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Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne (@andrewmayne) #review @TLCbooktours

About the book, Name of the Devil Name of the Devil

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: Bourbon Street Books; (July 7, 2015)

In this electrifying sequel to Angel Killer, magician-turned-FBI-agent Jessica Blackwood must channel her past to catch a killer consumed by a desire for revenge.

When a church combusts in rural Appalachia, the bizarre trail of carnage suggests diabolical forces are at work. Charged with explaining the inexplicable, the FBI’s Dr. Ailes and Agent Knoll once again turn to the ace up their sleeve: Agent Jessica Blackwood, a former prodigy from a family dynasty of illusionists. After playing a pivotal role in the capture of the Warlock, a seemingly supernatural serial killer, Jessica can no longer ignore the world, and the skills, she left behind. Her talent and experience endow her with a knack for knowing when things are not always as they appear to be, and she soon realizes this explosion is just the first of many crimes.

As the death toll mounts, Jessica discovers the victims share a troubling secret with far-reaching implications that stretch from the hills of West Virginia to cartel-corrupted Mexico to the hallowed halls of the Vatican. Everyone involved in what happened on that horrible night so long ago has tried to bury it—except for one person, who believes that the past can be hidden, but never forgiven. Can Jessica draw on her unique understanding of the power and potential of deception to thwart a murderer determined to avenge the past?

Buy, read, and discuss Name of the Devil

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound  | Goodreads


About the author, Andrew Mayne Andrew Mayne

Andrew Mayne is the star of A&E’s magic reality show Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, and has worked with David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine. He lives in Los Angeles.

Connect with Andrew

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I never read the first Jessica Blackwood novel, and I really wish I had because after jumping into this series with the just-published second installment, Name of the Devil, I am hooked – HOOKED – on this series.

First, I love Jessica herself, she’s the perfect mix of smart and spunky, and sensitive, and I like the way she overcomes her past by using it, rather then suppressing it. That she comes from a family of illusionists makes her more interesting, and also differentiates her from all the other female agents currently existing in modern fiction. I also really appreciate the way Jessica’s background, and the skills that were practically bred into her, aren’t just character enrichment, but are crucial to her job, and the plot.

Second, the pacing: Wow! From the first paragraph the reader is in the middle of everything, and the pace is fast – at times I felt like an out-of-control rollercoaster – but then everything comes back long enough to catch a breath. Considering that there’s a decent amount of globehopping in this novel – Appalachia, Mexico, the Vatican – it makes sense that the pace must be quick. It works for this novel.

Third: Mayne’s prose: it’s upbeat an contemporary, but never feels too pithy for the subject matter. His dialogue is especially good, and his character descriptions are as detailed as only someone accustomed to discerning what is from what isn’t can be.

Bottom line: this is a great read, perfect for a hot summer day’s worth of intrigue and escapism, and while I’m sure having read the first book in the series would have  been helpful, I didn’t feel like my experience was terribly lacking because I began with book two.

Goes well with mineral water with lime, and a Caprese salad.


Andrew’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 7th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, July 8th: A Bookworm’s World

Thursday, July 9th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, July 10th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Monday, July 13th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, July 14th: Girl Lost in a Book

Wednesday, July 15th: Priscilla and her Books

Thursday, July 16th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

Monday, July 20th: Always With A Book

Monday, July 20th: Mystery Playground

Tuesday, July 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, July 22nd: Why Girls Are Weird

Thursday, July 23rd: Bibliophilia, Please

Bum Rap, by Paul Levine (@Jake_Lassiter) #review #giveaway @tlcbooktours

About the book, Bum Rap Bum Rap

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (July 1, 2015)

NFL linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter has had it with shifty clients, dirty prosecutors, and a legal system out of whack. It’s enough to make a man want to leave Miami and never look back—until he gets a call from Victoria Lord, the better half of hot local legal team Solomon & Lord. Her partner in life and law has been arrested for murder. What’s worse: the only person who can clear him has fled the city. Now it’s up to Jake and Victoria to track down the witness—a stunning “Bar girl”—before she’s roped in by the feds…or eliminated by the Russian mob.

Jake knows that if he doesn’t get to the witness first, his client’s case is lost. Luckily, he’s got some good advice from his college football coach: “Buckle your chin strap and hit somebody.” And sometimes, the only way to win a tough case is to do just that.

