Review: A Recipe for Disaster, by Stephen Phelps – with Giveaway

About the book, A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking up a Big Italian Idea

A Recipe for Disaster is a cookbook, a travelogue and the companion to Cookucina, a six-part TV series available on Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play – see www.cookucina.com .

It’s also the entertaining journey of an Englishman struggling with the ups and downs of living in rural Italy. After giving up a successful career in television, Stephen found himself dragged back into a world he had happily given up when his neighbour, Lia, persuaded him to listen to her Big Idea – making a TV cookery series. But Lia speaks no English.

And Stephen’s partner, Tam, can’t cook. So, much against Stephen’s better judgement, the three of them embarked on a six-part series set among the rolling hills of the little-known, but spectacularly beautiful, Italian region of Le Marche. In the Cookucina TV series Lia teaches Tam to cook alla Marchigiana, while Tam translates. A Recipe for Disaster follows their many encounters with the real Italy – a world away from the picture-book ideal of summer holidays in Tuscany.

As the team try to construct a professional series with no funding they come to rely on the generosity of the Marchigiana people, while attempting to overcome the constant difficulties thrown up by those whose stubborn adherence to their age-old way of life is rooted in their beloved fields and woods. A Recipe for Disaster is a goldmine of simple yet delicious recipes, while peeling back the veneer of television professionalism and opening the door to a world of Italian surprise and delight.

A Recipe for Disaster comes with unique access to Cookucina, the final six-part TV series, so you can see for yourself how the team cracked their problems and (just about) held it all together in a blistering heatwave. Experience this contradictory world of vendettas and kind hearts through the laughter and frustrations of Stephen and the team, as you follow A Recipe for Disaster slowly coming to its surprising fruition.

Buy, read, and discuss A Recipe for Disaster:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | iBooks | SmashWords | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Phelps

Stephen PhelpsEducated at Oxford University, I began working with BBC Radio, moving to BBC TV where I launched Watchdog and produced the investigative legal series Rough Justice. In Hong Kong for BBC World Service Television I oversaw the start of BBC World. I then spent twelve years running my own TV production company, Just Television, specialising in investigative programmes in the field of law, justice and policing. In particular, Trial and Error for Channel 4 which exposed and investigated major miscarriages of justice, winning the Royal Television Society’s inaugural Specialist Journalism Award in 1999. Recently I have been working as a consultant for Aljazeera English on major documentary projects.

In 2002 I took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Writing credits include many plays for BBC Radio, my most recent being a drama documentary for the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Books: The Tizard Mission published by Westholme Publishing in the United States, tells the extraordinary story of how Britain’s top scientists travelled in secret to America in the autumn of 1940 to give away all their wartime secrets to secure US support in WWII. A Recipe for Disaster is a book about living in Italy while trying to make a TV cookery series, Cookucina (now available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.

I have several other books and three screenplays in development.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Medium | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI love travelogues and cookbooks and true stories about people undertaking bold things. Under the Tuscan Sun and Peter Mayle’s Provence series are some of my favorite books in this genre. I read them, and I imagine leaving my cushy suburban lifestyle and relocating to Guadalajara, MX, or somewhere in Scotland.

Agreeing to read and review A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking Up a Big Italian Idea was obviously a no-brainer for me. I expected that I would enjoy Stephen Phelps’ story about living and cooking in Italy, especially when he has a non-cooking partner. (My own partner has a limited repertoire of boxed pudding, soup from the deli, and pasta with pre-made sauce, and I still have to walk him through the latter.)

What I did not expect was to fall in love with the book so hard that I paid the $12 to buy the series from Amazon. What I did not expect was to spend page after page laughing, crying, and drooling over Stephen, Tam, and Lia, the process of making a tv show, the process of learning to cook, and the shared experience of living in such a surreal bubble in time.

Reading this book makes you want to get your grandmother’s recipe box and systematically work through every family favorite you’ve ever known, but it also makes you want to start a restaurant, make a tv show, and learn to cook a new-to-you kind of food, or speak a new-to-you language.

At the same time, makes you want to run far away from all those things because each one has its own frustrations.

Candid, funny, sometimes poignant, A Recipe for Disaster is one tasty piece of fiction.

