Review: The Beach House: Coming Home, by Georgia Bockoven

About the book, The Beach House: Coming Home The Beach House: Coming Home

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 16, 2017)

Bestselling author Georgia Bockoven is at her powerful and emotional peak in this novel perfect for fans of Nancy Thayer and Elin Hilderbrand.

Unlock the door to the beach house…a place where life slows down, people come together, and love is the strongest force of all.

After you’ve given your baby to strangers, what do you say when someone asks if you have children?

Fourteen years ago, Melinda Campbell was fifteen and a half, pregnant and terrified. Desperate to protect her baby from a malicious grandfather and needed at home to take care of her own critically ill father, Melinda makes the most generous, heart-wrenching choice of all: adoption. Now she’s living the successful life her father struggled to give her, but missing her daughter with a longing that shadows every joy.

Jeremy Richmond knows the beach house the way a painter knows his canvas, intimately and focused on detail. His life revolves around his adopted daughter, Shiloh, the girl who’s owned his heart from the moment he first held her as an infant. They were a picture-perfect family until Shiloh was diagnosed with pediatric lupus and Jeremy’s wife walked away.

When Shiloh tells her father she’s tired of fighting her illness and wants to meet her biological mother before it’s too late, Jeremy agrees to find a woman he has no desire to meet.

From the moment Melinda and Jeremy come face-to-face, they realize their worlds will never be the same. Will the beach house that has harbored troubled hearts for decades prove to be the balm they need to heal…?

Buy, read, and discuss The Beach House: Coming Home:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Georgia Bockoven Georgia Bockoven

Georgia Bockoven is an award-winning author who began writing fiction after a successful career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. The mother of two, she resides in Northern California with her husband, John.

Connect with Georgia:

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I fell in love with Georgia Bockoven’s Beach House series years ago when I picked up the first one on the “new paperback” table at Barnes and Noble. All these years – and books – later, I’m still hooked on this fictional house in Santa Cruz, CA, and the stories that live and breathe within its walls.

In this story, we meet Melinda who gave up her baby for adoption when she was a young girl, and Jeremy, that baby’s adopted father, as well as Shiloh (formerly Danielle) the baby – now thirteen – in question. It’s the kind of story I expect will resonate with any child who is adopted, or has adopted siblings.

But it’s also a story that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Bockoven’s characters are richly drawn, with flaws that make them seem like real people, and detailed backstories that provide as much subtext as text. She depicts human emotion with great insight, and she’s particularly adept at inserting moments of levity – sometimes laughter through tears, sometimes just laughter – exactly when they’re needed.

It would be easy to dismiss The Beach House: Coming Home as a ‘beach read,’ because of it’s title and setting. Truly, there’s nothing wrong with turning toward lighter fare during the summer, but that generalization would do this book a disservice, because it’s a wonderful family drama, replete with lush details and full of supporting characters (Cheryl from the cottage next door, for one) that sing off the page.

Goes well with mango-peach iced tea and steamed artichokes with garlic and butter.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 16th: The Book Bag

Wednesday, May 17th: Time 2 Read

Thursday, May 18th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, May 19th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 22nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, May 23rd: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, May 24th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, May 25th: Library of Clean Reads

Monday, May 29th: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, May 30th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, May 31st: alyssarossblog

Thursday, June 1st: Tina Says…

Review: The Truth About Goodbye, by Russell Ricard

About the book The Truth About Goodbye The Truth About Goodbye

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: W.I. Creative Publishing (April 4, 2017)

Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.

Challenged by his best friend, the quirky ex-Rockettes dancer Chloe, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.

Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?

Buy, read, and discuss The Truth About Goodbye:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Russell Ricard Russell Ricard

Russell Ricard is a veteran musical theater performer who s appeared in regional, national, and international productions and on Broadway. He received his MFA in creative writing from The New School. The Truth About Goodbye is his debut novel. He lives in Forest Hills, NY, with his husband, cat, and a lovingly supportive stand-up desk named Ruth.

