Review: Touch Justice: Countdown (part 1 of 8) by Carla Cassidy

TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN Tough Justice: Countdown

This action-packed thriller unfolds in eight gripping installments, each written by top authors including Carla Cassidy, Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

This review covers only Part I.


About the book, Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

  • Print Length: 85 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (February 1, 2017)

Tick. Tock. BOOM.

FBI Special Agent Lara Grant had thought that she’d put her past behind her—finally—with her last case. But now a serial bomber is targeting Manhattan’s elite power players, offering them a choice between saving hundreds of lives or seeing their darkest secrets exposed. Lara is working with the Crisis Management Unit to stop the bomber, but how will she react when she’s the one who has to choose between truth…or death?

Part 1 of 8: an explosive new installment in the thrilling FBI serial from New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

Buy, read, and discuss Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8)

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

 

For more information on the Tough Justice series, visit toughjusticeseries.com.


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

At 85 pages, Tough Justice Countdown (Part I) is a quick read, more a novella than a short story. It opens, almost literally with a *boom*  – a bomb threat that is actually (apparently) followed through on within the first couple of pages. It’s an amazing way to start off a series, and from that moment, I felt like we were racing through an adventure reminiscent of the best episodes of shows like 24 and Person of Interest.

FBI agents Nick and Lara – especially Lara, as this is really her story more than anyone else’s quickly became very real to me, as much so as if they were crime-solving partners in a movie or television series (Netflix needs to buy this series. Seriously.), and I liked the way they were effective partners while actively working, but also supported each other emotionally. This is a Harlequin series so I’m assuming there will be overt romance in later installments (I have them all, but am reviewing this one without having read the rest, because I didn’t want to color my perceptions with too much foreknowledge), so I’m going on record: I ship Lara/Nick.

Obviously there were many other characters. Victoria was a standout for me, as were Xander and James.

I liked the way the procedural parts of this story were full of brisk professionalism, and included some of that hurry-up-and-wait sense that is so prevalent when you’re waiting for information, or trying to connect dots.

Overall, I thought this was a gripping story with likeable characters, and I recommend it, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Goes well with pastrami and swiss on rye with good mustard and a bottle of vanilla seltzer or cherry coke.


Giveaway (ends 2/14 at 11:59 PM Central) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

One lucky reader in the US will win a digital copy of Part I of this series. Since it’s a digital copy, this giveaway is limited to Twitter. Find MY post with this review (I’m @melysse), retweet it, and also reply to it telling me you’ve done so.


TLC TOUR STOPS for TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN: TLC Book Tours - Tough Justice Countdown

Wednesday, February 1st: Books and Spoons

Friday, February 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, February 6th: Staircase Wit

Tuesday, February 7th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, February 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, February 9th: Back Porchervations

Friday, February 10th: Dog-Eared Daydreams

Monday, February 13th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, February 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 17th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, February 21st: Becky on Books

Review: Searching for John Hughes, by Jason Diamond

Searching for John HughesAbout the book,  Searching for John Hughes

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 29, 2016)

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s VacationSixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Buy, read, and discuss this book

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jason Diamond Jason Diamond

Jason Diamond is the sports editor at RollingStone.com and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. His work has been published by The New York TimesBuzzFeedVultureThe New RepublicThe Paris ReviewPitchforkEsquireVice and many other outlets. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, but currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, his two cats and his dog named Max.

Connect with Jason

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Like the author of this memoir, Jason Diamond, I grew up on John Hughes movies. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy were my virtual best friends when I was a teenager, and while I never lived in Chicago or New York, I completely understand the feeling that comes from seeing the place you live depicted in a movie (thank you Kevin Smith for making people aware that Highlands, NJ is a place).

I always feel a bit weird about reviewing memoirs, because I feel like I’m judging the person, and not their story. In this case, I really enjoyed the story – the journey that Jason took from cupcake bouncer to witty and read writer.

I also enjoyed Jason’s writing style. I was completely unfamiliar with his work before I read Searching for John Hughes, but his ‘voice’ is so engaging, with a good balance of wry wit, self-deprecation, and frank observation, that I’m eager to go find his stuff at Rolling Stone and read every word.

