Review: Abby’s Journey, by Steena Holmes

About the book, Abby’s Journey Abby's Journey

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (February 14, 2017)

Twenty-year-old Abigail Turner has only known her mother, Claire—who died shortly after she was born—through letters, videos, postcards, and journals. Abby’s father, Josh, has raised his precious daughter himself, but his overprotectiveness has become stifling. Abby longs to forge out on her own and see the world after a childhood trapped indoors: she suffers from bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which means a case of the sniffles can rapidly escalate into life-threatening pneumonia.

But when Abby’s doctor declares her healthy—for now—her grandmother Millie whisks her away to Europe to visit the Christmas markets that her mother cherished and chronicled in her travel journals. Despite her father’s objections, Abby and Millie embark on a journey of discovery in which Abby will learn secrets that force her to reevaluate her image of her mother and come to a more mature understanding of a parent-child bond that transcends death.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Steena Holmes offers a tender and heartfelt exploration of parental love and a daughter’s longing for connection in the poignant next chapter following Saving Abby.

Buy, read, and discuss Abby’s Journey

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


About the author, Steena Holmes Steena Holmes

About Steena Holmes

After writing her first novel while working as a receptionist, Steena Holmes made her dream of being a full-time writer a reality. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Now both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Steena continues to write stories that touch every parent’s heart in one way or another. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her website at www.steenaholmes.com or follow her journeys over on Instagram @steenaholmes.

Connect with Steena

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Abby’s Journey is the sequel to another novel by Steena Holmes, Saving Abby, but while the first book does provide context, it’s not necessary to read one in order to enjoy the other.

In many ways, Abby’s Journey is a typical coming-of-age story. Yes, the title character is twenty, not a teenager, but she’s lived a sheltered life as the combined result of life-long health issues and a doting widowed father. Still, she’s taking control of her own life for the first time, and watching the way her interactions with people and the world change is really fascinating.

Overall, this is a gentle story… a family drama with Abby at the center, punctuated by letters written by her dead mother, Claire, in the months before Abby was born. The characters all feel very real, especially Abby, her best friend/godmother Sam, her father, Josh, and her grandparents. (I had a great aunt named Millie, so seeing that name was especially heartwarming for me.)

I loved the use of letters, blog entries, and postcards within this story, even though it wasn’t really an epistolary novel, and I truly loved the way Holmes’s contemporary writing style is both accessible and very vivid.

More than reading a novel, I felt as though I was taking Abby’s journey with her, following her footsteps first into her snowy back yard, and later, onto a plane and to Germany during the tradition pre-Christmas festivities.

Goes well with hot chocolate and pfeffernüsse cookies.


Steena Holmes’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 14th: Book Mama

Wednesday, February 15th: Just Commonly

Thursday, February 16th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, February 20th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, February 22nd: Suzy Approved

Monday, February 27th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, March 1st: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, March 2nd: I Brought a Book

Friday, March 3rd: Not in Jersey

Monday, March 6th: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, March 8th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post

Thursday, March 9th: Readaholic Zone

Friday, March 10th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, March 13th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, March 16th: An Accidental Blog

Friday, March 17th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, March 21st: Bibliotica

Friday, March 24th: Mom’s Small Victories

Review: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

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

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

Connect with Jennifer

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My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jennifer Ryan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, February 13th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, February 14th: Building Bookshelves

Thursday, February 16th: Reading Reality

Monday, February 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, February 21st: Laura’s Reviews

Thursday, February 23rd: BookNAround

Friday, February 24th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, February 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, March 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit

Monday, March 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired

Friday, March 10th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 13th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, March 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Wednesday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 16th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 17th: Art @ Home

Monday, March 20th: Diary of an Eccentric

Wednesday, March 22nd: A Literary Vacation

 

 

Review: The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff

About the book,  The Orphan’s Tale The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA (February 21, 2017)

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival 

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

Buy, read, and discuss The Orphan’s Tale:

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


About the author, Pam Jenoff  Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Connect with Pam

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

As I was reading this novel, The Orphan’s Tale, one word kept coming back to me: grace. Because this book, this story, is full of grace in every sense of the word.