Goes well with any of the food mentioned in the book with a glass of a good Italian table wine. Need not be fancy. (I really want to make the roasted tomatoes (with breadcrumbs, baked herbs and orange zest).)


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Review: Understanding Cemetery Symbols by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

Understanding Cemetery Symbols

About the book Understanding Cemetery Symbols Understanding Cemetery Symbols

  • Series: Messages from the Dead
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press; 1 edition (August 19, 2017)

Graveyards don’t exist merely to shelter the dead. They also nurture the living. In fact, America’s garden cemeteries were our nation’s first public parks. People used to visit cemeteries not only to mourn the dead, but to have a pleasant day in nature with their family. “Understanding Cemetery Symbols” by Tui Snider helps history buffs, genealogists, ghost hunters and other curiosity seekers decode the forgotten meanings of the symbols our ancestors placed on their headstones. By understanding the meaning behind the architecture, acronyms, & symbols found in America’s burial grounds, readers will gain a deeper appreciation for these “messages from the dead.”

Buy, read, and discuss Understanding Cemetery Symbols:

Book ┃ Graveyard Journal Workbbook┃ Ghost Hunters Journal | Goodreads

Check out the trailer for Understanding Cemetery Symbols:

About the author, Tui Snider Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in quirky travel, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences and bookstores. Her best-selling books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, Unexpected Texas, and Understanding Cemetery Symbols. She recently taught classes based on her books at Texas Christian University.

When not writing books, you can find Tui exploring the historic graveyards and backroads of Texas with her husband, Larry.

Connect with Tui:

WebsiteAuthor Facebook | Book Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I was given the opportunity to review this book, I didn’t merely sign up for it, I begged for the chance. Partly, of course, it’s because a lot of my writing lately is focusing on ghosts, but also it’s because the subject fascinates me. Maybe it’s because we don’t bury our dead in my family – we have them cremated and scatter the ashes somewhere meaningful – or maybe I’ve just read too many gothic novels with confrontations in family crypts, but graveyards have always intrigued me. In fact, one of the only things I remember from a clever gardening book I read several years ago, is that graveyard roses are the hardiest plants if you want to grow roses from a cutting.

Tui Snider’s book does not cover the best ways to filch roses from the dead, but it is a lot more than just a glossary of symbols commonly found on headstones.

In fact, Understanding Cemetery Symbols has several chapters explaining the history and trends of burial in America, including a rundown of different types of cemeteries and descriptions of the different words – such as burial ground, churchyard, graveyard, etc. – that were used in different eras and are still used in different parts of the country. (Confession: like the author, I agree that ‘graveyard’ is creepier than ‘cemetery.’)

Of course, it also explains the symbols the title references, but it does so in a way that is never dry or dull. Author Snider’s warm, witty style of writing feels more like a conversation with a friend than any kind of book, and I found myself both impressed with her research and eager to field-test her data.

Speaking of field-testing, my review copy also came with copies of Ms. Snider’s Graveyard Journal, for tracking the different graves you visit and what symbols are present, and her Ghost Hunter’s Journal, for those of us who have more than a passing fancy for the supernatural. Both of these supplementary books are well-designed, and now that the weather in Texas is cooling off I’m excited about doing some judicious exploration.

Understanding Cemetery Symbols is an interesting read even if you never plan to go tromping around old churchyards, but it’s indispensable if you do feel the urge to explore, and the two journals will only enhance your experience.

Goes well with tuna sandwiches and sweet tea, enjoyed on a picnic blanket in the middle of a cemetery.


Giveaway (US Only)

Giveaway: Understanding Cemetery Symbols

Grand Prize: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols + wGraveyard Journal Workbook + Ghost Hunters Journal 

2nd & 3rd Prizes: Signed Copies of Understanding Cemetery Symbols

October 18-October 27, 2017

(U.S. Only)

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Tour Stops for Understanding Cemetery Symbols

18-Oct Excerpt 1 Texan Girl Reads
19-Oct Review Chapter Break Book Blog
20-Oct Guest Post 1 Books in the Garden
21-Oct Review The Librarian Talks
22-Oct Author Interview Books and Broomsticks
23-Oct Excerpt 2 The Page Unbound
24-Oct Review Forgotten Winds
25-Oct Top 5 List Syd Savvy
26-Oct Guest Post 2 A Novel Reality
27-Oct Review Bibliotica

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: Comfort Plans, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

Comfort Plans Blog Tour

About the book, Comfort Plans Comfort Plans

  • Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
  • Date of Publication: May 23, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 320
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Colette Sheridan is being remodeled.