Connect with Russell:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Whenever a book blurb mentions talk of death, it always changes your approach to a work. Or at least, it always changes my approach. I began this book expecting it to be dark and maudlin and kind of whiny.

Wow! Did I love what the book actually was – a funny, poignant look at how one man (Sebastian) faces the loss of his husband (Frank), the fact that he’s a gay man entering his forties – and one who is a Broadway chorus boy, at that, and the fear we all have as age and infirmities start to become ever more present in our circles of friends and loved ones:

Am I worthy? Am I still able to contribute? Am I meant to be alone?

Of all, I think the last is the most powerful question, and in this book, author Russell Ricard handles the subject with just the right mix of humor and grace.

I loved Sebastian, dear neurotic Sebastian, from the first page, and Chloe, his best friend, is such a great person. She goads him, coddles him, orders him around and, most importantly, listens to him, and I felt that their friendship was as much the heart of he story as Sebastian’s aching for his lost husband.

Sebastian’s life was peopled with other fantastic characters, though.  From his overweight tuxedo cat to Mrs. Woo who plays piano for his tap dance class at the community center, to Greg, the younger, fitter chorus boy who had a thing with (ages past) and for Frank, we continually meet characters who leap of the page, pirouette around and then resettle in their rightful places in the narrative, waiting for their next call. While some of those characters are more outrageous than others, all feel vivid and real, like people you really would meet if you were a member of the theatre community in New York.

It saddens me that potential readers may notice that the protagonist in this book is gay, and choose not to ready it, because The Truth About Goodbye is a brilliant piece that eloquently conveys the pain of losing your spouse, your partner, your best friend, and then having to rebuild your life without that person. The details are specific, and Ricard has painted them with a deft hand, but the emotions are universal.

I have to add that there was an added layer of emotion reading this during the current presidential administration, which is filled with such hate and meanness, when so much of it took place around the time gay marriage was becoming legal in more and more states of our union.

It would be easy to say, “this book is important because of its reflection of that time,” but I think it’s wiser to say, “this book is important because it discusses issues that we – all of us – will face at some point in our lives, and does so while remaining entertaining.”

Goes well with cocktails! The kind with little umbrellas in them. 


Russell Ricard’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 15th: BookNAround

Tuesday, May 16th: A Book A Week

Wednesday, May 17th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 22nd: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, May 23rd: Read Day and Night

Friday, May 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, May 3oth: Suzy Approved

Thursday, June 1st: 50 Books Project

Review: Concepción and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clarman

About the book, Concepción and the Baby Brokers Concepcion and the Baby Brokers

• Paperback: 236 pages
• Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (March 15, 2017)

In nine thematically linked stories set largely in Guatemala, Concepción and the Baby Brokers brings to life characters struggling with universal emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming danger of Guatemala City, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration.

A Cup of Tears, the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In “The Race” a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. “English Lessons” tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in “Saints and Sinners.”

With searing humanity, Clearman exposes the consequences of American exceptionalism, and the daily magic and peril that inform and shape ordinary lives.

Buy, read, and discuss Concepción and the Baby Brokers:

Rain Mountain Press | Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Deborah Clearman Deborah-Clearman-AP-Photo-credit-Douglas-Chadwick

Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.

Connect with Deborah:

Website


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I approached this book with some trepidation because I knew the subject would be both gritty and dark. I wasn’t wrong: it is both of those things. It’s also powerfully moving, heartbreaking, and something I feel should be required reading in women’s studies and contemporary literature courses throughout the Western world.

Rather than taking the stories individually – because this book is really a novella with supporting side stories – my thoughts are on the collection as a whole. Clearman, who lives in Guatemala part of the time, writes with the intimate familiarity that only comes from being steeped in a culture. I don’t want to say that I enjoyed her work, because these stories aren’t escapist fiction or light reading, but I appreciated the strong characters – mostly female – she created.

It surprised me, actually, that the baby brokers were predominantly women. There’s a sense of betrayal that comes when women work against each other, though perhaps that’s a cultural bias of mine – I was privileged to grow up in a supportive, feminist environment where women were encouraged – are encouraged – to support each other.

