Review: The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard

About the book, The Atomic City Girls

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

The-Atomic-City-Girls-cover“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Buy, read, and discuss The Atomic City Girls:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Janet Beard Janet-Beard-AP-Photo-by-Bradley-Cummings

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.

Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the brief on this novel says, this book is very much in the vein of Hidden Figures, in that it’s a fictionalized version of a true story, and involves women working in STEM fields, on significant projects. The difference, of course, is that June didn’t know what she was working on at the time. In fact she didn’t learn what she’d been a part of until much later.

I felt that reading this novel at a time when we’re talking about arming teachers (please, God, I hope we don’t) was oddly appropriate. It’s easy to believe you have the power to shoot someone, but a far different thing to actually do it. It’s easy to say “kill the enemy!” and much less simple when you realize that enemy has a human face, and human lives.

While I appreciated the historical details author Janet Beard incorporated into her story – beginning with June’s grandfather being forced to leave his cabin in the area about to be commandeered by the U.S. military – what I liked was that she kept things simple and elegant. June is just like any other young woman experiencing her first taste of independence – a job, a romance – it’s just that her universal experience is set against patterns and events  – The Manhattan Project – the bombing of Hiroshima – that exist on a vastly different scale.

I found The Atomic City Girls to be a fascinating read and a truly gripping story.

Goes well with a turkey and havarti sandwich with pesto, and a glass of iced tea.


Tour Stopshttps://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read

Monday, February 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish

Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation

Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica

Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_

Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi

Review: Best Friends Forever, by Margot Hunt

About the book, Best Friends Forever

Best Friends ForeverHardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: MIRA (January 23, 2018)

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

Buy, read, and discuss Best Friends Forever:

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


About the author, Margot Hunt

Margot HuntMargot Hunt is the pseudonym of a bestselling writer of twelve previous novels. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is her first psychological thriller.

Connect with Margot:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellOpening with a scene of contemporary domestic life, we are introduced to Alice Campbell before we ever meet Kat, wife of the deceased, and that’s appropriate, because most of this novel is from Alice’s point of view.

I really liked Alice’s internal commentary, the way she kept biting back her initial responses (something she learned from a marriage counselor) but more than that, I liked that even though she didn’t always like the choices she’d made during her life, she owned them.

Overall, this novel was a really satisfying read. I liked that the two female protagonists, Alice and Kat, were both mature adults with families, not wide-eyed ingenues, or still-naive newlyweds. I liked that their friendship was formed organically – a chance meeting – rather than in a PTA.

As to the story, Margot Hunt’s style kept me interested from the first page to the end, and she truly surprised me with a couple of her plot twists. Her voice is contemporary and fresh, very readable, and her descriptions are cinematic. I could totally see Best Friends Forever as a Lifetime movie (though I’d rather see it as a Starz limited series.)

Interesting, truthful characters, not just Alice and Kat, but also Alice’s husband Todd, and the two investigating officers, really grounded this novel in reality, while the tightly-woven plot really sang.

Goes well with a vodka martini, really dirty.


Review Tour for Best Friends Forever

Monday, January 22nd: Girls in Books blog and Instagram

Monday, January 22nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 23rd: The Literary Llama on Instagram

Wednesday, January 24th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram

Thursday, January 25th: Clues and Reviews

Friday, January 26th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 29th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Tuesday, January 30th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram

Wednesday, January 31st: Bibliotica

Friday, February 2nd: Chick Lit Central

Monday, February 5th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Tuesday, February 6th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, February 7th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, February 8th: A Holland Reads

Friday, February 9th: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind and Instagram

Sunday, February 11th: Books and Bindings

Monday, February 12th: Novel Gossip blog and Instagram

Monday, February 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, February 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 15th: Bookchickdi

Friday, February 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Review: Aransas Morning, by Jeff Hampton – with Giveaway

 

About the book, Aransas Morning Aransas Morning

  • Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Life
  • Date of Publication: September 22, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 304

When Sam Barnes’ high-flying life in Dallas falls apart, he flees to the coastal town of Port Aransas, Texas and fades into the life of a reclusive beach bum. But things start to change when he meets Dave, a young widower working through his own loss; Shelly, owner of the Dream Bean coffee shop; Bo, a crusty old shrimper; and Allie, Bo’s free-spirited daughter. Together they are tested and forced to confront their own issues. In doing so they discover family and community.