As a San Antonio architect, she’d have vowed her career was to investigate the history and create new functions for the structures everyone else saw as eyesores. The old German farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, might be the screeching end of that dream job. The assignment seemed so ideal at the start; generous clients, a stunning location, and a pocketful of letters that were surely meant to explain the ranch’s story. All that goodness crashed louder than a pile of two-by-fours when her grandfather announced he’d lured Colette’s ex-husband back to San Antonio to take over the family architecture firm. Now, not only does Colette have to endure the challenges posed by Beau Jefferson, the client’s handpicked contractor, a house that resists efforts to be modernized, and letters that may hold the secret to buried treasure, but she also has to decide if she has the courage to fight for her future.

Set against the backdrop of the Texas Hill Country, Colette and Beau have to rely on plans neither of them constructed in order to navigate the changes of a house with a story to tell, and a future they couldn’t even imagine.

Buy, read, and discuss Comfort Plans:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Kimberly FishKimberly Fish started writing professionally with the birth of her second child and the purchase of a home computer. Having found this dubious outlet, she then entered and won The Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest which fed her on-going fascination with story crafting. She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in 2017, released the first novel in a series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas—The Big Inch. She lives with her family in East Texas.

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThere’s often a fine line between contemporary fiction and romance. That’s not a bad thing, but it bears mentioning that while this novel, Comfort Plans has elements of romance (and two hot male leads in Julian and Beau) but it is really Collette’s story, the story of a woman who must face herself, face her choices, and face the new paths that life is offering her.  As such, it’s a bit deeper, a bit more reflective than traditional ‘romance’ novels.

Author Kimberly Fish has a writing style that feels fast and fresh. There is nothing unpolished or simple about this story, but she makes you feel like her words flowed effortlessly from her keyboard to your eyes. Collette feels dimensional, and as a reader, sympathizing with her struggles seems as natural as offering your best friend a reassuring hug and a glass of Merlot after a rough day.

I liked that Fish set up this novel so that Collette had to face the internal struggle of her own lack of confidence, as well as the external one of her ex-husband, and the prickly contractor she must work with. I liked that her strength ultimately was very real, and very human. Writing imperfect, but relatable characters is a skill that some authors take several novels to hone. Fish has already mastered it, and it was a pleasure to read her words. I especially appreciated the way she never wrote in dialect, but the Texas accent came through in her character’s dialogue even so. Again, it takes a deft hand to pull that off.

If you want a story that is equal parts comfort-read and woman-coming-into-her-power, plan on enjoying Comfort Plans. I did, and I’m recommending it to all my friends.

Goes well with BBQ brisket, corn on the cob, and a green salad accented with homegrown tomatoes and peppers. 


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Tour Stops

7/31 Excerpt 1 Books in the Garden
8/1 Review Bibliotica
8/2 Character Interview Texas Book Lover
8/3 Guest Post 1 CGB Blog Tours
8/4 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/5 Excerpt 2 Books and Broomsticks
8/6 Playlist Reading By Moonlight
8/7 Review Forgotten Winds
8/8 Video Guest Post Missus Gonzo
8/9 Review Hall Ways Blog
8/10 Excerpt 3 The Librarian Talks
8/11 Guest Post 2 The Page Unbound
8/12 Review StoreyBook Reviews
8/13 Excerpt 4 Margie’s Must Reads
8/14 Review Syd Savvy

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Lone Star Literary Life

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

Lord of the PrivateersAbout the book, Lord of the Privateers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Lord of the Privateers

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


Stephanie LaurensAbout the author, Stephanie Laurens

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

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with fish and chips and a good ale.


