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 Stopshttps://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

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: 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 azrielibooks.com.


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 https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

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: Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms, by Leigh Greenwood and Others – with Giveaway

Christmas in a Cowboy's Arms

About the book, Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms

  • Genre: Romance Anthology / Western / HistoricalChristmas in a Cowboy's Arms
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
  • Authors: Leigh Greenwood, Rosanne Bittner, Linda Broday, Margaret Brownley, Anna Schmidt, Amy Sandas
  • Number of Pages: 512

The Beating Heart of Christmas

In the wild and untamed West, it takes a cowboy’s embrace to see you through a long winter’s night. Stay toasty this holiday season with heart-warming tales from these bestselling authors.

Whether it’s a lonely spinster finding passion at last…an infamous outlaw-turned-lawman reaffirming the love that keeps him whole…a lost and broken drifter discovering family in unlikely places…a Texas Ranger risking it all for one remarkable woman…two lovers bringing together a family ripped apart by prejudice…or reunited lovers given a second chance to correct past mistakes…a Christmas spent in a cowboy’s arms is full of hope, laughter, and―most of all―love.

*Chick-a-Dee Christmas by Rosanne Bittner * The Christmas Stranger by Linda Broday * A Texas Ranger for Christmas by Margaret Brownley * Father Christmas by Leigh Greenwood * A Christmas Baby by Anna Schmidt * A Christmas Reunion by Amy Sandas*

Buy, read, and discuss Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms:

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


Connect with the Authors

Rosanne BittnerRosanne Bittner

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Linda BrodayLinda Broday

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

Margaret BrownleyMargaret Brownley

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Anna SchmidtAnna Schmidt

Website | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

 

 

Amy SandasAmy Sandas

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Leigh Greenwood

Website | Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m not a regular reader of romance novels, so the novellas in this collection, Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms were all new material for me. I suppose being more familiar with the authors’ various series would have been helpful, but I didn’t feel like I was missing any major puzzle pieces by coming to these stories as a new reader.

All six of the works in this collection have two things in common: they’re Christmas romances, and they’re set in the West in the 1800’s. It’s a fun period to explore, and an excellent region to choose. As I learned from several visits to the Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth (not as hokey as it sounds), women of the west were strong, smart, and incredibly resourceful.

This is true even within their relationships.

And this book explored a variety of relationships. In no particular order, we have a woman defying prejudice to marry a Latino man, man who regularly converses with his horse and dog while on the road to clear his besmirched name and ends up helping a widow in distress, a woman who’s been burned by love for a Texas Ranger but finds herself falling for another, and a doctor being kidnapped by outlaws only to find his ex holding him at gunpoint. And that’s only four of the six stories.

Because each tale was written by a different person, the tone of each is distinctly different. I was most drawn to the stories by Margaret Brownley (“A Texas Ranger for Christmas”) and Anna Schmidt (“A Christmas Baby”) but each one was charming and sweet and full of the hope, wonder, and joy that fills the Christmas season.

Goes well with a salted caramel mocha (or hot chocolate) and a slice of gingerbread (I make mine with a candy cane frosting laced with peppermint schnapps).


Giveaway

December 1-December 10, 2017

Four Winners will each get a prize pack which includes Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms + another book(s) by one of the authors.  Three of the packs will also include a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

(U.S. Only)

 

Enter to Win

 

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Check Out The Whole Blog Tour

12/1/17 Christmas Memories Hall Ways Blog
12/2/17 Review Books in the Garden
12/3/17 Spotlight on Amy Syd Savvy
12/4/17 Review Bibliotica
12/5/17 Spotlight on Anna Missus Gonzo
12/6/17 Spotlight on Linda Margie’s Must Reads
12/7/17 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/8/17 Spotlight on Margaret The Librarian Talks
12/9/17 Spotlight on Rosanne Tangled in Text
12/10/17 Review StoreyBook Reviews

