The 10 Nights of CeeCee-O-Ween: The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

14192733_930556600406474_3950721415268577724_nAs we count down the final days to CeeCee-O-Ween, I bring you a spooky book review paired with the world’s most adorable dog in her costume du jour! Tonight we bring you a review of a not-so-scary book based on Washington Irving’s seminal masterpiece, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

27187153Wow – so many five-star reviews! My fellow GoodReads reviewers did a great job suckering me into downloading this book. Sadly I was sorely disappointed. I typically give a book 100 pages until chucking it into the DNF pile, but it just got too painful. Hmm…how should I say this without sounding insensitive to the LGBTQ community? Okay, so I should start by saying that I found the lesbian love story to be a nice switch from the norm, and I’m a registered ALLIE to this wonderful community.  See, I’m not so bad, right? However, I’m a Legend of Sleepy Hollow purist, so there’s only so much I can take when authors butcher the legend into an oblivion. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t digging the whole “girl power” slant. I had to call it quits when the protagonist came up with the theory that the headless horseman was a cross-dresser caught in a lovers tryst. #ICANT!

Why can’t all these Sleepy Hollow reprisals give a nod to the original tale’s societal admonition? Why does it have to be all about romance? Why can’t Ichabod be an awkward, lanky dweeb vying for the Van Tassel fortune? Why can’t these stories have more to do with greed and social climbing rather than the typical bodice ripper crap? CHEESE AND CRACKERS! Do I need to write the dang book myself? Maybe I will – dangit!

So I’d be a total jerk if I didn’t say one nice thing about the book, right? To be fair, the author has a knack for atmosphere. But (yep, there’s a but) just when things started to get a little spooky, the protagonist would start obsessing over her crush and I was back in junior high all over again. The constant butterflies, goosebumps and cheap thrills got tiresome every time she came into eye-shot with her lover. Geeze—it reminded me of the torture I endured when my childhood BFFs would crush over their favorite New Kid on the Block. Personally, I’m a Joey girl, but that’s besides the point.

Anyhoo, if you’re looking for a heck of a Headless Horesman thrill ride, read the original–and then re-read it! And when you’re done with that, check out Richard Gleave’s Jason Crane series – it’s awesome!!! My rave reviews can be found here.

Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

23014631After finishing Plantation Shudders, I was in the mood for another Southern cozy mystery. As luck would have it, Carolyn Haines has a new hardback out – and I’ve been dying to know what’s next for Sarah Booth Delany now that her ex fiancé is finally out of the picture!

The book begins with a big mope-fest as Sarah Booth pines over her lost love. Her resident ghost/life coach Jitty doesn’t help matters as she constantly nags her to get married and make babies. Thankfully another dead body gives us all a welcome distraction from the gloom and doom.

The mystery unfolds at a Black-and-Orange Halloween ball in New Orleans, where party revelers are tearing up the dancefloor to the beat of Scott Hampton’s sexy blues band. Turns out, Scott is Sarah Booth’s ex beau and they’re both dangerously close to rekindling that old spark. Of course, it isn’t all moonlight and magnolias for this fledgling romance. A murderous fiend is determined to knock off Scott and his entire band. The motive is unclear, but it appears as though someone really hates live music and will stop at nothing to keep Scott from fulfilling his dream of opening a blues club.

When a drive-by-shooter kills off a friendly bartender, it becomes very clear that that Scott and his fellow musicians are all sitting ducks. It’s up to Sarah Booth to ferret out the killer before it’s too late!

This is how I picture Sarah Booth's ancestral home, Daliah House

This is how I picture Sarah Booth’s ancestral home, Dahlia House

As she searches for clues with her trusty sidekicks, she discovers a whole slew of suspects with possible motives. And if that’s not stressful enough, another psycho from a previous novel is out on bail. Her sole purpose in life is to destroy Sarah Booth, so how could she not be involved in this puzzling string of murders? Then there’s the pathological religious cult leader who gets his jollies by oppressing women. He loathes everything in life that brings joy—especially music and dancing. Since he believes Scott and his music are the root of all evil, how could he not be a suspect?

There’s a ton of characters, so readers need to stay sharp and take a lot of mental notes. But that’s not to say that it’s a chore keeping tabs on it all. There’s plenty of breathers from the case—including a hint of a love triangle among Sarah Booth and her two ex flames. I’m sure most longtime fans of this series are on Team Coleman–myself included–but it’s a lot of fun watching the sparks fly between her and Scott as they go horseback riding by moonlight and dance together in steamy clubs.

