#Bibliotica reviews: The Summer of Me, by Angela Benson

About  the book, The Summer of Me The Summer of Me

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 19, 2016)

The national bestselling author of Delilah’s Daughters and The Amen Sisters returns with a moving story about a single mother who, in one unforgettable summer, discovers the woman she can become.

As a single mother, Destiny makes sacrifices for her children—including saying good-bye for the summer so they can spend time with their father and stepmother. Though she’ll miss them with all her heart, the time alone gives her an opportunity to address her own needs, like finishing her college degree. But Destiny’s friends think her summer should include some romance.

Destiny doesn’t want to be set up . . . until she meets Daniel. The handsome, warm, and charming pastor soon sweeps her off her feet. But is romance what she really wants? Or needs?

As the days pass, Destiny will make new discoveries—about herself, the man she’s fallen for, and the people around her. And she’ll face challenging choices too. But most of all, she’ll grow in ways she never imagined, learning unexpected lessons about trust, forgiveness, and the price of motherhood . . . and becoming the woman she truly wants to be.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Angela Benson Angela Benson

Angela Benson is a graduate of Spelman College and the author of fourteen novels, including the Christy Award–nominated Awakening Mercy, the Essence bestsellerThe Amen Sisters, Up Pops the Devil, and Sins of the Father. She is an associate professor at the University of Alabama and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Connect with Angela:

Website | Facebook

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The whole time I was reading Angela Benson’s latest novel The Summer of Me, I kept thinking about two things: one, this author has really nailed what it is to be a single parent in the contemporary world, and two, lead-character Destiny’s experience is not all that different from my own mother, who, as she recently reminded me (and the world) through her blog, “worked at shitty jobs to pay for cello and tap lessons, big hair perms, and the latest Michael Jackson record.” (Well, it was the 80’s.)

Here’s what I loved about Destiny: unlike the hoards of Mommy-bloggers out in the world, who seem to let their role as “mother” subsume their entire personalities, Destiny is a dimensional person. She loves her kids and wants the best for them, yes. She makes choices based, at least in part, on what would be best for her kids. While I’m not a parent (I have dogs. Lots of dogs.), I have many friends who are, and most of them make their decisions in a similar fashion. But she also retains the ability to be a whole person – it’s rocky, at first, because when we meet her she’s just had a job offer – one that would have changed life as she perceived it – rescinded, so she’s not as hopeful as she should be – but once her confidence is somewhat restored, she begins to date, and make choices about what is best for her.

Here’s what I loved about The Summer of Me in general: Destiny is the center of the story but her mother and friends have their own arcs as well. They’re subtler, but they do exist. I also liked that the kids ‘read’ like real kids – not grammatically perfect fictional characters – I especially appreciated that Kenae, Destiny’s daughter, had her headphones in her ears more often than not. This is behavior I see everywhere (and, sadly, not only with kids) and it lent an air of realism to what is basically a contemporary romance novel. I also appreciated that the kid’s father and his wife were not portrayed as monsters, just as two people who share a common interest – the children – and our doing their best to work with each other. None of the relationships are perfect, but they are all fairly positive, and okay, it’s a romance novel, so it’s not like anyone was going to be truly evil, but still… Author Benson really showed off her ability to find the nuances in every-day situations and enhance them to make a compelling story.

I’m never sure if I should mention that most of the characters in this novel are people of color (which is the phrase that was in our descriptions when we were given the opportunity to choose books for this spring – Thank you TLC Book Tours for giving us such great choices), or if I should just assume that readers will understand, as I do, that a good story is a good story, that single mothers of all cultures and skin tones have similar experiences, and that you don’t have to be exactly like the protagonist of any novel to be able to relate to it. So, I’m mentioning it in this left-handed fashion, because it shouldn’t matter. (But there’s a whole rant about labeling books, and this isn’t the moment for it.)

I found The Summer of Me to be incredibly well written, just sexy enough to keep things interesting, and full of dimensional characters I truly cared about. I recommend it for anyone who wants an easy (but still satisfying) summer read, especially children of single parents.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and mango-peach iced tea. Followed by a phone call to your mother, whether she was a single parent, or not.


Angela’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 19th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, April 20th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, April 21st: Becklist

Friday, April 22nd: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, April 25th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Tuesday, April 26th: I’m Shelf-ish

Wednesday, April 27th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Thursday, April 28th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 29th: As I turn the pages

Monday, May 2nd: Reading is My Super Power

Tuesday, May 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, May 4th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 5th: 5 Minutes For Books

A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles, by Mary Elizabeth Williams

About the book, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (April 26, 2016)

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams’s experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Mary Elizabeth Williams Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior staff writer for award-winning Salon.com whose columns are regularly among the top viewed, commented on, shared, and cited as the best of the week. The “Lab Rat” series on her clinical trial was nominated for the 2012 Online Journalism Award for Commentary, and her essay on receiving a melanoma diagnosis is in the Harper anthology The Moment, an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” pick—alongside essays by Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers. She is the author of Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream. A starred Booklist selection,Gimme Shelter was called “poignant and funny” (Kirkus), “a must-read” (New York Daily News), “hilariously evocative” (Time Out Kids) and “compelling” (Publisher’s Weekly). She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Find out more about her at her website.

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When Trish from TLC Book Tours said she wanted to ask me, specifically, about reading this book, I almost said no. I mean, who wants to read another book about some woman they don’t know talking about her cancer. But I’ve been working with TLC for a few years now, and even though we don’t have much direct contact, I’ve noticed that Trish has an unerring knack for matching people and books, so I went against my initial reaction, and said yes.

I’m really glad I did, because it turns out that I knew Mary Elizabeth Williams from her work – Gimme Shelter is amazing, by the way – and her style is to candid and breezy and funny and snarky that I felt like reading her story was listening to one of my best girlfriends describing their experience. She was explicit enough that picturing her tumor, and understanding exactly what was going on, was relatively simply, yet she didn’t subject people to horror-movie levels of gore, and when things were turning darker or too serious, she would inject just enough humor to help lighten the moment without making it seem like there was no jeopardy, or things weren’t that dire.

It’s a tricky edge to ride.

Almost as tricky, I’d wager, as dealing with malignant melanoma while raising two daughters and reconciling with your ex-husband, which are all things Williams was doing.

Now, here’s where I share that I had a good friend – a blog buddy who was brilliant and incisive with words – who died from malignant melanoma a few years ago, just after Christmas. His last blog post describes how bad he really was, and how he and his wife had decided not to tell the kids until after the holidays. This  man was a soldier. He used to send me pictures from places like Kabul, and tell me about the people he encountered. I miss our discussions. I miss his writing. Even though we never met in person – we meant to – I miss him.

So, I knew, going into Williams’ book, that ‘skin cancer’ is a lot more dangerous than people think it is.

And Mary Elizabeth Williams is one lucky woman, with an incredible sense of humor. How can you not appreciate a woman who has to have a vodka tonic and a plate of buttered popovers before her first meeting with an oncologist at Sloan Kettering?

How can you not become thoroughly engaged in a story that includes the author’s honest speculation that the most expensive part of her treatment may be bribing her kids.

How indeed? As far as I can tell, the only way you will not immediately want Mary Elizabeth Williams as your best friend is by not reading this book.

But you should read it. You should read A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles because it’s funny and honest and profoundly human.

And really, fundamentally, even though it’s about this one woman and her one experience, it’s also about all of us, and how we choose to face catastrophes, and accept miracles.

What could be more compelling than that?

Goes well with buttered popovers and hot tea (Lady Grey is my pick), but a vodka tonic is perfectly acceptable as well.


Mary’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 26th: Darn Good Lemonade

Wednesday, April 27th: The Discerning Reader

Wednesday, April 27th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 29th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, May 3rd: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, May 4th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 10th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 11th: Patient #1

Wednesday, May 18th: Booby and the Beast

Thursday, May 19th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 31st: Mel’s Shelves

Loving Eleanor, by Susan Wittig Albert

About the book, Loving Eleanor Loving Eleanor

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2016
  • Persevero Press; Thorndike (Large Print)
  • Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Large Print
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction

When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women’s deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick’s personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation’s First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick’s death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women’s love.

Buy, read, and discuss Loving Eleanor

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Susan Wittig Albert Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert is the award-winning, NYT bestselling author of the forthcoming historical novel Loving Eleanor (2016), about the intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok; and A Wilder Rose (2014), about Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books.

Her award-winning fiction also includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.

Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); Writing from Life: Telling the Soul’s Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

She is founder and current president (2015-2017) of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

For more information please visit www.susanalbert.com and www.LovingEleanor.com, or read her blog. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Like the Loving Eleanor page on Facebook.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I read this book months ago, when I first received the e-galley, and stupidly didn’t write my review right then, so forgive me if this isn’t detailed.

