Review: The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, by David Handler

About The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 15, 2017)

Fans of JANET EVANOVICH and CARL HIAASEN, get ready. If you haven’t yet discovered wisecracking sleuth Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag and his faithful basset hound Lulu, you’re in for a sharp, hilarious treat.

Once upon a time, Hoagy had it all: a hugely successful debut novel, a gorgeous celebrity wife, the glamorous world of New York City at his feet. These days, he scrapes by as a celebrity ghostwriter. A celebrity ghostwriter who finds himself investigating murders more often than he’d like.

And once upon a time, Richard Aintree was the most famous writer in America — high school students across the country read his one and only novel, a modern classic on par with The Catcher in the Rye. But after his wife’s death, Richard went into mourning… and then into hiding. No one has heard from him in twenty years.

Until now. Richard Aintree — or someone pretending to be Richard Aintree — has at last reached out to his two estranged daughters. Monette is a lifestyle queen à la Martha Stewart whose empire is crumbling; and once upon a time, Reggie was the love of Hoagy’s life. Both sisters have received mysterious typewritten letters from their father.

Hoagy is already on the case, having been hired to ghostwrite a tell-all book about the troubled Aintree family. But no sooner does he set up shop in the pool house of Monette’s Los Angeles mansion than murder strikes. With Lulu at his side — or more often cowering in his shadow — it’s up to Hoagy to unravel the mystery, catch the killer, and pour himself that perfect single-malt Scotch… before it’s too late.

Buy, read, and discuss The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, David Handler

David Handler has written nine novels about dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag, including the Edgar and American Mystery Award–winning, The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as eleven novels in the bestselling Berger & Mitry series. He lives in a 230-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Connect with David:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This book, The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, is sort of a series reboot for David Handler’s detective duo Stwart “Hoagy” Hoag and his canine companion Lulu the Basset Hound. Or, if not technically a reboot (it’s set in the nineties) it’s a revisit, or a return.

Whatever you want to call it, this literary mystery is funny and smart, and it was refreshing to read something relatively light after so many deeper books. I love that author Handler doesn’t take himself or his material too seriously, but that Hoagy and Lulu still feel like real people – well, a real person and a real dog.

What I especially liked about this book was the period setting (and wow, do I feel old calling 1990 ‘period’). Handler reminded me of what it was like back then  – waiting for faxes, cell phones being relatively new and kind of rare – just the time it took to acquire or share information.

I also love Lulu. I’d read a series just about her. I might be biased, though, because I work in rescue and have four dogs of my own.

As someone who hadn’t read any of the other Stewart Hoag mysteries before this one, I do have to say that while The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes reads well as a stand-alone, it’s probably better appreciated if you’ve read the previous titles, which include:

The Man Who Died Laughing
The Man Who Lived By Night
The Man Who Would be F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Woman Who Fell From Grace
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
The Man Who Cancelled Himself
The Girl Who Ran Off With Daddy
The Man Who Loved Women to Death

Goes well with Chinese food and beer. Preferably delivered.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 15th: Brown Dog Solutions

Wednesday, August 16th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, August 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, August 18th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, August 21st: The Book Diva’s Reads

Tuesday, August 22nd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, August 23rd: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, August 23rd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 24th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 28th: Mama Vicky Says

Tuesday, August 29th: Reading is My Super Power

Wednesday, August 30th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, August 31st: BookNAround

TBD: In Bed with Books

TBD: Writing and Running Through Life

Review: Presidents’ Day by Seth Margolis

About the book, Presidents’ Day Presidents' Day

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Diversion Publishing (February 7, 2017)

For readers of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer comes a timely political thriller from the bestselling author of Losing Isaiah.

In this twisting, ferocious novel of suspense, the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top. Each man has a locked closet of secrets. And one man holds every key.

Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk / high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and made an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition–to select the next President of the United States–and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond.

It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is a part of the political process, where anyone’s life is up for sale, and where one man–that bad penny of an enemy–could bring the whole kingdom toppling.

As the new President is inaugurated, Seth Margolis has penned a perfect thriller for the voting public, one that asks who really puts the next person in the White House? And at what cost?

Buy, read, and discuss Presidents’ Day:

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


About the author, Seth Margolis Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

Connect with Seth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If I hadn’t read enough interviews with author Seth Margolis to know that he’d written Presidents’ Day  before Donald Trump ever announced that he was running for president last year, I’d have been convinced this novel was inspired by real events.

