The Christos Mosaic, by Vincent Czyz

About the book, The Christos Mosaic The Christos Mosaic

  • Hardcover: 531 pages
  • Publisher: Blank Slate Press (October 27, 2015)

A suspicious death in Istanbul leaves one ancient scroll and clues to finding another in the hands of Drew Korchula, a thirty-two-year-old American ex-pat, a Turkish dwarf named Kadir, and Zafer, a Special Forces washout. Drew is desperate to turn everything over to the academic community, and in the process redeem himself in the eyes of his estranged wife, but Kadir and Zafer are only interested in what they can get for the scrolls on the black market. None of them anticipated a coven of shadowy Church operatives determined to prevent the revelations embodied in the priceless manuscripts from ever going public.

An action-packed, intellectual thriller unraveling a theological cold case more than two thousand years old, The Christos Mosaic is a monumental work of biblical research wrapped in a story of love, faith, human frailty, friendship, and forgiveness. The novel takes the reader through the backstreets of Istanbul, Antakya (ancient Antioch), and Cairo, to clandestine negotiations with wealthy antiquities smugglers and ruthless soldiers of fortune, to dusty Egyptian monasteries, on a nautical skirmish off the coast of Alexandria, and  finally to the ruins of Constantine’s palace buried beneath the streets of present-day Istanbul.

Buy, read, and discuss The Christos Mosaic

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


About the author, Vincent Czyz Vincent Czyz

Vincent Czyz is the author of The Christos Mosaic, a novel, and Adrift in a Vanishing City, a collection of short fiction. He received two fellowships from the NJ Council on the Arts and the W. Faulkner-W. Wisdom Prize for Short Fiction. The 2011 Truman Capote Fellow at Rutgers University, his stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, Shenandoah, AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Tin House (online), Boston Review, Quiddity, The Tampa Review, The Georgetown Review, and Skidrow Penthouse, among other publications. He spent a total of nearly a decade in Istanbul, Turkey before settling in Jersey City. His work often deals with the existential themes found in art, myth and religion, dreams, and primal ways of perceiving the world.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I confess, it took me a bit to really get into this book. I just didn’t connect with the main character, Drew, as he was in college, and at first, I couldn’t see why the Drew-at-university chapter was even there. At some point I realized that part of my reaction was because I received this book – which is a meaty 531 pages long – later than I’d hoped, so I didn’t have the time to sit with it, and the material, which basically boils down to “Was Jesus Real?” deserves, and even requires some digestion.

In terms of the subject of his novel, the theological and historical context, the mystery of the scroll in question, etc. Vincent Czyz has shown himself to be incredibly well-read, either from intense research or lifelong knowledge (probably both). You may not agree with some of the theories this book includes, but you can’t deny that the various arguments are supported.

As a novelist, author Czyz is a bit less polished, a bit more uneven. His dialogue is good, and even engaging, but I felt that his characters, especially Drew, could have used a little more depth. The plot was interesting, but the ending was predictable. Where he excelled was with his descriptions of places. In those cases, I felt like I was in Turkey, or on a college campus, or wherever the story was taking us.

If you’re really into religious history and the ages-old argument between fact and faith, you’ll probably enjoy this novel. If not, it’s likely to be the kind of thing that will appeal if you’re in the right mood when it comes into your life.

I believe Czyz has potential to grow as a novelist, and I liked this book enough that I’d definitely read his work again, but I’d be sure to set aside more time than I had.

Goes well with honeyed lamb, couscous, and mint tea.


Vincent Czyz’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 8th: It’s A Mad Mad World

Thursday, February 11th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 15th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 17th: Ace and Hoser Blog

Monday, March 7th: Life is Story

Date TBD: Patricia’s Wisdom

 

What the Waves Know, by Tamara Valentine (@tamjval) #review #TLCbooktours

About the book What the Waves Know What the Waves Know

• Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 9, 2016)

“A beautifully written story of a daughter’s journey to find her voice, both literally and figuratively. Valentine reminds us that to be fully human is to be both a storyteller and a story dweller.”—Christina Meldrum, author of Madapple and Amaryllis in Blueberry

On the sharp crags of tiny Tillings Island lies the secret of Izabella Rae Haywood’s sixth birthday. That night, her father vanished, taking her voice—and the truth of what really happened—along with him. In the autumn of 1974, after eight long years of unsuccessful psychiatrist visits and silence, Iz’s mother packs up the tattered remains of their life, determined to return to Tillings in one last attempt to reclaim Iz’s voice—and piece together the splintered memories of the day her words ran dry. But when the residents of Tillings greet them with a standoffish welcome, it becomes clear that they know something about Iz, and the father she adored, that she does not.

