Review: Fill the Sky, by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

About the book, Fill the Sky Fill the Sky

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Fill the Sky

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


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

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

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

Connect with Katherine

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s another story altogether.

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

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


Other stops on Katherine Sherbrooke’s Blog Tour:

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

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

10/25: A Literary Vacation: Spotlight & giveaway

10/27: Bibliotica, review

10/28: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: review

10/31: Broken Teepee: review

11/1: Life of a Female Bibliophile: review

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

The Crooked Heart of Mercy, by Billie Livingston (@BillieLiving) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Crooked Heart of Mercy

• Paperback: 272 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 8, 2016)

The Crooked Heart of MercyFrom acclaimed Canadian novelist Billie Livingston comes this powerful U.S. debut that unfolds over a riveting dual narrative—an unforgettable story of ordinary lives rocked by hardship and scandal that follows in the tradition of Jennifer Haigh, A. Manette Ansay, and Jennifer Egan.

Ben wakes up in a hospital with a hole in his head he can’t explain. What he can remember he’d rather forget. Like how he’d spent nights as a limo driver for the wealthy and debauched . . . how he and his wife, Maggie, drifted apart in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy . . . how his little brother, Cola, got in over his head with loan sharks circling.

Maggie is alone. Again. With bills to pay and Ben in a psych ward, she must return to work. But who would hire her in the state she’s in? And just as Maggie turns to her brother, Francis, the Internet explodes with a video of his latest escapade. The headline? Drunk Priest Propositions Cops.

Francis is an unlikely priest with a drinking problem and little interest  in celibacy. A third DUI, a looming court date. . . .When Maggie takes him in, he knows he may be down to his last chance. And his best shot at healing might lay in helping Maggie and Ben reconnect—against all odds.

Buy, read, and discuss The Crooked Heart of Mercy

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Billie Livingston

Billie LivingstonBillie Livingston is the award-winning author of three novels, a collection of short stories, and a poetry collection.  Her most recent novel, One Good Hustle, a Globe and Mail Best Book selection, was nominated for the  Giller Prize and for the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book Award. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Connect with Billie

Find out more about Billie at her website and connect with her on Twitter.


My Thoughts

MelissaMake no mistake, this book, The Crooked Heart of Mercy is dark. It’s a difficult read, told in alternating first person chapters from Ben and Maggie, one of whom in in a psych ward, and the other of whom probably should be. It’s obvious from the start that these people have deep love for each other, but that love is being tested by circumstance, by low-percentage choices, and half a dozen other reasons that I don’t wish to list for fear of ruining the story.

The thing is, even though Maggie and Ben love each other, they’re both also fragile and broken. Maggie is trying to get her life back together, while Ben is trying to put his brain back together, and each, in their way, is also recovering from both a terrible personal tragedy, and the knowledge that their lifestyle was responsible for that tragedy.

Enter Maggie’s brother Francis. He’s a gay, alcoholic priest who decides that the best way to serve his penance, and kill his temptation for sex and booze, is to helf fix Maggie and Ben, as individuals and as a couple.

Author Billie Livingston nails the first person POVs  giving each character a distinctive voice. Ben’s parts are particularly surreal, as he literally has a hole in his head, while Maggie’s work the pathos – she really is struggling to improve.

I enjoyed the dark wit, the off kilter unfolding of the back story, and the earthy reality of the entire novel, but I also recognize that even for people like me, who appreciate snark and sarcasm and characters with somewhat murky moral codes this will be a difficult read. It deals with some difficult subjects and hard themes, and it deals with them in a brutally honest manner, but the storytelling is so good, that it sucks you in despite yourself, and you are compelled to keep reading until the ultimate resolution.

Goes well with pastrami on rye and a cold beer.


Tour Stops

TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 8th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, March 9th: BookNAround

Wednesday, March 9th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 10th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, March 11th: Bibliotica

Monday, March 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, March 15th: The Reader’s Hollow

Friday, March 18th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, March 21st: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, March 22nd: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, March 23rd: BoundbyWords

Thursday, March 24th: she treads softly

North of Here, by Laurel Saville (@savillel) #review #tlcbooktours

About the book,  North of Here North of Here

  • Hardcover: 257 Pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 1, 2016)

Many may dream of a simpler life in the north woods, far away from the complications of the modern world. But in her absorbing and uncompromising second novel, North of Here (Lake Union; March 1, 2016), Laurel Saville reveals the dark side of such a life for four young people living in the Adirondack Mountains. This story of misguided decisions, a dangerous back-to-nature cult, and the universal search for meaning and love intertwines these troubled lives into a riveting blend of penetrating love story and persuasive page-turner. Saville, author of the #1 Kindle bestseller Henry and Rachel, once again taps her astute narrative powers in a tale of tragedy, survival, and love.

