Review: The Woman in the Photo, by Mary Hogan

About the book, The Woman in the Photo The Woman in the Photo

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 14, 2016)

The lives of two young women—bound by heritage and history—are changed forever by one epic event . . .

1889: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working-class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (or cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.

Present day: On her eighteenth birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a biological relative—a nineteenth-century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from her hometown in California to Johnstown, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. But once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Mary Hogan Mary Hogan

Mary Hogan is the NAPPA Award-winning author of seven young-adult books. Two Sisters is her first novel for adults. She lives in New York City with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Lucy.

Connect with Mary.

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I began reading The Woman in the Photo thinking I would prefer the historical chapters more than the contemporary ones, and was surprised when I found that not to be true. Instead, I liked both time periods equally.

In the past, we meet Elizabeth Haberlin, aged twenty, on a seemingly interminable train ride to her family’s summer home. But the train eventually does roll into the stop, and Elizabeth (or Lizbeth, as her eight-year-old brother calls her) is reunited with her friend, Eugene Eggar, a townie – a mill worker.  In the present, we meet Lee (named Elizabeth at birth, but adopted as a baby), newly turned eighteen, and living with her mother in someone’s pool house because of familial financial woes. She’s just been provided with a clue about her birth mother – a faint clue – but a clue nevertheless.

I loved the way author Mary Hogan wove these two tales together, the chapters in the past driving relentlessly forward, the chapters in the present looking backward. Almost, it made me wish for a magic mirror so that Lizbeth and Lee could come face to face, but maybe, metaphysically, they did, because while this book is about influences of Destiny and DNA, it’s also about choices and family, and what constitutes the latter.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed this novel as a whole, and took it not only as a sort of family saga, but also as a portrait of the many ways in which young women make the decisions that set the paths of their lives.

And what a rich portrait it is, with believable, complex characters, vivid settings, and just enough real history to lend credence to the story without overwhelming it, or sounding more like a history book and less like a work of fiction.

Readers of historical fiction and contemporary fiction will find something to like in The Woman in the Photo.

Goes well with roasted, herbed chicken, a tossed salad, and iced tea. 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 14th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 15th: Books Without Any Pictures

Friday, June 17th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, June 20th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, June 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 24th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, June 28th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, June 29th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, June 30th: Broken Teepee

Review: Remember My Beauties, by Lynne Hugo

About the book Remember My Beauties Remember My Beauties

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.

Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.

Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

For more information on this and other Switchgrass titles, be sure to visit their website HERE.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, Lynne Hugo Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo has published ten previous books, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her memoir, Where the Trail Grows Faint, won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize in 2004, and her sixth novel, A Matter of Mercy, was awarded an Independent Publisher silver medal for best regional fiction in 2014. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, she lives in Ohio with her husband and their yellow Labrador retriev

Connect with Lynne

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I had a difficult time reading this book. The story is well-crafted. The characters are believable and dimensional. The horses (which are the ‘beauties’ in the title, but also characters in their own right) are powerful and lovely.

But I found myself getting sucked into the bitterness and anger that so many of the characters are feeling, and that made the read a difficult one for me.

One could argue that in provoking such a response, author Lynne Hugo has done her job, and done it exceedingly well. After all, literature is meant to inspire dreams and catalyze ideas. Literature, and all art, is sometimes a window, yes, but at other times it’s also a mirror.

I don’t have anywhere near the kind of anger and bitterness that Jewel, for example, feels towards her parents. I have an excellent relationship with my mother, and nearly three decades into their marriage, my stepfather and I have become really good friends. But there are old issues that resurface sometimes, and this book, Remember My Beauties brought a couple of them to the surface.

Art – literature – can be a mirror, but I’d prefer it if it wasn’t mine.

But aside for recognition of emotional tone (because the specific circumstances of the characters in this novel are completely foreign to me), I also felt annoyed at the characters. “You’re making poor choices,” I wanted to scream at them. “Just communicate!”

Ultimately, this book is not the story just of Jewel, caretaker for aging, sick parents, mother of a young woman who has dropped out of life, wife of an everyman (Eddie) who, while he may not have a heart of actual gold, has enough of a gold overlay to make his intentions shine. Sure, it seems like he’s muddling through his marriage at times, but doesn’t everyone muddle through in their own way?  It’s also not just the story of Carley (Jewel’s troubled daughter), or Hank and Louetta (Jewel’s parents) or even her brother Cal, back in their lives after a seven-year absence.