Now, as the island’s annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Iz must unravel the tangled threads of her own history . . . or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollinsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Tamara Valentine Tamara Valentine

Tamara Valentine obtained an M.A. with distinction from Middlebury College and has spent the past fourteen years as a professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. Presently, she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Tamara:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

There’s a line near the end of this novel, She will gather her children back together beside the sea, that has been pinging at my brain since I finished reading this in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I don’t have children of my own, but I understand that sentiment as if it was bred into me – the bond between mothers and daughters, and the bond some of us have with the sea = they go hand in hand.

Tamara Valentine clearly has an intrinsic understanding of both those concepts, as well, because her novel What the Waves Know is imbued with it.

Izzabella Rae Haywood, the narrator of this story, jumps off the page and crackles with life and electricity. Reading her POV is like sitting in a room with an old friend, hearing her tell a story you know you were meant to be part of, but somehow weren’t. Her voice is a storyteller’s voice. It catches you and sucks you in, which is all the more ironic when you learn that the character herself doesn’t speak, hasn’t for years, since the night her father disappeared.

But this book isn’t really about childhood trauma. It’s about the way our brains protect us from knowing too much, or feeling too much, and it’s about the way mothers and daughters, whether they’re blood family or the chosen kind, also protect us. It’s about the power of the sea as as secret keeper as well as a force of nature, and its about the way we perceive and later create, our own versions of Truth.

What I loved about this novel was that Valentine kept everything grounded in a tiny Rhode Island town (okay, Rhode Island isn’t exactly huge anyway, but tiny, run down towns have a special kind of magic, and Valentine used it well).

I also especially loved Grandma Jo, and the way she would spout pieces of utterly profound wisdom in an almost casual manner. I’ve known so many people like that.

This book affected me so much that, as you can read, my thoughts are barely coherent.

So here’s what you need to know: It’s the story of mothers and daughters, and the way generations of women forge strong bonds. It’s about family secrets and family love. It’s short enough to be read, well, devoured, in a single day, but so deep that you’ll want to take breaks.

It’s full of messy truths and rough affection and the whole thing feels wind-tossed and salt-licked.

And you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t read it.

Goes well with homemade fish-n-chips and strong iced tea, eaten somewhere where the tang of sea air becomes a part of the meal.


Tamara’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 9th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, February 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, February 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Friday, February 12th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Monday, February 22nd: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, February 23rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, February 24th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 26th: Kritters Ramblings

 

Spotlight on Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster (@LoriFoster) – Read an Excerpt

Spotlight on Fighting Dirty Fighting Dirty

  • Series: An Ultimate Novel
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (February 23, 2016)

He’s the hottest MMA fighter in the game, but one woman is ready to try out a few steamy moves of her own in an unforgettable new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster 

With the life he’s led and the muscles he’s gained, Armie Jacobson isn’t afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter’s effect on him. It’s not just that she’s his best friend’s little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that’s all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life.

Good girl meets bad boy. It’s a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they’re both about to learn what’s truly worth fighting for…

Buy, read, and discuss Fighting Dirty

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


Read an Excerpt from Fighting Dirty

Bestselling author Lori Foster shares a fighting scene from the last book in her Ultimate Series, Fighting Dirty

Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster is the final book in her addicting and wicked hot MMA-themed Ultimate Series. Check out the excerpt below to see just what we mean. Happy reading!

***

“Jesus, Quick. You’re a freak of nature. You know that, right?”

Armie Jacobson, known as Quick to his fighter friends, ignored the complaint and threw a few more jabs, then a solid body shot, making Justice, a six-foot-five heavyweight, double over. Stepping back, Armie flexed his hands, bounced on the balls of his feet, and waited.

Unfortunately, Justice only put his hands on his knees and sucked air.

Frowning, Armie removed his mouthpiece. “Seriously? Come on, dude. Let’s go.”

“Screw you.” Schlepping back to his corner, Justice grabbed up a water bottle. He doused his head and chest, and then started chugging.

Aware of others watching, Armie said nothing. Everyone worked out, trained and sparred in the rec center, but lately, whenever he did, a dozen or more people stopped to watch. He didn’t mind an audience. Hell, he couldn’t be a competitor if he did. For the most part he paid no attention. Once he got in the cage, he went into a zone and the world receded.

But this insane ogling shit, like he was a damned sideshow, bugged him big-time.

A trickle of sweat tracked down his temple from his headgear, and he swiped a forearm over his face. His muscles burned and more sweat soaked his chest, abs and rolled down his spine. He was figuring out what to say to Justice to get him back in action when he picked up her scent. The faint perfume cut through the rec center air, thick with the smells of sweaty men working hard.

Trying to look casual, Armie stared at Justice but in his peripheral vision he saw her striding across the room. No mistaking that long-legged gait, or that longer dark hair. He swallowed, frozen.

“What?” Justice asked, sounding both suspicious and ridiculously alarmed with the way Armie had locked onto him.