Praise for Aransas Morning:

  • “Engrossing characters that keep doing unexpected things. Strong sense of place along the Texas coast and deep knowledge of the culture. This book is about relationships and how ‘family’ and ‘community’ might be redefined.”
  • “In this heartwarming book, Jeff Hampton took me to a place I’ve never been and captured me with his delightful characters, seaside landscape, and deft use of words to portray a small group of people who came together to create and run the Dream Bean cafe. Great summer reading.”
  • “I loved the characters, with their flaws and their graces. It is an honest and heart-warming story of redemption coming through community. I’m really glad I read it.”
  • “Really nice character development, articulating in a very comfortable and readable style the messy, complex, joyous and hopeful ways we build, break and nurture ‘community.’”
  • “Very quickly in the story, the characters became like friends. The book is engaging and held my interest.”

Buy, read, and discuss Aransas Morning:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Etsy | Jeff Hampton Writer


About the Author, Jeff Hampton

Author pic Jeff HamptonDuring a 35-year career in journalism and communications, Jeff Hampton has covered and written about topics ranging from business and finance to history and faith. His bylines have appeared in publications ranging from The Dallas Morning News to The New York Times.

He attended Baylor University where he majored in journalism and was editor of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper. He began his professional career at the Waco Tribune-Herald and has written for newspapers, magazines, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Hampton has based his life and career in Texas where his interest in observing the people around him has led him to write essays, short stories, and novels that explore relationships and communities in their many forms.

Aransas Morning is his fifth book, following Grandpa JackWhen the Light Returned to Main StreetJonah Prophet and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane.

Connect with Jeff:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’ve lived in Texas for almost fourteen years, but I’ve never been to the Gulf Coast, and my first thought when reading Aransas Morning was, “I have to correct that error.”

My second thought was that beach towns are essentially the same whether they’re in New Jersey, California, Mexico, or, apparently, Texas, and as a long-time visitor and some-time resident of such towns, I really loved how well the author, Jeff Hampton, captured the laid-back vibe so inherent to such places. There’s just something about living so close to sun, sand, and surf that changes your internal rhythms, and even I, a life-long night owl, find myself up at sunrise whenever I’m at the beach.

Aside from immediately putting the reader in that beachy state of mind, Hampton tells a compelling story. There’s nothing flashy in his writing – the language is pretty simple, and the characters are the kinds of ordinary people we interact with every day – and yet there’s something about Sam, Dave, Bo, Shelly, and Allie that makes you want to keep reading.

From the first chapter, I was rooting for every character. I particularly loved that grizzled fisherman Bo had that softer side, that twinkle in his eye. Gruff characters run the risk of being stereotypes, but Hampton gave this gruff character just enough depth that he became supremely real.

In fact, that’s true of all of the characters in this novel. Each is flawed; none are villains. They’re a collection of people who are each on their own journey, and any one of them is interesting enough to follow, but Hampton has woven them together into a tapestry of growth and change, new relationships, and old dreams, and created something truly special.

Isak Dineson once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” In Aransas Morning, Jeff Hampton has illustrated that with grace, elegance, and excellent coffee.

Goes well with: Fresh-caught fish, grilled on an open fire, served with a simple salad and cold beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway Aransas Morning

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Aransas Morning Blog Tour Links

1/23/18 Promo A Page Before Bedtime
1/23/18 Promo Reading by Moonlight
1/24/18 Guest Post Chapter Break Book Blog
1/24/18 Review Bibliotica
1/25/18 Excerpt Part 1 StoreyBook Reviews
1/25/18 Excerpt Part 2 Forgotten Winds
1/26/18 Review Texan Girl Reads
1/27/18 Review Tangled in Text
1/28/18 Author Interview The Page Unbound
1/28/18 Playlist Syd Savvy
1/29/18 Review The Clueless Gent
1/30/18 Promo Texas Book Lover
1/30/18 Scrapbook Page The Librarian Talks
1/31/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/1/18 Review Missus Gonzo

 

 

Review: Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms, by Leigh Greenwood and Others – with Giveaway

Christmas in a Cowboy's Arms

About the book, Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms

  • Genre: Romance Anthology / Western / HistoricalChristmas in a Cowboy's Arms
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
  • Authors: Leigh Greenwood, Rosanne Bittner, Linda Broday, Margaret Brownley, Anna Schmidt, Amy Sandas
  • Number of Pages: 512

The Beating Heart of Christmas

In the wild and untamed West, it takes a cowboy’s embrace to see you through a long winter’s night. Stay toasty this holiday season with heart-warming tales from these bestselling authors.

