Review: The Truth About Goodbye, by Russell Ricard

About the book The Truth About Goodbye The Truth About Goodbye

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: W.I. Creative Publishing (April 4, 2017)

Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.

Challenged by his best friend, the quirky ex-Rockettes dancer Chloe, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.

Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?

Buy, read, and discuss The Truth About Goodbye:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Russell Ricard Russell Ricard

Russell Ricard is a veteran musical theater performer who s appeared in regional, national, and international productions and on Broadway. He received his MFA in creative writing from The New School. The Truth About Goodbye is his debut novel. He lives in Forest Hills, NY, with his husband, cat, and a lovingly supportive stand-up desk named Ruth.

Connect with Russell:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Whenever a book blurb mentions talk of death, it always changes your approach to a work. Or at least, it always changes my approach. I began this book expecting it to be dark and maudlin and kind of whiny.

Wow! Did I love what the book actually was – a funny, poignant look at how one man (Sebastian) faces the loss of his husband (Frank), the fact that he’s a gay man entering his forties – and one who is a Broadway chorus boy, at that, and the fear we all have as age and infirmities start to become ever more present in our circles of friends and loved ones:

Am I worthy? Am I still able to contribute? Am I meant to be alone?

Of all, I think the last is the most powerful question, and in this book, author Russell Ricard handles the subject with just the right mix of humor and grace.

I loved Sebastian, dear neurotic Sebastian, from the first page, and Chloe, his best friend, is such a great person. She goads him, coddles him, orders him around and, most importantly, listens to him, and I felt that their friendship was as much the heart of he story as Sebastian’s aching for his lost husband.

Sebastian’s life was peopled with other fantastic characters, though.  From his overweight tuxedo cat to Mrs. Woo who plays piano for his tap dance class at the community center, to Greg, the younger, fitter chorus boy who had a thing with (ages past) and for Frank, we continually meet characters who leap of the page, pirouette around and then resettle in their rightful places in the narrative, waiting for their next call. While some of those characters are more outrageous than others, all feel vivid and real, like people you really would meet if you were a member of the theatre community in New York.

It saddens me that potential readers may notice that the protagonist in this book is gay, and choose not to ready it, because The Truth About Goodbye is a brilliant piece that eloquently conveys the pain of losing your spouse, your partner, your best friend, and then having to rebuild your life without that person. The details are specific, and Ricard has painted them with a deft hand, but the emotions are universal.

I have to add that there was an added layer of emotion reading this during the current presidential administration, which is filled with such hate and meanness, when so much of it took place around the time gay marriage was becoming legal in more and more states of our union.

It would be easy to say, “this book is important because of its reflection of that time,” but I think it’s wiser to say, “this book is important because it discusses issues that we – all of us – will face at some point in our lives, and does so while remaining entertaining.”

Goes well with cocktails! The kind with little umbrellas in them. 


Russell Ricard’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 15th: BookNAround

Tuesday, May 16th: A Book A Week

Wednesday, May 17th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 22nd: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, May 23rd: Read Day and Night

Friday, May 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, May 3oth: Suzy Approved

Thursday, June 1st: 50 Books Project

Review: By the Wayside, by Anne Leigh Parrish

About the book, By the Wayside By the Wayside

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (January 31, 2017)

Marvelous. Honest. Generous. From the first story to the last, “By the Wayside” catches your attention and demands that you give into its every whirl. Each character unfolds with a precision that will have you wondering how Parrish managed to create such real-to-the-bones people within a world that captivates you with ease.

Buy, read, and discuss By the Wayside:

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


About the author, Anne Leigh Parrish Anne Leigh Parrish

Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of All the Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014). Her new novel, Women Within, is forthcoming from Black Rose Writing in September 2017.

Connect with Anne:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love short stories.

As a writer, I love the way short stories give you the freedom to experiment with different styles of writing – voice, narrative style, POV, genre. In this way, short stories are like play.