If you love a good mystery filled with colorful characters, romance and adorable heroic critters, I highly recommend this series. Even the most experienced Agatha Christie fans will have a hard time piecing this one together. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I will say that there’s one heck of a cliffhanger at the end. Carolyn, you better hurry up with that next book!

Pie Girls by Lauren Clark

piegirlsThanksgiving may be over, but I’m still craving pies, pies, pies—and more pies! I blame this insatiable sugar lust on none other than Lauren Clark, author of Pie Girls. Her fourth chick lit novel revolves around a pie shop located in the small town of Fairfield, Alabama.

Wouldn’t it be fun running a bakery in an idyllic Southern hamlet? How cool would it be serving pies and coffee to your friends and neighbors?  Sure beats hovering over a computer all day and battling gridlock traffic. Who wouldn’t want that kind of life? Searcy Roberts, that’s who.

You see, Pie Girls is a family restaurant meant to be passed down to Searcy. But, alas, Searcy had bigger, more extravagant plans. Desperate to leave Fairfield, she climbs her way up to the top of the social ladder and marries Alton Roberts, the local rich boy—and  her meal ticket to the big city. They head off to Atlanta, where she spends her days shopping at Barneys and gossiping with her fellow socialites over caviar and champagne. Ah the sweet life of the rich and glamorous.

Little does she know, her days of decadence are numbered. Her husband has been harboring a deep, dark secret—and it all comes to a head on their wedding anniversary. Given Searcy’s self-absorbed lifestyle, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy watching her suffer.

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Lemon meringue is my ultimate favorite. What’s yours?

This is where it gets tricky. When I start to loathe the main character, there’s a 50/50 chance the book is going in the goodwill bin. Searcy needed to amend her ways—and fast. Surprisingly she pulled it off!  Once she moved back to her hometown and started helping out around the pie shop, I quickly warmed up to her—and so did the townies. Most importantly, she charmed the super cute bike shop owner next door. It’s a good thing she did because that guy is always ready to swoop in and save Pie Girls from burning down or flooding out.

Just when the harsh reality of Searcy’s failed marriage sets in, she gets hit with another whopping bombshell. Her mother is no longer capable of running the pie shop—and it’s up to Searcy to keep it from going under.  Will she stick around long enough to see it through? Will she relish the simplicities of small town life and continue running Pie Girls indefinitely? Since her mother refuses to bequeath the prize-winning family recipes to anyone other than the prodigal daughter, we better hope the answer is yes!

Nothing beats apple crumble pie on a cold winters day.

Nothing beats apple crumble pie on a cold winters day.

From chapter to chapter, it was a lot of fun watching the transformation of both the pie store and Searcy’s personality. The descriptive prose transported me straight to Fairfield, where I could hear the locusts buzzing in the fields, smell the heady scent of brown sugar in the shop, and see the vibrant flowers hanging above the rows of shops on Main Street. Throughout the book, my taste buds were throbbing for all sorts of gooey goodies. Very dangerous for a girl who lives within walking distance of a bakery!

I also adore key lime pie!

I also adore key lime pie!

Despite our rough patch at the beginning, Searcy won her way back into my heart when she dropped the Carrie Bradshaw act and got down to brass tacks on the pie shop. I hope you’ll check this book out and give Searcy a chance too. If you’re in the mood for a light and fluffy story with a little bit of bite (not unlike lemon meringue pie), grab your fork and dig into Pie Girls. Hmm…I wonder if there’s any leftover pumpkin pie in the fridge. I better go take a looksy!

CeeCee’s Dog Days of Summer Reading Roundup

10351599_530856277043177_2547800760911905463_nSometimes I feel as though I’m the only Texan who loves the dog days of summer. When I hear the locusts playing their summer symphony in the pecan trees and gaze up at the big, cloudless Texas sky, I wax nostalgic about my happiest childhood memories at summer camp.  Oh how I miss those long hot days filled with ice cream socials, campfire ghost stories and cheesy sing-along songs. So when the barometer reaches an all-time high, I always go for books that invoke that carefree summertime feeling.