Ultimately, this is a memoir that will speak to anyone who is considering a major creative endeavor, who hates their current job and wants to find something fulfilling, or who grew up on movies like Pretty in Pink and wants to recapture the feeling of seeing those films for the first time.

It’s a compelling read, a fast read, and one I’m really glad I got to experience.

Goes well with a cupcake (but please, chocolate, not double vanilla) and a perfect cappuccino.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, November 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, December 1st: Book Chatter

Monday, December 5th: Helen’s Book Blog

Tuesday, December 6th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, December 7th: Cait’s Cozy Corner

Thursday, December 8th: Book by Book

Thursday, December 8th: Bibliotica

Monday, December 12th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, December 13th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, December 14th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, December 15th: she treads softly

Review: Madame Presidentess, by Nicole Evelina

About the book, Madame Presidentess Madame Presidentess

  • Paperback: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing (July 24, 2016)

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | iTunes | Smashwords |Kobo |Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Nicole Evelina Nicole Evelina

Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.

Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.

Connect with Nicole:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Reading this book during the countdown to the US Presidential election was difficult for me. Yes, it fit the theme, and I enjoy reading about early feminists. I found, though, that that the reality of what was going on politically was coloring my perception of the novel, and my personal politics made this book a struggle for me.

This does not mean that it isn’t good.

Author Nicole Evelina clearly researched her subject well. The characters felt real and dimensional, and she managed to make a period setting feel accessible to a contemporary readership. At no point did this story feel untruthful. The language, the struggles of Victoria and her family, all had nuance and depth.

At times, however, especially in the early parts of the novel, Victoria’s story seemed unrelentingly dark, so much so that I wished for something – anything –  to break the darkness and tension, and let me breathe.

As well, my struggles were with the accurate, and at times harsh, portrayal of the way women, and especially women who were not well-off, lived in the decades before the 19th amendment to the Constitution and their battle to be seen and heard, and to make an impact on the world in which they lived.

If you’re looking for a feel-good novel about girl power and early feminism, this is not for you.

If you want a deeply moving, fictionalization of the lift of a real person, you will be provoked, intrigued, and satisfied by this novel.


Nicole Evelina’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 24th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, October 25th: A. Holland Reads

Wednesday, October 26th: The Baking Bookworm

Friday, October 28th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, October 31st: Building Bookshelves

Wednesday, November 2nd: Broken Teepee

Thursday, November 3rd: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, November 4th: Write Read Life

Monday, November 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, November 8th: Hoser’s Blook

Monday, November 14th: Books ‘n Tea

Monday, November 14th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, November 15th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 17th: Wordsmithonia

Introducing: Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour in Hollywood’s Golden Age, by Robin Cutler

 

Glamour, Ambition and Hollywood’s Golden Age: Author and historian Robin Cutler shines in biography of writer Jane Hall Robin Cutler

NEW YORK CITY – Emmy-nominated Robin R. Cutler is known for her ability to bring compelling historical stories to life both on screen and on the page. Following her book about her grandfather, Arizona humorist Dick Wick Hall (The Laughing Desert, 2012), Cutler explores the world of her mother, Jane Hall, a literary prodigy published as a 10-year-old by the L.A. Times. In the masterfully written and researched Such Mad Fun (Sept. 8, 2016), Cutler brings the glamour of yesteryear to life as a newly-orphaned Jane journeys from a mining town in Arizona to Manhattan’s Café Society, and then to work among the bright lights and big stars of Hollywood.

A Kirkus starred review noted: “This portrait of a more literary mass-market America offers much food for reflection on modern culture,” and described Cutler’s book as “a valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood and America’s magazine culture of the 1930s and ‘40s.”


About the book, Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour in Hollywood’s Golden Age Such Mad Fun

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: View Tree Press (May 23, 2016)
  • Language: English

“I was a candle on the president’s birthday cake!” On Jan. 30, 1934, Jane Hall was exuberant as she whirled around the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 52nd birthday. For 19-year-old Jane, this ball wasn’t just fun; it was research. At Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Jane wrote the story and the script for the “best social comedy of 1939,” These Glamour Girls, and established a lively camaraderie with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who worked in the office next door to hers. But Jane’s ambition conflicted with the expectations of her family, her friends, and the era in which she lived. Gathered from her mother’s diaries and scores of letters, this coming-of-age story takes us on an unforgettable journey through the 1930s as Jane tries to determine who she’s meant to be.

