Book Review – Little Gray Dress by Aimee Brown

I’m so excited to be a part of the book tour for Aimee Brown’s debut novel, Little Gray Dress!  When I read the excerpt a couple months ago, I knew it would be the perfect summer read!

Book Blurb 

Emi Harrison has avoided her ex-fiancé, Jack Cabot, for nearly two years. Her twin brother Evan’s wedding is about to end that streak. From bad bridesmaid’s dresses, a hyperactive sister-in- law, a mean girl with even meaner secrets, and too much to drink, nothing seems to go right for Emi, except when she’s wearing her little gray dress. When she speed-walks into Liam Jaxon’s bar, things get more complicated. He’s gorgeous, southern, and has no past with Emi. He may be exactly what she needs to prove for the last time that she doesn’t need or want Jack!

Her favorite little gray dress has made an appearance at nearly every major event in Emi’s adult life. Will it make another when she least expects it?

My Review

Emi Harrison’s world came crashing down around her just days before her wedding when she found her fiance, Jack Cabot in a compromising situation with his assistant.  After high-tailing it out of Portland, she managed to steer clear of Jack for two years.  That is until her brother’s wedding to Jack’s sister.

While it’s been two years, it’s obvious Emi is still in love with Jack…even if she won’t admit it to herself.  As she returns home to Portland, Emi goes on an emotional roller coaster as she sees Jack for the first time since their break-up and is forced to meet his new fiancée.  Through the twists and turns of the wedding weekend, truths from two years ago come to light, and Emi begins to see things were not entirely how they seemed.

I truly enjoyed this book.  There are charismatic supporting characters that add to the story.  Aimee Brown’s wonderful characterization makes everyone feel like an old friend!  Make sure you have Little Gray Dress on your summer reading list!  It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

About Aimee Brown

Aimee Brown is a writer and avid reader, often blogging her thoughts on chick lit books. Little Gray Dress is her first novel published. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s degree in English Writing. She spends much of her time writing her next book, doing homework, raising three teenagers, binge watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to use far too many swear words.

Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and many, many pets.

An Interview with Aimee

When I read the excerpt of Little Gray Dress, I wanted to hear more about the inspiration.  I was so happy to interview Aimee to hear a little bit more about her and what inspired her to write her debut novel!

When did you first realize you wanted to write a book?

I knew I wanted to write a book about 10 years ago. One day, long ago, while my kids were calm (lol) I for some reason sat down and started writing. I ended up with a story and I was shocked how much fun it was to create.

After that I enrolled in school to earn my English/Creative Writing Bachelor’s Degree and an instructor of a creative writing class loved just about anything I wrote so, I figured maybe I’d found my calling.

It only took 10 years to finally find the story that wanted to surface all the way to the magical words, the end.

Have other authors inspired you to write?  If so, who?

SO, many. Obviously, like every other chick lit lover on the planet, I adore anything by; Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, Emily Giffin, Candace Bushnell, Janet Evanovich and right on down the list.

Indie authors are amazing too. There are so many I admire that I’d hate to list them and forget someone!

Where do you like to write?  At home?  An office?  Coffee shops?  Somewhere else?

For the most part I write at home. Half of my living room is an office/dining room combined so I write until my heart is content and never feel like I’m missing out on the action of the family.

Once in awhile I’ll head to a coffee shop in an attempt to write. Normally, though, I find myself distracted and more interested in my surroundings and eaves dropping… so, I do most of my writing at home.

Do you have any writing process that you follow?  For instance, do you outline your plot first or do you dive in to brainstorming and writing?

I have zero processes. LOL I’m not a big planner when it comes to my own life even though I’m like the organizing queen.

I’m a total panster and I never go into a story with any kind of idea where it might go. Generally, I’ve been getting to know my characters in my head for a few weeks before I’ll sit down to write so they pretty much drive the story. More often than not though I seem to get stuck at a dead end and know that it probably wasn’t the story quite ready to be written yet.

Needless to say, I have a lot of people talking in my head at all times! The challenge is, not talking back when I’m in public.

What was the inspiration behind the story of your debut novel, Little Gray Dress

I love weddings and fast moving stories. Besides that, there wasn’t much that really pushed Little Gray Dress in to becoming what it is. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo 2016 and pushed myself to write 5000 words a day. I was determined to finally get a book completed. I had too! Time was ticking and I was getting impatient with myself.

When I finally hit the end I was amazed! I’d done it! I’d written an entire story. And even though I wasn’t completely happy with it (it was nothing like it is now) I knew I could work with it and turn it into something great.

How long did it take you to write?