Although my assistant, CeeCee Honeycutt Sinn, isn’t a fan of hot weather, she loves good stories about island adventures and steamy romance. If you’re looking for a fun, light read to stash in your beach bag, she highly recommends checking out these titles.

15812854Killer Honeymoon by G.A. McKevett

This is my first foray into the Savannah Reid mystery series and it won’t be my last. Although I solved the mystery long before the fearless Southern sleuth closed in on the killer, I was thoroughly entertained by the colorful cast of characters and witty dialogue. The tranquil West Coast setting took me back to Catalina Island, where I would eat my weight in ice cream underneath a thatched roof to the ever-present sound of Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits. Ah memories…but I digress. This book is a fantastic beach read that will get you in the perfect summertime state of mind. The constant bickering between the two honeymooning protagonists was mildly annoying at first, but eventually I started laughing along at their zippy little quips. Fans of Janet Evanovich and Laura Levine are sure to enjoy this series.

16101148 Five Summers by Una Lamarche

Let me begin by stating that this book is going on my Best Books of 2014 list. My happiest childhood memories took place at Camp Marston, a sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains of Julian, California. This book rekindled so many memories of the deep friendships that were forged over burnt marshmallows and capture-the-flag games. In this book, the four girls were lucky enough to stay in touch throughout the years and help each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Each girl is holding back a deep, dark secret and it all comes to a head when they reunite at their beloved Camp Nedoba. I really liked how the author used the third-person narrative to weave each of the girls’ past and present summer camp experiences in every chapter. I loved getting to know all the characters and reminiscing about my carefree summers at camp, where I only had to worry about hiding contraband candy from the counselors and getting caught on a night raid to boys hill!

17568234The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

How could I resist a Steel Magnolia-esque story set in an idyllic small Texas town? Like a big ol’ slice of pecan pie, this book is oozing with saccharin sweet Southern charm. But anyone who isn’t privy to the complexities of Texas women should know that phrases like “bless her heart” or “aint that nice” have a double meaning.  It’s a jungle out there below the Mason-Dixon line—especially at the Cadillac Diner, home to the hottest jalapenos in Texas! The three women who run the diner are constantly sparring with the indomitable queen of the elite jalapeno club, Violet Prescott. She will stop at nothing to take home the blue ribbon—even if it means shutting down the town’s beloved diner. This woman is about as evil as a Pixar villain. In fact, her nefarious antics are so over-the-top, it’s hard to really take this book seriously. There’s a lot of characters thrown into the mix, and it’s hard to really get a good grasp on the reasons behind their bizarre behavior, but the multiple subplots kept me reading up until the rather anticlimactic standoff at the jalapeno jubilee. Yes, I do think the characters needed to be fleshed out more. And yes, the story seemed a little disjointed. But all in all, it was a fun, fast read for a day by the pool. Please be advised that if you’re looking for a tear-jerking story about love, loss and friendship, you’re not going to find it here. But if you want to read something on par with Sweet Home Alabama or Hart of Dixie, this book will not disappoint.

A Q&A With “The Dog Park” Author Laura Caldwell

Laura Caldwell headshot compressed (2)Dog lovers and hopeless romantics alike are sure to enjoy Laura Caldwell’s new novel, The Dog Park.  After taking a look at the synopsis, I can’t wait to read more about the loveable Goldendoodle, who forever changed the lives of his owners after one heroic act caught on tape.

Will Baxter’s overnight celebrity status catapult his owners into two separate directions? Or will his broken family overcome their irreconcilable differences and find their happily ever after?   You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Without further ado, I bring you an interview with the author.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hug my dog now!

What inspired you to write The Dog Park?

I’d been writing mysteries and thrillers for a while, including six books featuring my series character, Izzy McNeil. I had one book left in my contract and started plotting the seventh. At the time, I had just gotten my puppy, Shafer, and was head over heels. My publisher’s pointed out that my social media posts and photos had gone from books and mysteries to dogs and dogs and dogs.  And they had an idea—why not write novel involving a dog?  A great beach book, something fast-moving and a little sexy. And maybe, just maybe, a happy ending. I was in.

Why did you decide to make a dog the focal point of your novel?

We wanted The Dog Park to be entertaining and fun, but my publisher really wanted a book with strong characters and strong relationships. 18812462Shortly into the book, I realized that Baxter, the dog who I’d seen as more of a sub character (albeit one who drives much of the action), was definitely much more. Just like a lot of our pets, Baxter is a creature with his own personality. His own preferences and tastes and quirks.