Buy, read, and discuss Bum Rap

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


About the author, Paul Levine Paul Levine

PAUL LEVINE worked as a newspaper reporter, a law professor and a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist. His books have been translated into 23 languages; Levine has won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and has been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Macavity, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Shamus Award, and the James Thurber Humor Prize.

Connect with Paul

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I haven’t read anything from Paul Levine in a while, though I reviewed Lassiter several years ago, but even so, I had no problem jumping back into his world – or worlds, really – this novel has Lassister joining forces with Levine’s other literary creation, the love & law partners Solomon and Lord, in order to prove that Solomon is innocent (not merely not-guilty) of a murder involving him being found in extremely incriminating circumstances.

As with all of Levine’s other work, there are a lot of details  – businesses, local celebrities, landmarks, etc. – that are only really relevant to people who live in South Florida, but also present is his signature gritty style. Yes, his books are a bit violent, but when you’re dealing with “last chance Lassiter” and the Russian mafia, that violence is appropriate for the story and the characters.

One thing I especially liked about Bum Rap is Levine’s choice to alternate POVs: a third person point of view when chapters focus on Solomon and Lord, alternating with first person when the chapter was Lassiter-centric. I thought this convention worked really well, spotlighting all three characters in the way readers of both series are most used to.

If you like fast-paced, gritty, mystery/thrillers this novel is for you.

Goes well with rum & coke, and a juicy steak.


Giveaway Bum Rap

One winner in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Bum Rap. Contest runs through 11:59 PM U.S. Central time on July 7th, and notified by email on July 8th.

To enter:

Option 1) Leave a comment on this post and share the best piece of advice you’ve ever received.

Option 2) Find my post about this book on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet it.

Paul Levine’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, June 29th: Books a la Mode

Wednesday, July 1st: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, July 2nd: Bibliotica

Friday, July 3rd: FictionZeal

Monday, July 6th: The World As I See It

Wednesday, July 8th: Griperang’s Bookmarks

Thursday, July 9th: Life is Story

Friday, July 10th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, July 13th: Book Dilettante

Monday, July 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Thursday, July 16th: Rhodes Review

Friday, July 17th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, July 20th: Lilac Reviews

Tuesday, July 21st: Back Porchervations

Thursday, July 23rd: Vic’s Media Room

Disclaimer, by Renee Knight #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Disclaimer Disclaimer

  • • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • • Publisher: Harper (May 19, 2015)

What if you realized the terrifying book you were reading was all about you?

A brilliantly conceived, deeply disturbing psychological thriller about a woman haunted by secrets—and the price she will pay for concealing the truth.

When a mysterious novel appears at Catherine Ravenscroft’s bedside, she is curious. She has no idea who might have sent her The Perfect Stranger—or how it ended up on her nightstand. At first, she is intrigued by the suspenseful story that unfolds.

And then she realizes.

This isn’t fiction.

The Perfect Stranger re-creates in vivid, unmistakable detail the day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past Catherine so desperately wants to forget is catching up with her, her world is falling apart. Plunged into a living nightmare, she knows that her only hope is to confront what really happened on that terrible day . . . even if the shocking truth may destroy her.

Buy, read, and discuss Disclaimer:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Renée Knight Renee Knight

Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy “Writing a Novel” course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.


My Thoughts TLC Tour Host

From the very first page, I was absolutely hooked on this story, which is told partly in flashbacks to two years before the novel’s ‘present’ and in alternating viewpoints of Catherine and someone else. (Spoilers, sweeties!  I can’t be more specific than that.)  It begins with Catherine being a bit unsettled about something – we quickly learn it’s a book she’s been reading – and the suspense builds from there, and keeps building to the end of the novel.

The plot is what makes a thriller, of course, but without compelling characters, even the best plot remains flat. In our primary POV character, Catherine, author Renee Knight has given us an interesting, complex woman who is keeping secrets that are agonizing her. Knight does an excellent job of depicting the guilt, the pain, and the longing to just tell the truth that Catherine feels, but she’s also surrounded this woman with equally dimensional characters who react to her apparent behavior oblivious to what is going on inside her mind. It’s a tricky balancing act, making sure no  one else knows what Catherine does, making sure no one really sees into her head, but Knight pulls it off with aplomb.

If I had to pick one word to describe Disclaimer, I would choose “cinematic,” because this novel feels like it would translate to the screen incredibly well. The author directs documentaries and writes film scripts, so perhaps she’s used to seeing things from a camera’s perspective, but I felt like every scene break would have been a perfect cut, and the pace of the novel is perfect for a movie theater experience.