As a reader, I enjoy seeing what individual writers do with various literary forms, but I also appreciate pieces that are short enough to read in one sitting – one cup of tea, one good soak in the bathtub.

The stories in By the Wayside include all the things I appreciate as a reader. Deft use of language, clever turns of dialogue, interesting characters. I particularly enjoyed “How She Was Found” and “Artichokes,” but the rest of the collection was equally compelling, sometimes sad, often poignant.

I enjoyed the different characters author Parrish let us meet, by the different lifestyles we were able to glimpse. In addition, I found that Ms. Parrish is incredibly adept at subtly twisting expectations. In “The Professor,” the young girl is NOT seduced, for example.

By The Wayside is a collection of stories worth reading. Keep it in your bathroom or on your nightstand and savor the tales, one at a time. You won’t be sorry.


Anne Leigh Parrish’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours - By the Wayside

Monday, April 3rd: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, April 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, April 6th: Lit and Life – author guest post

Monday, April 10th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, April 12th: Mama Vicky Says

Thursday, April 13th: Bibliophiliac

Monday, April 17th: Books ‘n Tea

Wednesday, April 19th: Susan Peterson

Thursday, April 20th: Dreaming Big

Monday, April 24th: BookNAround

Tuesday, April 25th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, April 26th: Maureen Downing

Thursday, April 27th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Monday, May 1st: 100 Pages a Day – author guest post

Wednesday, May 3rd: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Thursday, May 4th: Seaside Booknook

Friday, May 5th: Readaholic Zone

Review: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan

About the book, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir The-Chilbury-Ladies-Choir-Jacket-678x1024

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 14, 2017)

“Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!”

As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead “carry on singing.” Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit– a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past– we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

Buy, read, and discuss The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

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


About the author, Jennifer Ryan Jennifer-Ryan-Photo-©-Nina-Subin

Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.

Connect with Jennifer

WebsiteFacebook


My Thoughts

I’ve spent a lot of years in church choirs of various flavors. I’ve been in the choir of an Episcopalian church with a director who was such an amazing musician that if a piece of music didn’t work for our voices, he would simply write a new arrangement. I’ve also been in a UU choir where the director made us rehearse a capella to force us to truly listen to each other.

Many people erroneously believe that the point of choral singing is to blend everyone’s voice into one homogeneous sound, but the real goal is for each voice to harmonize, so that many individual voices combine into new sounds. Sometimes they’re unison, sometimes the separate notes – the separate voices – are meant to be heard.

In this lovely novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Jennifer Ryan has done the latter. She has created a collection of individual voices – a young window, a refugee, the church ladies you expect to find in such a setting, and she has given them solid unison pieces in which they blend – their determination to keep their choir alive with all the men gone – but she has also let their individual talents shine.

Epistolary novels can be tricky – it’s much harder to maintain the distinctions between characters when so much of the story is in first-person accounts – but Ryan has done so deftly. I felt immersed in these women’s lives, enjoying their triumphs and shedding tears at their  sorrows.

Each of the women whose voices we hear in this novel are distinct personalities, with loves and fears and wants and desires, and each one has a compelling story that, when blended together forms a chorus of voices painting a word-picture of their village in a specific period of time.

Many people have compared this novel to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, me included, but though they share a similar period, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is vastly different – it’s more candid, more personal, and more rooted in feminine sensibilities. Still, if you liked one, you’ll probably enjoy the other. I did.

Goes well with shortbread biscuits and hot tea, maybe with a splash of whiskey in it.


Jennifer Ryan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, February 13th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, February 14th: Building Bookshelves

Thursday, February 16th: Reading Reality

Monday, February 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, February 21st: Laura’s Reviews

Thursday, February 23rd: BookNAround

Friday, February 24th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, February 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, March 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit

Monday, March 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired

Friday, March 10th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 13th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, March 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 16th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 17th: Art @ Home

Monday, March 20th: Diary of an Eccentric

Wednesday, March 22nd: A Literary Vacation

 

 

Review: Sisters, One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star

About the book, Sisters One, Two, Three Sisters One, Two, Three

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 1, 2017)

After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter.