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Lone Star Literary Life

Spotlight: Too Far Down by Mary Connealy – with Giveaway

Too Far Down

About the book, Too Far Down

  • Genre: Western Historical Christian Romance
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
  • Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 322

Too Far Down by Mary ConnealyWith Danger Drawing Ever Closer, The Boden Clan Risk Losing Their Ranch Forever

Having returned home to the ranch, Cole Boden finds himself caught between missing his time back east and appreciating all that New Mexico Territory offers. Sure, he fights with his siblings now and then, but he does care for them. He enjoys his new job running the mine and, when he’s honest, he admits that Melanie Blake captures his interest in a way no other woman ever has.

Melanie has been a friend to the Bodens forever. A cowgirl who is more comfortable with horses and lassoes than people, she never expected to find herself falling for someone, particularly for refined Cole Boden, a Harvard graduate who can’t seem to make up his mind about staying in New Mexico.

When a deadly explosion damages the CR Mining Company, the Bodens realize their troubles are not behind them as they thought. Shadowy forces are still working against them. Melanie is determined to help Cole and the family finally put an end to the danger that’s threatened all of them. But will putting herself in harm’s way be more dangerous than anyone expected?

Praise for Too Far Down:

  • “Connealy crafts relatable characters who will inspire readers with their love, loyalty, and fortitude, and the mystery remains intriguing until the end.” Publishers Weekly
  • “Recommended for those who enjoy a fast, smart historical-set suspense.” RT Book Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss Too Far Down:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Baker Book House | Goodreads


Take a Look at Mary Connealy’s Scrapbook for Too Far Down:

Too Far Down Scrapbook


About the author, Mary Connealy

Mary ConnealyMary Connealy writes “romantic comedies with cowboys” and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has more than half a million books in print. She is the author of the popular series Wild at Heart, Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, Lassoed in Texas, Sophie’s Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero.

Connect with Mary:

Website | Blog | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter


Enter the Giveaway

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

TWO WINNERS RECEIVE THE FULL CIMARRON LEGACY SERIES!

November 27-December 3, 2017

(U.S. Only)

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Too Far Down Tour Stops

Showcase Tour Stops:

11/13/17 Missus Gonzo
11/14/17 Books and Broomsticks
11/15/17 Books in the Garden
11/16/17 Hall Ways Blog
11/17/17 The Page Unbound


Special Features Tour Stops:

11/27/17 Special Feature StoreyBook Reviews
11/27/17 Special Feature Forgotten Winds
11/28/17 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/28/17 Special Feature Syd Savvy
11/29/17 Review The Librarian Talks
11/29/17 Special Feature A Novel Reality
11/30/17 Review Texan Girl Reads
11/30/17 Special Feature Momma on The Rocks
12/1/17 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/1/17 Special Feature Bibliotica

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: Rarity from the Hollow, by Robert Eggleton

About the book, Rarity from the Hollow Rarity from the Hollow

 

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (November 3, 2016)

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out,and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Will Lacy’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy,comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Praise for Rarity from the Hollow:

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.” —Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.” –Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review 

“…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.” — Marcha’s Two-Cents Worth

“…I know this all sounds pretty whack, and it is, but it’s also quite moving. Lacy Dawn and her supporting cast – even Brownie, the dog – are some of the most engaging characters I’ve run across in a novel in some time….”  — Danehy-Oakes, Critic whose book reviews often appear in the New York Review of Science Fiction

“… The author gives us much pause for thought as we read this uniquely crafted story about some real life situations handled in very unorthodox ways filled with humor, sarcasm, heartfelt situations and fun.” — Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine

Buy, read, and discuss Rarity from the Hollow:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Eggleton

Robert EggletonRobert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. Locally, he is best known for his nonfiction about children’s programs and issues, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997.

Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome maltreatment and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines. Author proceeds support the prevention of child maltreatment. http://www.childhswv.org/

Connect with Robert:

Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI first read Rarity from the Hollow two years ago, when the author, Robert Eggleton contacted me and asked me to consider it. It seemed interesting, edgy and different, so I took a chance, and was immediately hooked on his concept and his story. I was supposed to review it then, life got in the way, and it was a year (and a revised edition) later before I wrote a review. Somehow, that review got eaten by WordPress, and after far too much patience on Mr. Eggleton’s part, I’ve rewritten it and am posting it now.

Described as a ‘fairy tale for adults,’ this novel looks at PTSD, poverty, child sexual abuse and child murder – any one of which could be considered a trigger for most readers – wraps them in literary science fiction, and gives us a protagonist in Lacy Dawn (who is also the primary POV character) who is sensitive, spunky, inquisitive, and manages to contain within herself a combination of too much awareness and childish innocence that should not work, but strangely does.

Calling this novel a fairy tale or science fiction, while accurate, is also limiting, because it’s so much more than both. Parts of this story are quite tragic – when we first meet Lacy Dawn, she is coaching her best friend Faith on a spelling test, her father is abusive and her mother is battered in both body and spirit. Within a few chapters, Faith has been killed, but her spirit lingers and her relationship with Lacy Dawn does as well, but then, our heroine also talks to trees, understands her dog Brownie, and has an android boyfriend named DotCom who is also recruiting her for a business venture (no, nothing salacious).

(As an aside, DotCom is my favorite of the supporting characters – but that’s probably because of my decades old crush on Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

In many ways, Rarity from the Hollow feels like a coming-of-age novel for adults. As we experience the end of true childhood and the beginning of adolescence with Lacy Dawn, we also confront the leftover issues from our own childhoods – our relationships with our friends and families, our own choices about sex and love and when to act on each, how we handled college and our first careers.

Unlike Lacy Dawn, we don’t have magical abilities or help from androids from other planets. We have to muddle through our lives in a world that is increasingly dangerous and frightening, but novels like Rarity from the Hollow give us the ability to engage in self-reflection while living vicariously through fictional characters. Author Eggleton has couched some very important truths in a story that is equal parts entertaining and provocative.

Not to be overlooked are some truly comic moments. DotCom’s anatomy changes as he moves toward an adult relationship and there’s a creative use of a laptop and the inner wish that perhaps he should have worn clothes that is described in a way worthy of a Monty Python sketch.

If you enjoyed Piers Anthony’s Mode series (which I haven’t read in over twenty years), or are a fan of the work of Douglas Adams (Not just The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m addressing those who like Dirk Gently, also.) you will likely enjoy Rarity from the Hollow, because Robert Eggleton excels at mixing the absurd and nearly preposterous with the incredibly real. However, even if you’re not a fan of those authors, I still recommend this novel. It’s sharply written, well crafted, genre-defying, and totally worth the time spent reading it.

Goes well with anything you enjoy, but I’d recommend Mexican street tacos – the kind where you get a kilo of grilled steak and a stack of tortillas and fill them yourself – and a bottle of Indio or Negra Modelo beer.

 

 

 

Review: The First Signs of April, by Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

About the book, The First Signs of April

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (September 5, 2017)

The First Signs of AprilWounds fester and spread in the darkness of silence. The swirling reds, oranges, and yellows of fall’s foliage dance alongside Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe like flames as she tears through the winding back roads of the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Desperate to outrun memories that flood her mind, no matter how hard she rolls her motorcycle’s throttle, she cannot escape them.

Shut down and disconnected, Briscoe has lived her life in silence in order to stay alive. Her grief is buried, and shame is the skin that wraps around her bones—but then, following the brutal murder of a local teacher, she is forced as a grief counselor to face her lifetime of unresolved sorrow. Will she finally be able to crack the hard edges of her heart and allow in the light of truth so real healing can occur?

