Review: In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo

About the book, In Praise of Difficult Women

• Hardcover: 352 pagesIn-Praise-of-Difficult-Women-cover
• Publisher: National Geographic (February 27, 2018)

From Amelia Earhart to Carrie Fisher, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Frida Kahlo, Nora Ephron, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes, Elizabeth Taylor, and Helen Gurley Brown, among others. Their lives–imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious–provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being “difficult,” Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling–whatever that means for you.

Buy, read, and discuss In Praise of Difficult Women:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the Author, Karen Karbo

KAREN KARBO is the author of multiple award-winning novels, memoirs and works of nonfiction. Her best-selling “Kick-Ass Women” series includes The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman, which was an international bestseller. Karbo’s short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Karbo lives in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to kick ass.

Connect with Karen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I asked to review this collection of essays, I originally thought it was a collection of works by the women included. It is not. Instead, it’s a collection of essays – part biography/part anecdote – about twenty-nine of the women our culture in general, and author Karen Karbo specifically, consider to be iconic.

It’s a fairly well-rounded collection of women, each given an a specific adjective. J.K. Rowling is dubbed ‘feisty,’ for example and Shonda Rimes is ‘unstoppable,’ while Jane Goodall is described as ‘determined,’ Hillary Clinton is ‘ambitious’ and Carrie Fisher, the final essay in this collection, is ‘droll.’  The order seems haphazard – Janis Joplin is among the final entries, while Coco Chanel is in the middle – but this isn’t the sort of book where order particularly matters. Rather, it’s the kind of book you can pick up anywhere, read an essay or two, and then come back to a while later, and read a few more.

Karbo’s writing voice is crisp and easy. This doesn’t negate the seriousness of some of her subject matter, it just makes it feel like you’re hearing these women described by a friend. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because while all of the women represented here are (or were) at the tops of their field, this book humanizes them. Through Karbo’s eyes we see them as women first, and icons second.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this book was the author’s use of footnotes. Some merely clarified dates and titles, while others were personal asides. Her comment about naming an indie rock band “Forest of Dean,” made me laugh out loud.

Over all, this is a fantastic collection of well-written essays about iconic women who are supremely real people.

Goes well with hot coffee and an almond croissant.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair

Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica

Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi

Monday, March 19th: Openly Bookish

Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: Night Music, by Deanna Lynn Sletten

About the book, Night MusicNight Music


  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Deanna Lynn Sletten (February 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941212336


1968 – 1971

Charlotte Parsons is devastated over losing her brother in the Vietnam War. Desperate to learn more about the war, she joins a group of college women who send letters to soldiers and befriends Joseph Russo, a young soldier. But a few months after they begin corresponding, his letters stop coming, and Char moves on, still confused as to why so many young lives are being lost so far away from home.

Two years later, Char begins college in her small Illinois town of Grand Falls. She’s been dating her brother’s long-time best friend, Deke Masterson, who is a senior in college and is deep into the anti-war movement. Char isn’t sure how she feels about the war. Then a stranger comes to town and changes everything.

Joseph Russo served in the Vietnam War, earning a Purple Heart for his injury as well as a life-long limp. He’s ready to put the war behind him. While in Vietnam, he’d corresponded with a girl from Grand Falls and he enjoyed reading about her idyllic life. When he’s discharged, he moves there to attend college. And when he meets Charlotte in person, he’s taken with her sweetness, intelligence, and beauty.

The battle lines are drawn as Deke resents Joe’s presence around Char. What started out as a well-deserved escape to a small town for Joe soon turns into a battle of wills between him and the idealistic Deke. And there stands Charlotte, right in the middle.

Night Music is a story about a moment in time when the world was chaotic and nothing was completely clear. In the midst of all the chaos, can Char and Joe find enough middle ground to fall in love?

Buy, read, and discuss Night Music:

Amazon | Barnes & NobleGoodreads

About the author, Deanna Lynn Sletten

Deanna Lynn SlettenDeanna 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

I’ve been reading and reviewing Deanna Lynn Sletten’s work for years, so when she asked me if I’d consider reviewing her latest novel Night Music, there was no way I was going to say no.

Set in the very early 1970’s this novel technically qualifies as a ‘period’ or ‘historical’ work, and yet, it feels absolutely contemporary, showing that young people nearly fifty years ago (wow, that was hard to write – I was born in 1970) had many of the same issues and conflicts that we do today when it comes to war – when is it appropriate, when does it go to far – and the way we treat veterans.