If you want a fast paced thriller with real emotional impact, read Disclaimer. You won’t be disappointed.

Goes well with: a club sandwich, fresh coleslaw, and a vanilla cream soda.


Renée’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 19th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, May 21st: Kissin Blue Karen

Friday, May 22nd: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, May 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, May 26th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, May 27th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, May 28th: Staircase Wit

Friday, May 29th: JulzReads

Monday, June 1st: Book Hooked Blog

Tuesday, June 2nd: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 3rd: Ace and Hoser Blook

Thursday, June 4th: Ms.Bookish.com

Tuesday, June 9th: Bibliotica – That’s Me!

Wednesday, June 10th: Novel Escapes

Thursday, June 11th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, June 11th:From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 12th: The Well-Read Redhead

Monday, June 15th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Moonlight on Butternut Creek, by Mary McNear #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Moonlight on Butternut Lake Moonlight on Butternut Lake

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 12, 2015)

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Up at Butternut Lake comes the third novel in the Butternut Lake series—a dazzling story of two wounded souls seizing a second chance at life and love.

On the run from her abusive husband, Mila Jones flees Minneapolis for the safety and serenity of Butternut Lake. Ready to forge a new life, Mila’s position as home health aide to Reid Ford is more than a job. It’s a chance at a fresh start. Though her sullen patient seems determined to make her quit, she refuses to give up on him.

Haunted by the car accident that nearly killed him, Reid retreats to his brother’s cabin on Butternut Lake and lashes out at anyone who tries to help. Reid wishes Mila would just go away. . .until he notices the strength, and the secrets, behind her sad, brown eyes.

Against all odds, Mila slowly draws Reid out. Soon they form a tentative, yet increasingly deeper, bond as Mila lowers her guard and begins to trust again, and Reid learns how to let this woman who has managed to crack through his protective shell into his life. While the seemingly endless days of summer unfold, Reid and Mila take the first steps to healing as they discover love can be more than just a dream.

Buy, read, and discuss Moonlight on Butternut Lake

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound  | Goodreads


About the author, Mary McNear Mary McNear

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear is a writer living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local donut shop where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made donuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

Connect with Mary

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My Thoughts:

Visiting Butternut Lake via Mary McNear’s always-engaging novels has become something of an annual habit, as I’ve now reviewed all three in the series. I always really enjoy the way she writes small-town life, and the way the local diner, Pearl’s, and the lake itself, are characters in and of themselves.

But it’s the human characters, drawn so well that you totally feel like you could run into them at a diner, or on the lake shore, that really drive McNear’s stories. In this one, we see Allie and Walter and their two children again, but they’re supporting characters. The story really centers around Walter’s brother Reid, recent survivor of a terrible car wreck, and Mila, on the run from a bad relationship (though the details aren’t revealed til the end of the novel) and looking for a fresh start.

That the two of them eventually connect with each other isn’t at all surprising – it’s inevitable – but McNear has created characters so real, and a setting so vivid, that it doesn’t matter how predictable the ultimate ending is, because when you’re traveling the twisting, turning road to Butternut Lake, it really IS about the journey.

And what a journey! This novel has the perfect blend of romance, suspense, small town living, and earthy supporting characters. You can hear the Minnesota accents in the dialogue of the locals, but they never, ever stray outside of credibility and into caricature.

Congratulations, Mary McNear, on bringing us all to Butternut Lake once more, and how fitting that my visit landed on Memorial Day weekend.

Goes well with: strawberry-rhubarb pie and homemade vanilla ice cream.


Mary McNear’s Blog Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 12th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, May 13th: Fuelled by Fiction

Thursday, May 14th: Raven Haired Girl

Friday, May 15th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 18th: Always With a Book

Tuesday, May 19th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews

Monday, May 25th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 20th: Walking With Nora

Wednesday, May 20th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, June 3rd: Reading Reality

TBD: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

A Match for Marcus Cynster, by Stephanie Laurens #Excerpt Tour #Giveaway @TLCBookTours

A Match for Marcus Cynster Excerpt Tour

I’m so excited to be part of the TLC Book Tours EXCERPT TOUR for the release of the latest book in Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster Series, A Match for Marcus Cynster!