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

Monday, January 16th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 20th: Reading Reality

Monday, January 23rd: Buried Under Romance

Tuesday, January 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, January 25th: The Romance Dish

Friday, January 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 30th: From the TBR Pile

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

Wednesday, February 1st: A. Holland Reads

Friday, February 3rd: Becky on Books

Monday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, February 7th: Laura’s Reviews

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

Friday, February 10th: The Maiden’s Court

The Darkest Secret, by Gena Showalter #review #TLCBookTours #giveaway

In June, 2016, Gena Showalter will be releasing the newest installment of her series The Lords of the Underworld. That novel, The Darkest Torment, is not yet ready for review, so, in conjunction with TLC Book Tours, many of us are reviewing other books in the series. I chose to review The Darkest Secret.  Read to the end of the page for the entire list of tour stops, and the chance to win a signed copy of the entire collection.

About the book, The Darkest Secret The Darkest Secret

  • Series: Lords of the Underworld
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (March 29, 2011)

Keeper of the demon of Secrets, Amun can manipulate the darkest thoughts of anyone nearby. But when new demons possess him, the immortal warrior must be chained and isolated to protect those he loves. Death is his only hope of release—until he meets Haidee, a fellow prisoner whose beauty and hidden vulnerability draw him into a reckless test of his loyalty…. Haidee is an infamous demon assassin, raised to despise Amun’s kind. Yet how can she hate the man whose touch sets her aflame? But to save him, she must give herself body and soul…and face the wrath of a powerful adversary sworn to destroy her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This novel, The Darkest Secret, is number seven in a series, and while each of the novels can be read as standalone stories, I can’t help but wonder if it would have been a different experience reading them all in order.

But that’s beside the point.

The Darkest Secret opens with a homecoming, as we witness the changes in a place I’m calling Casa Demonica  – a sort of group home/mansion/commune for angels (warriors) and demons, each of whom is the ‘keeper’ of some great evil – some of them are four horseman-level evils, others are less intense – fatigue, for example – but all of the demons represent the darker side of humanity. Or demonity. Or… both.

Author Gena Showalter does a really good job of blending world-building with paranormal romance. I enjoyed the fact that there was nuance to her darkest creatures – they regret that their appetites cause harm, and actually try to make things easier for their human partners, as a rule.

I also enjoyed learning about the interpersonal relationships between these creatures. How precarious it must be to have friendships that could so quickly turn to death and destruction, or just as easily become true kinships – or switch between both extremes in the space of days, weeks, or years?

But beyond the demons themselves are their human hosts. In this case Amun is living within Micah, and Strider – it’s his point of view we first experience – has brought a human woman – Haidee – into Casa Demonica, but Haidee isn’t just a chick of the week, she’s Micah’s girlfriend.

Yeah. That’s not awkward at all.

Because Amun/Micah is experiencing the physical manifestation of a psychic disease, he’s strapped to a bed, and in terrible shape, and Haidee, of course, answers his mental call and makes her way through the house to be at his side.

Hurt/comfort is a very big part of this novel.

And yet, with the author’s fresh spin, and clear writing voice nothing ever seems trope-y or overdone. Instead, everything that should be cheesy or over the top combines in to a deliciously dark, exquisitely erotic fable for contemporary adults.

Goes well with dark chocolate, red wine, and a seriously plush sofa.


Giveaway Gena Showalter

The publisher is sponsoring a RaffleCopter contest to win a signed copy of the entire series of these books. Enter below. PLEASE NOTE: I have nothing to do with the giveaway, except as a facilitator.

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Gena Showalter’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 28th: Read Love Blog – Series spotlight

Tuesday, March 29th: Supernatural Snark **The Darkest Craving

Tuesday, March 29th: Booked on a Feeling **The Darkest Night & The Darkest Kiss

Thursday, March 31st: Bewitched Bookworms – spotlight, The Darkest Passion

Friday, April 1st: Reading Reality **The Darkest Touch

Monday, April 4th: Reader Girls **The Darkest Lie

Tuesday, April 5th: Bibliotica **The Darkest Secret

Wednesday, April 6th: Romancing the Book **The Darkest Seduction and The Darkest Craving

Thursday, April 7th: From the TBR Pile **The Darkest Night

Monday, April 11th: Lovely Reads  **The Darkest Whisper

Monday, April 11th: Books that Hook **The Darkest Touch

Tuesday, April 12th: Stranded in Chaos  **The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss

Wednesday, April 13th: Romancing the Readers **The Darkest Seduction

Friday, April 15th: Bibliophilia, Please ** The Darkest Night

Monday, April 18th: Stuck in Books – **The Darkest Pleasure

 

The Readers of Broken Wing Recommend, by Katarina Bivald #RafflecopterGiveaway #review

About the book, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 19, 2016)

The International Bestseller.
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Katarina Bivald Katarina Bivald

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She’s currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unnecessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books.