As the granddaughter of a career Army officer and the daughter of an activist, as well as someone who is an activist herself, I was steeped in the concept of “love the soldier, not the war,” from an early age, and I completely related to the issues in this novel.

And yet, what Sletten has written in Night Music is not a war story, nor is it a political treatise. Rather, it’s a lovely novel about love – the love of home, the love of family, and the love we feel for friends and romantic partners.

As well, it’s a coming of age novel. The three central characters, Charlotte, Joe, and Deke are all college students. Charlotte is young, and somewhat naive, and her journey is one toward confidence and a stronger sense of self, but Joe and Deke are also coming of age. The former, in processing his experiences as a young solider returned home injured from Vietnam, and Deke, a an anti-war activist.

As usual, Sletten has given us characters who feel three-dimensional, a setting that is almost its own character, and a story that entertains while also challenging us to think.

Goes well with a burger, a beer, and a stimulating conversation. Or maybe a Hemingway novel.

Guest Post by Stolen Obsession author Marlene M. Bell – with Giveaway

Stolen Obsession

About the book Stolen Obsession Stolen Obsession

  • Genre: Spicy Romantic Mystery
  • Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
  • Date of Publication: March 20, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 284
  • Series: Annalisse, book 1
  • Scroll down for the guest post and giveaway!


Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.

Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.

Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.

Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.

But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?

Hold on for a heart-thumping adventure through exotic lands in this fast moving, romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M Bell.

Watch the Trailer for Stolen Obsession:

Pre-Order Stolen Obsession:


About the author, Marlene M. Bell

Marlene M. BellMarlene M Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!The ShepherdRanch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested at  or

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in East Texas with their 50 head of Horned Dorset sheep, a lovable Maremma guard dog named, Tia, and 3 spoiled cats who rule the household.

Connect with Marlene:

Website║ Facebook ║ Twitter ║ LinkedIn ║ Google+ ║ Blog

Guest Post: The Top Nine Writing Pitfalls by Marlene M. Bell

Stolen ObsessionWriting is hard.

Toiling on STOLEN OBSESSION for nearly a decade felt insane at times. It never occurred to me to give up on the project or stop learning the craft as the years ticked by. I love a challenge, but honestly, birthing a novel was the hardest chore I’ve ever undertaken. And I raise breeding stock sheep! I thought that was tough. Being an artistic person with a paintbrush or camera ought to have helped me tackle a creative project like, the novel. I was sure of it. How hard could writing fiction be? Think of a story, dig through personal memories and cherry pick the best ones. Layer the juicy episodes between characters and create a great read. Easy, right? If you’ve written a novel to the end, your laughter stings my ears.

Would I tackle STOLEN OBSESSION the same way if I could shave off some time? C’mon, eight years is an eternity in front of a computer. I’ve asked myself that question many times and wondered what my story would’ve looked like without the stops and starts. Pretty rotten and unreadable, I’d say. Here’s a link to the press release for STOLEN OBSESSION if you’re interested in how my 8-year project turned out. Novel Release Date: 3-20-2018.

In case you’ve considered writing a book, or have entered the deep, squishy end of your work in progress, I’ve listed 9 areas of frustration I had to learn the hard way:

  • Crack open books on how to craft fiction before writing the first paragraph.
  • Lots of reading = the greatest chance for stellar writing.
  • Debut authors should outline the story ahead of time.
  • Critiques and edits are ALL subjective.  
  • Know what genre or sub-genre your story falls within.
  • Network with fellow writers.
  • Budget for the expense of a good developmental editor, (or two.)
  • Most novels need tons of rewrites. 
  • There are writing rules. Read from famed authors at great peril.

To read more about my experiences with each of these pitfalls, click to visit my blog for the full post!


TWO Readers Each Win a SIGNED COPY


MARCH 1-10, 2018

(Open Internationally)


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Stolen Obsession Blog Tour Stops:

3/1/18 Notable Quotable The Page Unbound
3/1/18 Notable Quotable Momma on the Rocks
3/2/18 Review Syd Savvy
3/2/18 Excerpt 1 Books and Broomsticks
3/3/18 Review Tangled in Text
3/4/18 Review The Librarian Talks
3/5/18 Author Interview The Clueless Gent
3/5/18 Excerpt 2 Missus Gonzo
3/6/18 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
3/7/18 Guest Post Bibliotica
3/7/18 Author Interview The Love of a Bibliophile
3/8/18 Review Rebecca R. Cahill
3/9/18 Scrapbook Page Reading by Moonlight
3/9/18 Excerpt 3 Forgotten Winds
3/10/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews



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Review: Meet the Frugalwoods, by Elizabeth Willard Thames

About the book Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence through Simple Living

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (March 6, 2018)

Meet-the-Frugalwoods-coverThe deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.