About the book, A Match for Marcus Cynster A Match for Marcus Cynster

  • Series: Cynster (#23)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 438 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (May 26, 2015)

Duty compels her to turn her back on marriage. Fate drives him to protect her come what may. Then love takes a hand in this battle of yearning hearts, stubborn wills, and a match too powerful to deny. #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to rugged Scotland with a dramatic tale of passionate desire and unwavering devotion.

Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be and with whom will he share it?

Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her—even from himself. Fickle Fate, he’s sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her.

Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan’s reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity.

Soon, she’s forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem.

Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver’s side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth—that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster.

~ Excerpt ~

They buried Nigel and Nolan three days later. The atmosphere was more that of a witnessing than an honoring. The ambiance was strikingly different from that which had prevailed at their father’s funeral—but then Manachan had been revered by the clan and respected throughout the community, while Nigel and Nolan had been tolerated purely on the basis of being Manachan’s sons. As for acquaintances within the wider community, theirs proved to be limited to young hellions of similar ilk to themselves—irresponsible males intent on enjoying a hedonistic life with nary a thought for anyone or anything else.

Several of the latter unexpectedly turned up, driving curricles and phaetons, and greeting each other raucously.

The clan ignored them.

Initially, Niniver had been surprised by how many of the clan had chosen to attend. Then she’d realized that, for them as for her, the somber service marked the end of two years of uncertainty and unrest—two years of confusion, of not knowing what was going on, and of lost faith in the clan’s leadership.

Nigel was buried next to their father and mother in the Carrick family plot.

Nolan was buried in a far corner of the graveyard—rejected and disowned by all.

It was she who cast the first sod on Nolan’s coffin. Stony-faced, the clan elders followed her lead.

And then it was done.

No one felt any need to linger; everyone was glad to turn their backs and walk away.

As the gathering dispersed and the clan returned to the carts and drays that had brought them there, several of Nigel and Nolan’s friends surrounded her and attempted to press their patently insincere condolences on her.

She avoided society—in part because of just such men—but she’d long ago perfected one social art, that of keeping her feelings concealed and maintaining a mask of unruffled calm. Yet to be invited to join several would-be dandies on a picnic and, when she politely declined, to have her words ignored…

Luckily, Thomas intervened, and with several cutting words and a black scowl, he sent the horde packing. Together with Ferguson, Thomas escorted her away; she allowed them to lead her to her carriage, help her in, and shut the door.

Sean set the horses trotting, and the carriage pulled into the road, and finally, it was over.

She rested her head against the squabs and closed her eyes, holding in the tears that, suddenly, threatened to overflow.AMFMC Quote

Her family was gone—all of them. Thomas was her nearest blood relative, and he had his own place, his own role as consort to the future Lady of the Vale.

She…was alone. Completely alone. She had no place, no role—no life.

She was the one left behind.

But she knew the clan wouldn’t throw her out; she would have a place, a role, within it, even if she didn’t yet know what that would be.

She told herself to remain positive, or at least to keep her thoughts focused on what she yet had to do that day, on what lay immediately ahead.

The clan meeting to elect a new laird.

She sighed, opened her eyes, and glanced out of the window. “One way or another, I will find a way.”

Buy, read, and discuss A Match for Marcus Cynster

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


About Stephanie Laurens Stephanie Laurens

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


Giveaway AMFMC Prize Pack

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Stephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, May 12th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, May 13th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, May 14th: In the Hammock

Friday, May 15th: Broken Teepee

Monday, May 18th: Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, May 19th: Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, May 20th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 21st: Bell, Book & Candle

Friday, May 22nd: Urban Girl Reader

Monday, May 25th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Tuesday, May 26th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, May 27th: The Romance Dish

Wednesday, May 27th: Read Love Blog

Thursday, May 28th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, May 29th: Written Love Reviews

The Mapmaker’s Children, by Sarah McCoy (@SarahMMcCoy) #review @TLCBookTours #Giveaway

The Mapmaker's Children

About the book, The Mapmaker’s Children The Mapmaker's Children, by Sarah McCoy

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Crown (May 5, 2015)

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

Buy, read, and discuss The Mapmaker’s Children

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah McCoy Sarah McCoy

SARAH McCOY is the  New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Ricoand The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas.

Connect with Sarah

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

There are novels that you pick up thinking, “Hmm, this might be interesting,” and then you forget you have them until weeks later, when they resurface and you find yourself gripped – completely gripped – by the story, and kicking yourself for not reading it the second you got home. The Mapmaker’s Children was almost like that for me, because the original galley provider ignored my request for it more than once, and then when I finally got it, I was convinced it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea at all.