At turns heartbreaking, humorous, and hopeful, Sisters One, Two, Three explores not only the consequences of secrets—even secrets kept out of love—but also the courage it takes to speak the truth, to forgive, and to let go.

Buy, read, and discuss Sisters One, Two, Three

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


About the author, Nancy Star Nancy Star

Nancy Star is the author of four previous novels: Carpool Diem, Up Next, Now This, and Buried Lives. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York TimesFamily Circle, Diversion magazine, and on the web. Before embarking on her writing career, Nancy worked for more than a decade as a movie executive in the film business, dividing her time between New York and London. She has two grown daughters and a son-in-law and now lives in New Jersey with her husband.

Connect with Nancy

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love a good family drama, and if it’s connected to anything remotely beachy, that only increases my enjoyment, so you can imagine that I leaped at a chance to read and review Sisters One, Two, Three.

I was not disappointed.

The Tangle family (aptly named, because their lives and secrets are all a giant, tangled ball of confusion, contradiction, affection, and family bonds) quickly found their way into my heart and my head, as their secrets, both big and small, were revealed to us.

Nancy Star does an amazing job at peeling away the onion-layers of family connections. Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child that I am so drawn to stories of people who are not, but I was enraptured by the bond each of the sisters had for each other, and intrigued by the way each of them was both independent, but also part of a whole.

This is a perfect January novel. It’s a palate cleanser after all the sweetness of last month’s holidays, at once tender and bracing (yes, it’s possible to be both) and it’s also a reminder that even the best families have their issues.

Goes well with a cup of black tea – Earl Grey, perhaps, or English Breakfast – and multigrain toast with organic peanut butter.


Nancy Star’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: Sisters One, Two, Three at TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 2nd: The Baking Bookworm

Tuesday, January 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, January 3rd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, January 4th: Run Wright

Friday, January 6th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, January 10th: Girls in White Dresses

Tuesday, January 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, January 11th: Chick Lit Central – “Books We’re Looking Forward To”

Friday, January 13th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, January 16th: Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, January 17th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, January 18th: Why Girls Are Weird

Thursday, January 19th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, January 20th: Not in Jersey

Monday, January 23rd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, January 24th: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, January 25th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, January 26th: Paperback Pilgrim

Friday, January 27th: Books a la Mode  author guest post

Monday, January 30th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, January 31st: Just One More Chapter

Review: A Minor Deception by Nupur Tustin – with Giveaway

A Minor DeceptionAbout the book, A Minor Deception

  • Publication Date: November 15, 2016, Foiled Plots Press
  • Format: eBook & Trade Paperback; 254 Pages
  • Series: Joseph Haydn Mysteries
  • Genre: Historical Mystery

When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress’s visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth. . .

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.

Before long Haydn’s search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.

Buy, read, and discuss A Minor Deception

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Nupur Tustin Nupur Tustin

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

For details on the Haydn series and monthly blog posts on the great composer, visit the official Haydn Mystery website.

Connect with Nupur

Facebook | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

As a classically trained cellist (though strictly an amateur), this book really resonated with me.

First, I really loved the use of Joseph Haydn as the main character. I don’t know a lot about him, though I know his music, but he felt real and vivid, and based on my own experience with temperamental conductors, I believed in the author’s version of him.

Then there was the dual dynamic of orchestra/chamber ensemble vs. court. In many ways, the two are similar – both are based on heirarchies that aren’t always obvious to the outsider, and both involve directors/leaders who wield great power, not always judiciously. In particular, I loved the character of Bartó, who reminded me of so many arrogant musicians I’ve worked with – and, though I’m reluctant to admit this, a little of myself.

Finally, there was the mystery. Nupur Tustin combined her love of music and history with research and a genius for plot, and this story kept me guessing to the very enjoyable end.