In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.

In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to “the good life.” Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums.

Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.

Buy, read, and discuss Meet the Frugalwoods:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Elizabeth Willard Thames

Elizabeth Willard Thames is the personal finance blogger behind the award-winning At thirty-two she abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced extreme frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life and retire to a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont with her husband and young daughter. Started in April 2014, Frugalwoods is a respected voice in the personal finance, early retirement, and lifestyle blogging sector and empowers readers to take charge of their finances and create fulfilling lives. Thames holds BAs in political science and creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MA in public administration from American University. Prior to following her calling as a writer and homesteader, she worked for ten years in the nonprofit sector as a fund-raiser and communications manager.

Follow the Frugalwoods:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMy husband and I suck at saving. Well, we don’t suck, so much as we rely on retail therapy and have way too much house for two people and four dogs.

It’s because of this that I was initially attracted to reading Meet the Frugalwoods.

I haven’t read the Frugalwoods blog, but in this book Elizabeth Willard Thames has given us something that’s partly an autobiography and partly an object lesson on how to achieve, if not your actual dream, than at least a better level of financial security.

Thames’s voice is simple and accessible. There’s a touch of self-deprecating humor, but mostly she’s pretty no-nonsense. Reading this book doesn’t make you feel like you’ve done everything wrong; rather it gives a different perspective on how you could be managing finances, and I say this as someone who worked in the mortgage industry for half a lifetime, before quitting to write and podcast and do audio drama.

Granted, at 47, I’m a bit out of the Frugalwoods demographic, but I still found Thames’s story inspiring and uplifting, and I think for the millennial generation, especially those on the older end of it, the advice and information shared in Meet the Frugalwoods could be invaluable.

Goes well with a grocery store bagel and cream cheese (but only if your grocery store makes decent bagels), and coffee you brew at home.

Tour Stops, March 6th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 7th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, March 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, March 9th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Monday, March 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 15th: Man of La Book

Monday, March 19th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 21st: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 22nd: Based on a True Story



Review: Leave Tomorrow, by Dirk Weisiger – with Giveaway

Leave Tomorrow

About the book: Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World

Leave TomorrowScroll down for giveaway.

  • Genre: Memoir / Travel / Inspiration
  • Date of Publication: October 27, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 232

After building a successful business, Dirk Weisiger was ready for something new. But he wasn’t sure what. Maybe a motorcycle adventure, I’ve never done that! 

What followed was a fourteen-month, solo motorcycle journey from Austin, Texas to Ushuaia, Argentina, filled with unexpected adventures, surprises, and lessons about life and travel.

In this book, you’ll not only enjoy Dirk’s adventure and insights, but find inspiration for your own journey.

Praise for Leave Tomorrow

I may not ride a motorcycle to the bottom of the world, but my soul comes alive when I hear about people smashing fear and following their dreams. This book will truly inspire you. –Abigail Irene Fisher, traveler and speaker

Leave Tomorrow is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for a blend of humanity, culture, scary moments with a medicine man, military police, attempts at extortion, and unexpected challenges–along with insightful observations and humor, this book will definitely spark your imagination to “live your own movie.”  –Steve Scott, business coach and author of Wings to Fly

This inspiring and entertaining book is just the tonic needed to get you up out of your chair and ready to “Leave Tomorrow.” –Julie Mundy, Guidebook Author and Travel Blogger, Australia

For everyone thinking of a new adventure, a new life, or even a new venture: DO IT. –Jim Rogers, bestselling author of Investment Biker and Street Smarts 

This is not the first book I’ve read on riding to Ushuaia, but it is probably the most enjoyable. Dirk writes about his experiences in an upbeat manner, taking each experience and each day in perspective. –Muriel Farrington, Ambassador, BMW Motorcycles of America

Buy, read, and discuss Leave Tomorrow

(A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.)