Buy, read, and discuss The First Signs of April

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

Mary-Elizabeth BriscoeMary-Elizabeth Briscoe is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont. She currently spends her time between Cape Cod, Vermont, and Ireland. She has a masters degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lesley University and is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a Certified Trauma Professional. She has been a lecturer for Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies St. Johnsbury, Vermont campus. She has contributed to Cape Woman Online and Sweatpants and Coffee magazine. This is her first book. 

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love memoirs, because I love to peek into other people’s lives, but I often feel weird reviewing them, because in a way, reviewing a memoir is like passing judgement on the writer’s life, rather than just their book.

In this case, I didn’t have that problem, because Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s memoir The First Signs of April, is so well written it feels like reading a novel. Her descriptions are vivid and realistic – I felt like I was on her motorcycle with her, or walking her dog, or any number of other places – and her voice is one of wit and candor mixed with hard-won self-awareness.

I really appreciated the way Briscoe alternated chapters set in the ‘present’ of her memoir – 2014 – with chapters in 2000 and 1982. It really felt cinematic experiencing her story that way, her growing up/coming of age, her early adulthood, and her more contemporary self, and it’s that juxtaposition that really made this book more than just a memoir, but something truly special.

True, there are some very dark moment in Briscoe’s story. There is blood and loss and heartache. Overall, though, I believe that this memoir has a note of hope running through it.

Goes well with sharp cheddar, fresh bread, and a nice red wine.


Tour Schedule:

Sept. 7: Teddy Rose Book Reviews and Plus More (Book Spotlight/Giveaway)
Sept. 20: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Review)
Sept. 28: Debra Smouse (Review)
Oct. 3: Soapy Violinist (Review)
Oct. 4: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 18: The Book Connection (Guest Post)
Oct. 24: Bibliotica (Review)
Nov. 3: Life’s a Stage (Guest Post)
Nov. 4: Readaholic Zone (Review)
Nov. 15: Donna’s Book Reviews (Review)
 

Review: Scion of the Fox, by S.M. Beiko

 

Scion of the FoxAbout the book, Scion of the Fox

  • Print Length: 440 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (October 17, 2017)
  • Series: The Realms of the Ancient (Book 1)

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student — dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox. 

American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.

Praise for Scion of the Fox

“A thrilling tale underscored by excellent, deep, and unique world-building.” — Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A smart, complex, animal-based fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews

“S.M. Beiko’s Scion of the Fox is the thrilling first installment in what will surely be an exceptionally imaginative trilogy. Roan Harken is an instantly relatable heroine, a girl with guts and moxie in spades, and Beiko moves her story from hilarious to heartbreaking with true literary grace. Evocative prose and crisp, crackling dialogue perfectly define this rich fantasy world. I can’t wait for Book Two!” — Charlene Challenger, author of The Voices in Between and The Myth in Distance

“In Scion of the Fox, S.M. Beiko introduces us to Roan, a wry, fierce young woman whose world changes in the blink of an infected eye. She’s more than she has ever imagined, and there’s enchantment everywhere — flying, running, and swimming around her — transforming everything and everyone she has ever known. Beiko’s magic-steeped Winnipeg is a marvel, and Roan is a delight. I look forward to following her into her next adventure.” — Caitlin Sweet, author of The Pattern Scars

Buy, read, and discuss Scion of the Fox:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, S.M. Beiko

S.M. Beiko by Teri HoffordSamantha “S.M.” Beiko has been writing and drawing strange, fantastical things since before she can remember. She currently works as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant and is the co-publisher of ChiZine Publications and ChiGraphic. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Scion of the Fox is the first book of the Realms of Ancient trilogy. Samantha lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Connect with Samantha:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhile I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, I don’t really read a lot of either genre any more. I still love it, I just have broader tastes than I did when I was a geeky teenager. Scion of the Fox, the first novel in S.M. Beiko’s Realms of the Ancient series might have successfully lured me back, though.