In actuality, however, Margolis’s work is witty and smart, two traits that reality seems to be somewhat lacking these days, and his globe-spanning story of power machinations, intrigue, and retribution is a meaty, gripping novel that kept me enthralled for the entire 360 pages.

It’s also a novel with a fairly substantial cast of character. Julian Mellow, is, of course the central character, with Zach Springer being one of the other main voices we hear, but I definitely felt like there was a sort of ‘cast of thousands’ inhabiting the pages of this book.

What really struck me was the cinematic quality to Margolis’s writing. From the opening scene in San Francisco, to the final one in Florida this book is immersive. I could feel the steepness of that hill in the first chapter and see the drab, grubby room in the last, and in between, whether the setting was an opulent hotel, a conference room in an office building, or the White House, itself, the sense of place is incredibly strong.

Ultimately, Presidents’ Day is a read with as much social commentary as satisfying plot twists, and I recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers or political fiction.

Goes well with a Reuben sandwich and a bottle of micro-brew beer.


Seth Margolis’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 31st: Tales of a Book Addict

Wednesday, August 2nd: Write Read Life

Monday, August 7th: Book Nerd

Tuesday, August 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 10th: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Friday, August 11th: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Tuesday, August 15th: Helen’s Book Blog

Wednesday, August 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 24th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Friday, August 25th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, August 31st: Bibliotica

Thursday, August 31st: Tome Tender

Monday, September 4th: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Staircase Wit

TBD: Blogging with A

TBD: Brooke Blogs

Review: Red Year, by Jan Shapin

About the book Red Year Red Year

• Paperback: 286 pages
• Publisher: Cambridge Books (June 4, 2017)

Can a red-haired woman from Chicago single-handedly force Joseph Stalin to back down?

China, 1927. Thirty-three year old Rayna Prohme, accompanying her left-wing journalist husband, becomes the political confidant and lover of Mikhail Borodin, the Russian commander sent to prop up a failing Chinese revolution. In a bid to continue their love affair, Rayna hatches a plan to accompany Mme. Sun, the widow of the Chinese revolution’s founder, to Moscow.

But Moscow does not welcome the women. Borodin shuns them. Rayna’s stipend and housing arrangements are cancelled. “Go home,” she is told. But Rayna does not want to go home to an ordinary life, to her husband and Chicago. Instead, she applies to a Soviet espionage school that soon demands she spy on Mme. Sun. The Chinese widow is, by now, in grave danger as her exit visa is blocked. Rayna must make a choice — Borodin and Russia or Mme. Sun and China.

Buy, read, and discuss Red Year:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Jan Shapin Jan Shapin

Jan Shapin has been writing plays and screenplays for nearly thirty years, in the last decade concentrating on fiction. Shapin has studied playwriting at Catholic University in Washington, DC, screenwriting at the Film and Television Workshop and University of Southern California, and fiction writing at a variety of locations including Barnard College’s Writers on Writing seminar, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Her plays have been produced in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. She has received grants from the RI Council for the Humanities and has served as a juror for the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts screenplay fellowship awards. Two previous novels, A Desire Path and A Snug Life Somewhere, were published in 2012 and 2014.

She lives in North Kingstown, RI with her photographer husband.

Connect with Jan:

Website


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

Several years ago, I came across a recording of the Interwar Duets, a series of compositions for violin and cello (my instrument) composed by a quartet of musicians including the man known best for his Bolero, Maurice Ravel. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated with the period between World War I and World War II, which is the same period when this novel, Red Year, takes place.

So lyrical is Jan Shapin’s writing, that the Duets have become my soundtrack for this book.

Shapin opens her novel at a sporting event – one that is ‘like polo’ but not, and immediately our eye, and the eye of protagonist Rayna Prohme are fixed on one Mikhail Borodin, the Russian officer sent to take charge of China’s revolution. Even though she’s in China with her second husband, an ailing journalist with the rather forgettable (I suspect this was intended) name of Bill, Rayna is intrigued and attracted by Borodin, and the affair that follows, while predictable in fact, is a fascinating look at power and politics and the line where a relationship ends and a professional arrangement begins.

Always a fan of spy novels, I felt that Red Year really balanced the tension and fear of being discovered, and of having to choose one’s loyalties, exceptionally well. I also appreciated the obvious research that went into this story. The language never felt stilted as some period novels can, but neither did it sound too contemporary – it retained the flavor of the 20s, and the Chinese and Russian characters’ ‘voices’ felt true to their natures and countries of origin.