Armie shook his head – and thankfully Merissa disappeared into the hallway leading to the offices.

Releasing a breath, he looked toward the clock and frowned. Yeah, they’d been at it for a while, maybe longer than he’d intended. His cardio was better than most, definitely better than Justice’s, the big lug.

Armie walked over to him. “You need to get more gas in the tank.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

When Armie grinned, Justice eyed him warily. “Stop it.”

That switched his grin to a frown. “Bitchy much?”

Justice slouched against the wall and glared back. “You shouldn’t be able to grin, you prick. You should be as tired as me.”

A natural trainer, Armie took pity on him. “You’re a lot bigger.” As a six-foot tall middleweight, Armie stood five inches shorter and weighed a lot less than Justice.

“Lotta good it does me.”

Squatting down in front of him, Armie said low, “People are watching, so stop whining.”

Justice’s gaze slipped past him and he groaned.

“Yeah, the big dogs are here again.” Damned nosy bastards. Ever since he’d signed with the SBC, the powers-that-be had been scoping him out like their newest lab rat. “Stand up, go another two minutes with me, then we’ll call it quits.”

Huffing out a breath, Justice lumbered to his feet. “Freak of nature,” he muttered again, but he followed Armie out to the center of the ring, and he did his best.

His best was nowhere near good enough against Armie.

But then, they fought for very different reasons.

Twenty minutes later, fresh from the showers, Armie was ready to head out. The mid February weather left frost on every surface, so he tugged on a stocking hat over his still wet hair and pulled a thick hooded sweatshirt on over his clothes. Carrying his gym bag, he entered the main area cautiously. This late in the day, the mats were now cleared. Miles and Brand took their turn mopping with sanitizer. Many of the lights were turned down and only the core group of friends remained, clustered together in conversation.

The SBC heads were gone, and better still, he didn’t see Merissa anywhere. She’d probably just been dropping off paperwork for her brother, Cannon, who owned the rec center.

Relieved, Armie started for the door. With any luck, he’d manage it before someone stopped him –

“Hey, Armie.”

Damn. After a slight hesitation, he turned to where Denver, Stack and Cannon all stood together. “What’s this? The three Married Musketeers?”

Stack, who’d only married a month ago, reeked of satisfaction. “Aw, he’s jealous.”

Yup. But since he’d die before admitting it, Armie said, “Nope.”

Denver, still a newlywed himself, grinned. “Probably lonely too, poor guy.”

Very. Groupies, orgies, and random one-night stands could only take a guy so far. He had a rep for sexual excess, and that’s what the ladies wanted from him. That, and nothing more.

Checking the time, Armie said, “I could be lonely with three very nice ladies if you yahoos would let me leave.”

Unlike the others, Cannon didn’t laugh. “Seriously? Again?”

Why the hell did his best friend have to sound so disapproving? And if he knew why Armie had made those plans, he’d probably be pissed as well as disapproving, because it was thoughts of Cannon’s little sis that he worked so hard to obliterate. Not that a foursome would accomplish much beyond taking the edge off. His obsession with Merissa seemed to amplify by the day.

Copping an attitude, Armie shrugged. “Yeah, really. Unless you have something –” Or someone “- better for me to do?”

“As a matter of fact, that’s why I wanted to talk to you.”

Well hell. He hadn’t figured on that. Armie ran a hand over his hair. “Then let’s hear it.”

“Yvette wanted everyone to come over tonight to hang out and visit.”

Armie adored Yvette. She was perfect for Cannon and a real sweetheart. But damn… “Who all will be there?”

With a very knowing smile, Cannon said, “Everyone important to us. So don’t miss it.”

Double damn. Merissa definitely counted as important.

Armie didn’t want to, but with all the guys eyeballing him, how could he refuse? “What time?”

“Now.”

Armie scowled. “What do you mean, now?”

“Now, as in you don’t have time to do anything else, so forget it.”

Justice came dragging out, his faux-hawk hair still wet, his goatee in need of a trim, and his cauliflower ears worse than ever. He shoulder-bumped Armie as he passed. “If you hadn’t been determined to cripple me, maybe you’d have had more time for playing.”

“Wuss,” Armie accused with a grin.

“He has a point,” Brand said as he pushed a mop bucket toward them.

Miles, giving one last swipe of the mat, followed him. “Keep pushing that hard and you’re liable to hurt something before the competition.”

“I still have two months.” Two months of freedom and he’d spend it however he wanted. Sure, Armie knew there were established training methods, but they weren’t for him. Never had been, never would be – no matter who he fought for.

“This isn’t local fighting anymore,” Denver reminded him.

As if he’d forget.

“Carter Fletcher isn’t a slouch,” Miles added. “You might not walk through him like you do the local guys.”

“They call him Chaos for a reason.” Brand frowned. “I’ve seen him fight and he’s unpredictable.”