Engaging from the very first page, this novel has the perfect balance of teenage angst, supernatural intrigue, fantasy mysticism, and even talking animals that manage to be neither cute nor precious (they’re not really talking animals, of course, but Denizens, a breed of… shapeshifter is the closest analogy, but that’s not really accurate).

Protagonist Roan Harken mixes the vulnerability of the smart girl who doesn’t really fit in, with the strength of the female heroes we love to see in contemporary media. She’d easily hold her own against Buffy Summers or Veronica Mars, and end up best friends with them at the end. Just as strongly written are Roan’s closest friends, Phae, who has been both supporter and sidekick since grade school, and wheel-chair bound Barton, who has a sort of instant kinship with Roan.

As with many YA stories, regardless of medium, the adults in this piece are largely ineffective (c.f. Aunt Dierdre, who means well, but doesn’t really take much action) or villainous (Uncle Arnas) while the younger generation tends to go off half-cocked, but that works in this story, and, fantastic elements aside, all of the relationships felt incredibly plausible.

Scion of the Fox was my first introduction to S.M. Beiko’s work, but I’ll happily read the rest of this series as it becomes available, and I’d recommend it to actual young people as well as adults who appreciate YA fiction.

Goes well with sliced apples dipped in peanut butter and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream optional.

Scion of the Fox Blog Tour

Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

About the book Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 10, 2017)

Christmas at Little Beach Street BakeryIt’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months.

In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.

Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

Buy, read, and discuss Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Bookshop on the Corner, Little Beach Street Bakery, and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Connect with Jenny:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellRevisiting the Little Beach Street Bakery and the world that Jenny Colgan has created around it, in her version of Cornwall, is like reuniting with an old friend. You may not have spoken for years, but as soon as you see each other, you pick up as if no time has left.

I won’t give Colgan all the credit for my own fantasies of living in a lighthouse, but I’m sure her work stokes the fire. Sure Polly and Huckle (and Neil the gull) are living in the cold and damp much of the time, but they do it with such good humor and zest for life that having to bundle yourself under layers of sweaters (each more shapeless than the last) or preheat the electric blanket on your bed feels romantic rather than distressingly rustic.

What I continue to love about this series is that the characters grow and change, but remain intrinsically themselves. Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, is dealing with a communications issues within her marriage and a pregnancy, but she still retains the wild-child element that so defines her, and Polly herself, while more settled with Huckle, and keeping her bakery a success is still delightfully neurotic, and full of heart.

Set at Christmas time, this novel is perhaps a bit fluffier, or more soft-focus, than the previous entries in the series, but I think considering the subject matter, and the amazing ending, that softening is appropriate.

This whole series makes you want to curl up in a chilly room with a heavy quilt, a pot of coffee, and freshly-baked treats. Conveniently, there are even recipes included in the back.

Goes well with mincemeat twists and awesome hot chocolate; recipes for both are in the book!


Tour Stops for Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

Tuesday, October 10th: BookExpression

Wednesday, October 11th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 16th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, October 17th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, October 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, October 20th: Reading Reality

Saturday, October 21st: Girl Who Reads

Monday, October 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 24th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, October 25th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, October 27th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 27th: Books and Bindings

Spotlight: Hidden Sea by Miles Arceneaux – with Giveaway

Hidden Sea

About the book, Hidden Sea

 

  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Miles Arceneaux (October 1, 2017)

Hidden SeaCharlie Sweetwater saw Mexico—especially the Mexican Gulf Coast—as a spiritual second home. He’d worked, played and lived there for much of his life, and thought the country suited him better than anywhere this side of his home on the Texas Coast.

But now a worrisome and potentially dangerous development has shown up on Charlie’s radar. Young Augustus Sweetwater, affectionately known as Augie, hasn’t reported in after completing a south-of-the-border sales trip for Sweetwater Marine. Raul, Augie’s father and Charlie’s nephew, is worried sick. Drug cartel violence in Mexico has reached epidemic proportions and Augie’s path took him through the heart of the narcotraficantes’ territory.

