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: 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: 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.

Review: Beauty and Attention, by Liz Rosenberg – with Giveaway

About the book, Beauty and Attention Beauty and Attention

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 25, 2016)

The riveting story of one brave young woman’s struggle to free herself from a web of deceit.

For misfit Libby Archer, social expectations for young women in Rochester, New York, in the mid-1950s don’t work. Her father has died, leaving her without parents, and her well-meaning friends are pressuring her to do what any sensible single girl must do: marry a passionate, persistent hometown suitor with a promising future. Yet Libby boldly defies conventional wisdom and plans to delay marriage—to anyone—by departing for her uncle’s Belfast estate. In Ireland, Libby seeks not only the comfort of family but also greater opportunities than seem possible during the stifling McCarthy era at home.

Across the Atlantic, Libby finds common ground with her brilliant, invalid cousin, Lazarus, then puts her trust in a sophisticated older woman who seems to be everything she hopes to become. Fraught with betrayal and long-kept secrets, as well as sudden wealth and unexpected love, Libby’s journey toward independence takes turns she never could have predicted—and calls on courage and strength she never knew she had.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Liz Rosenberg Liz Rosenberg

The author of more than thirty books for adults and young readers, Liz Rosenberg has published three bestselling novels, including The Laws of Gravityand The Moonlight Palace. She has also written five books of poems, among them 2008’s Demon Love, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and After Great Grief, forthcoming from the Provincetown Arts Press. Her poems have been heard on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. Rosenberg’s books for young readers have won numerous awards and honors and have been featured on the PBS television show Reading Rainbow. A former Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Rosenberg teaches English at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she earned the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Binghamton with her daughter, Lily, and a shih tzu named Sophie. Although she has homes in New York and North Chatham, Massachusetts, her heart is still in Ireland.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I really needed this novel this week. It’s so well written, and so hopeful, but even though the subjects are often serious, it’s not heavy. I love the way books sometimes come into our lives at the perfect time, and that was the case, for me, with Beauty and Attention.

Like the previous novel I reviewed, Madame Presidentess, this is a piece of historical fiction. Unlike that other novel, this one takes place in a period – the 1950s – much closer to our own. I found it particularly interesting to read a story set in the McCarthy era and juxtapose it with the current political climate (and the fears many of us have about the immediate future).

But this is not a political story. Rather it’s an exploration of self-discovery.

I really enjoyed traveling with Libby on her literal journey from the USA to Ireland, and her metaphysical one as she completed her coming-of-age process and figured out her own needs, wants, and goals. I would really enjoy having a coffee with her, and chatting for an hour or two, I think.

I also liked the character of Lazarus a lot more than I thought I would based on his initial description in the early part of this novel. Like Libby, he was interesting, dimensional, and not at all stereotypical.

Overall, this story is well crafted, with some great turns of dialogue that really popped off the page, and I found it to be both refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who wants a satisfying read that is compelling but also entertaining.

Goes well with tea and cookies – I vote for those “Danish” butter cookies that come in tins and are in all the stores during the holidays.


Giveaway Beauty and Attention

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Beauty and Attention. 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 Sunday, November 27th.


Liz Rosenberg’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, October 25th: Reading is my Superpower

Wednesday, October 26th: Reading Reality

Thursday, October 27th: Building Bookshelves

Tuesday, November 1st: Just Commonly

Wednesday, November 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, November 3rd: Books Without Any Pictures

Friday, November 4th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, November 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, November 8th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 9th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, November 11th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, November 15th: Back Porchevations

Wednesday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, November 18th: I Brought A Book

Monday, November 21st: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, November 22nd: The Magic All Around Us

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

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: Life After Coffee, by Virginia Franken – with giveaway

About the book Life After Coffee Life After Coffee

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 13, 2016)

When globe-trotting coffee buyer, Amy O’Hara, assures her husband—who stays at home to watch the kids—that it is He Who Has it Harder… she doesn’t really believe it. That is, until the day she gets laid off, her husband decides to devote all his waking hours to writing a screenplay, and she discovers she’s actually the world’s most incompetent mother.