Yeah, so his first opponent was supposed to be a stud. Big deal. Armie shrugged to show he didn’t really care. Not that long ago the SBC, the most widely known MMA organization, had run him to ground and all but coerced him into signing on with them. Cannon had helped with that, pushing him to take the next step since he’d already demolished all the records in local venues.

It was a big step, too, something all the other guys had worked for. The SBC paid a lot more and offered incredible name recognition. Their fighters traveled the world to compete.

But Armie liked being low key; it was a hell of a lot safer for multiple reasons. If it wasn’t for Cannon –

“He’ll do fine against Carter,” Cannon said. “And don’t worry about his training. Armie motivates differently, that’s all.”

Always, no matter what, Cannon had his back. As the only other person to know why he’d avoided fame and fortune, Cannon understood. They weren’t related, but they were brothers all the same.

Which was the second biggest reason he couldn’t, shouldn’t, crave Merissa the way he did. Cannon protected those he loved.

And he loved his sister a lot.

“It’s getting late,” Cannon added. “Don’t want to keep Yvette waiting.”

Glad for the switch in topic, Armie pulled out his phone. “Guess I better make some calls and let the ladies know I won’t make it after all.”

Stack looked at Denver. “If it was anyone but Armie, I’d think he was making it up.”

“Lonely,” Denver confirmed.

Armie walked away knowing they were right.


About the author, Lori Foster Lori Foster

Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. She’s had top-selling books for Amazon, Waldenbooks and the BGI Group.

Connect with Lori

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Lori Foster’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 8th: Bibliotica – Excerpt 1

Wednesday, February 10th: Read Love Blog – Cover breakdown

Thursday, February 11th: Books a la Mode – Valentine’s post

Friday, February 12th: A Chick Who Reads – Arnie, a fan favorite character

Monday, February 15th: Bewitched Bookworms – Series overview

Wednesday, February 17th: Written Love Reviews

Friday, February 19th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Friday, February 19th: Mignon Mykel {Reviews}

Monday, February 22nd: Reading Reality

Monday, February 22nd: Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, February 23rd: Majorly Delicious

Wednesday, February 24th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, February 25th: Bibliophilia, Please

Friday, February 26th: The Sassy Bookster

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore (@libbycudmore) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Big Rewind The Big Rewind

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 2, 2016)

Listening to someone else’s mix tapes is a huge breach of trust. But KitKat was dead . . . and curiosity got the better of me.

When a mix tape destined for her friend KitKat accidentally arrives in Jett Bennett’s mailbox, Jett doesn’t think twice about it—even in the age of iTunes and Spotify, the hipster residents of the Barter Street district of Brooklyn are in a constant competition to see who can be the most retro.

But when Jett finds KitKat dead on her own kitchen floor, she suspects the tape might be more than just a quirky collection of lovelorn ballads. And when KitKat’s boyfriend, Bronco, is arrested for her murder, Jett and her best friend, Sid, set out on an epic urban quest through strip joints and record stores, vegan bakeries and basement nightclubs, to discover who the real killer is. However, the further Jett digs into KitKat’s past, the more she discovers about her own left-behind love life—and the mysterious man whose song she still clings to. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss The Big Rewind:

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Libby Cudmore Libby Cudmore

Libby Cudmore worked at video stores, bookstores, and temp agencies before settling down in upstate New York to write. Her short stories have appeared in PANK, The Stoneslide Corrective, The Big Click, and Big Lucks. The Big Rewind is her first novel.

Connect with Libby:

Blog | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I read this book the second it arrived on my kindle a few weeks ago, because I was so intrigued by the concept. Between the time lag since I actually read it, the fact that in writing this sentence I’ve been interrupted by dogs three times, and the fact that it’s a mystery and I’m loathe to spoil the plot, this review may be a bit disjointed.

So, here’s what I loved: Jett is a great narrator POV. She has a snarky inner monologue that really appealed to me – that combination of observational skills and dry wit is one I especially appreciate, and her comments, largely unspoken, inject much needed humor  – even if it’s sometimes gallows humor – to what would otherwise be a grim story.

Sid – Jett’s best friend. I love the setup of that relationship, and the way he’s both protective of her but also challenges her. We all need someone like that in our lives.

KitKat – the deceased. How can you not love a woman you only meet in flashbacks and through other people’s experiences? She seems like the slightly eccentric person we all know, and secretly want to be, maybe, a little. I love that she was the epicenter of her found community and chosen family.

Author Libby Cudmore has a fresh voice that spans the Gen-X and Millenial generations. She’s got the knack for writing the voices of modern hipsters with their love of all things retro (care to buy an album on vinyl, anyone?) but she also lends perspective that isn’t limited to one generation, one culture, even one person. Her dialogue is always believable. Early in the novel, in the wake/apartment-cleaning party where everyone is picking through KitKat’s belongings, she spotlights several different people – Natalie, Mac, Hilary – and they all have distinct voices. I felt like I was sitting in a chair in the corner, hearing all the bits of dialogue. That’s how realistic her writing is.

