drink much wine, unless I’m sharing a bottle at a dinner party or something. If I’m at a bar I’ll order sloe gin (rocks and lime), a gin and tonic or a cocktail. Sometimes when it’s really hot I’ll take my laptop to a pub and write while drinking cider and ice. But generally on those days my preference is a café and an ice coffee.

What is your favourite social media platform and why? I am addicted to social media. I love Instagram and Twitter but for different reasons. In my day job, I work as a journalist, so I love being able to keep an eye on the issues of the day as they unfurl on Twitter. I follow major news outlets, journalists I like and admire, politicians and specialists in my areas of interest. I also follow a few funny accounts to break it up. I like checking-in on Twitter when I take a break from work. Instagram is great for book recommendations, food and bar recommendations, fashion, recipes and just keeping up with what my friends are doing. I recently moved interstate, so it’s great to be able to see what my friends have been up to with a few swipes of my phone.

Of all your books, do you have a favourite one? This is like being asked to choose between your children! I hate to admit it, but I do have a favourite one. My latest novel, The First Year, is my third. I think because I had been through the process twice before it was less daunting and stressful. I had a lot more confidence and I think it shows in the writing. I also quite like the story. My previous books were what I’d call caper romances. In both, the protagonists hatched hair-brained schemes in order to find love. The First Year is a lot more grounded in reality. The characters’ families and work colleagues play a great role and I feel like they’re more rounded because of it.

*****

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*****

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**Click HERE for your chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

*****

**About the author: Genevieve Gannon is an Australian journalist and author. She has worked in newsrooms in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, among others. Most recently she covered crime in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press before moving to Sydney to be a feature writer for The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Her favourite books are We Need To Talk About Kevin, Middlesex, Atonement, Prep and One Day. She likes Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and wasabi (not together) and hates mangoes.

Her first book, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. The First Year is her third novel.

**Contact Genevieve: Website   Goodreads   Instagram   Twitter

 

EXCERPT: “Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.: Essays on Talking to Ghosts, Accosting Celebrities, Getting High, Sexism, Race, and First-Generation Woes”

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“Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.: Essays on Talking to Ghosts, Accosting Celebrities, Getting High, Sexism, Race, and First-Generation Woes” by Rachel Khona

Blurb: Rachel knew even as a young child that she wasn’t like the rest of her Indian family. While her parents were plotting how she could make it into med school with her mediocre grades in chemistry and biology, she had other things on her mind, including such gems as:

· Why can’t she go to the temple on her period?
· Why don’t her Indian cousins like her?
· Why was it OK to be sexualized at a beauty pageant but not for herself?
· How can she straddle two cultures while retaining her sense of self?
· Why are women considered sluts and men considered studs?
· Why do people keep asking her if she was born in India?
· Should she wax down there?
· Why does she have crazy eyes?

After leaving home, Rachel got high in Amsterdam, met her pop singer idol in a bathroom, argued with a ghost, and got lost in the Pyrenees. But that didn’t stop her from questioning while men still tell her to smile. ‘Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.’ weaves stories of Rachel’s life with observations on race, class, sex, feminism, and culture with humor and candor.

Excerpt

JUST A GIRL: YOGA, BINDIS, CULTURAL APPROPRIATION AND MY IDOL

My friends and I were lunching at a restaurant in Santa Monica when who comes in but Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Not too many people knew it, but Gwen Stefani was my secret best friend. As in, I knew we were best friends, she just didn’t know it. Yet. And now we were breathing the same fucking air. I hoped once we met she would realize how much fun I was and want to be my best friend too. We would have pillow fights and bedazzle our pants together. It would be pure unadulterated magic. A match made in heaven. Gwen and Gav were sitting three tables down from us in an otherwise empty restaurant. So I pretty much had an obstructed view of Gwen and her bright red lipstick.

“You guys!” I hissed to my friends.

“What is it?” Samantha asked.

“It’s Gwen-fucking-Stefani!”

“Where is she?” Samantha asked.

“The table behind us. Don’t look now!” Samantha and Selena both swiveled around to look immediately.

“Oh, that’s cool,” Selena responded. She returned to studying the menu.

“I’m sorry am I missing something? How can you guys be so calm at a time like this?”

“Honestly, I don’t think Gwen Stefani is that big of a deal,” Samantha responded, nonchalantly flipping her hair as perused the menu.