Amy’s only possible salvation is to find another high-flying job as quickly as possible, but with the coffee industry imploding around her—and the competing buyers in her field being much hipper prospects—things look pretty dire. Even if Amy does manage to find full-time employment ever again, as her life slowly becomes more and more entwined with her children’s, how will she be able to bear leaving them to travel for weeks on end?

When salvation appears in the form of a movie-mogul ex-boyfriend who wants to employ her husband and rekindle their relationship, Amy starts to find she’s sorely tempted…

Buy, read, and discuss Life After Coffee.

Amazon | Books a Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Virginia Franken Virginia Franken

Virginia Franken was born and raised in Medway, Kent, the place where Henry the 8th sent his wives on holiday in the hope that they’d be eaten alive by mosquitoes and save him the trouble of beheading them. Most her childhood was spent wearing a dance leotard and tights, and at age 11 she attended the (sort of) prestigious dance school The Arts Education School, Tring, where she spent her teen years trying to do pique turns in a straight line and getting drunk in the village. (The inability to do the former possibly informed by too much opportunity to do the latter).

After graduating from The University of Roehampton, she worked on cruise liners as a professional dancer before deciding she’d had enough of wearing diamanté g-strings for a living and somehow managed to bag a job in book publishing.  Getting fed up of having to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, she eventually moved from London to Los Angeles where life was affordable and every time she opened her mouth she got to act all surprised and flattered when someone said they liked her accent. She then spent years trying to convince everyone else that it was them who had the accent, but this was never met with anything more emphatic than a polite, “Is that so…”

These days she lives in Monrovia, near to Pasadena, with two kids, a dog, one ever-lasting goldfish and her bearded lover, in a house that’s just a little bit too small to fit everyone in quite comfortably. She gets most of her writing done when she should be sleeping. LIFE AFTER COFFEE is her first novel. If enough people buy a copy, there’s a good chance she’ll write another…

Connect with Virginia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I fell in love with this book just from the title, and that initial crush was fully realized before I was three chapters into this funny, fast paced, breezy read about a woman who has to learn the hard way how to balance her career, marriage, and motherhood, a task made more urgent when she’s fired from her globetrotting coffee-buying job and suddenly has to be the primary caregiver to her two children.

Amy, the main character is engaging and likeable, even if there are moments when you want to grab her and shake her. Patrick, her writer husband wavers between being a true helpmate and being a ball of depression. The two kids are sticky, adorable, and somewhat troublesome, and felt just real enough that I could feel bad for them, and laugh at them, without feeling guilty.

First-time novelist Virginia Franken deftly manages her characters. While some of their choices make you want to shake the until they can’t see straight, those low-percentage decisions only serve to make Amy, Patrick, and the people they encounter feel more real, especially next-door neighbor Lizzie who starts out as an antagonist of sorts, and morphs into an ally, if not a friend, by the end of the story.

I really appreciate Franken’s use of first-person in Life After Coffee, and commend her on Amy’s dialogue in particular. At times, I had to remind myself that this was a novel and not a super-candid memoir.

If you want a novel that is both fantastically funny and a fast read, Life After Coffee would be an excellent choice.

Goes well with coffee, obviously, and a toasted English muffin with the nut-butter of your choice. I like cashew.


Giveaway Life After Coffee

One lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of Life After Coffee mailed to them by the publicist. How? you ask. I’ll tell you:

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

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a relevant comment on this post.

Winner will be chosen from those entries received by 23:59 CDT on 25 September 2016.


Virginia Franken’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, September 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 14th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post

Friday, September 16th: Bibliotica

Monday, September 19th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, September 20th: Wall to Wall Books

Thursday, September 22nd: Back Porchervations

Monday, September 26th: Write Read Life

Wednesday, September 28th: The Book Chick

Monday, October 3rd: Rebel Mommy Book Blog

Thursday, October 6th: Tina Says

Friday, October 7th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Monday, October 10th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, October 11th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, October 12th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Thursday, October 13th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, October 17th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, October 18th: 5 Minutes for Books

Wednesday, October 19th: Reading Cove Book Club

Thursday, October 20th: Mom’s Small Victories

Monday, October 24th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Sunday, October 30th: Writer Unboxed – guest post