Whether it’s a lonely spinster finding passion at last…an infamous outlaw-turned-lawman reaffirming the love that keeps him whole…a lost and broken drifter discovering family in unlikely places…a Texas Ranger risking it all for one remarkable woman…two lovers bringing together a family ripped apart by prejudice…or reunited lovers given a second chance to correct past mistakes…a Christmas spent in a cowboy’s arms is full of hope, laughter, and―most of all―love.

*Chick-a-Dee Christmas by Rosanne Bittner * The Christmas Stranger by Linda Broday * A Texas Ranger for Christmas by Margaret Brownley * Father Christmas by Leigh Greenwood * A Christmas Baby by Anna Schmidt * A Christmas Reunion by Amy Sandas*

Buy, read, and discuss Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms:

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


Connect with the Authors

Rosanne BittnerRosanne Bittner

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Linda BrodayLinda Broday

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

Margaret BrownleyMargaret Brownley

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Anna SchmidtAnna Schmidt

Website | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

 

 

Amy SandasAmy Sandas

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

Leigh Greenwood

Website | Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m not a regular reader of romance novels, so the novellas in this collection, Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms were all new material for me. I suppose being more familiar with the authors’ various series would have been helpful, but I didn’t feel like I was missing any major puzzle pieces by coming to these stories as a new reader.

All six of the works in this collection have two things in common: they’re Christmas romances, and they’re set in the West in the 1800’s. It’s a fun period to explore, and an excellent region to choose. As I learned from several visits to the Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth (not as hokey as it sounds), women of the west were strong, smart, and incredibly resourceful.

This is true even within their relationships.

And this book explored a variety of relationships. In no particular order, we have a woman defying prejudice to marry a Latino man, man who regularly converses with his horse and dog while on the road to clear his besmirched name and ends up helping a widow in distress, a woman who’s been burned by love for a Texas Ranger but finds herself falling for another, and a doctor being kidnapped by outlaws only to find his ex holding him at gunpoint. And that’s only four of the six stories.

Because each tale was written by a different person, the tone of each is distinctly different. I was most drawn to the stories by Margaret Brownley (“A Texas Ranger for Christmas”) and Anna Schmidt (“A Christmas Baby”) but each one was charming and sweet and full of the hope, wonder, and joy that fills the Christmas season.

Goes well with a salted caramel mocha (or hot chocolate) and a slice of gingerbread (I make mine with a candy cane frosting laced with peppermint schnapps).


Giveaway

December 1-December 10, 2017

Four Winners will each get a prize pack which includes Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms + another book(s) by one of the authors.  Three of the packs will also include a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

(U.S. Only)

 

Enter to Win

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Check Out The Whole Blog Tour

12/1/17 Christmas Memories Hall Ways Blog
12/2/17 Review Books in the Garden
12/3/17 Spotlight on Amy Syd Savvy
12/4/17 Review Bibliotica
12/5/17 Spotlight on Anna Missus Gonzo
12/6/17 Spotlight on Linda Margie’s Must Reads
12/7/17 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/8/17 Spotlight on Margaret The Librarian Talks
12/9/17 Spotlight on Rosanne Tangled in Text
12/10/17 Review StoreyBook Reviews

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

 

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: The Paris Secret, by Karen Swan

About the book, The Paris Secret

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 14, 2017)

The Paris SecretIn this glittering tale of forgotten treasures and long-held secrets, international bestseller Karen Swan explores one woman’s journey to discovering the truth behind an abandoned apartment and a family whose mysteries may be better left undiscovered.

When high-powered fine art agent Flora Sykes is called in to assess objets d’art in a Paris apartment that has been abandoned since WWII, she is skeptical at first—until she discovers that the treasure trove of paintings is myriad…and priceless. The powerful Vermeil family to whom they belong is eager to learn more and asks Flora to trace the history of each painting.

Despite a shocking announcement that has left her own family reeling, Flora finds herself thrown into the glamorous world of the Vermeils. But she soon realizes there is more to this project than first appears. As she researches the provenance of their prize Renoir, she uncovers a scandal surrounding the painting—and a secret that goes to the very heart of the family. The fallout will place Flora in the eye of a storm that carries her from London to Vienna to the glittering coast of Provence.

Xavier Vermeil, the brusque scion of the family, is determined to separate Flora from his family’s affairs in spite of their powerful attraction to one another. Just what are the secrets he is desperately trying to hide? And what price is Flora willing to pay to uncover the devastating truth…?