It’s the story of one family, and how their lives weave around each other, sometimes tacking out to the fringes for a breather, other times existing at dead center, and of how their horses keep them together, even when secrets and old hurts threaten to tear them apart.

It’s beautifully written, and while much of it is, as I said, tinged with bitterness and anger, there are reasons those two emotions are prominent, and at the end, while they are not completely gone, an air of Hope has pushed them mostly aside.

If you’re looking for an easy, breezy beach read, this is not your story.

If you want a story you can chew on, one that makes you examine your own life and choices, even as you’re reading about the lives and choices of Hugo’s fully-realized characters, read Remember My Beauties. You may find it a bit of a difficult read, but trust me, you’ll be glad you stuck with it, when you get to the end.

Goes well with scrambled eggs, home fries, and strong, black coffee.


Lynne Hugo’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Monday, June 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 29th: Travelling Birdy

Thursday, July 7th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, July 11th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 13th: Reading Cove Book Club

Monday, July 18th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 20th: Back Porchervations

Monday, July 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, August 1st: Mama Vicky Says

June, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – Review & Giveaway

About the book June: A Novel June: A Novel

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (May 31, 2016)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever. 

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I absolutely loved this book. As I told a friend, the writing is perfect capturing the two separate time periods in which the novel takes place, and the language is lyrical. The characters are compelling, and it’s got a bit of everything, romance, friendship, mystery, intrigue, and even a dash of the paranormal (but only a dash).

In many ways, author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has written two novels, and woven them together in June. In 1955, which is June’s story as seen through Lindie’s eyes, we are treated to a coming-of-age story that involves love, loyalty, and what happens when a Hollywood production takes over your town – and your life. I confess that of those two characters, I preferred Lindie, as she seemed a lot more grounded, and was a breath of fresh air to read. At the end, it’s Lindie who seeped into my brain.

The other story is contemporary: Cassie Danvers has inherited her grandmother’s crumbling old manse, Twin Oaks, and claimed it as a refuge, of sorts, from a bad relationship and a stagnating life. She’s at the point where she has to face her lack of funds when she’s told about another inheritance, this time from the star of the movie that so absorbed Lindie and June (her grandmother) sixty years before. His daughter and her half sister burst her bubble of safety almost immediately, and Cassie must fight to keep the house she so loves, while learning all the secrets of the past.

In anyone else’s hands, this novel would probably descend into Lifetime Movie of the Week territory, where everything is over-the-top. Fortunately, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s touch is both delicate and deft. As I said above, she writes with a lyrical ease, and I especially enjoyed the way she handled dialogue.

One convention that I enjoyed, but I know others are less on-board with, is that the novel opens with the house – Twin Oaks – giving its own point of view. As someone who has spent a lot of nights in old houses, I really appreciated that touch. Not only did the house serve as the focal point of the story, but its presence as a character in its own right really became the glue that held each part of the narrative together. It is this dash (and it really is just a dash, the merest hint) that makes this novel edge into magical realism territory, but it’s the same conceit that makes the story so special.

Like Cassie, I wanted to hole up inside Twin Oaks, and breathe life back into the old estate.

Unlike Cassie, I’m sorely lacking obscure, rich, relatives who will leave me their fortunes.

Goes well with espresso served in vintage demi-tasse and Stella D’oro anisette toast.


Giveaway June: A Novel

This one’s a quickie for the weekend. ONE reader from the US/Canada will get a copy of this book.

Three ways to enter: 1) Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse). 2)Find  my  Facebook post about this book (it’ll come from Twitter) and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse). 3) Leave a comment here on this post telling me about a house you love.

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Monday, June 20th.

Winner will be contacted by me, but fulfillment will be from the publicist for this book, and may take up to six weeks.


