Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

About the book, The Almost Sisters The-Almost-Sisters-cover

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)

Selected as the #1 Indie Next Pick for August

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Buy, read, and discuss The Almost Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with Joshilyn:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson’s work ever since I was first introduced to her writing by my good friend Debra, but I was especially excited about The Almost Sisters once I realized that the protagonist, Leia, shared my geeky sensibility.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen so hard for a main character, and I really wish Leia’s comicbook (Stan Lee insists that should be one word, and who am I to argue with Stan Lee?) was real, because Violence in Violet sounds like something I would completely connect with.

But I digress.

Leia and Rachel are ‘almost sisters’ – stepsisters from the age of three, who couldn’t be more different, and yet who share a deep family bond. The way they support each other during Leia’s discovery (and announcement) that she’s pregnant by a Batman cos-player she had a one-night-stand with at a con, Rachel’s marital woes, and Birchie’s (Leia’s grandmother) rapidly deteriorating mental health is absolutely lovely. Real and poignant, and often funny, these two women jump off the page and take up positions on your couch. They even bring the wine.

But Birchie and her girlfriend since childhood, Wattie, are also ‘almost sisters,’ and their friendship is beautiful and rich, layered with decades of familiarity, and colored by the fear of inevitable loss and death.

This novel is essentially a family drama, but it’s also a celebration of its southern roots and southern setting. There’s a sultry-ness that lurks in the background of every scene, and the soundtrack is equal parts southern rock, traditional blues, Americana, and a little bit of country-folk, blended with the rhythmic click of sprinklers resetting and the contrapuntal harmony of cicadas. None of that is spelled out, of course. Jackson’s writing is just so tied to place, and her descriptions are so vivid that you can’t help but add in your own imagined sound.

The Almost Sisters is funny and sad, poignant and prosaic, completely readable, and incredibly compelling. Read it. Read it now. Then share it with a friend.

Goes well with fried catfish, wedge salad with cherry tomatoes, cornbread, and sweet tea.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book

Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi

Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read

Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica

Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife

Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books

Monday, July 31st: she treads softly

Review: Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani

Kiss CarloAbout the book, Kiss Carlo

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 20, 2017)

From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativitythe story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

Buy, read and discuss Kiss Carlo:

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Adriana-Trigiani-AP-Photo-by-Tim-StephensonAbout the author, Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Connect with Adriana:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

I love Adriana Trigiani’s writing because her use of language is so lyrical and because her characters and plots celebrate working people – blue collar people – in a way that never panders.

In Kiss Carlo, we get to spend time with Trigiani characters in Italy, in South Philadelphia, and in New York, and we meet people who are cab drivers, flower sellers, and the company of a small Shakespeare company, and all are supremely real and vibrant and somewhat familiar to me, as half my own family are New Jersey Neapolitans who also refer to tomato sauce as gravy, the way Minna’s family does.

Nicky, the central figure in most of this story, is a cab driver moonlighting as a stage hand, and he practically leaps off the page, as do the multitudes of aunts, uncles and cousins who surround him.

While this is a period piece – set after World War II and at the dawn of Television’s golden age – it’s primarily a story about family – the people we love and hate and can’t live with, and wouldn’t dream of living without, and what it means when your dreams don’t align with what your family expects, and those things transcend period.

Goes well with spaghetti with meatballs and homemade tomato gravy.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 20th: Life By Kristen

Wednesday, June 21st: bookchickdi

Thursday, June 22nd: A Night’s Dream of Books

Friday, June 23rd: Time 2 Read

Monday, June 26th: Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, June 27th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, June 28th: Always With a Book

Friday, June 30th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings

Tuesday, July 4th: The many thoughts of a reader

Wednesday, July 5th: Tina Says…

Friday, July 7th: My Journey Back

Friday, July 7th: Stephany Writes

Monday, July 10th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 11th: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, July 12th: BookNAround

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

Thursday, July 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Bibliotica

Review: Forever Rose, by Carmen M. Oprea

Forever RoseAbout the book, Forever Rose

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Forever Rose

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Carmen Monica Oprea

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

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

Connect with Carmen

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Review: Soulmates, by Jessica Grose

Soulmates, by Jessica GroseAbout the book, Soulmates

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 13, 2017)

“For anyone who has ever suspected something sinister lurking behind the craze of new-age spirituality, Jessica Grose has crafted just the tale for you. With the delicious bite of satire and the page-turning satisfaction of a thriller, Soulmates is a deeply compelling, funny and sharply observed look at just how far we will go to achieve inner peace.”—Lena Dunham

A clever, timely novel about a marriage, and infidelity, the meaning of true spirituality, perception and reality from the author of Sad Desk Salad, in which a scorned ex-wife tries to puzzle out the pieces of her husband’s mysterious death at a yoga retreat and their life together.

It’s been two years since the divorce, and Dana has moved on. She’s killing it at her law firm, she’s never looked better, thanks to all those healthy meals she cooks, and she’s thrown away Ethan’s ratty old plaid recliner. She hardly thinks about her husband—ex-husband—anymore, or about how the man she’d known since college ran away to the Southwest with a yoga instructor, spouting spiritual claptrap that Dana still can’t comprehend.

But when she sees Ethan’s picture splashed across the front page of the New York Post—”Nama-Slay: Yoga Couple Found Dead in New Mexico Cave”—Dana discovers she hasn’t fully let go of Ethan or the past. The article implies that it was a murder-suicide, and Ethan’s to blame. How could the man she once loved so deeply be a killer? Restless to find answers that might help her finally to let go, Dana begins to dig into the mystery surrounding Ethan’s death. Sifting through the clues of his life, Dana finds herself back in the last years of their marriage . . . and discovers that their relationship—like Ethan’s death—wasn’t what it appeared to be.

A novel of marriage, meditation, and all the spaces in between, Soulmates is a page-turning mystery, a delicious satire of our feel-good spiritual culture, and a nuanced look at contemporary relationships by one of the sharpest writers working today.

Buy, read, and discuss Soulmates:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jessica-Grose-AP-Photo-by-Judith-EbensteinAbout the author, Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose is a writer and editor. She was previously a senior editor at Slate and an editor at Jezebel. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire, Spin, and several other publications, and on Salon.com. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel, Soulmates, is a quirky little book, and even after reading, I’m not sure I quite ‘got’ it, or that I was the right audience for it.

Author Jessica Grose is a talented writer. She blended the funny and the pathetic, the grim and the poignant in this story really well, and the whole thing has a very contemporary, wry, point of view of the sort that I typically appreciate.

That said, I had a difficult time connecting with the main character Dana. Sure, I understand not getting over an ex – especially when the ex is an ex-husband. Even the worst marriages have a level of intimacy that doesn’t really compare to anything else, and when that relationship ends, it’s natural to be at a loss. The opening chapters, which talk about her cyberstalking her ex-husband Ethan and his new partner were flat-out funny, especially the depiction of her friends getting tired of her obsession.

But when the book shifted from wry social commentary to mystery – Ethan and his new partner are found dead, and the story is on the front page of a major newspaper – I began to lose touch with the story. Maybe this was my own reaction to the whole ashram-commune mindset. (I don’t share well.) Maybe it’s my age showing – at 47, I’m outside the youthful/hipster demographic.

Or maybe it’s just that not every reader connects with every book the same way.

We’d like to believe that we read books with pure hearts and minds, but the reality is that we – or at least I – bring ourselves to the story as much as the author’s words and characters – we see things through the lens of our own lives – and my life just isn’t meshy with the last part of Soulmates.

Do not think that I’m panning this novel. I’m NOT.

As I said, author Grose is a talented writer. Her characters are vividly drawn, and feel plausible (that may be why I had such a visceral reaction to Dana’s arc). Her use of language feels like the best television shows, and her plot is strong.

If you are a little bit younger than me, or more open to things like communal living and yoga as a lifestyle and not merely a form of exercise, you will love this novel.

Even if you’re not into those things, there’s a good chance you’ll like it.

Goes well with grilled tofu, tabouleh, and iced mint tea. 


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Friday, June 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Saturday, June 24th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, June 27th: Bewitched Bookworms

Friday, June 30th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 3rd: Wining Wife

Wednesday, July 5th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, July 6th: StephTheBookworm

Friday, July 7th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, July 10th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, July 11th: Art @ Home

Wednesday, July 12th: My Military Savings

Friday, July 14th: Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps

Review: The Year of Loving, by Traci L. Slatton

The Year of LovingAbout the book, The Year of Loving

 

  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Parvati Press (October 10, 2016)

Art gallerist Sarah Paige’s world is crumbling. One daughter barely speaks to her and the other is off the rails. Sarah is struggling to keep her gallery afloat in a tough market when she learns that her most beloved friend has cancer. In the midst of her second divorce, two men come into her life: an older man who offers companionship and stability and an exciting younger man whose life is as chaotic as hers.

Sarah’s courage, humor, and spirit strengthen her, but how much can she bear, and what sustains her when all else falls away?

Buy, read, and discuss The Year of Loving:

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Traci L. SlattonAbout the author, Traci L. Slatton

Traci L. Slatton is the international bestselling author of historical, paranormal, and romantic novels, including Immortal and Broken; the award-winning dystopian After series, which includes FallenCold LightFar Shore and Blood Sky; the bittersweet romantic comedy The Love of My (Other) Life; and the vampire art history romp The Botticelli Affair. She has also published the lyrical poetry collection Dancing in the Tabernacle and The Art of Life, a photo-essay about figurative sculpture through the ages. Her book Piercing Time & Space explores the meeting ground of science and spirituality.

Connect with Traci

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

From the first moment of meeting Sarah, the twice (almost)-divorced mother of two girls, I was hooked on her story. Who else could meet a man by literally sticking her ass in his face (okay, it’s a clothed ass, and it’s accidental – she’s just tripped over her umbrella, knocked over a store display, and is bending over to solve both problems when her skirt rides up)? But what seems like a setup for a stereotypical romantic comedy is actually just one of many humorous moments in a story that, at times, is gravely serious. It’s that ability to find the priceless laughter in the midst of poignant narrative where author Traci L. Slatton really shines.

Sarah, of course, is the most vivid character in the book, because it’s her story. She’s suffering financial and emotional bankruptcy. Her soon-to-be-ex husband is playing their daughters against her, and her best friend reveals she has cancer. As well, she’s caught between two men, one too young, a representative of that class of people my friends and I often refer to as an entitlement of hipsters, the other older, possibly too much so, and more reserved.

It’s enough fodder for a year of soap opera-esque drama, but author Slatton keeps things grounded, giving us a story of a real-seeming woman’s struggles and satisfactions, tribulations and triumphs that keeps us glued to her story from that afore-mentioned first meeting to the very last page.

If you like reading about smart, sassy, somewhat sarcastic women who find their inner strength just when they most need it, and understand that love is both a risk and reward, you will love The Year of Loving.

 

 

Review: Monticello by Sally Cabot Gunning

Monticello About the book, Monticello

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 27, 2017)

From the critically acclaimed author of The Widow’s War comes a captivating work of literary historical fiction that explores the tenuous relationship between a brilliant and complex father and his devoted daughter—Thomas Jefferson and Martha Jefferson Randolph.

After the death of her beloved mother, Martha Jefferson spent five years abroad with her father, Thomas Jefferson, on his first diplomatic mission to France. Now, at seventeen, Jefferson’s bright, handsome eldest daughter is returning to the lush hills of the family’s beloved Virginia plantation, Monticello. While the large, beautiful estate is the same as she remembers, Martha has changed. The young girl that sailed to Europe is now a woman with a heart made heavy by a first love gone wrong.

The world around her has also become far more complicated than it once seemed. The doting father she idolized since childhood has begun to pull away. Moving back into political life, he has become distracted by the tumultuous fight for power and troubling new attachments. The home she adores depends on slavery, a practice Martha abhors. But Monticello is burdened by debt, and it cannot survive without the labor of her family’s slaves. The exotic distant cousin she is drawn to has a taste for dangerous passions, dark desires that will eventually compromise her own.

As her life becomes constrained by the demands of marriage, motherhood, politics, scandal, and her family’s increasing impoverishment, Martha yearns to find her way back to the gentle beauty and quiet happiness of the world she once knew at the top of her father’s “little mountain.”

Buy, read, and discuss Monticello:

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Sally Cabot GunningAbout the author, Sally Cabot Gunning

A lifelong resident of New England, Sally Cabot Gunning has immersed herself in its history from a young age. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Satucket Novels—The Widow’s War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke—and, writing as Sally Cabot, the equally acclaimed Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard. She lives in Brewster, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tom.

Connect with Sally:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve always been fascinated by the lives of our forefathers and foremothers, and as someone who’s still riding the high of seeing Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway, this novel, Monticello, came at the perfect time for me.

We tend to gloss over the more unsavory aspects of our history – the fact that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, for example. Most of us eventually get to a place where we can accept that even great men and women are still human, with human failings. This novel gives us a glimpse at the more human side of Jefferson, as seen through the eyes of his eldest daughter, Martha.

I really liked the way author Sally Cabot Gunning depicted Martha from the start. She’s clearly both compassionate and intelligent. As well, she’s a girl who is just coming into the fullness of womanhood, with all of the responsibilities that entails.

We first meet her on the carriage ride taking her, along with her father, her sister, and Sally Hemings (an historical figure in her own right) back to their estate, Monticello, for the first time after several years of life in Paris, and we see it through the eyes, not of contemporary tourists searching for a connection to American history, but of a young woman who must marry the glorified memories with the truth of her home and her life.

