Oliver & Jack at Lodgings in Lyme, by Christina E. Pilz (@ChristinaEPilz) #review @HFVBT

About the book, Oliver & Jack At Lodgings in Lyme (Fagin’s Boy, Book 2) Oliver & Jack at Lodgings in Lyme

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2015,  Blue Rain Press
  • Format: eBook & Paperback; 450 Pages
  • Genre: Historical/LGBT/M/M Romance

An ex-apprentice and his street thief companion flee the dangers of Victorian London and the threat of the hangman’s noose in search of family and the promise of a better life.

After Oliver Twist commits murder to protect Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger), both must flee London’s familiar but dangerous environs for safety elsewhere. Together they travel to Lyme Regis in the hopes of finding Oliver’s family. Along the way, Jack becomes gravely ill and Oliver is forced to perform manual labor to pay for the doctor’s bills.

While Oliver struggles to balance his need for respectability with his growing love for Jack, Jack becomes disenchanted with the staid nature of village life and his inability to practice his trade. But in spite of their personal struggles, and in the face of dire circumstances, they discover the depth of their love for each other.

Buy, read, and discuss Oliver & Jack at Lodgings in Lyme


About the author, Christina E. Pilz Christina E. Pilz

Christina was born in Waco, Texas in 1962. After living on a variety of air force bases, in 1972 her Dad retired and the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There amidst the clear, dry air of the high plains, as the moss started to grow beneath her feet, her love for historical fiction began with a classroom reading of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She attended a variety of community colleges (Tacoma Community College) and state universities (UNC-Greeley, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver), and finally found her career in technical writing, which, between layoffs, she has been doing for 18 years. During that time, her love for historical fiction and old-fashioned objects, ideas, and eras has never waned.

In addition to writing, her interests include road trips around the U.S. and frequent flights to England, where she eats fish and chips, drinks hard cider, and listens to the voices in the pub around her. She also loves coffee shops, mountain sunsets, prairie storms, and the smell of lavender. She is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma.

Connect with Christina


My Thoughts: MissMeliss

When I read the description of this book in the email from HFVBT, I thought, “Really? An m/m romance between Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger?” The concept very quickly grew on me, and so I volunteered to be a reviewer.

My only disappointment is that I’ve never read the first book in the series, so I was a bit muddled about the ages of Oliver and Jack, but aside from that, the necessary information from the previous plot is all there in context and there’s just enough exposition to make you understand what happened without feeling like someone’s telling you the previous plot in its entirety.

From the start, I really loved Christina E. Pilz’s writing style. This is an historical novel, but the language is completely accessible while still retaining that ‘period’ feel. I especially appreciate that she didn’t try to emulate Dickens, because that would have taken this story, this beautiful, beautiful story, into the realm of pastiche, or worse, parody.

And it is a beautiful story, one that involves deep friendship that turns into real love, and addresses everything from the roles society expects us to play to our own great expectations about how our lives will turn out. Oliver is a bit self-entitled, Jack is a bit too attached to his ‘career’ as a pickpocket (one he excels at, but still…) and each has issues with class as well as the relationship forming between them. Oh, and there’s a healthy amount of hurt/comfort, as well, but that works in the context of the novel.

For me, the challenging moments of this story weren’t the times when the two men were at odds with each other, because even people who love each other unconditionally have arguments. Nor did I have any issues with the intimate scenes – they were, for the most part – very real, sometimes tender, sometimes less so, but perfectly in tune with the characters as Pilz wrote them, and completely HOT.  No, my challenge was that the boys (yes, I know they’re not children, but still…) spent so much of the novel being tired, wet, cold, hungry, and dirty, and I have issues with too much of that sort of thing.

Not that you’d expect to be anything OTHER than tired, wet, cold, hungry, and dirty while tramping around Victorian England with almost no money.

Overall, I thought this was a really enjoyable, quite sexy read, grounded in the source material, but also very much it’s own thing.