Buy, read, and discuss The Paris Secret:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Karen Swan Karen Swan

Karen Swan worked as a fashion editor before moving into writing fiction. She is married with three children and lives in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the South Downs. She is the author of the novels The Summer Without YouChristmas at Claridges, and The Perfect Present.

Connect with Karen:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellKaren Swan’s The Paris Secret is the perfect book to get lost in on a chilly autumn evening. It’s got large amounts of mystery and intrigue, and just enough romance to keep things from feeling too cold, as well as just a dash of family drama.

I loved that the female lead, Flora, was an expert in fine art – that’s so much more interesting than being another financial wiz, plus it gave author Swan a good reason for vivid descriptions of places (Paris itself, as well as the apartment filled with art and antiques) and things (the objets d’art referenced on the back cover).

It’s always so much fun to see glamorous places and insert yourself into sectors of society you wouldn’t normally inhabit, through Flora’s eyes, we readers are able to do that. Her experience with the Vermeil family is both enchanting and alarming, and there were moments I was glad I was only reading a novel.

The intrigue in The Paris Secret kept me interested from page one to the end of the novel, and I’m so in love with Swan’s writing voice – she gets the tone of mystery with a bit of warmth and flirting just rightthat I’m eager to check out her other work.

If you love a good mystery, but want one with a softer side for the holiday season, The Paris Secret is perfect for you.

Goes well with cappuccino and a croissant filled with creme de marrons (chestnut cream). 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, November 14th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, November 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, November 17th: BookNAround

Wednesday, November 22nd: Broken Teepee

Monday, November 27th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, November 29th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 30th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, November 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, December 1st: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, December 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, December 4th: Reading Reality

Friday, December 8th: A Splendid Messy Life

TBD: A Bookish Way of Life

TBD: Girl Who Reads

TBD: StephTheBookworm

Review: A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug, by Sarah Lacy

About the book, A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug A Uterus is a Feature Not a Bug

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (November 14, 2017)

A rallying cry for working mothers everywhere that demolishes the “distracted, emotional, weak” stereotype and definitively shows that these professionals are more focused, decisive, and stronger than any other force.

Working mothers aren’t a liability. They are assets you—and every manager and executive—want in your company, in your investment portfolio, and in your corner.

There is copious academic research showing the benefits of working mothers on families and the benefits to companies who give women longer and more flexible parental leave. There are even findings that demonstrate women with multiple children actually perform better at work than those with none or one.

Yet despite this concrete proof that working mothers are a lucrative asset, they still face the “Maternal Wall”—widespread unconscious bias about their abilities, contributions, and commitment. Nearly eighty percent of women are less likely to be hired if they have children—and are half as likely to be promoted. Mothers earn an average $11,000 less in salary and are held to higher punctuality and performance standards. Forty percent of Silicon Valley women said they felt the need to speak less about their family to be taken more seriously. Many have been told that having a second child would cost them a promotion.

Fortunately, this prejudice is slowly giving way to new attitudes, thanks to more women starting their own businesses, and companies like Netflix, Facebook, Apple, and Google implementing more parent-friendly policies. But the most important barrier to change isn’t about men. Women must rethink the way they see themselves after giving birth. As entrepreneur Sarah Lacy makes clear in this cogent, persuasive analysis and clarion cry, the strongest, most lucrative, and most ambitious time of a woman’s career may easily be after she sees a plus sign on a pregnancy test.

Buy, read, and discuss A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Lacy Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is the founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the investigative tech news site Pando.com. She has been covering technology news and entrepreneurship for over fifteen years, with stints at BusinessWeek and TechCrunch before founding her own company while on maternity leave in 2011. She lives in San Francisco. Most importantly of all, she is the mother of two young children.

Connect with Sarah:

Follow Sarah on Twitter.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It would be far too easy to gush over this book, to say that it should be required reading for every woman who works outside the home, or has a daughter who does. It would be ridiculously simple to refer to the author, Sarah Lacy as one of the most important feminist voices of the modern era. Those things would be easy and simple because they are both true.

This book is witty, yes, but it’s also wise. It’s a gift from one woman to many others, of the author’s experience and insight, and while it’s written in an upbeat tone, it’s also quite frank.

More specifically, this book provides real advice on women in the workplace, especially after they become mothers. It talks about how to balance career goals with parenthood goals, but it also encourages women to be firm about how they’re treated, and sheds light on the way women in general, and women with children specifically, are perceived, and how to both cope and counter the (mostly) white, male establishment.