Review: The Whiskey Sea, by Ann Howard Creel with giveaway (ends 09/21)

About the book, The Whiskey Sea The Whiskey Sea

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 23, 2016)

Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rum-runners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

Buy, read, and discuss The Whiskey Sea:

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


About the author, Ann Howard Creel Ann Howard Creel

Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website, annhowardcreel.com.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The Whiskey Sea is my first review after a month off. I needed the month, but, it seems, I needed this book as well. Last month I turned 46, and I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown impatient with novels where the women let other people save them. Frieda, in The Whiskey Sea, has help at times, but fundamentally she saved herself, and I really love that about her.

In truth, Frieda’s  a bit prickly for a lead character. She’s fiercely independent, stubborn, and overly cautious when it comes to trusting people – the latter with good reason as her mother was the town whore  – but somehow, I found myself liking her anyway. Her self-reliance and determination practically leap off the page and demand that you take notice, and her flaws only humanize her.

Then there’s her little sister, Bea. Frieda spends much of her childhood playing mother to Bea, mostly out of necessity, but the sisters’ bond never really fades and while the younger sister is often overshadowed by the older, her arc is crucial to the plot.

If Frieda and Bea are at the center of The Whiskey Sea the men in the story are the satellites in orbit around them. There are two, specifically, that bear mentioning: Silver, the man who decides, basically on a whim, to give the two orphaned sisters a home, is the man who kicks off the tale. Old and set in his ways, he makes a snap decision that changes all their lives.

Sam Hicks is the constant in Frieda’s life from the time she graduates from high school, onward. Steady, solid, ever-present, he reminds me of all the fisherman and clammers I used to see in my cousin’s diner early in the morning when I was a kid.

All together, this story has everything: a coastal village setting, the historical background of prohibition, and the rum-running that went along with it, and  a gritty coming-of-age story that doesn’t assume ‘of age’ means eighteen, but understands that we all come into ourselves at their own pace.

For me, though, this novel was special in ways over and above the brilliant writing and compelling story. It was special because the setting – Highlands, New Jersey, is where my own roots are. My family lived ‘over in Atlantic Highlands’ (the two towns are adjacent) and my cousins ran a local diner not far from the harbor. Seeing the historical depiction of a place that is literally in my blood made this book feel magical to me.

Author Ann Howard Creel is a deft and masterful storyteller. Her characters feel incredibly real, and this novel is the perfect book to immerse yourself in on a crisp fall evening, or a sultry summer afternoon, or pretty much any other time.

Goes well with Manhattan-style clam chowder (that’s the red kind), fried clams, and a cold beer, but not an IPA, because they’re too hoppy.


Giveaway The Whiskey Sea

One lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada will get a copy of The Whiskey Sea mailed to them by the publicist. How? you ask. I’ll tell you.

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

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a relevant comment on this post.

Winner will be chosen from those entries received by 23:59 CDT on 21 September 2016.


Ann Howard Creel’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 22nd: Musings of  a Bookish Kitty

Tuesday, August 23rd: You Can Read Me Anything

Wednesday, August 24th: Staircase Wit

Thursday, August 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, August 26th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, August 29th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 30th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 31st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Thursday, September 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, September 6th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, September 7th: Reading is My Superpower

Thursday, September 8th: Write Read Life

Monday, September 12th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 13th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads

Thursday, September 15th: View from the Birdhouse

Friday, September 16th: FictionZeal

Monday, September 19th: Reading the Past

TBD: The Warlock’s Gray Book

Review: Vanishing Time, by Katharine Britton – with Giveaway

About the book, Vanishing Time Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

 

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Brigham Books; 1 edition (June 8, 2016)
  • Language: English

Cama Truesdale’s ex-husband and young son leave Boston for a fishing trip in South Carolina’s Low Country. In the early morning hours, Cama is jolted awake by a phone call. There’s been a fire on board the boat. Her ex-husband is dead. Her son is missing and presumed dead. As she sets off for South Carolina, Cama’s belief that her son Tate is alive is unwavering. But her frantic search soon stirs up painful memories that send her reeling back to her childhood and the mysterious car crash that killed her black mother and white father. As the clock ticks down, exhausted, haunted by dreams, and stymied by the police and local community, she enters a world in which she must rely on instinct over fact, and where no one and nothing is what it seems—not even the boundary between the living and the dead.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Katharine Britton Katharine Britton

Katharine has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Her screenplay “Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone,” on which “Vanishing Time” was based, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. When not writing, Katharine can often be found in her Vermont garden, waging a non-toxic war against slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing after the fact. Also by Katharine Britton: “Her Sister’s Shadow” and “Little Island.”

