‘Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks’ by Claire Cook is a funny but tender story of relationships and dogs…and cats

MLD7

In “Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks” by Claire Cook, Sarah Hurlihy and John Anderson might be living together in her family’s home, but that doesn’t mean that Valentine’s Day is going to be a simple affair. Between Sarah’s indecisiveness and John’s romantic streak, Sarah’s crazy family and crazier father, and all the dogs and cats ruling their house, life is hectic, to say the least.

Continue reading

‘Must Love Dogs: A Howliday Tail’ by Claire Cook Brings Holiday Cheer and Sweet Tails to Readers

mustlovedogs6

The bestselling “Must Love Dogs” series by Claire Cook allows readers a chance to enter the never-boring life of Sarah Hurlihy as she negotiates a romance with her boyfriend/fiancé John. Her close-knit family, including her very Irish and very funny father, complicate the story in the way that only family can.

In this sixth tale in the series, Sarah and John have bought Sarah’s family home and are trying to figure out how to make the home theirs. It’s difficult with sisters and brothers coming to their childhood home whenever they want, while that hilarious but very hard-to-handle dad, the clan’s patriarch, lives in the home in his own “apartment,” or man-cave, as he calls it. Sarah’s assistant from the preschool. Polly, who is recently divorced and pregnant, has also moved in.

Continue reading

Shine On: How to Grow Awesome Instead of Old

Rating: 5 Stars

Shine On_FB cover

In Claire Cook‘s latest non-fiction entry, “Shine On: How to Grow Awesome Instead of Old,” we are fortunate enough to be served double and triple helpings of good and wise advice, humor-filled entertainment, lovely and touching memories of events from the author’s very full life, and dollops of her unique ability to communicate ideas for helping “forty-to-forever” women face the challenges and vagaries of advancing age. And to become more awesome to boot.

Continue reading

‘Time Flies’ by Claire Cook: A perfect beach read

timesloes

Rating: 5 stars

A summer book list isn’t complete without a Claire Cook book on it. Her newest, “Time Flies,” will please her fans and garner her new ones. It’s about Melanie, a woman of a certain age, whose husband has just left her for another woman.

In Cook’s books, there is always a catalyst — something that galvanizes the protagonist into action. In “Time Flies,” the catalyst is whether Melanie will attend her high school reunion with her best friend, BJ. It’s just after the separation, and not only is Melanie feeling unwanted, but she is also suffering from a new phobia: driving on a highway.

Claire did her homework when writing this book, and when Melanie talks about her passion — metalwork sculpture — it feels real. It also feels fascinating. I’d love to know what Cook did to sound so authentic. Did she actually attend metalworking classes?

Of course, Melanie decides to go to the reunion. She travels back to New England, where she grew up and where her estranged sister still lives. Before she leaves Atlanta, where she moved when her soon-to-be-former husband got a new job, she meets the owner of a local restaurant. He calls because the sculpture he purchased from Melanie sprang a leak during the dinner rush hour. She not only fixes the leak but manages to intrigue the owner.

Then, to complicate matters, a former beau from high school (whom she can barely remember at first) emails her. They begin an online flirtation, and she grows excited about meeting him again at the reunion.

But before she can attend the reunion, she must face her phobias, talk to her sister, deal with the impending divorce, and re-live some wild times with her best friend.

It’s fun and games, but it’s also what Claire Cook excels at: delivering a message. And this message is spelled out in the title, “Time Flies.” What Melanie realizes by the end of the story (no spoilers) is that “Time flies. Time flies faster every year. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, whether you’re living your life big or small, whether you surround yourself with fear or with laughter.”

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Touchstone (a division of Simon & Schuster), for review purposes.

‘Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later’ by Claire Cook

fetch you later

Rating: 5 stars

Fans of both the movie and book “Must Love Dogs” by Claire Cook will be thrilled to be updated on Sarah and John and their on-again-off-again romance. “Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later (Book 3),” features the now-ubiquitous dog on the cover, and Horatio — the dog who hated Sarah in the last book — is a prominent character in the story (in a passive sort of way).

This third book in the “Must Love Dogs” series incorporates Cook’s brilliant sense of humor throughout — in the superb dialogue, in certain plot twists, and even in some of the locations of the story. John decides, and Sarah acquiesces, to go on vacation to a doggy camp. Is Sarah enough of a dog-lover to make that work? Can there be romance amidst doggy training and doggy sing-alongs? Who will show up to make that a less-than-stellar experience?

Cook’s imagination and creativity give readers a chance to learn even more about the characters they’ve come to love from the first two books. She ably, adroitly, and entertainingly further develops their characters, providing her trademark humor and wit along the way. It’s always comfortable to read about that which you know, and readers will feel at home with the characters they know as well as some very interesting new ones.

Sarah’s father is one of the wonderful characters (in the sense of “what a character!”) in the story. He’s funny — both when he means to be and when he doesn’t. He gets himself into situations from which his daughters must extricate him, leading to some really clever — and heartwarming — scenes. And some of the characters, both old and new, turn out to be surprisingly different from what we expect. They are deliciously human, imperfections notwithstanding.

The love and affection between Sarah and her family is, as usual, very apparent, as are the typical family squabbles. They are a close-knit group, but just like every family, they ride the emotional roller coaster of personal relationships.

It’s all great fun, and Cook’s subtle plot twists lead to a very happy and rather surprisingly satisfying ending. Also, Cook includes many tips and creative ideas for preschool/primary teachers. It’s obvious that when she left teaching to write full time, the world lost a caring and thoughtful teacher.

Here’s hoping for a movie that encompasses books #2 (“Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life) and #3!

Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by the author.

‘Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life’ by Claire Cook: Sequel to best seller

newleash

Rating: 5 stars

Claire Cook brings back the charming and zany Hurlihy family in this sequel to “Must Love Dogs,” “Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life.” Here, Sarah Hurlihy’s story continues to develop her funny but frustrating romance with John Anderson. Their relationship grows increasingly difficult partly because her brother Michael and his dog Mother Theresa are camped out in her house.

The Hurlihy family sticks together, and Sarah is there for her brother when he needs her. Of course, the reader wants to shake her and tell her to leave her brother alone. He’s a grown-up, and John (or Jack, as her father calls him) is waiting — but may not wait forever.

Another problem is that John’s dog, Horatio, doesn’t like Sarah, and hilarious complications ensue. Of course, to fully appreciate them, you — must love dogs.

John gets Sarah a summer job at his company teaching social skills to computer nerds, and she befriends a young woman who works at the company. Of course, as in any fine novel, things are not as they appear to be.

Between family and romance, her part-time job and the computer geeks, and a very sly and attractive rival, Sarah has her hands full. But she has pluck and is determined to get things right — not only for her brother and father (who is still serial dating), but for herself.

Cook’s ability to create strong characters through dialogue and actions is textbook writing: show, don’t tell. She excels at writing scenes that leap to life, wherein the reader feels almost a part of them. I was walking the beach in Savannah with Sarah and smelling the ocean breeze and feeling the heat. I was also laughing a lot. And I was also very moved by the entire story — especially the events at the end. Movie sequel next?

“Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life” will further endear readers to the characters in the story, and they won’t want to wait to see what happens next. Will Sarah and John make a commitment? Will her father find happiness? What about the other siblings?

And animal lovers will appreciate the plug for adopting a shelter dog contained in the story.

If you haven’t read a Claire Cook book yet, start with this one. You don’t need to have read the first book, but why not grab that one, too, and read it? Her books are like potato chips — you can’t have just one!

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the author for review purposes.

‘Must Love Dogs: Bark & Roll Forever’ by bestselling author Claire Cook

barkandroll

Rating: 5 stars

“Must Love Dogs,” the original bestselling book by Claire Cook, is also known to millions as the book that spawned the fabulous movie of the same name starring John Cusak and Diane Lane. Well, the series “Must Love Dogs” is on its fourth book, and Sarah and John Anderson (who is now starting to be known as just “John”) are working on trying to have a baby and moving in together.

Of course, as in all the MLD books, nothing is simple in the Hurlihy household — which includes Sarah’s father and her siblings and their multitude of progeny. Sarah’s got pregnancy on the mind (she worries she’s too old), and because she works in a preschool, there are plenty of youngsters around, a frustrating and lovely situation which Cook plays for a lot of laughs.

One of the reasons Cook’s series has been so popular is the strength of her main character. Sarah Hurlihy combines the best and worst of most women. She has been hurt in the past: Her first husband left her for a younger woman, and after saying for years that he didn’t want children, he is now the father of twins who attend the preschool where Sarah works. Sarah wants love and a family. Her own extended family can be trying at times although she loves them dearly. And Sarah has the requisite insecurities — is she pretty enough, is she smart enough, and the big one — does he love me enough?

Sarah’s problems are multiple, complex, and sometimes achingly realistic. Her father, another great character — Irish to the bone and flirting with women of all ages — is one of those problems. Another is Sarah’s niece. Is she having sex, and if so, is she using protection? Will Sarah be able to sell her house? Is John’s thinking of just renting out his condo a way of having a “fall back” if their relationship doesn’t work out? What happens if they don’t find a house they like?

You’ll want to start this series at the beginning with the original “Must Love Dogs” so you don’t miss a minute in the lives of the characters. Be careful: You might become hooked. Reading about how life goes on for this wacky but marvelously lovable family becomes as addictive as Frango mints.

All these and more issues and questions abound in this humorous and clever sequel to “Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life (#2)” and “Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later (#3).”

Claire’s own story is an uplifting one. She began her career as an author at the age of 45, writing her first novel in her minivan. She walked the red carpet at the opening of the “Must Love Dogs” movie at age 50. Now she’s happily writing both fiction and nonfiction (“Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention“) and speaking at conferences about reinventing your life.

Buy “Must Love Dogs: Bark & Roll Forever” at Amazon and read the reviews on Goodreads.

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the author for review purposes.

Interview with Claire Cook, author of bestselling ‘Must Love Dogs’ series

clairecook

Claire Cook, author of the bestselling “Must Love Dogs,” (which was made into a movie with Diane Lane and John Cusack) is filled with optimism about the year 2015. She just published the third book in the MLD (Must Love Dogs) series, “Fetch You Later.”

And exciting New Year news? The first book in the series, “Must Love Dogs,” was #1 on the Amazon Contemporary Romance list and #13 overall. It was also #1 for all of Barnes and Noble’s ebooks. That’s something to celebrate.

“In 2014 I published three books,” Cook said. “‘Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life,’ ‘Never Too Late,’ and ‘Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later.’ It’s exciting because readers seem to love the characters in the series. I had many tell me that they already devoured ‘Fetch You Later’ and they want to know when the next one will be out!”

Well, those readers will be happy to know that Cook is working feverishly to complete Books #4 and #5 in the series so they can be published in 2015. “I love writing this series,” Cook related. “It’s so much fun because I get to find out what will happen next. I love the characters.”

Why do readers enjoy series so much? “I think that there are a lot of books out there to choose from. When we find characters we like, it’s great to know that there will be more adventures with them, and we’ll be able to keep up with their lives.”

Cook is also very proud of her first nonfiction book, “Never Too Late,” and the new path that has opened for her. She reinvented herself when she left teaching and became an author. Her book is all about how people can reinvent themselves at any stage in life. She has been invited to speak and teach courses based on reinvention, and she loves it.

She’s also learned something very important: “I’ve learned to say ‘no.’ If you say yes to everything, nothing gets done. I say ‘yes’ to the most important things: writing, family and friends. But they understand that writing is important. It’s about prioritizing. Either life takes control or we do.” And that last sentence sounds just like something from “Never Too Late,” which is about taking control and making changes.

Cook’s final advice about reading Must Love Dogs? “Jump in. The books do stand alone, but starting at the beginning is great because you can see the progression of the events and how the characters develop and change.”

‘Best Staged Plans’ by Claire Cook

beststaged.jpeg

Rating: 5 stars

Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook is a novel that’s about finding out what is important in life (tips for staging one’s home and clearing out clutter are also included).

Sandy and her husband have raised their two children and are ready for a new stage in their lives. At least, Sandy is. Frustrated with her husband, who is procrastinating about getting their lovely Victorian home in the Boston suburbs in perfect shape to sell, and about her grown son living in their basement, she takes a staging job in Atlanta.

Determined to stay there until she hears that her husband has done the work, she finds out that there is more to life than a perfect home.

The story is told in first person narrative, which provides lots of opportunities for Sandy’s innermost thoughts and feelings to be shared with the reader. Her epiphany, when it happens, is wonderfully written.

Sandy finds out that having a grown son living in her basement and a husband who prefers jogging and playing tennis over painting the kitchen cabinet doors is just not that bad on the spectrum of what could really go wrong with a life.

It takes a homeless woman in Atlanta to teach Sandy that important lesson. But once Sandy begins to work on changing her priorities, she finds that helping others is a reward all its own.

In addition to finding out what’s more important than a beautifully staged home, Sandy shares other important secrets with the readers. She is an expert at “staging” dinner from Trader Joe’s. I know that I will never walk through Trader Joe’s again without thinking of Sandy and her assembled dinners. Hint: be sure to throw out all packaging that might give away the fact that the whole meal is not homemade.

Unlike Cook’s last novel, Seven Year Switch, the protagonist in Best Staged Plans is a female Baby Boomer, right in there with the other boomers — thinking about retirement, downsizing, and what to do when the kids are gone. It’s a perfect read for anyone approaching those years be she forty or sixty.

This review was based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher.

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook

7year.jpg

Rating: 5 stars

In Seven Year Switch, Claire Cook really makes the reader care about Jill, a single mom. Jill is a single mom because her husband, a fellow inveterate lover of world travel, took off to continue his travels without her and their three year old daughter, leaving behind an empty bank account and a shocked spouse and daughter.

When Seth, the disappearing husband, reappears after seven years without a word, he wants to be part of both his daughter’s life and Jill’s.

But can you forgive someone whom you loved with all your heart–and who left you bereft, broke, and alone? Seven years alone, trying to be both mother and father; seven years trying to support two; and seven years trying to keep the bitterness and anger out of her daughter’s sphere of awareness.

Claire Cook includes a plethora of great characters in Seven Year Switch.

There is the neighbor Cynthia. Cynthia, tennis-playing, diamond-wearing, drop-dead beautiful, and uncharacteristically generous, but full of malapropisms. Jill, while grateful for the designer kitchen sink and new porch railings, wonders how to help Cynthia learn to speak properly.

For example, Cynthia says to Jill, ‘”I almost picked you up some vertigo blinds my client was getting rid of this morning, but I think we should only go for high-end hand-me-down.”

“Vertical,” I said. I mean how could Cynthia build her business if no one corrected her when she misspoke?

“Vertigo,” Cynthia said, “is what they give me…“‘

When her luggage appears after catching a different flight to Costa Rica, she says, ‘”Whew, that was a clothes call.“‘

There is also Billy, a new client who needs advice on doing business in Japan. He dresses in bike shorts, and his idea of dressed-up is a polo shirt and jeans.

There are also the seniors from the community center who love Jill’s class on international cooking and culture. They are her pseudo-parents, generous with advice and gentle teasing.

Claire keeps the reader guessing until the end–will Jill forgive Seth? Will she finally take a long-deserved and coveted vacation? And what will she do with Billy, who would like to take their relationship to a different level?

It’s a trip–and one worth taking! Visit Claire Cook on her website for more information about all her books, her giveaways, her blog and more.

Please note: This book review was based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher.