Review: The Silent Fountain, by Victoria Fox

About the book, The Silent FountainThe Silent Fountain

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (October 31, 2017)

Hollywood, 1978 

Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day 

Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.

The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.

Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa. 

And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Buy, read, and discuss The Silent Fountain:

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


About the author, Victoria Fox Victoria Fox

Victoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.

Connect with Victoria:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

The Silent Fountain is not a fast read. Rather, it unwinds like a road through the Italian countryside, the kind where there might be sunflowers on one side and a grove of olive trees on the other. It’s full of intrigue and deception, scandal and sorrow, and it’s worth every moment it takes to follow the various twists and turns.

I’ve always enjoyed parallel stories. In this novel, we have the story of faded movie star, Vivian Lockhart, a recluse wrapped in mystery and loss, and Lucy, young, vibrant, and equally troubled. As these two women exist near each other, around each other, and eventually open up to each other, each works through her own issues, and while the bond they form is neither lasting nor unbreakable, it’s supremely real nevertheless.

Of course, there is a third primary character in this moody book: Castillo Barbarossa itself. It’s an old, spooky house with dark corners and the titular “Silent Fountain,” and it looms large throughout the entire story, serving as both setting and silent chorus.

While this book was, ultimately, nothing like what I expected, it was a compelling read, well crafted, and truly beautiful.

Goes well with buttery roasted chicken, roasted peppers and tomatoes, and a bottle of any local table wine you like.


Victoria Fox’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: The Silent Fountain at TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 30th: OMG Reads – excerpt

Tuesday, October 31st: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, October 31st: Art Books Coffee on Instagram

Tuesday, October 31st: A Thousand Books to Read on Instagram

Wednesday, November 1st: Annika B Bauer on Instagram

Wednesday, November 1st: Beach.House.Books on Instagram

Thursday, November 2nd: The Lit Bitch

Monday, November 6th: A Holland Reads

Monday, November 6th: Girls in Books blog and Instagram

Tuesday, November 7th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen blog and Instagram

Wednesday, November 8th: Suzy Approved – excerpt

Thursday, November 9th: Books & Bindings

Friday, November 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, November 10th: Palmer’s Page Turners – excerpt

Friday, November 10th: Bookish Cassie on Instagram

Saturday, November 11th: From the Library of Mrs. Gardner blog and Instagram

Monday, November 13th: Ms Nose in a Book

Monday, November 13th: Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, November 14th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, November 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 16th: Broken Teepee blog and Instagram

Thursday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, November 17th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, November 20th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram

Tuesday, November 21st: Novel Gossip blog and Instagram

Wednesday, November 22nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, November 24th: Kahakai Kitchen blog and Instagram

Review: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman

About the book, The Welcome Home DinerThe Welcome Home Diner

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss The Welcome Home Diner:

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


About the author, Peggy Lampman

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

Connect with Peggy:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, October 16th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 17th: A Thousand Books to Read

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

Thursday, October 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

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

Saturday, October 21st: Beth Fish Reads

Monday, October 23rd: The Sketchy Reader

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

Tuesday, October 24th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, October 25th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 26th: A Chick Who Reads

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

Wednesday, November 1st: Why Girls are Weird

Thursday, November 2nd: Bookchickdi

Friday, November 3rd: BookNAround

Monday, November 6th: Read Write Repeat

Tuesday, November 7th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, November 9th: Bibliotica

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

Friday, November 10th: What is That Book About

Review: Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee, by Gregory MaguireAbout the book, Hiddensee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Hiddensee:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


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

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

Connect with Gregory:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

That is not what Hiddensee is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with chestnut pastries and strong coffee.


Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 31st: BookExpression

Wednesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 2nd: Man of La Book

Friday, November 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, November 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 7th: The Sketchy Reader

Wednesday, November 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Wednesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Thursday, November 9th: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 10th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, November 13th: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, November 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 15th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, November 17th: Based on a True Story

Review: Lona Chang, by AshleyRose Sullivan

About the book, Lona Chang

Lona Change: A Superhero Detective Story• Paperback
• Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (August 30, 2017)

When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves.

As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Buy, read, and discuss Lona Chang:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, AshleyRose Sullivan

AshleyRose SullivanOriginally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Monkey Bicycle and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press.

Connect with AshleyRose:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellLona Chang is a secretary in a print shop, but she’s also a budding superhero and an amateur detective. Her partner – in love and and saving people – is Awesome Jones, also a superhero, but a normal guy, as well. Together they fight crime.