Purchase | Goodreads

About the author, Dirk Weisiger

Author Pic Dirk_previewDirk Weisiger is a travel trekker, trick roper, and storyteller. He’s the author of the new book, Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World. Dirk has always enjoyed speaking to groups, spinning tales, ropes, and offering lessons he’s learned in adventures of life and business. He’s traveled to five continents and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of all, Dirk loves people and believes that making new friends is the best part of travel.

Connect with Dirk:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter

My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I saw the sign up for this blog tour, I begged to be one of the reviewers of Leave Tomorrow, because something about the description spoke to my inner nomad. Now, having read it, I’m glad for the experience, because I enjoyed it on many levels.

First, it’s a fun read, and if you get nothing out of it other than ‘this guy rode  motorcycle from Texas to the end of South America’ you’ll have had an enjoyable experience with this book as a travelogue.

But it’s more than that. It’s a guide for taking the chances most of us think we can’t do, or think we shouldn’t, or just don’t. Sure, some of author Dirk Weisiger’s decisions seem impulsive, but they tend to pay off in rich, organic experiences of the kind that you can’t get from a guidebook or a package tour.

This book spoke to me on yet another level, because my parents emigrated to Baja California Sur, Mexico, about eighteen years ago. Unlike a lot of American ex-pats, they’ve made a point of becoming integrated into their community. Their friends include local Mexicans, Canadian and American snow-birds, and people from a variety of countries (Columbia, Israel, France, Switzerland) who have also chosen to live in a foreign country.

Like my parents, like the author of Leave Tomorrow, I love meeting the people who really live in the countries I visit. I’ve impulsively invited stranded travelers home with me, and I’ve been a traveler invited to a local’s home. Both experiences have their pros and cons, but I would never trade either.

Weisiger’s writing is immediate and accessible. Reading it, you feel like you’re sharing a drink with him, while he’s telling you the story of his latest adventure. You may not decide to leave tomorrow, but you’ll definitely feel inspired to make a change or take a trip in the near future.

Goes well with street tacos and Mexican beer. I like Indio.


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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

2/21/18 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
2/22/18 Guest Post 1 Texas Book Lover
2/23/18 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/24/18 Guest Post 2 Forgotten Winds
2/25/18 Trip Pic Books and Broomsticks
2/26/18 Review Missus Gonzo
2/27/18 Trip Pic A Page Before Bedtime
2/28/18 Guest Post 3 The Librarian Talks
3/1/18 Review Bibliotica
3/2/18 Review The Clueless Gent



Review: The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard

About the book, The Atomic City Girls

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

The-Atomic-City-Girls-cover“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Buy, read, and discuss The Atomic City Girls:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Janet Beard Janet-Beard-AP-Photo-by-Bradley-Cummings

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.

Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the brief on this novel says, this book is very much in the vein of Hidden Figures, in that it’s a fictionalized version of a true story, and involves women working in STEM fields, on significant projects. The difference, of course, is that June didn’t know what she was working on at the time. In fact she didn’t learn what she’d been a part of until much later.

I felt that reading this novel at a time when we’re talking about arming teachers (please, God, I hope we don’t) was oddly appropriate. It’s easy to believe you have the power to shoot someone, but a far different thing to actually do it. It’s easy to say “kill the enemy!” and much less simple when you realize that enemy has a human face, and human lives.

While I appreciated the historical details author Janet Beard incorporated into her story – beginning with June’s grandfather being forced to leave his cabin in the area about to be commandeered by the U.S. military – what I liked was that she kept things simple and elegant. June is just like any other young woman experiencing her first taste of independence – a job, a romance – it’s just that her universal experience is set against patterns and events  – The Manhattan Project – the bombing of Hiroshima – that exist on a vastly different scale.

I found The Atomic City Girls to be a fascinating read and a truly gripping story.

Goes well with a turkey and havarti sandwich with pesto, and a glass of iced tea.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read

Monday, February 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish

Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation

Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica

Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_

Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi

Review: The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

About the book The Lucky Ones The Lucky Ones

Print Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA (February 13, 2018)

They called themselves “the lucky ones”

They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.

Buy, read, and discuss The Lucky Ones:

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

About the author, Tiffany Reisz Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, author Andrew Shaffer.

Connect with Tiffany:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Every so often you stumble across a novel that doesn’t look all that amazing, and then you get into it and you find out it’s compelling, interesting, and really satisfying, and pretty amazing after all.