This is a thoughtful novel. It’s sexy, yes, and there’s no small amount of intrigue and jeopardy, but it’s also thoughtful. A quick read is possible, but I would encourage a slower, more measured experience to really appreciate all the nuance with which Shapin has infused her story.

Goes well with piroshkis, borscht, and strong, smoky, black tea. And seriously, listen to the Interwar Duets while you read. You won’t be sorry.


Tour Stops:TLC Book Tours

Thursday, July 27th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, August 2nd: Wining Wife

Saturday, August 5th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, August 7th: The Paperback Pilgrim

Tuesday, August 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, August 21st: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, August 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 30th: Girl Who Reads

TBD: Sara the Introvert

Review: A Mother Like Mine, by Kate Hewitt

About the book, A Mother Like Mine A Mother Like Mine

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 8, 2017)

Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….
 
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.

Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

Buy, read, and discuss A Mother Like Mine:

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


About the author, Kate Hewitt Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, including the Hartley-by-the-Sea novels Rainy Day Sisters and Now and Then Friends, and more recently, the Willoughby Close series. A former New Yorker, she now lives in Wales with her husband five children. She also writes as Katharine Swartz.

Connect with Kate:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

My first introduction to Kate Hewitt’s work was when a copy of Rainy Day Sisters showed up in my mailbox, unsolicited. I emailed the publisher’s rep and she said, “Well, do you mind reviewing it if you have time?” In a nutshell, I loved that book, and I feel in love with Hewitt’s writing.

In this novel, A Mother Like Mine, Hewitt has again set a story in Hartley-by-the-Sea, and is again examining the various permutations of family, and especially the ever-changing dynamics between mother and daughter, which, I know from lifelong experience as the latter, is never an uncomplicated relationship.

In both Abby and Laura, Hewitt has given us characters who are flawed and deep and supremely real. Abby is a single mother with a young son, and we see her in that role first, establishing her as an independent adult. It’s only after we see her competence and self-reliance that Laura arrives, and suddenly we meet Abby, the daughter, while Laura has the mother-role, to a point.

Their ongoing interactions, both with each other, and with the cast of characters that populates this lovely coastal village (am I the only one who’d love to live there?) are sometimes stressful, sometimes funny, often poignant, and always incredibly realistic. At times I was reminded by conversations with my own mother, who has been a constant part of my life, though often chose to put her happiness before mine, and, I believe, wisely so.

I was just having a chat with a friend who said she didn’t think her writing was ever interesting enough. I get that that. I sometimes worry about the same thing. Then I look at novelists like Kate Hewitt who make universal themes into compelling, satisfying stories, and I think we’re all worrying too much.

In any case, I recommend this novel, A Mother Like Mine to all mothers and all daughters, and all women who are both.

Goes well with tea and scones… mainly because it’s raining as I write this review, and I’m craving both.


Kate Hewitt’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 8th: Books & Bindings

Thursday, August 10th: Chick Lit Central – author Q&A

Friday, August 11th: Girl Who Reads

Monday, August 14th: Mama Vicky Says

Thursday, August 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 23rd: Book Mama Blog

Friday, August 25th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, August 28th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, August 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, September 1st: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, September 4th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, September 5th: Time 2 Read

Wednesday, September 6th: Just Commonly

Thursday, September 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, September 8th: Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 12th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, September 13th: Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 14th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Review: At Wave’s End, by Patricia Perry Donovan

At Waves End

At Waves EndAbout the book, At Wave’s End

 

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 15, 2017)

After a childhood as unpredictable as the flip of a coin, Faith Sterling has finally found her comfort zone in the kitchen of an upscale Manhattan restaurant. A workaholic chef, at least there she’s in control. So when her free-spirited and often-gullible mother, Connie, calls to announce that she’s won a bed-and-breakfast on the Jersey Shore, Faith’s patience boils over. Convinced the contest is a scam, she rushes to Wave’s End to stop Connie from trading her steady job for an uncertain future.

When a hurricane ravages the coast, Faith is torn between supporting the shore rescue and bailing out her beleaguered boss. But the storm dredges up deceptions and emotional debris that threaten to destroy the inn’s future and her fragile bonds with her mother.

As the women struggle to salvage both the inn and their relationship, Faith begins to see herself and Connie in a new light—and to realize that some moments are better left to chance.

