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 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

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: Secrets of Worry Dolls, by Amy Impellizzeri

About the book,  Secrets of Worry Dolls Secrets of Worry Dolls

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (December 1, 2016)

According to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you–therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .

On the eve of the end of the world–according to the Mayan calendar–Mari Guarez Roselli’s secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.

Lu’s worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past–including loved ones stolen on 9/11–by traveling through her mother’s homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Amy Impellizzeri Amy Impellizzeri

Amy is a reformed corporate litigator, founder of SHORTCUTS Magazine, and award-winning author. Her first novel, Lemongrass Hope (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2014) , was a 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Bronze Winner and a National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist. A favorite with bloggers and book clubs, Lemongrass Hope was named the #1 reviewed book in 2014 by blogger, The Literary Connoisseur, and topped several bloggers’ “Best of” Lists in 2015. Amy’s second novel, Secrets of Worry Dolls is releasing December 1, 2016 by Wyatt-MacKenzie.

Amy is also the author of the non-fiction book, Lawyer Interrupted (ABA Publishing 2015). She is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers and President of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Amy currently lives in rural Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and one energetic weimaraner, where she keeps up on all of the latest research confirming that caffeine is, in fact, good for you.

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was a bit leery when I was asked to review this book. I’m not a fan of continually revisiting national disasters in general, or 9/11 specifically, but I was assured this story really wasn’t ‘about’ 9/11, so I gave it a chance.

I’m glad I did.

In this novel, author Amy Impellizzeri is really giving us two stories, that of Lu, feeling somewhat adrift in her life, and, having come home to find a plane crashed on her block, in need of a new place to stay. Guatemala – her mother’s country of birth – calls to her and she undertakes a journey to make sense of the past, yes, but also to redefine her present.

At the same time, we are given the story of Mari before she was Lu’s mother. Told in flashback, these chapters evoke a sudden attraction, a tumultuous romance, and the settling of passion into comfortable love. It’s a rich and earthy peek at the near-past, colored by the lens of memory, and I found Mari’s chapters to be incredibly lyrical.

The real artistry, I feel, comes from Amy’s ability to weave this mother-daughter story into a cohesive whole. At times the alternating chapters feel like a dialogue, at other times melody and countermelody, but the entire novel was compelling and ultimately satisfying, full of truthful emotional moments that ran the gamut from hurt, anger, and fear, to self-deprecation, humor, and enlightenment.

I want to make special note of two of the unifying elements of this book. First the worry dolls of the title. I’ve had such a box (mine was pink, I think) of tiny dolls, but when I didn’t I told my troubles to the dog, or my stuffed animals. The practice is a nearly universal one, I think, and its one of the touches that made this story so special. I also liked the use of the end of the Mayan calendar – remember how so many people panicked about that a few years ago? In this author’s hands, it wasn’t just a clever plot device, but an apt metaphor for childhood and parenthood.

One cycle ends, another begins, and the Great Wheel spins ever onward.

Goes well with Quesadillas with sauteed  rosa de Jamaica  (hibiscus), and a cold beer.


Amy Impellizzeri’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, November 9th: Chick Lit Central – “Books We’re Looking Forward To”

Monday, November 28th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Thursday, December 1st: Reading Reality

Friday, December 2nd: From the TBR Pile

Monday, December 5th: The Paperback Pilgrim

Wednesday, December 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, December 12th: Write Read Life

Tuesday, December 13th: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 15th: Books and Bindings

Monday, December 19th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, December 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, December 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: In the Blue Hour, by Elizabeth Hall – with Giveaway

About the book, In the Blue Hour In the Blue Hour

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (November 1, 2016)

Elise Brooks dreams of a car accident on an icy road. Weeks later, her beloved husband, Michael, is killed in just such a crash. Now, overcome with grief and uncertainty, Elise believes his spirit may be following her in the form of a raven, trying to tell her something from beyond the grave.

Desperate to understand the signs, Elise embraces both the Native American wisdom she grew up with and the world of psychics and seers. So when a tarot-card reader suggests she take a journey to the mysterious address found in Michael’s old jacket, she embarks on a cross-country trek to follow the clues.

Accompanied by Tom Dugan, an engineer and scientist who does not believe in psychics, mediums, or the hoodoo “conjure woman” they encounter on the road, Elise navigates the rituals and omens of the spirit world in an attempt to unravel the mystery of her husband’s message.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Hall Elizabeth Hall

Elizabeth Hall, author of Miramont’s Ghost, has worked as a teacher, communications consultant, and radio host. She spent many years in the mountains of Colorado and now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where she indulges in the fiber arts of knitting, beading, and weaving.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I read Elizabeth Hall’s previous novel, Miramont’s Ghost, about a year and a half ago, and really enjoyed it, so I was eager to see what she’d do with a more contemporary story. With In the Blue Hour, I feel like she’s really come into her own, solidifying herself as a writer who does amazing things with supernatural thrillers.

One of the things I loved about Hall’s previous book, and which she continues to excel at in this novel, is in vivid descriptions of place. I know Taos, NM, mainly from the writings of Natalie Goldberg and one too-brief overnight there twelve years ago, when my husband and I were driving from California to Texas, but after reading this book, I feel like I’ve spent a month in Taos and its surrounding areas.

Hall’s characters are all very vivid. While I enjoyed reading about protagonist Elise’s relationship with her deceased husband Michael (told in flashbacks), it was Elise’s friendship with Monica that I found to be exceptionally strong. This is a life-long friendship in which both women met as girls, grew up together, and stayed friends into adulthood. I really loved the changing dynamic of the two, as well as the way each woman remained completely herself.

I found the actual story of In the Blue Hour to be quite lovely. A bit on the cozy side of thrillers, with a strong spiritual element, I found the author worked Native American traditions into her story very plausibly. It never seemed like there was any tokenism or appropriation, but rather a deep reverence for and appreciation of all the traditions depicted  – even the tarot reader.

In many ways, In the Blue Hour takes its cues from true gothic romance, resetting that trope in a contemporary setting, but however you classify it, it’s an interesting, compelling story with a rich tapestry of people and places.

Goes well with cheese and onion enchiladas and a margarita.


Giveaway In the Blue Hour

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Love Literary Style. How? There are three ways to enter:

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

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Standard Time on Thursday, November 17th.


Elizabeth Hall’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, November 1st: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Wednesday, November 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, November 3rd: Books A La Mode (Guest Post/Giveaway)

Friday, November 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, November 7th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Tuesday, November 8th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, November 9th: Write Read Life

Thursday, November 10th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, November 11th: Brooke Blogs

Monday, November 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, November 15th: Wall to Wall Books

Wednesday, November 16th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, November 17th: Broken Teepee

Monday, November 21st: Chick Lit Central

Tuesday, November 22nd: Mama Vicky Says

Wednesday, November 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Love Literary Style, by Karin Gillespie – With Giveaway

About the book, Love Literary StyleLove Literary Style

They say opposites attract, and what could be more opposite than a stuffy literary writer falling in love with a self-published romance writer?

Meet novelist Aaron Mite. He lives in a flea-infested rented alcove, and his girlfriend Emma, a combative bookstore owner, has just dumped him. He meets Laurie Lee at a writers’ colony and mistakenly believes her to be a renowned writer of important fiction. When he discovers she’s a self-published romance author, he’s already fallen in love with her.

Aaron thinks genre fiction is an affront to the fiction-writing craft. He likes to quotes the essayist, Arthur Krystal who claims literary fiction “melts the frozen sea inside of us.” Ironically Aaron doesn’t seem to realize that, despite his lofty literary aspirations, he’s emotionally frozen, due, in part, to a childhood tragedy. The vivacious Laurie, lover of flamingo-patterned attire and all things hot pink, is the one person who might be capable of melting him.

Their relationship is initially made in literary heaven but when Aaron loses his contract with a prestigious press, and Laurie’s novel is optioned by a major film studio, the differences in their literary sensibilities and temperaments drive them apart.

In a clumsy attempt to win Laurie back, Aaron employs the tropes of romance novels. Too late. She’s already taken up with Ross, a prolific author of Nicholas Sparks-like love stories. Initially Laurie is more comfortable with the slick and superficial Ross, but circumstances force her to go deeper with her writing and confront a painful past. Maybe Aaron and Laurie have more in common than they imagined.

In the tradition of the Rosie Project, Love Literary Style is a sparkling romantic comedy which pokes fun at the divide between so-called low and high brow fiction.

Buy, read, and discuss Love Literary Style

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Read an Excerpt


About the author, Karin Gillespie Karin Gillespie

Karin Gillespie is the author of the national bestselling Bottom Dollar Girls series, 2016 Georgia Author of the Year, Co-author for Jill Connor Browne’s novel Sweet Potato Queen’s First Big Ass Novel. Her latest novel Love Literary Style was inspired by a New York Times article called “Masters in Chick Lit” that went viral and was shared by literary luminaries like Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Rice. She’s written for the Washington Post and Writer Magazine and is book columnist and humor columnist for the Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Magazine respectively. She received a Georgia Author of the Year Award in 2016.

Connect with Karin

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m old enough to have grown up with reruns of a silly 1970’s anthology show called “Love, American Style,” and for some reason, the theme song from that show keeps running through my head every time I see the title of Karin Gillespie’s funny, sweet, clever novel, Love Literary Style.

I always enjoy it when authors take a well-known trope and subvert it, and that’s what Gillespie has done in this book. She’s taken all the conventional trappings of a conventional romance – Girl and Boy are unhappy alone and have similar, but not duplicate, aspirations. Girl and Boy meet in a controlled environment, fall madly in love, and can’t make it work, then angst about it until they put themselves back on the ‘correct’ path – and turns them into something that skirts the edge between contemporary romance, general fiction, and literary fiction.

Her lead characters, Laurie and Aaron are both quirky, engaging people, who feel like slightly heightened versions of the types of people we all know: the bubbly, boisterous, young woman who doesn’t just wear pink, but lives it, and the charmingly dweeby academic who, deep down, wants to break out of his shell.

But far from being stereotypes, they are truly dimensional characters. Laurie wants to write romances and Aaron wants to publish his literary novel, but both of them are very much akin, in that they each want a committed partner who will support their artistic endeavors and their emotional needs, and I found both their journeys to be interesting and somewhat uplifting.

As an aspiring writer myself (aren’t we all?) I loved the behind-the-scenes glimpses at the publishing world, both mainstream/commercial and indie/self, as well as the “class wars” between mass market and literary fiction. (Personally I read a little of everything.)

Overall, Love Literary Style is a refreshing romp of a literary romance – light enough to be enjoyed by almost anyone, but deep enough to give those who want a meaty read their satisfaction, as well.

Goes well with pink cocktails followed by grilled pork chops.


Giveaway Love Literary Style

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Love Literary Style. How? There are three ways to enter:

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

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Daylight Time on Tuesday, November 8th.


Karin Gillespie’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, November 2nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 2nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thursday, November 3rd: Mom in Love with Fiction

Friday, November 4th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 7th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, November 8th: Buried Under Books

Wednesday, November 9th: Wall to Wall Books

Thursday, November 10th: Reading is my Superpower

Friday, November 11th: Not in Jersey

Sunday, November 13th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post

Monday, November 14th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, November 15th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, November 16th: Buried Under Romance

Thursday, November 17th: Thoughts on This ‘N That

Monday, November 21st: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, November 22nd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Monday, November 28th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Fill the Sky, by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

About the book, Fill the Sky Fill the Sky

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Fill the Sky

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


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

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

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

Connect with Katherine

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s another story altogether.

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

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


Other stops on Katherine Sherbrooke’s Blog Tour:

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

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

10/25: A Literary Vacation: Spotlight & giveaway

10/27: Bibliotica, review

10/28: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: review

10/31: Broken Teepee: review

11/1: Life of a Female Bibliophile: review

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

Review: Deliver Her, by Patricia Perry Donovan – with GIVEAWAY

About the book, Deliver Her Deliver Her

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 2016)

Author Patricia Perry Donovan weaves her tale flawlessly, testing the boundaries of family and friendship.

On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

Buy, read, and discuss Deliver Her.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Perry Donovan Patricia Perry Donovan

Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.

Connect with Patricia

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

In the endless onslaught of political ads, political opinions on facebook, and political arguments seemingly everywhere, I spent this last weekend engaging in some serious self-care. How? I took a bubble bath. I binge-watched the supernatural show Haven on Netflix, and a read three novels. One of them was Deliver Her, and it was fantastic.

Told in alternating points of view from Alex, a sixteen-year-old girl who was in a car accident the night of her sweet-sixteen, and which resulted in the loss of her best friend, Meg, Alex’s mother, currently separated (in situ, as the economy doesn’t allow them to afford separate residences) from Jacob, her husband, and Carl, a recovered addict/alcoholic who runs a business transporting troubled teenagers to their rehab programs, this is a book that straddles the line between contemporary family drama and serious literary fiction (not that the two can’t be the same).

