Review: The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

The Alice NetworkAbout the book, The Alice Network

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Buy, read, and discuss The Alice Network:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kate Quinn Kate Quinn - Photo Credit: Kate Furek (AP)

Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

Connect with Kate:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Even in fiction there aren’t enough stories about female spies. Aside from Mata Hari, the only one I can think of is the Pink Carnation, the fictional character at the heart of Lauren Willig’s series which jumps off from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Alice Network is nothing like Willig’s novels. Rather, author Kate Quinn has given us a double story about a network of female spies operating during World War I & II. In the earlier time period, we meet Eve, strong, courageous, and determined. In the latter, the focus is on Charlie, brought to Europe by her parents to take care of a ‘little problem,’ of the type women have been quietly handling since the dawn of time.

She’s also searching for her cousin Rose, presumed dead, whom no one has  heard from in three years.

Inevitably, Charlie’s and Eve’s stories become intertwined, but even as the two get to know each other, and Charlie finds a place in the world of her own choosing, Eve’s story unwinds for us also.

Both women are intelligent, passionate, driven, and somewhat ‘damaged’ by what life has handed them, and both fight against the constraints that society puts on women. To me, it was fascinating to see what shifted between those two wars, and what remained the same. As well, it was interesting to consider what still hasn’t changed, in the years since then.

I found both characters to be quite engaging, dimensional women. Charlie, especially, is someone I’d love to share tea or coffee with, but all of Quinn’s creations felt like real people. Charlie’s mother made me laugh and cringe in the opening scenes – I think every young woman has a relative a little like her, or knows someone who does.

I also appreciated Quinn’s eye for detail and specifics (Charlie smokes Gauloises, for example).

If you like meaty, gripping historical fiction with strong female characters and themes that echo down the years, you will love The Alice Network.

Goes well with a snack plate of sliced baguette with brie or Stilton cheese (depending on your taste), some olives, and a glass of red wine, followed by an espresso and a piece of dark chocolate.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 6th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, June 9th: Staircase Wit

Monday, June 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 13th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Tuesday, June 13th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, June 14th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, June 15th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 15th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 16th: BookNAround

Monday, June 19th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Tuesday, June 20th: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, June 21th: Unabridged Chick

Thursday, June 22nd: Bibliotica

Friday, June 23rd: Leah DeCesare

Monday, June 26th: Book by Book

Tuesday, June 27th: Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, June 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Thursday, June 29th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, June 30th: Literary Quicksand

Review: The Beach at Painter’s Cove, by Shelley Noble

The Beach at Painter's CoveAbout the book, The Beach at Painter’s Cove

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 13, 2017)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach comes another heartwarming story of four generations of women who reunite in their crumbling family mansion by the sea for a dramatic summer filled with love, family, secrets and sisterhood.

The Whitaker family’s Connecticut mansion, Muses by the Sea, has always been a haven for artists, a hotbed of creativity, extravagances, and the occasional scandal. Art patrons for generations, the Whitakers supported strangers but drained the life out of each other. Now, after being estranged for years, four generations of Whitaker women find themselves once again at The Muses.

Leo, the Whitaker matriarch, lives in the rambling mansion crammed with artwork and junk. She plans to stay there until she joins her husband Wes on the knoll overlooking the cove and meadow where they first met. Her sister-in-law Fae, the town eccentric, is desperate to keep a secret she has been hiding for years.

Jillian, is a jet setting actress, down on her luck, and has run out of men to support her. She thinks selling The Muses will make life easier for her mother, Leo, and Fae by moving them into assisted living. The sale will also bring her the funds to get herself back on top.

Issy, Jillian’s daughter, has a successful life as a museum exhibit designer that takes her around the world. But the Muses and her grandmother are the only family she’s known and when her sister leaves her own children with Leo, Issy knows she has to step in to help.

Steph, is only twelve-years-old and desperately needs someone to fire her imagination and bring her out of her shell. What she begins to discover at the Muses could change the course of her future.

As Issy martials the family together to restore the mansion and catalogue the massive art collection, a surprising thing happens. Despite storms and moonlight dancing, diva attacks and cat fights, trips to the beach and flights of fancy, these four generations of erratic, dramatic women may just find a way to save the Muses and reunite their family.

Buy, read, and discuss The Beach at Painter’s Cove:

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

My mother asked me, a few weeks ago, to recommend a “beach book,” with the understanding that, like me, she considers a beach book to be anything that takes place at or near the shore, not necessarily frothy fiction, so immediately I answered with this book. Then I realized this novel, The Beach at Painter’s Cove, hadn’t actually been released at that point, so I told her to get Shelly Noble’s previous novel.

I stand by both suggestions.

Author Noble has crafted a story, here, that introduces us to several generations of women in the same family, a family that isn’t particularly close, but that still has similar traits – running from responsibility among them -that are threaded through each character’s arc.

And there are a lot of characters. Even I, who don’t typically have such issues, had to really pay attention in the opening chapters to keep track of who was who and how they were related to each other, but once I understood each of the different personalities, I really enjoyed the way the various character arcs were woven together, and moved back and forth, rather like ocean waves on a breezy day.

I also want to mention that, appropriately, the family manse, The Muses, was absolutely a character in its own right, and I would happily have moved in, once restoration was complete.

I have a love for “project” stories  like this one, where a group of characters must come together to make,  build, or plan and execute something and it’s clear from her vivid descriptions that Ms. Noble must as well.

One thing I truly appreciated was that everything felt cinematic. I could see the houses, the chalk drawings, each character; I could feel breezes and smell flowers. I wouldn’t be surprise if this novel were optioned for a movie because everything felt so cohesive  – there was nothing extraneous, and yet nothing ever felt underwritten – that I believe it would play well on screen.

Goes well with hot coffee and strawberry-rhubarb pie, preferably eaten on a patio.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 6th: Book by Book

Wednesday, June 7th: alyssarossblog

Wednesday, June 7th: StephTheBookworm

Thursday, June 8th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, June 9th: Just Commonly

Friday, June 9th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, June 12th: The Book Bag

Tuesday, June 13th: BookNAround

Thursday, June 15th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, June 16th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, June 20th: My Journey Back

Tuesday, June 20th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 21st: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, June 22nd: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, June 23rd: Dreams, Etc.

TBD: Back Porchervations

TBD: A Chick Who Reads

 

Review: One Wrong Turn, by Deanna Lynn Sletten

One Wrong TurnAbout the book, One Wrong Turn

 

  • Print Length: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: June 20, 2017

Deanna Lynn Sletten returns with unforgettable new novel about one man’s crisis of self . . . and his greatest act of love.

“I’m her husband.”

The words roll off Clay Connors’s tongue, but with his ex-wife lying in a coma—with no assurance that she’ll awaken—he knows that he is perilously close to losing everything. A singular, terrifying accident has left Jess Connors suspended between life and death. Now Clay is reunited with the family he hasn’t seen for two years, including the daughters he left behind.

Clay should have been there for his family. Never should have stayed away so long. The alcohol that took over his life destroyed everything but a shred of his self-preservation. Sober and haunted, Clay revisits the memory of love, marriage, and how his life unraveled. He hopes that by trying to reconnect with the daughter who blames him and the daughter who barely knew him, he can find a light of hope in this darkest hour. As his family faces its most grueling, emotional test yet, Clay must summon the courage to make right what was wrong—and find forgiveness from his harshest judge: himself.

Buy, read, and discuss One Wrong Turn:

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


About the author, Deanna Lynn Sletten Deanna Lynn Sletten

Deanna Lynn Sletten writes women’s fiction and romance novels. She began her writing career self-publishing novels in 2012 and has since published several novels. Her latest novel, One Wrong Turn, is her third book published by Lake Union Publishing. Deanna believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after, and her novels reflect that.

Deanna lives in a small town in northern Minnesota and is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake.

Connect with Deanna:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

I was first introduced to Deanna Lynn Sletten’s work when I reviewed Maggie’s Turn in 2013, and I’ve loved her writing ever since. She creates wonderful stories with vivid settings and vibrant characters, and she always leaves you feeling like the world still holds hope – something we all really need right now.

This novel, One Wrong Turn, is no exception. A family drama, it takes place in the present on the Northern California coastline, and in the past (via flashbacks and memories) mainly in Southern California. While the scenes in the past were crucial for understanding the relationship between Clay and Jess in the present, I was more drawn to the contemporary scenes, probably because I lived in Northern California for a good chunk of my life (if I could afford it, I’d be running a B&B in Half Moon Bay right now) and was really wishing for those cool coastal breezes while I read this in hot, humid, Texas.

I really liked that Clay and Jess were depicted both as a couple and as separate individuals, and I liked the details of his being a musician. One thing that really resonated with me was an early flashback where he cuts his hair after meeting Jess and receiving her unfavorable comment about his pony-tail. My own husband (we celebrated 22 years in March) had a mullet when we met – I knew it was real love when he cut his hair short for me.

While characters who are young children don’t typically appeal to me, Sletten is so good at her craft I found Jess and Clay’s daughters, Maddie and Jilly, to be surprisingly not-annoying, the way the kids of most of my friends are. I know that sounds like an odd thing to comment on, but writing children well is a skill not every author has.

Overall, One Wrong Turn is one right choice if you like heartwarming family dramas, plausible love stories, and novels that end with hope and happiness.

Goes well with clam chowder, crusty bread, and IBC root beer.

 

Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays, by Ashley Farley

About the book, Sweet Tea Tuesdays Sweet Tea Tuesdays

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Leisure Time Books (May 3, 2017)

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

From the author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series comes a novel of friendship, family, and hope.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Buy, read, and discuss Sweet Tea Tuesdays:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Ashley Farley Ashley Farley

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Many people like their summer reading to be a little lighter than the books they focus on during the rest of the year, and I’m no exception. On the surface, Sweet Tea Tuesdays seems like a typical summer read – a bunch of woman who’ve been friends since forever, meet for a weekly gossip session on the porch.

But to dismiss this novel, which is, at times, both heart-breaking and heart-warming, as just a summer read would be to deny it the credit it deserves, for in this novel, author Ashley Farley gives us a group of real women – Lula, Midge, and Georgia – who could be any of us who are older than the Redbook demographic, but don’t really feel our ages.

This is a glimpse into three lives that seem as real, as vibrant, as those of any of the women I routinely talk to. I laughed at Lula putting paper towels under her breasts to sop up sweat when her air conditioner was broken, and I cringed at the way Midge’s new fiance treated her. I sympathized with Georgia, and at times wanted to hug or shake all three of these women.

Author Farley does a great job handling southern dialogue, and sets her scenes well. Nothing is over-written, but the sense of place is strong. I could hear the mosquitoes buzzing and feel the humidity in her words.

As well, Farley is incredibly skilled at capturing those moments of all-to-human humor that happen organically. The accidental turn of phrase, the times we make unintended slips – those are sprinkled throughout this novel, lightening some of the heavier moments, yes, but also giving the entire story a deeper reality.

Goes well with iced sweet tea and peach pie.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Review: The Gypsy Moth Summer, by Julia Fierro

About the book, The Gypsy Moth Summer Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (June 6, 2017)
  • Scroll down for giveaway

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island–dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island’s leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall–only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family–returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island’s bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island–and its patriarch, the Colonel–be to blame?

As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.

Buy, read, and discuss Gypsy Moth Summer:

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


About the author, Julia Fierro Julia Fierro

JULIA FIERRO is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel CUTTING TEETH, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”).  A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Julia lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Connect with Julia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was hooked from the first page of this novel The Gypsy Moth Summer, and author Fierro’s description of the way different sets of the younger residents of Avalon Island sought refuge in the woods on summer evenings. That description really resonated with my own memories of coming home, hot and pink, from the Jersey shore, and then wandering around my grandparents’ neighborhood until after dusk, playing freeze-tag with my friends, or hunting fireflies, or, later, finding that one spot where the honeysuckle vines formed a privacy curtain for a little private time with the boy of the moment.

With the subsequent introduction to Maddie, part of the IT-girl group, but not really one of them, I went from ‘hooked’ to ‘totally enthralled.’ I was twenty-two when this novel took place, but I remember what it was like to be on the fringe of different popular groups, wanting to be part of them, but never really meshing with the groupthink.

Beyond high school girl dynamics, though, this novel has it all – mysterious residents who return with new families, young love, small town scandal, and, of course, the life cycle of gypsy moths juxtaposed against it all.

Part classic beach read, part gripping community drama, part mystery, all brilliantly put together with language that moves from vivid and lyrical to snappy dialogue and back, as necessary, The Gypsy Moth Summer should be at the top of your summer reading list.

Goes well with a soft pretzel and an orange julius-type drink, preferably enjoyed on a boardwalk, amusement pier, or at a county fair.


Giveaway Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

One lucky reader in the US or Canada will win a copy of this novel. How? Leave a comment here telling me about your favorite summer refuge. Include a valid email so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway ends Wednesday, June 14th at 11:59 PM CDT.


Julia Fierro’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, May 31st: BookNAround

Friday, June 2nd: View from the Birdhouse

Sunday, June 4th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post

Monday, June 5th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, June 6th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Wednesday, June 7th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 8th: Bibliotica

Friday, June 9th: Readaholic Zone

Monday, June 12th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, June 13th: Suzy Approved

Wednesday, June 14th: Bookchickdi

Thursday, June 15th: Wildmoo Books

Friday, June 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, June 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post

Monday, June 19th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, June 20th: Anita Loves Books

Wednesday, June 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 22nd: Write Read Life

Friday, June 23rd: I Brought a Book

Monday, June 26th: Art, Books, & Coffee

Tuesday, June 27th: Book Chatter

Wednesday, June 28th: 5 Minutes for Books

Thursday, June 29th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, June 30th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 30th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Date TBD: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Breakfast in Texas, by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Breakfast in Texas Blog Tour

Scroll down for Giveaway information!

About the book, Breakfast in Texas Breakfast in Texas

  • Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine
  • Publisher: The University of Texas Press
  • Date of Publication: April 18, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 312

Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Buy, read, and discuss Breakfast in Texas:

University of Texas Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terry Thompson-Anderson Terry Thompson-Anderson

Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

Connect with the University of Texas Press:

Connect with The University of Texas Press:

WebsiteFacebook  | Twitter  | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m a bit of a foodie, and breakfast and brunch are my favorite meals, so when I was offered the opportunity to review a cookbook that was all about breakfast food, you can bet I jumped at the chance.

Subtitled “Recipes for Elegant Brunches, Down Home Classics, and Local Favorites,” this book, Breakfast in Texas is a treasure trove of recipes and commentary. In reviewing this book, I picked one recipe that I thought everyone in my house would eat, and would also teach me a new skill. I ended up making the Egg Breakfast Casserole from the A Place in Time Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, where I’ve never been, but have a sudden yearning to go.

It’s a fairly basic sausage, mushroom, egg and cheese casserole, but the spin that makes it special is that you make your own whole-milk ricotta to go in it. Now, while I currently live near Dallas, I come from a New Jersey Neapolitan family, so the ricotta I grew up with is not from whole cow’s milk, it’s whey-based ricotta, usually made with goat or sheep milk. But the commercial ricotta most of us buy from the store is whole cow’s milk ricotta, so if you aren’t in the mood (or not great at planning far enough ahead) to make your own, you can use store-bought and no one will know.

Author Terry Thompson-Anderson doesn’t go into the chemistry of curdling milk to make ricotta but her instructions are simple, and the end result was a good deal creamier than what you can find at the store.

Similarly, the rest of the book is full of interesting twists on basic ideas, as well as elaborate suggestions for fancier menus. One thing I really appreciated was the first chapter, which was all about “libations.” I’ve recently been re-introduced to that old-school brunch favorite, the Bloody Mary, so you can imagine my glee to learn about breakfast cocktails featuring, not tequila or vodka, but legal Texas Moonshine.

I never even knew that was a thing!

Of course, one of the bonuses of any cookbook is the art, and Breakfast in Texas does not disappoint. Sandy Wilson’s photographs are worthy of being framed, and give a good idea of what finished dishes should look like.

At 312 pages, this cookbook is pretty hefty – you’ll want one of those plastic cookbook protector-stands to keep it upright and clean while you use it – but I promise you, whether you want to create an intimate breakfast for yourself and your romantic partner, or host a brunch for fifteen, there is something in this book that will intrigue, inspire, and entice you into the kitchen.

Goes well with coffee, and a pen and notepad for meal planning and making a grocery list.


Giveaway

The publishers of this book are hosting a giveaway. To enter, click the image below, or follow the text link below the image.

Breakfast in Texas Giveaway

Click to enter!!!

This giveaway is open until June 13th.


Breakfast in Texas Tour Stops Lone Star Literary Life

5/30 Promo Hall Ways Blog
5/31 Review StoreyBook Reviews
6/01 Sneak Peek 1 Momma On The Rocks
6/02 Review Books in the Garden
6/03 Book Trailer 1 My Book Fix Blog
6/04 Promo Syd Savvy
6/05 Review Bibliotica
6/06 Book Trailer 2 Texas Book Lover
6/07 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/08 Sneak Peek 2 Forgotten Winds
6/09 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/10 Review Books and Broomsticks
6/11 Promo The Page Unbound
6/12 Author Interview CGB Blog Tours
6/13 Review Reading By Moonlight

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review: The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

About the book, The View From the Cheap Seats The View from the Cheap Seats

• Paperback: 544 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 16, 2017)

The New York Times bestselling non-fiction collection, now in paperback, from the author of American Gods, now a STARZ Original Series.

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Buy, read, and discuss The View from the Cheap Seats:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newberry and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Connect with Neil:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With the exception of American Gods (I’m apparently the only person on the planet who didn’t like it, but I recognize that it may have come into my life at a bad time, and I’ll eventually give it another chance) I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, so when I was offered the opportunity to review some of his non-fiction, I went over the wall and into the ocean (metaphorically) and ended up wishing I was young enough to be a Bard student so I could take this man’s class.

I was hooked on this collection from the moment I opened the book and read his preface (introduction, whatever – I don’t have the book in front of me because a friend pulled it out of my hands the second I declared “FINISHED!”), and while not every piece resonated with me the same way, I found myself entranced, intrigued, provoked, amused, moved, and amazed, sometimes alternately, sometimes all at once.

I tend to read books of essays and short stories in chunks. I keep them in the bathroom, either in a basket near the toilet (oh, come on, we all read there) or on the side of the tub and pick them up whenever I’m in the appropriate place. I don’t pick and choose the order, though sometimes I’m tempted by a title.

That opening piece, “Some Things I Believe,” is something I’ll re-read, likely often. The section on comic books (and comic book shops, and comic book artists’ influence on Gaiman) is something I appreciated as a casual comic book reader, but I know my husband and the friend who stole my book will love a lot.

The section about film was incredibly informative, but there are also essays devoted to ghosts, music, and even one on the political/cultural situation in Syria.

Reading this book felt like a conversation with an old friend, the kind that rambles from topic to topic, touching on recurring themes, offering new insights, and involves each of you making lists of Books You Must Read and Music You Must Hear.

It’s fitting, then, that Gaiman himself wrote, “Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation, and new people, new readers, need to be brought into the conversation too.”

This book, The View from the Cheap Seats, is that conversation. Or at least, it’s an overture to starting it.

Goes well with Earl Grey tea and raspberry crumble.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 16th: G. Jacks Writes

Wednesday, May 17th: Vox Libris

Thursday, May 18th: Based on a True Story

Friday, May 19th: A Splendidly Messy Life

Monday, May 22nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 23rd: Sapphire Ng

Wednesday, May 24th: Book Snob

Wednesday, May 24th: Man of La Book

Thursday, May 25th: guiltless reading

Friday, May 26th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, May 30th: In Bed with Books

Wednesday, May 31st: Real Life Reading

Thursday, June 1st: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, June 1st: Bibliotica

Friday, June 2nd: Bibliophiliac

 

 

Review: The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, by Maria Elena Sandovici

Adventures of Miss Vulpe Blog Tour

About the book, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe The Adventures of Miss Vulpe

  • Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Date of Publication: April 7, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 160
Ana Petrescu (aka Miss Vulpe) is a troubled teenager determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ double suicide. Escaping the scrutiny of her legal guardian and the unwanted interference of several therapists, she starts looking up people from her mother’s past. Her sleuthing requires her to lie about her identity, her age, and her lack of experience with men. While impersonating Miss Vulpe is more fun than going to school, there’s bound to be trouble and heartache when her web of lies unravels.

Buy, read, and discuss The Adventures of Miss Vulpe:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Maria Elena Sandovici Maria Elena Sandovici

Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.

Connect with Maria:

Website | Goodreads  | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest  | Blog | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve never liked the word “unputdownable.” Aside from its general awkwardness, I always see it as a challenge: if someone describes a book this way, I feel that my job is to see just how quickly I can put it down. Imagine my chagrin, then, to have to admit that once I began reading Maria Elena Sandovici’s engaging novel The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, I literally could not put it down until I’d read it straight through.

In this “coming of age story for adults,” Sandovici has given us a snarky, smart, somewhat precocious young protagonist who is as broken as she is spunky. I instantly connected with her theatricality (Ana uses goth makeup and sophisticated clothing; I wore a lorgnette to school for a week after seeing The Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time). I also completely “got” her use of humor as a defense mechanism. I, too, have always used snark as a weapon. Sandovici’s writing ability shines in those moments when Ana is disarming people with dark humor.

But Ana isn’t just a prickly teenager. She’s also a broken one, suffering from the death (apparently a double suicide) of both her parents, bristling at the guardian with a connection to her that she doesn’t understand, and never quite belonging anywhere she is sent. (A boarding school in Switzerland is “too clean,” and has mountain views that she hates, while her mother’s house is inhabited by memories and two hired caretakers who dwell in superstition.)

When Ana acts out – by stealing small items that bring her joy – or by tracking down a man her mother knew and starting a completely inappropriate relationship with him in her bid to learn the real story of her mother’s life – that’s when we see her at her most resourceful, yes, but also at her most shattered.

But Ana isn’t the only character in this novel, though she is the main one. In flashbacks, we learn the story of Richard Devereaux, an American southerner to whom Ana’s mother Louise was writing, shortly before her death, and through his story we also learn about Rogers, the guardian who may have more than just a passing interest in Ana’s well-being.

This novel is richly crafted, with details about Ana’s life in Bucharest and it’s surroundings. I was particularly entranced by descriptions of an old hotel on the Black Sea, a place which was once toney and now oozes “faded luxury,” but I felt like I was experiencing Bucharest, and later (to a lesser degree) Madrid, through Ana’s eyes.

Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe is an entertaining read, yes, but it’s also deeper than a first glance would imply, and ultimately the story is quite satisfying.

Goes well with espresso and petits fours.


Tour Stops for The Adventures of Miss Vulpe Lone Star Literary Life

5/20 Review Hall Ways Blog
5/20 Excerpt 1 Missus Gonzo
5/21 Sketchbook 1 StoreyBook Reviews
5/22 Review Reading By Moonlight
5/22 Promo My Book Fix Blog
5/23 Excerpt 2 Texas Book Lover
5/24 Review Forgotten Winds
5/24 Guest Post Chapter Break Book Blog
5/25 Review CGB Blog Tours
5/26 Sketchbook 2 Books in the Garden
5/27 Review Bibliotica
5/27 Excerpt 3 The Page Unbound
5/28 Promo Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books
5/29 Review Syd Savvy
5/29 Sketchbook 3 Margie’s Must Reads

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

 

Adventures of Miss Vulpe Blog Tour

 

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