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn’t decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they’re better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having noone to recommend it to.

Läsarna i Broken Wheel Rekommenderar/The Readers in Broken Wheel Recommend is her first novel.

Connect with Katarina

Website | Instagram


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a sweet, hopeful story from Swedish author Kataina Bivald. I was hooked by the title, and fell more in love as I began to read of Sara’s arrival and subsequent adventures in rural Iowa.

As someone who has lived in a town without a bookstore, and who mourns the loss of independent bookstores even as she fills her Kindle with ebooks from Amazon, I completely empathized with Sara. I’ve flirted with opening a bookstore (well, a bookstore/cafe) for lesser reasons than honoring a friend, and only the hard fact of being done with working retail has prevented me from doing so (but I still dream).

I like Sara herself as well. At first she seemed a bit mousy, but once she found her footing, she was a force to be reckoned with, though her version of being forceful was always more of a summer downpour rather than a full-scale squall. The supporting characters were all well drawn, also. It is because of them that Broken Wheel felt like every small midwestern town I’ve ever been in, and a couple I’ve lived in, and while I wouldn’t want to live there forever, I was happy with my virtual visit.

Translating something from another language is always difficult, and yet, this novel didn’t feel like it had been written in anything but English. It’s a lovely novel guaranteed to appeal to those who browse bookstores and take home too many books, and to those who read the occasional bestseller.

Goes well with hot apple pie with a wedge of cheddar cheese, and coffee.


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RBW Blog Tour

The Christmas Bridge, by Elyse Douglas (@douglaselyse) #review #rafflecopter #giveaway #TLCBooktours

About the book, The Christmas Bridge The Christmas Bridge

Print Length: 183 pages

Publication Date: September 15, 2015

A First Love. A Second Chance.

A young widow travels to New York on business a few days before Christmas. She has reluctantly made a date with a lover she hasn’t seen in 20 years, and she is nervous and apprehensive. Twenty years before, she made a difficult decision that has both troubled and haunted her ever since. She knows she’s about to come face-to-face with her past and she’s hoping for some redemption and resolution. She also wonders if she can somehow pick up where she left off 20 years ago and start again.

An exciting chance encounter changes everything. Now, not only will she face the past with hope to rekindle an old romance, but there is the possibility that this chance meeting will bring her love and happiness she never thought possible.

Once again, she will have to choose. She will have to make the right decision. She will have to believe that Christmas miracles can still happen.

Buy, read, and discuss The Christmas Bridge

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the married writing team Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington.

Elyse Douglas>Elyse grew up near the sea, roaming the beaches, reading and writing stories and poetry, receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University.  She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress and a  speech-language pathologist.  She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed five novels: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Christmas for Juliet, Wanting Rita, Christmas Ever After, The Christmas Town and The Christmas Diary.

Douglas Elyse Douglas grew up in a family where music and astrology were second and third languages.  He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and played the piano professionally for many years. His two detective books include Death is Lookin’ for Elvis and Death is a TapDancer. His great great grandfather lived to be 132 years old, and was the oldest man in the world when he died in 1928.

Elyse Douglas live in New York City.

Connect with Elyse Douglas

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Christmas is a time for a bit of heightened reality. More romance, more fluff. I like that about this time of year. It makes the grey days softer, and the chilly weather a little less biting. The Christmas Bridge, the latest in a collection of Christmas-themed novels from the writing team known as Elyse Douglas is the perfect embodiment of all this.

Olivia and Brett meet in New York on Central Park’s Bow Bridge. It’s cold in the way only New York can ever be cold – slushy and grey and a weird mix of hard and soft – but they connect, and go for a hot chocolate, and from that moment you know they’re destined to be together. This is not a spoiler. It’s a Christmas novel, and a romance at that. You know the lead characters are going to end up in love by the end.