About Miranda Beverly-Whittemore Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Connect with Miranda

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 23rd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, May 25th: A Literary Vacation

Thursday, May 26th: View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 27th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Monday, May 30th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, May 31st: FictionZeal

Tuesday, May 31st: Books a la Mode  – author guest post

Wednesday, June 1st: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Thursday, June 2nd: Luxury Reading

Friday, June 3rd: You Can Read Me Anything

Monday, June 6th: Must Read Faster

Tuesday, June 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, June 8th: Fictionophile

Thursday, June 9th: Just Commonly

Friday, June 10th: A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, June 13th: Bewitched Bookworms

Tuesday, June 14th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, June 15th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, June 16th: Write Read Life

Friday, June 17th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: The Sun in Your Eyes, by Deborah Shapiro

About the book, The Sun in Your Eyes The Sun in Your Eyes

• Hardcover: 288 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (June 28, 2016)

A witty and winning new voice comes alive in this infectious road-trip adventure with a rock-and-roll twist. Shapiro’s debut blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women—one rich and alluring, the other just another planet in her dazzling orbit—and their fervid and troubled friendship.

From the distance of a few yards, there might be nothing distinctive about Lee Parrish, nothing you could put your finger on, and yet, if she were to walk into a room, you would notice her. And if you were with her, I’d always thought, you could walk into any room.

For quiet, cautious, and restless college freshman Vivian Feld, real life begins the day she moves in with the enigmatic Lee Parrish—daughter of died-too-young troubadour Jesse Parrish and model-turned-fashion designer Linda West—and her audiophile roommate Andy Elliott.

When a one-night stand fractures Lee and Andy’s intimate rapport, Lee turns to Viv, inviting her into her glamorous fly-by-night world: an intoxicating mix of Hollywood directors, ambitious artists, and first-class everything. It is the beginning of a friendship that will inexorably shape both women as they embark on the rocky road to adulthood.

More than a decade later, Viv is married to Andy and hasn’t heard from Lee in three years. Suddenly Lee reappears, begging for a favor: she wants Viv to help her find the lost album Jesse was recording before his death. Holding on to a life-altering secret and ambivalent about her path, Viv allows herself to be pulled into Lee’s world once again. But the chance to rekindle the magic and mystery of their youth might come with a painful lesson: while the sun dazzles us with its warmth and brilliance, it may also blind us from seeing what we really need.

What begins as a familiar story of two girls falling under each other’s spell evolves into an evocative, and at times irrepressibly funny, study of female friendship in all its glorious intensity and heartbreaking complexity.

Buy, read, and discuss this book

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Deborah Shapiro Deborah-Shapiro-photo-credit-Lewis-McVey

Deborah Shapiro was born and raised outside of Boston, Massachusetts. A graduate of Brown University, she spent several years in New York working at magazines, including New York and ELLE, and her work has been published in Open City, Washington Square Review, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago. The Sun in Your Eyes is her first novel.

Follow Deborah on Twitter.

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

While I have never been the type to go on a road trip myself, I love to read about fictional characters going on such journeys, especially when the story is presented in such an engaging way as Deborah Shapiro has done in The Sun in Your Eyes.

I really liked the way Lee and Viv, the two female leads are usually friends, sometimes frenemies, and sometimes just on completely different wavelengths, because real friendships do ebb and flow that way. More than that, though, I liked that the compelling reason for taking a road trip after a decade of divergent lives and three years with no contact, isn’t about an old lover, but about finding the last remnants of family history.

The search for truth about one’s parents, whether it’s in the form of a lost album, as in this book, or something less fantastic, like a birth certificate or marriage license, is not, ultimately about the thing we are seeking, but about what that information means to us.

For Lee, that album is much more than just a potential goldmine, it’s her connection to a barely-remembered parent, and I like the way author Deborah Shapiro never loses sight of that.

I also enjoyed the way both women pick up and echo each other’s habits and mannerisms, at times, while eschewing those same habits and mannerisms at other times. Again, it’s something we all do.

Shapiro has given us a well-plotted, well-paced novel that is sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and also thought provoking, making us ask ourselves who we are, and how much of who we are might be influenced by our friends and families.