“Oh right, she’s not the fabulous fucking Jimmy Buffet,” I muttered. For some inexplicable reason, Samantha had a complete and total infatuation with Jimmy Buffet. How anyone could enjoy the music of someone who sang songs like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fruit Cakes” is beyond me.

The first time I saw the video for “Just a Girl” my brain almost exploded. After years of listening and watching men express themselves, it never occurred to me that women were largely missing from most of rock music. Though as a girl I often felt frustrated by my parents’ draconian Indian ways, my irritation was often only expressed by rebelling against everything they thought was appropriate, i.e. men with tattoos. I never actually freely vented my frustrations; I expressed vis-à-vis men.

I love the other female rock gods like Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, and Janis Joplin. But I could relate to Gwen. Gwen was a rocker, yet still a girlie girl. She was tough, yet vulnerable. She was a total babe, yet angry. Before Gwen, the only angry women I ever saw were considered granola, crazy, or Alanis Morissette. Nothing wrong with any of those descriptions, but why can’t a pissed off chick just be a human expressing an emotion? I loved how she could strut around in red lipstick and pin curls while fronting a band and belting out lyrics about her ex-boyfriend. Through her music, she expressed sadness, vulnerability, rage, and frustration. Our culture teaches us by and large that angry women are bitchy and ugly and attractive women are pleasant and docile.  But Gwen proved that wasn’t the case.

Plus, she wore bindis and had dated a cute Indian guy. Bonus points in my book. These days Gwen’s use of bindis might be deemed cultural appropriation by some, I never saw it that way. Cultural appropriation happens when one adopts part of a culture while dismissing other parts of it, stripping it of its cultural and religious context. Gwen had seriously dated Indian-American Tony Kanal for years. Her bindi-wearing seemed to come from a place of appreciating the culture of her boyfriend and less being trendy like girls at Coachella.

Besides bindis have pretty much lost all religious significance in India. Bindis are a fashion accessory among Indian women. If I wear one, I more concerned with whether it matches my sari or salwar kameez than my third eye. Now yoga, on the other hand, has been totally and completely hijacked.

Yoga is a 5000 + year Hindu practice that is just part of a larger system of beliefs that includes adherence to nonviolence, meditation, chanting, devotional love to God, and selfless action. Yoga is not about “sweating out the toxins,” (which is a make-believe concept anyway, that’s why you have a liver folks). It’s not meant to make you a size 2, though if it does get you into shape good for you. Yoga is not just about spouting off vague quotes (“live authentically”) or realizing you managed to stay calm when your dog took a dump in your shoe. The physical part of yoga was designed to prepare the body for long hours of meditation. The ultimate goal of the practice is union with the God and liberation from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

In the proliferation and spread of yoga studios, yoga has become watered down, simplified, and in many cases whitewashed. People on Yelp whine about too much “chanting” or a class not being enough exercise, not understanding the true roots and meaning of this Hindu practice. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome that so many people practice yoga. But please for the love of all that is holy, stop whitewashing it. It’s a Hindu practice. It’s a religious practice. Try to get something out of it besides stronger arms.

But anywhoozle, I am seriously digressing here. The point is I love Gwen. I wanted desperately to be her. Or just be her best friend.

I had to do something. But what? I didn’t want to be one of those annoying fans that bugged someone while they were eating. I’ve got it! I would wait until they are done with their meals and they go outside. I would sneak behind them and then I would ask Gavin to take a picture of Gwen and me. That way his cooties would be on my camera too, and I could sell it on eBay.

I picked at my arugula salad while I stole glances at Gwen. What was she eating? How did her lip color stay so fresh after eating? Did she use MAC? How often does she dye her roots? What are they talking about? Did she notice me? Has she realized yet that we are secret best friends?

After what seemed like two centuries had passed, the waiter finally handed them the bill. They settled up and got ready to leave. I quickly prepared myself with my camera in hand. I got up and stealthily tiptoed behind Gwen, expecting to go outside. Except Gavin made a right towards the door and walked outside, while Gwen veered left for the bathroom.

Now what? Was I seriously going to follow her to the bathroom? Was I that girl? And who was going to take the picture? There was no one in the restaurant. Oh fuck it, I thought. I’ve come this far. I decided to bite the bullet and talk to her.

Or maybe I should bust out into song to break the ice. I could see it now. I would sing one line, and Gwen would sing the other. We would harmonize together, and the whole restaurant would get up and mosh/dance.

But then again, I’m tone deaf. Maybe I should just ask her for a photo.

“Excuse me, Gwen I’m a huge fan, can I get a picture with you?”