Goes well with steak and kidney pie and a good stout.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE Oliver & Jack Blog Tour

Monday, September 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 29
Review at Bibliotica
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, September 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, October 1
Spotlight at Book Nerd

Monday, October 5
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, October 6
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, October 9
Spotlight at History Undressed

Tuesday, October 13
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, October 14
Review at Broken Teepee




The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom (@mitchalbom) #review

About the book, The Magic Strings Of Frankie Presto The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

 Hardcover: 512 pages
• Publisher: Harper (November 10, 2015)

Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the earth—in this magical novel about the power of talent to change our lives.

In Mitch Albom’s epic new novel, the voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, Frankie Presto, a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, Frankie is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six magical strings.

But Frankie’s talent is touched by the gods, and it weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. Along the way, Frankie influences many artists: he translates for Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.

Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people’s futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell.

With its Forrest Gump–like journey through the music world, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is a classic in the making. A lifelong musician himself, Mitch Albom delivers an unforgettable story. “Everyone joins a band in this life,” he observes, be it through music, family, friends, or lovers. And those connections change the world.

Buy, read, and discuss The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Mitch Albom Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom is a bestselling novelist, a screen-writer, a playwright, and an award-winning journalist. He is the author of six consecutive number-one New York Times bestsellers and has sold more than thirty-four million copies of his books in forty-two languages worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie, which spent four years atop the New York Times list, is the bestselling memoir of all time.

Albom has founded seven charities, including the first-ever full-time medical clinic for homeless children in America. He also operates an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He lives with his wife, Janine, in suburban Detroit.

Connect with Mitch

Find out more about Mitch at his website, connect with him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter.

My Thoughts MissMeliss

The first thing that really grabbed me about The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto was that the narrator of the opening chapter was Music itself. Not quite Music personified, but definitely Music as a sentient being. As a musician myself (cello, singing, learning guitar), as well as the daughter of a woman whom Music passed by, this narrative choice made a lot of sense to me, and I would have been incredibly happy if the whole novel had been narrated by Music.

As the supporting characters worked their way in, however, and their voices strengthened, my initial rush of interest wore off. Don’t get me wrong, Magic Strings is eminently readable, but it seems a lot like, aside from Music, the author didn’t really have a strong sense of his characters.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the story. Mitch Albom made the inclusion of real people practically seamlessly (the description compares the novel to Forest Gump in that respect, but people have been doing such things for ages). It always makes me grin when authors can do that without it feeling disruptive or gimmicky, but since the epynomous (if fictional) Frankie Presto is a contemporary of people like Elvis, it makes sense to use that storytelling device. It drives me crazy when novelists set their stories in contemporary or recently historical periods and then pretend none of the pop culture we all know ever existed.

I loved that Frankie had a miles-long birth name that demonstrated his Spanish roots, and that he came to see his musical gift (both the actual playing, and the secondary gift of the blue strings on his guitar and their special power) as both a blessing and a curse, because even those of us who are strictly amateurs often feel that way, even without magic. I liked that the simple language Albom tends to use was both really natural, but that he also gave it a rhythm that felt like someone strumming a guitar.

Since my only previous exposure to Albom’s work was is memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, which I loved, I was worried that his fiction voice wouldn’t be as engaging. I was wrong, though I will caution that this book isn’t an action novel or a romance. Instead it’s a gentle, quirky story about a man, a guitar with magic strings, and the sometimes-fickle mistress/muse/calling that is Music.

Goes well with tapas and craft-brewed beer.