Goes well with a bloody Mary, and a tray of sushi, because I have memories of that being a ‘thing’ for my mother and her best friend from college, who taught me how to order cocktails in the first place.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 7th: A Tattered Copy

Wednesday, June 8th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, June 9th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Friday, June 10th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 13th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, June 14th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 15th: As I turn the pages

Thursday, June 16th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, June 20th: Booksellers Without Borders

Tuesday, June 21st: A Book Geek

Wednesday, June 22nd: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Thursday, June 23rd: Ageless Pages Reviews

Review: A Thousand Salt Kisses, by Josie Demuth

About the book A Thousand Salt Kisses A Thousand Salt Kisses

  • Publication Date: April 2016
    Wise Ink Press
  • Series: Salt Kisses, Book One
  • Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance/Mer-Stories

Beautiful Crystal White is the new girl on the remote Starfish Island. During a party on the mainland, she goes for a midnight swim with other party goers where she meets the handsome, intriguing Llyr amongst the waves.

As she heads back to shore she realizes that he is not behind her and that nobody at the party remembers him. Crystal can’t seem to shake Llyr from her mind and returns to the beach in the hope of meeting him again. When she finally does, she realizes there may be more truth to the ramblings of the island folk than she thought.

To add more drama to her life, Crystal’s mother and her father are at war over a local power station that is devastating local marine life.

Over a sizzling roller coaster summer, it becomes apparent that all these events are not entirely unrelated and Crystal finds herself both caught up in a deep mystical romance and at the centre of an exploding environmental scandal…

Buy, read, and discuss this book

AmazonGoodreads


About the author, Josie Demuth Josie Demuth

Josie is a 31 year-old writer from London. Her Salt Kisses books became popular on Wattpad, and are now also serialised on Radish Fiction. A Thousand Salt Kisses is her third book.

For more information please visit http://www.saltkissesbooks.com/ and https://josiedemuthwriting.wordpress.com/.

Connect with Josie

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Wattpad

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I got this novel later than I expected, had an exhausting weekend at Dallas FanExpo (Comic-Con) and have been fighting a slow internet server all day, so apologies to the author and BookJunkie Promotions (the tour host) for this review being late.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I call myself the Bathtub Mermaid, so you can guess that I was excited about any story related to mer-folk, and I often tell people that I believe the YA market is home to some of the most provocative stories and strongest female characters in all of contemporary fiction. Crystal is smart, feisty, and very much her own person, and while she’s initially less-than-thrilled about her new life on Starfish Island, a new friend, a new romance, and a new-found love of the ocean all conspire to change her perspective – a literal sea-change, if you will.

I really appreciated the way author Josie Demuth made sure Crystal’s parents had their own story, rather than making them mere ‘props’ for Crystal’s tale. While some of the plot twists were a bit predictable for me, aged 46, I suspect my teen self, and contemporary teenagers who might read this, would find them less so.

I have only two major complaints about what is, essentially, an engaging, well written novel that gives us a version of mer-culture that is unique to this author:

  1. Some of the dialogue is a bit ‘off.’ I don’t know if it’s my American ear reading a London-based writer’s work, or if Demuth was having trouble channeling her inner teenager – it’s not every scene, and it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
  2. It’s very much a ‘first in the series’ novel, and I felt there wasn’t quite enough resolution. On the other hand, I absolutely want to know what happens NEXT, so in that, author did her job incredibly well.

If you are looking for a literary work of art, to be discussed in English classes for the next century, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want a fun, romantic, beach-read that you and your teenage daughter/sister/cousin/friend can share with no worries about adult content (there is implied sex, but nothing explicit) this would be an excellent choice.

A Thousand Salt Kisses will make you long for a day at the beach and a hot mer-guy to hang out with

Goes well with a hot dog and crinkle-cut fries, served from a beach concession stand. Frosty root beer optional.


Giveaway A Thousand Salt Kisses

To enter the giveaway for a signed copy of A THOUSAND SALT KISSES, please see the GLEAM entry form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY!

A Thousand Salt Kisses


Blog Tour Schedule A Thousand Salt Kisses Blog Tour

Monday, June 6
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, June 9
Excerpt at Brooke Blogs

Friday, June 10
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, June 13
Interview at I Heart Reading

Tuesday, June 14
Spotlight at To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, June 15
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, June 17
Spotlight at AC Reads

Monday, June 20
Excerpt at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Tuesday, June 21
Spotlight at Fiction Conviction Book Blog

Friday, June 24
Spotlight at A Leisure Moment

Monday, June 27
Spotlight at It’s a Mad Mad World

Monday, July 4
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, July 5
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, July 8
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Book Junkie Promotions

Review: Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

About the book, Mystic Summer Mystic Summer

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (June 21, 2016)

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Hannah McKinnon Hanna McKinnon

Hannah McKinnon is the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer. She graduated from Connecticut College and the University of South Australia. She lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut, with her family, a flock of chickens, and two rescue dogs.