Buy, read, and discuss Such Mad Fun.

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


About the author, Robin Cutler Robin Cutler

Cutler holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and has been a public historian for more than three decades. She co-produced the Emmy-nominated dramatic series, ROANOAK, for PBS’ American Playhouse. A lover of animals, trees, salted caramel, baseball, PBS and classic films, these days Cutler can be found in New York, in Florida or with her daughters in California.

Connect with Robin.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Review: Deliver Her, by Patricia Perry Donovan – with GIVEAWAY

About the book, Deliver Her Deliver Her

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 2016)

Author Patricia Perry Donovan weaves her tale flawlessly, testing the boundaries of family and friendship.

On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

Buy, read, and discuss Deliver Her.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Perry Donovan Patricia Perry Donovan

Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.

Connect with Patricia

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

In the endless onslaught of political ads, political opinions on facebook, and political arguments seemingly everywhere, I spent this last weekend engaging in some serious self-care. How? I took a bubble bath. I binge-watched the supernatural show Haven on Netflix, and a read three novels. One of them was Deliver Her, and it was fantastic.

Told in alternating points of view from Alex, a sixteen-year-old girl who was in a car accident the night of her sweet-sixteen, and which resulted in the loss of her best friend, Meg, Alex’s mother, currently separated (in situ, as the economy doesn’t allow them to afford separate residences) from Jacob, her husband, and Carl, a recovered addict/alcoholic who runs a business transporting troubled teenagers to their rehab programs, this is a book that straddles the line between contemporary family drama and serious literary fiction (not that the two can’t be the same).

I felt that author Patricia Perry Donovan captured Alex’s voice really well. She seemed like the teenager I once was, and like the sullen or troubled teenagers I’ve known: hot and cold emotions, moods, etc., angry one moment, trying so hard to be an adult, but at the same time, not wanting to truly leave childhood behind.

Meg was the character I most identified with, even though I’ve never had children, and am fortunate to have a solid marriage (we fight, of course, because we’re both human beings with opinions, but we’ve never gotten to the point of considering an ending). Still watching her marriage crumble was both moving and fascinating. I found myself empathizing with her, but also feeling great sympathy for Jacob.

Carl, on the other hand, I’d have loved to have a whole novel about. Complex, funny, smart, caring – that he turned his addiction and recovery into a way to help others, I found to be very moving.

Like many people, I was initially under the impression that this novel would be a boarding school story, focusing on Alex. Instead it was a deeply moving, incredibly rich read about the literal journey  –  Delivering Alex to The Birches – and the spiritual one of the entire Carmody family as well as Carl.

If you like family dramas like This is Us, you will love this novel. When it comes to a great story, Deliver Her really delivers.

Goes well with coffee and chocolate cherry protein bars.


Giveaway Deliver Her

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Deliver Her. How? There are three ways to enter:

  1. Find my tweet about this book, and retweet it (make sure my tag is intact @melysse)
  2. Find my post about this book on Facebook, like it, share it, and comment that you have done so.
  3. Leave a relevant comment about this book, here on this post. (Comments from first-timers must be approved and may not go live for 24 hours).

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Daylight Time on Sunday, October 30th.


Patricia Perry Donovan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 3rd: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Wednesday, October 5th: Just Commonly

Monday, October 10th: Building Bookshelves

Monday, October 10th: Books ‘N Tea

Wednesday, October 12th: Books a la Mode

Friday, October 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 17th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, October 19th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, October 20th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, October 24th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, October 26th: Back Porchervations

Sunday, November 6th: Writer Unboxed – guest post

Review: Everyone Loves You Back, by Louie Cronin

About the book Everyone Loves You Back Everyone Loves You Back

 

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gorsky Press (October 21, 2016)

Sex. Wine. Jazz. Existential dread.

Meet Bob, a sarcastic radio technician who has enough on his plate trying to navigate his forties without his Cambridge neighborhood becoming overrun by urban treehuggers and uppity intellectuals in tracksuits. Between a love triangle, a rapidly shrinking job market, and the looming threat of finally growing up, Bob is forced to dig deep―man―and figure out not just what he wants, but who he is. Change hits hard when you live in the past.

Louie Cronin’s breakthrough novel is a coming-of-middle-age story that pays homage to the everyday.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, Louie Cronin

Louie Cronin, author of the novel Everyone Loves You Back, is a writer, radio producer and audio engineer. For ten years she served as NPR’s “Car Talk” traffic cop, producing the show and ensuring that every call was entertaining.  A graduate of Boston University’s Masters program in Creative Writing and a past winner of the Ivan Gold Fiction Fellowship from the Writers’ Room of Boston, Louie has had her fiction and essays published in Compass Rose, The Princeton Arts Review, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe Magazine, and on PRI.org. Her short stories have been finalists for both Glimmer Train and New Millennium Writings awards. Louie has been awarded residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. Currently she works as a technical director for PRI’s The World and lives in Boston with her husband, the sculptor James Wright.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I saw the term “coming-of-middle-age” in the description for this novel, and that’s what hooked me first. I’m 46. As much as I love reading about people in their teens, twenties, and thirties, it’s rare for someone my age to be at the heart of a story.

In Everyone Loves You Back, Louie Cronin has done just that, though, and in Bob, she’s created a character that everyone my age, male and female, can relate to, at least a little.

As much as I loved all the behind-the-scenes radio station scenes – the way author Cronin so effectively used her own experiences in radio – it was the human story I vastly preferred. Bob is cantankerous, sarcastic, and at the point in life where change isn’t necessarily a good or welcome thing. He isn’t old, but he’s facing the reality that old age is closer than he wants.

I especially loved the working relationship friendship between Bob and on-air talent Riff. I don’t read a lot of novels with two strong male characters who aren’t competing for the same woman,  and the pull of what’s best for the show, and the network, vs. what’s best for Bob himself was interesting to watch.

I also loved the often-frustrating interplay between Bob and his neighbor. My husband and I also work weird hours, so I know first-hand the awkwardness of trying to mesh the needs of the night owl with the more conventional schedules of the rest of society.

In all, Everyone Loves You Back is exactly as described: a funny, poignant, supremely real look at one man and his life, loves, dreams, and triumphs. It’s an immensely satisfying read, full of great characters and lovely details.

Goes well with clam chowder, buttered bread, and your favorite micro-brew.

 

Review: The Taste of Air, by Gail Cleare

About the book The Taste of Air The Taste of Air

 

  • Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC (273 pages)
  • Publication Date: September 22, 2016

 

When Mary Reilly turns up in a hospital hundreds of miles from the senior community where she lives, Nell and Bridget discover their mother has been hiding a second life. She has a lakeside cottage in Vermont and a series of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met. The family drama that is gradually uncovered reveals truths about all three women, the sacrifices they’ve made and the secrets they carry.

Nell is a carpool mom and corporate trophy wife who yearns for a life of her own. Bridget is a glamorous interior designer who transforms herself for every new man, always attracted to the bad ones. Their mother Mary was an army nurse in the Vietnam War, then married handsome navy pilot Thomas Reilly and lived happily ever after…or did she?

Buy, read, and discuss The Taste of Air

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Gail Cleare Gail Cleare

Gail Cleare has written for newspapers, magazines, Fortune 50 companies and AOL. Her award-winning ad agency represented the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She was the turtle Leonardo’s date for the world premiere of the second TMNT movie, and got to wear a black evening gown and sparkly shoes.

Gail lives on an 18th century farm in Massachusetts with her family and dogs, cats, chickens, black bears, blue herons, rushing streams and wide, windy skies. She’s into organic gardening and nature photography, and can often be found stalking wild creatures with a 300 mm lens.

Connect with Gail

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

My first thought after finishing The Taste of Air was that this was an incredibly satisfying novel.

My second thought was that I want to live in a cute cottage in New England when I’m older, though my dream cottage would be big enough to share with my husband and our collection of dogs.

In this novel, author Gail Cleare introduces us to a trio of women, each of whom are strong and weak in individual ways. Mary Ellen, the mother, has been leading a secret life for decades, and was apparently content to do so until suddenly, her secret is revealed when she is sent to the hospital.

Her daughters, Nell and Bridget, discover their mothers double existence when Nell is called to her bedside. Nell is the ultimate caregiver, sacrificing her own happiness for her family, while Bridget repeatedly chooses men who don’t treat her well.

Together, these three women form both a family, glimpsed mainly in flashbacks, and the nucleus of the novel.

What I loved was that author Cleare really captured the subconscious patterns that family members develop, the ones that demonstrate connection as much, or more than, any physical attributes. I also liked that each woman had her own journey, and that while those journeys intersected, each story was given equal weight.

It would have been so easy to focus on Mary Ellen, for example, unraveling the mystery of her cottage refuge without her ever speaking a word in the present day. It would have been just as easy to focus on Nell, whose point of view opens the story. (In truth, even though my only children have four feet and fur, it was Nell I most identified with.) Or Bridget, who is probably the most outwardly together and inwardly unhappy woman in the story, and who has dual quests – a satisfying relationship where she’s treated with respect, and the search for the baby she had as a teenager, and subsequently gave up for adoption.

All three stories are compelling, and as we meet the men, the other women, the children, in the lives of Mary Ellen and her daughters, what results is a family portrait that is less a posed and stilted (and somewhat horrific) presentation, and more a collage of hard truths, past mistakes, present ambitions, and great love.

I would recommend this book to women (and men) of all ages, who want to truly understand how multi-dimensional we all are.

Goes well with an open window, a cozy chair, a mug of coffee and a plate of crisp apples and sharp cheddar cheese.

Review: Composing Temple Sunrise, by Hassan El-Tayyab

About the book Composing Temple Sunrise Composing Temple Sunrise

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Poetic Matrix Press (July 15, 2016)

Composing Temple Sunrise is a coming-of-age memoir about a 26-year-old songwriter’s journey across America to find his lost muse.

Triggered by the Great Recession of 2008, Hassan El-Tayyab loses his special education teaching job in Boston and sets out on a cross-country adventure with a woman named Hope Rideout, determined to find his lost muse. His journey brings him to Berkeley, CA, where he befriends a female metal art collective constructing a 37-foot Burning Man art sculpture named “Fishbug.” What follows is a life-changing odyssey through Burning Man that helps Hassan harness his creative spirit, overcome his self-critic, confront his childhood trauma, and realize the healing power of musical expression.

In this candid, inspiring memoir, singer-songwriter Hassan El-Tayyab of the Bay Area’s American Nomad takes us deep into the heart of what it means to chase a creative dream.

After experiencing multiple losses (family, home, love, job, self-confidence) , El-Tayyab sets out on a transcontinental quest that eventually lands him in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. His vivid descriptions capture both the vast, surreal landscapes of the Burning Man festival and the hard practice of making art.

Buy, read, and discuss Composing Temple Sunrise

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Composing Temple Sunrise Website | Goodreads


About the author, Hassan El-Tayyab Hassan El-Tayyab

Hassan El-Tayyab is an award-winning singer/songwriter, author, teacher, and cultural activist currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. His critically acclaimed Americana act American Nomad performs regularly at festivals and venues up and down the West Coast and beyond and he teaches music in the Bay Area.

Connect with Hassan

Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I have to confess: before I read this book I’d never heard of the author or his band American Nomad, nor did I have a clear picture of what Burning Man actually is. I mean, I’d heard of it, of course, who hasn’t? I just didn’t have correct information.

As it turned out, none of that mattered, and I began reading Hassan El-Tayyab’s memoir with no expectations except that I would ‘meet’ a new person within its pages.

I always feel odd about reviewing memoirs, as if I’m critiquing the author’s actual life, and not just the way they chose to depict it on paper (real or virtual).  Forgive me then, for nitpicking. This memoir could have used another pass by a line editor or proof reader. Some of the grammar is a little ‘off.’ Despite that, however, I found myself thoroughly engaged, and I even managed to suppress my grammar-police tendencies.

Composing Temple Sunrise is not an entire book about composing a single song. Rather, it’s the story of the author’s journey from a place of frustration  – having just lost a job that he was good at, though it wasn’t his true calling – and a series of losses that began in childhood, to a place where he could unleash the full force of his creativity.