Mitch Albom’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, September 21st: Priscilla and Her Books

Wednesday, September 23rd: Lavish Bookshelf

Thursday, September 24th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Monday, September 28th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 30th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, September 30th: Mom in Love With Fiction

Thursday, October 1st: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, October 5th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, October 6th: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, October 7th: A Dream Within a Dream

Thursday, October 8th: Mama Vicky Says

Tuesday, October 13th: Book Loving Hippo

Wednesday, October 14th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Monday, October 19th: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, October 20th: Curling Up by the Fire

Wednesday, October 21st: Book by Book

Tuesday, October 27th: The Novel Life

Wednesday, October 28th: Shelf Full of Books

Thursday, October 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, November 2nd: Seaside Book Nook

Tuesday, November 3rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, November 4th: The Book Wheel

Thursday, November 5th: Books and Bindings

Monday, November 9th: Suko’s Notebook

Tuesday, November 10th: My Life in Books

The Captive Condition, by Kevin P. Keating

About the book,  The Captive Condition The Captive Condition

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (July 7, 2015)

From a thrilling new voice in fiction comes a chilling and deliciously dark novel about an idyllic Midwestern college town that turns out to be a panorama of depravity and a nexus of horror.

For years Normandy Falls has been haunted by its strange history and the aggrieved spirits said to roam its graveyards. Despite warnings, Edmund Campion is determined to pursue an advanced degree there. But Edmund soon learns he isn’t immune to the impersonal trappings of fate: his girlfriend, Morgan Fey, smashes his heart; his adviser, Professor Martin Kingsley, crushes him with frivolous assignments; and his dead-end job begins to take a toll on his physical and mental health. One night he stumbles upon the body of Emily Ryan, an unapologetic townie, drowned in her family pool. Was it suicide or murder? In the days that follow, Emily’s husband, Charlie, crippled by self-loathing and frozen with fear, attempts to flee his disastrous life and sends their twin daughters to stay with the Kingsleys. Possessed by an unnamed, preternatural power, the twins know that the professor seduced their mother and may have had a hand in her fate. With their piercing stares, the girls fill Martin with a remorse that he desperately tries to hide from his wife. Elsewhere, a low-level criminal named the Gonk takes over a remote cottage, complete with a burial ground and moonshine still, and devises plans for both. Xavier D’Avignon, the eccentric chef of a failing French restaurant, supplies customers with a hallucinogenic cocktail. And Colette Collins, an elderly local artist of the surreal, attends a retrospective of her work that is destined to set the whole town on fire.

Kevin P. Keating’s masterly novel delves into the deepest recesses of the human capacity for evil.

Buy, read, and discuss The Captive Condition

IndieBound | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Kevin P. Keating Kevin Keating

After working as a boilermaker in the steel mills in Ohio, KEVIN P. KEATING became a professor of English and began teaching at Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State University, and Lorain County Community College. His essays and stories have appeared in more than fifty literary journals, and his first novel, The Natural Order of Things, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His second novel, The Captive Condition, will be released by Pantheon Books in July of 2015. He lives in Cleveland.

Connect with Kevin


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I generally really enjoy dark fiction, but I had a difficult time with The Captive Condition in part because some of the scenes in the early part of the book – twins picking on their little brother – really disturbed me. I am, after all, the poster child for being able to watch any movie as long as no kids or dogs are harmed. Then, too, I read it at the same time that both of my husband’s parents were going through major medical drama – drama which is not yet resolved – so I wasn’t in a good place to really appreciate this story.

That said, author Kevin P. Keating absolutely captures the dark malevolence of this small midwestern town perfectly. Critics have compared him to Poe, and there’s definitely a lot of that in his voice. His use of language is finely honed. His ability to set a scene is phenomenal. I was especially struck by the description of the bridge across the falls early in the novel. The man can clearly write the hell out of anything.

What I found difficult, however, was that there were really no characters that I sympathized with, especially in the first third of the book. Our narrator/protagonist Edmund is a little too clueless, a little too arrogant, for my taste. His girlfriend seemed mean. His advisor seemed petty. Maybe I was missing something, but I just couldn’t get invested in the story.

As readers, we bring as much of ourselves to the stories we read as do the writers who create those stories. In The Captive Condition Keating has given us a thought-provoking look at the kind of pervasive evil that colors entire lives and communities, and it’s a story I probably would have responded better to if all these external things hadn’t colored my reaction.

Goes well with strong coffee and warm apple pie. Trust me, you’ll need them.