Connect with Hannah

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I saw this title in the list of summer tours, I immediately sent an email begging to review it because it was ‘speaking’ to me. Having read it (twice) I’m glad I did, because this book is the perfect launch for the summer reading season.

I found main character Maggie to be really likeable, and I found both her roommate Erika (in the throes of wedding planning) and her actor-boyfriend Evan  so well drawn that I was immediately caught in fond reminiscences of the early days of my own marriage, when we lived in cheap apartments, and weren’t really working up to our level of potential – yet. I also liked the boy-next-door, childhood love, Cameron, who wasn’t pedestal perfect. I maintain that it’s the flaws in characters that make them feel real, and these characters are all well balanced with lovely attributes (loyalty, wit, intelligence) and flaws (indecision, prime among them).

I also loved the fact that most of the novel takes place in and around Mystic, CT. While I’ve never explored the whole town, I’ve made the requisite visits to the old Mystic Seaport, and loved it’s shippy, tarry, historical wonder, and I’ve also lived in tourist towns (Georgetown, CO), so I know what it’s like to be a townie, and understand the love-hate relationship that locals always have with tourists. Author Hannah McKinnon manages to make the town of Mystic, and the Mystic River into a character in its own right, and I really appreciate that the setting was so intrinsic to the story.

The story itself blends yearning and nostalgia, and the inevitable choices we make between embracing the new and returning to the old and familiar, and it does so in a way that is both compelling and interesting. While this novel could easily have turned into a formula romance (and I admit there’s a time and place for those), McKinnon’s writing is deeper than that, and her characters don’t always make the obvious choices.

One thing that struck me early in the novel was the obvious love Maggie’s mother has for her children. It’s talked about, but there’s a scene after Mom’s birthday where Maggie says she’s staying the night, and her mother’s response is basically, “Woohoo! She’s STAYING!”

Overall, Mystic Summer was a richly detailed, unputdownable story that is light enough to be a beach read, but deep enough to be satisfying and interesting all the way through.

Goes well with, New England clam chowder, crusty sourdough bread, and chilled Samuel Adams Summer Ale.


Giveaway Mystic Summer

One winner in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of this book. Enter by commenting on this post (tell me one thing you’re looking forward to this summer), OR Like AND Share the Facebook post (I’m MissMelysse), OR Retweet my Twitter post about this review (I’m @Melysse). One entry per action. No more than one entry per action, per person. Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 22nd.

 


Hanna McKinnon’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, June 6th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, June 8th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, June 9th: Bilbiotica

Friday, June 10th: My Book Retreat

Monday, June 13th: Just Commonly

Monday, June 13th: Book Mama Blog

Tuesday, June 14th: Dreams, Etc.

Tuesday, June 14th: Chick Lit Central – Author Q&A

Wednesday, June 15th: Reading is my Superpower

Wednesday, June 15th: Bookmark Lit

Friday, June 17th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 20th: The Reading Date

Tuesday, June 21st: The Well Read Redhead

Saturday, July 2nd: Books a la Mode

Review: Forever Beach, by Shelley Noble

About the book,  Forever Beach Forever Beach

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 7, 2016)

One woman struggling to hold on to what she has. . . .

One woman learning to forgive. . . .

Their lives entwined by one little girl.

Sarah Hargreave is anxious to finalize the adoption of her foster daughter, Leila. Once a foster child herself, Sarah longs to become Leila’s “forever” family and give her all the love and stability she was denied in her own childhood. When Leila’s biological mother suddenly reappears and petitions the court for the return of her daughter, Sarah is terrified she’ll lose the little girl she loves to the drug- addicted mother who abandoned her.

Having grown up in foster care, Ilona Cartwright is a lawyer who fights for the rights of children who have no one to fight for them. But to Sarah she is Nonie Blanchard, who grew up in the same group foster home as Sarah. They’d promised to be best friends forever, but then Nonie was adopted by a wealthy family, and Sarah never heard from her again. Sarah still hurts from the betrayal. But Nonie harbors her own resentment toward the past.

Mistrustful of each other, the two women form a tenuous alliance to ensure Leila’s future, but when Leila’s very survival is on the line, they’ll have to come to terms with their own feelings of hurt and rejection to save the child they both have come to love.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Shelley:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It’s rare – very rare – that a book makes me cry, but this one did.

Shelley Noble’s writing is both subtle and cinematic, and if you think those two things exist in opposition to each other, this book will prove you wrong. At it’s heart, it’s a story about family – what constitutes a family? Are blood ties automatically stronger than the ties we choose for ourselves? When do friends become family to one another?

Forever Beach doesn’t provide any absolute answers to these questions, because there are no absolutes in human relationships. Instead, it gives us a glimpse, a cross-section of a group of people who live in a coastal community and have intersecting, and often interlocking, lives.

Sarah, the protagonist, is introduced to us at a moment of vulnerability, but we very quickly see that she has a support system of women and men who rally around her when she needs it, talk sense to her when she needs that, and generally have her back. I found that I quite often wanted to draw Sarah into a hug and assure her that everything would ultimately be okay, even though I didn’t know whether or not that it was true.

Sarah’s closest friends are Reese (former caseworker, still child protection services worker) and Karen (a fellow mother of young kids), women who know her past and her present. As well there’s Wyatt – hunky lifeguard and love interest – and may I just say, every single mother should have a guy like Wyatt in their corner. He’s not perfect – indeed NONE of these characters are anything but dimensional and flawed – but he’s good.

I really liked the interaction between all the members of this small community, Leila (Sarah’s foster  daughter whom she wants to adopt) and the other kids included. The way they go to the beach as a sort of neutral territory was all too familiar to me. Everything is better with sand and salt water. Everything.

Then there’s Ilona Cartright, badass lawyer. At first she seems prickly, but then we learn her backstory. If I perceived her truth a bit too easily, I don’t think that’s a problem with this book. In fact, knowing the truth too early doesn’t have any kind of negative impact to enjoyment of the story.

And what a story! It’s got all the right emotional notes, all the correct plot points to be a Hallmark film (oh, come on, you watch them, too), but with a level of grit and street-smarts that takes it out of the realm of squeaky clean romance novel territory and into a reality-based, emotionally-satisfying, contemporary story packed with diverse strong female characters.

Also, it made me cry.

Goes well with a soft-serve ice cream cone (sprinkles optional) eaten at the boardwalk.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, June 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, June 9th: Comfy Reading

Monday, June 13th: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, June 14th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, June 15th: Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, June 16th: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, June 20th: Book by Book

Tuesday, June 21st: StephTheBookworm

Thursday, June 23rd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 28th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Review: A House for Happy Mothers, by Amulya Malladi

About the book,  A House for Happy Mothers A House for Happy Mothers

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 1, 2016)

A stunning new novel—full of wit and warmth—from the bestselling author of The Mango Season.

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs—a loving husband, a career, and a home—but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much—raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads—but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset—her womb—to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together,   the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world—and renewed hope to each other.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, Amulya Malladi Amulya Malladi

Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including The Sound of Language and The Mango Season. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive for a global medical device company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children.

Connect with Amulya

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It’s kind of ironic, I guess, that I, a woman who has had more than one miscarriage read this book 1) over Mother’s Day weekend, and 2) finished it the day I heard that a celebrity and former high school classmate, a woman who is 40 days older than I am, announced that she’s pregnant. (I’ll be 46 in August. I don’t mind. I still get carded.)

If anything, those two facts only made this book resonate with me more.

A House for Happy Mothers is a lovely book about a sensitive subject. How far would we women who cannot conceive, or cannot carry a child to term, go to have a child of our own? What is the cost to ourselves, our families, the women from whom we essentially rent wombs? Is it worth it in the end.

I have a friend who actually is a surrogate; she’s carried and given birth to two babies for the same gay couple over the years, giving them a way to have biological children of their own. (I’m not sure if she also donated her eggs. She may have. This book didn’t go that far, but it easily could have.)

Priya and her husband reminded me of many of the couples I used to do loans for when I lived in San Jose. She is American-born. He is not. Their marriage is strong, and they love each other, but there are some cultural gaps they must work through. I really liked Priya. Her struggles to have a child, her decision to use a surrogate, and her insistence on having a connection with the woman who would bear her child weren’t limited to her culture but could be true of any woman,  and her grace through it all was quite inspiring me.

Likewise, I felt for Asha, who chose to sell her body in a way that wasn’t illegal or immoral, but was a true gift of self, even if there was compensation. The closest I can come to fathoming how it feels to be a surrogate is the way I feel when I turn a foster dog over to his or her forever family. In telling Asha’s story, author Amulya Malladi completely captured the beauty and the heartache of what some women can do, and she did it in a way that made everything feel completely truthful.

Malladi’s story is, of course, a novel, but it’s one that lets us glimpse perfectly plausible situations, through the eyes of two incredibly strong (each in their own ways) women, who could easily be people we see at the market, or at the library, or anywhere in town. Similarly, the families of this women are not caricatures, as they might have been in less caring, less deft hands, but real people with quirks and flaws to give them depth and dimension.

It’s a lovely book, thought provoking, and heartfelt, and oh so moving.

Goes well with mango tea and something slightly sweet to go with it. Almond cookies, maybe?


Giveaway A House for Happy Mothers

One lucky reader in the United States or Canada will win a paperback copy of this book. To enter, find me on Twitter (@Melysse), follow me, and retweet my tweet about this book review OR leave a comment here (you must use a valid email address) and tell me about a selfless act that you’ve committed. 

The winner will be chosen by me, and their information will be forwarded to the tour host/publicist for fulfillment. This may take up to six weeks after the day of the end of this blog tour.

This giveaway opportunity is open until noon, central time, on Sunday, June 19th. 


Amulya Malladi’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Thursday, May 26th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, May 27th: Broken Teepee

Monday, May 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, June 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, June 1st: Chick Lit Central – spotlight/giveaway

Thursday, June 2nd: Mom’s Small Victories

Monday, June 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, June 7th: 5 Minutes for Books

Wednesday, June 8th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, June 9th: Luxury Reading

Friday, June 10th: A Splendid Messy Life

Monday, June 13th: Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, June 14th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, June 15th: The Reading Date

Thursday, June 16th: Lit and Life

Friday, June 17th: Books a la Mode – guest post/giveaway

Monday, June 20th: BookNAround

Tuesday, June 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, June 23rd: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Monday, June 27th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Review: Tidewater Rip, by M.Z. Thwaite

About the book, Tidewater Rip Tidewater Rip

 

  • Series: Tidewater Novels
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 21, 2015)

In the dead of night, a blacked out plane flies over a river in coastal Georgia where moments later, a man is shot and left for dead. On a secluded two-lane road nearby, a woman is killed in a one-car accident. Atlanta Realtor Abbey Taylor Bunn plunges into action to find out what’s going on because the events seem to have one thing in common: the hunting and fishing club co-founded by her grandfather. Abbey isn’t the only one on the move and looking for answers. The car accident victim’s husband, an Atlanta attorney, believes his wife was murdered. When Abbey finds herself up against drug trafficking land grabbers, she is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the place and people she loves.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, M.Z. Thwaite MZ Thwaite

M. Z. Thwaite is the author of the literary suspense novel Tidewater Rip in which she shares her life-long love affair with Georgia’s golden coast. A licensed Realtor since 1983, she continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of the hunting and fishing club on the coast of Georgia co-founded by her maternal grandfather. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her artist husband Steve Weeks of Riverton, New Jersey.

Connect with M.Z.

Website


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Every once in a while, a book falls into your lap, and you become instantly engaged. I have a pretty packed spring and summer review schedule, and I didn’t really want to add more to it, but M.Z. Thwaite’s email to me was so sincere, and the plot and location (coastal Carolina) intrigued me so much, that I had to say yes. Besides, it’s important for women to support other women.

I’m so glad I took a chance on Tidewater Rip. Protagonist Abbey is smart, brave, and generous with her heart, even though men have burned her before. Her mother, nicknamed Boonks (gotta love that) is equally smart, brave, and generous, and also a bit meddlesome. Together, they run a real estate agency, but Abbey also has a penchant for falling upon crime scenes, and indepentently investigating them.

In fact, that’s how we first meet her, and it’s a great way to meet a character for the first time. Author Thwaite has a knack for writing vivid descriptions and it’s that knack, as much as the plot and characters that really hooked me on this story. The sense of place was so strong, I felt like I was breathing the same salt air, or squelching through the same mud, as the characters.

I also loved the supporting characters, Snag especially, and Roosevelt, who both helped the plot and added to the sense of place. This book could not take place in any other part of the country. It’s location specific, and it transports you.

There is, of course, a dash of romance in the novel. Boonks has declared that since Abbey sucks at choosing partners, she will pick her daughter’s next man (only a Southern mother would do that), and one contender is Tom, widowed husband of a murder victim we meet in the early chapters.

The entire novel is a compelling combination of great characters, intricate plotting, and wonderful writing that builds suspense at exactly the right pace. I would happily spend a lot more time with Abbey and Boonks, and I really hope I’ll get the chance.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish, hush puppies, and sweet tea.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Turning Point, by Freya North

About the book, The Turning Point The Turning Point

• Paperback: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper (May 3, 2016)

“Rich, romantic, beautifully drawn and utterly compelling” Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author

Life is short. Sometimes you have to take a chance…

Two single parents, Scott and Frankie, meet by chance.

Their homes are thousands of miles apart: Frankie lives somewhat chaotically with her children on the shoreline of North Norfolk, while Scott’s life is in the mountains of British Columbia. Distance divides them – but it seems that a million little things connect them. A spark ignites, one so strong that it dares them to take a risk.

But fatehas one more trick in store…

There are some truths about life and family we only learn when we grow up. There are some we never thought we’d have to.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Freya North Freya North

Freya North is the author of many bestselling novels which have been translated into numerous languages. She was born in London but lives in rural Hertfordshire, where she writes from a stable in her back garden. A passionate reader since childhood, Freya was originally inspired by Mary Wesley, Rose Tremain and Barbara Trapido: fiction with strong and original characters.

Connect with Freya

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I started this book expecting it to be a kind of cozy contemporary romance story, and ended up with a rich novel about love, loss, and second chances, as well as glimpses into the creative process, which makes sense since the lead characters are a writer and a musician, respectively.

I was intrigued by Scott almost from the start, because he isn’t the typical romantic lead. He’s gregarious and handsome, yes, but he’s also very earthy and real. I love that in his scenes with Jenna, their relationship is a little nebulous at first, making the reader guess, although the cover blurb says both characters are single parents, so the guessing is only if your eyes are closed to the obvious.

Frankie annoyed me a little. I understand all to well what it’s like when a project isn’t speaking to you, but when I’m stuck on a piece of writing I write something else. Also, I felt that her refusal to use modern technology, and social media, felt a little contrived. Did it add to her richness as a character? Maybe. But it made her feel older than she actually was. (For the record, these characters are in the forties, roughly my age.)

But together Frankie and Scott were an amazing pair, and separately, each of them felt like a totally legitimate single parent, one with two adolescent (or nearly so) kids, and one with a young-adult daughter. I’d happily have been either of their children, or taken their children in. That’s how dimensional and well written these characters were.

As for the plot, it starts out feeling like a mature version of a typical romance, and ends up being something vastly different, but even when sadness takes over for a while, the pace is perfect, the story is never maudlin, and the end is both hopeful and satisfying.

I want to applaud author Freya North for making me laugh, cry, fume, and cheer,  all in less than 500 pages. I want to give her a standing ovation for having lead characters who are flawed, human, fully-formed adults who still recognize that there are new things to learn and experience.

I loved this book.

Goes well with steak and chips and a cold beer.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 23rd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, May 24th: The Book Chick

Thursday, May 26th: Comfy Reading

Friday, May 27th: Booksellers Without Borders

Monday, May 30th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, May 31st: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, June 2nd: As I turn the pages

Monday, June 6th: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, June 7th: Book by Book

Thursday, June 9th: Ageless Pages Reviews