I’m not a mother, and I’ve been out of corporate America for over a decade, but I still found this book incredibly informative, insightful, and even empowering, and I’m recommending it to all of my friends – women and men – who still work for other people.

Will this book really help to overthrow the patriarchy? Maybe, maybe not. But it will open your eyes to what women face in the workplace every day, and, as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Goes well with grilled salmon, roasted red potatoes, a lush salad, and a glass of wine.


Tour Stops The Silent Fountain at TLC Book Tours

Thursday, November 16th: Openly Bookish

Monday, November 20th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, November 21st: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, November 22nd: Wining Wife

Monday, November 27th: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, November 28th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, November 29th: Literary Lindsey

Thursday, November 30th: Instagram: @juliecookies413

Friday, December 1st: Harry Times…all jacked up

TBD: Bibliotica

Review: The Silent Fountain, by Victoria Fox

About the book, The Silent FountainThe Silent Fountain

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (October 31, 2017)

Hollywood, 1978 

Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day 

Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.

The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.

Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa. 

And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Buy, read, and discuss The Silent Fountain:

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


About the author, Victoria Fox Victoria Fox

Victoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.

Connect with Victoria:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

The Silent Fountain is not a fast read. Rather, it unwinds like a road through the Italian countryside, the kind where there might be sunflowers on one side and a grove of olive trees on the other. It’s full of intrigue and deception, scandal and sorrow, and it’s worth every moment it takes to follow the various twists and turns.

I’ve always enjoyed parallel stories. In this novel, we have the story of faded movie star, Vivian Lockhart, a recluse wrapped in mystery and loss, and Lucy, young, vibrant, and equally troubled. As these two women exist near each other, around each other, and eventually open up to each other, each works through her own issues, and while the bond they form is neither lasting nor unbreakable, it’s supremely real nevertheless.

Of course, there is a third primary character in this moody book: Castillo Barbarossa itself. It’s an old, spooky house with dark corners and the titular “Silent Fountain,” and it looms large throughout the entire story, serving as both setting and silent chorus.

While this book was, ultimately, nothing like what I expected, it was a compelling read, well crafted, and truly beautiful.

Goes well with buttery roasted chicken, roasted peppers and tomatoes, and a bottle of any local table wine you like.


Victoria Fox’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: The Silent Fountain at TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 30th: OMG Reads – excerpt

Tuesday, October 31st: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, October 31st: Art Books Coffee on Instagram

Tuesday, October 31st: A Thousand Books to Read on Instagram

Wednesday, November 1st: Annika B Bauer on Instagram

Wednesday, November 1st: Beach.House.Books on Instagram

Thursday, November 2nd: The Lit Bitch

Monday, November 6th: A Holland Reads

Monday, November 6th: Girls in Books blog and Instagram

Tuesday, November 7th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen blog and Instagram

Wednesday, November 8th: Suzy Approved – excerpt

Thursday, November 9th: Books & Bindings

Friday, November 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, November 10th: Palmer’s Page Turners – excerpt

Friday, November 10th: Bookish Cassie on Instagram

Saturday, November 11th: From the Library of Mrs. Gardner blog and Instagram

Monday, November 13th: Ms Nose in a Book

Monday, November 13th: Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, November 14th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, November 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 16th: Broken Teepee blog and Instagram

Thursday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Friday, November 17th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, November 20th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram

Tuesday, November 21st: Novel Gossip blog and Instagram

Wednesday, November 22nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, November 24th: Kahakai Kitchen blog and Instagram

Review: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman

About the book, The Welcome Home DinerThe Welcome Home Diner

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Buy, read, and discuss The Welcome Home Diner:

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


About the author, Peggy Lampman

Peggy LampmanPeggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

Connect with Peggy:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I didn’t grow up working in the New Jersey diner my family owned, but that’s mostly because my mother moved us away from New Jersey… and also because I was too young… but I have fond memories of spinning on the blue vinyl stools until I was sick, or arriving with my grandparents and being given a dish of my cousin Anthony’s amazing rice pudding.

Peggy Lampman’s novel The Welcome Home Diner reminded me of all the best parts of the diner experience – the regulars, being an integral part of the neighborhood – but it also reminded me of the drama that comes with any family-owned business: the resentment, the stress, the struggle to have a life separate from work.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Addie and Samantha, these cousins who act much like sisters. I have cousins like that as well, but I’m not sure I’d want to go into business with them.