The mystery plot and the mix-tape that’s mentioned one the first page are both nostalgic (somewhere I have a box of Maxtel tapes. I liked the 90-minute-long translucent ones with the pink and orange highlights) but also completely contemporary. Similarly she blends the use of modern technology (the community has a group on Facebook, on the subway people display their dead friend’s picture on iphones), with the gritty reality of face-to-face communications.

What results is a mystery that is grounded in human relationships and rounded out with music, art, fashion, and all of the other things that give our lives shape and form.

Don’t dismiss this novel as something cheeky and fun. It is that, but it’s also a gripping mystery laced with wry, and sometimes biting, social commentary.

Goes well with a latte made with organic milk (soy is 35 cents extra) and fair-trade, single origin espresso, and a vegan brownie.


Libby’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 2nd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, February 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Thursday, February 4th: The Reader’s Hollow

Tuesday, February 9th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, February 11th: fangirl confessions

Monday, February 15th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, February 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, February 19th: A Chick Who Reads

The Lady’s Command, by Stephanie Laurens #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Lady’s Command The Lady's Command

  • Series: The Adventurers Quartet (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (December 29, 2015)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens brings you THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, intrigue and romance

His to cherish

Declan Frobisher chose Lady Edwina Delbraith as his wife. Scion of a bold, seafaring dynasty, he’s accustomed to getting his way—Edwina would be the woman who graced his arm, warmed his bed and remained safely at home when he returned to sea. But once the knot is tied, Declan discovers Edwina is unconventional and strong-willed, and his marriage promises to be as tempestuous as the high seas.

Hers to command

Edwina’s fairy-princess beauty hides a spine of steel. Born into the aristocracy—born to rule—and with Declan’s ring gracing her finger, she expects to forge a marriage by his side. Then bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is recruited to sail on a secret mission. Edwina—naturally—declares she must accompany him.

Theirs to conquer

Facing unforeseen perils and unexpected enemies while battling to expose a dastardly scheme, Declan and Edwina discover that their unusual marriage demands something they both possess—bold and adventurous hearts.

JOIN THE ADVENTURERS—four couples whose passionate voyages will transport you. Start the journey here and follow the adventures, the mysteries and the romances to the cataclysmic end!

Buy, read, and discuss The Lady’s Command.

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


About Stephanie Laurens Stephanie Laurens

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Buckle your swashes and loosen those corsets so you can breathe because this book, the first in a quartet, both honors the historical romance genre and turns it on its ear, and it does so with a fast-paced adventure balanced with a believable love story that may not make you swoon, but it will definitely make you long for the cool sea breeze (and salt spray) in your face as you and your beloved ride the wild waves.

Here’s what I loved about this book: Declan and Edwina could be cookie-cutter romance novel characters. He’s the son of a seafaring family – rugged, dashing, well-informed. She’s an aristocrat born and bred, with the expected beauty that goes within such characters. But author Stephanie Laurens defies the trope by making Edwina an action-seeker in her own right. She doesn’t want to sit at home or pace a widow’s walk, she wants to be on the ship, at the wheel, with her husband. Better yet, Declan goes along with it, so husband and wife form a team.

I enjoyed the interplay between the two characters, and the way they would play against either other and with others when situations required it, but I also loved the way they would always come together in the end.

The dialogue and settings felt true to the period without being at all stilted (as can often happen in historical novels) and the supporting characters had enough dimension to feel like real people, whether they were sailors, other members of society, or just average people.

I’m not usually a fan of historical romances, but I am a great fan of any kind of high seas adventure, so asking to review this was an impulsive choice, and one I’m glad I made, because I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

My only issue with this novel is that it’s book one of a quartet, which means I have to read three more books to have the whole story!

(I expect I’ll survive.)

Don’t be a scurvy dog; read this book. You’ll enjoy every word of it.

Goes well with fresh caught fish, pan seared with limes, and a crisp chablis – OR – fish’n’chips with proper vinegar and a good local lager.


Stephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 4th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, January 5th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Wednesday, January 13th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, January 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, January 18th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 19th: The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, January 21st: FictionZeal

Friday, January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, January 26th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Tuesday, January 26th: Books a la Mode – excerpt and giveaway

Thursday, January 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, January 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, February 1st: Bibliotica

TBD: One Curvy Blogger

TBD: Worth Getting in Bed For

Night Hawk by Lindsay McKenna (@lindsaymckenna) #review @TLCBookTours #Giveaway

About the book,  Night Hawk Night Hawk

  • Series: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (December 29, 2015)

ONCE UPON A RANCH IN WYOMING…

After losing his comrade, Sergeant Gil Hanford thought a visit to the man’s widow would be the decent way to honor his late friend. But Gil found more than comfort in Kai Tiernan—he had always secretly desired beautiful Kai, but a sudden, mutual passion helped assuage their grief…until duty reared its head, removing him from her arms, seemingly forever.

