Review: At Wave’s End, by Patricia Perry Donovan

At Waves End

At Waves EndAbout the book, At Wave’s End

 

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 15, 2017)

After a childhood as unpredictable as the flip of a coin, Faith Sterling has finally found her comfort zone in the kitchen of an upscale Manhattan restaurant. A workaholic chef, at least there she’s in control. So when her free-spirited and often-gullible mother, Connie, calls to announce that she’s won a bed-and-breakfast on the Jersey Shore, Faith’s patience boils over. Convinced the contest is a scam, she rushes to Wave’s End to stop Connie from trading her steady job for an uncertain future.

When a hurricane ravages the coast, Faith is torn between supporting the shore rescue and bailing out her beleaguered boss. But the storm dredges up deceptions and emotional debris that threaten to destroy the inn’s future and her fragile bonds with her mother.

As the women struggle to salvage both the inn and their relationship, Faith begins to see herself and Connie in a new light—and to realize that some moments are better left to chance.

Buy, read, and discuss At Waves End: 

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About the author, Patricia Perry Donovan Patricia Perry Donovan

Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.

Her previous novel, Deliver Her, was reprinted last year.

Connect with Patricia

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I loved Deliver Her when I read it last spring, so when Patricia Perry Donovan emailed me, asking if I wanted to review her newest title, At Wave’s End, this summer, I was happy to do so. Then I found out it was being released two days before my birthday.

Well, Happy Birthday to me, and happy reading to everyone else, because this novel is the perfect way to beat the heat of the dog days of summer. Faith, a professional chef, and Connie, her mother who is always searching for the next, great, money-making opportunity, have the kind of relationship a lot of us do, I think. They love each other fiercely, but Connie thinks her daughter is selling herself short, and Faith worries her mother will be the victim of a scam.

Then Connie arrives with the news that she’s won a bed & breakfast on the Jersey Shore.

As a Jersey girl myself, I’m always excited when people set novels there, because it’s like visiting home again. In this novel, that sense of homecoming is tempered somewhat by Hurricane Nadine – inspired by Hurricane Sandy – which trashes the coastline. Reading it took me back to October, 2012 where I was watching an NJ news station over the internet from my home in Texas, and texting my mother, “I feel like I’m watching my entire childhood being washed away.”

Having been back east fairly recently, and noticed how so many of the shore towns are still rebuilding, five years later, was a visceral experience. So, too, where many of the chapters in this novel.

But Donovan is an excellent storyteller who creates vivid, realistic characters, and even at the most devastating points in the novel there is warmth and humor and the bonds of family and friends.

Don’t think, though, that this novel is all about the wreckage of a major storm. It’s not. That’s just backdrop. It’s really about family and friends, chasing dreams, figuring out what you need vs. what you think you want, and how all those things tied together.

Like Connie, I have been tempted by those “win an inn” contests, but I’ve always managed to resist the urge. Like Faith, I’m sometimes too generous with my friends, to my own detriment. I found both of these women at the center of the story to be completely believable as women, as people.

At 364 pages, At Wave’s End is long enough to tackle everything from the first look at the B&B to the aftermath of the storm, and yet it’s also a fast read, suitable for the last weeks of summer. Dip your toes in the water of this story, let the sun and sand keep you reading. You won’t be sorry.

Goes well with, a classic NJ pork roll sandwich and a glass of iced tea, eaten at a picnic table on the porch.

 

Review: The White Light of Tomorrow, by D. Pierce Williams

About the book, The White Light of Tomorrow The White Light of Tomorrow

 

  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Publisher: D. Pierce Williams (May 1, 2017)

In a future dominated by the Church and defended by the sword, one piece of forbidden technology may change all the rules.

Adrian of Tarsus is a veteran Knight Hospitaler. His adopted daughter, Mariel, serves as his squire, and together they travel the galaxy aboard the ancient merchant ship Miranda. Adrian uses his position as a Church enforcer to provide cover for his real quest: a cure for Mariel’s mysterious and painful illness, which worsens every day.

Trouble is, Adrian’s certain the cure requires Machina Infernus, heretical technology forbidden by the Church, and not even a Knight can hide from the Holy Office of the Universal Inquisition.

When the Miranda’s crew are ambushed while acquiring such an object, Adrian turns to Sabine Adler, an old flame and specialist in Machina, for help.

But once on the planet Bethany, Sabine’s home and the seat of Christendom, assassins come out of the woodwork and everyone seems to want Adrian’s relic –mercenaries, cultists, thugs, politicians, even the Inquisition. Most troubling of all are a pair of unusual nuns who claim to know the location of the lab where the relic originated, and the fact that one of them bears a striking resemblance to Mariel.

Adrian has survived galactic crusades, skilled assassins, and Church politics, but these women may be the death of him.

Buy, read, and discuss The White Light of Tomorrow

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About the author, D. Pierce Williams D. Pierce Williams

I am a computer geek, history nut, aviation enthusiast, and very efficient procrastinator. I play tabletop role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, White Wolf, etc.) like it’s 1989. I like to listen to Bach, Van Halen, and Snoop Dogg in that order. I loves dogs. All of them.

I studied history in college and graduated cum laude with a BA in 1997. The focus of my study was modern European history with emphasis on the period from approximately 1850 to 1950, covering industrialization, the rise of nationalism, fascism and communism, and the world wars.

I entered a History Master’s program in the fall of ’97. For reasons having everything to do with money, I left the program and instead completed an MBA focusing on information technology management. I graduated from this program in 2000. From 1999 onward I’ve pursued a successful career in IT, and worked as a network and systems engineer for a Fortune 100 life-insurance and retirement services company for the past ten years.

Since 2013 I’ve been working hard on this, THE WHITE LIGHT OF TOMORROW, my first novel, which draws on my interest in science fiction and my love of history and technology.

Connect with D. Pierce Williams:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

“I’m reading this great book,” I told my husband. “It’s got elements of history, science fiction, and high fantasy.”

“Oh, really?” he asked, his entire face lighting up with interest. “It sounds like something I might enjoy.”

And so even before this review goes live, I’ve put this novel, The White Light of Tomorrow into another reader’s hands. Go, me!

Seriously though, D. Pierce Williams’ debut offering is a compelling read.

The tone is best described as Firefly meets the Renaissance, but that’s an over-simplification, because the author, a self-described history nut, has clearly done a lot of research to make the world of this book feel, not just vivid and dimensional, but wholly original. When Sabine was complaining about her shoes, in the first scene where we meet her, I was so into the story that my feet hurt in sympathy. I could hear the noise of her pub, and, in street scenes, I could feel dirt roads beneath my feet. At the same time, when I realized the ship that Adrian and Mariel call home was a space-going vessel, I was pleasantly surprised (this despite having read the description and the marketing materials for the book).

I really liked the mix of historic society – swords and cloaks and taverns – with bits of technology – space ships and DNA drives, and I found that the author meshed these seemingly disparate cultures into a cohesive one very believably. I also appreciated the diversity of his characters. Not only were women well represented, but not every major character was a middle-class white guy. Instead, there was a realistic and plausible blend of people from all levels of education, wealth, and nationality. This is something that contemporary speculative fiction often has trouble with, and there’s a line between having believable diversity and making the cast of characters feel like a Very Special Episode of some drama.

I don’t generally tell people who my favorite characters are, but something about Mariel, who is roughly fourteen when we meet her, really resonated with me. I think it was the combination of her spunk, and the way she essentially created her own family.

As aspiring writers, we are often admonished to ‘write what you know,’ which is difficult when you’re writing a piece that doesn’t take place on contemporary (or near-contemporary) Earth. With The White Light of Tomorrow, it’s clear that author Williams has taken all the things he knows and loves – history, science fiction, aviation – and woven them together into a story that tickles the imagination and makes you beg for more.

It’s implied that this book is meant to be the first of a series; I eagerly await the subsequent volumes.

Goes well with pub food: fish and chips or shepherd’s pie and a pint of ale.

 

 

 

Review: The Dress in the Window, by Sofia Grant

About  the book, The Dress in the Window The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 25, 2017)

A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams.

World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town.  But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.

Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.

Buy, read, and discuss The Dress in the Window:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sofia Grant Sofia-Grant-AP-Photo-by-Madeira-James

Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Connect with Sofia:

Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t sew, but I’m the daughter of a talented sewist, so I chose to review this book in part so I could pass it on to her.  I’m glad I did, because the story was fantastically crafted, both Jeanne and Peggy (and less so Thelma and Tommie) have stitched their way into my heart.

Practical Jeanne and ambitious, dreaming Peggy struck me as being both perfectly complementary sisters – each balancing the other  – but also as representing the duality of all of us who are creative, and must constantly decide whether to let our business sense or our romanticism take the lead. I found their relationship reminiscent of my mother’s relationship with her own sisters, though I really only see that in glimpses.

Beyond just their sisterhood, though, I found the journeys each woman takes to be quite compelling. I like that each woman ends up more self-aware at the end of the book than they were at the start. Each of them is stronger and more confident in who they are and what they truly want in life.

In addition to the actual story, I really loved the way the book was designed. Yes, there’s that fantastic Dior-inspired dress on the cover of the book, but inside, each section is linked to a kind of fabric, beginning with taffeta. (I remember my mother cursing over certain kinds of fabrics when I was a kid, and I’ve called her to find her doing the same thing much more recently.

Author Sofia Grant has put a lot detail – historical, sewing, family, setting – into this book, and her care shows. The book never feels affected. Rather, it seems effortless, a sure sign of a great deal of work.

You don’t have to sew, or have a relative who sews to appreciate this book. The period setting, the family relationships – those are what make the novel. The rest? That’s window dressing. Really, really good window dressing.

Goes well with a Philly cheese-steak sandwich. Not because it has anything to do with the novel, aside from the fact that much of it is set there, but because I really want one.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 25th: Life By Kristen

Friday, July 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, July 31st: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, August 1st: BookNAround

Wednesday, August 2nd: Based on a True Story

Thursday, August 3rd: Tina Says…

Friday, August 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 7th: Time 2 Read

Tuesday, August 8th: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, August 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Friday, August 11th: StephTheBookworm

TBD: Book by Book

TBD: View from the Birdhouse

Review: Comfort Plans, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

Comfort Plans Blog Tour

About the book, Comfort Plans Comfort Plans

  • Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
  • Date of Publication: May 23, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 320
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Colette Sheridan is being remodeled.

As a San Antonio architect, she’d have vowed her career was to investigate the history and create new functions for the structures everyone else saw as eyesores. The old German farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, might be the screeching end of that dream job. The assignment seemed so ideal at the start; generous clients, a stunning location, and a pocketful of letters that were surely meant to explain the ranch’s story. All that goodness crashed louder than a pile of two-by-fours when her grandfather announced he’d lured Colette’s ex-husband back to San Antonio to take over the family architecture firm. Now, not only does Colette have to endure the challenges posed by Beau Jefferson, the client’s handpicked contractor, a house that resists efforts to be modernized, and letters that may hold the secret to buried treasure, but she also has to decide if she has the courage to fight for her future.

Set against the backdrop of the Texas Hill Country, Colette and Beau have to rely on plans neither of them constructed in order to navigate the changes of a house with a story to tell, and a future they couldn’t even imagine.

Buy, read, and discuss Comfort Plans:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Kimberly FishKimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won The Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting. She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in 2017, released the first novel in a series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas—The Big Inch. She lives with her family in East Texas.

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThere’s often a fine line between contemporary fiction and romance. That’s not a bad thing, but it bears mentioning that while this novel, Comfort Plans has elements of romance (and two hot male leads in Julian and Beau) but it is really Collette’s story, the story of a woman who must face herself, face her choices, and face the new paths that life is offering her.  As such, it’s a bit deeper, a bit more reflective than traditional ‘romance’ novels.

Author Kimberly Fish has a writing style that feels fast and fresh. There is nothing unpolished or simple about this story, but she makes you feel like her words flowed effortlessly from her keyboard to your eyes. Collette feels dimensional, and as a reader, sympathizing with her struggles seems as natural as offering your best friend a reassuring hug and a glass of Merlot after a rough day.

I liked that Fish set up this novel so that Collette had to face the internal struggle of her own lack of confidence, as well as the external one of her ex-husband, and the prickly contractor she must work with. I liked that her strength ultimately was very real, and very human. Writing imperfect, but relatable characters is a skill that some authors take several novels to hone. Fish has already mastered it, and it was a pleasure to read her words. I especially appreciated the way she never wrote in dialect, but the Texas accent came through in her character’s dialogue even so. Again, it takes a deft hand to pull that off.

If you want a story that is equal parts comfort-read and woman-coming-into-her-power, plan on enjoying Comfort Plans. I did, and I’m recommending it to all my friends.

Goes well with BBQ brisket, corn on the cob, and a green salad accented with homegrown tomatoes and peppers. 


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7/31 Excerpt 1 Books in the Garden
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8/2 Character Interview Texas Book Lover
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Review: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel, by Maria Murnane

About the book, Bridges: A Daphne White Novel Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

 

  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Kindle Press (April 4, 2017)

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

Buy, read, and discuss Bridges:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Maria Murnane Maria Murnane

A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the bestselling author of Wait for the Rain, Katwalk, and International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane, as well as the Waverly Bryson series: Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Originally from California, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Connect with Maria:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I haven’t been single in decades, and I don’t count as young anymore, but there is something universal about Maria Murnane’s trio of women friends, Daphne, Skylar, and KC (Krissa). I didn’t feel too old while reading this novel, nor did I feel out of touch. Instead, I enjoyed a funny, sweet, sometimes poignant novel about a trio of women who truly represent what friendship can, and should, be.

Author Murnane is particularly adept at differentiating the voices and personalities of each woman: free-spirited Skylar, KC who’s dating woes inform her life, but don’t define her, and Daphne, the aspiring novelist. Even though this trio was new to me (this was my first introduction to Maria Murnane’s work, so I never read the first book in this series), I didn’t feel like I was missing crucial information. Their stories come out organically.

Writing believable dialogue is always difficult, and I’ve read comments from readers who felt the dialogue in this book was its weak point. I disagree. My friends and I often use our own vocabulary, that’s at times more formal or more casual (depending on the situation) than whatever is perceived to be the social ‘norm.’ Do Murnane’s characters talk like everyone else? Not exactly. But I felt this made their personalities and their friendship more distinct, more specific.

Overall, I found this to be a great story of love, triumph, struggles, and perseverance, and through it all the friendship of this trio of women was both a unifying thread and a lovely bridge between past and present, present and future, what we thought we wanted, and what we actually need.

Goes well with endless cups of coffee and chocolate chip cookies.


Buy, read, and discuss Bridges: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

About the book, The Almost Sisters The-Almost-Sisters-cover

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)

Selected as the #1 Indie Next Pick for August

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Buy, read, and discuss The Almost Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with Joshilyn:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson’s work ever since I was first introduced to her writing by my good friend Debra, but I was especially excited about The Almost Sisters once I realized that the protagonist, Leia, shared my geeky sensibility.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen so hard for a main character, and I really wish Leia’s comicbook (Stan Lee insists that should be one word, and who am I to argue with Stan Lee?) was real, because Violence in Violet sounds like something I would completely connect with.

But I digress.

Leia and Rachel are ‘almost sisters’ – stepsisters from the age of three, who couldn’t be more different, and yet who share a deep family bond. The way they support each other during Leia’s discovery (and announcement) that she’s pregnant by a Batman cos-player she had a one-night-stand with at a con, Rachel’s marital woes, and Birchie’s (Leia’s grandmother) rapidly deteriorating mental health is absolutely lovely. Real and poignant, and often funny, these two women jump off the page and take up positions on your couch. They even bring the wine.

But Birchie and her girlfriend since childhood, Wattie, are also ‘almost sisters,’ and their friendship is beautiful and rich, layered with decades of familiarity, and colored by the fear of inevitable loss and death.

This novel is essentially a family drama, but it’s also a celebration of its southern roots and southern setting. There’s a sultry-ness that lurks in the background of every scene, and the soundtrack is equal parts southern rock, traditional blues, Americana, and a little bit of country-folk, blended with the rhythmic click of sprinklers resetting and the contrapuntal harmony of cicadas. None of that is spelled out, of course. Jackson’s writing is just so tied to place, and her descriptions are so vivid that you can’t help but add in your own imagined sound.

The Almost Sisters is funny and sad, poignant and prosaic, completely readable, and incredibly compelling. Read it. Read it now. Then share it with a friend.

Goes well with fried catfish, wedge salad with cherry tomatoes, cornbread, and sweet tea.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book

Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi

Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read

Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica

Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife

Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books

Monday, July 31st: she treads softly

Review: Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani

Kiss CarloAbout the book, Kiss Carlo

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 20, 2017)

From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativitythe story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

Buy, read and discuss Kiss Carlo:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Adriana-Trigiani-AP-Photo-by-Tim-StephensonAbout the author, Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Connect with Adriana:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

I love Adriana Trigiani’s writing because her use of language is so lyrical and because her characters and plots celebrate working people – blue collar people – in a way that never panders.

In Kiss Carlo, we get to spend time with Trigiani characters in Italy, in South Philadelphia, and in New York, and we meet people who are cab drivers, flower sellers, and the company of a small Shakespeare company, and all are supremely real and vibrant and somewhat familiar to me, as half my own family are New Jersey Neapolitans who also refer to tomato sauce as gravy, the way Minna’s family does.

Nicky, the central figure in most of this story, is a cab driver moonlighting as a stage hand, and he practically leaps off the page, as do the multitudes of aunts, uncles and cousins who surround him.

While this is a period piece – set after World War II and at the dawn of Television’s golden age – it’s primarily a story about family – the people we love and hate and can’t live with, and wouldn’t dream of living without, and what it means when your dreams don’t align with what your family expects, and those things transcend period.

Goes well with spaghetti with meatballs and homemade tomato gravy.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 20th: Life By Kristen

Wednesday, June 21st: bookchickdi

Thursday, June 22nd: A Night’s Dream of Books

Friday, June 23rd: Time 2 Read

Monday, June 26th: Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, June 27th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, June 28th: Always With a Book

Friday, June 30th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, July 4th: The many thoughts of a reader

Wednesday, July 5th: Tina Says…

Friday, July 7th: My Journey Back

Friday, July 7th: Stephany Writes

Monday, July 10th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 11th: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, July 12th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, July 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Bibliotica

Review: Forever Rose, by Carmen M. Oprea

Forever RoseAbout the book, Forever Rose

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon.com (December 9, 2016)

Alessandro Santini, an Italian doctor from the twenty-first century, lives an ordinary life in modern day Florence. But one evening, he passes through a swirling vortex caused by a supermoon and discovers he has stepped three hundred years into the past. Countess Rose Estes is torn between following her dream of becoming a historical painter and her duty toward her family. After Rose’s father is wounded during her birthday ball, Alex and Rose burn with questions: Who attacked him with a flying dagger? Why? Forced to go to Siena and spend fourteen months together, Rose and Alex find themselves drawn to each other as they search for answers and discover secrets that go deeper than they ever imagined. As the portal’s opening approaches, Alex finds out that Rose has been poisoned through the roses she’s been receiving. He has two choices to save her life—take Rose to his time or go by himself and bring the medication she needs.

Buy, read, and discuss Forever Rose

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Carmen Monica Oprea

Born in Vaslui, Romania, and educated in both Romania and America, Carmen has been in the US since 2001. She’s smart, gorgeous, kind, and her accent is utterly charming (Romanian with a hint of Nashville, where she now lives). Her debut novel combines time travel and romance with an intriguing historical mystery.

She also blogs about life, miracles, gratitude, simplicity, and interior decorating.

Connect with Carmen

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Every so often a book comes your way that defies categorization. That’s the case with Forever Rose, which is both a contemporary story in an historical setting, and an historical romance with contemporary bookends. As well, it’s also a fantasy with a touch of magical realism, and there’s an element of mystery to round things out.

But a book is not merely its category, and Forever Rose transcends all of the possible boxes it could fit into, and is, ultimately, a wonderfully romantic, sometimes funny – sometimes poignant, strangely compelling story that takes you from the contemporary world of medicine and laser technology to eighteenth-century Florence, and makes you look up at the full moon and wonder what magic it might bring to your life.

Author Carmen Monica Oprea writes her period characters with an ease that I wish more writers would find. They never sound out of place, or out of time, but neither is their language stilted or inaccessible. Her lead character, Rose, is both wise and witty, despite being just twenty (though, obviously twenty in the 1700s is much different than twenty today), an accomplished painter, and a surprisingly enlightened young woman. Her sister is more ‘typical’  – overly entitled and somewhat annoying – and her parents feel period appropriate, but are also fully realized characters, and not just cardboard cutouts.

Similarly, Alessandro Santini – Alex – the young doctor who steps back in time during a full moon – is perfectly plausible as a doctor who has known tragedy and is too alone in our world that is so bright and antiseptic. I really liked him, and I was willing to follow him on his journey.

At 303 pages in the paperback version, this novel is just long enough to be really satisfying, but short enough that, if you’re me, you can read it on a single, stormy afternoon. While I figured out the ‘mystery’ part of the story relatively quickly, knowing the truth of ‘whodunnit’ did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all.

If you are in the mood for a romance that is a bit meatier and includes a bit more of a speculative bent than most such stories, or if you just want to read about the lengths people will go when they find the person who is right for them, you will love this book, Forever Rose.

Goes well with a glass of homemade limoncello, sipped slowly in the moonlight with the love of your life.

 

 

Review: Soulmates, by Jessica Grose

Soulmates, by Jessica GroseAbout the book, Soulmates

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 13, 2017)

“For anyone who has ever suspected something sinister lurking behind the craze of new-age spirituality, Jessica Grose has crafted just the tale for you. With the delicious bite of satire and the page-turning satisfaction of a thriller, Soulmates is a deeply compelling, funny and sharply observed look at just how far we will go to achieve inner peace.”—Lena Dunham

A clever, timely novel about a marriage, and infidelity, the meaning of true spirituality, perception and reality from the author of Sad Desk Salad, in which a scorned ex-wife tries to puzzle out the pieces of her husband’s mysterious death at a yoga retreat and their life together.

It’s been two years since the divorce, and Dana has moved on. She’s killing it at her law firm, she’s never looked better, thanks to all those healthy meals she cooks, and she’s thrown away Ethan’s ratty old plaid recliner. She hardly thinks about her husband—ex-husband—anymore, or about how the man she’d known since college ran away to the Southwest with a yoga instructor, spouting spiritual claptrap that Dana still can’t comprehend.

But when she sees Ethan’s picture splashed across the front page of the New York Post—”Nama-Slay: Yoga Couple Found Dead in New Mexico Cave”—Dana discovers she hasn’t fully let go of Ethan or the past. The article implies that it was a murder-suicide, and Ethan’s to blame. How could the man she once loved so deeply be a killer? Restless to find answers that might help her finally to let go, Dana begins to dig into the mystery surrounding Ethan’s death. Sifting through the clues of his life, Dana finds herself back in the last years of their marriage . . . and discovers that their relationship—like Ethan’s death—wasn’t what it appeared to be.

A novel of marriage, meditation, and all the spaces in between, Soulmates is a page-turning mystery, a delicious satire of our feel-good spiritual culture, and a nuanced look at contemporary relationships by one of the sharpest writers working today.

Buy, read, and discuss Soulmates:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jessica-Grose-AP-Photo-by-Judith-EbensteinAbout the author, Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose is a writer and editor. She was previously a senior editor at Slate and an editor at Jezebel. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire, Spin, and several other publications, and on Salon.com. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel, Soulmates, is a quirky little book, and even after reading, I’m not sure I quite ‘got’ it, or that I was the right audience for it.

Author Jessica Grose is a talented writer. She blended the funny and the pathetic, the grim and the poignant in this story really well, and the whole thing has a very contemporary, wry, point of view of the sort that I typically appreciate.

That said, I had a difficult time connecting with the main character Dana. Sure, I understand not getting over an ex – especially when the ex is an ex-husband. Even the worst marriages have a level of intimacy that doesn’t really compare to anything else, and when that relationship ends, it’s natural to be at a loss. The opening chapters, which talk about her cyberstalking her ex-husband Ethan and his new partner were flat-out funny, especially the depiction of her friends getting tired of her obsession.

But when the book shifted from wry social commentary to mystery – Ethan and his new partner are found dead, and the story is on the front page of a major newspaper – I began to lose touch with the story. Maybe this was my own reaction to the whole ashram-commune mindset. (I don’t share well.) Maybe it’s my age showing – at 47, I’m outside the youthful/hipster demographic.

Or maybe it’s just that not every reader connects with every book the same way.

We’d like to believe that we read books with pure hearts and minds, but the reality is that we – or at least I – bring ourselves to the story as much as the author’s words and characters – we see things through the lens of our own lives – and my life just isn’t meshy with the last part of Soulmates.

Do not think that I’m panning this novel. I’m NOT.

As I said, author Grose is a talented writer. Her characters are vividly drawn, and feel plausible (that may be why I had such a visceral reaction to Dana’s arc). Her use of language feels like the best television shows, and her plot is strong.

If you are a little bit younger than me, or more open to things like communal living and yoga as a lifestyle and not merely a form of exercise, you will love this novel.

Even if you’re not into those things, there’s a good chance you’ll like it.

Goes well with grilled tofu, tabouleh, and iced mint tea. 


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Friday, June 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Saturday, June 24th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, June 27th: Bewitched Bookworms

Friday, June 30th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 3rd: Wining Wife

Wednesday, July 5th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, July 6th: StephTheBookworm

Friday, July 7th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, July 10th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, July 11th: Art @ Home

Wednesday, July 12th: My Military Savings

Friday, July 14th: Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps

Review: My Glory Was I have Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – with Giveaway

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends About the book, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Buy, read, and discuss, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes &  Noble | Goodreads


Amy Silverstein AP Photo by Deborah FeingoldAbout the author, Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Memoirs are always tricky things to review, at least for me, because it feels a little like you’re judging the author’s life, rather than their writing and storytelling skills. In the case of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, though, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, because the writing is so tight, the voice so consistent, and the storytelling so well-paced that it reads like a novel.

Silverstein is candid in telling her story. I haven’t read her previous book, Sick Girl, but I’m guessing her tone was similar in that: upbeat, despite the description of sometimes-grim events, a little bit snarky, a little bit self-deprecating, a lot poignant…

What really struck me, though, is that Silverstein’s book is full of joy.

Obviously when writing a story about life-threatening heart issues and the race between remaining beats in your existing heart and time to be hooked up with a new organ ready for transplant, you’re going to be joyful just for having survived it (spoiler: she lived, and wrote this book). But the sense of joy I felt while reading this was more than that. It was the sense that every friend mentioned in this memoir, these women (including one actually called Joy) who took chunks of their lives to support the author through a harrowing experience, both gave Amy strength and comfort, but also received the same.

It is my hope that most of us will never have to get so close to a ‘premature’ death that we’re not just looking it in the eye, but smelling its foul breath (seriously, does death floss?) , but if we do, we should all be so lucky as to have friends like Amy’s, and like Amy herself, because it’s clear from this memoir that her friendships go both ways.

Goes well with banana pudding with ‘nilla wafers.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Giveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Thursday, July 20th. Winner will be notified by email.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 28th: Becklist

Thursday, June 29th: Tina Says…

Friday, June 30th: Openly Bookish

Monday, July 3rd: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, July 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 6th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 11th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, July 12th: The Desert Bibliophile

Thursday, July 13th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 17th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, July 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, July 19th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 20th: Wining Wife