Charlie figures Augie just went off the grid to do some well-deserved fishing, surfing and beer-drinking at the end of his trip. He’d done the same in his time. But as Augie’s unexplained absence grows, Charlie and Raul become increasingly alarmed and set off for Mexico to bring their boy home.

What they unearth is far more than the sum of their fears. The familiar and friendly Gulf of Mexico has turned into a hidden sea plagued by smugglers, human traffickers, crooked politicians and even pirates. And Augie is lost somewhere in the middle of it all.

Charlie and Raul must summon an unlikely cast of characters to aid them, including a hilariously dissolute ex-pat musician, a priest whose faith struggles against the rising tide of refugee migration, a Mexican tycoon who may have secrets of his own and a beautiful maritime “repo man”. At the end of their quest, as the deepest secret of all is revealed, Charlie Sweetwater learns that neither Raul and Augie, nor the Gulf of Mexico, nor even himself, will ever be the same again.

Praise for Hidden Sea

  • “A riveting story from Texas that wanders down the cartel-invested Gulf Coast of Mexico and drifts across to lawless Cuba. The characters are as salty as the sea and the plot pulls you along as powerfully as the loop current. –W.F. Strong, Stories from Texas, Texas Standard Radio Network
  • Hidden Sea is a total blast: smart, funny, and riveting, with unforgettably colorful characters and a world so alive that you’ll swear you’re really there.”Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone
  • “In Hidden Sea, Miles Arceneaux tosses us in the drink of a timely contemporary adventure tale with the Sweetwater clan, complete with pirates, slave ships, family secrets, and the mother of all plot twists, in his patented Gulf Coast noir style.” Michelle Newby Lancaster, Contributing Editor, Lone Star Literary Life, NBCC Literary Critic

In Case You Were Wondering about Hidden Sea:

If the Miles Arceneaux book series was turned into a board game like CLUE, these items would be the murder weapons – each have been used to dispense with one of the characters in our five Gulf Coast mysteries.

  • gaff hook
  • Karankawa lance
  • rusty fillet knife
  • rolled up newspaper
  • pick ax
  • 48” pipe wrench
  • wadcutter cartridges from a Smith &Wesson Model 1913 automatic

Buy, read, and discuss Hidden Sea:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Miles Arceneaux

Miles Arceneaux“Miles Arceneaux” is the pen name of three long-time Texas friends. James R.  Dennis is a former attorney turned Dominican friar who lives in San Antonio. Brent Douglass is an international businessman from Austin. John T. Davis, also of Austin, is a journalist and author. Together, as “Miles,” they have been featured authors at the Texas Book Festival, the San Antonio Book Festival, and the Lubbock Book Festival.

Connect with Miles:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


Giveaway

Hidden Sea Giveaway

Grand Prize: Autographed copies of all five Gulf Coast series books by Miles Arceneaux + a copy of Geoff Winningham’s Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea — The Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico

Two Runners-Up: Each win an autographed copy of Hidden Sea

October 11-October 20, 2017

U.S. Only

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Visit the other great blogs on the Hidden Sea tour:

10/11 promo Texas Book Lover
10/12 Review Forgotten Winds
10/12 ICYWW #1 Bibliotica
10/13 Review Missus Gonzo
10/14 Excerpt 1 Syd Savvy
10/14 Author Interview A Page Before Bedtime
10/15 Review Texan Girl Reads
10/16 Guest Post StoreyBook Reviews
10/16 ICYWW #2 Chapter Break Book Blog
10/17 Review Hall Ways Blog
10/18 Excerpt 2 Books and Broomsticks
10/18 Playlist The Page Unbound
10/19 Review Reading By Moonlight
10/20 Review Tangled in Text
10/20 ICYWW #3 The Librarian Talks

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life