It is a fascinating study of both the creative process and in general, and El-Tayyab’s personal journey, and how the two intertwine. As a writer, improvisor, amateur musician (I sing, I’ve played the cello since childhood, and I and bought my first guitar last year, but so far, I only know how to tune it), I found everything he wrote about – from undertaking a cross-country road-trip just to do something, to waking up one morning with a whole composition (the song “Temple Sunrise” referred to in the title) in his head – incredibly compelling and truthful.

While I was intrigued by the author’s experiences at Burning Man, and appreciated finally learning about what it really was, I found myself both yearning for that kind of conversion of creative energies, and also recognizing that I, a woman who believes ‘roughing it’ means staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service or wifi, would not benefit from that specific event.

But it isn’t about me, except in the sense that we, as readers, bring our own experiences and perceptions to every book we begin. It’s about Hassan El-Tayyab, and his journey, and I feel privileged to have shared it with him, even if it was only virtually, and after the fact.

Whether or not you have creative pursuits, Composing Temple Sunrise is a fascinating glimpse at both the artist’s personality, and one artist specifically.

Goes well with vegan pad Thai made with grilled tofu and your favorite craft beer.


Bonus!

Provided to YouTube by CDBaby, here’s the track referenced in the title: “Temple Sunrise”


Tour Stops Poetic Book Tours

Sept. 1: OakTreeReviews (Review)

Sept. 2: The Serial Reader (Review)
Sept. 3: Applied Book Reviews (Review)
Sept. 7: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)
Sept. 13: The Soapy Violinist (Review)
Sept. 15: Bermudaonion (Guest Post)
Sept. 20: Tea Leaves (Review)
Sept. 23: Write-Read-Life (Review)
Sept. 30: DonnaBookReviews (Review)
Oct. 5: Eva Lucia’s Reviews (Review)
Oct. 6: Bibliotica (Review)
Oct. 11: Eva Lucia’s Reviews (Interview)
Oct. 13: Katherine & Books (Review)
Oct. 17: Margaret Reviews Books (Review)
Oct. 20: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 26: Peeking Between the Pages (Guest Post)
Oct. 27: Rainy Day Reviews (Review)
Nov. 3: Sportochick’s Musings (Review)

Agatha Christie: Closed Casket, by Sophie Hannah

About the book Closed Casket Closed Casket

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 6, 2016)

“What I intend to say to you will come as a shock…”

With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford — one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors — springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.

Among Lady Playford’s visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited — until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why — when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it — does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?

Buy, read, and discuss Closed Casket

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About series creator, Agatha Christie Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976.

Learn more about Agatha Christie through her official website.


About the author, Sophie Hannah Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in 27 countries and adapted for television, as well as The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie.

Connect with Sophie

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It’s never easy when a new author tries to take over from a legend. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books have been written by multitudes of authors hiding behind the existing pen names since forever. Robert Goldsborough successfully stepped into Rex Stout’s shoes and gave us the continuing stories of on Nero Wolfe a couple of decades ago.  With this novel, Closed Casket, Sophie Hannah has stepped up to write about one of Ms. Christie’s beloved creations, Hercule Poirot, and I have to confess, I asked to review it as much because as I love the dapper Belgian as because I was curious to see if he was safe in Hannah’s hands.

I needn’t have worried. Closed Casket is everything a Poirot novel should be… interwoven plot lines, layers of social behavior, clues upon clues, and through it all, his keen intellect leading us down the path to the solution.

From the moment we are first introduced to Lady Playford this novel is compelling. Why leave all your money to someone who may well die before you? Why invite a private detective and a Scotland Yard inspector to a weekend in the country? Why indeed… if it isn’t to force deep truths from your friends and family?

It’s hard to review a mystery without spoiling it… suffice to say that all of Hannah’s characters are well drawn. I heard echoes of David Suchet’s performances in Poirot’s speech, and would happily watch a weekly police drama featuring Catchpool. It felt a little like Playford was meant to represent Christie herself, in a way, but I think every reader will come away with that sense, even if it isn’t accurate.