Buy, read, and discuss At Waves End: 

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

Her previous novel, Deliver Her, was reprinted last year.

Connect with Patricia

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I loved Deliver Her when I read it last spring, so when Patricia Perry Donovan emailed me, asking if I wanted to review her newest title, At Wave’s End, this summer, I was happy to do so. Then I found out it was being released two days before my birthday.

Well, Happy Birthday to me, and happy reading to everyone else, because this novel is the perfect way to beat the heat of the dog days of summer. Faith, a professional chef, and Connie, her mother who is always searching for the next, great, money-making opportunity, have the kind of relationship a lot of us do, I think. They love each other fiercely, but Connie thinks her daughter is selling herself short, and Faith worries her mother will be the victim of a scam.

Then Connie arrives with the news that she’s won a bed & breakfast on the Jersey Shore.

As a Jersey girl myself, I’m always excited when people set novels there, because it’s like visiting home again. In this novel, that sense of homecoming is tempered somewhat by Hurricane Nadine – inspired by Hurricane Sandy – which trashes the coastline. Reading it took me back to October, 2012 where I was watching an NJ news station over the internet from my home in Texas, and texting my mother, “I feel like I’m watching my entire childhood being washed away.”

Having been back east fairly recently, and noticed how so many of the shore towns are still rebuilding, five years later, was a visceral experience. So, too, where many of the chapters in this novel.

But Donovan is an excellent storyteller who creates vivid, realistic characters, and even at the most devastating points in the novel there is warmth and humor and the bonds of family and friends.

Don’t think, though, that this novel is all about the wreckage of a major storm. It’s not. That’s just backdrop. It’s really about family and friends, chasing dreams, figuring out what you need vs. what you think you want, and how all those things tied together.

Like Connie, I have been tempted by those “win an inn” contests, but I’ve always managed to resist the urge. Like Faith, I’m sometimes too generous with my friends, to my own detriment. I found both of these women at the center of the story to be completely believable as women, as people.

At 364 pages, At Wave’s End is long enough to tackle everything from the first look at the B&B to the aftermath of the storm, and yet it’s also a fast read, suitable for the last weeks of summer. Dip your toes in the water of this story, let the sun and sand keep you reading. You won’t be sorry.

Goes well with, a classic NJ pork roll sandwich and a glass of iced tea, eaten at a picnic table on the porch.

 

Review: The White Light of Tomorrow, by D. Pierce Williams

About the book, The White Light of Tomorrow The White Light of Tomorrow

 

  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Publisher: D. Pierce Williams (May 1, 2017)

In a future dominated by the Church and defended by the sword, one piece of forbidden technology may change all the rules.

Adrian of Tarsus is a veteran Knight Hospitaler. His adopted daughter, Mariel, serves as his squire, and together they travel the galaxy aboard the ancient merchant ship Miranda. Adrian uses his position as a Church enforcer to provide cover for his real quest: a cure for Mariel’s mysterious and painful illness, which worsens every day.

Trouble is, Adrian’s certain the cure requires Machina Infernus, heretical technology forbidden by the Church, and not even a Knight can hide from the Holy Office of the Universal Inquisition.

When the Miranda’s crew are ambushed while acquiring such an object, Adrian turns to Sabine Adler, an old flame and specialist in Machina, for help.

But once on the planet Bethany, Sabine’s home and the seat of Christendom, assassins come out of the woodwork and everyone seems to want Adrian’s relic –mercenaries, cultists, thugs, politicians, even the Inquisition. Most troubling of all are a pair of unusual nuns who claim to know the location of the lab where the relic originated, and the fact that one of them bears a striking resemblance to Mariel.

Adrian has survived galactic crusades, skilled assassins, and Church politics, but these women may be the death of him.

Buy, read, and discuss The White Light of Tomorrow

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


About the author, D. Pierce Williams D. Pierce Williams

I am a computer geek, history nut, aviation enthusiast, and very efficient procrastinator. I play tabletop role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, White Wolf, etc.) like it’s 1989. I like to listen to Bach, Van Halen, and Snoop Dogg in that order. I loves dogs. All of them.

I studied history in college and graduated cum laude with a BA in 1997. The focus of my study was modern European history with emphasis on the period from approximately 1850 to 1950, covering industrialization, the rise of nationalism, fascism and communism, and the world wars.