While the diner Addie and Samantha are trying to restore and reopen is almost its own character in this story, I found the heart of the novel to be family. What won’t we do for those we love, and what will we jump into, sometimes without due preparation?

Full of vivid characters, emotionally truthful situations, and great descriptions, The Welcome Home Diner is better than any blue plate special.

Goes well with a cup of coffee and a dish of rice pudding.


Peggy Lampman’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 16th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 17th: A Thousand Books to Read

Wednesday, October 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Thursday, October 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, October 20th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram

Saturday, October 21st: Beth Fish Reads

Monday, October 23rd: The Sketchy Reader

Tuesday, October 24th: The Sketchy Reader – recipe from the book

Tuesday, October 24th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, October 25th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 26th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 27th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Wednesday, November 1st: Why Girls are Weird

Thursday, November 2nd: Bookchickdi

Friday, November 3rd: BookNAround

Monday, November 6th: Read Write Repeat

Tuesday, November 7th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, November 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 9th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Friday, November 10th: What is That Book About

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).)


Watch the Trailer


Enter the Giveaway

Win

  • Biscotti artigianale
  • Local honey
  • 3 x DVD of the Cookucina series
  • Plus a signed copy of A Recipe For Disaster

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee, by Gregory MaguireAbout the book, Hiddensee

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)

From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

Buy, read, and discuss Hiddensee:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Gregory Maguire Gregory-Maguire-AP-2017-Photo-credit-Andy-Newman

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes WickedSon of a WitchA Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Connect with Gregory:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of The Nutcracker in all its variations since a family friend gifted me with a copy of the book A Very Young Dancer when I was five. Forty-two years later, I still can’t get enough of it. The Tchaikovsky music is ever present in my iTunes playlist, and I spend the month of December watching every single production of the ballet that makes it to cable. (Ovation‘s annual ‘Battle of the Nutcrackers’ is a favorite event.) Somewhere in a box, I even have a wooden nutcracker doll, sent to me by my oldest auntie, when she and her husband were stationed in Ramstein, Germany in the 1970s.

My point is, The Nutcracker is part of my DNA, and the reason I was initially drawn to read and review this book, Hiddensee.

The thing is, Gregory Maguire’s novel has no resemblance to the story we all love. At first, that was disappointing. I was looking forward to an in-depth look at the Nutcracker-Prince’s story. I was hoping for the unresolved sexual tension between Herr Drosselmeier and Klara (known as Marie in some versions of the story) to be resolved.

That is not what Hiddensee is.

Instead, Maguire’s novel is the origin story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the boy who grows up to become the toymaker who creates the famous doll.

In terms of style and craft, Hiddensee is excellent. Maguire has a way of using simple language to create vivid scenes, evoke real emotion, and immerse us in whatever world he’s choosing to inhabit. In this novel, he recreated the tone of all those early E.T.A. Hoffman (who wrote the original Nutcracker fairy tale) and the Brothers Grimm, mixing in more than a little German romanticism. If you’ve ever read Rilke or Goethe, you will be extremely comfortable with Hiddensee, because it has that faintly dreamlike quality those two poets used to great effect.

In terms of story, I was a little disappointed. Oh, I was invested in young Dirk as a character, but I was expecting a Nutcracker story, not a coming-of-age story about a young man. As well, I found that this novel lacked Maguire’s typically excellent pacing, having a start-and-stop effect that I found a bit off-putting.

Perhaps my perception was colored by expectation, or perhaps in the twenty years since Maguire gave us Wicked (and I was an early reader of that novel), he’s lost sight of his goals, because I’m honestly not entirely sure what story he was trying to tell. Dirk is an interesting young man, but there was an air of detachment about him – almost as if he was on the Asperger’s spectrum – that kept me slightly disconnected from his story.

Then, too, there was the fact that every time the story started to rev up, it seemed to stall.

Don’t get me wrong, an ‘average’ offering from Maguire is still more engaging than any offering from a host of other authors, and there was much about this story to love – introductions to German philosophy included – but if you’re going into it expecting it to be a rehashing of the ballet or the fairy tale, you will be disappointed.

Bottom line: read this without the ballet goggles and you’ll find much to enjoy.

Goes well with chestnut pastries and strong coffee.


Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 31st: BookExpression

Wednesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 2nd: Man of La Book

Friday, November 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, November 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 7th: The Sketchy Reader

Wednesday, November 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Wednesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Thursday, November 9th: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 10th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, November 13th: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, November 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 15th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, November 17th: Based on a True Story