Put simply, this is a wonderful book. It’s challenging to write plausible fiction about real people, but Susan Wittig Albert has done so before, and in this novel, Loving Eleanor, she’s really gone beyond the even her usual skill. I felt like I was experiencing everything along with Hick. Then again, Albert used the real Hick’s actual letters, which were kept private until her death, out of respect for all of the people mentioned within. Knowing that, can this really be called fiction? Doesn’t it ride the edge of being creative non-fiction? Don’t all true stories include some extrapolation?

Whether or not you accept this novel, and the relationship depicted between Hick and Eleanor as factual, it cannot be denied that this book is truthful. It speaks to period in which both women came of age, and came into their power as adults. It speaks to the political and cultural climate of the bulk of their lifetimes, and it speaks to the longing that we all have, not just for a life partner, but for that bosom friendship so few contemporary women seem to have.

Wittig’s tackled a difficult subject with a delicate hand, giving us a glimpse of the Eleanor Roosevelt we all know and love through the eyes of someone who knew her, and loved her, better and differently, than we who can only view her through the long lens of history could ever do. And yet, this isn’t a dry biography. There is humor. There is warmth. There is also grief and loss.

While much of the novel is Hicks’s view of Eleanor, the reality is that this is Hicks’s own story. We see her build her successful journalism career. We see her have to choose between that career and the woman she loves, and when the object of her affection becomes a global icon, she has to choose again how to be – how close, how far, how truthful.

Again, I come back to: this is a wonderful book. Rich in detail, a perfect blend of fiction and history. Truthful, on the deepest emotional levels.

Goes well with strong coffee and mint Milano cookies.


Giveaway

Three copies of Loving Eleanor by Sisan Wittig Albert are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada 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.

Embed Code for Giveaway: Loving Eleanor

Direct Link to Giveaway: https://gleam.io/QlWl0/loving-eleanor-


Blog Tour Schedule Loving Eleanor Blog Tour

Tuesday, April 26
Review at Bibliotica

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Broken Teepee

Thursday, April 28
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Friday, April 29
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 3
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, May 4
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, May 5
Interview at A Holland Reads

Friday, May 6
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Spotlight at To Read, or Not to Read

Monday, May 9
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, May 10
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, May 12
Interview at Back Porchervations

Monday, May 16
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, May 17
Spotlight at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 18
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, May 20
Guest Post at Creating Herstory

Monday, May 23
Review at Unabridged Chick
Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, May 24
Interview at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, May 25
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, May 26
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, May 30
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, May 31
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

About the book The Decent Proposal The Decent Proposal

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

A humorous, heartfelt love story built on a tantalizing premise: would you agree to spend two hours a week with a stranger—just talking—to collect half a million dollars at the end of a year?

Struggling Hollywood producer Richard is twenty-nine, hungover, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an easy charm, he spends his days procrastinating at the Coffee Bean and nights hanging out with his best friend, Michaela, aka “Mike.”

At thirty-three, Elizabeth is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina”—the Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to a quiet, orderly life with no romantic entanglements of any kind. (Her closest friend is an old man who discusses Virginia Woolf with her at the beach. Enough said.)

Richard and Elizabeth have never met before, but their paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor: they’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together every week for a year. Both are shocked and suspicious, and agree the idea is absurd, but after Richard anxiously considers the state of his bank account and Elizabeth carefully conducts a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, they agree to give it a try.

As these two perfect strangers wade awkwardly into the waters of modern courtship, discovering a shared affection for In-N-Out burgers, classic books, cult-hit movies, and various Los Angeles locales, they realize that uncovering the secret identity of their benefactor will not only make clear what connects them but change them both forever.

This delightful tale is full of twists, revelations, and above all love in its multitude of forms.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kemper Donovan Kemper Donovan

Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

Follow Kemper on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 


My TMelissa A. Bartellhoughts

I had a difficult time getting into this book, but it was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me,’ so I put it aside for a week or so, and then tried it again, and I found I really enjoyed it. The opening with Richard in his newly empty apartment, and his inner monologue about cancelling Netflix because even the $8.95/month seemed too expensive really reminded me of times in my own life , when Fuzzy and I were newly married and still learning to handle co-mingled finances. I think that kind of financial desperation is something everyone goes through in their twenties, and then we reach our thirties (and beyond) and (hopefully) put that behind us. It was that description that really made me fall into my second attempt at The Decent Proposal and ultimately I really enjoyed the experience.