Four years later, Kai is starting over at the Triple H Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Born a rancher, she is looking for a new beginning—but her new boss is unforgivably familiar. Kai has tried to move past the memory of what happened between her and Gil, even though she’s never forgiven him for leaving her. But even as they begin their journey toward something new and oh-so-uncertain, a shadow emerges, determined to claim Kai for itself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Lindsay McKenna Lindsay McKenna

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition. Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.

Connect with Lindsay

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Lindsay McKenna is a really engaging writer, and even though I don’t go out of my way to read romances, I pleaded to be allowed on this blog tour, because I respect her work so much. I love that she honors our military (active duty and veterans) by featuring military characters in her novels, and I love that she treats both the people and the institution with honesty and respect.

I am less a fan of westerns, so for me, Night Hawk was a little difficult because of the Wyoming ranch community setting. A childhood that took place, in part, in the Colorado Rockies, and a marriage that began in the Great Plains of South Dakota taught me that there is beauty in those rugged, wide open places, but I’m really glad I only ever have to visit them in books and movies. I’m a city girl with beachy proclivities, and I’m okay with that.

But enough about me. Kai, the heroine of this novel, is ex-military, retired after ten years of service, and looking for work as a wrangler or mechanic when we first meet her, and from page one, I wanted to befriend her. Gil, Kai’s one-time lover, and best friend of her deceased husband, is the perfect romance novel hero, but with the depth and nuance that only Ms. McKenna can bring. Actually, it’s her depiction of the heroes where I think McKenna particularly excels, because while romance novels are usually written by women, for women, with women as protagonists, if the men don’t come across as dimensional beings, the romance doesn’t work.

Their story is one of grief and loss, hope and love, separation and coming back together, and McKenna handles each mood with a deft hand, making the novel feel like a glimpse into an ever-so-slightly-heightened version of reality. There are no roller-coaster extreme ups and downs, no soap opera-esque histrionics, just solid storytelling and a good amount of yummy love scenes that feel steamy without being uncomfortably explicit.

I look forward to more from Ms. McKenna, in this series, and her others.

Goes well with a bowl of thick, spicy chili, and a cold beer.


Giveaway Wolf Haven

One person in the US/Canada can win a copy of one of Lindsay McKenna’s other novels, Wolf Haven.

How? You have two options:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet MY tweet with the link to this review.

OR

2) Leave a comment (make sure there’s a valid email address – no one will see it but me) telling me about a person you reconnected with after a long separation.

You have until 11:59 PM US Central time on Tuesday, February 2nd.

Winner will be informed by email or direct message on Twitter (as applicable).


Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 4th: Majorly Delicious

Monday, January 4th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 6th: Reading Reality

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, January 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 13th: Mignon Mykel Reviews

Friday, January 15th: Read Love Blog

Monday, January 18th: Romantic Reads and Such

Tuesday, January 19th: It’s A Reading Thing

Wednesday, January 20th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Thursday, January 21st: Life is Story

Friday, January 22nd: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, January 25th: What I’m Reading

Tuesday, January 26th: Bookaholics Not-so-Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 28th: Books a la Mode

Friday, January 29th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot

TBR: From the TBR Pile

Girl Through Glass, by Sari Wilson (@sariwilson) #review #giveaway #tlcbooktours

About the book Girl Through Glass Girl Through Glass

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper (January 26, 2016)

An enthralling literary debut that tells the story of a young girl’s coming-of-age in the cutthroat world of New York City ballet—a story of obsession and perfection, trust and betrayal, beauty and lost innocence.

In the roiling summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet. Enduring the mess of her parents’ divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her friend and mentor.

Over the course of three years, Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet, run by the legendary George Balanchine, and eventually becomes one of “Mr. B’s girls”—a dancer of rare talent chosen for greatness. As she ascends in the ballet world, her relationship with Maurice intensifies, touching dark places within herself and sparking unexpected desires that will upend both their lives.

In the present day, Kate, a professor of dance at a midwestern college, embarks on a risky affair with a student that threatens to obliterate her career and capsize the new life she has painstakingly created for her reinvented self. When she receives a letter from a man she’s long thought dead, Kate is hurled back into the dramas of a past she thought she had left behind.

Moving between the past and the present, Girl Through Glass illuminates the costs of ambition, perfection, secrets, and the desire for beauty, and reveals how the sacrifices we make for an ideal can destroy—or save—us.