Kevin P. Keating’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, August 26th: Mallory Heart Reviews

Saturday, August 29th: Books that Hook

Monday, August 31st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, September 2nd: Read Love Blog

Friday, September 4th: 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, September 8th: Book Chatter

Wednesday, September 9th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Thursday, September 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, September 14th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, September 16th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, September 23rd: Bibliotica

Date TBD: Wildfire Books

Date TBD: The Steadfast Reader

TBD: More Than Just Magic

TBD: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Starlight on Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs (@susanwiggs) #review #TLCBookTours #giveaway

About the book, Starlight on Willow Lake Starlight on Willow Lake

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Mira (August 25, 2015)

Join #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on a journey to a charming Catskills town that feels like home and where a cast of brilliantly drawn characters awaits in a poignant story of reconciliation and the healing power of love.

When caregiver Faith McCallum arrives at the enchanted lakeside estate of Avalon’s renowned Bellamy family, she’s intent on rebuilding her shattered life and giving her two daughters a chance at a better future. But she faces a formidable challenge in the form of her stubborn and difficult new employer, Alice Bellamy. While Faith proves a worthy match for her sharp-tongued client, she often finds herself at a loss for words in the presence of Mason Bellamy—Alice’s charismatic son, who clearly longs to escape the family mansion and return to his fast-paced, exciting life in Manhattan…and his beautiful, jet-setting fiancée.

The last place Mason wants to be is a remote town in the Catskills, far from his life in the city, and Faith McCallum is supposed to be the key to his escape. Hiring the gentle-hearted yet strong-willed caregiver as a live-in nurse gives his mother companionship and Mason the freedom to return to his no-attachments routine. For Faith, it means stability for her daughters and a much-needed new home. When Faith makes a chilling discovery about Alice’s accident, Mason is forced to reconsider his desire to keep everyone, including his mother, at a distance. Now he finds himself wondering if the supercharged life he’s created for himself is what he truly wants…and whether exploring his past might lead to a new life—and lasting love—on the tranquil shores of Willow Lake.

Buy, read and discuss Starlight on Willow Lake

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Susan Wiggs Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts MissMeliss

Knowing that this was from Mira, one of the many divisions of Harlequin, I was a little bit worried that Starlight on Willow Lake would be overly romantic. What a delightful surprise to find that it was, instead, about the just-as-strong love that exists between family members, with just a soupçon of romance for flavor.

Having been previously unfamiliar with author Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicles, I was also a bit wary about jumping into an established series, not at the beginning. This concern proved to be unfounded, as each book is written to be enjoyed either as a stand-alone novel or as part of the greater whole. (I like this recent trend in contemporary fiction, of creating towns or using established cities and placing a string of novels there. It means less worldbuilding because oh, hey, that cafe/bar/beach already exists, and more focus on plot and character. As well, it means you have a sense of familiarity as you explore an author’s entire collection, as I tend to do.)

As much as I really liked Faith, as a mother, as a professional caregiver, and just as a person, I felt that the novel was really more Mason’s story in a lot of ways – his instinctive pushing people away to protect both himself and them, and his growth as he learns that pulling people closer is a much healthier response most of the time. I enjoyed his relationship with his siblings, with Alice, his mother, and with Faith, though I felt his fiancée was a bit more of a plot device than a fully fledged person.

Aside from the fiancée (see, I don’t even remember her name; I’m horrible), I thought all of the characters were incredibly well drawn, and felt like people you might encounter in a lakeside community in the Catskills, or in any other small town.

Author Wiggs also crafted a plot that was well-paced and truly interesting to read. Capturing the different nuances of all these different, interconnected relationships, not the least Faith and Alice as well as Faith and Mason, was done with great delicacy and precision. It’s easy to see why her work is so popular: it deserves to be.

If you’re looking for a traditional romance, this is not the novel for you.

If, however, you want to spend time getting to know some really compelling characters, and learning their stories, you should run, not walk, to your favorite bookstore (or bookstore’s website) and buy a copy today.

Goes well with fresh-caught trout, grilled to perfection, a baked potato, and a glass of chilled chardonnay.