Elizabeth – La Maquina – I loved from the start. I know what it is to be driven and focused and not always the center of the workplace social buzz, and I found that identified with her more than I thought I would. I loved that she did a cost-benefit analysis of the ‘decent proposal’ she and Richard received. (I’m married to an engineer. He keeps spreadsheets of his characters in iOS games. This is a trait I understand.)

Kemper Donovan’s writing voice is easy and contemporary, which isn’t to imply that this book is overly ‘simple.’ It’s not. It’s a fabulous twist on the classic “mysterious benefactor as matchmaker” trope, with characters that feel like real people and dialogue that snaps and sizzles.

As well, the entire novel is fabulously entertaining and engaging.

Goes well with frou-frou coffee and a pastry at your cafe of choice.


Kemper’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, April 6th: Curling Up by the Fire

Thursday, April 7th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, April 8th: You Can Read Me Anything

Monday, April 11th: Book Hooked Blog

Tuesday, April 12th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, April 13th: she treads softly

Thursday, April 14th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, April 18th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, April 19th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, April 20th: Literary Feline

Thursday, April 21st: Bibliotica

Monday, April 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, April 26th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, April 27th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Thursday, April 28th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, April 29th: fangirl confessions

Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge, by Ovidia Yu (@ovidiavanda) #review #tlcbooktours

About the book Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge

Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 5, 2016)

Rosie “Aunty” Lee—feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home cooking restaurant—is back in another delectable, witty mystery set in Singapore.

Slightly hobbled by a twisted ankle, crime-solving restaurateur Aunty Lee begrudgingly agrees to take a rest from running her famous café, Aunty Lee’s Delights, and turns over operations to her friend and new business partner Cherril.

The café serves as a meeting place for an animal rescue society that Cherril once supported. They were forced to dissolve three years earlier after a British expat killed the puppy she’d adopted, sparking a firestorm of scandal. The expat, Allison Fitzgerald, left Singapore in disgrace, but has returned with an ax to grind (and a lawsuit). At the café one afternoon, Cherril receives word that Allison has been found dead in her hotel—and foul play is suspected. When a veterinarian, who was also involved in the scandal, is found dead, suspicion soon falls on the animal activists. What started with an internet witch hunt has ended in murder—and in a tightly knit, law-and-order society like Singapore, everyone is on edge.

Before anyone else gets hurt—and to save her business—Aunty Lee must get to the bottom of what really happened three years earlier, and figure out who is to be trusted in this tangled web of scandal and lies.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Ovidia YuOvidia Yu

Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore’s best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had more than thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.

Connect with Ovidia

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThis novel hits the ground running, opening with an explosion at a vet clinic, and never stopping until the final scene. From the start, the characters were so vivid, so engaging, that I didn’t even realize this was book three in a series. (Now that I have, I’m looking forward to going back and reading the prior installments.)

From the start, I was in love with Aunty Lee, who is sort of like a Singaporean Mrs. Pollifax. What I thought was really amazing about her was that she didn’t have any of the judgemental tendencies that a Western character would have – instead, even the worst of the people she interacted with were seen through the eyes of someone who lived the words ‘compassion’ and ‘mercy’ as if they’d been bred into her.

Similarly, Allison Love, the ex-pat who left and then returned, was as real, as dimensional, as anyone I’ve ever known. I felt bad for her, and I also wanted to know more of her backstory (see paragraph one).

What I loved about this novel was that the mystery, while there, was never screaming, “Solve me, solve me!” Sure, some elements were easy to predict, but author Yu did an amazing job of keeping us guessing about other elements to the very end. I like that, and I’ve gotten so complacent about always being ‘ahead’ that when I wasn’t it was both surprising and refreshing.

I also loved the ‘foodie’ elements of this novel. I didn’t count the recipes – there were somewhere between five and a thousand – but every time food was mentioned, I wanted it to magically appear in front of me. The few times I’ve had Singaporean food (at restaurants like Straits and Five Foot Way, both in California) I’ve really enjoyed the flavors, and I found myself longing for them as I read.

I also loved that Yu seamlessly worked in elements of Singaporean culture. I felt as though her decision to include that made me experience this novel – which I almost underestimated as ‘just another formulaic foodie mystery’ – on many, many levels.

Seriously, if you love a good mystery, with well drawn characters, a plot that is complex enough to keep you thinking, and a dash of culture on the side, you need to read Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge.

Goes well with pineapple tarts (or any fruit cookie) and hot tea.