It has the “there but for the grace of god” moments, but it also has the kind of grace that allows for sacrifices between friends. And then, when you add in the art and artistry both of a young lover who wants to be a painter, and the circus folk who work on wires and trapezes, you have that other, more physical kind of grace – the one that expands into people being graceful.

This story of Noa and Astrid, two very different women whose lives converge and then separate during one of the bleakest parts of human history – World War II – is more than just a novel. It’s a glimpse at a piece of history we don’t often hear about. We know that people “hid” Jews on farms and in attics, and in the music and theatre worlds, but the circus? Most of the stories that involve the circus have little to do with the political climate.

Exploring such a human story from this point of view made a novel that could, in a less talented writer’s hands,  have been another us-against-the-Nazi’s tear-jerker into a story that had added depth and life beyond the actual characters. I learned something new, and was compelled to do my own reading outside the novel because I was fascinated.

(I should add that I’ve been fascinated by the circus since forever, so it’s not surprising that this was the element that truly hooked me.)

Aside from that, though, Jenoff writes with a deft hand. Her characters feel like real people, flawed and beautiful in their simple humanity, and her settings, based on real places, are described in enough detail to make you feel as if you are there, stepping through time to see the horror of a train-car full of nameless, crying babies, or the magic of someone sailing through the air on a trapeze.

Jenoff’s lyrical style only adds to the effect. At times it was like looking through a mirror into a past that isn’t necessarily pretty, but is still vivid.

This novel is a must-read for fans of historical fiction, but I’d recommend it to almost anyone who just wants to immerse themselves in a truly compelling story.

Goes well with a cappuccino and a bar of dark chocolate, eaten one tiny shard at a time.


Follow the Excerpt Tour, and Mark Your Calendar for the Review Tour TLC Book Tours - The Orphan's Tale

The Orphan’s Tale Excerpt Tour:

Monday, February 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Tuesday, February 7th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, February 8th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, February 9th: Chick Lit Central

Friday, February 10th: Bibliotica

Monday February 13th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, February 14th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, February 15th: The Lit Bitch

Thursday, February 16th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Friday, February 17th: Books a la Mode

The Orphan’s Tale Review Tour:

Monday, February 20th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, February 20th: Barbara Khan

Tuesday, February 21st: Savvy Verse and Wit

Wednesday, February 22nd: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, February 23rd: West Metro Mommy

Friday, February 24th: Reading is My SuperPower

Friday, February 24th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, February 27th: Building Bookshelves

Monday, February 27th: Just Commonly

Tuesday, February 28th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, March 1st: Susan Peterson

Thursday, March 2nd: A Literary Vacation

Friday, March 3rd: Cindy Burnett

Monday, March 6th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, March 6th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, March 7th: The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, March 8th: The Romance Dish

Thursday, March 9th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 10th: Suzy Approved

Monday, March 13th: Reading Reality

Monday, March 13th: Diary of an Eccentric

Tuesday, March 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, March 15th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, March 16th: The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 17th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 20th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, March 21st: Write Read Life

Wednesday, March 22nd: 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, March 23rd: Silver’s Reviews

Friday, March 24th: Not in Jersey

Friday March 24th: SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, March 28th: Travelling Birdy

Review: The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, by Suzanne Kamata

About the book, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (February 14, 2017)

Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal–the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana–has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one’s allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.

Buy, read, and discuss The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

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


About the author, Suzanne Kamata Suzanne Kamata

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Connect with Suzanne

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Like the main character of The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, Elise, I spent a lot of my teen years with my nose in a book, not bothering to be part of the social activities at my school. Like Elise, I am happiest when I’m in the water. But unlike Elise, I’m not a fictional character growing up in the midwest, and my own coming-of-age was vastly different than hers.

Still, I found the entire novel quite engaging. Elise is a relatable narrator, and the mixture of innocence and candor in her story captured my attention from the first page, and kept me reading to the last.

While this novel is Elise’s story, I found the arcs of the other characters who were spotlighted just as compelling. Amanda, the younger sister who is more advanced socially, Chiara, the wild best friend, and even Julia, Elise’s mother, whose secrets come out slowly, as her daughter discovers them.

It is this focus on the women in the piece that I found truly interesting about Kamata’s book. Certainly men are present – Elise’s father, Miguel, the gypsy she meets at the carnival, Chiara and Amanda’s respective boyfriends – but they are incidental, used to illustrate the changes in their female counterparts, more than fully-dimensional characters in their own right.

What results from this blend of honesty and exploration is a novel that feels both familiar and unfamiliar at once, like a long walk where there’s always something new and interesting around the next bend.


Suzanne Kamata’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 15th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, February 17th: Books ‘n Tea

Monday, February 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, February 21st: Write Read Life

Wednesday, February 22nd: Reading is My Superpower

Wednesday, February 22nd: Just Commonly

Thursday, February 23rd: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, February 24th: Readaholic Zone

Monday, February 27th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, March 1st: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, March 2nd: Sweet Southern Home

Friday, March 3rd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, March 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, March 7th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, March 9th: Art @ Home

Monday, March 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Wednesday, March 15th: Dreaming Big

Monday, March 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Excerpt from The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

About the book,  The Orphan’s Tale The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA (February 21, 2017)

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival 

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

Buy, read, and discuss The Orphan’s Tale:

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


About the author, Pam Jenoff  Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Connect with Pam

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Read an Excerpt from The Orphan’s Tale

Blog Tour – Excerpt 5

2

Astrid

Germany, 1942—fourteen months earlier

I stand at the edge of the withered grounds that had once been our winter quarters. Though there has been no fighting here, the valley looks like a battlefield, broken wagons and scrap metal scattered everywhere. A cold wind blows through the hollow window frames of the deserted cabins, sending tattered fabric curtains wafting upward before they fall deflated. Most of the windows are shattered and I try not to wonder if that had happened with time, or if someone had smashed them in a struggle or rage. The creaking doors are open, properties fallen into disrepair as they surely never would have if Mama been here to care for them. There is a hint of smoke on the air as though someone has been burning brush recently. In the distance, a crow cries out in protest.

Drawing my coat closer around me, I walk away from the wreckage and start up toward the villa that once was my home. The grounds are exactly as they had been when I was a girl, the hill rising before the front door in that way that sent the water rushing haphazardly into the foyer when the spring rains came. But the garden where my mother tended hydrangeas so lovingly each spring is withered and crushed to dirt. I see my brothers wrestling in the front yard before being cowed into practice, scolded for wasting their energy and risking an injury that would jeopardize the show. As children we loved to sleep under the open sky in the yard in summer, fingers intertwined, the sky a canopy of stars above us.

I stop. A large red flag with a black swastika hangs above the door. Someone, a high-ranking SS officer no doubt, has moved into the home that once was ours. I clench my fists, sickened to think of them using our linens and dishes, soiling Mama’s beautiful sofa and rugs with their boots. Then I look away. It is not the material things for which I mourn.

I search the windows of the villa, looking in vain for a familiar face. I had known that my family was no longer here ever since my last letter returned undeliverable. I had come anyway, though, some part of me imagining life unchanged, or at least hoping for a clue as to where they had gone. But wind blows through the desolate grounds. There is nothing left anymore.

I should not be here either, I realize. Anxiety quickly replaces my sadness. I cannot afford to loiter and risk being spotted by whoever lives here now, or face questions about who I am and why I have come. My eyes travel across the hill toward the adjacent estate where the Circus Neuhoff has their winter quarters. Their hulking slate villa stands opposite ours, two sentries guarding the Rheinhessen valley between.

Earlier as the train neared Darmstadt, I saw a poster advertising the Circus Neuhoff. At first, my usual distaste at the name rose. Klemt and Neuhoff were rival circuses and we had competed for years, trying to outdo one another. But the circus, though dysfunctional, was still a family. Our two circuses had grown up alongside one another like siblings in separate bedrooms. We had been rivals on the road. In the off-season, though, we children went to school and played together, sledding down the hill and occasionally sharing meals. Once when Herr Neuhoff had been felled by a bad back and could not serve as ringmaster, we sent my brother Jules to help their show.

I have not seen Herr Neuhoff in years, though. And he is Gentile, so everything has changed. His circus flourishes while ours is gone. No, I cannot expect help from Herr Neuhoff, but perhaps he knows what became of my family.

When I reach the Neuhoff estate, a maidservant I do not recognize opens the door. “Guten Abend,” I say. “Ist Herr Neuhoff hier?” I am suddenly shy, embarrassed to arrive unannounced on their doorstep like some sort of beggar. “I’m Ingrid Klemt.” I use my maiden name. The woman’s face reveals that she already knows who I am, though from the circus or from somewhere else, I cannot tell. My departure years earlier had been remarkable, whispered about for miles around.

One did not leave to marry a German officer as I had—especially if one was Jewish.

Erich had first come to the circus in the spring of 1934. I noticed him from behind the curtains—it is a myth that we cannot see the audience beyond the lights—not only because of his uniform but because he sat alone, without a wife or children. I was not some young girl, easily wooed, but nearly twenty-nine. Busy with the circus and constantly on the road, I had assumed that marriage had passed me by. Erich was impossibly handsome, though, with a strong jaw marred only by a cleft chin, and square features softened by the bluest of eyes. He came a second night and pink roses appeared before my dressing room door. We courted that spring, and he made the long trip down from Berlin every weekend to the cities where we performed to spend time with me between shows and on Sundays.

We should have known even then that our relationship was doomed. Though Hitler had just come to power a year earlier, the Reich had already made clear its hatred for the Jews. But there was passion and intensity in Erich’s eyes that made everything around us cease to exist. When he proposed, I didn’t think twice. We did not see the problems that loomed large, making our future together impossible—we simply looked the other way.


Follow the Excerpt Tour, and Mark Your Calendar for the Review Tour TLC Book Tours - The Orphan's Tale

The Orphan’s Tale Excerpt Tour:

Monday, February 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Tuesday, February 7th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, February 8th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, February 9th: Chick Lit Central

Friday, February 10th: Bibliotica

Monday February 13th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, February 14th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, February 15th: The Lit Bitch

Thursday, February 16th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Friday, February 17th: Books a la Mode

The Orphan’s Tale Review Tour:

Monday, February 20th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, February 20th: Barbara Khan

Tuesday, February 21st: Savvy Verse and Wit

Wednesday, February 22nd: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, February 23rd: West Metro Mommy

Friday, February 24th: Reading is My SuperPower

Friday, February 24th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, February 27th: Building Bookshelves

Monday, February 27th: Just Commonly

Tuesday, February 28th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, March 1st: Susan Peterson

Thursday, March 2nd: A Literary Vacation

Friday, March 3rd: Cindy Burnett

Monday, March 6th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, March 6th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, March 7th: The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, March 8th: The Romance Dish

Thursday, March 9th: Just One More Chapter

Friday, March 10th: Suzy Approved

Monday, March 13th: Reading Reality

Monday, March 13th: Diary of an Eccentric

Tuesday, March 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, March 15th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, March 16th: The Maiden’s Court

Friday, March 17th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, March 20th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, March 21st: Write Read Life

Wednesday, March 22nd: 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, March 23rd: Silver’s Reviews

Friday, March 24th: Not in Jersey

Friday March 24th: SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, March 28th: Travelling Birdy

Review: Touch Justice: Countdown (part 1 of 8) by Carla Cassidy

TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN Tough Justice: Countdown

This action-packed thriller unfolds in eight gripping installments, each written by top authors including Carla Cassidy, Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

This review covers only Part I.


About the book, Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

  • Print Length: 85 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (February 1, 2017)

Tick. Tock. BOOM.

FBI Special Agent Lara Grant had thought that she’d put her past behind her—finally—with her last case. But now a serial bomber is targeting Manhattan’s elite power players, offering them a choice between saving hundreds of lives or seeing their darkest secrets exposed. Lara is working with the Crisis Management Unit to stop the bomber, but how will she react when she’s the one who has to choose between truth…or death?

Part 1 of 8: an explosive new installment in the thrilling FBI serial from New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

Buy, read, and discuss Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8)

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

 

For more information on the Tough Justice series, visit toughjusticeseries.com.


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

At 85 pages, Tough Justice Countdown (Part I) is a quick read, more a novella than a short story. It opens, almost literally with a *boom*  – a bomb threat that is actually (apparently) followed through on within the first couple of pages. It’s an amazing way to start off a series, and from that moment, I felt like we were racing through an adventure reminiscent of the best episodes of shows like 24 and Person of Interest.

FBI agents Nick and Lara – especially Lara, as this is really her story more than anyone else’s quickly became very real to me, as much so as if they were crime-solving partners in a movie or television series (Netflix needs to buy this series. Seriously.), and I liked the way they were effective partners while actively working, but also supported each other emotionally. This is a Harlequin series so I’m assuming there will be overt romance in later installments (I have them all, but am reviewing this one without having read the rest, because I didn’t want to color my perceptions with too much foreknowledge), so I’m going on record: I ship Lara/Nick.

Obviously there were many other characters. Victoria was a standout for me, as were Xander and James.

I liked the way the procedural parts of this story were full of brisk professionalism, and included some of that hurry-up-and-wait sense that is so prevalent when you’re waiting for information, or trying to connect dots.

Overall, I thought this was a gripping story with likeable characters, and I recommend it, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Goes well with pastrami and swiss on rye with good mustard and a bottle of vanilla seltzer or cherry coke.


Giveaway (ends 2/14 at 11:59 PM Central) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

One lucky reader in the US will win a digital copy of Part I of this series. Since it’s a digital copy, this giveaway is limited to Twitter. Find MY post with this review (I’m @melysse), retweet it, and also reply to it telling me you’ve done so.


TLC TOUR STOPS for TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN: TLC Book Tours - Tough Justice Countdown

Wednesday, February 1st: Books and Spoons

Friday, February 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, February 6th: Staircase Wit

Tuesday, February 7th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, February 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, February 9th: Back Porchervations

Friday, February 10th: Dog-Eared Daydreams

Monday, February 13th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, February 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 17th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, February 21st: Becky on Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the author, Nancy Star Nancy Star

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

Connect with Nancy

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

I was not disappointed.

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, January 2nd: The Baking Bookworm

Tuesday, January 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, January 3rd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, January 4th: Run Wright

Friday, January 6th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, January 10th: Girls in White Dresses

Tuesday, January 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

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

Friday, January 13th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, January 16th: Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, January 17th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, January 18th: Why Girls Are Weird

Thursday, January 19th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, January 20th: Not in Jersey

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

Tuesday, January 24th: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, January 25th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, January 26th: Paperback Pilgrim

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

Monday, January 30th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, January 31st: Just One More Chapter

Review: A Minor Deception by Nupur Tustin – with Giveaway

A Minor DeceptionAbout the book, A Minor Deception

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss A Minor Deception

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Nupur Tustin Nupur Tustin

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

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

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

Connect with Nupur

Facebook | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Giveaway A Minor Deception

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

Rules

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

A Minor Deception

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


Tour Stops

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

Wednesday, January 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, January 19
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Friday, January 20
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Review at Bibliotica

Sunday, January 22
Review at Laura’s Interests

Monday, January 23
Review at Luxury Reading

A Minor Deception at HFVBT

Review: Lord of the Privateers, by Stephanie Laurens – with Giveaway

Lord of the PrivateersAbout the book, Lord of the Privateers

  • Series: Adventurers Quartet
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (December 27, 2016)

The eldest of the Frobisher brothers and widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final leg of the rescue mission his brothers have been pursuing. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking his emotional nemesis, childhood sweetheart, ex-handfasted bride, and current business partner, Isobel Carmichael, with him. But is it Isobel doing the pressuring, or his own restless unfulfilled psyche?

Resolute, determined, and an all but unstoppable force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own—find her cousin Katherine and bring her safely home. And if, along the way, she can rid herself of the lingering dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her, well and good.

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail aboard Royd’s ship, much less the new horizons that open before them as they call into London, then, armed with the necessary orders and all arrangements in place, embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the mining compound buried in the jungle.

Yet even with the support of his brothers and their ladies and, once rescued, all the ex-captives, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. In order to identify and convict the backers behind the illicit enterprise—and protect the government from catastrophic destabilization—they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton, and with the help of a small army of supporters, hunt the villains on their home ground.

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could be theirs again, how much are they willing to risk in the name of duty?

Buy, read, and discuss Lord of the Privateers

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


Stephanie LaurensAbout the author, Stephanie Laurens

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I love a good swashbuckler, and I love a good romance, especially when the characters feel equally matched. In Lord of the Privateers, Stephanie Laurens gives us exactly that. The romance – actually a rekindling of a relationship both parties keep trying to forget – has just the right amount of sizzle, and the sparks aren’t limited just to chemistry. Isobel and Royd banter, argue, bicker, make up, and start all over, all while handling the care and maintenance of a shipyard, a sailing fleet, their specific ship the Corsair, family drama, and a greater mission.

And they do it well. Seriously if Amy Sherman Palladino or Aaron Sorkin wrote Age of Sail romantic comedies, the result would be Stephanie Laurens’ work, except that Laurens has her own voice, and her own point of view, and nothing she does feels anything but fresh, fun, and interesting.

What I loved was Isobel in general. Yes, I found one plot point – one key decision she made – a little contrived, but over all she’s smart, strong, funny, and supremely real.

What I didn’t love: no one used a cutlass to slide down a mainsail. Okay, these weren’t actually pirates, but privateers – there is a distinction – but still.

If you want a romance that will have you totally hooked from page one, that will make you sigh with longing even as you feel imagined salt air in your face, and also balances the love story with the adventure story,  Lord of the Privateers is the novel for you.

Goes well with fish and chips and a good ale.


Giveaway

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TLC book tours: Catherine Ryan HydeStephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 16th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 20th: Reading Reality

Monday, January 23rd: Buried Under Romance

Tuesday, January 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, January 25th: The Romance Dish

Friday, January 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 30th: Let Them Read Books – Excerpt

Wednesday, February 1st: A. Holland Reads

Friday, February 3rd: Becky on Books

Monday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, February 7th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 8th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Friday, February 10th: The Maiden’s Court

Review: Say Goodbye for Now, by Catherine Ryan Hyde – with Giveaway

About the book Say Goodbye for Now Say Goodbye for Now

Paperback: 364 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (December 13, 2016)

On an isolated Texas ranch, Dr. Lucy cares for abandoned animals. The solitude allows her to avoid the people and places that remind her of the past. Not that any of the townsfolk care. In 1959, no one is interested in a woman doctor. Nor are they welcoming Calvin and Justin Bell, a newly arrived African American father and son.

When Pete Solomon, a neglected twelve-year-old boy, and Justin bring a wounded wolf-dog hybrid to Dr. Lucy, the outcasts soon find refuge in one another. Lucy never thought she’d make connections again, never mind fall in love. Pete never imagined he’d find friends as loyal as Justin and the dog. But these four people aren’t allowed to be friends, much less a family, when the whole town turns violently against them.