Okay, this book is more than that. In concept Lona Chang and it’s predecessor are comicbooks (Stan Lee insists that it should be one word, and I refuse to argue with him on a such a topic) in novel form, but they’re also a bit more complex than an actual comic, because in a novel there’s time to dig into people’s inner monologues and really explore the details of a world.

Author AshleyRose (also one word) Sullivan has given us a fairy tale for adults, one rich with characters and backstories and interconnected relationships, as well as diametrically opposed goals and desires. She’s given us a compelling mystery and two people who are ordinary people on the surface, until they let their extraordinary selves take over.

The writing style is contemporary and upbeat, riding the blurred edge between sophisticated Young Adult/New Adult fare and general fiction. The dialogue is snappy and believable. The world of Arc City is as vivid as Gotham, Star City, or Metropolis ever were, and the plot is well-paced, and truly interesting. From opening to ending, I was hooked on this story.

While I enjoyed Lona Chang as a stand-alone (I’m pretty good at extrapolating things from context) there are a lot of relationships and details that are better understood if you read Awesome Jones first. This review was actually rescheduled so I could have time to go back and read the first novel, and I’m not sorry. Both books are enjoyable, but the second is so much better after having read the first.

If you (like me) used to tie your hoodie over your head and let the rest of it flow free so you could have a cape, or if you tucked a beach towel into the collar of your t-shirt (also as a cape) – if you have perfected your delivery of the phrase “I’m Batman” – if last summers Wonder Woman movie made you cry, you will love Lona Chang and Awesome Jones – the characters, and their stories.

Goes well with a hot dog and a Coke, purchased from a street vendor and – hey! Did you see someone WOOSH by just now?


Tour Stops

Monday, October 16th: G. Jacks Writes

Tuesday, October 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, October 18th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Thursday, October 19th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, November 3rd: Bibliotica

Monday, November 6th: The Paperback Pilgrim

Thursday, November 16th: The Sketchy Reader – Awesome Jones

Friday, November 17th: The Sketchy Reader –Lona Chang

Monday, November 27th: Book Hooked Blog – Awesome Jones

Tuesday, November 28th: Book Hooked Blog – Lona Chang

Thursday, December 7th: The Desert Bibliophile

Spotlight: Death in D Minor, by Alexia Gordon – with Giveaway

Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon

About the book, Death in D Minor

  • Series: Gethsemane Brown Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Genre: Paranormal Mystery / African American Sleuth
  • Publisher: Henery Press
  • Date of Publication: July 11, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 236

Death in D MinorGethsemane Brown, African-American musician and expatriate to an Irish village, solved a string of murders and got used to living with a snarky ghost. She can rest easy now. Right? Wrong. The ghost has disappeared, her landlord’s about to sell to a developer, and her brother-in-law’s come to visit. She scrambles to call her spectral roomie back from beyond and find a way to save the cottage from destruction. But real estate takes a backseat when her brother-in-law is accused of stealing a valuable antique. Gethsemane strikes a deal with an investigator to go undercover at a charity ball and snoop for evidence of a forgery/theft ring in exchange for the woman’s help clearing him. At the party, she accidentally conjures the ghost of an eighteenth-century sea captain, then ends up the prime suspect in the party host’s murder. She races to untangle a web of phony art and stolen antiques to exonerate herself, then the killer targets her. Will she bring a murderer to justice, or will her encore investigation become her swan song?

Buy, read, and discuss Death in D Minor:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Goodreads


Praise for Death in D Minor

  • Gethsemane Brown is everything an amateur sleuth should be: smart, sassy, talented, and witty even when her back is against the wall. In her latest adventure, she’s surrounded by a delightful cast, some of whom readers will remember from Gordon’s award-winning debut and all of whom they won’t forget. Gordon writes characters we want resurrected. ~ Cate Holahan, author of The Widower’s Wife and Lies She Told
  • Erstwhile ghost conjurer and gifted concert violinist Gethsemane Brown returns in this thoroughly enjoyable follow-up to last year’s Murder in G Major. Facing eviction from the historic seaside cottage she calls home, Gethsemane must clear her brother-in-law’s name – as well as her own – when a priceless artifact goes missing and the wealthy dowager to whom it belonged is “helped” over a high balcony railing.  With the help of a spectral sea captain she accidentally summoned, Gethsemane tries to unravel the mystery as the murderer places her squarely in the crosshairs. ~ Daniel J. Hale, Agatha Award-winning author