Of all the characters (canines included!) in the book, which one would you like to spend an afternoon with and why?

Billy McGowan! He’s a musician whose band became famous shortly after high school, and who managed eventually to turn himself into a man of integrity and intellect.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Overlaying all of the book is the profound, and yet often profoundly different, relationship that each different person has with their dog. There’s also the fact that social media has changed everything. It’s thrilling, but a little jarring and scary, to think that a person can be unknown at breakfast and trending on the news that night.

I read that you have your own Goldendoodle! What’s unique about this particular breed?

Friendly, fun, loves to chase balls, highly intelligent.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

If you really love writing, it’s great to be published, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I truly thought I was never going to be published, but I kept writing because I loved it. It was a hobby I had on my own, where I could chart my own progress, and explore creativity and storytelling. I think passion shines through (or rather, reads through).

More about the author: Laura Caldwell, a former trial lawyer, is currently a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. She is a nation-wide speaker and the founder of Life After Innocence, which helps innocent people begin their lives again after being wrongfully imprisoned. Laura has been published in thirteen languages and over twenty countries. To learn more, please visit http://www.lauracaldwell.com.

 

Short & Sweet Sundays: Cocktail Hour by Tara McTiernan

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you this new feature that I like to call “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too overambitious.

17655664Synapsis (from the publisher) What if your friend – someone admired, envied, and fervently sought after by everyone who knew her – was really a dangerous sociopath?

Spring in glamorous uber-rich Fairfield County, Connecticut is a time of beginnings: a new diet for the approaching summer spent out on the yacht, fresh-faced interns being offered up at the office as the seasonal sacrifice to the gods of money, and corporate takeovers galore. Five women in their thirties have a brand-new friendship, too, one that fed and watered regularly at local hotspots over cocktails. With all of their personal struggles – Lucie’s new catering business is foundering due to vicious gossip, Kate’s marriage is troubled due to an inability to conceive, Chelsea’s series of misses in the romance department have led to frantic desperation, and Sharon’s career problems are spinning out of control – the women look forward to a break and a drink and a chance to let their guards down with their friends. And letting their guards down is the last thing they should do in the kind of company they unknowingly keep with the fifth member of their cocktail-clique: Bianca Rossi, a woman who will stop at nothing to have it all.

What I liked: After reading the author’s previous novel Barefoot Girls –which also includes one helluva villain – I knew I was in for a treat. She has a real knack for getting inside the mind of a certifiable sociopath, and Bianca really takes the cake! That is one crazy-ass bitch, and I hate to think that there could be real-life Biancas preying upon unsuspecting men and exploiting their “friends” weaknesses. She grew more despicable with each chapter – and I couldn’t wait to get to the very end to watch it all come crashing down. I can safely say this is one of the most evil female antagonists I’ve encountered in a very long time. She’s so bad, she makes those Lifetime movie psychos look like playful kittens!

Favorite character: The posse of gal pals all had interesting backstories, but out of all of the women, Kate is my fave. Yes, she’s totally naïve and sometimes just plain dumb, but she’s also loyal and incredibly sweet.  Fresh off the farm and new the big city, she’s refreshingly un-jaded and ready to befriend anyone with a seemingly friendly face. Although I constantly wanted to shake her and tell her to smarten up, she really hit a soft spot in my hardened, misanthropic heart.

If you think about it, haven’t we all been there? At some point, don’t we all find out the hard way that we can’t accept everyone at face-value? To quote Dan Rather, “A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well.”

The cover: The long-legged women sitting on barstools are pretty and all, but to be honest, I really don’t think the cover does the book justice.  If I saw this in a bookstore, I probably would’ve just assumed it was another light-hearted story about women looking for love in the big city. Since the story revolves around a demented seductress, I think it would be more fitting to invoke a sense of danger on the cover.

This book is best paired with: A tall mojito and some Miles Davis.

Overall assessment:  Cocktail Hour isn’t all margaritas and tapas – McTiernan tackles some troubling issues – from adultery to mental illness to family dysfunction. Emotional, fascinating – and sometimes unsettling – this is one quality read for anyone who enjoys stories about love, loss, friendship and deceit.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Short & Sweet Sunday: Stardust Summer

sundays

StardustsummercoverFrom the publisher: Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes. Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home. Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love—again

Why I picked it up: I can totally relate to stories about family dysfunction and second chances, so this book looked right up my street. Plus I’m in full spring-fever mode, so I was really looking forward to immersing myself in the gorgeous upstate New York lakefront setting.