I felt that author Patricia Perry Donovan captured Alex’s voice really well. She seemed like the teenager I once was, and like the sullen or troubled teenagers I’ve known: hot and cold emotions, moods, etc., angry one moment, trying so hard to be an adult, but at the same time, not wanting to truly leave childhood behind.

Meg was the character I most identified with, even though I’ve never had children, and am fortunate to have a solid marriage (we fight, of course, because we’re both human beings with opinions, but we’ve never gotten to the point of considering an ending). Still watching her marriage crumble was both moving and fascinating. I found myself empathizing with her, but also feeling great sympathy for Jacob.

Carl, on the other hand, I’d have loved to have a whole novel about. Complex, funny, smart, caring – that he turned his addiction and recovery into a way to help others, I found to be very moving.

Like many people, I was initially under the impression that this novel would be a boarding school story, focusing on Alex. Instead it was a deeply moving, incredibly rich read about the literal journey  –  Delivering Alex to The Birches – and the spiritual one of the entire Carmody family as well as Carl.

If you like family dramas like This is Us, you will love this novel. When it comes to a great story, Deliver Her really delivers.

Goes well with coffee and chocolate cherry protein bars.


Giveaway Deliver Her

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

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

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Daylight Time on Sunday, October 30th.


Patricia Perry Donovan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 3rd: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Wednesday, October 5th: Just Commonly

Monday, October 10th: Building Bookshelves

Monday, October 10th: Books ‘N Tea

Wednesday, October 12th: Books a la Mode

Friday, October 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 17th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, October 19th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, October 20th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, October 24th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, October 26th: Back Porchervations

Sunday, November 6th: Writer Unboxed – guest post

Review: Everyone Loves You Back, by Louie Cronin

About the book Everyone Loves You Back Everyone Loves You Back

 

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gorsky Press (October 21, 2016)

Sex. Wine. Jazz. Existential dread.

Meet Bob, a sarcastic radio technician who has enough on his plate trying to navigate his forties without his Cambridge neighborhood becoming overrun by urban treehuggers and uppity intellectuals in tracksuits. Between a love triangle, a rapidly shrinking job market, and the looming threat of finally growing up, Bob is forced to dig deep―man―and figure out not just what he wants, but who he is. Change hits hard when you live in the past.

Louie Cronin’s breakthrough novel is a coming-of-middle-age story that pays homage to the everyday.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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


About the author, Louie Cronin

Louie Cronin, author of the novel Everyone Loves You Back, is a writer, radio producer and audio engineer. For ten years she served as NPR’s “Car Talk” traffic cop, producing the show and ensuring that every call was entertaining.  A graduate of Boston University’s Masters program in Creative Writing and a past winner of the Ivan Gold Fiction Fellowship from the Writers’ Room of Boston, Louie has had her fiction and essays published in Compass Rose, The Princeton Arts Review, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe Magazine, and on PRI.org. Her short stories have been finalists for both Glimmer Train and New Millennium Writings awards. Louie has been awarded residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. Currently she works as a technical director for PRI’s The World and lives in Boston with her husband, the sculptor James Wright.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I saw the term “coming-of-middle-age” in the description for this novel, and that’s what hooked me first. I’m 46. As much as I love reading about people in their teens, twenties, and thirties, it’s rare for someone my age to be at the heart of a story.

In Everyone Loves You Back, Louie Cronin has done just that, though, and in Bob, she’s created a character that everyone my age, male and female, can relate to, at least a little.

As much as I loved all the behind-the-scenes radio station scenes – the way author Cronin so effectively used her own experiences in radio – it was the human story I vastly preferred. Bob is cantankerous, sarcastic, and at the point in life where change isn’t necessarily a good or welcome thing. He isn’t old, but he’s facing the reality that old age is closer than he wants.

I especially loved the working relationship friendship between Bob and on-air talent Riff. I don’t read a lot of novels with two strong male characters who aren’t competing for the same woman,  and the pull of what’s best for the show, and the network, vs. what’s best for Bob himself was interesting to watch.

I also loved the often-frustrating interplay between Bob and his neighbor. My husband and I also work weird hours, so I know first-hand the awkwardness of trying to mesh the needs of the night owl with the more conventional schedules of the rest of society.

In all, Everyone Loves You Back is exactly as described: a funny, poignant, supremely real look at one man and his life, loves, dreams, and triumphs. It’s an immensely satisfying read, full of great characters and lovely details.

Goes well with clam chowder, buttered bread, and your favorite micro-brew.