The women in these stories, however were a mixture of all types of people – some incredibly sympathetic, apparently believing they were saving babies, and some were ruthless, only involved in the baby trade for the money. Some were victims of circumstance, others the engineers of their own fate.

While there were male characters in all of the stories, it is the women that really stood out for me. I think it makes sense, though, that so many of the main characters were female – it provides a perspective that men just don’t have.

Well written and incredibly compelling, this collection of stories, Concepción and the Baby Brokers is a must-read.

Goes well with a bean and cheese burrito and whatever beer you like.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 10th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 19th: Eliot’s Eats

Monday, April 24th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, April 27th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Monday, May 8th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, May 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 15th: Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, May 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, May 22nd: Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, May 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: The Hideaway, by Lauren K. Denton

About the book, The Hideaway The HIdeaway

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 11, 2017)

When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

Buy, read, and discuss The Hideaway:

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


About the author, Lauren K. Denton Lauren K. Denton

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

The Hideaway is her first novel.

Connect with Lauren:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I read this novel nearly a month ago, while I was on vacation, convinced that I was supposed to review it at the beginning of April. Alas, I’d confused it with another book, which I managed to review on time (barely), and I am finally posting this review today. Forgive me if details are slightly murky.

What I loved about this novel were the characters – especially Sara and Mags – and their relationships with each other and with others in the book. Sara is someone I’d love to be friends with and Mags reminded me of my own grandmother in some ways, though she was radically different in others.

It’s not a spoiler that Mags dies very early in the story, and that much of Sara’s story involves her discovery of the hidden bits of her grandmother’s life. Those discoveries – sometimes significant, sometimes just tiny details that make you go, “Oh, okay, that makes sense now,” felt incredibly real. I think we’ve all gone through that to some degree when a loved one, especially one from an older generation, dies.

Lauren K. Denton’s writing was incredibly evocative and felt extremely real. I loved the way she wrote Sara’s internal conflict throughout the novel. The pull of ‘home’ in opposition to the bigger, more urban life she’s been leading was especially well conveyed.

I also appreciated the way Denton turned the B&B – the Hideaway – into a character in its own right. Yes, it was a place, but it was a place with emotional resonance and its own breath of life, and it takes a special kind of writer to convey that.

While The Hideaway is a fast read, you’d be doing the book – and yourself – a disservice by dismissing it as too cozy. It’s very real, and very warm, and I enjoyed curling up with it during an epic rainstorm.

Goes well with iced sweet tea and lemon cookies.


Lauren K. Denton’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Sunday, April 2nd: Writer Unboxed – author guest post

Tuesday, April 11th: Reading Reality

Thursday, April 13th: Buried Under Books

Friday, April 14th: Books a la Mode – author Q&A

Monday, April 17th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, April 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, April 21st: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, April 24th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, April 26th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 28th: Laura’s Reviews

Monday, May 1st: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, May 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, May 4th: Dwell in Possibility

Monday, May 8th:  All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Wednesday, May 10th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Review: Return to Glow, by Chandi Wyant

About the book, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

 

  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chandi Wyant (March 30, 2017)

In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.

Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

Buy, read, and discuss Return to Glow:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Chandi Wyant Chandi Wyant

A world traveler, photographer, writer and historian, Chandi Wyant has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland and England, and has been returning to Italy with unremitting passion since she first lived there at age twenty. She holds a Masters degree in Florentine Renaissance history and is the former head of Sogni Italiani, an events planning firm specializing in weddings, vow renewals, and honeymoons in Italy.  The manuscript of her memoir, Return to Glow (2017), won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

When she’s not dreaming in Italian, she can be found teaching history and writing about travel for the Huffington Post and her blog, Paradise of Exiles.

Connect with Chandi:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If you came across Chandi Wyant’s fascinating memoir Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy, you might note the athletic-looking blonde woman on the cover and think, “Oh, this is a rip-off of Wild,” and pass it by.

You would be missing out on a story that shares the barest of similarities with that oh-so-famous book – “woman heals herself emotionally and spiritually by taking a long hike”  – but is absolutely original. Even more, I found this book to be highly engaging, and really uplifting, though, forgive me, I will remain an armchair hiker.

When we first meet Chandi, she is recovering from the emergency appendectomy she had to undergo while on vacation in Italy, a relatively routine surgery that was complicated by sepsis. Back in the states, still healing physically, Chandi is also in the midst of a divorce, and is re-evaluating her life.

A variety of factors, including the sometimes bone-deep chill of Boulder, CO, during a damp winter, sends Chandi on her new mission: she will walk across Italy. Research is begun  – are there trails? Are there convenient stops on the most promising route? Finally something connects: Chandi will hike the Via Francigena – the road that connects Canterbury to Rome.

Of course, Wyant’s route doesn’t actually start in England, but at the Italian border – a 40-day hike on this ancient trail, sometimes in solitude, sometimes running into strangers and sharing their stories. There’s time in a convent, and time on the open trail, and the entire story meshes beautifully as the author’s hike leads her, not just to one of the world’s most famous cities, but back to her best self, back to her glow.

In some ways, each chapter of this book felt like a separate essay, but there was still connection. Part travelogue, part memoir, I found Wyant’s writing style to be intimate and conversational, her descriptions as vivid as the photos she takes.

If you read only one “personal transformation” memoir this year, make it Return to Glow. After reading it, I felt closer to my own glow, even without the physical pilgrimage.

Goes well with roasted chicken and vegetables and a glass of wine.

 

 

Review: The Widow’s House, by Carol Goodman

About the book, The Widow’s House The Widow's House

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)

This chilling novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Lake of Dead Languages blends the gothic allure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca and the crazed undertones of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper with the twisty, contemporary edge of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife—a harrowing tale of psychological suspense set in New York’s Hudson Valley.

When Jess and Clare Martin move from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to their former college town in the Hudson River valley, they are hoping for rejuvenation—of their marriage, their savings, and Jess’s writing career.

They take a caretaker’s job at Riven House, a crumbling estate and the home of their old college writing professor. While Clare once had dreams of being a writer, those plans fell by the wayside when Jess made a big, splashy literary debut in their twenties. It’s been years, now, since his first novel. The advance has long been spent. Clare’s hope is that the pastoral beauty and nostalgia of the Hudson Valley will offer some inspiration.

But their new life isn’t all quaint town libraries and fragrant apple orchards. There is a haunting pall that hangs over Riven House like a funeral veil. Something is just not right. Soon, Clare begins to hear babies crying at night, see strange figures in fog at the edge of their property. Diving into the history of the area, she realizes that Riven House has a dark and anguished past. And whatever this thing is—this menacing force that destroys the inhabitants of the estate—it seems to be after Clare next…

Buy, read, and discuss The Widow’s House:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Carol Goodman

Carol Goodman is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family, and teaches writing and literature at the New School and SUNY New Paltz.

Connect with Carol:

Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love a good thriller, but The Widow’s House is much more than merely a thriller. Yes, it’s the story of the secrets that main characters Clare and Jess Martin uncover as creepy – and downright scary – things happen to them in their new roles as caretakers of of Riven House, but it’s also the story of the tension that can happen in a marriage when one partner succeeds and the other is still struggling.

Author Goodman weaves a compelling story, balancing dramatic tension both in the obvious story of the house and its history, but also in the interpersonal dynamic between Jess and Clare.

As a struggling writer myself, I really empathized with Clare, but I also disagreed with some of her choices. Still, I felt she, Jess, and the other characters we meet in this novel were all very realistically drawn, with hopes and dreams, quirks, and flaws.

If you love a thriller, this book has it all – vivid descriptions, a spooky location, jeopardy that feels very real, and characters that are easy to care about.