You still want to follow their journey.
Even though that journey involves Olivia constantly worrying that she’s in the wrong relationship, because she was supposed to meet an old lover on that bridge.

At least I did, because I found this romance to be a great representative of the season. Brett is a professional baseball player – wealthy, playful, but also a truly good guy. Olive struck me as being a bit naive at times, but maybe that was her way of staying human, because it worked for her. Together they share meals and trips to museums – the kinds of dates we all wish we could go on when we’re stuck in the suburbs, and somehow never do go one, even when we’re living more urban lives.

I thought they were well drawn, dimensional and flawed, but still existing in that heightened-reality Christmas romance bubble.

Similarly, the supporting characters were memorable and real without being overpowering. I liked the banter, particularly between Brett and Big Mike.

Overall, this novel is a lovely contemporary Christmas romance, and it does a great job of giving you a few hours of escapism and joy before you have to return to whatever prosaic reality you typically inhabit.

Goes well with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, obviously.


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Elyse Douglas’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 16th: Majorly Delicious

Tuesday, November 17th: Book Nerd

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

Monday, November 23rd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 25th: Read Love Blog

Friday, November 27th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, November 30th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Wednesday, December 2nd: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, December 3rd: Romance Novels for the Beach

Monday, December 7th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, December 10th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, December 14th: Written Love Reviews

Monday, December 14th: A Night’s Dream of Books 

Tuesday, December 15th: FictionZeal

Wednesday, December 16th: The Romance Dish

Friday, December 18th: A Splendid Messy Life

 

Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares, by Tom DeLonge (@tomdelonge) & Suzanne Young (@suzanne_young) #giveaway #review

About the book, Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares Poet Anderson ...Of Nightmares

  • Print Length: 367 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 194327200X
  • Publisher: To The Stars…; 1 edition (October 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015

From the imagination of Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves and NY Times bestselling author Suzanne Young. Jonas Anderson and his older brother Alan are Lucid Dreamers. But after a car accident lands Alan in a coma, Jonas sets out into the Dream World in an attempt to find his brother and wake him up. What he discovers instead is an entire shared consciousness where fear comes to life as a snarling beast called a Night Terror, and a creature named REM is bent on destruction and misery, devouring the souls of the strongest dreamers. With the help of a Dream Walker—a guardian of the dreamscape, Jonas must face his fears, save his brother, and become who he was always meant to be: Poet Anderson.

Buy, read, and discuss Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares

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


About the authors, Tom DeLonge and Suzanne Young

Tom DeLonge Tom DeLongeis the award-winning American musician, producer and director, best known as the lead vocalist and songwriter for the platinum-selling bands Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves. Under his media production company To The Stars…, Tom has created transmedia entertainment properties that span music, film, comics and books. Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares will also coincide with an original soundtrack recorded by the band that you can listen to while you read.

Suzanne Young Suzanne Youngis the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series of novels for young adult readers. Young lives in Arizona where she also teaches high school English. Her novels include , The Program, The Treatment, The Remedy, The Epidemic, and Hotel Ruby

Connect with Tom & Suzanne

Tom’s Twitter | To the Stars Media Twitter | To the Stars Media Website | Suzanne’s Twitter | Suzanne’s Website


My Thoughts: MissMeliss

When the publicists for this novel invited me to be part of the blog tour, I asked if I could have Friday the 13th as my review date, and I was delighted that they agreed. But really, what better day is there to post a review of a book that involves dreams and nightmares.

As someone whose dreams are vivid, and whose favorite horror film is the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was a foregone conclusion that Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares would appeal to me. It has everything I love: a well-paced plot, richly drawn characters, an original setting, a provocative setting: a Dreamscape populated by dreamers and their creations, nightmare creatures born of unresolved emotional conflict and unhealed emotional trauma.

Protagonist Jonas (aka Poet in the Dreamscape) is a 16-year-old lucid dreamer with a brother in a coma, dead parents, and no one to take care of him. The part of me that is way too old to be reading YA wanted to gather him into a warm hug and make him some soup. The part of me that used to be a teenaged-girl wanted to figure out what made him tick. He leaped off the page and into my imagination, and was so dimensional, and so sympathetic (even during the moments when I kind of wanted to shake him into sensibility) that I was happy to follow his journey.