I was wrong.

I was so very wrong.

First, the historical part of this story – a fictional possibility of what the life of Sarah Brown, daughter of famed abolitionist James Brown (and, yes, you will have the song rolling through the back of your mind as you read this) may have been like, suggesting that she might have followed in her father’s footsteps, and put her artistic talent to use making maps for use on the Underground Railroad, is amazing. Yes, it’s fiction, but it’s fiction that feels completely plausible, especially since the author worked in real world touches. I especially liked the fact that Louisa May Alcott’s book of fairy stories was an important element of the story, and that so many real historical figures (including Louisa and her father Bronson) were rubbing elbows with the fictional, and quasi-fictional characters.

Then, there’s the contemporary part of the story. As a woman in her 40s who has had two miscarriages, Eden’s desperation to have a child resonated with me (though in my case, dogs are totally a substitute for children; I have five.) in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Her story was one where at times I wanted to hug her, at times I wanted to throttle her, and most of the time, I wanted to bake her some scones, brew some really good coffee and sit down for a cathartic venting session.

Author Sarah McCoy wove both stories, one based on history, one based on so many contemporary stories, into one lovely, gorgeous, satisfying tapestry of a novel. It made me want to go upstairs, pull out a quilting book and FINALLY learn to do something beyond hemming pants with my sewing machine. It also made me want to bake organic meatloaf suitable for all members of my family, whether they have two feet or four.

The Mapmaker’s Children is a well-crafted, brilliantly written novel, and I highly recommend it, especially to animal lovers, childless adults, and history buffs.

Goes well with Roasted free-range chicken with buttered carrots, and a spring green salad. Homemade cornbread on the side.


Giveaway The Mapmaker's Children, by Sarah McCoy

One lucky reader in the USA or Canada will win a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (include a valid email address in the comment form – only I will see the email address) telling me what historical figure you’d most like to hang out and have coffee with. Alternatively, find my post about this book in my twitter feed (I’m @melysse) and retweet it.

The winner will be announced next Thursday.


Sarah’s Tour Schedule: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 21st: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, April 22nd: My Book Retreat

Thursday, April 23rd: BookNAround

Monday, April 27th: Man of La Book

Tuesday, April 28th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 29th: Always With a Book

Thursday, April 30th: Booksie’s Blog

Monday, May 4th: The Book Binder’s Daughter

Tuesday, May 5th: Books on the Table

Wednesday, May 6th: West Metro Mommy

Thursday, May 7th: Bibliotica

Friday, May 8th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, May 11th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, May 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, May 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, May 14th: FictionZeal

Friday, May 15th: Bookshelf Fantasies

Monday, May 18th: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, May 19th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, May 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, May 21st: Diary of an Eccentric

Friday, May 22nd: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

Monday, May 25th: Readers’ Oasis

Tuesday, May 26th: Walking With Nora

Wednesday, May 27th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, May 28th: Reading Reality

Friday, May 29th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, June 1st: Doing Dewey

Tuesday, June 2nd: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, June 3rd: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, June 4th: Drey’s Library

Tuesday, June 9th: The Book Bag

Wednesday, June 10th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, June 11th: Literary Feline

Friday, June 12th: Broken Teepee

Monday, June 15th: Staircase Wit

Running Fire, by Lindsay McKenna (@lindsaymckenna) #review @TLCBookTours #Giveaway

Running Fire

About the book, Running Fire Running Fire

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (April 28, 2015)

He was a haven in the midst of Hell…

Temporarily assigned to the Shadow Squadron in a troubled region of Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer and pilot Leah Mackenzie is no stranger to conflict—even if most of her physical and emotional scars are courtesy of her vicious ex. Still, she’s got a bad feeling about picking up a team of stranded SEALs. A feeling that’s all too justified once enemy fire hits their helicopter and all hell breaks loose…

SEAL Kell Ballard’s goal was to get the injured pilot out of harm’s way and find shelter deep in the labyrinth of caves. It’s a place of dark intimacy, where Leah finds unexpected safety in a man’s arms. Where prohibited attraction burns brightly. And where they’ll hide until the time comes to face the enemy outside…and the enemy within their ranks.

Buy, read, and discuss Running Fire

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


About the author, Lindsay McKenna Lindsay McKenna

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition.  Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women.  Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.

Connect with Lindsay

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I don’t read a lot of Harlequin novels. Oh, I’m not judging – they’re great novels when you want to escape into something fun and frothy for a couple of hours, and the contemporary incarnation of the imprint tends to favor strong female characters who have lived a little bit, rather than doe-eyed, barely post-pubescent innocents. I don’t typically read them simply because it doesn’t occur to me.

That said, when I was offered the chance to read Lindsay McKenna’s Running Fire I said, “Please, sign me up,” because I’m do enjoy a good romance from time to time, and because the military aspect appealed to me. I am, after all, the granddaughter of a career Army officer, and a member of Soldiers’ Angels. As well, I lost a really good friend a couple of years ago, a friend who was one of my oldest ‘blog buddies’ and whose last email to me included pictures of an afternoon in Kabul. (He survived two tours in that region, only to die of cancer at far too young an age, but that’s another story.)

In any case, I began reading Ms. McKenna’s novel and found myself devouring it over the space of just a few hours. Her depiction of the male lead, Kell, matches my own experience with the SEALs I’ve met: off the job, they tend to be incredibly intelligent, kind, people, but once they’re in work mode their focus is laser-sharp. Likewise, I enjoyed seeing military life from the point of view of a woman who as also an officer. McKenna did a really good job of letting Leah be vulnerable, without diminishing the fact of her own training. Even when she was injured, she was never entirely helpless, and I thought the whole Leah/Kell relationship was treated as one of equals who had differing strengths.

To be honest, I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. I think I always start any military story being wary of the politics that might crop up. (Mine are decidedly liberal – I’m very much of the ‘love the soldier, hate the war’ school of thought). I needn’t have been concerned. In this story, there’s almost no mention of politics. Instead everything is very much in the present for each character: what do I have to do to survive this day, and improve my connection to this other person?

As a novel that does take place ‘in theater,’ as well as one that deals with (I’m trying hard not to spoil plot) past sexual abuse, there are a couple of bits of violence that may be off-putting for some readers, but it wasn’t gratuitous violence, and it wasn’t described in the kind of visceral detail that is likely to cause nightmares or anything.

As I said, I rarely read Harlequin novels, but when I do, I’m happy to share what I’ve read. I found McKenna’s work so engaging that I’m curious to read other novels in this series.

Goes well with Any variety of MRE…no, just kidding. Cheeseburgers, crinkle-cut fries, and Coca-cola.


Giveaway

If you want to experience Lindsay McKenna’s military romances for yourself, I have the opportunity for ONE reader from the USA or Canada to receive a copy of an earlier title in this collection: Taking Fire.

Taking Fire

To win: leave a comment here (make sure you leave a valid email address when filling out the comment form) or tweet about this review, and tag me in your tweet (@Melysse). I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday.


Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 13th: Book Mama Blog – author guest post

Monday, April 20th: Feminist Reflections

Tuesday, April 21st: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, April 22nd: The World As I See It

Thursday, April 23rd: Romance Novels for the Beach

Friday, April 24th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Monday, April 27th: The Romance Dish – author guest post

Monday, April 27th: Hot Guys in Books

Monday, April 27th: Booked on a Feeling

Tuesday, April 28th: My Life. One Story At a Time.

Wednesday, April 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, April 30th: Mignon Mykel Reviews

Friday, May 1st: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Monday, May 4th: Books and Spoons

Tuesday, May 5th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, May 6th: Bibliotica – That’s ME.

Thursday, May 7th: The Pen and Muse

Friday, May 8th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, May 8th: Written Love Reviews

Monday, May 11th: Life is Story

Wednesday, May 13th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, May 14th: Read Love Blog

The Accidental Pilgrim, by Stephen Kitsakos (@stephenkitsakos) #review @TLCBookTours

About the book The Accidental Pilgrim The Accidental Pilgrim

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: ASD Publishing (January 20, 2015)

In the summer of 1974, Dr. Rose Strongin, a marine biologist, inexplicably disappears for three hours on the last day of an archaeological dig at the Sea of Galilee. She has no memory of the disappearance, but it causes her to miss her flight home from Israel. That plane, TWA 841, explodes over the Mediterranean killing all aboard. Twelve years later she learns that a 2,000 year-old perfectly preserved vessel, dubbed the “Jesus Boat,” is uncovered at the site of her disappearance and she begins to understand what happened and why.

The novel crosses several decades exploring the intersection of science, religion and the unexplainable as a family gathers to say goodbye to the matriarch who held a family secret.

Buy, read, and discuss The Accidental Pilgrim

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Kitsakos Stephen Kitsakos

Stephen Kitsakos is a theatre writer and journalist as well as the author of three opera librettos. His current project is the opera adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s international bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Suns with music by Sheila Silver. Other works include the Sackler-Prize award winning “The Wooden Sword” and “The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion” for the Smithsonian Institution. His work often explores the connection between religion and art. He divides his time between Key West and New York.

Connect with Stephen

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts:

I tend to be pretty wary about any novel that is remotely related to religion, but I trust Trish at TLC Book Tours, so when she highlighted The Accidental Pilgrim and said she thought I’d really appreciate it, I said, “Okay.” In truth, I wish I’d had more time to sit with this novel before posting my review, because while the surface story is an easy one, the deeper story requires some digestion.

I’m glad I did, because this book a gem of a novel. First the story is completely compelling, combining family drama both in the present, as a father and his three grown children come together to pay last respects to his wife/their mother, and in the past, as we meet Rose (the wife/mother) in flashbacks and memories. Actually it’s pretty gutsy for a writer to have the main character begin the novel already dead, but this novel is really Rose’s story, though her husband (Simon) and her children (Sharon, Barbara, Nathan) have their parts to play.

Every single character was memorable, though Nathan is my favorite of the ‘children.’ I understood his prickly moodiness – he’s a musician, after all – and resonated with it. I loved experiencing Rose’s journey through her own eyes, and through the eyes of those around her. I also liked the way every character was flawed, and so very real. The two daughters, one like her mother, one more like her father, reminded me of my own aunts and their ability to bicker constantly but still completely love each other.

Then there’s the setting: most of the novel takes place on the Sea of Galilee, so we get to glimpse both contemporary Israel, and the Israel of the recent past, as well as a few other time-hops that I won’t go into for fear of spoiling some truly interesting plot twists. I’ve never had a particular desire to visit contemporary Israel (my fantasies tend to involve places like Fez, Tangier, or Algiers), but this novel gave me a deep appreciation for a region that is so entwined in political and cultural turmoil that I doubt resolution will ever come.

Finally, there is the author’s sense of craft. In an email to him yesterday, I commented that I loved the way he told us the way characters pronounced things – it really made me hear the subtle accents – Canadian, American, Russian, Israeli, British, etc. – and added a layer of realism that truly made the novel sing. Specifically, I mentioned a line early in the novel where he describes a character saying the word “kids” with a “k” that sounds like “…a small ball of phlegm stuck in his throat…” That’s the first example that struck me, but those little touches and nuances exist throughout the novel.

As I said, I’m wary about novels that have anything to do with religion, but when I open myself to one, I’m invariably led to a place where I’m provoked to examine some of my own beliefs and attitudes. (And as a culturally Catholic, liberal Episco-tarian (I’m UU in my heart but love the ritual and language of the Episcopal church) feminist with an ethnically Jewish stepfather and a Baptist husband, you can IMAGINE what my beliefs and attitudes might be.) This happened to me when I first read Madeleine L’Engle’s Certain Women. It happened when I read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. It also happened as I was reading this book, The Accidental Pilgrim.

If you’re in the mood for family drama, this novel will appeal to you, and it’s possible to read it and just skim the surface. If, however, you prefer to delve deeper, this novel is meaty enough to satisfy anyone’s craving for a discussion of philosophy, religion, and science, and where the three intersect.

Goes well with mint tea, falafel, tabbouleh, and a handful of Medjool dates.


Stephen’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 27th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, April 30th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Monday, May 4th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

Tuesday, May 5th: Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, May 6th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Friday, May 8th: Mom in Love With Fiction

Monday, May 18th: Victoria Weisfeld

Monday, May 25th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, June 25th: Wall-to-Wall Books

TBD: Novel Escapes

About a Girl, by Lindsey Kelk (@LindseyKelk) #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, About a Girl About a Girl

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 14, 2015)

Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when the Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her roommate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, she might try being Vanessa. With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble. And the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster. Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…

Buy, read, and discuss About a Girl

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Lindsey Kelk Lindsey Kelk

Lindsey Kelk is a writer and children’s book editor. When she isn’t writing, reading, listening to music, or watching more TV than is healthy, Lindsey likes to wear shoes, shop for shoes, and judge the shoes of others. Born in England, Lindsey loves living in New York but misses Sherbet Fountains, London, and drinking gin and elderflower cocktails with her friends. Not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Lindsey

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

From the first words of the preface to the last word of the last page I was hooked by the fresh, funny, fantastic read. Who among us doesn’t want to step into someone else’s life for a while? Which of us hasn’t been tempted to try to be someone we’re not?

What I love about this novel is that the author, Lindsey Kelk, really captured the truth inside a preposterous situation. Scenes that would have been played solely for laughs under less meticulous crafting, instead balanced humor and pathos. This is especially true with the lead character, Tess, whose voice narrates the novel, but even scenes where she wasn’t the central figure never felt two-dimensional.

I also love Kelk’s use of language, especially the way twenty-somethings tend to overuse casual curse words. I remember the my friends and I all had such potty mouths at that age, even though we were all working professionals. It was as if we were reveling in some kind of lingering linguistic freedom, a last frolic before we reached thirty. (Translation: Tess uses the word ‘fuck’ a lot. I find this to be a perfectly legitimate character choice.) Also, as an American reader, I have to say, I’ve always thought the British concept of “you’ve been made redundant” sounds so much kinder than “you’re fired,” even though the meaning is the same.

While Tess’s story may not appeal to everyone, if you’re looking for a fast, entertaining read – perfect for the beach or bathtub! – About a Girl is just about the best choice you could make. Read it now, so you’re prepared for the sequel, What a Girl Wants, which was published in the UK last summer, and is due to hit the USA soon.

Goes well with Poi, barbecued pork, and any drink that comes in a hollowed-out coconut or pineapple. Bonus if there’s also an umbrella.


Lindsey’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 14th: Unshelfish

Wednesday, April 15th: The Book Bag

Thursday, April 16th: BookNAround

Friday, April 17th: Stephany Writes

Monday, April 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, April 21st: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, April 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, April 27th: girlichef

Tuesday, April 28th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 29th: Books and Binding

Thursday, April 30th: fangirl confessions

TBD: Kahakai Kitchen

Ivory Ghosts, by Caitlin O’Connell #review #giveaway @TLCBookTours

About the book, Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery Ivory Ghosts

  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Alibi (April 7, 2015)

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.

But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.

Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.

Buy, read, and discuss Ivory Ghosts

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


About the author, Caitlin O’Connell

A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNu Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media.

When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.


My Thoughts

It’s apparently the Year of the Elephant on my reading list, because this novel was the second of three elephant themed books I’ve got on my slate between now and the end of June. (The first was The Tusk that Did the Damage which I reviewed here.)

This novel is also a mystery, and you all know I love mysteries. Author Caitlin O’Connell took the sage advice to “write what you know” to heart, and used her own field expertise on elephants to create the setting and background for Ivory Ghosts, and in doing so she follows in the footsteps of people like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Kathy Reichs, who all spun their science careers into entertaining, educational, and interesting novels and short stories.

O’Connell’s descriptions are so vivid, her sense of place so strong, that when Catherine spent her first night in the ranger station’s less-than-comfortable cabin, I was sweaty and itchy in sympathy. Likewise, the characters she draws feel incredibly real, and completely believable.

The author’s use of elephant poaching and the ivory industry as both background and plot point made Ivory Ghosts as topical as it was terrifying. Early in the novel, Catherine stumbles upon a murder scene, and things only get more thrilling from there – but Catherine is also shown to be a flawed, feeling, human being, one we care about, root for, and ultimately hope (at least I do) we will get to travel with again.

This may be the author’s debut novel, but it reads like something from a seasoned professional, and I really hope O’Connell’s first foray into fiction is as successful as her non-fiction literary career seems to be.

Goes well with Ethiopian food (yes, even though it’s a completely different region), especially that tart yogurt, injera bread, and stewed lentils and sweet potatoes, and Tusker’s beer.


Giveaway

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of IVORY GHOSTS. Here is the coding for the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Caitlin O’Connell’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 6th: 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, April 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, April 9th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, April 13th: Book Nerd

Monday, April 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, April 15th: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, April 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, April 17th: Reading Reality

Monday, April 20th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 22nd: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, April 24th: Back Porchervations

Monday, April 27th: A Book Geek

Tuesday, April 28th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, April 29th: Life Between Reads

Thursday, April 30th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Monday, May 4th: The Novel Life