Buy, read, and discuss the book:

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sari Wilson Sari Wilson

Sari Wilson trained as a dancer with the Harkness Ballet in New York and was on scholarship at Eliot Feld’s New Ballet School. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a fellow of the Provincetown Fine Arts Center, and her fiction has appeared in Agni, the Oxford American, Slice, and Third Coast. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the cartoonist Josh Neufeld.

Connect with Sari:

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

When I was five or six, my Auntie Annette brought me a pre-release copy of the book A Very Young Dancer, which was the story of the young girl who was playing Marie in that year’s production of The Nutcracker. Like most little girls who grew up in the seventies, I took the requisite ballet classes when I was little. While I switched to tap and jazz before I was ever on pointe, my body still remembers a lot of those early ballet classes, and it’s no coincidence that the railing in the upper hallway of my house is barre height.

I don’t dance anymore. I haven’t in years. But I’m still a fanatic for ballet, so when I was offered the chance to review Girl Through Glass, I didn’t merely leap at the chance; I did a grand jeté.

First, I really loved the way this novel was structured. By alternating contemporary sections with visions of the past we got to see the world of ballet from two angles.

From Mira’s point of view, we saw the harsh reality of dance training, especially when one is good enough to be elite. We meet her apparent benefactor, the older man many girls fantasize about, though Maurice is no typical object of adolescent fantasy: limping and a little peculiar. Even so, he helps Mira glimpse a world beyond that of her mother, who is constantly searching for her true self, and her father, who is establishing a new relationship.

I really liked the details included in Mira’s young life – not just descriptions of classes, and the way different teachers interact, but the different sources of ballet slippers, the behind-the-scenes behavior of dancers, etc.

In the contemporary story, there were times when I wanted to shake Kate, former dancer-turned-professor, and demand to know what she was thinking. This is a woman who seems to shoot herself in the foot by making low-percentage choices, to the point where they affect her career. When she receives a letter from a childhood acquaintance, it’s enough to send her into an emotional tailspin, and motivate her to leave her teaching position in Ohio and return to New York to confront the secrets of her past.

It should be noted that one of the other structural elements that makes this novel particularly haunting, is the change in person. The Kate sections are written in first person, while the Mira sections are in third person. This serves to further distance the past from the present, and I found it to be an incredibly effective choice by he author.

While this novel is likely to be more enjoyable to those readers who know the smell of leather and rosin, who have, at times, owned more leotards than t-shirts, and who danced around their living rooms pretending they were on stage, I believe it’s an appealing read to anyone who is fascinated by the way we change as we move between different stages of our lives.

Goes well with smoky Russian blend tea, strong cheese, and crusty bread.


Giveaway Girl Through Glass

One person in the US/Canada can win a copy of Girl Through Glass.

How? You have two options:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet MY tweet with the link to this review.

OR

2) Leave a comment (make sure there’s a valid email address – no one will see it but me) telling me about one of your childhood passions. Were you a dancer? Did you love horses? Were you on a softball team?

You have until 11:59 PM US Central time on Monday, February 1st.

Winner will be informed by email or direct message on Twitter (as applicable).


Sari’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, January 26th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, January 27th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, January 28th: Lavish Bookshelf

Friday, January 29th: Broken Teepee

Monday, February 1st: Stephany Writes

Tuesday, February 2nd: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, February 3rd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, February 4th: Book Journey

Monday, February 9th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, February 11th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, February 12th: A Book Geek

Tuesday, February 16th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, February 17th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Thursday, February 18th: A Bookish Way of LIfe

Monday, February 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, February 23rd: Books on the Table

Wednesday, February 24th: Dreams, Etc.

 

 

The Readers of Broken Wing Recommend, by Katarina Bivald #RafflecopterGiveaway #review

About the book, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 19, 2016)

The International Bestseller.
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Katarina Bivald Katarina Bivald

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She’s currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unnecessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books.

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn’t decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they’re better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having noone to recommend it to.

Läsarna i Broken Wheel Rekommenderar/The Readers in Broken Wheel Recommend is her first novel.

Connect with Katarina

Website | Instagram


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a sweet, hopeful story from Swedish author Kataina Bivald. I was hooked by the title, and fell more in love as I began to read of Sara’s arrival and subsequent adventures in rural Iowa.

As someone who has lived in a town without a bookstore, and who mourns the loss of independent bookstores even as she fills her Kindle with ebooks from Amazon, I completely empathized with Sara. I’ve flirted with opening a bookstore (well, a bookstore/cafe) for lesser reasons than honoring a friend, and only the hard fact of being done with working retail has prevented me from doing so (but I still dream).

I like Sara herself as well. At first she seemed a bit mousy, but once she found her footing, she was a force to be reckoned with, though her version of being forceful was always more of a summer downpour rather than a full-scale squall. The supporting characters were all well drawn, also. It is because of them that Broken Wheel felt like every small midwestern town I’ve ever been in, and a couple I’ve lived in, and while I wouldn’t want to live there forever, I was happy with my virtual visit.