Author Alexia Gordon’s Top 5 Whiskies

Ardbeg UigeadailGethsemane Brown drinks whiskey. Bushmills 21yr is her favorite but Waddell and Dobb Double-Oaked 12yr Reserve Single Barrel bourbon is a close second. I believe in researching what I write about so I studied whiskey. I learned about distillation and aging, the difference between whisky, whiskey, and bourbon, the meaning of terms like single barrel and single malt. The best part of my research my hands-on study of taste. Call it field work. If Gethsemane Brown was going to drink whiskey, I was, too. (Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t overdo it. And I never drink and drive.) I learned that not all whiskies taste the same, that some are better for mixing in cocktails and some for sipping unadorned, and that they pair with food the same way wine does. I also I play favorites. My top five:

  1. Ardbeg Uigeadail. I can’t spell it and I can’t pronounce it but I love the in-your-face peaty taste. Smoke in a glass.
  2. Laphroaig 10yr. Laphroaig, like Ardbeg, is an Islay distillery. Islay whisky is peaty whisky. Which is a good thing. Laphroaig 10 isn’t quite as intense as Uigeadail. A nice choice when you’re feeling slightly more laid back.
  3. Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. Tastes like chocolate. Worth every penny.
  4. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. Straight bourbon. Straight American. Straight good.
  5. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select. Tennessee whiskey. For when you graduate from Jack and Diet Coke.

About the Author, Alexia Gordon

A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, releases July 11, 2017.

Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel, and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts. I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at www.missdemeanors.com, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and featured on Femmes Fatales.

Connect with Alexia:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


Giveaway (US Only)

Death in D Minor - Givewaway

Grand Prize: Copy of Death in D Minor + Swag Pack ($50 value)

2nd Prize: Copy of Death in D Minor 

October 25-November 3, 2017

(U.S. Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Stops for Alexia Gordon’s Death in D Minor:

Death in D Minor

25-Oct Review Hall Ways Blog
25-Oct Notable Quotable Texan Girl Reads
26-Oct Top 5 List Books and Broomsticks
27-Oct Review Momma On The Rocks
27-Oct Playlist 1 Texas Book Lover
28-Oct Review Chapter Break Book Blog
29-Oct Excerpt A Page Before Bedtime
30-Oct Author Interview The Librarian Talks
30-Oct Review Forgotten Winds
31-Oct Playlist 2 Syd Savvy
1-Nov Review Tangled in Text
1-Nov Top 5 List Bibliotica
2-Nov Notable Quotable Missus Gonzo
2-Nov Notable Quotable StoreyBook Reviews
3-Nov Review Reading By Moonlight

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: A Deadly Eclair: a French Bistro Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber

About the book, A Deadly EclairA Deadly Eclair

 

  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (November 7, 2017)

It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.

Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Éclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.

Buy, read, and discuss A Deadly Eclair:

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


About the author, Daryl Wood Gerber

Daryl Wood GerberAgatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries and CHEESE SHOP MYSTERIES, which she pens as Avery Aames. She will soon debut the new French Bistro Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: DAYS OF SECRETS and GIRL ON THE RUN. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Connect with Daryl:

Website | Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI saved reading this book until October, knowing that I’d be writing my review to go live on Halloween, and I ended up reading it while watching the wildfires in California decimate a significant amount of the Napa valley and surrounding areas, which made this lovely, cozy mystery feel just a little bit bittersweet. I can’t help but wonder if the author, Daryl Wood Gerber, will use the fires in future entries into this series.

Brutal reality aside, I really enjoyed this book. Cozy mysteries can sometimes feel too saccharine, but Gerber’s writing is witty and on point, and her plot moved at the perfect pace. True, a wine country wedding in a French bistro is inherently frothy, but she made sure most of the froth was in coffee drinks and on dresses.

Bistro owner-cum-amateur detective Mimi was likeable from the first page, though I felt that some of her interactions while in sleuthing mode were a little bit abrupt. Overall, however, the balance of cooking and questioning was a good one, and the wedding background was the perfect choice for a series opener.

I also really liked Heather, whose no-nonsense style was the perfect counter to Mimi’s self-doubt, Jorianne, her best friend, and Bryan, who, sadly, becomes the victim of the eponymous eclair.

“Go big or don’t go at all,” Mimi is advised by entrepreneur (and uncle of the bride), Bryan Baker, but it would seem that Daryl Wood Gerber received the same advice, because she’s certainly gone big with the launch of her new French Bistro series, giving us a great story full of lively, interesting characters as well as a collection of the recipes used in the novel (as much as I love eclairs, I’m most interested in the onion soup).