The few real-world people we meet were mostly (but not entirely) peripheral to the beings in the Dreamscape, but they served an important purpose. They grounded the story in the here and now-ish, so that young Jonas/Poet had an external anchor other than his brother.

The people (and scary monsters) inside the Dreamscape were more vivid, but their edges were blurry, as is typical for dream constructs, still, it is through them that Poet/Jonas learns his inner identity, hones his abilities, and navigates the twisting, winding world formed by the lucid dreams of many, many dreamers.

While I enjoyed Poet’s quest – because this is absolutely a quest novel, even if that’s not explicitly stated – I was equally fascinated by the world building done with regard to the Dreamscape. The notion that the nightmare creatures we create can grow strong enough to break into the waking world is chilling, but it also makes sense. How many of us are troubled from unresolved issues that haunt our dreams? How strange is it, really, that those hauntings would grow in power?

I have to admit that I never had access to the soundtrack that goes with this novel, but while I’m certain that would enhance the experience for some, I don’t feel it is truly necessary. I very quickly found myself immersed in the story, only coming up for air when I was desperately hungry, or had to wrangle dogs (I have five).

Authors DeLonge and Young should be commended for creating something completely engaging, original, and rich. I know the average teenager would dig this novel, but I’m equally certain that my own peers will find it compelling and worthy as well.

Goes well with a hearty chili and freshly made skillet corn bread, and a steaming mug of hot spiced cider.


Giveaway Poet Anderson Giveaway

Two (2) winners receive a personalized special edition signed copy of POET ANDERSON…OF NIGHTMARES and an Of Nightmares t-shirt (INT)
Ends 12/23

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Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family, by Carlton Mellick III (@carltonmellick3) #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About the book Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family Clownfellas

  • Publisher: Hydra (July 14, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

“Carlton Mellick III goes past silly, through weird, detours around dumb, blasts through bizarre, and gets to a place where the normal physics of narrative no longer apply. You will never be the same.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Homeland

In a topsy-turvy world where clowns are killers and crooks, Little Bigtop is a three-ring circus of crime, and no syndicate is more dangerous than the Bozo family. From the wildly original mind of Carlton Mellick III comes the short-story collection ClownFellas—an epic mob saga where life is cheap and the gags will slay you.

For years, the hard-boiled capos of the Bozo family have run all of the funny business in Little Bigtop, from the clown brothels to the illegal comedy trade. But hard times have befallen the Bozos now that Le Mystère, the French clown Mafia, has started moving in and trying to take over the city. If that weren’t enough, they’ve got to deal with the cops, the Feds, the snitches, the carnies, the mysterious hit man Mr. Pogo, and the mutant clowns over in the Sideshow district. With the odds stacked against them, the Bozos must fight to survive . . . or die laughing.

Buy, read, and discuss Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family

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


About the author, Carlton Mellick III Carlton Mellick III

Carlton Mellick III is an oafish gentleman with the stylishest of sideburns. He is one of the leading authors in the bizarro fiction genre—a booming underground movement that strives to bring weird, crazy, entertaining literature to the masses. Imagine a mixture of David Lynch, Dr. Seuss, South Park, and Troma movies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Connect with Carlton

Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Publisher’s Weekly described Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family as “Mario Puzo meets Barnum & Bailey” and that’s about as accurate a description as I can think of. Make no mistake about it, this collection of short stories is hilarious – clowns as gangsters? really?? – but it’s also dark, gritty, and disturbing.

In the world this book inhabits, Clowns are a kind of metahuman mutant, and each faction has different characteristics. The Bozo family is comprised of traditional American-style circus clowns, while other factions include the French Le Mystère (who are not, apparently, mimes, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were – a further tale, perhaps?)  and deal with attacks from the Jugglers.

