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.

WWW Wednesday No. 2

www_wednesdays42Happy hump day everybody! WWW Wednesdays is a bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three questions:

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

StardustsummercoverI’m currently reading Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark. As I expected, this talented author is knocking it out of the ballpark once again with loveable characters, a fast-moving plot, and a sweet little love story. I’m especially enjoying the East Coast setting. It’ makes me long for the days when I spent my summers swimming in Lake Jessop at Camp Marston in the mountains of Southern California. Stay tuned for the review!

7664334I just finished reading Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and absolutely LOVED it!!! This book epitomizes the awesomeness of road trips. It’s not just about getting from point A to point B; it’s about pressing the pause button on the real world – the rinse-wash-repeat cycle of daily life – and exploring uncharted territory. This book beautifully captures the healing powers of the great American road trip. It’s a must-read for anyone who enjoys a good story about self-discovery, romance and adventure!

15808533Next up is The Last Grave by Debbie Vigue. This book has been sitting on my nightstand for far too long and I’m dying to crack it open! It’s a murder mystery set in San Francisco that revolves around a displaced witch/detective who’s dealing with a heavy-duty identity crisis. Oh and did I mention that she has a magical pet named Freaky Kitty? This book is totally going to rock – I just know it!

What’s on your reading list? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

A Q&A With Lauren Clark, Author of Stardust Summer

StardustsummercoverFellow chick lit lovers, I am pleased to bring you a Q&A with one of my most favorite women’s fiction writers, Lauren Clark! Not too long ago, she broke into the publishing world with her debut novel, Stay Tuned – and I’ve been a fan ever since. Read on to learn more about her latest novel, Stardust Summer. I have a feeling I’m going to need a box of tissues for this one!

What compelled you to write a story about a young mother reconnecting with her estranged father? And how can women readers identify with her struggles?

The story is really about Grace losing her father. It’s about her coming to grips with never having the chance to reconnect. I’ve had close friends not speak to parents for years or known a sibling that shut out another sibling over a misunderstanding. I wanted to explore the shock of a life that’s taken away suddenly. Grace’s life was steady and predictable until then. I don’t think she would have grown up and faced her fears without some sort of terrible situation to shake up her same-every-day existence.

 What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Stardust Summer?

I’ve always loved Garrett Chapel, where Grace’s mother holds Henry Mason’s funeral service. It’s a rustic, gothic-style stone chapel built in the woods on Keuka Lake’s Bluff Point. The structure was built in memory of a young boy, Charles Garrett, who died from Tuberculosis in 1929. Garrett Chapel is still used today as a seasonal church and a popular setting for weddings and special events. I’ve been to the chapel several times with my family and it’s even more  lovely than the photographs. 

Tell me a little bit about the East Coast setting – and how it evokes your own childhood memories. 

0027-995x1024It’s the place where my family has vacationed since I was five years old. It’s gorgeous, with glacier-carved mountains, and a deep, cold lake full of fish and clean, clear water. I remember ALWAYS being the first one of the kids (there are 3 of us) to jump in the lake, no matter how cold it was outside or the temperature of the water. There was no TV, only radio, and we always ate outside, dining on whatever the Mennonite farmers put out on their stands—corn on the cob, fresh peppers, beans, and strawberries. I think, for me, the setting conjures up a time of innocence and purity of mind—a place where life was simple and love and beauty was everywhere I looked. 

Who was your favorite character to develop while writing Stardust Summer?

I actually enjoyed developing Ryan’s character. I’ve worked with a lot of physicians and many of my family members and close friends are in the medical profession. I wanted to show the dedication that many doctors have for their field of work, and how that career (and many others) has the potential to destroy marriages and families. Luckily, Ryan was able to recognize that he contributed to Lori leaving and grew as a result of that loss. When Grace stepped into his life, he was finally ready.  

Now, a little more about you! What made you decide to write women’s fiction? And what do you love most about this particular genre?

I love being whisked away to a place I’ve never visited. I believe that it’s a wonderful feat when an author can describe a setting in just enough detail that I can fill in the colors, sights, and sounds in my head. I do prefer stories with a bit of humor, and those that have a character with flaws who does grow and change as a result of a big catastrophe or problem that changes everything in her life. I adore a little flirtation and romance—the anticipation of that first kiss is so delicious.

Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

I am such a morning person. I love the quiet and peacefulness, and always make a huge cup of flavored coffee. I do my best work at the local college. They have an amazing library with expansive windows that look over Mobile’s landscape and, in the distance, downtown city buildings. There’s a lot of green space around the cottage and the vibe is full of energy. It’s a happy place.  

I’m always fascinated by how authors can churn out multiple books in a short time span. How do you manage your writing time between Stardust Summer and your forthcoming Pie Girls?

I have some personal challenges in my life right now, so I made the decision to put Pie Girls on hold for a few months. Laura Pepper Wu had read Stardust Summer about a year ago, and suggested that with some changes—mostly in terms of Grace’s character development— the book would be ready to publish. I actually wrote the novel about seven years ago, so it was one of my first manuscripts. (So in terms of the short time span, it’s only one dog year, right??). It was a bit of a gamble, because I didn’t know if readers would embrace the storyline like they seemed to in Dancing Naked in Dixie.

After two months of hard work, though, I was pleased with the revisions. In the end, it was cathartic to release Stardust Summer. With the rest of my life in a bit of turmoil, it was a positive task that I was able to focus on. There’s nothing better than hitting that “upload” key!! 

And last, but not least, how do you spend your “free” time  when you’re not writing?

I went to the movies last night with about a dozen people—so fun—and we sit in the back row of the theater for $5.00 Tuesdays! This morning, I am actually running off to yoga class in about five minutes. I am meeting a close group of friends for lunch to celebrate a birthday, and then, this afternoon, have a meeting regarding a fundraiser for one of the local hospitals. It’s a Festival of Flowers event, and our job is to make Dancing Naked in Dixie into a visual display for the “Seeds of Wisdom” part of the charity event. I like to be home by 3:30 in the afternoon to see my children. I’m big on making dinner at home, even if it’s just burgers or tacos. And of course, at night, before I fall asleep, I love to read. I’m halfway through John Green’s fabulous novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Thank you so much for having me on Chick Lit Cafe, Jessica!

Be sure to check out Lauren’s blog for more about her writing life. Go here for my review of Stay Tuned. And go here for my review on Dancing Naked in Dixie.