“Um, sure,” Gwen replied looking surprised. She didn’t look terribly thrilled, which I found rather odd. Didn’t Gwen realize we were BFFs? Well even if she didn’t know, I bought every No Doubt album, so I figured she best suck it up and take a pic with me.

“Who’s going to take the picture?” she asked. I think she secretly hoped no one would come to my rescue. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t as stoked as I was to take a picture.

“Uh…” I looked around, hoping beyond hope that someone a waiter, a busboy, or I don’t know, King Neptune would come out of the nearby Pacific Ocean and snap our pic. Right at that moment, a little eighty-five-year-old lady hobbled around the corner heading towards the bathroom.

“Excuse me! Can you please take a picture of us?” I asked her with glee.

“Oh, I’m so sorry dear I can’t because of my arthritis. You see—-”

“OK fine whatever.” The old bat.

I turned to Gwen. “I’ll just take it myself.”

“OK.” I put the camera in my right hand and held it out as far as I could and stood on my tiptoes. As I’m 5’1, and Gwen is like 5’9, the height difference was significant, even though I was wearing two-inch heels.

“Thanks Gwen!”

“Sure dude no problem.” She turned and walked into the bathroom.

Now what do I do? I wondered. I didn’t want to seem like I was solely there to get her picture. We were secret best friends, but she clearly refuses to acknowledge our relationship. Well, fuck it, I’m over it. I don’t need her. For all she knew, I was on my way to the bathroom, and I happened to bump into her with my camera. And what if I had to pee too? It’s not like I am sitting around stalking celebrities all day. I can’t believe she would think I am just there to get her stupid picture.

So I walked into the two-stall bathroom to pee too. Gwen was peeing. Omigod, I could hear Gwen Stefani peeing! I felt a warmth engulf my heart. I never thought my life would be so glamorous! So what if we weren’t best friends? I had heard Gwen Stefani piss into a porcelain bowl. My life was now complete.

*****

**GIVEAWAY**

**Click HERE for your chance to win a print copy of “Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.: Essays on Talking to Ghosts, Accosting Celebrities, Getting High, Sexism, Race, and First-Generation Woes”

*****

**About Rachel Khona: Once upon a time in an exotic land called New Jersey, Rachel used to dream of one day playing tambourine in an all-girl rock band. That never happened.

Instead she became a writer. She has written for The New York TimesThe Washington PostPlayboy, Penthouse, Maxim, and Cosmopolitan among others.

When she’s not writing or designing, she is busy drinking wine and singing off key, bike riding, pretending she’s friends with Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler, eating absurd amounts of cheese, or listening to rock music at an appallingly loud volume. Sometimes all at once.

**Get your copy of her book now!: Amazon

*****

**Click HERE to see other stops on Rachel’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!

BOOK FEATURE: “The Corner Shop of Whispers”

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“The Corner Shop of Whispers” by Debbie Viggiano

Blurb: Romantic Florrie, scatty Daisy and snobby Alison are neighbours, living their married lives in the tiny English village of Lower Amblegate where everyone knows everybody. Together the three friends share laughter, tears, and things they wouldn’t want anybody else knowing. But unbeknownst to them, a scandal is brewing. As rumours circulate, the gossips go into overdrive, rocking marriages and revealing the women have much more in common than just neighbourly bonds…

*****

**About the author: Prior to turning her attention to writing, Debbie Viggiano was, for more years than she cares to remember, a legal secretary. She lives with her Italian husband, a rescued puppy from Crete, and a very disgruntled cat. Occasionally her children return home from uni bringing her much joy…apart from their gifts of dirty laundry.

**Contact Debbie Viggiano: Blog   Facebook   Twitter

BOOK REVIEW: “Plan Cee”

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“Plan Cee” by Hilary Grossman

Blurb: Would you abandon your present for a second chance at your past?

Cecelia Reynolds has spent most of her life trying to forget the commitment-phobic man who broke her heart. It wasn’t easy, but eventually she did it, or so she thought…

As Cecelia and her husband gather for a friend’s wedding, her perfect world is thrown into complete turmoil. Even though it’s been twenty years since she last laid eyes on Keith Emerson, all it takes is one glance for her to feel emotions she thought were long gone. When Keith ends up officiating the ceremony, she quickly realizes his message of love is directed at her, not the happy couple. But can she believe him?

We live our entire lives thinking we know ourselves. But do we ever really?