Want a copy of Starlight on Willow Lake for your very own?

One lucky reader from the United States or Canada will win a copy. To be a contender, leave a comment on this post and/or retweet the twitter post I make about this review (with the link intact), by 11:59 pm CDT on Wednesday, September 23rd. Be sure to use a working email address if you comment.

Winners will be contacted by email before being publically announced. If your name is selected (I use a highly scientific method that involves one of my dogs pulling pieces of paper from a basket), your name and mailing address will be forwarded to TLC Book Tours, who will, in turn, forward it to the publisher’s representative who will fulfill your prize claim. This will not happen until the tour is complete, and it may take several weeks for the book to arrive.

Review tour for STARLIGHT ON WILLOW LAKE: TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 24th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Tuesday, August 25th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, August 26th: Romancing the Book

Friday, August 28th: The Bookish and The Romantic

Monday, August 31st: Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, September 1st: The Sassy Bookster – author guest post

Tuesday, September 1st: Books and Spoons

Tuesday, September 1st: Written Love Reviews

Thursday, September 3rd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, September 4th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Friday, September 4th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, September 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, September 8th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, September 9th: Mignon Mykel Reviews

Thursday, September 10th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, September 10th: Luxury Reading

Friday, September 11th: Not In Jersey

Monday, September 14th: Book Babe

Wednesday, September 16th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books

Thursday, September 17th: Bibliotica

Friday, September 18th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

TBD: Urban Girl Reader

TBD: Books a la Mode – author guest post

TBD: Booked on a Feeling


Montpelier Tomorrow, by Marylee MacDonald (@maryleemacd)

About the book, Montpelier Tomorrow Montpelier Tomorrow

• Paperback: 318 pages
• Publisher: All Things That Matter Press; First edition (August 21, 2014)

Mid-life mom, Colleen Gallagher, would do anything to protect her children from harm. When her daughter’s husband falls ill with ALS, Colleen rolls up her sleeves and moves in, juggling the multiple roles of grandma, cook, and caregiver, only to discover that even her superhuman efforts can’t fix what’s wrong.

Buy, read, and discuss Montpelier Tomorrow

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the author, Marylee MacDonald Maryllee MacDonald

A former carpenter and mother of five, Marylee MacDonald began writing when her last child left for college. Her fiction has won the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, the Matt Clark Prize, and the ALR Fiction Award. Her novel, Montpelier Tomorrow, was a Finalist in the 2014 IPPY Awards and the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize. She is widely published in literary magazines such as American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Folio, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, Broad River Review, Four QuartersNew Delta Review, North Atlantic Review, Raven Chronicles, Reunion: The Dallas ReviewRiver Oak Review, Ruminate, StoryQuarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, and Yalobusha Review.

Connect with Marylee

Website |  Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Google+

My Thoughts MissMeliss

I knew going in that this would not be the happiest of novels, since the description tells you that one of the characters is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) right off the bat. (No pun intended.)  What surprised me was that Colleen was such a three dimensional character – from the young widow left with three young children and no income, to the capable, take-charge grandmother, she’s just the kind of person you’d want to have around during a crisis, balancing the need to nurture with the equally vital need to get things done.

What surprised me is that many of the other characters are less likeable. Sandy (Colleen’s daughter) has a relationship with her mother that is prickly at best, and although I suspect she knows that her mother means well their scenes together often hold a note of antagonism. Tony, the son-in law (Sandy’s husband) means well, but he’s just been diagnosed with a disease people don’t typically get until 20 or 30 years later in their lives and a  lot of his early behavior wavers between resentment and overcompensation. Then, too, his parents seem oblivious to the reality of having a (grown) son with special needs, and I found their behavior really annoying.

Which is not to say that this is a bad novel.

It’s actually a really gripping story, and while I can’t honestly use the word ‘enjoyed’ given the subject (including an unexpected death deep inside the story). The characters are well drawn, and probably fairly accurately depict what real people would be going through under similar circumstances. As well, the plot is well crafted, and the writing is clean and accessible. It a fast read, if not always an easy one, but well worth whatever time you spend on it.