That was my experience with The Lucky Ones. I was part of the excerpt tour in January, but hadn’t read the book at the time I posted my excerpt. When I finally sat down to start it and read the opening scenes with Allison with her ten-lover McQueen, I was half-convinced I was reading the wrong novel.

But then the story unfolded. Allison read the letter from Roland, and dashed back to the Oregon coast, and not only did I fall in love with the house – The Dragon (I want a house like that, in a place like that)  – but I was hooked on the story.

I really liked the way the author, Tiffany Reisz, crafted this novel like a romance, until it became a thriller disguised as a family drama with romantic interludes. I loved all the characters, flawed and human as they were. The layers of secrets, peeling away like onions, kept me intrigued til the very end.

Reisz’s use of language is really effective. Allison was the point of view character, so her voice was the clearest, but each character had his or her own distinct voice – Roland was suitably introspective. Dr. Capello reminded me of an older, gritter version of Alan Alda, and Thora was someone I’d have loved to hang out with.

Overall, it’s we, the readers, who are lucky, because we get to read The Lucky Ones.

Goes well with a burger and a beer, enjoyed on a beach blanket on the sand.

The Lucky Ones Review Tour: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 12th: Rockin’ & Reviewing

Monday, February 12th: Into the Hall of Books and @intothehallofbooks

Tuesday, February 13th: Clues and Reviews and @cluesandreviews

Tuesday, February 13th: Read Love Blog

Tuesday, February 13th: @anniabbauer and

Wednesday, February 14th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, February 15th: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, February 20th: Books a la Mode

Tuesday, February 20th: Katy’s Library and @katyslibrary

Wednesday, February 21st: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind and @artbookscoffeee

Thursday, February 22nd: Tales of a Book Addict

Friday, February 23rd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, February 23rd: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip

Monday, February 26th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, February 26th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, February 27th: @athousandbookstoread

Tuesday, February 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 28th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 28th: The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 2nd: Not in Jersey

Monday, March 5th: Snowdrop Dreams

Tuesday, March 6th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 8th: Hoser’s Blook

Friday, March 9th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, March 9th: What is That Book About

Review: Deborah Rising/Deborah Calling by Avraham Azrieli

About Deborah Calling Deborah Calling

• Print Length: 432 pages
• Publisher: HarperLegend (July 25, 2017)

The author of the bestselling Deborah Rising continues the fascinating story of the biblical prophetess Deborah in this entrancing work of visionary fiction—a tale of danger, mysticism, intrigue, and daring.

Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see this wish come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man by seeking out a mysterious elixirist who could turn women into men.

Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah’s help to escape enslavement and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat-and-mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer who has a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.Deborah Rising

As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.

A riveting adventure tale derived from traditional biblical fiction, Deborah Calling imagines the life of one of the most famous figures from the Old Testament as she continues on her path to becoming a prophetess.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iBooks | Goodreads

About the author, Avraham Azrieli

Avraham Azrieli is the author of nine fiction and nonfiction works. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thrillers Writers Association, the Historical Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Authors Guild, and other professional societies, and his work has been reviewed by numerous outlets, including Examiner, US Review of Books, New York Daily News, The Jewish Journal, San Francisco Book Review, and more. He lives in Maryland.

Visit him online at

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Please note: I read Deborah Calling and its predecessor, Deborah Rising, back to back, so to me, they run together becoming one story, and I’m honestly no longer certain what was in book one and what was in book two.

While I typically enjoy historical fiction, it’s rare when I read anything based in a biblical tale. I’m not particularly religious, and I feel like I’m never the best audience for these things. When I do read such things, I’m afraid I compare them all to either The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant or Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle.

Azrieili’s two Deborah books are neither as splashy as Diamant’s novel, nor as intellectual as L’Engle’s, but they are not without their own merit. I found the author’s choice of relatively plain, simple language was a good contrast to the epic vastness of the story he was trying to tell, and he managed to bridge the gap between making things accessible to contemporary readers while also keeping the flavor of the source material.

That said, I’m finding it difficult to separate my emotional reaction to these books, which open with an extremely violent act against Deborah’s older sister, from my critical response.

Melissa-the-reader feels over-saturated with stories about women being mistreated, ignored, and brutalized, and to read about it happening in an historical setting was unsettling at best.

Melissa-the-reviewer, on the other hand, understands that much of the misogyny represented in these novels was accurate to the period, and she certainly understands that the author was in no way endorsing such treatment of women, or of people who are not of the dominant faith of any land. At the same time, that reviewer-self understands that when you’re reading about difficult concepts they should unsettle you, because that means the author has done his or her job.