Ovidia’s Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, April 5th: FictionZeal

Wednesday, April 6th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Friday, April 8th: In Bed with Books

Monday, April 11th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Tuesday, April 12th: Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, April 13th: Book Journey

Thursday, April 14th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 15th: Reading to Distraction

Monday, April 18th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, April 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, April 20th: Reading Reality

Thursday, April 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, April 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier #review #tlcbooktours

About Reader, I Married Himthe book Reader, I Married Him

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 22, 2016)

This collection of original stories by today’s finest women writers takes inspiration from the famous line in Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel, Jane Eyre.

A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered by readers all over the world. Her books featuring unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions today. And who could forget one of literatures’ best-known lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel Jane Eyre?

Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a great source of inspiration to writers, especially women, ever since. Now in Reader, I Married Him, twenty of today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Featured Authors

Featuring:

Tracy Chevalier – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Sarah Hall – Website | Facebook

Helen Dunmore – Website | Twitter

Kirsty Gunn – Website | Facebook

Joanna Briscoe – Website | Twitter

Emma Donoghue – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Susan Hill – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elif Shafak – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Evie Wyld – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Patricia Park – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Salley Vickers – Website | Twitter

Nadifa Mohamed – Twitter

Esther Freud – Website

Linda Grant – Website | Twitter

Lionel Shriver – Facebook

Audrey Niffenegger – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Namwali Serpell – Website | Twitter

Elizabeth McCracken – Website | Facebook | Twitter


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve had a long relationship with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. It began when I was pretty young –  nine or ten, I think – and found it on the shelf above my bed in the room I always used when I visited my grandparents over the summer. I remember reading it during a wild summer storm, and rereading it again several years later. It’s one of those novels I go back to, every so often, finding something new in it with every visit, as if it’s the book that’s changing, instead of me.

When I was offered the chance to review this anthology of short stories, all by women, inspired by Jane Eyre’s iconic line, “Reader, I married him,” I knew I had to read this book.

It’s a funny thing. I write short stories, but I don’t often read them any more. So first, this book reminded me that short stories are a great way to sample the work of a new author, or at least, an author who is new to me.

The stories in this anthology range from close interpretations (Grace Poole’s version of the story is especially poignant) to stories that only have unconventional marriages, or vague hand-waving in Jane’s direction to connect them with the original work.

I couldn’t possibly review all of them, but five of my favorites were:

  • “Dangerous Dog,” by Kirsty Gunn – a woman saves a dog and introduces would-be bullies to the joys of Jane.
  • “Reader, I Married Him,” by Susan Hill – about a rather famous unconventional marriage involving an American divorcee and an abdicating ruler.
  • “The Mirror,” by Francine Prose – a dark look at what happens in Jane and Rochester’s marriage after the novel ends. A concise, compelling, psychological thriller.
  • “Dorset Gap,” by Tracy Chevalier, who edited the anthology – Ed and Jenn met at a rave the night before, and now they’re on a hike.
  • “The Orphan Exchange,” by Audrey Niffenegger – re-sets the novel in a contemporary, albeit war-torn, country, with an ending that I’ve always suspected was a possibility.

But those five stories are only a representative sample… this collection looks at marriage from so many angles, and uses Jane Eyre as the connecting tissue, even if sometimes it’s not obvious.

What I loved is that each of these twenty-one tales was written by a woman, and each was completely relevant to modern readers, in a way the Brontë sisters’ work was to their contemporaries. As well, I’m tickled that there was diversity – older women, young girls, gay men, and lesbians, several religions, and many cultures (including one story about an Argentian-raised Korean woman in New York) were represented.

What I didn’t love is that there were only twenty-one stories. I’d love to see more. I’d love to see an annual contest sort of like the Strange New Worlds contest that used to be run every year for Star Trek fans, where aspiring writers could write their own short stories inspired by Jane.

Still, if the worst thing you can say about a book is that it left you wanting more, I think the author – or authors, in this case – has done their job.

Whether Jane Eyre was a literary companion of your childhood, or you met her later in life, there’s something for you in this collection, Reader, I Married Him.

Goes well with, a proper English tea, or a bowl of venison stew served near a crackling fire on a cold and rainy day.


 

Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, March 23rd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, March 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, March 25th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Monday, March 28th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, March 29th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, March 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, March 31st: Reading Reality

Friday, April 1st: View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, April 6th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, April 7th: Bibliotica

 

Lies and Other Acts of Love, by Kristy Woodson Harvey (@kristywharvey) #review #contest #mustread

Lies and Other Acts of LoveAbout the book, Lies and Other Acts of Love

 

  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (April 5, 2016)
  • Publication Date: April 5, 2016

 

Dear Carolina was praised as “Southern fiction at its best.”  Now author Kristy Woodson Harvey presents a new novel about what it really means to tell the truth…

After sixty years of marriage and five daughters, Lynn “Lovey” White knows that all of us, from time to time, need to use our little white lies.