Colleen, especially shines in this novel, as the perfect contemporary heroine: an everyday soldier in the battle for a good life.

Goes well with, comfort foods like tuna casserole, and homemade iced tea.

Marylee’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 24th: bookchickdi

Wednesday, August 26th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, August 31st: BoundbyWords

Friday, September 4th: Back Porchervations

Friday, September 4th: Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 8th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, September 9th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, September 10th: Time 2 Read

Friday, September 11th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, September 14th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 16th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Thursday, September 17th: Seaside Book Nook

Friday, September 18th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, September 21st: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, September 23rd: The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Thursday, September 24th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Wednesday, September 30th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Berlin Coffee Shop by Gerlis Zillgens, translated by Shamila Cohen #review #quickreview

About the book, Berlin Coffee Shop Berlin Coffee Shop

Follow Sandra and friends as they navigate life, love, and their late-twenties in Germany’s hip Berlin.In this episode, Sandra, a self-employed “finder of things,” is in urgent need of a “real” office. Her parents have suddenly appeared on her doorstep and want to see the workspace they’ve so generously funded. What they don’t know, is that Sandra’s “office” is just a table in Captain’s café, Coffee Shop, and she has used their money for other purposes. Nils brainstorms a quick fix: how about staging her best friend, Claudi’s apartment? There’s just one problem standing in the way: Claudi’s landlord. Things only take a turn for the worse when Captain tosses her and the Doric columns out of the coffee shop. Once again, Nils has a solution: the key to Captain’s storeroom.The Coffee Shop – a cozy café in Germany’s capital, Berlin – just happens to be the best office in the world. From here, Sandra practices her quirky trade as a “finder-of things.” She caters to customers who have lost or want to find something that’s missing from their lives. Doric Colums as an engagement gift? Check. Missing childhood photos? Done. But in her quest to grant other people’s wishes, Sandra suddenly finds herself in search of her own happiness – and of herself. Toss in a dead goose, and it’s the perfect recipe for romantic disaster.

Berlin Coffee Shop is a new digital serial novel for fans of “Sex and the City,” “Friends,” and “How I met your Mother.” The story is told in six parts, as each novella builds upon the next.

Buy, read, and discuss Berlin Coffee Shop

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts MissMeliss

I downloaded this from NetGalley because I always love to read about coffee shop and cafe culture, and I was immediately hooked on this – part one of a six part ‘digital serial novel.’ I think it’s an innovative use of ebooks, as well as being a great story.

As someone who has been known to take up residence at a favorite table in a cozy cafe, I thought Sandra’s story, and her ‘office’ being just such a table was particularly relevant, and I found the overall story hilariously funny and very plausible for a heightened realty universe.

I haven’t read the subsequent five ‘episodes’ in this series, but the first one was presented in a manner that was quite cinematic. If this isn’t made into an actual tv show, someone should consider making it into a web series, because the characters were engaging, the dialogue (in translation) was snappy, and the premise is fresh and fun.

Goes well with a double cappuccino and a slice of cheesecake.



A Pattern of Lies, by Charles Todd #review #TLCBookTours @tlcbooktours

About the book,  A Pattern of Lies A Pattern of Lies

• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 18, 2015)

Bess Crawford must keep a deadly pattern of lies from destroying an innocent family in this compelling and atmospheric mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of A Question of Honor and An Unwilling Accomplice

In 1916, at the height of the war, an explosion and fire at an armament factory in Kent killed more than a hundred men. With Ashton Powder Mill situated so close to the coast—within reach of German saboteurs—the Army investigated, eventually ruling the event an appalling tragedy. Now, two years later, suspicion, gossip, and rumor have raised the specter of murder—and fingers point to the owner, Philip Ashton, whose son is battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s friend and former patient.