I’m always afraid to answer this question! The first draft took me 10 days. The second draft took me a couple weeks. The third draft, after my beta readers got me their thoughts, only took a couple more weeks. You could say when a story finds me, I’m ready to knock it out quickly. I also have older kids who are completely self sufficient so I have a LOT of time to sit and write. That helps move things quickly.

What is one of your favorite books you’ve read recently?

Oh, gosh. I just finished I Have Never by Camilla Isley. I’ve adored every single one of her books. This latest one is no exception. There is just something about Camilla’s writing that I can’t seem to get enough of!

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

Hmmm… well, I own three teenagers, a husband, three cats, three dogs, a tank full of fish and a house that never seems to stay clean. I also homeschool a kid and run a business with my husband, so between all that I don’t have a lot of time to do much more than grocery shop and shower. LOL

I do watch some TV, lay in the sun (bad, I know!), shop, decorate and redecorate my house and walk some of the local parks in the evenings. I’m pretty low key and a total homebody.

Thanks Aimee for taking the time to answer my questions and including me on your blog tour!

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Book Reviews – Heart of the Matter and Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

As I have mentioned before, Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors.  So this week I have two more of her books to share with you!  Heart of the Matter and Where We Belong are Ms. Giffin’s fifth and sixth novels.  Like all of her previous books, she takes on tough life situations with an interesting perspective.  I hope my reviews do them justice and you give them a try!

 

Heart of the Matter

I admit I held off on reading Heart of the Matter for well over a year after its release in 2010 despite being an Emily Giffin fan. The synopsis seemed different from her other books, and I read multiple reviews that weren’t as glowing as the ones for her previous four books. However, I’d been hooked on her writing style since I had read Something Borrowed. She has the innate ability to eloquently portray real life circumstances through the actions of her characters. I know many authors (if not most) exhibit the same skill set, but what I’ve found separates Ms. Giffin from the rest is her knack to not necessarily turn the tables of right and wrong or good and bad, but illustrate how good people with no ill intentions can do the wrong thing. Heart of the Matter is no different.

Tessa and Valerie are two mothers living in the Boston area with little in common until one night, an accident intertwines their lives and flips both of their worlds upside down. Unlike her first four books, Heart of the Matter is told in alternating points of view delivering the story of these two women as they are forced to examine their lives, decisions they’ve made, and what is the heart of the matter.

 

Where We Belong

At 36, life is pretty close to perfect for Marian Caldwell.  Her successful career as a television producer and stable, long term relationship has everyone – including herself – convinced life cannot get much better.  However, one fateful night, life changes for Marian when 18 year old Kirby Rose knocks on her door.  Marian and Kirby travel down an emotional road stirring memories – filled with a young love affair and secrets – Marian thought were buried and forgotten long ago.  Together, both women learn about each other, but more importantly, their journey forces Marian and Kirby to look deep inside themselves and learn who they are.

The storyline of this novel is different than the other Giffin novels I read.  However, I wasn’t disappointed; like always, her writing delivered.  In fact, with each of her novels I read, the clearer it becomes what talent she has for capturing tough life-changing decisions and characterizing the dynamics in a wide array of relationships.  As we all know, life is full of tough decisions.  From the outside looking in, it’s always easy to judge what’s right and what’s wrong.  However, Giffin so eloquently flips that perspective.  What is the rationale when we have to make that decision?  The lines between right and wrong are easily blurred, and we’re left to make decisions and live with the consequences.  As Giffin challenges her readers to look beyond the moral boundaries of right and wrong, Kirby challenges Marian to unlock doors from her past so they can both find where they truly belong.

One fun fact about Where We Belong…I received an advanced signed copy from Emily Giffin!

I hope you put both Heart of the Matter and Where We Belong on your reading list!  If you’d like book reviews like this sent directly to you each week, sign-up for my weekly newsletter here!

Book Review – To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

Over the past few years, Jill Mansell has become one of my go to authors.  Whenever I’m in need of a new book and I don’t have one in mind, I search the Kindle store for one of hers and I’ve never been disappointed.  To the Moon and Back is the fifth novel I’ve read by Jill Mansell, and like all of her others, I was thoroughly entertained with her witty humor and storytelling.

What would you do if the love of your life was tragically killed?  Could you pick up the pieces and move on?  Unfortunately, Ellie Kendall finds herself in that situation when her husband dies in a car accident.  A year after his death, she realizes she needs to move out of their flat which had suddenly become rundown by low income tenants and find a new job with colleagues who won’t look at her as though she’s about to break at the drop of a hat.

With her move across town, Ellie finds a new friend in her new neighbor, Roo – who is true to form to all of Mansell’s supporting characters.  She’s a former pop star diva, once mistress turned do-gooder to pay for her sins.  Her new job?  It’s perfect.  She lands a job as an assistant to Zach McLaren – a successful entrepreneur.  Like all of Mansell’s novels, there’s twists and turns along the way and nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems to Ellie.  As she heals and starts to move on with her life, she faces opportunities that force her to decide if she’s really ready to jump back into the dating pool.

Whether it’s your first or fifth Jill Mansell book, you won’t be disappointed.  It’s perfect for a warm summer day by the pool or a perfect one to save for those early, chilly fall nights at home.

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Source for image above is Amazon

Book Reviews – Baby Proof and Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin

As you can probably guess by now, Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors.  So this week I have two more of her books to share with you!  Baby Proof  and Love the One You’re With are Ms. Giffin’s third and fourth novels.  Like Something Borrowed and Something Blue, she takes on tough life situations with an interesting perspective.  I hope my reviews do them justice and you give them a try!

Baby Proof

Growing up, most girls dream of becoming a mom one day, but not Claudia.  It was never in her plan. Now, as a successful book editor, she couldn’t be happier to have found her husband Ben, who shares her “no kids for me” philosophy…that is, until his biological clock starts ticking.  She loves Ben, but a baby was never part of Claudia’s life plan so she moves out and ultimately agrees to a divorce.

Claudia begins to live the single life again living with her college roommate and starts a steamy love affair with her colleague, Richard.  However, when she suspects Ben has found a new, young love interest to perhaps bear his children, Claudia begins to doubt her decision.

Like all of Giffin’s novels, Baby Proof tackles tough life decisions, and drives home the point that some decisions don’t have a right and wrong.  “There are trade-offs and sacrifices” in life, and there comes a point when you have to realize nothing is perfect.  We can have the best laid plans for our life, but sometimes, we have to change our plans.

As I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book given the subject matter, but like always, Giffin intertwines a few subplots with her strong character development to make Baby Proof a page turner until the very end.

Love the One You’re With

When I hear the phrase “love the one you’re with,” I automatically think settling. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the plot of this book, but once again, Ms. Giffin didn’t disappoint me. In fact, Love the One You’re With is one of my favorite Emily Giffin books!

Not long after her wedding, Ellen has a chance encounter with a past love, Leo, and afterward, she’s left wondering whether her life with her husband Andy is truly what she wants or if it’s what she has decided to settle for. When Ellen and Andy move from New York City to the suburbs of Atlanta for Andy’s career, her internal battle intensifies with resentment. As Ellen’s marriage begins to fall apart, she’s forced to choose between the life she has with Andy and the life she thought she lost long ago with Leo.

What I loved most about this book even more so than the other three books I read by Emily Giffin, was how real it was. Whether or not you’ve been in the same situation as Ellen or not, I think most readers will be able to identify with her internal battle. We all know what’s “right,” but sometimes we can’t help but wonder what if. The what if may not be better and we know that, but yet we still wonder. As Ms. Giffin so poignantly says “it’s simply human nature to have an occasional, fleeting interest in someone whom you once loved.” But is pure human curiosity enough to take a leap of faith?

Love isn’t straightforward. “Things are seldom as neat and tidy as that starry-eyed anecdote” shared with family and friends. Love isn’t a constant fairy tale painted with romance day in and day out; it’s a “choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what the obstacles or temptations stand in the way.” Ms. Giffin illustrates this so well with her innate ability to characterize raw human emotion as she tempts her heroine and poses the age old ethical question: do you stray or do you love the one you’re with?

I hope you enjoy both of these books as much as I did!  Load them on your Kindle and head to the beach or the pool for an afternoon of some great reading!  If you’d like book reviews like this email directly to you each week, sign-up here for my weekly book review newsletter!

Book Review – Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

I’ve been a fan of Barbara Delinsky for several years. Looking for Peyton Place and Lake News are two of my favorite books, and Sweet Salt Air ranks right up there with them!

While they haven’t seen each other in 10 years, Nicole invites Charlotte back to her family’s home on Quinnipeague – an island off the coast of Maine – to help write a cookbook on the cuisine unique to the island. Throughout the summer, they reconnect but are forced to face secrets from the past and realities that threaten to change their lives. I was drawn into the story from the beginning. Ms. Delinsky’s attention to detail and character development feed the plot seamlessly!

After reading Sweet Salt Air, I was ready to book a trip to Maine.  I wanted to walk along the rocky beaches and taste some of the amazing food that’s part of Nicole and Charlotte’s cookbook.

Sweet Salt Air on Amazon

Sweet Salt Air is a perfect beach read!  Just be prepared to be hungry after reading about all of the delicious Maine cuisine!

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Source for image above is Amazon.

Book Review – And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper

A few years ago, I was looking for a book to read over a snowy weekend.  I was looking for an author I hadn’t read anything by.  I found And One Last Thing by Molly Harper. It was funny, light-hearted at times, and above all else entertaining. I love a book with a certain element of “fluff,” and this fit the bill perfectly!

From the first page, you’re thrust into the heart of the story when 30 year old Lacey Terwilliger mistakenly receives a bouquet of flowers from her husband that was intended for his mistress. Suddenly, the life she knew comes crashing down as she deals with the realization that her husband has been having an affair with his assistant. Lacey’s pain, rage, and embarrassment are characterized so well. In her fit of anger, she sends a mass email detailing her husband’s affair to his clients, friends, and family. As the email goes viral and becomes an Internet sensation, she escapes to her grandmother’s lakefront cabin to avoid the media frenzy and the craziness of the divorce.

While it’s a predictable theme in most chick lit books, she went to the cabin seeking solitude, but that’s when she meets Monroe, her sexy, new neighbor. However, it’s not as cut and dry as boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Monroe has a rule to keep his distance from divorced women, and that suits Lacey just fine. However, in time they develop a friendship that eventually leads to intimacy, and in the end, Lacey ultimately has to decide if she can take a chance and love again.

As the reader, you’re in Lacey’s head for the entire book. You know what she’s thinking and why she’s doing what she’s doing, no matter how crazy it may be. (Skinning dipping in the middle of the night? You’ll know why! And you’ll laugh through the ordeal, which involves Monroe thinking she is committing suicide!) And that mass email is so carefully written as the typical wronged wife. However, as crazy as Lacey is at times, I found myself cheering and laughing as she said “one last thing.”

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Book Reviews – Summer Rental & Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

A couple of years ago, I was browsing through Goodreads as I prepared for vacation looking for a few books to put on my Kindle.  I stumbled upon an author I had never read before, Mary Kay Andrews.  Two of her books, Summer Rental and Spring Fever, had good reviews so I downloaded them for the flights.  I’m so happy I did because I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and I’d recommend them to anyone looking for a good dose of romance and chick lit!

Summer Rental

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie are three women in their mid-30s who have been best friends since grade school. They decide to rent a house on the Outer Banks for the month of August as a girls getaway. Throw in Ty, the good looking landlord, and Maryn, a woman on the run from her troubles, and there are twists and turns along the way.

Summer Rental on Amazon

Spring Fever

Small southern town, old love resurfacing, long standing family business at risk of a corporate takeover – it may sound cliché for chick lit, but Spring Fever is anything but.  There are twists that keep you guessing and romance that makes your heart flutter.  It’s the perfect book for a couple relaxing afternoons by the pool or on the beach. I definitely enjoyed Spring Fever more than Summer Rental.  I love storylines with past relationships coming back around.  Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me, but I feel the pang of nostalgia as I read and to me, there’s nothing better!

Spring Fever on Amazon

I hope you check out both Summer Rental and Spring Fever!  Mary Kay Andrews has most definitely become one of my favorite authors.  In fact, one of her newer novels, The Weekenders, is on my list for the summer.  I hope to share my review of that book soon!  I hope you enjoy Spring Fever and Summer Rental as much as I did!

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Book Review – Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Despite a lot of positive reviews, I was slightly hesitant to read Emily Giffin’s first novel, Something Borrowed. The whole premise of the book, the main character sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé, isn’t exactly the storyline I usually go for. However, back in the spring of 2011, the movie version was set to be released and I had heard a lot of positive feedback from friends so I decided to take the plunge and read it. I’m so glad I did. Unlike other novels with an affair at its core, Ms. Giffin did a stellar job of turning the tables and made the reader sympathetic to the cheater or at the very least open to her situation.

Meet Rachel and Darcy. They’ve been best friends for years. Rachel is the perpetual good girl, who’s worked hard for everything she has in life, and Darcy, well, she’s that girl you know and sometimes scratch your head in wonder about how everything in her life has always fallen into place. However, on the eve of her 30th birthday, Rachel finds herself in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. While Rachel resigns herself to thinking it was a one-time, drunken mistake, the fling soon becomes a full blown affair. To make matters worse (as if it could), Rachel is not only Darcy’s best friend she is her maid of honor.

As the story follows Rachel, Darcy, and Dex, that’s Darcy’s fiancé, and their friends through the summer, the lines of right and wrong get blurred. As easy as it is to say cheating is wrong, Ms. Giffin makes a subtle but strong case that there are “no moral absolutes.”