Her granddaughter, Annabelle, on the other hand, is as truthful as they come. She always does the right thing—that is, until she dumps her hedge fund manager fiancé and marries a musician she has known for three days. After all, her grandparents, who fell in love at first sight, have shared a lifetime of happiness, even through her grandfather’s declining health.

But when Annabelle’s world starts to collapse around her, she discovers that nothing about her picture-perfect family is as it seems. And Lovey has to decide whether one more lie will make or break the ones she loves….

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble. | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


Kristy Woodson HarveyAbout the author, Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina, which was recently long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize and Lies and Other Acts of Love, a Romantic Times top pick and Southern Booksellers Okra Pick. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com. She is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Domino magazine, Our State, Houzz, the Salisbury Post and the New Bern Sun Journal. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and four-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

Connect with Kristy

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Contest: Order to Enter

Contest

Order Lies and Other Acts of Love and send a picture of the receipt to kristy@kristywoodsonharvey.com between now and April 10 to be entered to win a $1,000 Shop Design Chic gift card. Everyone will receive copies of four gorgeous printable quotes from the book! Order or pre-order from an independent bookstore or Indiebound for two contest entries!

Link to blog post: bit.ly/1UE6elP

(See above for buy links.)


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I had the privilege of reviewing Kristy Woodson Harvey’s first novel, Dear Carolina before it’s release, and I quickly fell in love with both that novel and Harvey’s writing, so when she sent me an email asking if I’d review her sophomore outing, Lies and Other Acts of Love, I made time to do so, and I’m glad I did, because I think this may be one of the best novels of the spring/summer of 2016 – and we’re barely into April.

Told in alternating chapters from Lovey and Annabelle, this novel holds the richness of family tradition in every page, but tradition isn’t always fluffy, and I really appreciate the way Harvey’s characters are flawed and dimensional. Lovey is at an age where secrets really start to weigh upon you, and we feel that in every one of her interactions, though we feel the equal – greater – weight of her love for her family as well.

Annabelle, by contrast, is still young enough to retain some element of capriciousness, though her maturity increases as the story goes on.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for stories about big families with overlapping generations, but I felt that the collection of women in Lies and Other Acts of Love was incredibly important. Our mothers and grandmothers and aunts – our cousins and and nieces and daughters – these are the people who hold our histories and our stories, but they also hold our hearts. There’s something incredibly powerful, to me, about women supporting other women, and it drives me crazy when they don’t. In this novel, we see more support than not, but both sides of the coin are reflected, and that balance is part of what makes these people seem so real.Lies and Other Acts of Love

I want to say a word about the men in the story, and especially D-Daddy – Lovey’s partner, who is declining much faster than she is. The scenes between the two of them were so poignant, and so naked, full of the little fictions we tell the people we love to ease their days, but also full of the impact of a decades-long relationship. Despite the requisite pain that comes with knowing someone you love is fading, the scenes with these two people were some of the most interesting, and most passionate, in the novel.

Overall, I found that Kristy Woodson Harvey’s voice, while remaining once the same as it was in Dear Carolina, has evolved into a confident, warm voice made for telling these distinctly human tales, that are the perfect blend of realism touched by romance. It’s no lie that I loved this book, and I’m certain you will, too.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish, a garden salad, and sweet tea (or maybe a vodka cranberry).

 

 

The Darkest Secret, by Gena Showalter #review #TLCBookTours #giveaway

In June, 2016, Gena Showalter will be releasing the newest installment of her series The Lords of the Underworld. That novel, The Darkest Torment, is not yet ready for review, so, in conjunction with TLC Book Tours, many of us are reviewing other books in the series. I chose to review The Darkest Secret.  Read to the end of the page for the entire list of tour stops, and the chance to win a signed copy of the entire collection.

About the book, The Darkest Secret The Darkest Secret

  • Series: Lords of the Underworld
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (March 29, 2011)

Keeper of the demon of Secrets, Amun can manipulate the darkest thoughts of anyone nearby. But when new demons possess him, the immortal warrior must be chained and isolated to protect those he loves. Death is his only hope of release—until he meets Haidee, a fellow prisoner whose beauty and hidden vulnerability draw him into a reckless test of his loyalty…. Haidee is an infamous demon assassin, raised to despise Amun’s kind. Yet how can she hate the man whose touch sets her aflame? But to save him, she must give herself body and soul…and face the wrath of a powerful adversary sworn to destroy her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This novel, The Darkest Secret, is number seven in a series, and while each of the novels can be read as standalone stories, I can’t help but wonder if it would have been a different experience reading them all in order.