My recommendation, then, is that while these are stories of a strong woman forging a unique, and often difficult, path from pawn to prophet, please ensure that you understand the context before you dive in.

Overall, I felt that these were well-written, well-paced, interesting stories, and the author’s writing voice is one of quiet grace, which I really appreciated.

Goes well with hot tea, and date-nut bread slathered in butter.

Tour Stops

Friday, January 12th: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Rising

Wednesday, January 17th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Thursday, January 18th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, January 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Rising

Monday, February 12th: Mother’s Circle

Wednesday, February 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Write – Read – Life

Wednesday, February 21st: A Bookish AffairDeborah Rising

Friday, February 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: A Bookish AffairDeborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: Openly Bookish

TBD: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Calling

TBD: Based on a True Story

Review: Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe

About the book, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud CafeMeet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

Buy, read, and discuss Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe:

Universal Purchase Link | Goodreads

About the Author, Richard Dee

Richard DeeA native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

Connect with Richard:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

BIG 8-3

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was literally bouncing in my chair when I was offered the chance to read Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. I mean, a novel about a feisty woman opening a cafe in a mining station in the rings of Saturn? As someone whose gateway into Science Fiction began with A Wrinkle in Time and continued with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this sounded like something I would really enjoy. Andorra

And I did.

Richard Dee has given us a tale that has everything – humor, suspense, a strong but struggling heroine, a fantastic sci-fi setting, and a truly universal story (no pun intended).

In Andorra Pett, I found a protagonist I would totally love to hang out with, and have coffee with. At times a tough entrepreneur, and at other times a vulnerable woman, she is smart, sassy, and incredibly resourceful. More than that, she embodies hope, something we can all use more of these days. From the moment Andorra walked into the derelict husk of a basement unit that would eventually become her cafe and worried about space spiders, to the final moment of the book, I was hooked on her story, and happy to follow her on her adventure.

With a supporting cast that covers every part of the spectrum of good and evil, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe is a must read for anyone who dreamed about sipping espresso with international spies in Paris… or out in space.

Goes well with coffee and a pastry ring (model of Saturn optional).

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Full Banner

Review: The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, by Kristin Rockaway

About the book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World The-Wild-Womans-Guide-to-Traveling-the-World-cover

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: Center Street (June 6, 2017)

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and The Devil Wears Prada will love this smart, sexy debut novel of wanderlust.

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she’s got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn’t quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it’s secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls’ trip, and Sophie falls for Carson, a free spirited, globetrotting American artist. He begs her to join him on his haphazard journey, but she chooses responsibility and her five-year plan.

Back in New York, that plan feels less and less appealing. As Sophie recalls the dreams she’s suppressed, the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips no longer feel like enough. Carson isn’t ready to let her go either, but as they try to figure out their relationship, Sophie realizes she may have to pursue her passions with or without him.

Buy, read, and discuss The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Kristin Rockaway Kristin-Rockaway-AP

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. Her debut novel, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, was released from Hachette Book Group in June 2017. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation.

Connect with Kristin:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World is one of those novels you really wish was a travel guide, because Kristin Rockaway is so good at describing places and food, that you want to instantly jump through the pages to Hong Kong or New York, or… wherever.

Fortunately, her skills at writing character and plot are just as good, so you jump into the pages of her story as well. I really enjoyed following Sophie on her journeys – both the literal and the emotional one – as she navigated not just the world, but her own needs and desires, as well as her own heart.

It’s a scary thing to step off the path we’ve created for ourselves, and Carson was the perfect catalyst for Sophie to do just that. Rockaway has given us a couple that is passionate, funny, and may or may not be perfect for each other, which ultimately makes them both slightly heightened and supremely real.

I really enjoyed the way Rockaway balanced the comedic and serious moments in this novel.

I recommend it to anyone who longs for an escape, but isn’t sure they’re quite ready.

Goes well with Asian street food, though I prefer Singaporean dishes to those from Hong Kong.

Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Friday, January 19th: Staircase Wit

Monday, January 22nd:

Friday, January 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, January 26th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, February 6th: Rockin’ and Reviewing

Friday, February 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 12th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, February 13th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, February 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, February 15th: Eliot’s Eats

Friday, February 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Monday, February 26th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Tuesday, March 6th: Just One More Chapter