What I liked most: The setting is – hands down – my most favorite element of this book. The descriptions of watercolor sunsets amid the Catskill Mountains, the sweet-smelling woods, the outdoor picnics – it all just makes me want to pack up my Hello Kitty suitcase and head out to the Adirondacks.  Oh how I wish I could be sipping on a sugary iced tea on Ryan’s porch watching the sun dip under the lake.

Favorite character: I can be a little fickle about main characters, especially in romance novels. Typically the quirky best friend seems far more interesting and likeable. But surprisingly, I found Grace to be the most endearing character in this book. Maybe because I can empathize with her family struggles and trust issues. Sure, she makes some really dumb decisions – especially in the love department – but she eventually comes into her own. I should also mention that I got a big kick out of Kathleen, the estranged stepmother. After her husband’s death, I expected her to fall apart, but she went on living life to the fullest – taking quite a few twists and turns in the process. I’ll stop right here before I give anything away…but I will say that a pink house is involved.

What I want more of: Please, Lauren, tell me that we’re going to see more of Ryan and Grace! I got a nice little taste of their budding romance – and now I want more fireworks, more tension, more hot-and-heavy smooching sessions. I’m not talking 50 Shades of Grey, just maybe a PG-13 bedroom scene would be a fun little bonus for us hopeless romantics.

Final verdict: Overall this is another win for Lauren Clark. What I love about this author is that I know she’s going to strum my heartstrings and make me swoon over a sweet budding romance. If you’re looking for a beach read that will make you wax nostalgic about your childhood summers by the lake, download this book immediately!

 Summed up in three words: Sweet, romantic, atmospheric.

Shameless self-promotion: Guess whose name was mentioned in the acknowledgments! That’s right, Jessica Sinn, book blogger extraordinaire! In my humble opinion,  Lauren is right up there with top women’s fiction authors like Fern Michaels, Kathy Lamb, and Susan Mallery, so this is a true honor.

For more about this fabulous author, check out my reviews for Dancing Naked in Dixie here, and Stay Tuned here. Check out her Q&A here.

The Friday Five: Naturally Charlie by S.L. Scott

In honor of the coolest day of the week, I bring you The Friday Five. Every Friday I will ask the same five questions to myself, or any other willing participant! All my fellow book lovers are welcome to join in on the fun.

15821735Synapsis: Twenty-five year old Charlotte “Charlie” Barrow is caught between her old life, and the one she is beginning to build, when she crosses paths with a handsome stranger on the subway. Not looking for romance, she closes her heart off to the possibilities of love. With a knack for mishaps, Charlie maintains her sense of humor while befriending the kind stranger who seems to be there at all the right times. New York freelance writer, Charlie Adams, is forging his own path beyond the expectations of the society circles of his childhood. Rejecting family money, and fast-lane friends, he is snubbed by his family as he follows his own compass to a life more extraordinary. Through a coincidence of events, they come to rely on each other for comfort. This is the tale of two Charlies learning to trust again while fighting their fates to create their own destiny.

Why did you choose this book? I came across this book at the Texas Book Festival last fall and couldn’t resist picking up a new title by an up-and-coming Texas author.  Although I have to admit that I dragged my heels for a while because I’m rarely in the mood for a light-hearted romance novel without sleuths, vampires or ghosties.

Where did the author go right? Or if it’s a turkey, what went wrong? Let me start off by explaining why I’m not a big fan of straight-up romance novels. The leading ladies are typically one-dimensional and painfully neurotic. They jump at the chance to be haughty and angry toward their love interest and it just grates on my nerves. There’s always a miscommunication and stupid squabbles ensue. I guess authors feel they need to do this to keep the romantic tension boiling, but it just annoys the crap out of me. But you know what surprised me about this book? I actually liked Charlie! She’s just your typical girl-next-door who loves to bake cupcakes and watch movies on a Friday night. We could totally hang out! Sure she has some serious emotional baggage, but it didn’t turn her into a complete ninny. The dynamic between her and Charlie (the dude) is very reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally….only the male Charlie is WAY hotter than Billy Crystal!