I entered a History Master’s program in the fall of ’97. For reasons having everything to do with money, I left the program and instead completed an MBA focusing on information technology management. I graduated from this program in 2000. From 1999 onward I’ve pursued a successful career in IT, and worked as a network and systems engineer for a Fortune 100 life-insurance and retirement services company for the past ten years.

Since 2013 I’ve been working hard on this, THE WHITE LIGHT OF TOMORROW, my first novel, which draws on my interest in science fiction and my love of history and technology.

Connect with D. Pierce Williams:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

“I’m reading this great book,” I told my husband. “It’s got elements of history, science fiction, and high fantasy.”

“Oh, really?” he asked, his entire face lighting up with interest. “It sounds like something I might enjoy.”

And so even before this review goes live, I’ve put this novel, The White Light of Tomorrow into another reader’s hands. Go, me!

Seriously though, D. Pierce Williams’ debut offering is a compelling read.

The tone is best described as Firefly meets the Renaissance, but that’s an over-simplification, because the author, a self-described history nut, has clearly done a lot of research to make the world of this book feel, not just vivid and dimensional, but wholly original. When Sabine was complaining about her shoes, in the first scene where we meet her, I was so into the story that my feet hurt in sympathy. I could hear the noise of her pub, and, in street scenes, I could feel dirt roads beneath my feet. At the same time, when I realized the ship that Adrian and Mariel call home was a space-going vessel, I was pleasantly surprised (this despite having read the description and the marketing materials for the book).

I really liked the mix of historic society – swords and cloaks and taverns – with bits of technology – space ships and DNA drives, and I found that the author meshed these seemingly disparate cultures into a cohesive one very believably. I also appreciated the diversity of his characters. Not only were women well represented, but not every major character was a middle-class white guy. Instead, there was a realistic and plausible blend of people from all levels of education, wealth, and nationality. This is something that contemporary speculative fiction often has trouble with, and there’s a line between having believable diversity and making the cast of characters feel like a Very Special Episode of some drama.

I don’t generally tell people who my favorite characters are, but something about Mariel, who is roughly fourteen when we meet her, really resonated with me. I think it was the combination of her spunk, and the way she essentially created her own family.

As aspiring writers, we are often admonished to ‘write what you know,’ which is difficult when you’re writing a piece that doesn’t take place on contemporary (or near-contemporary) Earth. With The White Light of Tomorrow, it’s clear that author Williams has taken all the things he knows and loves – history, science fiction, aviation – and woven them together into a story that tickles the imagination and makes you beg for more.

It’s implied that this book is meant to be the first of a series; I eagerly await the subsequent volumes.

Goes well with pub food: fish and chips or shepherd’s pie and a pint of ale.

 

 

 

Review: The Dress in the Window, by Sofia Grant

About  the book, The Dress in the Window The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 25, 2017)

A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams.

World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town.  But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.

Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.

Buy, read, and discuss The Dress in the Window:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sofia Grant Sofia-Grant-AP-Photo-by-Madeira-James

Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Connect with Sofia:

Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t sew, but I’m the daughter of a talented sewist, so I chose to review this book in part so I could pass it on to her.  I’m glad I did, because the story was fantastically crafted, both Jeanne and Peggy (and less so Thelma and Tommie) have stitched their way into my heart.

Practical Jeanne and ambitious, dreaming Peggy struck me as being both perfectly complementary sisters – each balancing the other  – but also as representing the duality of all of us who are creative, and must constantly decide whether to let our business sense or our romanticism take the lead. I found their relationship reminiscent of my mother’s relationship with her own sisters, though I really only see that in glimpses.

Beyond just their sisterhood, though, I found the journeys each woman takes to be quite compelling. I like that each woman ends up more self-aware at the end of the book than they were at the start. Each of them is stronger and more confident in who they are and what they truly want in life.

In addition to the actual story, I really loved the way the book was designed. Yes, there’s that fantastic Dior-inspired dress on the cover of the book, but inside, each section is linked to a kind of fabric, beginning with taffeta. (I remember my mother cursing over certain kinds of fabrics when I was a kid, and I’ve called her to find her doing the same thing much more recently.

Author Sofia Grant has put a lot detail – historical, sewing, family, setting – into this book, and her care shows. The book never feels affected. Rather, it seems effortless, a sure sign of a great deal of work.

You don’t have to sew, or have a relative who sews to appreciate this book. The period setting, the family relationships – those are what make the novel. The rest? That’s window dressing. Really, really good window dressing.