While visiting the Ashtons, Bess finds herself caught up in a venomous show of hostility that doesn’t stop with Philip Ashton’s arrest. Indeed, someone is out for blood, and the household is all but under siege. The police are hostile—the Inspector’s brother died in the mill explosion—and refuse to consult either the Army or Scotland Yard. Why, after two years, has the village turned against Ashton?

In France, Bess searches for the only known witness to the explosion, now serving at the Front, and tries to convince him to give evidence about that terrible Sunday morning, only to find herself and the witness hunted by someone intent on preventing anyone from discovering what—or who—is behind this web of vicious lies. Uncertain whom to trust, she can rely only on her own wits and courage, but how can she stop a killer whose face she has never seen?

Philip Ashton is urged to throw himself on the mercy of the court—where he will surely find none. Time is running out. And Bess, at the point of a gun, has only one choice left: to risk her life to save the Ashtons.

Buy, read, and discuss A Pattern of Lies

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Charles Todd Charles Todd

Charles Todd is the author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina.

Connect with Charles

Website | Facebook

My Thoughts MissMeliss

Bess Armstrong is back and better than before in this novel which was a great adventure for the former battlefield nurse. I loved that this story, like the last, blended her compassionate side, the one that seeks to provide solace and care – with her ability to be completely ruthless when she needs to be.

Having read this novel immediately after the last one, and then set it aside without writing the review immediately, some elements are muddled but I liked that Bess’s former patient Philip Ashton is central to this story, and I like that it was about responsibility and choice as much as it was about Nazi spies and war crimes. The entity known as Charles Todd is really good at bringing dierse elements into a story, giving us something that appeals to our contemporary sound-bite focused brains while still retaining the feel and language of a period piece.

I mentioned that Bess is one of my new favorite fictional characters. She has only increased her merit in this novel. Go read it, because nothing that I say can top the experience of this brilliantly crafted, well plotted, gripping novel.

Goes well with a crisp lager and a really good chicken curry.

A Pattern of Lies Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 11th: Crime Fiction Lover

Tuesday, August 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 19th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, August 20th: Dwell in Possibility

Friday, August 21st: Reading Reality

Monday, August 24th: Mystery Playground

Tuesday, August 25th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, August 26th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, August 27th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, August 31st: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, September 1st: Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, September 2nd: Mom’s Small Victories

Thursday, September 3rd: Victoria Weisfeld

Friday, September 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, September 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, September 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, September 10th: cakes, tea and dreams

Friday, September 11th: Jorie Loves a Story

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

TBD: Helen’s Book Blog

Broken Homes & Gardens, by Rebecca Kelley (@rkelleywrites) #review #TLCbooktours

About Broken Homes & Gardens Broken Homes & Gardens

Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Blank Slate Press (April 28, 2015)

A girl, a guy, a broken-down house. Not exactly on-again, off-again, Malcolm and Joanna are in-again, out-again: in love, out of each other’s arms, in an awkward co-living arrangement, out of the country. Their unconventional relationship is the only way, Joanna says, to protect herself from the specter of commitment, which inevitably leads to heartbreak.

When Harry Met Sally for the Millennial generation, set in the damp and drizzly neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon, Broken Homes and Gardens is an ode to friendship, lust, and the unrelenting pull of love.

Buy, read, and discuss Broken Homes & Gardens

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Rebecca Kelley Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley grew up in Carson City, Nevada, wandered for a few years, and eventually landed in Portland, where she teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft. She is the co-author of The Eco-nomical Baby GuideBroken Homes & Gardens is her first novel.

Connect with Rebecca

Goodreads | Website | Twitter

My Thoughts MissMeliss

Sometimes a book arrives in your life exactly when you need it to. Lisa at TLC Book Tours offered this book to me when most of my summer review schedule was already set, but it looked like a fun and quirky novel (and I loved the title, a play on a certain magazine of some note), and I knew I’d be reading it at the end of my Dog Days of Podcasting run over at <a href=”http://www.bathtubmermaid.com”>The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Tub</a>.

I didn’t just read it, though. I devoured it.