Basically, if Mozart in the Jungle were set in the court of the Holy Roman Empire, you would get something akin to this novel, except this story, for all it’s drama and theatrics, feels more plausible than the popular Amazon television show.

If you want a compelling mystery that is blended into a gripping story populated by vivid, dimensional characters, and with a soundtrack you can almost hear in your mind’s ear while you’re reading, you need to read A Minor Deception.

Goes well with goulash, not because it’s period-accurate or story specific, but because it’s chilly and rainy and goulash is on my brain.


Giveaway A Minor Deception

To win a paperback copy of A Minor Deception, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in Europe & North America only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Minor Deception

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/yfHxC/a-minor-deception


Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 17
Interview at The Book Connection
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, January 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, January 19
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Friday, January 20
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Review at Bibliotica

Sunday, January 22
Review at Laura’s Interests

Monday, January 23
Review at Luxury Reading

A Minor Deception at HFVBT

Review: Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

About the book,  Hidden Figures Hidden Figures

• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 6, 2016)

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Buy, read, and discuss Hidden Figures

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author Margot Lee Shetterly Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Connect with Margot

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

I love biographies, in print and on screen, and I’m a big space nut. Until recently, my favorite space book was A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin, and its accompanying miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1995, HBO), but after reading Hidden Figures that book has been edged into second place.

This book biography, it’s history – herstory – it’s about culture and society and the way white and black America are still incredibly different even though they have many similarities, but it’s also a story about math and physics, and how those things help us to create our dreams.

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden were mathematicians in the early days of NASA’s space program. Without them, John Glenn would never have successfully orbited Earth, and Apollo 13 would never have come home, but those are only two big events in a series of many, many smaller events.

In that first book I read, years ago, there’s an explanation of what it takes to accomplish docking two craft (the orbiter and the LEM) in space. In the HBO miniseries, it’s dramatized by a scene in which one man says to each other, “Okay, you stand in my front yard, and I’ll stand in the back, and I’m going to throw this basketball over the roof and you’re gonna try to hit it with this baseball as it crests.” (I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of the conversation.”

These women, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine and Christine, did the math to make that work.

But they weren’t mere math geeks. And this book shows that. It shows that they had lives and homes and families, and all of the usual conflicts that working woman have when choosing between career and family. It shows their similarities, and their differences, and it does it in a way that – even at it’s ‘mathiest’ – is never boring, never dry.

Hidden Figures is a must-read for women and girls who are in, or interested in, STEM fields, yes, but I’d recommend it to space nuts like me, to feminists, to people who want a better understanding of the civil rights movement, and to people who just enjoy reading biographies, because it’s well crafted, compelling, and so, so human.

There’s a movie based on this book that is opening in select theaters on Christmas Day, and nationwide in January. Read the book before you see the movie.

Trust me on this.

Goes well with massive amounts of coffee and egg salad sandwiches.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, December 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, December 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, December 8th: Dwell in Possibility

Friday, December 9th: G. Jacks Writes

Monday, December 12th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, December 13th: As I turn the pages

Friday, December 16th: Art @ Home

Monday, December 19th: Leigh Kramer

Monday, December 19th: Reading Lark

Tuesday, December 20th: Emerald City Book Review

Tuesday, December 20th: Buried in Print

Wednesday, December 21st: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 22nd: Helen’s Book Blog

Friday, December 23rd: Based on a True Story

Review: Beauty and Attention, by Liz Rosenberg – with Giveaway

About the book, Beauty and Attention Beauty and Attention

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 25, 2016)

The riveting story of one brave young woman’s struggle to free herself from a web of deceit.

For misfit Libby Archer, social expectations for young women in Rochester, New York, in the mid-1950s don’t work. Her father has died, leaving her without parents, and her well-meaning friends are pressuring her to do what any sensible single girl must do: marry a passionate, persistent hometown suitor with a promising future. Yet Libby boldly defies conventional wisdom and plans to delay marriage—to anyone—by departing for her uncle’s Belfast estate. In Ireland, Libby seeks not only the comfort of family but also greater opportunities than seem possible during the stifling McCarthy era at home.

Across the Atlantic, Libby finds common ground with her brilliant, invalid cousin, Lazarus, then puts her trust in a sophisticated older woman who seems to be everything she hopes to become. Fraught with betrayal and long-kept secrets, as well as sudden wealth and unexpected love, Libby’s journey toward independence takes turns she never could have predicted—and calls on courage and strength she never knew she had.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Liz Rosenberg Liz Rosenberg

The author of more than thirty books for adults and young readers, Liz Rosenberg has published three bestselling novels, including The Laws of Gravityand The Moonlight Palace. She has also written five books of poems, among them 2008’s Demon Love, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and After Great Grief, forthcoming from the Provincetown Arts Press. Her poems have been heard on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. Rosenberg’s books for young readers have won numerous awards and honors and have been featured on the PBS television show Reading Rainbow. A former Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Rosenberg teaches English at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she earned the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Binghamton with her daughter, Lily, and a shih tzu named Sophie. Although she has homes in New York and North Chatham, Massachusetts, her heart is still in Ireland.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I really needed this novel this week. It’s so well written, and so hopeful, but even though the subjects are often serious, it’s not heavy. I love the way books sometimes come into our lives at the perfect time, and that was the case, for me, with Beauty and Attention.

Like the previous novel I reviewed, Madame Presidentess, this is a piece of historical fiction. Unlike that other novel, this one takes place in a period – the 1950s – much closer to our own. I found it particularly interesting to read a story set in the McCarthy era and juxtapose it with the current political climate (and the fears many of us have about the immediate future).

But this is not a political story. Rather it’s an exploration of self-discovery.

I really enjoyed traveling with Libby on her literal journey from the USA to Ireland, and her metaphysical one as she completed her coming-of-age process and figured out her own needs, wants, and goals. I would really enjoy having a coffee with her, and chatting for an hour or two, I think.

I also liked the character of Lazarus a lot more than I thought I would based on his initial description in the early part of this novel. Like Libby, he was interesting, dimensional, and not at all stereotypical.

Overall, this story is well crafted, with some great turns of dialogue that really popped off the page, and I found it to be both refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who wants a satisfying read that is compelling but also entertaining.

Goes well with tea and cookies – I vote for those “Danish” butter cookies that come in tins and are in all the stores during the holidays.


Giveaway Beauty and Attention

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

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

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Standard Time on Sunday, November 27th.


Liz Rosenberg’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, October 25th: Reading is my Superpower

Wednesday, October 26th: Reading Reality

Thursday, October 27th: Building Bookshelves

Tuesday, November 1st: Just Commonly

Wednesday, November 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, November 3rd: Books Without Any Pictures

Friday, November 4th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, November 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, November 8th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 9th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, November 11th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, November 15th: Back Porchevations

Wednesday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, November 18th: I Brought A Book

Monday, November 21st: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, November 22nd: The Magic All Around Us

Review: Fill the Sky, by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

About the book, Fill the Sky Fill the Sky

Biotech entrepreneur Tess Whitford has built her life around the certainty of logic and thrives on solving problems. But when one of her dearest friends exhausts the reaches of medicine while fighting cancer and grabs onto the hope that traditional healers in Ecuador might save her, Tess has to let go of everything she knows—and every instinct she has. Unable to deny Ellie a request that might be her last, Tess flies to Ecuador to help.

Together with Joline, another close college friend whose spiritual work inspired the trip, they travel to the small mountain village of Otavalo. Immersed in nature and introduced to strange ancient ceremonies, the three friends are pushed to recognize that good health is not only physical. Tess grapples with her inability to trust; Ellie struggles with a painful secret; and Joline worries about the contract she made with an aggressive businessman whose ambitions could destroy the delicate fabric of the local community. When an ayahuasca ceremony goes awry and an unlikely betrayal suddenly threatens to unravel their decades-long friendship, these three very different women awaken to a shared realization: they each have a deep need for healing.

FILL THE SKY captures the challenges of mid-life, the hope we seek when we explore alternative paths, and the profound nature of women’s friendships. It’s a beautifully told and moving story about lifelong friends, the power of the spirit, and the age-old quest to not simply fight death but to shape an authentic life.

Buy, read, and discuss Fill the Sky

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Katherine A. Sherbrooke Photo Credit: Melissa Forman

KATHERINE A. SHERBROOKE received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and M.B.A. from Stanford University. An entrepreneur and writer, she is the author of Finding Home, a family memoir about her parents’ tumultuous and inspiring love affair. This is her first novel. She lives outside Boston with her husband, two sons, and black lab.

For more information, click to read this interview with Katherine.

Connect with Katherine

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m seeing a trend in the novels I’m reading this fall, of books that could be described as “coming of middle age” novels. These are stories with protagonists in their late 30s to early 50s, who are jarred from some kind of complacency for one reason or another and go on a journey – either literal or metaphysical – and return altered, usually for the better.

As a woman in her 40s, I really love this trend in contemporary literature. It’s as if the publishing world suddenly realized that we read, and we read a lot.

Or maybe there are a lot of publishing execs who are in my age group.

In any case, Katherine A. Sherbrooke’s debut novel Fill the Sky is a perfect example of a “coming of middle age” novel, both because the central characters are all in the age range I decided, and because it is a crisis that spurs them to action.

Tess, Joline, and Ellie are all very different women, and yet, I believe each of us who live outside the pages of novels contain aspects of all three. I know I have some of Tess’s drive, some of Joline’s penchant for exploring new and different belief systems, and Ellie’s knack for harboring secrets. I think it’s the universality that makes it so easy to identify with all three of these characters.

Author Sherbrooke handles the three separate-but-intertwined storylines deftly. We meet Tess first, and then learn about Joline and Ellie through Tess, before actually meeting them, but this convention works very well, especially since Tess’s is the dominant POV. I really enjoyed getting to know each of these women and seeing the way their differences both complimented and annoyed each other.

I found all of Sherbrooke’s characters to be incredibly realistic and dimensional, and I loved the way she opened her novel with no exposition, letting us encounter each character in his or her own environment and then expanding upon that.

The time in Ecuador almost made me want to fly there right now, but the knowledge that this is just a novel helped me find reason and balance again.

While it’s the women who are the rightful center of this novel, I want to make a note of Parker, who is Tess’s ex when we initially meet him, but quickly drops the ‘ex’ fairly early on. This man is a super-special cinnamon roll who could only exist in fiction – almost – and I would happily read more about just him and Tess.

But that’s another story altogether.

In Fill the Sky Katherine A. Sherbrooke has given us a story about growth, change, and accepting who we are that resonated especially with me, but that I feel would appeal to adult readers of all age groups. It’s a wonderfully rich story that touches on a grim theme – cancer – without making it the only theme. Instead, it’s just one more element to deepen the tale and add layers of meaning.

Goes well with beans, rice, tortillas, plantains, and excellent coffee.


Other stops on Katherine Sherbrooke’s Blog Tour:

10/20: Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus: Spotlight & giveaway

10/21: Under My Apple Tree: Spotlight & giveaway

10/25: A Literary Vacation: Spotlight & giveaway

10/27: Bibliotica, review

10/28: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: review

10/31: Broken Teepee: review

11/1: Life of a Female Bibliophile: review

11/3: Celtic Lady’s Reviews: review & giveaway

Buzz! They Were Like Family to Me, by Helen Maryles Shankman

Like Family - Postcard

Critically praised, beloved by readers, In the Land of Armadillos has an evocative new cover and title, They Were Like Family to Me. Now in Paperback! Available October 4.
1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town. We meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, They Were Like Family to Me is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.

“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…(They Were Like Family to Me) is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” —Jewish Book Council

“Moving and unsettling…Like Joyce’s Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village…Shankman’s prose is inventive and taut… A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe.” —Kirkus Reviews

“…by turns forthright and tender, oblique and intimate, brutal and ethereal…Though each story stands beautifully on its own, it is the completed tapestry of interwoven details that finally reveals the entire picture and provides the full emotional depth of the collected stories…The author’s greatest accomplishment is in leaving the horror to speak for itself, and instead giving voice to the enchantment.” —Historical Novel Society


More about They Were Like Family to Me They Were Like Family to Me

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (October 4, 2016)

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its monstrous power, Hitler’s SS fires up the new crematorium at Auschwitz and the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival depends on unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire, a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

“Filled with rich attention to the details of flora and fauna and insightful descriptions of the nuances of rural and small-town life” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town at a crossroads: we meet an SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a Messiah who announces that he is quitting; a Jewish girl who is hidden by an outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are the enigmatic Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive.

Buy, read, and discuss:

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Helen Maryles Shankman Helen Maryles Shankman

Helen Maryles Shankman’s stories have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. She was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Story Contest and earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers competition. Her stories have appeared in The Kenyon ReviewGargoyleCream City Review2 Bridges ReviewGrift, Jewishfiction.net, and other publications. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Color of Light and the story collection They Were Like Family to Me. She lives in New Jersey, with her husband and four children.

Connect with Helen:

Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

 


TLC Book Tours

Review: Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff

About the book, Secrets of Nanreath Hall Secrets of Nanreath Hall

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2016)

This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.

Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six-years-old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.

Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.

As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth… and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alix Rickloff Alix Rickloff

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Alix:

Website  FacebookPinterestTwitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

In Secrets of Nanreath Hall, author Alix Rickloff gives us an interesting well-written historical novel that takes place in two time periods without the use of time travel.

Instead, we meet Lady Katherine (Kitty) first as she’s announcing to her close friends that she’s been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t have much time left, and later in alternating chapters that flash back to show us her personal history. Her story is set against the backdrop of World War I, and we follow her constant straining against the society family she was born into and her love for an artist who paints her the way he sees her, but dies far too soon.

We also meet Anna, Kitty’s daughter, who is serving as a  Red Cross nurse. Her story is also set during wartime, World War II, and her chapters have a snap and sparkle to them that the Kitty sections do not, which fits the energy of the time.

Of the two women, it’s difficult to say which is stronger. Anna is certainly more self-sufficient, but Kitty is more unconventional, and yet, Rickloff makes them undeniably mother and daughter, even though Anna loses her mother when she is only six.

Both women have stories that involve coming of age, losing family, and finding their right place in the world. Kitty’s is more languid, especially as we know her ultimate end – dying essentially alone – from the beginning. Almost, it feels like lassitude slowly creeps into her story.  Conversely, Anna’s story increases in tempo as it goes on. Her early scenes paint her as very much a lost lamb, having just lost her guardians in an air raid.

There are other characters in this story of course. Kitty’s lover (and Anna’s father) the painter Simon Halliday is one. Anna’s cousin Hugh and friend Tilly are others. These characters are well drawn, each with their own flaws but they serve to highlight the women at the heart of the novel.

A final character is the family manse, Nanreath Hall, a house that has been conscripted for use as a convalescent home – the house where Anna is assigned. If the actual secrets held by the Hall were somewhat predictable, it wasn’t a detractor. The novel is so well written that even the predictable is a delight to read.

While this book will most appeal to Anglophiles and people who love historical novels, I think it would suit a broad variety of readers.

Goes well with warm pastry and hot tea, or maybe a splash of brandy.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 2nd: BookNAround

Thursday, August 4th: Bibliotica

Friday, August 5th: Let Them Read Books

Monday, August 8th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, August 9th: A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, August 10th: Broken Teepee

Monday, August 15th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 16th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 17th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, August 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques