Agatha Christie: Closed Casket, by Sophie Hannah

About the book Closed Casket Closed Casket

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 6, 2016)

“What I intend to say to you will come as a shock…”

With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford — one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors — springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.

Among Lady Playford’s visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited — until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why — when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it — does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?

Buy, read, and discuss Closed Casket

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About series creator, Agatha Christie Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976.

Learn more about Agatha Christie through her official website.


About the author, Sophie Hannah Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in 27 countries and adapted for television, as well as The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie.

Connect with Sophie

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It’s never easy when a new author tries to take over from a legend. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books have been written by multitudes of authors hiding behind the existing pen names since forever. Robert Goldsborough successfully stepped into Rex Stout’s shoes and gave us the continuing stories of on Nero Wolfe a couple of decades ago.  With this novel, Closed Casket, Sophie Hannah has stepped up to write about one of Ms. Christie’s beloved creations, Hercule Poirot, and I have to confess, I asked to review it as much because as I love the dapper Belgian as because I was curious to see if he was safe in Hannah’s hands.

I needn’t have worried. Closed Casket is everything a Poirot novel should be… interwoven plot lines, layers of social behavior, clues upon clues, and through it all, his keen intellect leading us down the path to the solution.

From the moment we are first introduced to Lady Playford this novel is compelling. Why leave all your money to someone who may well die before you? Why invite a private detective and a Scotland Yard inspector to a weekend in the country? Why indeed… if it isn’t to force deep truths from your friends and family?

It’s hard to review a mystery without spoiling it… suffice to say that all of Hannah’s characters are well drawn. I heard echoes of David Suchet’s performances in Poirot’s speech, and would happily watch a weekly police drama featuring Catchpool. It felt a little like Playford was meant to represent Christie herself, in a way, but I think every reader will come away with that sense, even if it isn’t accurate.

As with all Christie mysteries, this isn’t a novel that involves car chases or gun fights. There is little ‘action,’ there is no gore. This is not a spy thriller.

What Closed Casket is, is a perfectly plotted, well drawn continuation of a beloved character’s adventures. Hannah’s writing was endorsed by Christie’s estate. I hope she continues to write in this world, but I’m also intrigued to check out her other works.

Goes well with a pot of tea, a plate of scones, and whatever you do, don’t look behind that billowing curtain.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, September 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 7th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Thursday, September 8th: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, September 12th: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, September 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, September 14th: Dwell in Possibility

Monday, September 19th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, September 21st: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, September 22nd: In Bed with Books

Friday, September 23rd: Bibliotica

TBD: A Wondrous Bookshelf

Review: The Things We Wish Were True, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

About the book The Things We Wish Were True The Things We Wish Were True

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 1, 2016)

In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

Buy, read, and discuss The Things We Wish Were True

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of five previous novels and speaks to women’s groups around the United States. She is the cofounder of the popular women’s fiction site She Reads and is active in a local writers’ group. Marybeth and her husband, Curt, have been married for twenty-four years and are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel.

Connect with Marybeth

Website | She Reads | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I always enjoy novels that involve many characters, or groups of characters, each with individual arcs but intersecting plots. Maeve Binchy was a master of such stories. This is the first of Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s that I’ve encountered, but if it’s anything to judge by, she’s also masterful when it comes to interweaving separate stories.

And this novel is very much a collection of separate-but-intertwined stories. Two children whose mother works like crazy, but never seems to have enough, a wife who cannot seem to function any more, pairs of adults and children who don’t always connect – it’s a microcosm of American suburbia, drawn with just enough darkness at the edges to keep the sweet moments from being saccharine.

This typical suburban life was never my reality, and I’m wondering if the sense that I was looking through a slightly distorted lens, a warped window or clouded mirror was because of my own disconnect from such neighborhoods – everyone I knew growing up went to beaches or had their own pool, so a community pool was never part of my experience – or intentional on the author’s part, but the feeling worked for the story, making the people of Sycamore Glen feel like folks you don’t really know, but have maybe seen at the grocery store and so have a passing familiarity with. It’s similar to the sense of an endless summer, but a little more heightened.

