Review: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman

About the book, The Welcome Home DinerThe Welcome Home Diner

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Buy, read, and discuss The Welcome Home Diner:

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


About the author, Peggy Lampman

Peggy LampmanPeggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

Connect with Peggy:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I didn’t grow up working in the New Jersey diner my family owned, but that’s mostly because my mother moved us away from New Jersey… and also because I was too young… but I have fond memories of spinning on the blue vinyl stools until I was sick, or arriving with my grandparents and being given a dish of my cousin Anthony’s amazing rice pudding.

Peggy Lampman’s novel The Welcome Home Diner reminded me of all the best parts of the diner experience – the regulars, being an integral part of the neighborhood – but it also reminded me of the drama that comes with any family-owned business: the resentment, the stress, the struggle to have a life separate from work.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Addie and Samantha, these cousins who act much like sisters. I have cousins like that as well, but I’m not sure I’d want to go into business with them.

While the diner Addie and Samantha are trying to restore and reopen is almost its own character in this story, I found the heart of the novel to be family. What won’t we do for those we love, and what will we jump into, sometimes without due preparation?

Full of vivid characters, emotionally truthful situations, and great descriptions, The Welcome Home Diner is better than any blue plate special.

Goes well with a cup of coffee and a dish of rice pudding.


Peggy Lampman’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 16th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 17th: A Thousand Books to Read

Wednesday, October 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Thursday, October 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, October 20th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram

Saturday, October 21st: Beth Fish Reads

Monday, October 23rd: The Sketchy Reader

Tuesday, October 24th: The Sketchy Reader – recipe from the book

Tuesday, October 24th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, October 25th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 26th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 27th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Wednesday, November 1st: Why Girls are Weird

Thursday, November 2nd: Bookchickdi

Friday, November 3rd: BookNAround

Monday, November 6th: Read Write Repeat

Tuesday, November 7th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, November 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 9th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Friday, November 10th: What is That Book About

Review: Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee, by Gregory MaguireAbout the book, Hiddensee

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)

From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

Buy, read, and discuss Hiddensee:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Gregory Maguire Gregory-Maguire-AP-2017-Photo-credit-Andy-Newman

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes WickedSon of a WitchA Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Connect with Gregory:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of The Nutcracker in all its variations since a family friend gifted me with a copy of the book A Very Young Dancer when I was five. Forty-two years later, I still can’t get enough of it. The Tchaikovsky music is ever present in my iTunes playlist, and I spend the month of December watching every single production of the ballet that makes it to cable. (Ovation‘s annual ‘Battle of the Nutcrackers’ is a favorite event.) Somewhere in a box, I even have a wooden nutcracker doll, sent to me by my oldest auntie, when she and her husband were stationed in Ramstein, Germany in the 1970s.

My point is, The Nutcracker is part of my DNA, and the reason I was initially drawn to read and review this book, Hiddensee.

The thing is, Gregory Maguire’s novel has no resemblance to the story we all love. At first, that was disappointing. I was looking forward to an in-depth look at the Nutcracker-Prince’s story. I was hoping for the unresolved sexual tension between Herr Drosselmeier and Klara (known as Marie in some versions of the story) to be resolved.

That is not what Hiddensee is.

Instead, Maguire’s novel is the origin story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the boy who grows up to become the toymaker who creates the famous doll.

In terms of style and craft, Hiddensee is excellent. Maguire has a way of using simple language to create vivid scenes, evoke real emotion, and immerse us in whatever world he’s choosing to inhabit. In this novel, he recreated the tone of all those early E.T.A. Hoffman (who wrote the original Nutcracker fairy tale) and the Brothers Grimm, mixing in more than a little German romanticism. If you’ve ever read Rilke or Goethe, you will be extremely comfortable with Hiddensee, because it has that faintly dreamlike quality those two poets used to great effect.

In terms of story, I was a little disappointed. Oh, I was invested in young Dirk as a character, but I was expecting a Nutcracker story, not a coming-of-age story about a young man. As well, I found that this novel lacked Maguire’s typically excellent pacing, having a start-and-stop effect that I found a bit off-putting.

Perhaps my perception was colored by expectation, or perhaps in the twenty years since Maguire gave us Wicked (and I was an early reader of that novel), he’s lost sight of his goals, because I’m honestly not entirely sure what story he was trying to tell. Dirk is an interesting young man, but there was an air of detachment about him – almost as if he was on the Asperger’s spectrum – that kept me slightly disconnected from his story.

Then, too, there was the fact that every time the story started to rev up, it seemed to stall.

Don’t get me wrong, an ‘average’ offering from Maguire is still more engaging than any offering from a host of other authors, and there was much about this story to love – introductions to German philosophy included – but if you’re going into it expecting it to be a rehashing of the ballet or the fairy tale, you will be disappointed.

Bottom line: read this without the ballet goggles and you’ll find much to enjoy.

Goes well with chestnut pastries and strong coffee.


Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 31st: BookExpression

Wednesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 2nd: Man of La Book

Friday, November 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, November 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 7th: The Sketchy Reader

Wednesday, November 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Wednesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Thursday, November 9th: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 10th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, November 13th: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, November 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 15th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, November 17th: Based on a True Story

Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisted, by Sarah Miller – with Giveaway

About the book, Caroline

Caroline: Little House, Revisited• Hardcover: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 19, 2017)

A September Indie Next Pick

One of Refinery29’s Best Reads of September

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly re-imagines our past.

Buy, read, and discuss Caroline:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Miller

Sarah MillerSarah Miller began writing her first novel at the age of ten, and has spent the last two decades working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of two previous historical novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown. Her nonfiction debut, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, was hailed by the New York Times as “a historical version of Law & Order.” She lives in Michigan.

Connect with Sarah:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSometimes a book falls into your life at exactly the right time, and that’s what happened to me with this book, Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

While I typically start looking for scary reads around this time of year, we’ve had some family events that stirred my need for warmth and comfort in my reading, and what could be more comforting than a novel that tells the familiar story of Little House on the Prairie, in a new and unfamiliar way: it’s not written for children, and it’s from Ma’s – that’s the Caroline in the book – point of view.

What I appreciated was that author Sarah Miller’s use of language, while sophisticated, managed to stay in a tone that was reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original books. This gave the story an air of authenticity, and also made it feel like the literary equivalent of home. I wasn’t transported to the bedroom in Georgetown, CO that I inhabited as a seven-year-old reading through all the novels, but I did have the sense that I was visiting a former hometown and seeing it through adult eyes.

I also really liked the glimpses of the physical intimacy – little touches – between Caroline and Charles. We don’t see a lot of their relationship in Wilder’s books, but Miller had the room to play a bit, and as a result both of the adult Ingallses are made more dimensional, and even – dare I say it? more human.

One thing that struck me was that Miller gave Caroline a lot of agency. She could have prevented  – or at least delayed – the initial move from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to the Kansas prairie, but chose not to.

Those who are only familiar with the books will notice that this story is more true to the facts of the Ingalls’ life than to Wilder’s novels, which fictionalized her life. Baby Carrie, for example, is not yet born at the star of the book.

While this book is most likely to appeal to people like me, who are big fans of All Things Laura, I think it would be a satisfying read for almost anyone who likes historical fiction or Americana.

Goes well with fresh, hot cornbread with tart cherry jam, and hot coffee.


Giveaway

Caroline: Little House, RevisitedOne lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your own experiences with the Little House books. Or if you haven’t read them, tell me what book series is like home to you.

(You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, October 6th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, September 19th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, September 20th: BookExpression

Thursday, September 21st: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, September 26th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, September 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, September 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, September 28th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, October 2nd: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Tuesday, October 3rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, October 4th: A Bookworm’s World

Thursday, October 5th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 6th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, October 9th: View from the Birdhouse

TBD: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Review: Presidents’ Day by Seth Margolis

About the book, Presidents’ Day Presidents' Day

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Diversion Publishing (February 7, 2017)

For readers of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer comes a timely political thriller from the bestselling author of Losing Isaiah.

In this twisting, ferocious novel of suspense, the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top. Each man has a locked closet of secrets. And one man holds every key.

Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk / high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and made an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition–to select the next President of the United States–and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond.

It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is a part of the political process, where anyone’s life is up for sale, and where one man–that bad penny of an enemy–could bring the whole kingdom toppling.

As the new President is inaugurated, Seth Margolis has penned a perfect thriller for the voting public, one that asks who really puts the next person in the White House? And at what cost?

Buy, read, and discuss Presidents’ Day:

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


About the author, Seth Margolis Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

Connect with Seth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If I hadn’t read enough interviews with author Seth Margolis to know that he’d written Presidents’ Day  before Donald Trump ever announced that he was running for president last year, I’d have been convinced this novel was inspired by real events.

In actuality, however, Margolis’s work is witty and smart, two traits that reality seems to be somewhat lacking these days, and his globe-spanning story of power machinations, intrigue, and retribution is a meaty, gripping novel that kept me enthralled for the entire 360 pages.

It’s also a novel with a fairly substantial cast of character. Julian Mellow, is, of course the central character, with Zach Springer being one of the other main voices we hear, but I definitely felt like there was a sort of ‘cast of thousands’ inhabiting the pages of this book.

What really struck me was the cinematic quality to Margolis’s writing. From the opening scene in San Francisco, to the final one in Florida this book is immersive. I could feel the steepness of that hill in the first chapter and see the drab, grubby room in the last, and in between, whether the setting was an opulent hotel, a conference room in an office building, or the White House, itself, the sense of place is incredibly strong.

Ultimately, Presidents’ Day is a read with as much social commentary as satisfying plot twists, and I recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers or political fiction.

Goes well with a Reuben sandwich and a bottle of micro-brew beer.


Seth Margolis’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 31st: Tales of a Book Addict

Wednesday, August 2nd: Write Read Life

Monday, August 7th: Book Nerd

Tuesday, August 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 10th: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Friday, August 11th: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Tuesday, August 15th: Helen’s Book Blog

Wednesday, August 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 24th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Friday, August 25th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, August 31st: Bibliotica

Thursday, August 31st: Tome Tender

Monday, September 4th: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Staircase Wit

TBD: Blogging with A

TBD: Brooke Blogs

Review: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel, by Maria Murnane

About the book, Bridges: A Daphne White Novel Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

 

  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Kindle Press (April 4, 2017)

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

Buy, read, and discuss Bridges:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Maria Murnane Maria Murnane

A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the bestselling author of Wait for the Rain, Katwalk, and International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane, as well as the Waverly Bryson series: Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Originally from California, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Connect with Maria:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I haven’t been single in decades, and I don’t count as young anymore, but there is something universal about Maria Murnane’s trio of women friends, Daphne, Skylar, and KC (Krissa). I didn’t feel too old while reading this novel, nor did I feel out of touch. Instead, I enjoyed a funny, sweet, sometimes poignant novel about a trio of women who truly represent what friendship can, and should, be.

Author Murnane is particularly adept at differentiating the voices and personalities of each woman: free-spirited Skylar, KC who’s dating woes inform her life, but don’t define her, and Daphne, the aspiring novelist. Even though this trio was new to me (this was my first introduction to Maria Murnane’s work, so I never read the first book in this series), I didn’t feel like I was missing crucial information. Their stories come out organically.

Writing believable dialogue is always difficult, and I’ve read comments from readers who felt the dialogue in this book was its weak point. I disagree. My friends and I often use our own vocabulary, that’s at times more formal or more casual (depending on the situation) than whatever is perceived to be the social ‘norm.’ Do Murnane’s characters talk like everyone else? Not exactly. But I felt this made their personalities and their friendship more distinct, more specific.

Overall, I found this to be a great story of love, triumph, struggles, and perseverance, and through it all the friendship of this trio of women was both a unifying thread and a lovely bridge between past and present, present and future, what we thought we wanted, and what we actually need.

Goes well with endless cups of coffee and chocolate chip cookies.


Buy, read, and discuss Bridges: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Review: Forever Rose, by Carmen M. Oprea

Forever RoseAbout the book, Forever Rose

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon.com (December 9, 2016)

Alessandro Santini, an Italian doctor from the twenty-first century, lives an ordinary life in modern day Florence. But one evening, he passes through a swirling vortex caused by a supermoon and discovers he has stepped three hundred years into the past. Countess Rose Estes is torn between following her dream of becoming a historical painter and her duty toward her family. After Rose’s father is wounded during her birthday ball, Alex and Rose burn with questions: Who attacked him with a flying dagger? Why? Forced to go to Siena and spend fourteen months together, Rose and Alex find themselves drawn to each other as they search for answers and discover secrets that go deeper than they ever imagined. As the portal’s opening approaches, Alex finds out that Rose has been poisoned through the roses she’s been receiving. He has two choices to save her life—take Rose to his time or go by himself and bring the medication she needs.

Buy, read, and discuss Forever Rose

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Carmen Monica Oprea

Born in Vaslui, Romania, and educated in both Romania and America, Carmen has been in the US since 2001. She’s smart, gorgeous, kind, and her accent is utterly charming (Romanian with a hint of Nashville, where she now lives). Her debut novel combines time travel and romance with an intriguing historical mystery.

She also blogs about life, miracles, gratitude, simplicity, and interior decorating.

Connect with Carmen

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Every so often a book comes your way that defies categorization. That’s the case with Forever Rose, which is both a contemporary story in an historical setting, and an historical romance with contemporary bookends. As well, it’s also a fantasy with a touch of magical realism, and there’s an element of mystery to round things out.

But a book is not merely its category, and Forever Rose transcends all of the possible boxes it could fit into, and is, ultimately, a wonderfully romantic, sometimes funny – sometimes poignant, strangely compelling story that takes you from the contemporary world of medicine and laser technology to eighteenth-century Florence, and makes you look up at the full moon and wonder what magic it might bring to your life.

Author Carmen Monica Oprea writes her period characters with an ease that I wish more writers would find. They never sound out of place, or out of time, but neither is their language stilted or inaccessible. Her lead character, Rose, is both wise and witty, despite being just twenty (though, obviously twenty in the 1700s is much different than twenty today), an accomplished painter, and a surprisingly enlightened young woman. Her sister is more ‘typical’  – overly entitled and somewhat annoying – and her parents feel period appropriate, but are also fully realized characters, and not just cardboard cutouts.

Similarly, Alessandro Santini – Alex – the young doctor who steps back in time during a full moon – is perfectly plausible as a doctor who has known tragedy and is too alone in our world that is so bright and antiseptic. I really liked him, and I was willing to follow him on his journey.

At 303 pages in the paperback version, this novel is just long enough to be really satisfying, but short enough that, if you’re me, you can read it on a single, stormy afternoon. While I figured out the ‘mystery’ part of the story relatively quickly, knowing the truth of ‘whodunnit’ did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all.

If you are in the mood for a romance that is a bit meatier and includes a bit more of a speculative bent than most such stories, or if you just want to read about the lengths people will go when they find the person who is right for them, you will love this book, Forever Rose.

Goes well with a glass of homemade limoncello, sipped slowly in the moonlight with the love of your life.

 

 

Review: The Beach at Painter’s Cove, by Shelley Noble

The Beach at Painter's CoveAbout the book, The Beach at Painter’s Cove

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 13, 2017)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach comes another heartwarming story of four generations of women who reunite in their crumbling family mansion by the sea for a dramatic summer filled with love, family, secrets and sisterhood.

The Whitaker family’s Connecticut mansion, Muses by the Sea, has always been a haven for artists, a hotbed of creativity, extravagances, and the occasional scandal. Art patrons for generations, the Whitakers supported strangers but drained the life out of each other. Now, after being estranged for years, four generations of Whitaker women find themselves once again at The Muses.

Leo, the Whitaker matriarch, lives in the rambling mansion crammed with artwork and junk. She plans to stay there until she joins her husband Wes on the knoll overlooking the cove and meadow where they first met. Her sister-in-law Fae, the town eccentric, is desperate to keep a secret she has been hiding for years.

Jillian, is a jet setting actress, down on her luck, and has run out of men to support her. She thinks selling The Muses will make life easier for her mother, Leo, and Fae by moving them into assisted living. The sale will also bring her the funds to get herself back on top.

Issy, Jillian’s daughter, has a successful life as a museum exhibit designer that takes her around the world. But the Muses and her grandmother are the only family she’s known and when her sister leaves her own children with Leo, Issy knows she has to step in to help.

Steph, is only twelve-years-old and desperately needs someone to fire her imagination and bring her out of her shell. What she begins to discover at the Muses could change the course of her future.

As Issy martials the family together to restore the mansion and catalogue the massive art collection, a surprising thing happens. Despite storms and moonlight dancing, diva attacks and cat fights, trips to the beach and flights of fancy, these four generations of erratic, dramatic women may just find a way to save the Muses and reunite their family.

Buy, read, and discuss The Beach at Painter’s Cove:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Shelley:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

My mother asked me, a few weeks ago, to recommend a “beach book,” with the understanding that, like me, she considers a beach book to be anything that takes place at or near the shore, not necessarily frothy fiction, so immediately I answered with this book. Then I realized this novel, The Beach at Painter’s Cove, hadn’t actually been released at that point, so I told her to get Shelly Noble’s previous novel.

I stand by both suggestions.

Author Noble has crafted a story, here, that introduces us to several generations of women in the same family, a family that isn’t particularly close, but that still has similar traits – running from responsibility among them -that are threaded through each character’s arc.

And there are a lot of characters. Even I, who don’t typically have such issues, had to really pay attention in the opening chapters to keep track of who was who and how they were related to each other, but once I understood each of the different personalities, I really enjoyed the way the various character arcs were woven together, and moved back and forth, rather like ocean waves on a breezy day.

I also want to mention that, appropriately, the family manse, The Muses, was absolutely a character in its own right, and I would happily have moved in, once restoration was complete.

I have a love for “project” stories  like this one, where a group of characters must come together to make,  build, or plan and execute something and it’s clear from her vivid descriptions that Ms. Noble must as well.

One thing I truly appreciated was that everything felt cinematic. I could see the houses, the chalk drawings, each character; I could feel breezes and smell flowers. I wouldn’t be surprise if this novel were optioned for a movie because everything felt so cohesive  – there was nothing extraneous, and yet nothing ever felt underwritten – that I believe it would play well on screen.

Goes well with hot coffee and strawberry-rhubarb pie, preferably eaten on a patio.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 6th: Book by Book

Wednesday, June 7th: alyssarossblog

Wednesday, June 7th: StephTheBookworm

Thursday, June 8th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, June 9th: Just Commonly

Friday, June 9th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, June 12th: The Book Bag

Tuesday, June 13th: BookNAround

Thursday, June 15th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, June 16th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, June 20th: My Journey Back

Tuesday, June 20th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 21st: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, June 22nd: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, June 23rd: Dreams, Etc.

TBD: Back Porchervations

TBD: A Chick Who Reads

 

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, by Suzanne Kamata

About the book, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (February 14, 2017)

Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal–the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana–has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one’s allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.

Buy, read, and discuss The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

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


About the author, Suzanne Kamata Suzanne Kamata

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Connect with Suzanne

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Like the main character of The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, Elise, I spent a lot of my teen years with my nose in a book, not bothering to be part of the social activities at my school. Like Elise, I am happiest when I’m in the water. But unlike Elise, I’m not a fictional character growing up in the midwest, and my own coming-of-age was vastly different than hers.

Still, I found the entire novel quite engaging. Elise is a relatable narrator, and the mixture of innocence and candor in her story captured my attention from the first page, and kept me reading to the last.

While this novel is Elise’s story, I found the arcs of the other characters who were spotlighted just as compelling. Amanda, the younger sister who is more advanced socially, Chiara, the wild best friend, and even Julia, Elise’s mother, whose secrets come out slowly, as her daughter discovers them.

It is this focus on the women in the piece that I found truly interesting about Kamata’s book. Certainly men are present – Elise’s father, Miguel, the gypsy she meets at the carnival, Chiara and Amanda’s respective boyfriends – but they are incidental, used to illustrate the changes in their female counterparts, more than fully-dimensional characters in their own right.

What results from this blend of honesty and exploration is a novel that feels both familiar and unfamiliar at once, like a long walk where there’s always something new and interesting around the next bend.


Suzanne Kamata’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 15th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, February 17th: Books ‘n Tea

Monday, February 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, February 21st: Write Read Life

Wednesday, February 22nd: Reading is My Superpower

Wednesday, February 22nd: Just Commonly

Thursday, February 23rd: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, February 24th: Readaholic Zone

Monday, February 27th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, March 1st: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, March 2nd: Sweet Southern Home

Friday, March 3rd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, March 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, March 7th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, March 9th: Art @ Home

Monday, March 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Wednesday, March 15th: Dreaming Big

Monday, March 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Lord of the Privateers, by Stephanie Laurens – with Giveaway

Lord of the PrivateersAbout the book, Lord of the Privateers

  • Series: Adventurers Quartet
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (December 27, 2016)

The eldest of the Frobisher brothers and widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final leg of the rescue mission his brothers have been pursuing. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking his emotional nemesis, childhood sweetheart, ex-handfasted bride, and current business partner, Isobel Carmichael, with him. But is it Isobel doing the pressuring, or his own restless unfulfilled psyche?

Resolute, determined, and an all but unstoppable force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own—find her cousin Katherine and bring her safely home. And if, along the way, she can rid herself of the lingering dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her, well and good.

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail aboard Royd’s ship, much less the new horizons that open before them as they call into London, then, armed with the necessary orders and all arrangements in place, embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the mining compound buried in the jungle.

Yet even with the support of his brothers and their ladies and, once rescued, all the ex-captives, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. In order to identify and convict the backers behind the illicit enterprise—and protect the government from catastrophic destabilization—they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton, and with the help of a small army of supporters, hunt the villains on their home ground.

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could be theirs again, how much are they willing to risk in the name of duty?

Buy, read, and discuss Lord of the Privateers

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


Stephanie LaurensAbout the author, 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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I love a good swashbuckler, and I love a good romance, especially when the characters feel equally matched. In Lord of the Privateers, Stephanie Laurens gives us exactly that. The romance – actually a rekindling of a relationship both parties keep trying to forget – has just the right amount of sizzle, and the sparks aren’t limited just to chemistry. Isobel and Royd banter, argue, bicker, make up, and start all over, all while handling the care and maintenance of a shipyard, a sailing fleet, their specific ship the Corsair, family drama, and a greater mission.

And they do it well. Seriously if Amy Sherman Palladino or Aaron Sorkin wrote Age of Sail romantic comedies, the result would be Stephanie Laurens’ work, except that Laurens has her own voice, and her own point of view, and nothing she does feels anything but fresh, fun, and interesting.

What I loved was Isobel in general. Yes, I found one plot point – one key decision she made – a little contrived, but over all she’s smart, strong, funny, and supremely real.

What I didn’t love: no one used a cutlass to slide down a mainsail. Okay, these weren’t actually pirates, but privateers – there is a distinction – but still.

If you want a romance that will have you totally hooked from page one, that will make you sigh with longing even as you feel imagined salt air in your face, and also balances the love story with the adventure story,  Lord of the Privateers is the novel for you.

Goes well with fish and chips and a good ale.


Giveaway

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TLC book tours: Catherine Ryan HydeStephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 16th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 20th: Reading Reality

Monday, January 23rd: Buried Under Romance

Tuesday, January 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, January 25th: The Romance Dish

Friday, January 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 30th: Let Them Read Books – Excerpt

Wednesday, February 1st: A. Holland Reads

Friday, February 3rd: Becky on Books

Monday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, February 7th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 8th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Friday, February 10th: The Maiden’s Court