With heavy hearts, Dr. Lucy and Pete say goodbye to Calvin and Justin. But through the years they keep hope alive…waiting for the world to catch up with them.

Buy, read, and discuss Say Goodbye for Now

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of thirty published and forthcoming books. Her bestselling 1999 novel Pay It Forward, adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, made the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list and was translated into more than two dozen languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Her novels Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List; Jumpstart the World was also a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards and won Rainbow Awards in two categories. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in many journals, including the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and the Sun, and in the anthologiesSanta Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories.

Ryan Hyde is also founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.

Connect with Catherine

Website | Blog |Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts 00-melysse100x100

I read this novel on the plane trip home from Mexico. (Well, I read most of it on the plane. I finished it at home because our flight was only 2 1/2 hours long), and it kept me so absorbed that when I took a break to refill my drink, I was amazed that we were already on our descent path. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen so deeply into a book, and I credit Catherine Ryan Hyde’s easy writing style and the subject of the book itself.

As someone who works in rescue (my longest-term foster – an American Staffordshire Terrier who had been in my care for three years finally found her forever home over Christmas) and has also taken in stray humans from time to time, Doc Lucy and her collection of animals and people was something I really connected with. The twist of her being licensed to practice human medicine, something that comes up more than once in this novel, just made it more interesting, and made her character more vivid.

The kids in the story, Pete who rescues a wolf-dog hybrid he names Prince, and Justin, a newcomer to town who is also black, and the friendship they fall into felt very real to me. I’m lucky to have a fairly diverse group of friends, but this novel was from a time just before the civil rights movement, when such a friendship was risky to all involved. Still, I think Hyde managed to catch the mood of innocent youth edging into self-awareness really well, and I thought both boys’ arcs were interesting and plausible.

Calvin, Justin’s father, was harder for me to get a ‘read’ on, with his old-fashioned propriety (sleeping on the couch because he was too close to Lucy’s room, for example) but I came to find him quite likeable, one of the best fictional fathers I’ve seen in a long while. His relationship with his son  – one where, as Pete observes, there is talking not whipping, is lovely, and I loved the way his relationship with Lucy evolved as they got to know each other and started to chip away at each other’s walls.

And oh! Lucy has walls. We learn about her much more slowly than we do the others, but be also see her from their perspectives, and what we see is telling. Pete notices that she’s pretty, that she isn’t overly ‘nice,’ but that her manner changes as familiarity is established, etc. I liked that she didn’t melt into sweetness and light all at once, and that even when she was facing complete unknowns, she remained very much who she was: a woman who keeps people and animals at arm’s length to protect her injured heart, but who can’t help but do good where she can.

Overall, this was a richly detailed, compelling story, and one I really enjoyed.

Goes well with French toast and coffee.


Catherine Ryan Hyde’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC book tours: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Monday, December 12th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, December 13th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Tuesday, December 13th: Cindy Burnett

Wednesday, December 14th: Chick Lit Central

Thursday, December 15th: 100 Pages a Day

Friday, December 16th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, December 19th: Reading Reality

Monday, December 19th: Barbara Kahn

Tuesday, December 20th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, December 20th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, December 21st: Write Read Life

Thursday, December 22nd: Readaholic Zone

Friday, December 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, December 26th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, December 28th: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, December 28th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Thursday, December 29th: Mama Vicky Says

Monday, January 2nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, January 4th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, January 5th: Dwell in Possibility

Date TBD: BookBub Blog – author guest post


Giveaway Say Goodbye for Now

If you live in the US or Canada, there are two three ways you can enter to win a copy of this book. They are:

  1. Leave a relevant comment on this post. Include your actual email address – no one will see it but me.
  2. Find my tweet about this review on Twitter (I’m @melysse), and retweet it (be sure my tag is intact).

Giveaway ends on Saturday, January 7th at midnight CST.