As secrets and lies cause Cecelia’s world to spin completely out of control, she is forced to seek advice from the most unlikely ally. In the process, she must confront the demons of her past and the events that shaped her into the woman she is now. Will she finally learn the real meaning of love, friendship, and family?

While this book is a sequel to Plan Bea, it also reads as a standalone.

My Review: 

When I heard that Hilary Grossman would be writing a sequel to “Plan Bea,” I knew I had to read it! Once I started reading, I did not want to stop. From the first book, I loved Cecelia’s character, so I was eager to get to know her better!

While on the outside, her life seems perfect, when her past comes back to haunt her, in more ways than one–things get out of the way control–and fast.

There were so many times I was clutching my stomach and wondering what Cee would do and how she’d handle whatever situation came up, but she didn’t disappoint. After all, when a lover comes back in the picture, it’s normal to wonder “what if,” even though she’s now married with twin boys. While I’m not as brave or would be so easily tempted (especially if I was happy in my marriage), in the end, I understand why she did. With each swipe of the page, there were great twists, which, thankfully, turned out for the best.

As for the ending, I was in tears. Cee made the right choice on which path she wanted to be on, and I applaud the author for making what I think was the right choice, mainly for the fact that some people never change…I’m not going to give any spoilers, but…WOW! My only issue with this book was that I wanted to see how once she made her choice life would be for her.

This is a must-read book would be perfect for a day at the beach!

I give “Plan Cee” 5 stars!

**Click HERE to get your copy of “Plan Cee” now!

**Reviewer Note: While it’s mentioned that “Plan Cee” is a standalone, I highly recommend that you read “Plan Bea” first, (click HERE to see my review).

RELEASE DAY: “Playing House”

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“Playing House” by Laura Chapman

Blurb:

She’s a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He’s a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about are either of them willing to risk it all for love?

**Click HERE to get your copy of “Playing House” now!

Review and Excerpt of “Defining Her”

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“Defining Her” by Samantha March

Blurb: Nellie Hawthorne is a woman who has it all. A devoted husband, her own business, a wealthy lifestyle. But the Nellie she is now is much different from her past. A past filled with abuse, addiction, and men. Nellie’s carefully constructed new life is suddenly in jeopardy when a blast from the past emerges in her small town and her overbearing mother-in-law starts pushing for grandchildren and questions start being asked. A budding new friendship presents itself at an opportune time, and a once friendless Nellie finds herself growing closer to Prue Doherty.

Prue Doherty is the quintessential good girl. Always making the right decisions, always playing it safe. Until she meets a man that could change all of that. Still reeling from a devastating breakup and betrayal that had her fleeing from Chicago and settling into suburb life with her mom close by, Prue finds herself in a damaging funk. But everything changes when she befriends Nellie Hawthorne.

Nellie is trying to escape her past. Prue wants that perfect future. While both women strive to change their lives, they continue to cling to the past. But what defines us? Who we were then . . . or who we are trying to be now? Lies, manipulation, and deceit are woven throughout the pages of this edgy women’s fiction novel, with an ending you won’t see coming.

**Grab your copy of “Defining Her” now: Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo

My Review: 

I’ve been a fan of Samantha March for a very long time, so I was very excited to receive an ARC of “Defining Her.” I read almost half of it the first night–it was that good!

Coming from a horrific background as a child and young adult, Nellie’s life is quite different now that she’s a married woman and a business professional. Having the pressure from her husband and mainly her mother-in-law about having a baby, I felt like when Nellie befriends Prue, it’s a way of a distraction. Like Nellie, Prue had a rough time as a younger woman, but not nearly as bad. In the beginning, I felt sorry for her and even liked her, but toward the end, I was a little surprised at how she handled herself. Maybe she was jealous of Nellie’s life, I don’t know, but in her case, it was easy to understand that her past caught up with her.

Over time, I thought it was interesting to see how the bond between them grows, but what I really loved was the ending, and how certain secrets are divulged. I don’t give any spoilers, but I was so happy with how everything ended and would love to see this book as part of a series.

While this book was dark in a lot of cases, the mystery of secrets between the women and their past was written beautifully. If you’re looking for a quick read over the weekend, I recommend “Defining Her.”

I give “Defining Her” 5 stars!

*****

EXCERPTS

From Chapter 1

Nellie

I pulled up the schedule and minimized it to a small square, dragging it up to the top of my screen. I loved keeping an eye on the appointments, seeing the client name turn purple upon checking in, then yellow when their room was cleaned after they were finished. Our salon had three Versa Spas and sixteen regular tanning beds, all varying in speed and power. Mondays could be a fairly busy day, as people have their high hopes for the week, their mental to-do lists of how to get it started off right. Even during summer season the tanning salon stayed busy. Heaven forbid one of the suburbanites looked less than stellar taking their children to the pool or their summer activities and camps.

I blew out a breath. I could feel my old self threatening to peek through my carefully worked on new persona. My Mrs. Hawthorne persona. I wasn’t the old Nellie. I wasn’t.

I turned back to the computer, watching the check-ins and check-outs start to happen. I scanned the schedule again. Mostly familiar names in there. One in particular stood out to me on that day. Prue.

I clicked on her profile, which opened up the client information, including their photo we scanned from their driver’s license. Yep, it was the woman I’d been observing the past . . . oh, two weeks or so. Cute blonde bob, though longer now than in her picture. Bright green eyes. Petite. I remember being the one to give her the tour when she first joined as a member. I towered over her, and I’m 5’7.

She stuck out to me because she seemed so . . . sad. Something in her piercing green eyes stuck out to me that day. I didn’t know what her story was and I knew it wasn’t my business. We all deal with our own shit in our own way. But something . . . just gave me a pause. I never really had an empathic bone in my body, and I wasn’t the girlfriend type. I tried doing that whole have chicks on my side that I can count on and have each other’s backs years ago and that didn’t pan out. Nah. It’s just me and Harrison now. And our neighbors and Harrison’s work friends and the girls at the salon, but these are all acquaintances or employees. Not friends.

Working on a graphic for the Labor Day sale distracted me from my thoughts, and I forgot about Prue and much of anything else. I worked on a color scheme that popped, a layout that was aesthetically pleasing, and squeezing in all the pertinent details to the sale. At noon on the dot, my phone gave a chime. Time to break for lunch. If I didn’t schedule my reminders, I would forget to eat all together. And yes, I cared about my body and my health and I worked out, but I did not skip meals. I was not anorexic or bulimic, thank you so much. I was healthy.

I drove to the deli and picked up a typical lunch—turkey and cheese on wheat bread, loaded with spinach, green peppers, lettuce, a few pickles, and low-fat Italian. I asked for an apple and, back in the office, grabbed a Smart Water out of my personal mini fridge. I watched YouTube videos while I ate—everything from how to perfect my winged liner to design tips to music videos. This was my time to zone out. To forget work and deadlines and schedules and invoices and just chill.

At ten to one, I started cleaning up my mess. Throwing my wrappers away. Wiping up some apple juice dribbled next to my MacBook. Clicking out of YouTube and getting back to the daily schedule. And, just like clockwork, I watched Prue’s name become highlighted. She tanned Monday and Thursday at one o’clock each day. Ten minutes a time, though she stayed in the room for nearly twenty.

I headed out to the front desk, while Kerri took off for the day. The next employee, Sasha, was scheduled at two o’clock, so during this hour, I sat out front and checked people in and out and cleaned rooms. I loved my job. My career. My business. And while no, I didn’t need the salon to help us financially, I loved having a schedule. A normalcy to a life that had rarely seen any. A purpose.

“Have a good rest of your day, Kerri. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Sure thing, Nellie. Catch you on the flip.” Kerri waved enthusiastically and headed out the door, gaudy pink Coach purse slung over her shoulder, already thumbing away on her ginormous cell phone. I made a mental note to buy my best and favorite employee a real designer purse this year as her Christmas bonus. Coach was so . . . basic.

I shook my head as I took a seat behind the reception desk. Listen to me! Coach was basic. How so much could change in so little time. If you had told me this would be my life at twenty-nine not even ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Or tried to rob you.

I looked up when I heard a noise and saw Prue approaching the desk, head down, car keys in hand.

“Thanks for coming in!” I said cheerily, a smile on my face.

She glanced back at me, just for a moment, but I saw the tears slipping down her face before she managed to put her sunglasses on. “Thanks,” she practically whispered, before she was gone.

I frowned, looking at the screen. I checked out her room on the computer, then proceeded back to room 8 to give it a clean. Wiping down the bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about this particular client. Why was she giving me the vibe that I should . . . help her? Offer her a shoulder to cry on or at least just someone to talk to? Maybe she was like me and never had a real friend she could count on. Maybe I could be that person for someone. Maybe making a new friend was just what I needed right now. To remind me that I had changed my life for the better, and I could still be that better person. Maybe the timing was perfect, what with my past threatening to return. This was the life I ran away to. I had to keep it together.

From Chapter 2

Prue

Once back home, I had just over an hour to get showered and changed and to the school. My mom, Jean Doherty, was the principal of Eakwood Elementary School, one of the three elementary schools in this small town. School had only been in session for two weeks but I found myself there three days a week helping out. They got unexpectedly short-staffed in several places right before the school bell rang for the first time, so I was filling in. Because I didn’t have anything else going on in my life. Right.

I was a court reporter and worked hard at my job. But it wasn’t your typical 9-5 desk job. Some days I worked in the courtroom from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon without a break. Some days I worked solely from home, transcribing notes and proofreading the depo. Not very often would you find me in the office of my employer, Swank and Marty, because it simply wasn’t needed and now it was too far to travel. Just three blocks west of Michigan Avenue, when I lived in Chicago I was there much more often, simply because I enjoyed being there and around my co-workers. That changed real quick when I learned one of my office-friends, Brandi, was sleeping with my boyfriend. That put a real damper on the office morale, especially when I learned she moved into the house with him that I cosigned my name to on the mortgage. Yeah. That stung.

After my relationship imploded, I hightailed it out of Chicago and to Oamark Park, to be closer to my mom. Since my dad died three years prior and I was their sole offspring, I often wanted to be closer to her. It was only about an hour drive from here to Chicago and I came back nearly every weekend to be by her or bring her into Chicago, but it was different being just minutes away from each other now. And being that I was at her school so much, we saw each other on nearly a daily basis. I wasn’t complaining because I loved my mom and our relationship was fantastic. I just didn’t . . . expect life to turn out this way.

It was all planned out. I had been with Deacon Moore for three years. We were in love. We met through mutual friends at a birthday party one night and had our first date just days later at Portillo’s. He was everything to me. My best friend. My biggest supporter. He gave me shoulder rubs when I was hunched over my steno machine all day and night. He brought me foot-long sandwiches when I was in the courtroom and only given a ten-minute lunch break. He eventually started working in my office, which I loved. He came home with me and charmed my mother. I thought a proposal was coming anytime. We bought a house together. It was my own version of a fairy tale.

Until it all came crashing down. Turned out the perfect Deacon wasn’t quite as perfect as I thought he was. He had been seeing Brandi on the side for nearly eight months. Eight months. We signed the mortgage papers as he was sleeping with another woman. How . . . how could someone do that to a person? And why? Why make me waste so much time and money and energy when he didn’t even want to be with me? What was the point?

Though money was never really much of a concern for me—Dad had a good life insurance policy and court reporters made a better-than-decent salary—but Deacon was still slowly draining my finances. I paid for the home inspection, the realtor fees, the upfront taxes. I paid the loan payments on the new car “we” purchased together but only Deacon still drove. Deacon and Brandi had missed three mortgage payments and the bank called me to get that paid because my name was still on the mortgage. All that nonsense has led us to court, which means . . . more money being drained out of my account. I couldn’t believe I made such a mistake. That I was so easily fooled. That I was betrayed by my lover, my best friend. Betrayed by a co-worker and someone who I was at least friendly with, if not real friends. And the fact that it totally upended my life was just the cherry on top.

I went from thinking a marriage proposal was on the way, moving into a beautiful home, bringing a new puppy into our lives to living in a small cramped apartment with my finances in jeopardy. Suing my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend to try to gain back some of the money that I spent paying their freaking mortgage. It just wasn’t fair.

I pulled up to the school and parked in the employee parking lot. Walking in, my thoughts were still on how my life turned so quickly. What did I do to deserve such deceit? I was the good girl, the good person. I had morals and always tried doing the right thing. Karma scared the crap out of me. I was the dependable, reliable one. How was this fair, karma? Huh? It wasn’t. It just simply wasn’t. And that infuriated me. What was the point of always making the right choices if this is what I got in the end?

*****

**About the author: Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things beauty, fashion and fitness. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has five published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, Up To I Do and Defining Her, and one holiday novella, The Christmas Surprise. You can also find her on Youtube sharing beauty reviews and creating makeup tutorials. When she isn’t reading, writing, or vlogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

**Contact Samantha: Instagram   Youtube   Twitter   Snapchat   Facebook   Amazon   Blog

**Click HERE to grab all of Samantha’s books for $0.99 now (for a limited time)!

*****

**GIVEAWAY**

**Click HERE to enter the in the Rafflecopter giveaway!

*****

**Click HERE to see more stops on Samantha’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours!

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