Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier #review #tlcbooktours

About Reader, I Married Himthe book Reader, I Married Him

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 22, 2016)

This collection of original stories by today’s finest women writers takes inspiration from the famous line in Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel, Jane Eyre.

A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered by readers all over the world. Her books featuring unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions today. And who could forget one of literatures’ best-known lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel Jane Eyre?

Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a great source of inspiration to writers, especially women, ever since. Now in Reader, I Married Him, twenty of today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Featured Authors

Featuring:

Tracy Chevalier – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Sarah Hall – Website | Facebook

Helen Dunmore – Website | Twitter

Kirsty Gunn – Website | Facebook

Joanna Briscoe – Website | Twitter

Emma Donoghue – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Susan Hill – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elif Shafak – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Evie Wyld – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Patricia Park – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Salley Vickers – Website | Twitter

Nadifa Mohamed – Twitter

Esther Freud – Website

Linda Grant – Website | Twitter

Lionel Shriver – Facebook

Audrey Niffenegger – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Namwali Serpell – Website | Twitter

Elizabeth McCracken – Website | Facebook | Twitter


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve had a long relationship with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. It began when I was pretty young –  nine or ten, I think – and found it on the shelf above my bed in the room I always used when I visited my grandparents over the summer. I remember reading it during a wild summer storm, and rereading it again several years later. It’s one of those novels I go back to, every so often, finding something new in it with every visit, as if it’s the book that’s changing, instead of me.

When I was offered the chance to review this anthology of short stories, all by women, inspired by Jane Eyre’s iconic line, “Reader, I married him,” I knew I had to read this book.

It’s a funny thing. I write short stories, but I don’t often read them any more. So first, this book reminded me that short stories are a great way to sample the work of a new author, or at least, an author who is new to me.

The stories in this anthology range from close interpretations (Grace Poole’s version of the story is especially poignant) to stories that only have unconventional marriages, or vague hand-waving in Jane’s direction to connect them with the original work.

I couldn’t possibly review all of them, but five of my favorites were:

  • “Dangerous Dog,” by Kirsty Gunn – a woman saves a dog and introduces would-be bullies to the joys of Jane.
  • “Reader, I Married Him,” by Susan Hill – about a rather famous unconventional marriage involving an American divorcee and an abdicating ruler.
  • “The Mirror,” by Francine Prose – a dark look at what happens in Jane and Rochester’s marriage after the novel ends. A concise, compelling, psychological thriller.
  • “Dorset Gap,” by Tracy Chevalier, who edited the anthology – Ed and Jenn met at a rave the night before, and now they’re on a hike.
  • “The Orphan Exchange,” by Audrey Niffenegger – re-sets the novel in a contemporary, albeit war-torn, country, with an ending that I’ve always suspected was a possibility.

But those five stories are only a representative sample… this collection looks at marriage from so many angles, and uses Jane Eyre as the connecting tissue, even if sometimes it’s not obvious.

What I loved is that each of these twenty-one tales was written by a woman, and each was completely relevant to modern readers, in a way the Brontë sisters’ work was to their contemporaries. As well, I’m tickled that there was diversity – older women, young girls, gay men, and lesbians, several religions, and many cultures (including one story about an Argentian-raised Korean woman in New York) were represented.

What I didn’t love is that there were only twenty-one stories. I’d love to see more. I’d love to see an annual contest sort of like the Strange New Worlds contest that used to be run every year for Star Trek fans, where aspiring writers could write their own short stories inspired by Jane.

Still, if the worst thing you can say about a book is that it left you wanting more, I think the author – or authors, in this case – has done their job.

Whether Jane Eyre was a literary companion of your childhood, or you met her later in life, there’s something for you in this collection, Reader, I Married Him.

Goes well with, a proper English tea, or a bowl of venison stew served near a crackling fire on a cold and rainy day.


 

Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, March 23rd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, March 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, March 25th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Monday, March 28th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, March 29th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, March 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, March 31st: Reading Reality

Friday, April 1st: View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, April 6th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, April 7th: Bibliotica

 

The Crooked Heart of Mercy, by Billie Livingston (@BillieLiving) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Crooked Heart of Mercy

• Paperback: 272 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 8, 2016)

The Crooked Heart of MercyFrom acclaimed Canadian novelist Billie Livingston comes this powerful U.S. debut that unfolds over a riveting dual narrative—an unforgettable story of ordinary lives rocked by hardship and scandal that follows in the tradition of Jennifer Haigh, A. Manette Ansay, and Jennifer Egan.

Ben wakes up in a hospital with a hole in his head he can’t explain. What he can remember he’d rather forget. Like how he’d spent nights as a limo driver for the wealthy and debauched . . . how he and his wife, Maggie, drifted apart in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy . . . how his little brother, Cola, got in over his head with loan sharks circling.

Maggie is alone. Again. With bills to pay and Ben in a psych ward, she must return to work. But who would hire her in the state she’s in? And just as Maggie turns to her brother, Francis, the Internet explodes with a video of his latest escapade. The headline? Drunk Priest Propositions Cops.

Francis is an unlikely priest with a drinking problem and little interest  in celibacy. A third DUI, a looming court date. . . .When Maggie takes him in, he knows he may be down to his last chance. And his best shot at healing might lay in helping Maggie and Ben reconnect—against all odds.

Buy, read, and discuss The Crooked Heart of Mercy

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Billie Livingston

Billie LivingstonBillie Livingston is the award-winning author of three novels, a collection of short stories, and a poetry collection.  Her most recent novel, One Good Hustle, a Globe and Mail Best Book selection, was nominated for the  Giller Prize and for the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book Award. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Connect with Billie

Find out more about Billie at her website and connect with her on Twitter.


My Thoughts

MelissaMake no mistake, this book, The Crooked Heart of Mercy is dark. It’s a difficult read, told in alternating first person chapters from Ben and Maggie, one of whom in in a psych ward, and the other of whom probably should be. It’s obvious from the start that these people have deep love for each other, but that love is being tested by circumstance, by low-percentage choices, and half a dozen other reasons that I don’t wish to list for fear of ruining the story.

The thing is, even though Maggie and Ben love each other, they’re both also fragile and broken. Maggie is trying to get her life back together, while Ben is trying to put his brain back together, and each, in their way, is also recovering from both a terrible personal tragedy, and the knowledge that their lifestyle was responsible for that tragedy.

Enter Maggie’s brother Francis. He’s a gay, alcoholic priest who decides that the best way to serve his penance, and kill his temptation for sex and booze, is to helf fix Maggie and Ben, as individuals and as a couple.

Author Billie Livingston nails the first person POVs  giving each character a distinctive voice. Ben’s parts are particularly surreal, as he literally has a hole in his head, while Maggie’s work the pathos – she really is struggling to improve.

I enjoyed the dark wit, the off kilter unfolding of the back story, and the earthy reality of the entire novel, but I also recognize that even for people like me, who appreciate snark and sarcasm and characters with somewhat murky moral codes this will be a difficult read. It deals with some difficult subjects and hard themes, and it deals with them in a brutally honest manner, but the storytelling is so good, that it sucks you in despite yourself, and you are compelled to keep reading until the ultimate resolution.

Goes well with pastrami on rye and a cold beer.


Tour Stops

TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 8th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, March 9th: BookNAround

Wednesday, March 9th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 10th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, March 11th: Bibliotica

Monday, March 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, March 15th: The Reader’s Hollow

Friday, March 18th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, March 21st: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, March 22nd: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, March 23rd: BoundbyWords

Thursday, March 24th: she treads softly

The Lady’s Command, by Stephanie Laurens #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Lady’s Command The Lady's Command

  • Series: The Adventurers Quartet (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (December 29, 2015)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens brings you THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, intrigue and romance

His to cherish

Declan Frobisher chose Lady Edwina Delbraith as his wife. Scion of a bold, seafaring dynasty, he’s accustomed to getting his way—Edwina would be the woman who graced his arm, warmed his bed and remained safely at home when he returned to sea. But once the knot is tied, Declan discovers Edwina is unconventional and strong-willed, and his marriage promises to be as tempestuous as the high seas.

Hers to command

Edwina’s fairy-princess beauty hides a spine of steel. Born into the aristocracy—born to rule—and with Declan’s ring gracing her finger, she expects to forge a marriage by his side. Then bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is recruited to sail on a secret mission. Edwina—naturally—declares she must accompany him.

Theirs to conquer

Facing unforeseen perils and unexpected enemies while battling to expose a dastardly scheme, Declan and Edwina discover that their unusual marriage demands something they both possess—bold and adventurous hearts.

JOIN THE ADVENTURERS—four couples whose passionate voyages will transport you. Start the journey here and follow the adventures, the mysteries and the romances to the cataclysmic end!

Buy, read, and discuss The Lady’s Command.

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


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Buckle your swashes and loosen those corsets so you can breathe because this book, the first in a quartet, both honors the historical romance genre and turns it on its ear, and it does so with a fast-paced adventure balanced with a believable love story that may not make you swoon, but it will definitely make you long for the cool sea breeze (and salt spray) in your face as you and your beloved ride the wild waves.

Here’s what I loved about this book: Declan and Edwina could be cookie-cutter romance novel characters. He’s the son of a seafaring family – rugged, dashing, well-informed. She’s an aristocrat born and bred, with the expected beauty that goes within such characters. But author Stephanie Laurens defies the trope by making Edwina an action-seeker in her own right. She doesn’t want to sit at home or pace a widow’s walk, she wants to be on the ship, at the wheel, with her husband. Better yet, Declan goes along with it, so husband and wife form a team.

I enjoyed the interplay between the two characters, and the way they would play against either other and with others when situations required it, but I also loved the way they would always come together in the end.

The dialogue and settings felt true to the period without being at all stilted (as can often happen in historical novels) and the supporting characters had enough dimension to feel like real people, whether they were sailors, other members of society, or just average people.

I’m not usually a fan of historical romances, but I am a great fan of any kind of high seas adventure, so asking to review this was an impulsive choice, and one I’m glad I made, because I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

My only issue with this novel is that it’s book one of a quartet, which means I have to read three more books to have the whole story!

(I expect I’ll survive.)

Don’t be a scurvy dog; read this book. You’ll enjoy every word of it.

Goes well with fresh caught fish, pan seared with limes, and a crisp chablis – OR – fish’n’chips with proper vinegar and a good local lager.


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

Monday, January 4th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, January 5th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Wednesday, January 13th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, January 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, January 18th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 19th: The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, January 21st: FictionZeal

Friday, January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, January 26th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Tuesday, January 26th: Books a la Mode – excerpt and giveaway

Thursday, January 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, January 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, February 1st: Bibliotica

TBD: One Curvy Blogger

TBD: Worth Getting in Bed For

Night Hawk by Lindsay McKenna (@lindsaymckenna) #review @TLCBookTours #Giveaway

About the book,  Night Hawk Night Hawk

  • Series: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (December 29, 2015)

ONCE UPON A RANCH IN WYOMING…

After losing his comrade, Sergeant Gil Hanford thought a visit to the man’s widow would be the decent way to honor his late friend. But Gil found more than comfort in Kai Tiernan—he had always secretly desired beautiful Kai, but a sudden, mutual passion helped assuage their grief…until duty reared its head, removing him from her arms, seemingly forever.

Four years later, Kai is starting over at the Triple H Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Born a rancher, she is looking for a new beginning—but her new boss is unforgivably familiar. Kai has tried to move past the memory of what happened between her and Gil, even though she’s never forgiven him for leaving her. But even as they begin their journey toward something new and oh-so-uncertain, a shadow emerges, determined to claim Kai for itself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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

Lindsay McKenna is a really engaging writer, and even though I don’t go out of my way to read romances, I pleaded to be allowed on this blog tour, because I respect her work so much. I love that she honors our military (active duty and veterans) by featuring military characters in her novels, and I love that she treats both the people and the institution with honesty and respect.

I am less a fan of westerns, so for me, Night Hawk was a little difficult because of the Wyoming ranch community setting. A childhood that took place, in part, in the Colorado Rockies, and a marriage that began in the Great Plains of South Dakota taught me that there is beauty in those rugged, wide open places, but I’m really glad I only ever have to visit them in books and movies. I’m a city girl with beachy proclivities, and I’m okay with that.

But enough about me. Kai, the heroine of this novel, is ex-military, retired after ten years of service, and looking for work as a wrangler or mechanic when we first meet her, and from page one, I wanted to befriend her. Gil, Kai’s one-time lover, and best friend of her deceased husband, is the perfect romance novel hero, but with the depth and nuance that only Ms. McKenna can bring. Actually, it’s her depiction of the heroes where I think McKenna particularly excels, because while romance novels are usually written by women, for women, with women as protagonists, if the men don’t come across as dimensional beings, the romance doesn’t work.

Their story is one of grief and loss, hope and love, separation and coming back together, and McKenna handles each mood with a deft hand, making the novel feel like a glimpse into an ever-so-slightly-heightened version of reality. There are no roller-coaster extreme ups and downs, no soap opera-esque histrionics, just solid storytelling and a good amount of yummy love scenes that feel steamy without being uncomfortably explicit.

I look forward to more from Ms. McKenna, in this series, and her others.

Goes well with a bowl of thick, spicy chili, and a cold beer.


Giveaway Wolf Haven

One person in the US/Canada can win a copy of one of Lindsay McKenna’s other novels, Wolf Haven.

How? You have two options:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet MY tweet with the link to this review.

OR

2) Leave a comment (make sure there’s a valid email address – no one will see it but me) telling me about a person you reconnected with after a long separation.

You have until 11:59 PM US Central time on Tuesday, February 2nd.

Winner will be informed by email or direct message on Twitter (as applicable).


Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 4th: Majorly Delicious

Monday, January 4th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 6th: Reading Reality

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, January 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 13th: Mignon Mykel Reviews

Friday, January 15th: Read Love Blog

Monday, January 18th: Romantic Reads and Such

Tuesday, January 19th: It’s A Reading Thing

Wednesday, January 20th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Thursday, January 21st: Life is Story

Friday, January 22nd: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, January 25th: What I’m Reading

Tuesday, January 26th: Bookaholics Not-so-Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 28th: Books a la Mode

Friday, January 29th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot

TBR: From the TBR Pile

Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, by Stephanie Osborn (@writersteph) #review

About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse

Print Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015)
Publication Date: November 2, 2015
Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis

Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.

Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.

Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…

Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.

Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve been a fan of Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series since I reviewed the first one in the series as part of a blog tour several years ago. Her writing is always engaging and well-researched, and even when she’s playing with familiar characters, she manages to put her own spin on them, while still remaining true to the original author’s vision. When I was offered a chance to read this book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, you’d better believe I jumped at the chance.

I’m so glad I did.

In this book, which is the first in a new series from Osborn (Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis), she’s gone back to the beginning of Holmes and Watson’s friendship, and given them a classic adventure that’s much more’ best-buds in an action adventure’ than the sort of contemporary bromance we see in shows like the BBC’s Sherlock (not that I dislike Sherlock. I’m as big a fan as anyone.) It’s a story that takes them to Egypt on a fast-paced hunt for an ancient Pharoah, and includes explorations into mythology and history as well as conventional mystery.

I really liked seeing a Holmes who wasn’t quite so confident in his ability to make a go of his consulting detective business and a Watson who was still in recovery from his war injury. The glimpses at each man’s vulnerability were subtle, but effective, and only served to make them seem even more dimensional than they would have otherwise.

Just as every fan of Doctor Who has ‘their’ doctor, every Sherlock Holmes fan has their preferred Holmes. I grew up watching Jeremy Brett on PBS, so, for me, any Holmes that ‘sounds’ like him is one I’m guaranteed to love. Osborn’s Holmes meets this criteria, but if Brett’s Holmes isn’t your preference, never fear, the Sherlock in this novel isn’t an imitation. He is absolutely his own character.

One thing I really liked about the structure of Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse is that the author included footnotes to explain archaic word-forms as well as the lines written in foreign languages (Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish) and certain cultural points of interest. In the Kindle version, these notes show up as clickable superscript numbers, that link you to the collection of end notes at the ‘back’ of the book. As someone who is addicted to annotated copies of favorite novels (the annotated Dracula even has a recipe for Chicken Paprikash), I really appreciated this, but if you’re someone who finds such insertions annoying, never fear, the notes are not at all intrusive, and you can absolutely enjoy the story without stopping to read them, if you so choose.

Bottom line: if you love classic Sherlock Holmes adventures, you will love this book, but if your only experience with the Great Detective is only through the BBC show (or the American Elementary, which, I confess, I don’t watch) you will likely enjoy it, too.

Goes well with either candy cane tea and pfeffernusse cookies or that spinach artichoke dip baked in a skillet with a ring of frozen dinner rolls, and a glass of pinot noir. (Why yes, I did start reading this over the holidays.)

 

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, by Elizabeth LaBan (@ElizabethLaBan) #review #giveaway

About the book, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife The Restaurant Critic's Wife

Paperback: 313 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 5, 2016)

What could be better than being married to a restaurant critic? All those amazing meals at the best restaurants…pure nirvana, right? Well, Lila Soto, the heroine of Elizabeth LaBan’s charming new novel, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife (Lake Union Publishing; January 5, 2016), might tell you otherwise. Sure the food is heavenly, but the downsides are considerable—especially being married to a man who is obsessed with his job and paranoid to the point of absurdity about being “outed” from his anonymity. Add to the scenario the fact that Lila has given up her own career to follow her husband’s job to a new, unfamiliar city, and that she is now a fulltime stay-at-home mom—a gig she never aspired to, despite loving her kids—and you begin to see why Lila is doubting every life decision she’s ever made.

Though it Ais not an autobiography by any means, it can’t be overlooked that Elizabeth LaBan is herself married to Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan. “This book wouldn’t exist without my husband,” she says, “who brings excitement, adventure, love, and great food into our lives every day, and has always been open to my writing a novel about a woman who is married to a wacky restaurant critic. For the record, Craig is not obsessive or controlling like Sam—and Craig did not tell me to say that.” But, even if her main characters are fictitious, there is no denying that Elizabeth draws on aspects of her own life to lend a delicious verisimilitude to the novel.

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is a charming portrait of the complexities of life that many women face when dealing with their marriages, their children, their friendships, and their careers. All the talk about exquisite food is merely the icing on a one-of-a-kind cake. 

Buy, read, and discuss The Restaurant Critic’s Wife

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


About the author, Elizabeth LaBan Elizabeth LaBan

Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is also the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages.

Connect with Elizabeth

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

This novel, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, was the perfect novel to begin a new year of reviews. It was well written, engaging, drawn from aspects of the author’s life, but vastly different than her actual story, and most importantly, the characters were all incredibly real with quirks and flaws that made them feel just like those people at the next table over in the restaurant you’ve been dying to try.

From the first, I really empathized with Lila. I’ve got dogs, not kids, but I know all too well what it’s like to find yourself in a life you didn’t really choose, even if there are bits of it that you like, and I also know what it’s like to be in a new place without a support system. LaBan set up Lila’s isolation and need for community incredibly well, and I felt that it was especially poignant when juxtaposed with Sam’s obsession with secrecy and anonymity.

Lila’s mother annoyed me at first, but I think that’s only because some of her points were valid – points I’ve heard from my own mother over the years  – trust me: you are never too old to resent that your mother is almost always right.

Overall, this book was a great read. It was meaty without being too heavy, and nicely balanced drama and wit. I haven’t read any of Elizabeth LaBan’s other work, but after reading The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, I really want to.

Goes well with baked brie en croute and a glass of wine.


Giveaway The Restaurant Critic's Wife

One person in the US/Canada can win a copy of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife. How? You have two options:

  1. Follow me on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet MY tweet with the link to this review.
  2. Leave a comment (make sure there’s a valid email address – no one will see it but me) telling me about the best (or worst) restaurant meal you’ve ever had.

You have until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, January 13th.

Winner will be informed by email or direct message on Twitter (as applicable).


Elizabeth LaBan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 4th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Tuesday, January 5th: Why Girls are Weird

Wednesday, January 6th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Thursday, January 7th: Bibliotica

Monday, January 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, January 12th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post

Wednesday, January 13th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, January 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, January 15th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, January 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, January 19th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, January 20th: I’m Shelf-ish

Thursday, January 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, January 22nd: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 25th: Read. Write. Repeat.

Tuesday, January 26th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, January 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, January 28th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, February 1st: Just Commonly

Wednesday, February 3rd: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Friday, February 5th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

 

Spotlight: Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, by Stephanie Osborn (@writersteph)

Happy Birthday Sherlock Holmes!

In honor of the Great Detective’s birthday, I’m spotlighting the newest book to come from the pen (well, keyboard) of Stephanie Osborn. It’s no secret that I love her Displaced Detective series, but now she’s gone back in time and given us a glimpse of Holmes and Watson at the beginning of their friendship, and the start of the detective’s later-to-be illustrious career. Learn about the book here.

Buy the kindle edition for a special price – $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

Visit this page on Friday, January 8th, for my review.


About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse

Print Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015)
Publication Date: November 2, 2015
Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis

Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.

Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.

Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…

Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.

Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


 

About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Twitter

The Raven Room, by Ana Medeiros #TheRavenRoom #TLCBookTours #Review

About the book,The Raven Room The Raven Room

• Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Diversion Publishing (November 3, 2015)

A searing erotic thriller perfect for those tantalized by A.R. Torre’s Deanna Madden series…

Anything you can imagine. Everything you crave. For the members of The Raven Room, it’s every fantasy fulfilled. But for some, that desire is a matter of life and death.

Drawn by needs he cannot control, Julian ventures to The Raven Room, a secret and exclusive sex club in the underbelly of Chicago. It goes beyond sex. It goes beyond kink. The Raven Room is the only place where Julian finds release from the dangerous urges that threaten to destroy the successful life he’s worked so hard to build.

When the police link the Raven Room to the death of a young woman, it threatens to expose a number of powerful people—people who would kill to stay anonymous…

Meredith’s body can’t get enough of Julian. He has opened her sexual horizons to tempting new possibilities. But out of bed she’s an aspiring journalist, and The Raven Room is the story she’s been looking for. By writing an exposé on the club and its elite clientele, she plans to launch her career.

As Meredith embarks on a sexual journey into the forbidden world that Julian inhabits, questions emerge, and dark appetites threaten to swallow her whole.  How much can she trust the man who has laid bare her erotic nature and how much will she sacrifice in order to protect him?

Buy, read and discuss The Raven Room

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Ana Medeiros Ana Medeiros

Born in the Azores islands, Portugal, Ana Medeiros has a background in Photography, Sociology and Psychology. For the last seven years she has worked in the magazine industry. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, with her boyfriend and two cats. The Raven Room, book one of a trilogy, is Ana’s first novel and is published by Diversion Books.

Connect with Ana

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Good erotica – and, let’s be clear – The Raven Room is absolutely erotica – can be hard to find. Too often the material is misogynistic and revolting. Alternatively, the sex in many attempts at erotica is either too clinical or comically bad (incidentally, this is also why I avoid porn. I’m not a prude; I just can’t abide bad writing/acting.).

Ana Medeiros’s novel, however, is neither of those things, and the women we meet – the actual characters, as opposed to the woman already dead at the start of the story – are strong women who are empowered in general, and completely own their sexuality as well.

Meredith, the character we spend the most time with, is an aspiring journalist who is using her relationship with Julian in an attempt to discover the truth behind the storied, exclusive sex club, the eponymous Raven Room, and the author has balanced her vertical and horizontal lives well. On the job, we see that she’s smart, savvy, and just reckless enough to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.

In bed, she’s daring, open, and completely comfortable with her own needs and wants.

Julian is painted as the possible killer – but it quickly becomes clear that he’s as fragile and broken as any damsel in distress, in his own way.  He’s in command in the bedroom, but only because the women in his life Meredith, and later Alana, allow him to be.

As for Alana – we learn as her story unfolds that she is not the person she presents as her public self.

Author Medeiros has done an excellent job of depicting hardcore sex without losing the sensuality of the act. Her characters make no apologies for their needs and desires, and take complete responsibility for their sexual choices. It’s refreshing, actually, to see erotic behavior without a side of guilt. Yes, each character carries his or her own secrets, but those only add to the escalating sense of danger and the depth of each individual.

While the erotic aspects of this novel are prevalent, there is still a mystery – a suspense story – woven through the book, and it is here where my impression of this novel falters. The plot is fine. The story is fine. But this book is being marketed as part one of a trilogy, and instead of giving us a solution to the central mystery, the book ends abruptly on a cliff-hanger, leaving the reader to decide if they’re curious enough to buy the next two novels in the series, just to find out whodunnit.

If you’re reading this book for the sex, this may not matter. After all, the sex scenes are all incredibly well crafted. (At no time did I find myself questioning the physics behind any act.)

However, if you focus on plot, you may be disappointed at the lack of completion.

Goes well with pancakes and coffee, eaten in the wee hours at an all-night diner.


Ana’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 9th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 10th: Why Girls Are Weird

Thursday, November 12th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, November 16th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, November 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, November 18th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Thursday, November 19th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Friday, November 20th: Art Books Coffee

Monday, November 23rd: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, November 24th: M. Denise Costello

Wednesday, November 25th: Books and Bindings

Monday, November 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, November 30th: Seraphim Book Reviews

Tuesday, December 1st: It’s a Mad Mad World

TBD: Queen of All She Reads

TBD: boundbywords

 

Tiger Heart, by Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, Tiger Heart Tiger Heart

Paperback: 232 pages

Publisher: HCI (October 6, 2015)

Katrell Christie never intended to visit India. In fact, her ideal vacation was a tropical beach where she could relax with a margarita in her hand. But when this former art student turned roller-derby rebel met three teenage girls at a crowded Buddhist orphanage in Darjeeling, she knew she had to help. What started as a trip made on a whim would prove to be a life-altering experience that would change the fate of these lost girls.

In her new book, Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling and What I Learned About Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away (October 2015), Katrell tells her remarkable story – from her quirky Atlanta tea shop to her fight for her young scholars halfway around the globe. Two scholars in the program are set to graduate from college and move on to pursue advanced degrees.

Most of the girls Katrell met in India faced grim futures as laborers or domestic servants. Some might have been relegated to lives of sexual exploitation. For them, she founded The Learning Tea, which has offered scholarships to 15 young women in Darjeeling, providing them with tuition, housing, clothing and medical care.

Katrell has us sipping tea with her at roadside tea huts, tasting hot samosas, dodging feral monkeys, and roaming the chaotic streets of Mumbai. The smells of small villages waft from the pages as we accompany her on her riveting and sometimes hilarious adventures across the globe in her mission to empower the young women who have become a part of her family. Join us in experiencing then sharing the inspiring story of one woman and her mission to make a difference through the power of educating girls.

Buy, read, and discuss Tiger Heart

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


About the authors, Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey KattrellChristie

Katrell Christie is the founder and owner of The Learning Tea, a project which provides schooling and a safe haven for impoverished young women in India. Through her efforts with The Learning Tea, Ms. Christie has changed the lives of many women living in Darjeeling, India. Visit TheLearningTea.com for more information.

Shannon McCaffrey is an award-winning reporter focusing on investigative stories for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is an avid reader, a mother, and a runner.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I have a ‘thing’ for memoirs – people’s personal stories. They always intrigue me. It’s a few levels above watching people on a bus or in a cafe and wondering what their stories really are.

In the case of Tiger Heart, I found Katrell Christie’s story to be very compelling. So often, we read about people who are going out into the world and doing good things, and their focus is on boys. This woman saw a need: educating girls, and she turned it into a personal mission. As a woman, as a feminist, as a citizen of the world, I really like that.

I also liked reading her memoir. It’s funny, candid, and completely honest. It could have sounded like an academic treatise; instead, it reads as if your best girlfriend is telling you about her latest exciting adventure.  This should in no way imply that the book is intellectually light. It is NOT. Christie and McCaffrey are honest about the predicament of girls in Darjeeling, and about their defeats – having to close a center, going home feeling as if failure had occurred.

Except there was no failure. Lives were changed, girls’ futures were improved, and I suspect Katrell Christie’s life is far richer for the experience than it ever would have been, otherwise.

Read this book if you want an uplifting message, one of hope and hard work.

Goes well with chicken tiki masala and cucumber water.


TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for Tiger Heart: TLC Book Tours

Monday, September 28th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, September 30th: Run Wright

Thursday, October 1st: Lit and Life

Monday, October 5th: Read. Write. Repeat.

Tuesday, October 6th: The Things We Read

Monday, October 12th: Dreaming Big Blog

Wednesday, October 14th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, October 15th: A Bookish Affair

Friday, October 16th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, October 21st: The Reading Cove Book Club

Wednesday, October 21st: #redhead.with.book

Monday, October 26th: A Book A Week

Monday, October 26th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, October 30th: Bibliotica

 

Water on the Moon, by Jean P. Moore (@jean_pmoore) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book,  Water on the Moon Water on the Moon

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (June 3, 2014)

Acclaimed Debut Novel, Winner of the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award for Contemporary Fiction

When her husband comes out as gay and an airplane crash inexplicably destroys her home, the mother of teenage twin daughters must rethink everything she knows.

In her debut novel Water on the Moon, Jean P. Moore introduces readers to Lidia Raven, whose life begins taking seemingly endless wrong turns. Lidia and her girls miraculously survive the plane crash that destroys their home and are taken in by Lidia’s friend Polly, a neighbor with a robust collection of first-edition books who lives alone on a sprawling estate.

Struggling to cope with each of these life-changing events, Lidia discovers a connection between herself and Tina Calderara, the pilot who crashed into her home. In the months that follow, Lidia plunges into a mystery that upends every aspect of her life.

Rife with age-old dilemmas, this contemporary novel explores the relationships between mothers and daughters and the trials and triumphs of women’s friendships. As Lidia learns to reconcile her pain with her need to be true to herself and to accept that need in others, she discovers that while life has the power to unhinge her, it also has the power to open her to new ways of being in the world.

Buy, read, and discuss Water on the Moon

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


About the author, Jean P. Moore Jean P. Moore

Jean P. Moore began her professional life as an English teacher, later becoming a telecommunications executive.  She and her husband, Steve, and Sly, their black Lab, divide their time between Greenwich, Connecticut and the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where Jean teaches yoga in the summers.

Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals such as upstreetSN ReviewAdannaDistillery, Skirt, Long Island Woman, the Hartford Courant, Greenwich Time, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Water on the Moon was published in June of 2014 and won the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award for Contemporary Fiction.

Connect with Jean

Website | Blog | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

While I don’t pay attention to whether or not a book has won awards when I’m in the process of reading it, it was easy to see why Water on the Moon has done so. This novel opened with a bang (literally: a small plane crashes on top of a suburban house), and while the pace isn’t exactly breakneck, the story never plods, but unwinds like miles on a road trip where the scenery is ever-changing and yet, still similar enough to be part of the same region.

Protagonist Lidia and her two daughters, the Ravens, or the Raven girls, are, in many ways just like every other suburban single mother and her children, at least until the afore-mentioned plane crash. She’s divorced, her husband left her for another man three years before, and like their mother, the girls are still angry with their father, and have little contact with them. When their house is destroyed we meet their neighbor Polly, who is really a surrogate mother to Lidia, though estranged from her own daughter. (I would love to have a neighbor like Polly. When I’m older (in my 70s) I want to be Polly, though, I don’t have children to be estranged from.)

I really liked that all of the main characters – Lidia, the girls, Polly, even Harry the FBI agent, and Owen (Lidia’s ex, met mostly via phone calls) were all fully realized, and each one had her (or his) own story arc. So many times children in novels are just accessories, but I’d happily read a novel from either of the girls’ point of view – they’re all that compelling.

As Lidia learns that there was a connection between herself and the pilot of the crashed plane, a woman named Tina, the plot becomes deeper and more intricate. Suddenly, instead of a suburban housewife with a personal disaster, we’re delving into family history, literary history (I love that Byron is part of the plot. Byron is a favorite of mine.), aviation history, and so much more. Lidia’s world, and, indeed her family, both literally and in terms of how she defines family, both expand.

As I said, all of the characters were fully realized, dimensional people. Any of them could live in your neighborhood. What I also loved was the author’s use of language – nothing ever felt too stilted or too slang-y – and her use of detail.  The juxtaposition between Polly’s ancient black CORDED phone and her completely up-to-date computer, for example, was rich and vivid. I felt like I could see, smell, and touch everything.

I also particularly liked the way the title was referenced (and relevant to) the novel as a whole, but I won’t spoil that happy surprise, because it’s a key moment in the story.

Suffice to say, this is no ordinary novel, it’s a breathtaking glimpse at a life that’s just a little bit less ordinary than our own, in a reality that’s ever-so-slightly heightened.

Goes well with hot coffee and apple tarts served on a rambling porch on a crisp fall afternoon. All partakers are wrapped in cozy flannel throws, of course.


Giveaway Water on the Moon

One lucky winner in the U.S. or Canada will be selected to receive a copy of Water on the Moon

To enter: Find my tweet about this review on Twitter, and retweet it (I’m @Melysse), or leave a comment on this post and tell me what figure from history you’re related to. (Not related to any great historical figures? Tell me who you WISH you were related to.)

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Sunday, October 25st.

Winner will be notified by email (or Twitter), and must provide their mailing address, which will be forwarded to the publicist for fulfillment.


Jean P. Moore’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 19th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, October 21st: Mallory Heart Reviews

Thursday, October 22nd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, October 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, October 27th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Wednesday, October 28th: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, October 29th: Mallory Heart Reviews – author guest post

Monday, November 2nd: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, November 3rd: Just One More Chapter – author guest post

Wednesday, November 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, November 6th: Necromancy Never Pays

Monday, November 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, November 10th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 12th: Kahakai Kitchen