Connect with Katharine

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

A couple of years ago, I reviewed Katharine Britton’s novel Little Islandwhich I really loved, so when her name appeared in my email, inviting me to read and review her latest work, Vanishing Time, there was no way I was going to decline.  I fell just as much in love – perhaps more so – with this novel, and I’m pleased and honored that she asked me to review it.

If you read the blurb, you may get the impression that this novel is going to be a dark and plodding story about a mother searching for her presumed-dead son. Well, there is a lot of searching for the boy, but in no way is this story dark. Sure, there are some heavy moments, but Britton excels as writing the everyday touches of humor and grace that touch even the worst of our days. The result is less Cama’s search for her son – though that’s crucial to the novel – but Cama’s journey to her authentic self, which happens in spurts and sprinkles, from the first page to the last.

Crafting such a story at all takes a delicate hand, but Britton’s work is that delicate. In this richly satisfying read, she’s given us a glimpse at the Low Country lifestyle that I’ve always been drawn to in literature, even using Gullah phrases as chapter headers (a delightful treat, and wonderful detail).

She’s also populated the story with a cast of characters who practically leap off the page and invite you for pie. Sam, the lawyer-turned-touchstone who provides Cama with a solid presence during her search. Phoebe, who owns the cottages on Pawleys Island, and even best-friend Ellie in California, are all written with as much dimension as Cama herself, and as Tate, the little boy Cama is so desperate to find.

What could easily have become a maudlin story about a mother’s plodding search for her missing child becomes, in Katharine Britton’s deft hands, a compelling story that uses the search for self and the search for truth as dual themes connected by the reminiscence of love gone sour, a bit of action/adventure, and just a hint of new love if you turn your head and squint a little.

I love this book, and Britton’s writing voice (which has matured a bit, and flows more easily than it did in Little Island) is clear, strong, and completely captivating.

Goes well with, shrimp po’boys and sweet tea.


Giveaway Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

One lucky reader (US/Canada)  will win a print copy  of this book, autographed by the author.

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

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a comment here on this post telling me where your roots are. Is there a place that feels more like home to you than any other? Is it the place where you were born?

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 12th.

 

Giveaway Updates & What’s Next

I’ve been really bad about announcing the winners of things. Going forward, I’ll be better.  Winners of everything through July have been notified. If you didn’t win, please know that I appreciate your comments, re-tweets and Facebook likes/shares.

Here are the winners of the last three giveaways.

The Hummingbird, by Stephen P. Kiernan goes to Marcia.

After Alice, by Gregory Maguire, goes to Selena.

Finding Fontainebleau, by Thad Carhart goes to Anne.


I’ll be launching a giveaway for Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton on Tuesday, August 2nd. This is a very special giveaway as the book will be signed by the author herself.

About the book, Vanishing Time Vanishing Time by Katharine Britton

 

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Brigham Books; 1 edition (June 8, 2016)
  • Language: English

Cama Truesdale’s ex-husband and young son leave Boston for a fishing trip in South Carolina’s Low Country. In the early morning hours, Cama is jolted awake by a phone call. There’s been a fire on board the boat. Her ex-husband is dead. Her son is missing and presumed dead. As she sets off for South Carolina, Cama’s belief that her son Tate is alive is unwavering. But her frantic search soon stirs up painful memories that send her reeling back to her childhood and the mysterious car crash that killed her black mother and white father. As the clock ticks down, exhausted, haunted by dreams, and stymied by the police and local community, she enters a world in which she must rely on instinct over fact, and where no one and nothing is what it seems—not even the boundary between the living and the dead.