Goes well with espresso or cappuccino and either a raspberry  sour cream tart (see the book for recipe).

 

 

Review: Tidewater Hit, by M.Z. Thwaite

About the book, Tidewater Hit Tidewater Hit

  • Series: Tidewater Novels
  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher:

One determined woman refusing to leave well enough alone.

In a heart-stopping moment, while rowing off the coast of Georgia the summer of 1986, Abbey Taylor Bunn discovers a dazed boating hit-and-run victim.

In the days following the successful rescue, Abbey becomes acquainted with a new potential real estate client, but the unidentified man worries a recently awakened side of her, the sleuth.

Who is he? Who left him to die, and why?

Ever-curious and afraid of nothing, she digs for clues and is rewarded by discovery after discovery until a grim picture begins to form. Only when she confronts the assailant does the final piece fall into place, and she realizes how fully her moral duty inserted her into the wounded framework of the lives of others.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, M.Z. Thwaite MZ Thwaite

M. Z. Thwaite is the author of the literary suspense novel Tidewater Rip in which she shares her life-long love affair with Georgia’s golden coast. A licensed Realtor since 1983, she continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of the hunting and fishing club on the coast of Georgia co-founded by her maternal grandfather. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her artist husband Steve Weeks of Riverton, New Jersey.

Connect with M.Z.:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellTwo years ago, I read the first novel in this series, Tidewater Rip, and loved it to bits. Over the last full weekend of September, I devoured this sequel, Tidewater Hit, and am happy to report that the community of Kings Bluff, Georgia is one where I still feel completely at home.

Dropping in on the fictional adventures of Abbey Taylor Bunn is like visiting an old friend. You may not see them very often, but you know the ice tea will be sweet and cold, the dog will be waiting to greet you, and the mystery will be incredibly compelling.

Such is the case with this novel.

From the opening, with Abbey rowing and discovering a man floating in a place where one is more likely than not to become sharkbait through every twist and turn I was on the edge of my seat. Or I would have been if I hadn’t been reading this in the bathtub.

What I loved was that relationships from the original novel – specifically Abbey’s with Atlanta-based lawyer Tom, but others as well – were continued. I also loved Sarge and his ‘dead rise’ fishing boat, which can be used for a multitude of other purposes. He made a big impression on me.

As well, author Thwaite has turned the community of Kings Bluff and those secluded cabins into a character in its own right.

While Thwaite’s skill and plot and dialogue is undeniable, where she excels is at giving readers a vivid sense of place. As I was reading this, I could taste the salt air, feel the tiny stinging bites of sand fleas (sand gnats), and feel the muggy heat. It is that feeling, as much as the story itself, that made the novel for me.

While Tidewater Hit is better enjoyed if you’ve read the previous novel, it can be read as a stand-alone work with little confusion on the reader’s part. Thwaite gives us enough backstory to understand Abbey’s history and mindset, but not so much that we’re bogged down in any kind of literary ‘previously on…’

As well, the author does an excellent job of honoring the 1986 setting without making it feel campy or too ‘period.’ This story may be set 31 years in our past, but it reads as contemporary literature.

Read this book if you love mysteries with strong female characters, a touch of humor in the right places, and plots that are intricate enough to be interesting, but not so convoluted that a diagram is required.

Goes well with a tomato and vidalia onion sandwich, or, if you’re more mainstream, fresh-caught shrimp cooked however you like them and cold sweet tea or chilled beer.

 

 

 

 

Review: Rarity from the Hollow, by Robert Eggleton

About the book, Rarity from the Hollow Rarity from the Hollow

 

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (November 3, 2016)

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out,and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Will Lacy’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy,comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Praise for Rarity from the Hollow:

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.” —Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.” –Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review 

“…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.” — Marcha’s Two-Cents Worth

“…I know this all sounds pretty whack, and it is, but it’s also quite moving. Lacy Dawn and her supporting cast – even Brownie, the dog – are some of the most engaging characters I’ve run across in a novel in some time….”  — Danehy-Oakes, Critic whose book reviews often appear in the New York Review of Science Fiction

“… The author gives us much pause for thought as we read this uniquely crafted story about some real life situations handled in very unorthodox ways filled with humor, sarcasm, heartfelt situations and fun.” — Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine

Buy, read, and discuss Rarity from the Hollow:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Eggleton

Robert EggletonRobert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. Locally, he is best known for his nonfiction about children’s programs and issues, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997.

Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome maltreatment and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines. Author proceeds support the prevention of child maltreatment. http://www.childhswv.org/

Connect with Robert:

Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI first read Rarity from the Hollow two years ago, when the author, Robert Eggleton contacted me and asked me to consider it. It seemed interesting, edgy and different, so I took a chance, and was immediately hooked on his concept and his story. I was supposed to review it then, life got in the way, and it was a year (and a revised edition) later before I wrote a review. Somehow, that review got eaten by WordPress, and after far too much patience on Mr. Eggleton’s part, I’ve rewritten it and am posting it now.

Described as a ‘fairy tale for adults,’ this novel looks at PTSD, poverty, child sexual abuse and child murder – any one of which could be considered a trigger for most readers – wraps them in literary science fiction, and gives us a protagonist in Lacy Dawn (who is also the primary POV character) who is sensitive, spunky, inquisitive, and manages to contain within herself a combination of too much awareness and childish innocence that should not work, but strangely does.

Calling this novel a fairy tale or science fiction, while accurate, is also limiting, because it’s so much more than both. Parts of this story are quite tragic – when we first meet Lacy Dawn, she is coaching her best friend Faith on a spelling test, her father is abusive and her mother is battered in both body and spirit. Within a few chapters, Faith has been killed, but her spirit lingers and her relationship with Lacy Dawn does as well, but then, our heroine also talks to trees, understands her dog Brownie, and has an android boyfriend named DotCom who is also recruiting her for a business venture (no, nothing salacious).

(As an aside, DotCom is my favorite of the supporting characters – but that’s probably because of my decades old crush on Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

In many ways, Rarity from the Hollow feels like a coming-of-age novel for adults. As we experience the end of true childhood and the beginning of adolescence with Lacy Dawn, we also confront the leftover issues from our own childhoods – our relationships with our friends and families, our own choices about sex and love and when to act on each, how we handled college and our first careers.

Unlike Lacy Dawn, we don’t have magical abilities or help from androids from other planets. We have to muddle through our lives in a world that is increasingly dangerous and frightening, but novels like Rarity from the Hollow give us the ability to engage in self-reflection while living vicariously through fictional characters. Author Eggleton has couched some very important truths in a story that is equal parts entertaining and provocative.

Not to be overlooked are some truly comic moments. DotCom’s anatomy changes as he moves toward an adult relationship and there’s a creative use of a laptop and the inner wish that perhaps he should have worn clothes that is described in a way worthy of a Monty Python sketch.

If you enjoyed Piers Anthony’s Mode series (which I haven’t read in over twenty years), or are a fan of the work of Douglas Adams (Not just The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m addressing those who like Dirk Gently, also.) you will likely enjoy Rarity from the Hollow, because Robert Eggleton excels at mixing the absurd and nearly preposterous with the incredibly real. However, even if you’re not a fan of those authors, I still recommend this novel. It’s sharply written, well crafted, genre-defying, and totally worth the time spent reading it.

Goes well with anything you enjoy, but I’d recommend Mexican street tacos – the kind where you get a kilo of grilled steak and a stack of tortillas and fill them yourself – and a bottle of Indio or Negra Modelo beer.

 

 

 

Review: Scion of the Fox, by S.M. Beiko

 

Scion of the FoxAbout the book, Scion of the Fox

  • Print Length: 440 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (October 17, 2017)
  • Series: The Realms of the Ancient (Book 1)

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student — dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox. 

American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.

Praise for Scion of the Fox

“A thrilling tale underscored by excellent, deep, and unique world-building.” — Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A smart, complex, animal-based fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews

“S.M. Beiko’s Scion of the Fox is the thrilling first installment in what will surely be an exceptionally imaginative trilogy. Roan Harken is an instantly relatable heroine, a girl with guts and moxie in spades, and Beiko moves her story from hilarious to heartbreaking with true literary grace. Evocative prose and crisp, crackling dialogue perfectly define this rich fantasy world. I can’t wait for Book Two!” — Charlene Challenger, author of The Voices in Between and The Myth in Distance

“In Scion of the Fox, S.M. Beiko introduces us to Roan, a wry, fierce young woman whose world changes in the blink of an infected eye. She’s more than she has ever imagined, and there’s enchantment everywhere — flying, running, and swimming around her — transforming everything and everyone she has ever known. Beiko’s magic-steeped Winnipeg is a marvel, and Roan is a delight. I look forward to following her into her next adventure.” — Caitlin Sweet, author of The Pattern Scars

