Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with ABG Reads Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Lauren Clark, author of Stardust Summer!

Author Guest Post

Top Ten Things You Don't Know About Lauren Clark

Being an author means that your life—many parts of it—are public knowledge. It's easy to find out who my friends are (check my Facebook page and Tweets), find out what I've been up to (photographs on my website, blog entries), and my favorite things to do and eat (just check the biography in the back of my books, where I mention yoga, my adoration for flavored coffee and my grandmother's Mac & Cheese).

I'm also a people person, so meeting new friends (especially book lovers) is especially fun for me. I love to swap funny stories and hear great jokes (though I rarely remember the punch lines). I do remember names quite well, so I'm always asking my mailman, Robert, about his day, or my UPS delivery man, Daniel, about his knee injury, his wife Farrah, or the trip they're planning to take to Disney World this summer.

All of that said, I do have some quirks and qualities that I haven't shared with the rest of the world. It's not a comprehensive list, but I do hope that this top ten makes you smile!

10. I Have No Sense of Direction! At all. I get lost easily, because I often have my nose in a book or my Kindle when someone else is driving. When I was 16, and on my way from outside of Buffalo to my parents' cottage in the Finger Lakes, I went so far in the wrong direction that I nearly ran out of gas. I was slightly hysterical at that point and it was getting dark, and I went through a tiny town cruising about 20 miles over the speed limit. When a very kind policeman stopped me, I tearfully explained the situation. Luckily, he gave me a map, ten dollars to fill up my tank, and sent me back in the right direction without so much as a citation or warning.

9. I Used to Work at Six Flags - This had to be one of the most interesting experiences I had as a teenager. I worked in the game section—in a colorful booth with humongous stuffed animals hanging from the top. My particular job was to get people to play our game—and make it look easy! It involved dropping five thin metal circles on a wooden board to cover a larger red circle. It took me and the six other girls working there a week of practicing 8 hours a day to master the task. Believe me when I say that those games of chance at the Fair or Six Flags are truly designed to make money fly out of people's wallets. Rarely did anyone ever walk away with one of our 4 foot tall stuffed animals.

8. Ice Cream Isn't For Me - I worked the summer before graduate school at an ice cream factory; my job was taking phone orders. Any mislabeled half-gallons or mismatched popsicles ended up in a huge storage case in the break room, and employees were encouraged to take ALL of it home every week. Consequently, I ate ice cream every day and my parents' freezer was stocked to bursting with fudgesicles, ice cream sandwiches, and nutty bars. To this day, the thought of eating ice cream still makes me a little ill.

7. Flying Paralyzes Me - Since my entire family lives in New York, and my boys and I reside in Coastal Alabama, flying is necessary if I want to visit my parents, brothers, and cousins. I never actually worried about air travel until my jet hit a major air pocket on a trip to California fifteen years ago. We were over the Rockies on a pristine, clear-blue day in July and I was deep into a novel when the aircraft dropped what seemed like ten thousand feet. The jet fell far enough that I had time to grab my seat mate's hand and hold on for dear life. Since then, it takes medication, iPod music, and deep breathing to get on a jet. My boys, thankfully, ignore me when we hit bumps and I start hyperventilating. I tend to make friends with the flight attendants and actually held one's hand for about five minutes on my last trip when we hit some major rough air. (Yes, I wrote a BIG thank you note to Delta!!)

6. I Scare Easily - My boys and close friends (even those at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop) take particular delight in scaring the bejezus out of me. Embarrassingly, I jump practically out of my skin and almost shatter windows with my high-pitched scream. (I'm extremely ticklish, so it's usually a quick jab to the ribs that gets me).

5. I'm a Speed Reader - I can tear through most fiction in a day. Sometimes, I can finish a novel in less than a day if I have a solid block of time. The last book that I read was Emily Giffin's Where We Belong. (I LOVED it, by the way...her best out of the last few books she's written). Sidenote: The only person that I know of who's a reliably faster reader than I am is my mom. She's amazing.

4. I Still Have My Girl Scout Sash and Merit Badges - I was a bit of an overachiever in school, and that Type-A personality trickled over to my extracurricular activities. I don't have a ton of memorabilia from my childhood, but I did keep my Girl Scout sash and the forty-plus merit badges that I earned from the three years I spent wearing that bright green uniform. When I was home in February, I actually had a chance to wear the sash again for my niece, Sarah, at her Brownie meeting. There's nothing like a bunch of awe-struck second graders to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

3. Technical Stuff Makes my Brain Hurt - For everything that I've learned about the publishing industry, the formatting ebooks, paperbacks, and creating websites are skills I probably will never, ever learn. (Believe me, I've tried, and the headaches aren't worth it). My hat's off to anyone who understands HTML and can help me undo glitches on my blog. From experience, I know now that my time is much better spent focusing on the writing and editing. I'll let the experts work out spacing, typeface, and pagination any day.

2. I Love Eighties Music - Probably because it's what I grew up with, I adore any song that reminds me of my high school and college days. Though I have an eclectic music collection on my iPod that ranges from 1970 to today, my favorite songs to sing in the car (with my boys) range from Bon Jovi and the B-52's to R.E.M. and The Cure. For exercise, it's usually Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, the Go-Go's and Guns-n-Roses. When I'm feeling a bit more mellow, I turn up REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams, Sting, and Paul Simon.

1. Upstate NY is my Favorite Place in the World - Okay, so...this one isn't a secret AND it's the setting for my latest novel, Stardust Summer. But there's just something about the unspoiled beauty that surrounds the Finger Lake Region of Upstate New York that I can't help but love. As a child, I grew up vacationing on Keuka Lake, and my parents finally bought a cottage there about ten years ago. From the glacier-carved mountains to the pristine, clear waters...with a good book, a tall mug of flavored coffee, and my entire family nearby, it's the most peaceful, lovely place in the world to be.

Thank you Kathleen! It was great fun to work on this 'top ten list' for Jersey Girl Book Reviews.

About The Author

Lauren Clark has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast.

Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: ABG Reads Book Tours

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Book Review

Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark
Publisher: Camellia Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2013
Format: eBook - 280 pages / Kindle - 443 KB / Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 9780984725076
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Stardust Summer

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by ABG Reads Book Tours.

Book Description:

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.

Book Excerpt:


Ryan had seen her, at a distance. Grace seemed dreamy, lost in thought, when he approached. Her dark hair shone in shades of chestnut and amber, the ends of it curling up. Her cheeks were flushed a healthy pink, like she’d been laughing at something wonderful, and her eyes were closed so tightly he could see her thick lashes on her cheeks. She was blissfully peaceful.

The grass, green and soft, hid the sound his running shoes would have made. When she looked up at him, startled, he realized he didn’t have a reason in the world to interrupt her solace.

Ryan could see the surprise in her eyes and quickly searched his brain for an excuse to be standing just a few feet away, watching her on the swing.

"Sorry if I startled you. Next time, I'll make a little more noise."

Grace's eyes fluttered open and she stood up quickly, making the swing bang against her leg before it settled in place. "Oh, Ryan." He cheeks tinged a darker pink, the color of carnations in bloom. "Hi, how are you?"

"I'm great. Just out for a quick run. How's Kathleen?"

"I'm not sure," Grace furrowed her brow. "She left early this morning to run a few errands. She was gone before Evan and I woke up."

Ryan nodded.

Grace heaved a sigh. “I wanted her to rest today."

“You know, I’ve thought about what she’s been doing. Change is hard on people. Maybe it’s her way of dealing with your Dad being gone. Some people go a little crazy and paint their houses pink," he paused and winked.

"Right," Grace smirked and rolled her eyes. "It happens all of the time."

"All that I'm trying to say is that it's okay if she acts a little off. She's getting used to life without Henry, testing her boundaries. It's got to be weird."

"It is," Grace agreed, her voice barely above a whisper.

Ryan stepped closer and bent down to look into Grace's eyes. "I miss him too. Really. And I care."

"Thanks for saying that."

Grace sat back down on the swing, keeping her eyes trained on Evan.

Ryan shifted on his feet, trying to think of something else to say. He didn't want to leave, but Grace hadn't invited him to stay.

“Well, I’ve got to get back to my run,” he said finally.

Grace looked up, shielding her eyes with one hand. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“I’m off early today. One of those perks of being your own boss, I guess.” Ryan grinned. “Besides, I wanted to get out on the lake for a while this evening—especially before the weather changes.”

"Oh?" Grace blinked up at the sky.

"Yeah, someone said something about a big storm front moving through tomorrow," Ryan added. "I'm a closet weather geek, in addition to being a doctor."

Grace shook her head and muffled a giggle. "I'm not so sure you should make that public knowledge. It might ruin your single-guy doctor image."

Ryan snorted with laughter. "I didn't realize that I had a reputation to destroy. I'll tell the office to stop ordering me t-shirts from The Weather Channel for my birthday."

"I think someone's trying to get your attention," Grace said, tilting her head toward the monkey bars.

"Hey, Dr. Gordon," Evan yelled. He waved, hanging upside down. Ryan grinned and waved back, an idea forming.

“I actually stopped to see if you’d let me take Evan out on the boat or the wave runner. It seems like he’d love it.” He wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before.

Grace twisted her lips to the side, considering this. “I'm sure he'd love that. He has to wear a life jacket, okay? I think Kathleen only bought him two or three," she smiled.

“Oh, I'm all about safety first,” Ryan grinned. "Tell Evan I'll see him back at Kathleen's in an hour or so."

He turned and began jogging, picking up speed, and reaching his stride when he reached the concrete. 

Anyone else Ryan would have dismissed, written off and forgotten about. But there was a little tug at his heart, just at the very edges when he looked at Grace. An off-kilter zap of attraction he couldn't deny.

He was a doctor—obviously he could analyze and rationalize human nature—even his own. For years. he'd studied the way people interacted, communicated, and loved. And despite what everyone wanted to believe, it wasn't conscious or rational. Ryan could attribute it to simple chemistry and the laws of nature.

He ran faster, pounding the pavement beneath his feet, and for a moment, he wondered if Grace noticed the same connection. In the past few days, she'd opened up, actually flirted a little, and joked with Ryan. Grace was a different person when she let herself laugh and smile. She was beautiful and alive.

Yes, whatever existed between them was real. Undeniable.

He was certain that Grace felt it, too.

My Book Review:

Family ... relationships ... love ... loss ... forgiveness ... and second chances ...

Grace Mason is a single mother of an eight-year old son named Evan, who lives a quiet life in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a thousand miles from her troubled childhood in Keuka Lake, on the Finger Lakes region of Upper New York State.

When Grace receives the tragic news that her estranged father Henry has suffered a fatal heart attack, Grace and Evan travel to her hometown to attend the funeral. Planning on only staying nine days, Grace embarks on a journey that lasts the entire summer, a journey of self-discovery that will teach her about forgiveness, family dynamics, closure, love and second chances. It is a life lesson that she will learn from her stepmother Kathleen and their neighbor / town doctor, Ryan Gordon.

Stardust Summer is a poignantly touching story of family relationships, forgiveness, love, and second chances. Author Lauren Clark weaves a heartwarming tale written in the third person narrative, set in the lovely Finger Lakes region in Upper New York State. It is a realistic story of the struggles within Grace's family relationship, and her ability to deal with the varying dynamics that come from this relationship: her troubled childhood with her estranged father Henry; dealing with his loss; making peace with the past; learning forgiveness and learning to believe in love and second chances. This is an emotional story that will have the reader feeling the full gamut of emotions, you can't help but get drawn in as Grace's story unfolds.

The author provides an intriguing cast of characters who are realistic and have issues that are easy for the reader to relate to. I loved the development of the complexity in the relationships between Grace and her father Henry; Grace and her stepmother Kathleen, and between Grace and Ryan. I really enjoyed the mixture of tension and strife of the family dynamic, the suspense and drama, and the humor and lighthearted romance that ran throughout the storyline. I think what I loved most of all was the message that the author sends to her readers: the importance of family and being able to deal with life's challenges that come along with relationships. I loved the richly detailed description of the Finger Lake region of Upper New York State, I would love to visit that area and take in its beauty and charm.

Stardust Summer is a wonderful story of family, love and lessons learned, it is a story that will touch your heart, and make you ponder your own relationships, it is a story that will resonate with you for a long time.



  1. Thank you for the great review and for being a part of the tour!

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event. :)

  2. Thank you, Kathleen, for reading and reviewing Stardust Summer! I love your blog and SO value your opinion as a critic! The Finger Lakes area is truly gorgeous and I know that you would love visiting .... Hey, the Jersey Shore isn't THAT far away, right?

    My favorite quote from your review:

    I think what I loved most of all was the message that the author sends to her readers: the importance of family and being able to deal with life's challenges that come along with relationships.

    THANK YOU!!!!


    1. Hi Lauren! I loved this book! Thank you for your kind comment about the review, I appreciate it. The hubby and I want to do a road trip to the Finger Lakes region.

      Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event for you. :)