The author, Carlton Mellick III has taken every gangster trope and every clown trope mixed them up and come up with something fresh and fantastic (in all senses of the word). In one story a coulrophobic (coulrophobia is fear of clowns) veterinarian is dragged to Little Bigtop to save the life of Don Bozo’s pet lion. In another, a human Associate is resisting the serum injection (Happy Juice) that will turn him from Human to Clown because he’s terrified of becoming a statistic. In the universe of Clownfellas, it seems, one in ten people become Sideshow Freaks instead of true Clowns, and are sent off to fend for themselves in the Sideshow without rights or recognition.

(A part of me wonders if that one-in-ten number was just for convenience, or if it was chosen specifically because that statistic is a popular (if not necessarily accurate) representation of the segment of our population that is LGBT.)

Whether you read it for a deeper cause, or simply enjoy the sendup of every mafia movie you’ve ever seen, this collection of tales is entertaining and thought provoking: what is normal? What constitutes crime? Would we be better off if we really could kill someone with a C4-loaded pie to the face and guns that used lethal BANG! signs instead of conventional bullets? Is it true that all you really need in life is “…a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants…?”

Goes well with popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, hot dogs, and beer served in a dangerously flimsy plastic cup.


Giveaway Clownfellas

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a HYDRA mug and a copy of the book!

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Carlton Mellick III’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 13th: For the Love of Fictional Worlds

Wednesday, July 15th: PromoteHorror.com

Wednesday, July 15th: Wildfire Books

Monday, July 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, July 21st: Wag the Fox – author interview

Thursday, July 23rd: The Qwillery

Friday, July 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, July 27th: W. A. R. G. – The Writer’s, Artist’s & Reader’s Guild

Tuesday, July 28th: The Horror Honeys

Wednesday, July 29th: Mallory Heart Reviews

Thursday, July 30th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, August 5th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, August 7th: Life is Story

TBD: The Scary Reviews

TBD: Bell, Book & Candle

TBD: Kari J. Wolfe

The Rhyme of the Magpie, by Marty Wingate #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About the book, The Rhyme of the Magpie: A Birds of a Feather Mystery The Rhyme of the Magpie

Published by: Alibi  (June 02, 2015)
Pages: 224

For readers of Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, and Jenn McKinlay, the high-flying new Birds of a Feather mystery series from Marty Wingate begins as a British woman gets caught up in a dangerous plot when her celebrity father disappears.

With her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father’s hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand. Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.

But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation. Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick remarriage after her mother’s death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop. But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum: Rupert has gone missing. Julia decides to investigate—she owes him that much, at least—and her father’s new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help. Little does the unlikely pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.

Buy, read and discuss The Rhyme of the Magpie

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


 About the author, Marty Wingate Marty Wingate

Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House, and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Birds of a Feather mysteries are planned.


My Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Marty Wingate’s since I cracked open the first of her Potting Shed mysteries, so when I was offered the chance to review this book, the first in a new series, I jumped at it. I have t admit, it took me a while to warm up to the new characters and premise.

Once I did warm up to Julia and her life, I was hooked. I love the use of the magpies as a recurring theme, and the way birds, signs, and portents are all woven together. I thought each character, even those we don’t spend a lot of time with were distinct and dimensional.

Wingate has a special knack for vivid descriptions of place – you can smell the rain when the air is damp, and you can feel your feet squelching through soggy soil, or crunching over gravel. She also has an excellent ear for dialogue, to the point where I could hear the characters’ accents in my head – and no, they’re not all generic-sounding ‘received’ pronunciation. That she manages to do this without writing much in dialect always impresses me.

Marty Wingate might just be the new Queen of the Cozy, but her cozy mysteries are deceptive in that they balance quaint village live with strong female characters who achieve self-significance while still maintaining femininity.

Long may she reign.

Goes well with proper fish and  chips, and a hand-crafted lager.


Giveaway

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 e-gift card and a copy of the book!  Enter to win.

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Marty Wingate’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 2nd: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, June 2nd: Mystery Playground

Wednesday, June 3rd: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, June 3rd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 4th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, June 5th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, June 5th: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, June 10th: Reading Reality

Thursday, June 11th: Joyfully Retired

Friday, June 12th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 16th: Bell, Book & Candle

Wednesday, June 17th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Thursday, June 18th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, June 23rd: FictionZeal

Wednesday, June 24th: 2 Kids and Tired