But that’s beside the point.

The Darkest Secret opens with a homecoming, as we witness the changes in a place I’m calling Casa Demonica  – a sort of group home/mansion/commune for angels (warriors) and demons, each of whom is the ‘keeper’ of some great evil – some of them are four horseman-level evils, others are less intense – fatigue, for example – but all of the demons represent the darker side of humanity. Or demonity. Or… both.

Author Gena Showalter does a really good job of blending world-building with paranormal romance. I enjoyed the fact that there was nuance to her darkest creatures – they regret that their appetites cause harm, and actually try to make things easier for their human partners, as a rule.

I also enjoyed learning about the interpersonal relationships between these creatures. How precarious it must be to have friendships that could so quickly turn to death and destruction, or just as easily become true kinships – or switch between both extremes in the space of days, weeks, or years?

But beyond the demons themselves are their human hosts. In this case Amun is living within Micah, and Strider – it’s his point of view we first experience – has brought a human woman – Haidee – into Casa Demonica, but Haidee isn’t just a chick of the week, she’s Micah’s girlfriend.

Yeah. That’s not awkward at all.

Because Amun/Micah is experiencing the physical manifestation of a psychic disease, he’s strapped to a bed, and in terrible shape, and Haidee, of course, answers his mental call and makes her way through the house to be at his side.

Hurt/comfort is a very big part of this novel.

And yet, with the author’s fresh spin, and clear writing voice nothing ever seems trope-y or overdone. Instead, everything that should be cheesy or over the top combines in to a deliciously dark, exquisitely erotic fable for contemporary adults.

Goes well with dark chocolate, red wine, and a seriously plush sofa.


Giveaway Gena Showalter

The publisher is sponsoring a RaffleCopter contest to win a signed copy of the entire series of these books. Enter below. PLEASE NOTE: I have nothing to do with the giveaway, except as a facilitator.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Gena Showalter’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 28th: Read Love Blog – Series spotlight

Tuesday, March 29th: Supernatural Snark **The Darkest Craving

Tuesday, March 29th: Booked on a Feeling **The Darkest Night & The Darkest Kiss

Thursday, March 31st: Bewitched Bookworms – spotlight, The Darkest Passion

Friday, April 1st: Reading Reality **The Darkest Touch

Monday, April 4th: Reader Girls **The Darkest Lie

Tuesday, April 5th: Bibliotica **The Darkest Secret

Wednesday, April 6th: Romancing the Book **The Darkest Seduction and The Darkest Craving

Thursday, April 7th: From the TBR Pile **The Darkest Night

Monday, April 11th: Lovely Reads  **The Darkest Whisper

Monday, April 11th: Books that Hook **The Darkest Touch

Tuesday, April 12th: Stranded in Chaos  **The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss

Wednesday, April 13th: Romancing the Readers **The Darkest Seduction

Friday, April 15th: Bibliophilia, Please ** The Darkest Night

Monday, April 18th: Stuck in Books – **The Darkest Pleasure

 

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, by Jenny Colgan (@jennycolganbooks) #review #tlcbooktours

About the book,  Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 22, 2016)

For fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Jojo Moyes, and Jane Green, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery is an irresistible novel—moving and funny, soulful and sweet—about happiness, heartache, and hope. And recipes.

A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.

But clouds are gathering on the horizon. A stranger threatens to ruin Polly’s business. Her beloved boyfriend seems to be leading a secret life. And the arrival of a newcomer—a bereft widow desperately searching for a fresh start—forces Polly to reconsider the choices she’s made, even as she tries to help her new friend through grief.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, this delightful novel will make you laugh, cry, and long for a lighthouse of your own.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve always wanted to live in a lighthouse. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve always wanted to live in the keeper’s cottage adjacent to a lighthouse, but living in an actual lighthouse would be pretty cool, as a secondary option, so I totally appreciated Polly’s decision to buy one and move in.

