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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


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

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

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your family and friends will thank you.

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


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

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

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: Return to Glow, by Chandi Wyant

About the book, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

 

  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chandi Wyant (March 30, 2017)

In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.

Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

Buy, read, and discuss Return to Glow:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Chandi Wyant Chandi Wyant

A world traveler, photographer, writer and historian, Chandi Wyant has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland and England, and has been returning to Italy with unremitting passion since she first lived there at age twenty. She holds a Masters degree in Florentine Renaissance history and is the former head of Sogni Italiani, an events planning firm specializing in weddings, vow renewals, and honeymoons in Italy.  The manuscript of her memoir, Return to Glow (2017), won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

When she’s not dreaming in Italian, she can be found teaching history and writing about travel for the Huffington Post and her blog, Paradise of Exiles.

Connect with Chandi:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If you came across Chandi Wyant’s fascinating memoir Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy, you might note the athletic-looking blonde woman on the cover and think, “Oh, this is a rip-off of Wild,” and pass it by.

You would be missing out on a story that shares the barest of similarities with that oh-so-famous book – “woman heals herself emotionally and spiritually by taking a long hike”  – but is absolutely original. Even more, I found this book to be highly engaging, and really uplifting, though, forgive me, I will remain an armchair hiker.

When we first meet Chandi, she is recovering from the emergency appendectomy she had to undergo while on vacation in Italy, a relatively routine surgery that was complicated by sepsis. Back in the states, still healing physically, Chandi is also in the midst of a divorce, and is re-evaluating her life.

A variety of factors, including the sometimes bone-deep chill of Boulder, CO, during a damp winter, sends Chandi on her new mission: she will walk across Italy. Research is begun  – are there trails? Are there convenient stops on the most promising route? Finally something connects: Chandi will hike the Via Francigena – the road that connects Canterbury to Rome.

Of course, Wyant’s route doesn’t actually start in England, but at the Italian border – a 40-day hike on this ancient trail, sometimes in solitude, sometimes running into strangers and sharing their stories. There’s time in a convent, and time on the open trail, and the entire story meshes beautifully as the author’s hike leads her, not just to one of the world’s most famous cities, but back to her best self, back to her glow.

In some ways, each chapter of this book felt like a separate essay, but there was still connection. Part travelogue, part memoir, I found Wyant’s writing style to be intimate and conversational, her descriptions as vivid as the photos she takes.

If you read only one “personal transformation” memoir this year, make it Return to Glow. After reading it, I felt closer to my own glow, even without the physical pilgrimage.

Goes well with roasted chicken and vegetables and a glass of wine.

 

 

Cover Reveal: The Fortune Teller, by Gwendolyn Womack

About the book, The Fortune Teller The Fortune Teller

  • Release Date: June 6, 2017
  • Publisher: Picador USA
  • Format: eBook & Paperback; 320 Pages
  • Genre: Fiction/Romantic Suspense

FROM THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE MEMORY PAINTER COMES A SWEEPING AND SUSPENSEFUL TALE OF ROMANCE, FATE, AND FORTUNE.

Semele Cohen appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, specializing in deciphering ancient texts. And when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the cards? As the mystery of her connection to the manuscript deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Brossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Brossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Pre-order The Fortune Teller

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Gwendolyn WomackGwendolyn Womack, Copyright JennKL Photography

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack studied theater at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She holds an MFA in Directing Theatre, Video and Cinema from California Institute of the Arts. Her first novel, The Memory Painter, was an RWA PRISM award winner in the Time Travel/Steampunk category and a finalist for Best First Novel. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her son.

Praise for Gwendolyn Womack and The Memory Painter

“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic.” ―M. J. Rose, author of the Reincarnationist Series and The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“Gwendolyn Womack is a storytelling virtuosa, whose sexy, action-packed mind-boggler of a book is destined to become a classic.” ―Anne Fortier, author of Juliet and The Lost Sisterhood

Connect with Gwendolyn

Website  | Facebook  | Twitter | Goodreads


The Fortune TellerCover Reveal Hosts

100 Pages a Day
A Bookaholic Swede
A Literary Vacation
Ageless Pages Reviews
Bibliotica
Book Nerd
Books, Dreams, Life
Buried Under Books
History From a Woman’s Perspective
Jorie Loves a Story
Let Them Read Books
Passages to the Past
Queen of All She Reads
Susan Heim on Writing
The Lit Bitch
The Maiden’s Court
The Never-Ending Book
The Reading Queen
Time 2 Read
Trisha Jenn Reads
What Is That Book About

The Fortune Teller

Review: Echoes of Family, by Barbara Claypole White

About the book, Echoes of Family Echoes of Family

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 27, 2016)

Sometimes the only way through darkness is to return to where it began.

Marianne Stokes fled England at seventeen, spiraling into the manic depression that would become her shadow. She left behind secrets, memories, and tragedy: one teen dead, and her first love, Gabriel, badly injured. Three decades later she’s finally found peace in the North Carolina recording studio she runs with her husband, Darius, and her almost-daughter, Jade…until another fatality propels her back across the ocean to confront the long-buried past.

In her picturesque childhood village, the first person she meets is the last person she wants to see again: Gabriel. Now the village vicar, he takes her in without question, and ripples of what if reverberate through both their hearts. As Marianne’s mind unravels, Jade and Darius track her down. Tempers clash when everyone tries to help, but only by finding the courage to face her illness can Marianne heal herself and her offbeat family.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Barbara Claypole White Barbara Claypole White

A Brit living in North Carolina, Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Her debut novel, The Unfinished Garden, won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book, and The In-Between Hour was chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick. Her third novel, The Perfect Son, was a semifinalist in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction.

Connect with Barbara

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve heard Barbara Claypole White’s name forever, it seems, and yet Echoes of Family is the first time I’ve actually read her writing. Even so,  falling into this novel was like falling into the story of an old friend. Marianne, with the trauma that has lingered with her from girlhood, is sometimes manic, sometimes darkly depressed, but always a force to be reckoned with, and she loves with all her heart, when her head lets her. Jade, her unofficially adopted daughter is also a compelling character, and watching the way the stories of these two women unfold and overlap each other was incredibly rewarding and satisfying.

Fundamentally, this novel is about family – the kind we’re born to and the kind we choose – but it’s also about grief, loss, personal growth, and letting go of the things we cannot change, or that merely fester in the deepest parts of psyches. Claypole’s characters are dimensional and real, but it’s her handling of the interpersonal relationships between them that I found completely gripping. The simplest interactions are laced with nuance and subtlety that just sings off the page.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction with female characters who are both strong and realistically flawed, you will absolutely love Echoes of Family.


Barbara Claypole White’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Sunday, September 25th: Writer Unboxed – guest post, “Ten Tips for Writing Through Family Stress”

Monday, September 26th: BookBub Blog – “Family Crises of the Month Book Club”

Tuesday, September 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, September 28th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, September 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, October 3rd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Monday, October 3rd: BookNAround

Wednesday, October 5th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Thursday, October 6th: Broken Teepee

Friday, October 7th: Not in Jersey

Tuesday, October 11th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, October 13th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, October 14th: Books ‘n Bindings

Monday, October 17th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, October 18th: The Baking Bookworm

Wednesday, October 19th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 24th: Mom’s Small Victories

Review: The Things We Wish Were True, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

About the book The Things We Wish Were True The Things We Wish Were True

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 1, 2016)

In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

Buy, read, and discuss The Things We Wish Were True

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of five previous novels and speaks to women’s groups around the United States. She is the cofounder of the popular women’s fiction site She Reads and is active in a local writers’ group. Marybeth and her husband, Curt, have been married for twenty-four years and are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel.

Connect with Marybeth

Website | She Reads | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I always enjoy novels that involve many characters, or groups of characters, each with individual arcs but intersecting plots. Maeve Binchy was a master of such stories. This is the first of Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s that I’ve encountered, but if it’s anything to judge by, she’s also masterful when it comes to interweaving separate stories.

And this novel is very much a collection of separate-but-intertwined stories. Two children whose mother works like crazy, but never seems to have enough, a wife who cannot seem to function any more, pairs of adults and children who don’t always connect – it’s a microcosm of American suburbia, drawn with just enough darkness at the edges to keep the sweet moments from being saccharine.

This typical suburban life was never my reality, and I’m wondering if the sense that I was looking through a slightly distorted lens, a warped window or clouded mirror was because of my own disconnect from such neighborhoods – everyone I knew growing up went to beaches or had their own pool, so a community pool was never part of my experience – or intentional on the author’s part, but the feeling worked for the story, making the people of Sycamore Glen feel like folks you don’t really know, but have maybe seen at the grocery store and so have a passing familiarity with. It’s similar to the sense of an endless summer, but a little more heightened.

Whalen’s characters all felt dimensional. I don’t have a favorite… they were all so well-drawn, that to pick one out seems impossible. Jencey, I think, the mother on the run from a bad relationship, her two kids in tow, really stood out for me, as did Bryte, but Cailey, the bright, determined little girl half of the sister-and-brother team in the rental house really shone. I’d love a folllow-up novel tracking her as an adult. She had grit and spunk, and those things appeal to me.

Overall, this is a perfect summer read, but it’s not a novel that would be out of place at any time of year. It is well crafted, with excellent characters, a connective plot that is quietly compelling, and a theme of resilience, neighborliness, and hope.

Goes well with egg salad sandwiches and lemonade.


Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 29th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesdsay, August 31st: Reading is my Superpower

Wednesday, August 31st: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Thursday, September 1st: Girls in White Dresses

Friday, September 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, September 6th: Reading Cove Book Club

Wednesday, September 7th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, September 8th: Books and Spoons

Friday, September 9th: Books and Bindings

Friday, September 9th: Books a la Mode – excerpt

Monday, September 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, September 13th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Thursday, September 15th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, September 16th: A Splendid Messy Life

Monday, September 19th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 21st: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, September 22nd: Just Commonly

Monday, September 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, September 26th: FictionZeal

Thursday, September 29th: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, September 30th: Not in Jersey

Review: The Memory Painter, by Gwendolyn Womack

About the book, The Memory Painter The Memory Painter

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: Picador (July 5, 2016)

What if there was a drug that could help you remember past lives?

What if the lives you remembered could lead you to your one true love?

What if you learned that, for thousands of years, a deadly enemy had conspired to keep the two of you apart?

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections?possibly even flashback from another life?and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.
Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for this book


About the author, Gwendolyn Womack Gwendolyn Womack

Gwendolyn Womack began writing plays in college and majored in Theatre at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She received an MFA in Directing Theatre and Film from California Institute of the Arts and currently lives in Los Angeles with her family. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

Connect with Gwendolyn

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was part of a book blast for the hardcover version of this book a year ago, but didn’t get to read it until I signed up to be part of this blog tour. I’m sorry I had to wait for such a gripping story, but, wow! Am I glad I  finally read it! This is a great story that not only taps into the power of our dreams but is also a compelling mystery/thriller. Why is Bryan suddenly painting the same scene from Linz’s nightmare? Is it possible something else is going on? And why are people after them.

At times haunting – especially when Bryan is in the throes of a painting session – and at other times heart-poundingly exciting – with just enough romance to balance everything else. The dialogue is incredibly well written, and the characters seem like people you’d totally want to eavesdrop on in your local coffee shop.

If you want a story that defies categorization, keeps you in suspense to the end, and makes you question everything you think you know about dreams and creativity, and where both come from, Gwendolyn Womack’s The Memory Painter will give you the perfect blend of entertainment, insight, and provocation of ideas.

Goes well with baguette, brie, red wine, and a rainy day.

 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 4th: Lilac Reviews

Tuesday, July 5th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, July 6th: Dreaming Big

Thursday, July 7th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Friday, July 8th: Art @ Home

Monday, July 11th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, July 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, July 14th: Broken Teepee

Monday, July 18th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, July 19th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, July 20th: Ms.Bookish.com

Thursday, July 21st: Bibliotica

Review: Keep You Close, by Lucie Whitehouse – with Giveaway

About  the book,  Keep You Close Keep You Close

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (May 3, 2016)

When the artist Marianne Glass falls to her death, everyone insists it was a tragic accident. Yet Rowan Winter, once her closest friend, suspects there is more to the story. Ever since she was young, Marianne had paralyzing vertigo. She would never have gone so close to the roof’s edge.

Marianne–and the whole Glass family–once meant everything to Rowan. For a teenage girl, motherless with a much-absent father, this lively, intellectual household represented a world of glamour and opportunity.

But since their estrangement, Rowan knows only what the papers reported about Marianne’s life: her swift ascent in the London art world, her much-scrutinized romance with her gallerist. If she wants to discover the truth about her death, Rowan needs to know more. Was Marianne in distress? In danger? And so she begins to seek clues–in Marianne’s latest work, her closest relationships, and her new friendship with an iconoclastic fellow artist.

But the deeper Rowan goes, the more sinister everything seems. And a secret in the past only she knows makes her worry about her own fate . . .

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, Lucie Whitehouse Lucie Whitehouse

Lucie Whitehouse grew up in Warwickshire, England, studied classics at the University of Oxford, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter. She is author of The House at MidnightThe Bed I Made, and Before We Met.

Connect with Lucie

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

 

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love a good thriller. I love the mystery, and the sense of jeopardy that comes with the not knowing, and I love the way a well-written thriller hits you right i the sweet spot of the amygdalae, and makes your skin shiver.

From the very first page of Keep You Close, author Lucie Whitehouse has set  the absolutely perfect tone. It starts with a snowy night, a rooftop quarrel, and a deathly fall. It broadens into the friends and family, specifically Rowan, who were close to Marianne, the victim, and running through it are the dual threads of the artists’  personality – how being creative often skews you perceptions and the way you engage in relationships, and art – from the very first scene where Marianne comes in to find papers and sketches arrayed like fallen snowflakes around her house.

While it’s Marianne’s death that we are meant to be comprehending, this novel is very much Rowan’s story. In memories, it has elements of a chummy college years story, but those memories serve the twin purposes of grounding us in the heightened reality in which Keep You Close takes place, and in showing us how a rift between best friends can echo through the years.

As we discover Rowan and Marianne’s secrets, as the jeopardy to  Rowan increases, Whitehouse’s storytelling just gets better and better. This novel isn’t quite a roller coaster, but only because it’s more atmospheric than that. Rather, it’s a gracefully unwinding spiral, and a compelling read.

Goes well with fresh from the vendor fish n’ chips, steaming hot  & wrapped in newspaper, served with a craft ale or lager.


Giveaway Keep You Close

This one’s a quickie for the weekend. ONE reader from the US/Canada will get a copy of this book.

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

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a comment here on this post telling me about a phobia you have. (I’m terrified of spiders.)

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Monday, July 4th.

Winner will be contacted by me, but fulfillment will be from the publicist for this book, and may take up to six weeks.


Lucie Whitehouse’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, June 6th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Thursday, June 9th: Dreams, Etc.

Friday, June 10th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Monday, June 13th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, June 14th: Write Read Life

Wednesday, June 15th: Just Commonly

Thursday, June 16th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, June 20th: Puddletown Reviews

Wednesday, June 22nd: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, June 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, June 27th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Monday, June 27th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday June 29th: Books and Spoons

Thursday, June 30th: Bibliotica

Review: Father’s Day, by Simon Van Booy

About the book, Father’s Day Father's Day

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 26, 2016)

“A strong voice full of poetic, timeless grace.”—San Francisco Examiner

When devastating news shatters the life of six-year-old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met—a disabled felon, haunted by a violent act he can’t escape.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood on Long Island and her life as a young woman in Paris.

Written in raw, spare prose that personifies the characters, this remarkable novel is the journey of two people searching for a future in the ruin of their past.

Father’s Day is a meditation on the quiet, sublime power of compassion and the beauty of simple, everyday things—a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Simon Van Booy Simon van Booy by Ken Brower

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Connect with Simon

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I can’t decide if I like this book or not.

I know that sounds weird. It is weird for me, because usually when I’m reading a novel, I have a good idea of whether or not I like it, and how much. With Father’s Day, though, I feel like it’s inserted itself into my brain so easily, so smoothly, that there was never a sense of “I’m reading this; what do I think?” rather than  “Oh, hey, I completely get this story.”

Simon Van Booy’s prose is deceptively simple. From the opening chapters, which are from child- Harvey’s point of view to the chapters twenty years later that let us see adult-Harvey living in Paris, the writing is clean, the characters well-defined. Her parents, though we don’t spend much time with them, seem like lovely people and Jason, the man who becomes her father after their death, is complex and prickly, but clearly has a good heart.  (I also really loved the characters of Leon, the French tutor, and his daughter Isabelle.)

I liked the method of Harvey’s box of father’s day presents to Jason being the triggers for memories, letting us see in flashback how six-year-old Harvey with two parents, became twenty-six-year-old Harvey with only Jason (technically her uncle) and a life in Paris. I liked that they earned their mutual affection and respect for each other. I felt that the book was generally truthful.

But at the same time, I’m left with the feeling that I didn’t so much experience this novel, as sort of assimilate it. Maybe it’s my own brain distancing itself from the emotional resonances with my own relationship with my stepfather, a man it took me twelve years to truly accept as family, or maybe it’s just that the plain, stark language didn’t give me that “oh, I love this language” feeling, even though ultimately, I found the story to be moving and very real.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely. It was engaging and interesting, and emotionally truthful.

But I’m still not sure I liked it, because I’m not sure that word ‘like’ is an appropriate choice.

Goes well with a ham sandwich on warm baguette and a glass of sparkling lemonade.


Simon’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround

Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac

Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much

Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal

Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly

Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts

Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek

Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader

Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, May 20th: Time 2 Read

#Bibliotica reviews Where We Fall, by Rochelle B. Weinstein

About the book, Where We Fall Where We Fall

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 19, 2016)

On the surface, Abby Holden has it all. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter and the wife of Ryana beloved high school football coach. Yet, depression has a vice grip on Abby and every day tugs a little harder on the loose threads of her marriage, threatening to unravel her charmed life. Meanwhile, Ryan is a charismatic, loyal husband who can coach the local high school football team to victory, but is powerless to lift his wife’s depression, which has settled into their marriage like a deep fog. Although this isn’t the life he’s dreamed of, Ryan is determined to heal the rifts in his family. Lauren Sheppard was once Ryan’s girlfriend and Abby’s closest friend. Now a globe-trotting photographer who documents the power and beauty of waterfalls around the world, she returns back home to the mountains of North Carolina, where she must face the scene of a devastating heartbreak that forever changed the course of her life.

As college coeds, Abby, Ryan, and Lauren had an unbreakable bond. Now, for the first time in seventeen years, the once-inseparable friends find themselves confronting their past loves, hurts, and the rapid rush of a current that still pulls them together. With hypnotic, swift storytelling, Weinstein weaves in and out of Abby, Ryan, and Lauren’s lives and imparts lessons of love, loyalty, friendship, and living with mental illness.

Ripe with emotional insight, WHERE WE FALL explores the depths of the human mind and a heart that sees what the eyes cannot. As Abby, Ryan, and Lauren struggle to repair their relationships and resolve their inner demons, they unflinchingly hold the mirror to the reader, reminding us not only of our own flaws, but also how beautiful and human those imperfections can be.

Buy, read, and discuss Where We Fall

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


About the author, Rochelle B. Weinstein Rochelle B. Weinstein

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Rochelle B. Weinstein followed her love of the written word across the country. She moved north to attend the University of Maryland, earning a degree in journalism, and began her career in Los Angeles at the LA Weekly. After moving back to Miami, she enjoyed a stint in the entertainment industry, marrying her love of music with all things creative. When her twins arrived, she sat down one afternoon while they were napping and began to write. The resulting novel, the highly acclaimed What We Leave Behind, explores the poignancy of love and the human condition. Her second book, The Mourning After, is a moving story of hope and resiliency.

Connect with Rochelle

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This book is a contemporary, literary look at what it’s like to live with a mental health condition (in this case, clinical depression) both as the person who has the condition, and the people who surround her, but while the subject is a difficult one, the book is a gripping read, the kind of novel you sit down with, only to look up several hours later to realize that you’ve finished it, and it’s suddenly dark outside (or light outside, if you’re nocturnal, like me.)

Author Rochelle B. Weinstein has created three main characters (four, if you include Abby and Ryan’s daughter Juliana) and a cast of supporting characters who all feel as vibrant and real – and flawed – as anyone you may know in life. At the center of it is Abby, of course, whose outwardly perfect life is the mask she wears to hide her depression. Her flaws are not limited to her condition – but they are the most obvious. Ryan is her husband, the former boyfriend of her best college friend, and while he’s far from perfect himself (except in memory and imagination) he’s lovingly imperfect in a way that makes you root for him. We don’t really meet Lauren until about a quarter of the way into the story, but when we do, she is as real and dynamic as the other two.

It’s easy to say that a love triangle is a trope, but Weinstein doesn’t just flip the trope, she dissects it. She makes us see all the different things that influence the way we live and love, grow and change, over the course of a year, a relationship, a lifetime.  When she puts it back together, there are extra pieces, but that’s okay, because they fill the center, and make everything dimensional and real.

It would be easy to say “read this book if you or someone you know is clinically depressed,” but that would be shortchanging both Weinstein and her work, because most of the themes in this novel are universal. I say: read this book if you love a compelling, deeply human story.

Goes well with hot coffee and multigrain toast with almond butter.


Giveaway Where We Fall

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of this book. How do you do it? Leave a comment on this blog telling me about someone you loved who got away (make sure you use a valid email address – no one but me will see it) , OR follow me on twitter (I’m @Melysse), and retweet my post about this book.

If you win, I’ll forward your information to the publicist, and they will ensure that you receive your copy. (It can take up to a month from the end of the whole tour.)

This giveaway opportunity is open until Monday, May 16th, at 12:00 pm Central time.

 


Rochelle B. Weinstein’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 18th: Just Commonly

Thursday, April 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, April 25th: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, April 26th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, April 27th: Alexa Loves Books

Thursday, April 28th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, April 28th: Worth Getting In Bed For

Friday, April 29th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Monday, May 2nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 3rd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 4th: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, May 5th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, May 6th: BookNAround

Monday, May 9th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, May 11th: I’d Rather Be Reading at the Beach

Thursday, May 12th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, May 13th: Not in Jersey

Friday, May 13th: Bewitched Bookworms

A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles, by Mary Elizabeth Williams

About the book, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (April 26, 2016)

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams’s experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Mary Elizabeth Williams Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior staff writer for award-winning Salon.com whose columns are regularly among the top viewed, commented on, shared, and cited as the best of the week. The “Lab Rat” series on her clinical trial was nominated for the 2012 Online Journalism Award for Commentary, and her essay on receiving a melanoma diagnosis is in the Harper anthology The Moment, an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” pick—alongside essays by Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers. She is the author of Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream. A starred Booklist selection,Gimme Shelter was called “poignant and funny” (Kirkus), “a must-read” (New York Daily News), “hilariously evocative” (Time Out Kids) and “compelling” (Publisher’s Weekly). She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Find out more about her at her website.

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When Trish from TLC Book Tours said she wanted to ask me, specifically, about reading this book, I almost said no. I mean, who wants to read another book about some woman they don’t know talking about her cancer. But I’ve been working with TLC for a few years now, and even though we don’t have much direct contact, I’ve noticed that Trish has an unerring knack for matching people and books, so I went against my initial reaction, and said yes.

I’m really glad I did, because it turns out that I knew Mary Elizabeth Williams from her work – Gimme Shelter is amazing, by the way – and her style is to candid and breezy and funny and snarky that I felt like reading her story was listening to one of my best girlfriends describing their experience. She was explicit enough that picturing her tumor, and understanding exactly what was going on, was relatively simply, yet she didn’t subject people to horror-movie levels of gore, and when things were turning darker or too serious, she would inject just enough humor to help lighten the moment without making it seem like there was no jeopardy, or things weren’t that dire.

It’s a tricky edge to ride.

Almost as tricky, I’d wager, as dealing with malignant melanoma while raising two daughters and reconciling with your ex-husband, which are all things Williams was doing.

Now, here’s where I share that I had a good friend – a blog buddy who was brilliant and incisive with words – who died from malignant melanoma a few years ago, just after Christmas. His last blog post describes how bad he really was, and how he and his wife had decided not to tell the kids until after the holidays. This  man was a soldier. He used to send me pictures from places like Kabul, and tell me about the people he encountered. I miss our discussions. I miss his writing. Even though we never met in person – we meant to – I miss him.

So, I knew, going into Williams’ book, that ‘skin cancer’ is a lot more dangerous than people think it is.

And Mary Elizabeth Williams is one lucky woman, with an incredible sense of humor. How can you not appreciate a woman who has to have a vodka tonic and a plate of buttered popovers before her first meeting with an oncologist at Sloan Kettering?

How can you not become thoroughly engaged in a story that includes the author’s honest speculation that the most expensive part of her treatment may be bribing her kids.

How indeed? As far as I can tell, the only way you will not immediately want Mary Elizabeth Williams as your best friend is by not reading this book.

But you should read it. You should read A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles because it’s funny and honest and profoundly human.

And really, fundamentally, even though it’s about this one woman and her one experience, it’s also about all of us, and how we choose to face catastrophes, and accept miracles.

What could be more compelling than that?

Goes well with buttered popovers and hot tea (Lady Grey is my pick), but a vodka tonic is perfectly acceptable as well.


Mary’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 26th: Darn Good Lemonade

Wednesday, April 27th: The Discerning Reader

Wednesday, April 27th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 29th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, May 3rd: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, May 4th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 10th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 11th: Patient #1

Wednesday, May 18th: Booby and the Beast

Thursday, May 19th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 31st: Mel’s Shelves