Buy, read, and discuss Scion of the Fox:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, S.M. Beiko

S.M. Beiko by Teri HoffordSamantha “S.M.” Beiko has been writing and drawing strange, fantastical things since before she can remember. She currently works as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant and is the co-publisher of ChiZine Publications and ChiGraphic. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Scion of the Fox is the first book of the Realms of Ancient trilogy. Samantha lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Connect with Samantha:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhile I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, I don’t really read a lot of either genre any more. I still love it, I just have broader tastes than I did when I was a geeky teenager. Scion of the Fox, the first novel in S.M. Beiko’s Realms of the Ancient series might have successfully lured me back, though.

Engaging from the very first page, this novel has the perfect balance of teenage angst, supernatural intrigue, fantasy mysticism, and even talking animals that manage to be neither cute nor precious (they’re not really talking animals, of course, but Denizens, a breed of… shapeshifter is the closest analogy, but that’s not really accurate).

Protagonist Roan Harken mixes the vulnerability of the smart girl who doesn’t really fit in, with the strength of the female heroes we love to see in contemporary media. She’d easily hold her own against Buffy Summers or Veronica Mars, and end up best friends with them at the end. Just as strongly written are Roan’s closest friends, Phae, who has been both supporter and sidekick since grade school, and wheel-chair bound Barton, who has a sort of instant kinship with Roan.

As with many YA stories, regardless of medium, the adults in this piece are largely ineffective (c.f. Aunt Dierdre, who means well, but doesn’t really take much action) or villainous (Uncle Arnas) while the younger generation tends to go off half-cocked, but that works in this story, and, fantastic elements aside, all of the relationships felt incredibly plausible.

Scion of the Fox was my first introduction to S.M. Beiko’s work, but I’ll happily read the rest of this series as it becomes available, and I’d recommend it to actual young people as well as adults who appreciate YA fiction.

Goes well with sliced apples dipped in peanut butter and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream optional.

Scion of the Fox Blog Tour

Review: The Girl who Saved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

About the book, The Girl who Saved Ghosts

 

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (October 17, 2017)
  • Series: The Unbelievables (Book 2)

The Girl Who Saved GhostsShe tried to ignore them. Now she might risk everything to save them.

After a summer spent in a haunted castle—a summer in which she traveled through time to solve a murder mystery—Kat is looking forward to a totally normal senior year at McTernan Academy. Then the ghost of a little girl appears and begs Kat for help, and more unquiet apparitions follow. All of them are terrified by the Dark One, and it soon becomes clear that that this evil force wants Kat dead.

Searching for help, Kat leaves school for the ancestral home she’s only just discovered. Her friend Evan, whose family is joined to her own by an arcane history, accompanies her. With the assistance of her eccentric great aunts and a loyal family ghost, Kat soon learns that she and Evan can only fix the present by traveling into the past.

As Kat and Evan make their way through nineteenth-century Vienna, the Dark One stalks them, and Kat must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save a ghost.

Buy, read, and discuss The Girl who Saved Ghosts:

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About the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C. TansleyK.C. Tansley is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts (2015). She lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, on a hill in Connecticut. Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days.

Connect with K.C.:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellK.C. Tansley’s Unbelievables series captured my imagination when I reviewed the first book in the series two years ago. Now, with the second book, The Girl who Saved Ghosts, I feel like I’m revisiting old friends. They’ve grown and changed a bit since our last meeting, but Kat and Evan are still brave, kind, and a little bit reckless, the way we all wish we could be.

Kat, I felt, was the most changed, since her decision to allow ghosts back into her life is literally draining the life from her, but when she’s given a mystery to solve, she leaps into the task, and that’s what I really love about her.

Similarly, Evan is a strong support system – who doesn’t want a friend like him?

Author Tansley’s flair for vivid detail is even stronger in this novel, and one thing I really appreciated was that she managed to increase the risk and jeopardy for her characters without making them seem older than they should be.

As before, there’s an element of time travel in this novel, and Tansley handles the period sections of this novel most ably. Reading this book, you are no mere observer; you are transported into elite educational institutions, creepy estates, and old-world Europe, and it all occurs with the most delicious shiver up and down your spine, as if there might be a ghost standing next to you, just waiting to be noticed.

While this book is best enjoyed after reading it’s predecessor, The Girl who Ignored Ghosts, it’s equally satisfying as a stand-alone story.

Goes well with a Twix candy bar and a cold Dr. Pepper.