While Polly was fixing up her new home, I felt like I was visiting an old one. The first Little Beach Street novel hooked me from the start, so diving into this story, seeing where Polly and Huckleberry, and Neal the Puffin, and all the other familiar characters had landed in the intervening months really was like visiting my favorite summer haunt. Author Jenny Colgan did a great job of letting the characters evolve a bit, without really changing them drastically. You felt that they were still in mourning for Tarnie, you felt that time had passed, but you also felt the familiar salt spray and smelled the homey aroma of Polly’s baking.

Then, too, were the new characters, Jayden among them, who enriched both Polly’s world and the story itself. I loved that he would “try to only eat one” of the pastries he loved – it was an adorable and very realistic detail.

But inside the cozy setting and familiar relationships, Colgan tucks some deeper moments – the very real process of mourning a loved one is looked at through Polly’s eyes, as well as those of Tarnie’s widow, and it’s both the similarities and the differences in the two women that really takes this book beyond “beach reading” into something a little bit more meaningful. As much as I’m happy to read almost anything that involves a coastal setting and the kinds of characters who inhabit such villages, I also appreciate it when a novel addresses real issues. In the first book it was Polly’s process of starting a new life and a new business.

In this one, it was about moving forward and adapting to loss as well as change.

An added bonus: Colgan has a great knack for making places come alive. I’ve never been to Cornwall, but after reading her novels, I’m sure that if I do get to visit that region someday, I’ll feel echoes of familiarity surrounding me.

Goes well with a mug of coffee and a fresh-from -the-oven pastry, seasoned with a stiff sea breeze.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 22nd: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, March 23rd: BookNAround

Thursday, March 24th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, March 25th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, March 28th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, March 29th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, March 29th: Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, March 31st: Bibliotica

Monday, April 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, April 5th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, April 6th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, April 7th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, April 8th: Broken Teepee

What We Set in Motion, by Stephanie Austin Edwards #review

About the book, What We Set In Motion What We Set in Motion

 

  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Novel Ideas by SAE; 1 edition (March 30, 2016)
  • Publication Date: March 19, 2016

 

Set in the turbulent, colorful 1970’s, What We Set In Motion finds the daughter of a prominent old South Carolina Lowcountry family fleeing to New York’s Greenwich Village in pursuit of a dance career.  Cut off by her disapproving father and abandoned by her would-be fiancé, Nadine Carter Barnwell must strive on her own to beat the harrowing odds. Penniless and surrounded by the temptation of dubious money-making schemes and the bitter disappointment of seeing a friend fall prey to them, Nadine battles fiercely for her place in the ultra-competitive world of dance — only to reluctantly step away to please a man. It takes the loving, mystical intervention of her beloved aunt back in South Carolina and an unexpected letter from a young girl to set Nadine’s chaotic life firmly on the path to fulfilment and the startling realization that every encounter and each choice is a milestone in the quest to forge her own destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephanie Austin Edwards Stephanie Austin Edwards

Stephanie Austin Edwards, author of What We Set In Motion (2016), is a writing teacher, novelist and grant consultant.Her recent publications include a short story in the University of Texas literary journal, riverSedge, and an essay in the book Beaufort Through the Ages. In a past life, Stephanie was a costume supervisor on Broadway for productions of Dreamgirls, Grind, The Rink (Liza Minelli) and Woman of the Year (Lauren Bacall), among others. She has worked on The Cosby Show, the Woody Allen films Hannah and Her Sisters and Radio Days, and Michael Jackson’s BAD music video. She lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry, teaching writing workshops at the college level and working for the Beaufort School District as a grant consultant.

Connect with Stephanie.

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect when I was offered the chance to review Stephanie Austin Edwards’ novel What We Set In Motion, but I certainly was not disappointed. The voice Edwards gave to her protagonist Nadine feels like a mix between Anne Rivers Siddons and Nora Ephron – feminine, intelligent, sassy, and definitely Southern. I was hooked from the first page.

While my favorite thing abut this novel was Nadine herself, and her story which blends low-country sass with uptown smarts, I enjoyed all aspects of this novel. The supporting characters all felt like characters you might have met in fishing camps or on city streets during the late sixties and early seventies, but slightly heightened, as if seen through the best of memories, which really worked for the story.

Similarly, I thought Edwards’ descriptions of places was amazing. Granted a costume supervisor has to have a good eye, but her words made every location seem vivid and even cinematic. I felt the dolphin spray and saw every outfit.

While I was a little concerned that this novel would feel a bit soap-opera-esque based on the drama and emotion in the first scene, but what I discovered was a well-written, compelling, thoroughly engaging story.

Goes well with catfish and hush puppies, even though they have nothing to do with the novel.