Author Gunning paints vivid pictures of life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in America, blending the personal with the political, and letting us see the dichotomy of Thomas Jefferson: Founding Father and Thomas Jefferson, father. As well, she gives us, in Martha Jefferson (eventually Martha Jefferson Randolph) a woman who becomes more and more aware of the culture and climate of her country, as juxtaposed with her rather sheltered life up on the hill.

I enjoyed seeing Jefferson through Martha’s eyes, but I enjoyed Martha’s own story – her burgeoning political and civil awareness, the difficult choices she must make in honoring her father’s legacy, but also answering to her own beliefs, and her personal life – loves lost and found, and friendships made and kept.

This is a novel, and must be treated as such, but the characters and settings are so dimensional, the research obviously painstakingly done, that it feels like truth, even when it may not necessarily be 100% factual. It’s definitely a gripping and compelling read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves history, yes, but also to anyone who enjoys stories about strong, smart young women finding their places in the world.

Goes well with hot tea, short bread, and sliced strawberries.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, June 28th: My Military Savings

Wednesday, June 28th: West Metro Mommy

Thursday, June 29th: Man of La Book

Thursday, June 29th: Bibliotica

Friday, June 30th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, July 3rd: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 4th: Library of Clean Reads

Wednesday, July 5th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, July 6th: alyssarossblog

Monday, July 10th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 11th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, July 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Thursday, July 13th: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, July 13th: Into the Hall of Books

Review: The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

The Alice NetworkAbout the book, The Alice Network

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Buy, read, and discuss The Alice Network:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kate Quinn Kate Quinn - Photo Credit: Kate Furek (AP)

Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

Connect with Kate:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Even in fiction there aren’t enough stories about female spies. Aside from Mata Hari, the only one I can think of is the Pink Carnation, the fictional character at the heart of Lauren Willig’s series which jumps off from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Alice Network is nothing like Willig’s novels. Rather, author Kate Quinn has given us a double story about a network of female spies operating during World War I & II. In the earlier time period, we meet Eve, strong, courageous, and determined. In the latter, the focus is on Charlie, brought to Europe by her parents to take care of a ‘little problem,’ of the type women have been quietly handling since the dawn of time.

She’s also searching for her cousin Rose, presumed dead, whom no one has  heard from in three years.

Inevitably, Charlie’s and Eve’s stories become intertwined, but even as the two get to know each other, and Charlie finds a place in the world of her own choosing, Eve’s story unwinds for us also.

Both women are intelligent, passionate, driven, and somewhat ‘damaged’ by what life has handed them, and both fight against the constraints that society puts on women. To me, it was fascinating to see what shifted between those two wars, and what remained the same. As well, it was interesting to consider what still hasn’t changed, in the years since then.

I found both characters to be quite engaging, dimensional women. Charlie, especially, is someone I’d love to share tea or coffee with, but all of Quinn’s creations felt like real people. Charlie’s mother made me laugh and cringe in the opening scenes – I think every young woman has a relative a little like her, or knows someone who does.

I also appreciated Quinn’s eye for detail and specifics (Charlie smokes Gauloises, for example).

If you like meaty, gripping historical fiction with strong female characters and themes that echo down the years, you will love The Alice Network.

Goes well with a snack plate of sliced baguette with brie or Stilton cheese (depending on your taste), some olives, and a glass of red wine, followed by an espresso and a piece of dark chocolate.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 6th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, June 9th: Staircase Wit

Monday, June 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 13th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Tuesday, June 13th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, June 14th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, June 15th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 15th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 16th: BookNAround

Monday, June 19th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Tuesday, June 20th: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, June 21th: Unabridged Chick

Thursday, June 22nd: Bibliotica

Friday, June 23rd: Leah DeCesare

Monday, June 26th: Book by Book

Tuesday, June 27th: Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, June 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Thursday, June 29th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, June 30th: Literary Quicksand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble

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

Connect with Shelley:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

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

I stand by both suggestions.

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

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

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

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

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

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


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 6th: Book by Book

Wednesday, June 7th: alyssarossblog

Wednesday, June 7th: StephTheBookworm

Thursday, June 8th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, June 9th: Just Commonly

Friday, June 9th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, June 12th: The Book Bag

Tuesday, June 13th: BookNAround

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

Friday, June 16th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, June 20th: My Journey Back

Tuesday, June 20th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 21st: Stranded in Chaos

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

Friday, June 23rd: Dreams, Etc.

TBD: Back Porchervations

TBD: A Chick Who Reads

 

Review: One Wrong Turn, by Deanna Lynn Sletten

One Wrong TurnAbout the book, One Wrong Turn

 

  • Print Length: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (June 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: June 20, 2017

Deanna Lynn Sletten returns with unforgettable new novel about one man’s crisis of self . . . and his greatest act of love.

“I’m her husband.”

The words roll off Clay Connors’s tongue, but with his ex-wife lying in a coma—with no assurance that she’ll awaken—he knows that he is perilously close to losing everything. A singular, terrifying accident has left Jess Connors suspended between life and death. Now Clay is reunited with the family he hasn’t seen for two years, including the daughters he left behind.

Clay should have been there for his family. Never should have stayed away so long. The alcohol that took over his life destroyed everything but a shred of his self-preservation. Sober and haunted, Clay revisits the memory of love, marriage, and how his life unraveled. He hopes that by trying to reconnect with the daughter who blames him and the daughter who barely knew him, he can find a light of hope in this darkest hour. As his family faces its most grueling, emotional test yet, Clay must summon the courage to make right what was wrong—and find forgiveness from his harshest judge: himself.

Buy, read, and discuss One Wrong Turn:

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


About the author, Deanna Lynn Sletten Deanna Lynn Sletten

Deanna Lynn Sletten writes women’s fiction and romance novels. She began her writing career self-publishing novels in 2012 and has since published several novels. Her latest novel, One Wrong Turn, is her third book published by Lake Union Publishing. Deanna believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after, and her novels reflect that.

Deanna lives in a small town in northern Minnesota and is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake.

Connect with Deanna:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

I was first introduced to Deanna Lynn Sletten’s work when I reviewed Maggie’s Turn in 2013, and I’ve loved her writing ever since. She creates wonderful stories with vivid settings and vibrant characters, and she always leaves you feeling like the world still holds hope – something we all really need right now.

This novel, One Wrong Turn, is no exception. A family drama, it takes place in the present on the Northern California coastline, and in the past (via flashbacks and memories) mainly in Southern California. While the scenes in the past were crucial for understanding the relationship between Clay and Jess in the present, I was more drawn to the contemporary scenes, probably because I lived in Northern California for a good chunk of my life (if I could afford it, I’d be running a B&B in Half Moon Bay right now) and was really wishing for those cool coastal breezes while I read this in hot, humid, Texas.

I really liked that Clay and Jess were depicted both as a couple and as separate individuals, and I liked the details of his being a musician. One thing that really resonated with me was an early flashback where he cuts his hair after meeting Jess and receiving her unfavorable comment about his pony-tail. My own husband (we celebrated 22 years in March) had a mullet when we met – I knew it was real love when he cut his hair short for me.

While characters who are young children don’t typically appeal to me, Sletten is so good at her craft I found Jess and Clay’s daughters, Maddie and Jilly, to be surprisingly not-annoying, the way the kids of most of my friends are. I know that sounds like an odd thing to comment on, but writing children well is a skill not every author has.

Overall, One Wrong Turn is one right choice if you like heartwarming family dramas, plausible love stories, and novels that end with hope and happiness.

Goes well with clam chowder, crusty bread, and IBC root beer.

 

Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays, by Ashley Farley

About the book, Sweet Tea Tuesdays Sweet Tea Tuesdays

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Leisure Time Books (May 3, 2017)

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

From the author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series comes a novel of friendship, family, and hope.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Buy, read, and discuss Sweet Tea Tuesdays:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Ashley Farley Ashley Farley

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Many people like their summer reading to be a little lighter than the books they focus on during the rest of the year, and I’m no exception. On the surface, Sweet Tea Tuesdays seems like a typical summer read – a bunch of woman who’ve been friends since forever, meet for a weekly gossip session on the porch.

But to dismiss this novel, which is, at times, both heart-breaking and heart-warming, as just a summer read would be to deny it the credit it deserves, for in this novel, author Ashley Farley gives us a group of real women – Lula, Midge, and Georgia – who could be any of us who are older than the Redbook demographic, but don’t really feel our ages.

This is a glimpse into three lives that seem as real, as vibrant, as those of any of the women I routinely talk to. I laughed at Lula putting paper towels under her breasts to sop up sweat when her air conditioner was broken, and I cringed at the way Midge’s new fiance treated her. I sympathized with Georgia, and at times wanted to hug or shake all three of these women.

Author Farley does a great job handling southern dialogue, and sets her scenes well. Nothing is over-written, but the sense of place is strong. I could hear the mosquitoes buzzing and feel the humidity in her words.

As well, Farley is incredibly skilled at capturing those moments of all-to-human humor that happen organically. The accidental turn of phrase, the times we make unintended slips – those are sprinkled throughout this novel, lightening some of the heavier moments, yes, but also giving the entire story a deeper reality.

Goes well with iced sweet tea and peach pie.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life