When I first read Something Borrowed, I was 29, which was essentially the same age as Rachel and Darcy so I found myself relating to them and laughing alongside of them throughout the entire book. One of my favorite scenes was the night of Darcy’s bachelorette party. Darcy spent the night at Rachel’s apartment because she wanted to relive the days of childhood sleepovers. If you ever had a best friend that was like a sister to you, you’ll relate and feel the bond between Rachel and Darcy. They truly have a history filled with good memories, and that’s what makes Rachel’s situation all the more difficult and intriguing.

The focal point of the novel is a heavy one, but the story itself is another segment of growing up. We grow up learning right from wrong, but the truth of the matter is life isn’t black and white. Sometimes it takes us until we’re 29 going on 30 to fully learn the lesson and realize that there are always tough decisions to make. And of course when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes, we learn that a man should never be something borrowed.

Something Borrowed on Amazon

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Summer Reading Time!

At the end of the month, it will be Memorial Day weekend and I don’t know about you, but this warm weather we’ve been having has me thinking about the beach!  As I’ve been posting for the past few weeks, starting Thursday, May 25th I’ll be emailing a weekly newsletter with book review of some great summer reading books!  If you haven’t signed up yet, make sure you do by clicking here.

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorite book series, The Callaways by Barbara Freethy.  The series revolves around a large, firefighting Irish Catholic family in San Francisco.  Jack and Lynda Callaway have the stereotypical his, hers, and ours family – his four boys, her two girls, and their set of fraternal boy girl twins.  Each book follows one of their now adult children.  While the ending of each book may be a bit predictable, there are twists and turns, mystery and suspense, and romance and passion thrown into each story.

On A Night Like This

So This is Love

Falling for a Stranger

Between Now and Forever*

All a Heart Needs

That Summer Night

When Shadows Fall*

Somewhere Only We Know

Each book is a standalone story, but one of my favorite parts about the series is that each subsequent book gives you little updates on how characters from previous books are doing.  I grew so fond of the series that I was a little upset when I finished book #8, but there’s good news!  Ms. Freethy has continued the series with the Callaway cousins.  I’ve read the first few and they’re just as good!  If you’re looking for books to put on your summer reading list, The Callaways series by Barbara Freethy is a must!

P.S. – Asterisks represent my favorites.  If you read the series, I’d love to know if you liked it and which books were your favorites!

Finding that peace of mind

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably know that along with writing I love to run.  It’s a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Most days, I have a goal in mind – a certain distance, a particular pace.  But some days, it’s not about the miles or the time on my watch; it’s about the road in front of me and the peace of mind I get in return.

So it goes without saying that one of my favorite passages to write in The Other Side of Later was the running scene in Chapter 3. Julia runs through Sea Grass on a familiar route.  As she tries to ease the tension of her workday, she relishes in the memories she finds along the path. Like Julia, each time I lace up my sneakers and go for a run up and down the same streets I have since high school, I feel comfort. There’s a normalcy that keeps me grounded.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 3 of The Other Side of Later.

My sneakers ran on automatic pilot down a familiar path on Oak Street towards Veterans Park. After college, Aaron and I settled in my small hometown, whose Jersey Shore charm is undeniable while its name — Sea Grass— is unoriginal at best. Years ago, before the town became a suburb of Atlantic City, a majority of the area along the bay was covered with sea grass. As the story goes, fishermen, who used the area for crabbing, would refer to the track of land as Sea Grass. Through the years, as more people settled in the vicinity, the name stuck. While the name may have seemed generic and like any other small shore town, there were memories down every street and around every corner. Oak, the main street through town, appropriately name for the tall oaks that lined both sides, hosted the annual Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. Each summer the bay front properties line with shops and restaurants were invaded by tourists or shoebies as us permanent Jersey Shore residents called them. This was home to me.

The late August humidity was oppressive. The air felt heavy. It was like a snowsuit clung to my legs with every stride. As I reached the bike path surrounding the park, the sun disappeared behind clouds rolling in from the west. The shade was a welcome change and helped take my mind off of the heat so I could enjoy the peacefulness of the park.

I felt the built up tension from work gradually disappear as I hit my stride. I was about halfway around the loop when I felt a large drop of rain hit my forehead. I closed my eyes for a moment and hoped that I imagined it. As three more large drops hit my face and arms, I knew it wasn’t my imagination so I quickened my pace in an effort to beat the worst of the storm. I was over a mile away from my house so as the rumble of thunder got louder, I realized it would be a losing battle. Within seconds, I was in the middle of a complete downpour. Multiple lightning strikes illuminated the darkened sky so I sprinted towards the gazebo in the center of the park.

Please check out The Other Side of Later on Amazon!