I quickly fell in love with the somewhat aloof and more than a little clueless Joanna and the inscrutable (at first) Malcolm, thrown together when both are essentially abandoned at a party by her sister and his roommate (her sister’s lover/fiance/husband). Malcolm is leaving the country the next day, and the two become pen pals while dating other people, then he returns but they never quite hook up even though they end up cohabitating, and even though they’re so obviously meant for each other that you want to hit them with a blunt object. Or two.

In any case, Rebecca Kelley manages to balance poignance and absurdity, heartbreak and hopefulness in a way that never feels overly crafted, just well written. Her characters feel like the real, if sometimes annoying, people most of us know, or have been, and the core relationships – Joanna and Laura as sisters, and as daughters of Tess, Laura and Ted, Joanna and Malcolm, and old friends Ted and Malcolm all ring true.

It’s not a piece of somber, serious literature, but neither is Broken Homes & Gardens romance novel fluff. It’s a perfectly contemporary love story about imperfect contemporary lovers, and it should be on your reading list, for the next time you want something that’s light, but not frothy.

Goes well with a steaming mug of chai and an oatmeal craisin cookie.

Rebecca Kelley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 17th: Open Book Society

Monday, August 24th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Wednesday, August 26th: Chick Lit Central

Thursday, August 27th:  Palmer’s Page Turners

Monday, August 31st: Diary of a Stay At Home Mom

Wednesday, September 2nd: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, September 3rd: Bibliotica

Monday, September 7th: girlichef

Tuesday, September 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, September 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, September 9th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, September 10th: Book Dilettante

Friday, September 11th: From L.A. to LA

Wednesday, September 16th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, September 17th: Book Mama Blog



A Remarkable Kindness, by Diana Bletter (@dianabletter) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, A Remarkable Kindness A Remarkable Kindness

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015)

Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life

It’s 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.

The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.

Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women’s friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive.

Buy, read, and discuss A Remarkable Kindness

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Diana Bletter Diana Bletter

Diana Bletter is a writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, was shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. In 1991, she moved from New York to a seaside village in northern Israel where she lives with her husband and children, and volunteers in a burial circle.

Connect with Diana

Website |  Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve had this novel on my kindle for months, and I read it when I first downloaded it (but stupidly didn’t write the draft for the review), so my thoughts are a bit musty, but my first impression, meeting Aviva outside the burial house, and seeing her seek shelter during a bombing was that this was no sweet piece of literary fiction, but a gem of a story that offered a great blend of contemporary Israeli/Palestinian politics, gritty reality, and excellent character work, and I was not wrong. In fact when I next met Laura, transplanted from Boston to Peleg with her new husband (well, new-ish, they’ve been married about a year) I was hooked.

But it’s not enough to have two women at the heart of this story, for author Bletter introduces us to Laura’s friend Emily, and college student Rachel, each of whom also comes to Israel for her own reason.

Eventually of course Aviva and Laura, Emily and Rachel, all become friends and true compatriots, and their burgeoning friendship is an integral part of this story, but the politics and the harsh reality of daily life in a small Israeli village are equally important, and Diana Bletter does an excellent job of giving us a look at these four women and their lives as well as the bigger picture of life in Peleg and how it relates to the region – and the world – as a home.

Literature with Jewish themes has been a recurring thing for me this year, quite by accident, and I’ve really enjoyed the various glimpses into a culture that is at once similar to and very different from the middle-class American life I lead.

Some of the most beautiful and haunting sections of A Remarkable Kindness were the scenes directly relating to burial circles, and I found myself quite drawn to the simple spirituality displayed.

Goes well with fresh baked challah with golden raisins, and strong coffee.

Diana’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 11th: 5 Minutes For Books

Wednesday, August 12th: Becca Rowan

Thursday, August 13th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, August 14th: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, August 17th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, August 19th: Mel’s Shelves

Thursday, August 20th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Monday, August 24th: Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, August 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, August 26th: JulzReads

Thursday, August 27th: Bibliotica

TBD: Novel Escapes