Whalen’s characters all felt dimensional. I don’t have a favorite… they were all so well-drawn, that to pick one out seems impossible. Jencey, I think, the mother on the run from a bad relationship, her two kids in tow, really stood out for me, as did Bryte, but Cailey, the bright, determined little girl half of the sister-and-brother team in the rental house really shone. I’d love a folllow-up novel tracking her as an adult. She had grit and spunk, and those things appeal to me.

Overall, this is a perfect summer read, but it’s not a novel that would be out of place at any time of year. It is well crafted, with excellent characters, a connective plot that is quietly compelling, and a theme of resilience, neighborliness, and hope.

Goes well with egg salad sandwiches and lemonade.


Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 29th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesdsay, August 31st: Reading is my Superpower

Wednesday, August 31st: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Thursday, September 1st: Girls in White Dresses

Friday, September 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, September 6th: Reading Cove Book Club

Wednesday, September 7th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, September 8th: Books and Spoons

Friday, September 9th: Books and Bindings

Friday, September 9th: Books a la Mode – excerpt

Monday, September 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, September 13th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Thursday, September 15th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, September 16th: A Splendid Messy Life

Monday, September 19th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 21st: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, September 22nd: Just Commonly

Monday, September 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, September 26th: FictionZeal

Thursday, September 29th: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, September 30th: Not in Jersey

Review: Life After Coffee, by Virginia Franken – with giveaway

About the book Life After Coffee Life After Coffee

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 13, 2016)

When globe-trotting coffee buyer, Amy O’Hara, assures her husband—who stays at home to watch the kids—that it is He Who Has it Harder… she doesn’t really believe it. That is, until the day she gets laid off, her husband decides to devote all his waking hours to writing a screenplay, and she discovers she’s actually the world’s most incompetent mother.

Amy’s only possible salvation is to find another high-flying job as quickly as possible, but with the coffee industry imploding around her—and the competing buyers in her field being much hipper prospects—things look pretty dire. Even if Amy does manage to find full-time employment ever again, as her life slowly becomes more and more entwined with her children’s, how will she be able to bear leaving them to travel for weeks on end?

When salvation appears in the form of a movie-mogul ex-boyfriend who wants to employ her husband and rekindle their relationship, Amy starts to find she’s sorely tempted…

Buy, read, and discuss Life After Coffee.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Virginia Franken Virginia Franken

Virginia Franken was born and raised in Medway, Kent, the place where Henry the 8th sent his wives on holiday in the hope that they’d be eaten alive by mosquitoes and save him the trouble of beheading them. Most her childhood was spent wearing a dance leotard and tights, and at age 11 she attended the (sort of) prestigious dance school The Arts Education School, Tring, where she spent her teen years trying to do pique turns in a straight line and getting drunk in the village. (The inability to do the former possibly informed by too much opportunity to do the latter).

After graduating from The University of Roehampton, she worked on cruise liners as a professional dancer before deciding she’d had enough of wearing diamanté g-strings for a living and somehow managed to bag a job in book publishing.  Getting fed up of having to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, she eventually moved from London to Los Angeles where life was affordable and every time she opened her mouth she got to act all surprised and flattered when someone said they liked her accent. She then spent years trying to convince everyone else that it was them who had the accent, but this was never met with anything more emphatic than a polite, “Is that so…”

These days she lives in Monrovia, near to Pasadena, with two kids, a dog, one ever-lasting goldfish and her bearded lover, in a house that’s just a little bit too small to fit everyone in quite comfortably. She gets most of her writing done when she should be sleeping. LIFE AFTER COFFEE is her first novel. If enough people buy a copy, there’s a good chance she’ll write another…

Connect with Virginia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I fell in love with this book just from the title, and that initial crush was fully realized before I was three chapters into this funny, fast paced, breezy read about a woman who has to learn the hard way how to balance her career, marriage, and motherhood, a task made more urgent when she’s fired from her globetrotting coffee-buying job and suddenly has to be the primary caregiver to her two children.

Amy, the main character is engaging and likeable, even if there are moments when you want to grab her and shake her. Patrick, her writer husband wavers between being a true helpmate and being a ball of depression. The two kids are sticky, adorable, and somewhat troublesome, and felt just real enough that I could feel bad for them, and laugh at them, without feeling guilty.

First-time novelist Virginia Franken deftly manages her characters. While some of their choices make you want to shake the until they can’t see straight, those low-percentage decisions only serve to make Amy, Patrick, and the people they encounter feel more real, especially next-door neighbor Lizzie who starts out as an antagonist of sorts, and morphs into an ally, if not a friend, by the end of the story.

I really appreciate Franken’s use of first-person in Life After Coffee, and commend her on Amy’s dialogue in particular. At times, I had to remind myself that this was a novel and not a super-candid memoir.

If you want a novel that is both fantastically funny and a fast read, Life After Coffee would be an excellent choice.

Goes well with coffee, obviously, and a toasted English muffin with the nut-butter of your choice. I like cashew.


Giveaway Life After Coffee

One lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of Life After Coffee mailed to them by the publicist. How? you ask. I’ll tell you:

There are three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a relevant comment on this post.

Winner will be chosen from those entries received by 23:59 CDT on 25 September 2016.


Virginia Franken’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, September 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 14th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post

Friday, September 16th: Bibliotica

Monday, September 19th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, September 20th: Wall to Wall Books

Thursday, September 22nd: Back Porchervations

Monday, September 26th: Write Read Life

Wednesday, September 28th: The Book Chick

Monday, October 3rd: Rebel Mommy Book Blog

Thursday, October 6th: Tina Says

Friday, October 7th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Monday, October 10th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, October 11th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, October 12th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Thursday, October 13th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, October 17th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, October 18th: 5 Minutes for Books

Wednesday, October 19th: Reading Cove Book Club

Thursday, October 20th: Mom’s Small Victories

Monday, October 24th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Sunday, October 30th: Writer Unboxed – guest post

Review: The Whiskey Sea, by Ann Howard Creel with giveaway (ends 09/21)

About the book, The Whiskey Sea The Whiskey Sea

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 23, 2016)

Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rum-runners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

Buy, read, and discuss The Whiskey Sea:

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


About the author, Ann Howard Creel Ann Howard Creel

Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website, annhowardcreel.com.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The Whiskey Sea is my first review after a month off. I needed the month, but, it seems, I needed this book as well. Last month I turned 46, and I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown impatient with novels where the women let other people save them. Frieda, in The Whiskey Sea, has help at times, but fundamentally she saved herself, and I really love that about her.

In truth, Frieda’s  a bit prickly for a lead character. She’s fiercely independent, stubborn, and overly cautious when it comes to trusting people – the latter with good reason as her mother was the town whore  – but somehow, I found myself liking her anyway. Her self-reliance and determination practically leap off the page and demand that you take notice, and her flaws only humanize her.

Then there’s her little sister, Bea. Frieda spends much of her childhood playing mother to Bea, mostly out of necessity, but the sisters’ bond never really fades and while the younger sister is often overshadowed by the older, her arc is crucial to the plot.

If Frieda and Bea are at the center of The Whiskey Sea the men in the story are the satellites in orbit around them. There are two, specifically, that bear mentioning: Silver, the man who decides, basically on a whim, to give the two orphaned sisters a home, is the man who kicks off the tale. Old and set in his ways, he makes a snap decision that changes all their lives.

Sam Hicks is the constant in Frieda’s life from the time she graduates from high school, onward. Steady, solid, ever-present, he reminds me of all the fisherman and clammers I used to see in my cousin’s diner early in the morning when I was a kid.

All together, this story has everything: a coastal village setting, the historical background of prohibition, and the rum-running that went along with it, and  a gritty coming-of-age story that doesn’t assume ‘of age’ means eighteen, but understands that we all come into ourselves at their own pace.

For me, though, this novel was special in ways over and above the brilliant writing and compelling story. It was special because the setting – Highlands, New Jersey, is where my own roots are. My family lived ‘over in Atlantic Highlands’ (the two towns are adjacent) and my cousins ran a local diner not far from the harbor. Seeing the historical depiction of a place that is literally in my blood made this book feel magical to me.

Author Ann Howard Creel is a deft and masterful storyteller. Her characters feel incredibly real, and this novel is the perfect book to immerse yourself in on a crisp fall evening, or a sultry summer afternoon, or pretty much any other time.

Goes well with Manhattan-style clam chowder (that’s the red kind), fried clams, and a cold beer, but not an IPA, because they’re too hoppy.


Giveaway The Whiskey Sea

One lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of The Whiskey Sea mailed to them by the publicist. How? you ask. I’ll tell you.

There are three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a relevant comment on this post.

Winner will be chosen from those entries received by 23:59 CDT on 21 September 2016.


Ann Howard Creel’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 22nd: Musings of  a Bookish Kitty

Tuesday, August 23rd: You Can Read Me Anything

Wednesday, August 24th: Staircase Wit

Thursday, August 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, August 26th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, August 29th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 30th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 31st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, September 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, September 6th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, September 7th: Reading is My Superpower

Thursday, September 8th: Write Read Life

Monday, September 12th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 13th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads

Thursday, September 15th: View from the Birdhouse

Friday, September 16th: FictionZeal

Monday, September 19th: Reading the Past

TBD: The Warlock’s Gray Book

Review: The American Girl, by Kate Horsley

About the book,  The American Girl The American Girl

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2016)

From a bright new talent comes a riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident, and the journalist determined to break the story and uncover the dark secrets a small town is hiding.

On a quiet summer morning, seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch. Barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her, Quinn’s appearance creates quite a stir, especially since the Blavettes—the French family with whom she’s been staying—have mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl had anything to do with her host family’s disappearance.

Though she is cynical about the media circus that suddenly forms around the girl, Boston journalist Molly Swift cannot deny she is also drawn to the mystery and travels to St. Roch. She is prepared to do anything to learn the truth, including lying so she can get close to Quinn. But when a shocking discovery turns the town against Quinn and she is arrested for the murders of the Blavette family, she finds an unlikely ally in Molly.

As a trial by media ensues, Molly must unravel the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American Girl makes a very compelling murder suspect. Is Quinn truly innocent and as much a victim as the Blavettes—or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder…?

Told from the alternating perspectives of Molly, as she’s drawn inexorably closer to the truth, and Quinn’s blog entries tracing the events that led to her accident, The American Girl is a deliciously creepy, contemporary, twisting mystery leading to a shocking conclusion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kate Horsley Kate Horsley

Kate Horsley’s first novel, The Monster’s Wife, was shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Best British Crime Stories. She co-edits Crimeculture, a site dedicated to crime fiction and film offering articles, reviews, and interviews with writers.

Connect with Kate

Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | Google+


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love a good thriller and The American Girl offers up thrill after thrill from the moment Quinn Perkins  stumbles out of a French forest and gets hit by a car, through every plot twist and mysterious turn as American journalist Molly Swift goes head-to-head with local authorities to determine the real story behind the foreign exchange student’s surprising appearance, and, indeed the rest of her time in St. Roch.

I liked the convention of alternating chapters between amnesiac Quinn’s flashbacks, her present-day video blog (an activity her therapist assigned) and Molly’s observations, especially since the former is confined to a hospital bed in a coma for the first quarter of the novel, and remains in the hospital (but awake) for much of the rest of the story.

I have to admit, I did find myself a bit distracted by Quinn’s name. Is she meant to be an homage to the character from the television show Scandal, who also has an amnesiac Quinn Perkins at the enter of the story, or did the author merely draw the name from mid-air? I wish I’d thought to relay a question through the blog tour host and publicist to find out.

I also have to confess that while I enjoyed the mystery/thriller aspect of this book a lot, I found that some of the individual story elements were a bit predictable. Molly’s flirtation with the local law enforcement is one; whether or not we should trust Quin is another.

Still, even with some minor flaws, the overall tenor of this novel is exactly what it should be for a story this dark and this intimate. The characters at the center of it – Molly and Quinn – are painted with deft strokes, the supporting cast with slightly less definition, but enough to be believable. Similarly the tone  – moody and murky – kept me involved in the mystery rather than working it out long before I was finished.

If you want a novel that sustains a nice creepy mood, tells a gripping story, and is otherwise well-crafted, you should read The American Girl.

Goes well with a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 2nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, August 3rd: A Bookworm’s World

Thursday, August 4th: Literary Feline

Monday, August 8th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 9th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, August 10th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, August 11th: Bibliotica

Thursday, August 11th: FictionZeal

Monday, August 15th: Buried Under Books

Monday, August 15th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, August 17th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, August 18th: StephTheBookworm

TBD: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

TBD: Book Hooked Blog

 

Review: Home Field, by Hannah Gersen

About the book, Home Field Home Field by Hannah Gersen

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 26, 2016)

The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football.

As the high school football coach in his small, rural Maryland town, Dean is a hero who reorganized the athletic program and brought the state championship to the community. When he married Nicole, the beloved town sweetheart, he seemed to have it all—until his troubled wife committed suicide. Now, everything Dean thought he knew is thrown off kilter as Nicole’s death forces him to re-evaluate all of his relationships, including those with his team and his three children.

Dean’s eleven-year old son, Robbie, is withdrawing at home and running away from school. Bry, who is only eight, is struggling to understand his mother’s untimely death and his place in the family. Eighteen-year-old Stephanie, a freshman at Swarthmore, is torn between her new identity as a rebellious and sophisticated college student, her responsibility towards her brothers, and reeling from missing her mother. As Dean struggles to continue to lead his team to victory in light of his overwhelming personal loss, he must fix his fractured family—and himself. When a new family emergency arises, Dean discovers that he’ll never view the world in the same way again.

Transporting readers to the heart of small town America, Home Field is an unforgettable, poignant story about the pull of the past and the power of forgiveness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Hannah Gersen Hannah Gersen

Hannah Gersen was born in Maine and grew up in western Maryland. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her writing has been published in the New York Times, Granta, and The Southern Review, among others. Home Field is her first novel. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Connect with Hannah

Website


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

As we head into summer’s home stretch, I find myself anxious for the cooler (well slightly cooler – I live in Texas, after all) temperatures of autumn. Even now in the first half of August, even though the temperature is regularly over 100, there’s a thinner quality to the summer light.

Home Field does not take place entirely within the summer, but in part one of this deftly crafted family drama, grieving father and high school football coach Dean reflects that he needs August so that he and the boys he coaches can recharge before the craziness of the school year sets in.

In many ways, I feel like we all need this novel, in much the same way. For all it deals with deep issues  – the death-by-suicide of Dean’s wife, Stephanie, Robbie, and Bry’s mother,  Nicole, the various ways different people process such an event, and the eventual healing that starts even though it meets a bit of resistance – this is a gentle story. It perfectly combines the immediate pain and loss of this family with the setting of small-town America.

I’ll confess that eighteen-year-old Stephanie is the character I most understood, despite the fact that I’m more a contemporary of her father – but I know too well the way we distance ourselves from our mothers, even when we’re still alive, and, like her, I went through a period when my hair was dyed black. (My hair is currently streaked with pink, but for very different reasons.) I thought the combination of her outer rebellion and her inner commitment to academic excellence was incredibly well-written.

But Dean, the father, the coach, felt very real to me as well. I felt for him at every moment of this novel, and wanted so much for him to find his rhythm and make the connection with his children that was missing a little bit in all of their grief.

Overall, I felt that Home Field was an absorbing, satisfying read, and I look forward to more from Hannah Gersen.

Goes well with smoked ham, roasted red potatoes, and crisp apple cider (hard or not, as appropriate).


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 26th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 28th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, July 29th: Broken Teepee

Monday, August 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 2nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, August 3rd: bookchickdi

Thursday, August 4th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, August 8th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, August 9th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, August 10th: Sweet Southern Home

TBD: A Tattered Copy

Review: Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff

About the book, Secrets of Nanreath Hall Secrets of Nanreath Hall

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2016)

This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.

Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six-years-old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.

Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.

As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth… and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alix Rickloff Alix Rickloff

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Alix:

Website  FacebookPinterestTwitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

In Secrets of Nanreath Hall, author Alix Rickloff gives us an interesting well-written historical novel that takes place in two time periods without the use of time travel.

Instead, we meet Lady Katherine (Kitty) first as she’s announcing to her close friends that she’s been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t have much time left, and later in alternating chapters that flash back to show us her personal history. Her story is set against the backdrop of World War I, and we follow her constant straining against the society family she was born into and her love for an artist who paints her the way he sees her, but dies far too soon.

We also meet Anna, Kitty’s daughter, who is serving as a  Red Cross nurse. Her story is also set during wartime, World War II, and her chapters have a snap and sparkle to them that the Kitty sections do not, which fits the energy of the time.

Of the two women, it’s difficult to say which is stronger. Anna is certainly more self-sufficient, but Kitty is more unconventional, and yet, Rickloff makes them undeniably mother and daughter, even though Anna loses her mother when she is only six.

Both women have stories that involve coming of age, losing family, and finding their right place in the world. Kitty’s is more languid, especially as we know her ultimate end – dying essentially alone – from the beginning. Almost, it feels like lassitude slowly creeps into her story.  Conversely, Anna’s story increases in tempo as it goes on. Her early scenes paint her as very much a lost lamb, having just lost her guardians in an air raid.

There are other characters in this story of course. Kitty’s lover (and Anna’s father) the painter Simon Halliday is one. Anna’s cousin Hugh and friend Tilly are others. These characters are well drawn, each with their own flaws but they serve to highlight the women at the heart of the novel.

A final character is the family manse, Nanreath Hall, a house that has been conscripted for use as a convalescent home – the house where Anna is assigned. If the actual secrets held by the Hall were somewhat predictable, it wasn’t a detractor. The novel is so well written that even the predictable is a delight to read.

While this book will most appeal to Anglophiles and people who love historical novels, I think it would suit a broad variety of readers.

Goes well with warm pastry and hot tea, or maybe a splash of brandy.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 2nd: BookNAround

Thursday, August 4th: Bibliotica

Friday, August 5th: Let Them Read Books

Monday, August 8th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, August 9th: A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, August 10th: Broken Teepee

Monday, August 15th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 16th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 17th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, August 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Review: Vanishing Time, by Katharine Britton – with Giveaway

About the book, Vanishing Time Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

 

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Brigham Books; 1 edition (June 8, 2016)
  • Language: English

Cama Truesdale’s ex-husband and young son leave Boston for a fishing trip in South Carolina’s Low Country. In the early morning hours, Cama is jolted awake by a phone call. There’s been a fire on board the boat. Her ex-husband is dead. Her son is missing and presumed dead. As she sets off for South Carolina, Cama’s belief that her son Tate is alive is unwavering. But her frantic search soon stirs up painful memories that send her reeling back to her childhood and the mysterious car crash that killed her black mother and white father. As the clock ticks down, exhausted, haunted by dreams, and stymied by the police and local community, she enters a world in which she must rely on instinct over fact, and where no one and nothing is what it seems—not even the boundary between the living and the dead.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Katharine Britton Katharine Britton

Katharine has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Her screenplay “Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone,” on which “Vanishing Time” was based, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. When not writing, Katharine can often be found in her Vermont garden, waging a non-toxic war against slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing after the fact. Also by Katharine Britton: “Her Sister’s Shadow” and “Little Island.”

Connect with Katharine

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

A couple of years ago, I reviewed Katharine Britton’s novel Little Islandwhich I really loved, so when her name appeared in my email, inviting me to read and review her latest work, Vanishing Time, there was no way I was going to decline.  I fell just as much in love – perhaps more so – with this novel, and I’m pleased and honored that she asked me to review it.

If you read the blurb, you may get the impression that this novel is going to be a dark and plodding story about a mother searching for her presumed-dead son. Well, there is a lot of searching for the boy, but in no way is this story dark. Sure, there are some heavy moments, but Britton excels as writing the everyday touches of humor and grace that touch even the worst of our days. The result is less Cama’s search for her son – though that’s crucial to the novel – but Cama’s journey to her authentic self, which happens in spurts and sprinkles, from the first page to the last.

Crafting such a story at all takes a delicate hand, but Britton’s work is that delicate. In this richly satisfying read, she’s given us a glimpse at the Low Country lifestyle that I’ve always been drawn to in literature, even using Gullah phrases as chapter headers (a delightful treat, and wonderful detail).

She’s also populated the story with a cast of characters who practically leap off the page and invite you for pie. Sam, the lawyer-turned-touchstone who provides Cama with a solid presence during her search. Phoebe, who owns the cottages on Pawleys Island, and even best-friend Ellie in California, are all written with as much dimension as Cama herself, and as Tate, the little boy Cama is so desperate to find.

What could easily have become a maudlin story about a mother’s plodding search for her missing child becomes, in Katharine Britton’s deft hands, a compelling story that uses the search for self and the search for truth as dual themes connected by the reminiscence of love gone sour, a bit of action/adventure, and just a hint of new love if you turn your head and squint a little.

I love this book, and Britton’s writing voice (which has matured a bit, and flows more easily than it did in Little Island) is clear, strong, and completely captivating.

Goes well with, shrimp po’boys and sweet tea.


Giveaway Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

One lucky reader (US/Canada)  will win a print copy  of this book, autographed by the author.

Three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a comment here on this post telling me where your roots are. Is there a place that feels more like home to you than any other? Is it the place where you were born?

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 12th.

 

Giveaway Updates & What’s Next

I’ve been really bad about announcing the winners of things. Going forward, I’ll be better.  Winners of everything through July have been notified. If you didn’t win, please know that I appreciate your comments, re-tweets and Facebook likes/shares.

Here are the winners of the last three giveaways.

The Hummingbird, by Stephen P. Kiernan goes to Marcia.

After Alice, by Gregory Maguire, goes to Selena.

Finding Fontainebleau, by Thad Carhart goes to Anne.


I’ll be launching a giveaway for Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton on Tuesday, August 2nd. This is a very special giveaway as the book will be signed by the author herself.

About the book, Vanishing Time Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

 

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Brigham Books; 1 edition (June 8, 2016)
  • Language: English

Cama Truesdale’s ex-husband and young son leave Boston for a fishing trip in South Carolina’s Low Country. In the early morning hours, Cama is jolted awake by a phone call. There’s been a fire on board the boat. Her ex-husband is dead. Her son is missing and presumed dead. As she sets off for South Carolina, Cama’s belief that her son Tate is alive is unwavering. But her frantic search soon stirs up painful memories that send her reeling back to her childhood and the mysterious car crash that killed her black mother and white father. As the clock ticks down, exhausted, haunted by dreams, and stymied by the police and local community, she enters a world in which she must rely on instinct over fact, and where no one and nothing is what it seems—not even the boundary between the living and the dead.

 

 

 

Review: Under an Adirondack Sky, by Karen Rock

 About the book, Under an Adirondack Sky Under an Adirondack Sky

Can he juggle everything…including her?

After raising his siblings and running the family pub for more than a decade, Aiden Walsh has set his own dreams aside. Until the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen stumbles into his bar, and his arms. Too bad Rebecca Day is the school psychologist in charge of his brother’s future. Who’s he kidding? He doesn’t have room in his full life for romance anyway. But forced to join Rebecca and her group of troubled teens on an Adirondack retreat, he realizes keeping his family afloat isn’t enough for him…not by a long shot.

Read the first three chapters on Wattpad!

Purchase Links

HarlequinBarnes & Noble| Amazon| Kobo


Karen Rock Karen Rock

Award-winning author Karen Rock is both sweet and spicy–at least when it comes to her writing! The author of both YA and adult contemporary books writes red-hot novels for Harlequin Blaze and small-town romances for Harlequin Heartwarming. A strong believer in Happily-Ever-After, Karen loves creating unforgettable stories that leave her readers with a smile. When she’s not writing, Karen is an avid reader who’s typically immersed in three different books at a time, all in different genres. She also loves cooking her grandmother’s Italian recipes, baking, Christmas (no need to specify–she loves every bit of it), and having the Adirondack Park wilderness as her backyard, where she lives with her husband, daughter, dog and cat who keep her life interesting and complete.

Connect with Karen

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I read a decent amount of contemporary fiction, some of which has romance in it, but typically, I don’t read ‘traditional’ romance novels. However, when it’s high summer, the temperature is over a hundred, and the humidity is so intense it makes me wish I had gills, there’s nothing so relaxing as devouring a Harlequin novel, and the most recent such book to help me feel calm and cool was Karen Rock’s Under an Adirondack Sky.

The formula is fairly de rigueur: Rebecca Day is a school psychologist up for tenure. Aidan Walsh owns a bar and takes care of his younger brothers and sisters because his father is dead and his mother has early-onset Alzheimers. With Connor, Aidan’s teenaged brother and Rebecca’s patient, as the catalyst the pair become first adversaries, then allies, and finally fall in love.

That much, you can glean from the back cover.

But what the cover doesn’t tell you is that author Karen Rock has given us a story that is fresh, fun, and doesn’t feel at all formulaic when you’re reading it. Sure, there’s a little bit of contrivance in getting Rebecca, some of her colleagues, a few parents and the most challenging students out to an Adirondack farmhouse for a couple of weeks of tech-free living and personal encounters, but really, it’s no more contrived than when Agatha Christie throws a dinner party so Miss Marple can solve a crime.

Besides, the time at the farmhouse makes you want to step into the novel and hang out with everyone, fishing and grilling food on the porch and learning to knit, and being nurtured by the homeowners as well as the mental health professionals.

Rebecca is a lovely character, sunny and bright much of the time, but no Pollyanna, and her pleasant manner hides depth that we do get to peek at. Aidan is much more interesting than the typical “twinkling brown eyes” romantic hero, and is also surprisingly complex. Connor, around whom the story revolves, is well-drawn, as are the rest of his peers.

In fact the whole novel is a good look at the way young teens process emotional distress, and at the way communication is a key element of all relationships, not just the romantic ones.

Curl up with a glass of ice tea and a healthy amount of sunscreen, and spend and afternoon reading Under and Adirondack Sky; it will leave you smiling.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish, grilled on a back-yard BBQ, homegrown vegetables, and jacket potatoes.


Summer Lovin’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 4th: Romantic Reads and Such – Under an Adirondack Sky

Tuesday, July 5th: A Chick Who ReadsThe Girl He Used to Love

Wednesday, July 6th: Romancing the Readers – Sophie’s Path

Thursday, July 7th: Wall to Wall Books – Under an Adirondack Sky

Friday, July 8th: Just Commonly – When I Found You

Friday, July 8th: Books A La Mode – Karen Rock guest post

Monday, July 11th: From the TBR Pile – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, July 12th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 13th: Books and Spoons – When I Found You

Friday, July 15th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – The Girl He Used to Love

Monday, July 18th: Stranded in ChaosUnder an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 20th: Books A La Mode – Amy Vastine Guest Post

Thursday, July 21st: Romancing the Book – When I Found You

Friday, July 22nd: Wall to Wall Books – Sophie’s Path

Monday, July 25th: From the TBR Pile – The Girl He Used to Love

Tuesday, July 26th: Bibliotica – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 27th: Books and Spoons – Sophie’s Path

Friday, July 29th: Books A La Mode – Kate James Guest Post

Saturday, July 30th: The Sassy BooksterWhen I Found You

Monday, August 1st: A Chick Who Reads – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, August 2nd: Reading Is My Superpower – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, August 3rd: Reading Is My Superpower – When I Found You

Friday, August 5th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews – The Girl He Used to Love

Monday, August 8th: Why Girls are Weird – Under an Adirondack Sky

Tuesday, August 9th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – When I Found You

Wednesday, August 10th: Reading Lark – Sophie’s Path

Thursday, August 11th: Romancing the Book – The Girl He Used to Love

Friday, August 12th: Books A La Mode – Catherine Lanigan Guest Post

Monday, August 15th: Romancing the Book – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, August 16th: Read-Love-Blog – Amy Vastine Guest Post

Thursday, August 18th: Romancing the Book – Under an Adirondack Sky

Click to purchase any book in the series