Goes well with a Philly cheese-steak sandwich. Not because it has anything to do with the novel, aside from the fact that much of it is set there, but because I really want one.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 25th: Life By Kristen

Friday, July 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, July 31st: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, August 1st: BookNAround

Wednesday, August 2nd: Based on a True Story

Thursday, August 3rd: Tina Says…

Friday, August 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 7th: Time 2 Read

Tuesday, August 8th: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, August 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Friday, August 11th: StephTheBookworm

TBD: Book by Book

TBD: View from the Birdhouse

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
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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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7/31 Excerpt 1 Books in the Garden
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Review: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel, by Maria Murnane

About the book, Bridges: A Daphne White Novel Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

 

  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Kindle Press (April 4, 2017)

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

Buy, read, and discuss Bridges:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Maria Murnane Maria Murnane

A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the bestselling author of Wait for the Rain, Katwalk, and International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane, as well as the Waverly Bryson series: Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Originally from California, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Connect with Maria:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I haven’t been single in decades, and I don’t count as young anymore, but there is something universal about Maria Murnane’s trio of women friends, Daphne, Skylar, and KC (Krissa). I didn’t feel too old while reading this novel, nor did I feel out of touch. Instead, I enjoyed a funny, sweet, sometimes poignant novel about a trio of women who truly represent what friendship can, and should, be.

Author Murnane is particularly adept at differentiating the voices and personalities of each woman: free-spirited Skylar, KC who’s dating woes inform her life, but don’t define her, and Daphne, the aspiring novelist. Even though this trio was new to me (this was my first introduction to Maria Murnane’s work, so I never read the first book in this series), I didn’t feel like I was missing crucial information. Their stories come out organically.

Writing believable dialogue is always difficult, and I’ve read comments from readers who felt the dialogue in this book was its weak point. I disagree. My friends and I often use our own vocabulary, that’s at times more formal or more casual (depending on the situation) than whatever is perceived to be the social ‘norm.’ Do Murnane’s characters talk like everyone else? Not exactly. But I felt this made their personalities and their friendship more distinct, more specific.

Overall, I found this to be a great story of love, triumph, struggles, and perseverance, and through it all the friendship of this trio of women was both a unifying thread and a lovely bridge between past and present, present and future, what we thought we wanted, and what we actually need.

Goes well with endless cups of coffee and chocolate chip cookies.


Buy, read, and discuss Bridges: Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

About the book, The Almost Sisters The-Almost-Sisters-cover

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)

Selected as the #1 Indie Next Pick for August

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Buy, read, and discuss The Almost Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with Joshilyn:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson’s work ever since I was first introduced to her writing by my good friend Debra, but I was especially excited about The Almost Sisters once I realized that the protagonist, Leia, shared my geeky sensibility.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen so hard for a main character, and I really wish Leia’s comicbook (Stan Lee insists that should be one word, and who am I to argue with Stan Lee?) was real, because Violence in Violet sounds like something I would completely connect with.

But I digress.

Leia and Rachel are ‘almost sisters’ – stepsisters from the age of three, who couldn’t be more different, and yet who share a deep family bond. The way they support each other during Leia’s discovery (and announcement) that she’s pregnant by a Batman cos-player she had a one-night-stand with at a con, Rachel’s marital woes, and Birchie’s (Leia’s grandmother) rapidly deteriorating mental health is absolutely lovely. Real and poignant, and often funny, these two women jump off the page and take up positions on your couch. They even bring the wine.

But Birchie and her girlfriend since childhood, Wattie, are also ‘almost sisters,’ and their friendship is beautiful and rich, layered with decades of familiarity, and colored by the fear of inevitable loss and death.

This novel is essentially a family drama, but it’s also a celebration of its southern roots and southern setting. There’s a sultry-ness that lurks in the background of every scene, and the soundtrack is equal parts southern rock, traditional blues, Americana, and a little bit of country-folk, blended with the rhythmic click of sprinklers resetting and the contrapuntal harmony of cicadas. None of that is spelled out, of course. Jackson’s writing is just so tied to place, and her descriptions are so vivid that you can’t help but add in your own imagined sound.

The Almost Sisters is funny and sad, poignant and prosaic, completely readable, and incredibly compelling. Read it. Read it now. Then share it with a friend.

Goes well with fried catfish, wedge salad with cherry tomatoes, cornbread, and sweet tea.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book

Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi

Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read

Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica

Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife

Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books

Monday, July 31st: she treads softly