As with all Christie mysteries, this isn’t a novel that involves car chases or gun fights. There is little ‘action,’ there is no gore. This is not a spy thriller.

What Closed Casket is, is a perfectly plotted, well drawn continuation of a beloved character’s adventures. Hannah’s writing was endorsed by Christie’s estate. I hope she continues to write in this world, but I’m also intrigued to check out her other works.

Goes well with a pot of tea, a plate of scones, and whatever you do, don’t look behind that billowing curtain.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, September 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 7th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Thursday, September 8th: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, September 12th: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, September 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, September 14th: Dwell in Possibility

Monday, September 19th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, September 21st: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, September 22nd: In Bed with Books

Friday, September 23rd: Bibliotica

TBD: A Wondrous Bookshelf

Review: The Whiskey Sea, by Ann Howard Creel with giveaway (ends 09/21)

About the book, The Whiskey Sea The Whiskey Sea

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 23, 2016)

Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rum-runners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

Buy, read, and discuss The Whiskey Sea:

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


About the author, Ann Howard Creel Ann Howard Creel

Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website, annhowardcreel.com.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The Whiskey Sea is my first review after a month off. I needed the month, but, it seems, I needed this book as well. Last month I turned 46, and I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown impatient with novels where the women let other people save them. Frieda, in The Whiskey Sea, has help at times, but fundamentally she saved herself, and I really love that about her.

In truth, Frieda’s  a bit prickly for a lead character. She’s fiercely independent, stubborn, and overly cautious when it comes to trusting people – the latter with good reason as her mother was the town whore  – but somehow, I found myself liking her anyway. Her self-reliance and determination practically leap off the page and demand that you take notice, and her flaws only humanize her.

Then there’s her little sister, Bea. Frieda spends much of her childhood playing mother to Bea, mostly out of necessity, but the sisters’ bond never really fades and while the younger sister is often overshadowed by the older, her arc is crucial to the plot.

If Frieda and Bea are at the center of The Whiskey Sea the men in the story are the satellites in orbit around them. There are two, specifically, that bear mentioning: Silver, the man who decides, basically on a whim, to give the two orphaned sisters a home, is the man who kicks off the tale. Old and set in his ways, he makes a snap decision that changes all their lives.

Sam Hicks is the constant in Frieda’s life from the time she graduates from high school, onward. Steady, solid, ever-present, he reminds me of all the fisherman and clammers I used to see in my cousin’s diner early in the morning when I was a kid.

All together, this story has everything: a coastal village setting, the historical background of prohibition, and the rum-running that went along with it, and  a gritty coming-of-age story that doesn’t assume ‘of age’ means eighteen, but understands that we all come into ourselves at their own pace.

For me, though, this novel was special in ways over and above the brilliant writing and compelling story. It was special because the setting – Highlands, New Jersey, is where my own roots are. My family lived ‘over in Atlantic Highlands’ (the two towns are adjacent) and my cousins ran a local diner not far from the harbor. Seeing the historical depiction of a place that is literally in my blood made this book feel magical to me.

Author Ann Howard Creel is a deft and masterful storyteller. Her characters feel incredibly real, and this novel is the perfect book to immerse yourself in on a crisp fall evening, or a sultry summer afternoon, or pretty much any other time.

Goes well with Manhattan-style clam chowder (that’s the red kind), fried clams, and a cold beer, but not an IPA, because they’re too hoppy.


Giveaway The Whiskey Sea

One lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of The Whiskey Sea mailed to them by the publicist. How? you ask. I’ll tell you.

There are three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a relevant comment on this post.

Winner will be chosen from those entries received by 23:59 CDT on 21 September 2016.


Ann Howard Creel’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 22nd: Musings of  a Bookish Kitty

Tuesday, August 23rd: You Can Read Me Anything

Wednesday, August 24th: Staircase Wit

Thursday, August 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, August 26th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, August 29th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 30th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 31st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, September 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, September 6th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, September 7th: Reading is My Superpower

Thursday, September 8th: Write Read Life

Monday, September 12th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 13th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads

Thursday, September 15th: View from the Birdhouse

Friday, September 16th: FictionZeal

Monday, September 19th: Reading the Past

TBD: The Warlock’s Gray Book