I also have to give the author props for thinking up the most bizarre first date of all time. I loved how the Charlies forged a bond under such stressful and emotionally-straining circumstances. From that moment on it was clear they were meant to be together.

Did anything bug you about the book? There were quite a few moments when I just wanted to shake Charlie and yell, “Get the hell out of the friend-zone, you idiot! He’s freakin’ perfect!”

Would you read another book by this author? Yes! When it comes to writing romance, S.L. Scott really knows how to hit the sweet spot. Her characters are believable, the dialogue is entertaining, and the grand finale is ultimately satisfying. Although I have to say that I’m a little tired of the Manhattan scene. Hopefully her next story will be set in Austin, or perhaps a small Texas town.

How would you sum up the book in three words? Sweet, romantic, cute.

A Q&A with Chrissy Anderson, Author of The Life List

9781458202284_COVER.inddWhat exactly is American dream? Is it a family of four living in a cookie-cutter house complete with a Range Rover and perfectly manicured lawn? According to the crap on TV, this “keeping up with the Joneses” way of life is the pinnacle of happiness. But is it really?

For Chrissy Anderson, happiness meant living the good life – perfect husband, successful career, uppity friends and all. Even though her life is the textbook definition of happiness, something’s missing.

After a chance encounter with a cute guy at a bar, she discovers an itch that desperately needs to be scratched. She begins to question the authenticity of her “perfect life” and faces some life-altering decisions. Should she take the safe route and just keep going through the motions? Or should she go with her gut and take the road less traveled? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Chrissy Anderson, the author and leading lady of The Life List, was kind to chat about her book. Read on to learn more about her personal quest for happiness, and why society’s depiction of “the perfect life” is all smoke and mirrors.

What made you decide to write a book about a woman whose life is turned upside down after a chance encounter at a bar?

If that chance encounter never happened, my life would’ve continued on a course that was less than satisfying. I would’ve stayed married to a man I had nothing in common with only to please other people, and I most likely would’ve had children with him. I would’ve continued to fake happiness, or worse, become a bitter old bitch who would one day look back on her less than satisfying life wishing in vain for a do-over. Most women aren’t as lucky as I was- they don’t get that chance encounter to slap them in the face. I wrote The Life List for all of the women out there who need a good slap.

Is this somewhat of a memoir/fiction hybrid?

Seems like I did more research on what the heck to label my book than the actual writing of it!!! Most of the story is true, but certain things were definitely embellished/changed to make my real life love story even more chaotically convoluted than it actually was.

Looking at all the star reviews, readers really love your book! Why do you think women connect so well with the main character?

Because the world is packed with mini-Chrissy’s. Think about it…how many of your own friends fall into one of these two categories?
1) They got married too young…before they even knew who they were or what they wanted out of life.
2) They scrambled when they turned 30! Started freaking out that they wouldn’t have the big wedding and the happy little family they always dreamed of, so they settled on a dude just so they could “live the dream.”

I also think too many women live their lives according to what others think. They struggle with defending their choices, and they fear failure and the public humiliation that goes along with it. I know better than anyone what it’s like to have everything I thought I always wanted, only then to say, “Uh-oh.” But how do you un-do plans that involve other people’s lives without suffering huge amounts of shame and regret? The answer is, you can’t, and I think that’s what so many women identify with The Life List. They want reassurance that they’re not alone. At least that’s the bulk of the feedback I get anyway.

What are your thoughts on “life lists?” How can women sabotage themselves by aspiring to live what society deems “the ideal life”?

Living your life according to other’s expectations is like not living at all. I lost thirteen years of my life doing it and I’ll spend the rest of it convincing anyone I come in contact with not to. I can honestly say that I give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of the choices I make now. I’m completely happy. Before you throw up….I’ll quote Charlotte from Sex &The City, “I’m not happy all day every day…but I’m happy.” In my opinion, anyone who has a problem with my choices…my happiness, isn’t happy with their own life and they need to take a good long look in the mirror or get a good therapist!

What message do you hope readers will take away from the book?

My tag line! “The difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”

What is the best piece of advice you could give an aspiring novelist?

