Arden Recommends It Must’ve Been the Mistletoe by L.P. Dover (interview & giveaway included)

IMG_3924Book: It Must’ve Been the Mistletoe

Author: L.P. Dover

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Basic Description: A sweet, holiday romance by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, L.P. Dover.  

Finding your soul mate is a dream Adeline Hamilton thought was just that … a dream. After several failed relationships, she realizes she’s not capable of falling in love. The only passion she’s ever had is teaching U.S. History at the local high school.

A week before Christmas, Adeline is all set for her best friend’s wedding, even though she dreads having to go to it alone. But when she’s given a Christmas wish that could change her future forever, she’s whisked away to the past, to a completely different place and time. It’s also when she meets him, William Blair, the man who steals her heart.
Arden’s Thoughts: I’m a sucker for a Hallmark movie; except the ones starring the red-headed woman. Something about how she scrunches her face no matter what character she’s portraying drives me nuts. Sorry, not sorry. My favorite is Lacey Chabert. She likes smiling. Smiling’s her favorite.
No, I’m not digressing. I’m setting the scene.
L.P. Dover has quite the writing career. Her talent astounds me because she can write so many types of stories. She’s published everything from fantasy fiction to saucy romance under her bestselling wings. So, when she approached me to read her latest book, It Must’ve Been The Mistletoe, I was curious…
She told me it was more Hallmark than Showtime, but I really wondered if a little Lifetime Movie Network would slip into her story.
Let me tell you, she nailed her goal of writing a sweet, romantic, clean Christmas romance. Her book is delicious and fun. There are twists of Christmas magic woven from start to finish. L.P. has found another audience to add to her long list of readers and I couldn’t be happier to introduce her to my book club. Check out our interview. Oh, and we’ve got something for you too… Keep reading to see what…
Arden: L.P., your plot is so interesting. Without revealing too much, how did you come up with it?
L.P.: Well … I wanted to do something different besides your every day Christmas romance. I figured adding a little bit of magic and time travel was just what it needed. I wanted to give the readers an escape into the past.

Arden: Oh, I loved escaping to the past. I found myself walking through the streets with Adeline and reliving days gone by… Are you a history junkie like Adeline?

L.P.: Oh my goodness, you have no idea. I’ve always wanted to know where I come from. When I joined, I spent hours upon hours putting together my family tree. One of my relatives on my dad’s side sought me out and told me some amazing stories that my father had no clue of. It was pretty crazy.

Arden: I bet! Speaking of stories… this book is quite different from others you’ve published. Why did you take the slight turn in your writing?

L.P.: I wanted to write something clean so I could appeal to a different group of readers. Not to mention, It Must’ve Been the Mistletoe is a Christmas novel and it just wouldn’t work any other way. When I think of Christmas, I think of wholesome and sweet. I wanted my characters to enjoy each other in a fun-filled way with the snowball fights and snickerdoodles.
Arden: That’s really cool and speaks to your talent as a writer. You’ve published SO MANY books. If it’s possible to pick, what is your favorite book you have written?
L.P.: This is seriously a hard question. All of my books hold a special place in my heart. Can I maybe give you a few of my favorites and tell you why?
As of right now, It Must’ve Been the Mistletoe is my favorite. Maybe because it’s fresh on my mind, but mostly, because I love Christmas. It’s a magical story.
Meant for Me is one of my sexy romantic suspense novels. I love MMA fighting and it’s the first book where I put my male hero as an MMA fighter/undercover cop. The story is full of angst and action. I enjoyed writing it more than any other book. What really makes it special is that it’s the first book of mine to ever hit the USA Today bestsellers list. It’s the one book that’s changed my life.
Then we have, Love’s Second Chance. I based the story off of mine and my husband’s relationship. It’s OUR love story … just jazzed up a bit to make it more dramatic.
Arden: So, what’s up next for you?
L.P.: I am getting ready to start the next book in my Circle of Justice series, In the Crossfire. This series is about a group of vigilante assassins who hunt the dregs of society who escaped the justice system. Guess you can say after watching the news and seeing so many people get off easy from their crimes, I figured out a way to make them pay. I know that sounds intense, but I also add in the heavy romantic suspense. It all balances out. I get my love story and I punish a few criminals in the process.

Arden: Clearly, I know what I’m reading next. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like my Arden’s Book Club readers to know?

L.P.: Just that I appreciate them taking the time to read this interview, and that I hope they have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
I hope you do too! To help make it wonderful, L.P. and I are giving away an autographed copy of It Must’ve Been the Mistletoe to a lucky Arden’s Book Club reader. Here’s how you enter:
1. Like my pages on Instagram and Facebook. (Linked)
2. Like L.P.’s Instagram and Facebook. (Linked)
3. Remark DONE in the comment section.
4. Enter by 5 p.m. EST December 16, 2017.

Arden Recommends Monique McCullough’s Mr. Doodle and the Flying Emu & Color Me Georgi (interview included)

IMG_3680Books: Color Me Georgi and Mr. Doodle and the Flying Emu

Author: Monique McCullough

Genre: Children

Basic Description: For Color Me Georgi: Georgi is a sweet, playful flower who finds herself in the flowerbed without any colors. She has lots of friends, including Mrs. Sun and Mr. Ocean, who are willing to lend her some of their colors. But she needs your help to make it happen! See what unfolds, page by page, as children close their eyes and use their vivid imaginations to make Georgi a darling masterpiece!

For Mr. Doodle and the Flying Emu: Come along on this whimsical journey as Mr. Doodle reveals the mystery behind the flying emu. It is a page-turning adventure…can your imagination take you there? Join in this creative quest and you will learn the truth behind the flying emu!

Arden’s Thoughts: Finding the newest up-and-coming author is a thrill for book reviewers. Finding them in your backyard and knowing they’re a fellow Tar Heel is a thrill on thrill for me! When Monique McCullough reached out to me to discuss her books, I was so very thankful I said, “yes.” She’s a gem and I can’t wait for y’all to read these books and her many, many more to come! Check out my interview with her and see why I fell in love at first sight.

Of note: Monique is Australian. So, read her answers with your best Aussie accent!

Arden: Thanks for chatting with me today, Monique. I’ll start with my usual question, when did you decide to write and publish your own books?

Monique: I have always loved to read and write. I wrote articles for the local newspapers in high school and taught English in Indonesia, so I have had a long passion for literacy and education. When our children came along, I chose to give up my corporate career so I could stay home with them. I needed a creative outlet though! After reading hundreds of children’s books, my daughter and I started writing our own little stories. She, however, wanted to see them as a “real book” and not just on brown butcher’s paper! Fortunately, I have some friends in the publishing industry and so I was able to pick their brains and decide on the best path to take my scraps of paper and make them into a “real” book.

Arden: That’s so cool. In thinking about going from brown butcher paper to “real” books, what’s your favorite part about writing and illustrating? On that note, your least favorite part about it?

fullsizeoutput_275 (1)Monique: My favorite part is asking my daughter and her friends about the words and pictures. I love to listen to their big ideas and I really try to honor the brains of little people.

My least favorite part is that good things take time. I am a naturally impatient person (hence why I wasn’t prepared to wait around for years sending my books off to publisher’s haystacks!). It is really difficult to find enough time in the day to devote to writing, illustrating, cooking, cleaning, and loving on my little munchkins! The struggle to balance it all is a daily effort. Still, I think that is a powerful message in itself; find your passions, work hard, play hard. Prioritizing is hard, and some days we get it right and other days I fail miserably – but I always try to be grateful for the opportunity to fail.

Arden: Wow, Monique. That is a powerful message. Thank you for sharing it with us. Now, you’ve mentioned you include your children in the process. How does that work?

Monique: Well, it is a little like a corporate brainstorming session, but with Goldfish. We sit around and start talking about ideas and just begin doodling. We talk about characters and plot and side plots and morals and words. We just keep working on it – in the car, on the way to gymnastics, at the playground, in the bathtub. It is a very organic process in the beginning. Actually, Mr. Doodle and the Flying Emu was borne out of a National Geographic documentary we were watching one afternoon!

Once I get it in somewhat of a cohesive format, then we can start reading it and testing it out on the little people. Their questions and giggles really help guide the development process. I take my cues from them because they are my audience!

I must say, however, that it is my biggest kid who is the most helpful in the process – that’s my husband!

Arden: Hahaha, if you can get your hubby laughing then I’d say you’re on the right path for sure! I love it when fathers read to their children. So, after the writing process, you’re ready to be published. What’s your advice for others trying to get published?

Monique:  Firstly, children’s picture books are a whole other world. There is a massive amount of time that goes in to the architecture of a picture book – it is meticulous work that can be very frustrating and tedious. Someone told me that picture books were ten times the amount of work as a traditional book – I can believe it! Get ready to roll your sleeves up and get frustrated! Then it will be worth it!

Arden: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you want Arden’s Book Club readers to know?

Monique: I try, where possible, to make these books environmentally friendly. These are, after all, children’s books and I want to make sure I am doing my little part to protect our earth for our kiddos! We try to do carbon offsets when shipping. We source local printers, and we try to use environmentally friendly papers and inks when the choice is available. We are proudly local, independent, and we are doing our best to be a good corporate citizen in our own little way. Also, 10% of the profits from Mr. Doodle will be donated to UNICEF.   

You can follow our journey on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads and sometimes we even pop onto Pinterest to share ideas.

Arden Review: Detour Down Desperation Road (author interview included)

IMG_3622BookDetour Down Desperation Road

Author: Ann Renigar Hiatt, Ph.D.

Genre: Nonfiction

Basic Description:  One day your loved one begins forgetting things and you realize that it is more than normal aging. You don’t know where to go or what to do. Dr. Ann’s stories place you into the emotional and physical pressures on loving people who are desperate to learn how to help.

Experience the uncertainty, angst, and triumph as they alter their lives and draw on extraordinary intuition and strength and tackle problems, invent coping skills, and honor loved ones who slide deeper into dementia. Meet Ann’s strong, determined, entrepreneurial mother, known as ‘the hardware lady,’ as she hoards, obsesses, and persists while dementia slowly claims her brain. Ann’s inner guides, emotional Ann and rational Ann, whisper contradictory advice. Her love of her mother steers her to emotional resolutions. When all else fails, she must rely on rational decisions. She finds solace with support group members and others whose trials and solutions change daily as loved ones slip deeper into a condition for which there is no cure. 

Arden’s Thoughts: As I read the stories of Dr. Ann, her mother, and her friends in the support group, all I could think was, This is hard. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. How does dementia happen and how do these caregivers not go nuts? 

I’ve never personally dealt with dementia so I can’t relate as closely to this book as so many of you can. I’m including this book in my book club because of each of you… I have this feeling Dr. Ann’s work will break open dialogue among your friends and families. It’ll relieve so many of you because you’ll feel like someone gets your situation. And, it’ll begin to open all of our eyes to the plight of losing our sense of self and how to help those in similar situations endure that chapter of their lives.

I was lucky enough to get interview Dr. Ann. I’m sharing the highlights of our conversation here. Please read and then share this post. It’s an important one.

Arden: Thank you for chatting with me today, Dr. Ann. Let’s start with a basic question: Why did you write Detour Down Desperation Road
Dr. Ann: I was living in Ohio, restoring a historic home, and traveling back and forth to Europe when I realized that my North Carolina mother’s conversations were not her—not the mother I knew.  My dad died when I was eleven and over the years Mom became a strong, independent business woman who owned a small hardware store.  I soon became a “road warrior,” traveling weekly from Ohio trying to keep her functioning until I could somehow move back to my home state.  I could not stay with her because over time, she filled every nook and cranny of her house with “stuff.”  Yes, she was a hoarder and determined not to change.
Arden: Hhhmmm… I’m sure so many can relate to what you experienced. How did you feel during this time?
Dr. Ann: My Detour Down Desperation Road is not a sad story about death but a book about life—the ingenuity, perseverance, and clever ways that caregivers solve conflicts and problems.  It is about human emotions in times of stress and loss.   My story is peppered with the adventures of my support group members.  Their love for their parents and spouses guided them through seemingly insurmountable situations.
Arden: Believe me, so many people will benefit from your story and the stories from your support group members.

Dr. Ann: I hope so. I did not start writing until after Mom passed away and I did it to honor my mom and pay tribute to the indomitable people I met along my journey.  I knew deep down that my story was one small example of an epidemic that is happening to countless families across the world.  I felt so lost and afraid.  I wanted to be a beacon for others.

Arden: You’re so brave. Thank you for being a beacon for others. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?
Dr. Ann:  I still miss my Mom, the woman I always knew and loved before that horrible disease attacked her brain.  Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia, there are many.  For every person who gets the disease, there is at least one person who must dive in and help them, become their advocate.   With my stories, I wanted to provide insight and let them know where to begin and most of all, that they are not alone.

Arden Recommends: One Happy Divorce

22728835_10154959164906447_152471219567095998_nBook: One Happy Divorce: Hold the Bulls#!t

Author: Jennifer Hurvitz Weintraub

Genre: Nonfiction, Relationships

Basic Description:  One Happy Divorce-Hold the Bulls#!t evolved from The Truth Hurvitz, the relationship blog by Jennifer Hurvitz Weintraub, and it’s as real as it gets. We all know divorce is tough, but it doesn’t have to be miserable! A happy ex equals a more peaceful life.

Jennifer serves up a trifecta of funny, insightful, and heartful anecdotes–a recipe for success. Through relatable stories and personal experiences, we learn that divorce doesn’t have to end in disaster. We all know a good marriage takes effort, well, so does a good divorce. And yes, there is such as thing as a “good divorce.” Mixing humor and heart, One Happy Divorce–Hold the Bulls#!t is a delicious slice of reality.

Arden’s Thoughts: Rarely do we get to see inside someone’s messy. Even in self-help relationship books, the messy we’re given is often the clean version of messy. The “my mom’s gonna read this so I better hold back on the 4-letter words and not tell all the nitty-gritty of my sex life” version.

Not Weintraub in One Happy Divorce. From the very first page, I can almost picture myself sitting on her couch, watching her crumble as she realizes her marriage failed, and growing into a different, stronger woman as she realizes she, and her children, will survive this mess.

Through humor and real-talk, our author gives actual strategies and tactics for those experiencing a divorce. From nesting with her ex to cleaning his house because she was bored to learning about dating in the swipe right world, our newly single friends will realize they aren’t alone in their antics while adjusting to their new lives.

An area that sparked particular interest with me was Weintraub’s loneliness. Her married friends didn’t know what to do with her anymore so they bailed. I’ve never been married, but I’ve experienced the same loneliness when friends gets married. I’m suddenly the forbidden friend; the one rarely called even though I came to the showers, bach weekends, rehearsal dinner, and wedding, the moment a couple says “I do” the single friends often get the “I don’t”… don’t wanna grab lunch or dinner, meet for happy hour, or do anything with you… I’ve never really understood this but I’m so used to it I’m numb to it.

However, it pricked at me that Weintraub would experience this same loneliness during such a traumatic time in her life. It left me thinking is that we all need to do better.

I truly believe One Happy Divorce will be a guidebook to helping all of us understand each other a little bit more. If a friend is going through a divorce, offer some grace, a cup of coffee, and this book. Your kindness goes a long way.



Arden Recommends: No, No Elizabeth by Carmen K. Jimenez

IMG_3227Book: No, No Elizabeth

Author: Carmen K. Jimenez

Genre: Children

Basic Description:  Elizabeth wants to play all day! From running around outside to jumping on the bed, she’s a curious little girl. But Mommy, Daddy, and even Liza the kitty can’t always play and sometimes they must say “no.” Through this sweet, colorful book, early readers will learn just because grownups say “no” sometimes, doesn’t mean they love any less.

Arden’s Thoughts: I love No, No Elizabeth for multiple reasons including the bold pictures, realistic characters, and easy-to-follow plot. What I love most though is the honesty of the story. As much as it breaks our hearts to tell our children, “no”, sometimes we simply cannot play with them. And our author, Carmen REALLY knows about the importance of play at the right time because she’s actually a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor. She’s writing her book from a place of expertise. Trust the tools in this book, especially the tool at the end: a play-by-play of how to have honest conversations with your children.

I believe books open doors and dialogues for all ages. No, No Elizabeth allows the open dialogue to start early with your children. Read it again and again!