Translating something from another language is always difficult, and yet, this novel didn’t feel like it had been written in anything but English. It’s a lovely novel guaranteed to appeal to those who browse bookstores and take home too many books, and to those who read the occasional bestseller.

Goes well with hot apple pie with a wedge of cheddar cheese, and coffee.


Rafflecopter Giveaway

(This giveaway is administered by the blog tour coordinator, not by MissMeliss.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

RBW Blog Tour

The Past, by Tessa Hadley #review #ThePastbook #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Past The Past

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper (January 5, 2016)

“An exquisite writer, a writer’s writer, with a fine eye for detail and a way of crafting sentences that make you stop and inhale . . .  Hadley should be a bestseller rather than literary fiction’s best kept secret.”—The Times (London)

Three sisters and a brother, complete with children, a new wife, and an ex-boyfriend’s son, descend on their grandparents’ dilapidated old home in the Somerset countryside for a final summer holiday, where simmering tensions and secrets rise to the surface over three long, hot weeks.The house is full of memories of their childhood and their past—their mother took them there to live when she left their father—but now, they may have to sell it. And beneath the idyllic pastoral surface lie tensions.

Sophisticated and sleek, Roland’s new wife (his third) arouses his sisters’ jealousies and insecurities. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, becomes enchanted with Molly, Roland’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Fran’s young children make an unsettling discovery in an abandoned cottage in the woods that shatters their innocence. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, leveling the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister. As the family’s stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of life—bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican—winds down to its inevitable end.

Over five novels and two collections of stories, Tessa Hadley has earned a reputation as a fiction writer of remarkable gifts. She brings all of her considerable skill to The Past, a work of breathtaking scope and beauty—her most ambitious and accomplished novel yet.

Buy, read, and discuss The Past

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Tessa Hadley Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley is the author of five highly praised novels: Accidents in the Home, which was longlisted for The Guardian First Book Award; Everything Will Be All Right; The Master Bedroom; The London Train, which was a New York Times Notable Book; and Clever Girl. She is also the author of two short story collections,Sunstroke and Married Love, which were New York Times Notable Books as well. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker. She lives in London.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

It’s a good thing this book had me gripped from page one, because my iPhone neglected to remind me I had a review due until one o’clock this morning! I’m a fast reader, but reading with any real speed requires that I find the material truly engaging.

And this novel, The Past, is truly engaging.

It’s a perfect example of contemporary fiction: a bit of family drama, a bit of the interpersonal relationships among women, a bit of loss of innocence, and a bit of coming of age, all rolled into one sometimes tense, often poignant, family holiday at the cottage they’ve owned (collectively) for years.

We meet the players in ones and twos: Harriet, the pragmatic sister whose hair is going white, Alice and her quasi-stepson Kasim (age 20), Fran and her twin children Ivy and Arthur, and Roland, the brother, with his newest wife, Pilar, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Molly (age 16).  In a move that would feel like something out of an Agatha Christie story if this novel were an overt mystery (it’s not, though there are little bits of mystery), everyone is together at this house, there’s no signal for anyone’s mobile devices, and the configurations keep changing.

The twins are drawn to the Anglo-Indian Kasim, Harriet and Pilar bond, Alice buries herself in nostalgia, Fran grumbles a bit (her husband didn’t join the family on this holiday). Roland is the most opaque of the characters, sort of there as a presence, but without having the strong influence of the other characters, but that makes sense, I guess, because it’s the women – Harriet, Alice, Fran, and Pilar, and the girls, Molly and Ivy, who really move the plot while Kasim, Arthur, and, yes, Roland, observe, nudge, and stabilize. New configurations come from the original ones: Kasim and Molly discover each other, for example.

While the overarching theme of The Past had a lot to do with the way women approach aging, and the way we all must let go of things from our pasts, I felt, at times, that it was almost a graceful collection of character studies, interwoven with realistic dialogue and vivid descriptions of the house and its environs.

It was a great book to read quickly, but would probably be even better if savored.

One issue I had was with the presentation: dialogue, at least in the digital proof that I read, was set off by dashes rather than quotation marks. As someone who tends to use a lot of dashes within dialogue when I’m writing my own stuff, this choice combined with the lateness of the hour to muddle some of the attributions. I don’t know if the completed copies of the novel use this structure, so consider it a word of warning – it’s good, sometimes, to know what to expect.

Goes well with endless mugs of tea, and slices of navel oranges, with the occasional butter cookie.


Tessa’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, January 5th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, January 6th: BookNAround

Thursday, January 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, January 11th: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, January 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, January 13th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Friday, January 15th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, January 18th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 19th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, January 20th: Curling Up by the Fire

Thursday, January 21st: From the TBR Pile

Friday, January 22nd: A Book Geek

Monday, January 25th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, January 26th: Dreams, Etc.