If you believe in what you’re writing, others will too. There is no money in this industry, even when people do give you five-star reviews, so you better have your heart in the game and be committed to your work. Trust me, you’ll be better equipped to handle criticism if you believe in the story you’re telling. When people don’t like my novel,( fyi… it’s usually because Chrissy swears too much and is overly-judgmental) I say to myself, “It’s just not their cup of tea and that’s okay.” My editor actually gave me the best advice and it’s calmed me down quite a bit over the last year. She said, “We want readers to either love The Life List or hate it, no in-betweeners…bad for business!” And you know what? She was right. Average reviews equal mediocrity (blah!). But, overly bad reviews pitted against awesome reviews, creates interest! That’s where the fun begins. Oh, and by the way…only two of my reviews are lower than five stars. So far, so good!

What are you working on now?

The rest of The List Trilogy- The Unexpected List and The Hope List. I just handed over the first draft of The Unexpected List to my editor and hope to have it published by March. My website  has totally taken off. I’ve had over 30,000 visits and over 3,000 people have voted in the Leo vs. Kurt poll! The two men are such polar opposites (sexy and compelling in their own right) and it’s fun to see women gravitate toward each of them and find out why. I’m also working on getting The Life List in front of some Hollywood power players. I think it would make an amazing chick-flick. I just need to get it into the right hands and that’s proving to be just as hard as writing the damn book! I won’t quit though. It’s the slap in the face too many women need!

Want to know more about this talented new author? Check out her blog. Go here to download her book.

Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

Usually during this time of year I get a little melancholy about the end of summer. I already miss those lazy afternoons tubing down the river, and those weekend escapes to the Texas coast. So when I want to evoke those sweet sun-kissed memories, I envelop myself in a good beach read filled with sun, fun and a dash of mystery. I couldn’t have picked a better end-of-summer beach read than Tara McTiernan’s Barefoot Girls!

The story centers on Captains Island, a charming little East Coast hamlet where a quartet of best friends reunite each summer at their sacred clubhouse known as the “Barefooters Shack.” Throughout the decades, the girls remained thick as thieves. When the ringleader of the group has an unexpected pregnancy, the women swoop in and raise their “barefoot baby” together as if it was their own.

Surrounded by a circle of fun-loving mothers, little Hannah spent many fun-filled summers on the island. On the surface, she had the perfect childhood. But her debut “novel” says otherwise.

Written with such passion and depth, Hannah’s book touches on some heavy duty childhood abandonment issues. It certainly doesn’t seem like something a 21-year-old could write… unless if she’s drawing from her own personal experiences. When a snarky book reviewer insinuates that the novel is a disguised memoir, Hannah’s melodramatic mother, Keeley, completely shuts down. How could she fabricate such hurtful lies?

Even Hannah questions the motivation behind the poison-penned novel. Her mother gave her everything she needed, so where is all the anger and resentment coming from?

To get some answers, she quits her waitressing job and heads out to the place where it all began, the sacred Barefooters clubhouse. Filled with so many happy

Here’s my Indian summer getaway: Rockport, TX.

memories and dusty photo albums, the shack is her only sanctuary from the storm. But when she arrives to Captains Island during the gloomy off season, the atmosphere feels more like a baron ghost town than a seaside getaway. And for the first time, Hannah doesn’t feel comfort in solitude.

The only way to understand the root of her complex emotions is to dig into her mother’s past. Why did her mother always seem so emotionally detached? And why did she always feel so alone – even in the presence of her doting Barefooters?

She better find answers quick – before she sabotages all chances for happiness, including her engagement with Daniel, the one man who managed to find his way into her heart.

Told through multiple narratives, the author expertly intertwines several plot threads: Past memories of the Barefooters’ childhood adventures, Keeley’s current struggle with alcoholism and life on the Upper East Side, and Daniel’s frustrations with Hannah’s walled-up emotions. And if that’s not enough drama, she also throws in the Barefooters’ childhood bully,  a deranged beauty queen with fading looks and a serious vendetta.

As Hannah delves deeper into her mother’s unbreakable bond with the Barefooters, she begins to realize why she has always gone through life feeling like an outsider. When shocking family secrets are revealed and pent-up emotions come to a head, Hannah must learn how to move forward by letting go of her past.

Overall Barefoot Girls is a captivating story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the everlasting bond between women. At 400+ pages it’s a little on the long side, but once you get into it you won’t want to leave the idyllic little summer getaway. Through the author’s prose, you can practically smell the salty air and feel the sand beneath your toes. If you’re looking for a sweet escape, this book will do the trick!