Goes well with homemade baguette, Stilton cheese, and a glass of red wine. Anything except Merlot.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours - The Widow's House

Tuesday, March 21st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Wednesday, March 22nd: Staircase Wit

Thursday, March 23rd: Tina Says…

Monday, March 27th: Booksie’s Blog

Tuesday, March 28th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, April 5th: Why Girls Are Weird

Tuesday, April 11th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, April 12th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 13th: Book by Book

Wednesday, April 19th: Unabridged Chick

Thursday, April 20th: Jathan & Heather

Review: By the Wayside, by Anne Leigh Parrish

About the book, By the Wayside By the Wayside

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (January 31, 2017)

Marvelous. Honest. Generous. From the first story to the last, “By the Wayside” catches your attention and demands that you give into its every whirl. Each character unfolds with a precision that will have you wondering how Parrish managed to create such real-to-the-bones people within a world that captivates you with ease.

Buy, read, and discuss By the Wayside:

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About the author, Anne Leigh Parrish Anne Leigh Parrish

Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of All the Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014). Her new novel, Women Within, is forthcoming from Black Rose Writing in September 2017.

Connect with Anne:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love short stories.

As a writer, I love the way short stories give you the freedom to experiment with different styles of writing – voice, narrative style, POV, genre. In this way, short stories are like play.

As a reader, I enjoy seeing what individual writers do with various literary forms, but I also appreciate pieces that are short enough to read in one sitting – one cup of tea, one good soak in the bathtub.

The stories in By the Wayside include all the things I appreciate as a reader. Deft use of language, clever turns of dialogue, interesting characters. I particularly enjoyed “How She Was Found” and “Artichokes,” but the rest of the collection was equally compelling, sometimes sad, often poignant.

I enjoyed the different characters author Parrish let us meet, by the different lifestyles we were able to glimpse. In addition, I found that Ms. Parrish is incredibly adept at subtly twisting expectations. In “The Professor,” the young girl is NOT seduced, for example.

By The Wayside is a collection of stories worth reading. Keep it in your bathroom or on your nightstand and savor the tales, one at a time. You won’t be sorry.


Anne Leigh Parrish’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours - By the Wayside

Monday, April 3rd: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, April 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, April 6th: Lit and Life – author guest post

Monday, April 10th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, April 12th: Mama Vicky Says

Thursday, April 13th: Bibliophiliac

Monday, April 17th: Books ‘n Tea

Wednesday, April 19th: Susan Peterson

Thursday, April 20th: Dreaming Big

Monday, April 24th: BookNAround

Tuesday, April 25th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, April 26th: Maureen Downing

Thursday, April 27th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Monday, May 1st: 100 Pages a Day – author guest post

Wednesday, May 3rd: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Thursday, May 4th: Seaside Booknook

Friday, May 5th: Readaholic Zone

Review: Abby’s Journey, by Steena Holmes

About the book, Abby’s Journey Abby's Journey

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (February 14, 2017)

Twenty-year-old Abigail Turner has only known her mother, Claire—who died shortly after she was born—through letters, videos, postcards, and journals. Abby’s father, Josh, has raised his precious daughter himself, but his overprotectiveness has become stifling. Abby longs to forge out on her own and see the world after a childhood trapped indoors: she suffers from bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which means a case of the sniffles can rapidly escalate into life-threatening pneumonia.

But when Abby’s doctor declares her healthy—for now—her grandmother Millie whisks her away to Europe to visit the Christmas markets that her mother cherished and chronicled in her travel journals. Despite her father’s objections, Abby and Millie embark on a journey of discovery in which Abby will learn secrets that force her to reevaluate her image of her mother and come to a more mature understanding of a parent-child bond that transcends death.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Steena Holmes offers a tender and heartfelt exploration of parental love and a daughter’s longing for connection in the poignant next chapter following Saving Abby.

Buy, read, and discuss Abby’s Journey

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About the author, Steena Holmes Steena Holmes

About Steena Holmes

After writing her first novel while working as a receptionist, Steena Holmes made her dream of being a full-time writer a reality. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Now both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Steena continues to write stories that touch every parent’s heart in one way or another. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her website at www.steenaholmes.com or follow her journeys over on Instagram @steenaholmes.

Connect with Steena

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Abby’s Journey is the sequel to another novel by Steena Holmes, Saving Abby, but while the first book does provide context, it’s not necessary to read one in order to enjoy the other.

In many ways, Abby’s Journey is a typical coming-of-age story. Yes, the title character is twenty, not a teenager, but she’s lived a sheltered life as the combined result of life-long health issues and a doting widowed father. Still, she’s taking control of her own life for the first time, and watching the way her interactions with people and the world change is really fascinating.

Overall, this is a gentle story… a family drama with Abby at the center, punctuated by letters written by her dead mother, Claire, in the months before Abby was born. The characters all feel very real, especially Abby, her best friend/godmother Sam, her father, Josh, and her grandparents. (I had a great aunt named Millie, so seeing that name was especially heartwarming for me.)

I loved the use of letters, blog entries, and postcards within this story, even though it wasn’t really an epistolary novel, and I truly loved the way Holmes’s contemporary writing style is both accessible and very vivid.

More than reading a novel, I felt as though I was taking Abby’s journey with her, following her footsteps first into her snowy back yard, and later, onto a plane and to Germany during the tradition pre-Christmas festivities.

Goes well with hot chocolate and pfeffernüsse cookies.


Steena Holmes’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 14th: Book Mama

Wednesday, February 15th: Just Commonly

Thursday, February 16th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, February 20th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, February 22nd: Suzy Approved

Monday, February 27th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, March 1st: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, March 2nd: I Brought a Book

Friday, March 3rd: Not in Jersey

Monday, March 6th: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, March 8th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post

Thursday, March 9th: Readaholic Zone

Friday, March 10th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, March 13th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, March 16th: An Accidental Blog

Friday, March 17th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, March 21st: Bibliotica

Friday, March 24th: Mom’s Small Victories

Review: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan

About the book, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir The-Chilbury-Ladies-Choir-Jacket-678x1024

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 14, 2017)

“Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!”

As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead “carry on singing.” Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit– a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past– we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

Buy, read, and discuss The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

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


About the author, Jennifer Ryan Jennifer-Ryan-Photo-©-Nina-Subin

Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.

Connect with Jennifer

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My Thoughts

I’ve spent a lot of years in church choirs of various flavors. I’ve been in the choir of an Episcopalian church with a director who was such an amazing musician that if a piece of music didn’t work for our voices, he would simply write a new arrangement. I’ve also been in a UU choir where the director made us rehearse a capella to force us to truly listen to each other.

Many people erroneously believe that the point of choral singing is to blend everyone’s voice into one homogeneous sound, but the real goal is for each voice to harmonize, so that many individual voices combine into new sounds. Sometimes they’re unison, sometimes the separate notes – the separate voices – are meant to be heard.

In this lovely novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Jennifer Ryan has done the latter. She has created a collection of individual voices – a young window, a refugee, the church ladies you expect to find in such a setting, and she has given them solid unison pieces in which they blend – their determination to keep their choir alive with all the men gone – but she has also let their individual talents shine.

Epistolary novels can be tricky – it’s much harder to maintain the distinctions between characters when so much of the story is in first-person accounts – but Ryan has done so deftly. I felt immersed in these women’s lives, enjoying their triumphs and shedding tears at their  sorrows.

Each of the women whose voices we hear in this novel are distinct personalities, with loves and fears and wants and desires, and each one has a compelling story that, when blended together forms a chorus of voices painting a word-picture of their village in a specific period of time.

Many people have compared this novel to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, me included, but though they share a similar period, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is vastly different – it’s more candid, more personal, and more rooted in feminine sensibilities. Still, if you liked one, you’ll probably enjoy the other. I did.

Goes well with shortbread biscuits and hot tea, maybe with a splash of whiskey in it.


Jennifer Ryan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, February 13th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, February 14th: Building Bookshelves

Thursday, February 16th: Reading Reality

Monday, February 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, February 21st: Laura’s Reviews

Thursday, February 23rd: BookNAround

Friday, February 24th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, February 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, March 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit

Monday, March 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired

Friday, March 10th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 13th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, March 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 16th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 17th: Art @ Home

Monday, March 20th: Diary of an Eccentric

Wednesday, March 22nd: A Literary Vacation