At the heart of the drama are four unforgettable, strikingly-drawn characters:

  • Miranda: A young “heiress” who discovers that the mountain property she has inherited is encumbered by her father’s debts and misdealing.
  • Dix: A self-assured “mountain man” who is really an educated, financially secure son of two accomplished professionals.
  • Darius: A preppy trust fund refugee who turns his own quest for meaning into a dangerous back-to-nature cult bent on healing lost souls
  • Sally: A brassy, street-smart social worker who, despite being perpetually unlucky in love, ultimately has the foresight to see the perils of loving Darius.

As this masterful novel unfolds, these four will become inextricably entwined in troubles that far exceed simple crimes of the heart.

Buy, read, and discuss North of Here

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


About the author, Laurel Saville Laurel Saville

Laurel Saville is the award-winning author of the memoir Unraveling Anne, the novel Henry and Rachel, and the four-part short story “How Much Living Can You Buy,” as well as numerous essays, short stories, and articles. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College.

Once again, Laurel Saville applies her “poetic, lyrical voice” (Booklist) to a story that captures the complications of the lives we live—or wish to live.

Connect with Laurel

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

This book North of Here was my first exposure to Laurel Saville’s work, but reading her  work felt like curling up in a favorite couch – her language wasn’t at all simplistic, but it was still a very comfortable narrative style.

I really liked the way the four central characters, Dix, Miranda, Sally, and Darius, had distinct voices. At first Iwas concerned the Dix/Miranda story would play out like a cheesy romance novel, but Saville made both characters so real and flawed, and then turned the trope of the rugged handyman saving the spoiled damsel on its head, which I really appreciated. Similarly, in Sally and Darius she gave us two characters who were both difficult to suss out at first – Darius seemed like a nice, if slightly misguided guy, and Sally was portrayed as a white trash bitch – but then we were shown the truth of both characters.

In any other author’s hands the events in this novel – loss, death, depression, wanderlust, soul-searching, etc., would have been a story full of cliches and annoyances, something akin to old-school soap operas, and not in a good way.

Thankfully, Saville is incredibly talented. The Booklist quote above refers to her lyrical voice, and I have to agree. Saville’s storytelling never feels redundant, never slips into cliches or overly dramatic moments. Instead it is a gentle novel full of stark sadness  and incredible, naked truth.

It is that truthfulness that makes North of Here so gripping. The characters are completely vivid, and the book itself sings.

Goes well with homemade pie made with wild-picked berries, and a mug of strong coffee.


Laurel Saville’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 1st: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Wednesday, March 2nd: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 3rd: Just Commonly

Monday, March 7th: Reading is My Superpower

Tuesday, March 8th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Wednesday, March 9th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Thursday, March 10th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, March 15th: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, March 16th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, March 17th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 18th: My Book Retreat

Monday, March 21st: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, March 22nd: Puddletown Reviews

Tuesday, March 22nd: A Holland Reads

Wednesday, March 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, March 24th: Why Girls Are Weird

Friday, March 25th: Walking with Nora

Monday, March 28th: Life is Story

Tuesday, March 29th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Wednesday, March 30th: A Bookish Affair

Beneath Still Waters, by Cynthia A. Graham #review #TLCBookTours

About the book,  Beneath Still Waters Beneath Still Waters

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 31, 2015)

The swamps and bayous around Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas have always been dark and mysterious, but on this summer day two boys stumble across the remains of a baby girl, headless and badly decomposed. Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past is called to the scene. With nothing to go on except the baby’s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick’s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the infant has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime he has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.

With the aid of his deputies, Hick will begin to piece together his investigation, an investigation that will lead him to question everything. As he is forced to examine the town he grew up in, he will come to terms with the notion that within each of us lays the propensity for both good and evil. His investigation will turn up lies and ignorance, scandal and deceit, and the lengths a mother will go in order to hide her shame.

Buy, read, and discuss Beneath Still Waters

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


About the author, Cynthia A. Graham Cynthia Graham

Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She was the winner of several writing awards during her academic career and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Beneath Still Waters is her first novel.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Every once in a while, you come across a book that manages to merge two seemingly disparate elements into something amazing, compelling, and a thrill to read. For me, Beneath Still Waters was that kind of book.

First there was the mystery at the heart of the novel, a dead, decomposing infant is discovered and Hick the sheriff has to muster all his investigation skills to find the baby’s family, and determine the truth behind her cause of death. His interactions with the town doctor, who goes by Doc, are both honest and interesting. These are two men who have known each other forever, and that relationship jumps off the page.

Similarly, Hick’s more personal story, that of his relationship with Maggie, also pops. This is a couple that used to be together, isn’t when we meet them, and seems destined for reconciliation.

I loved the use of dialogue and dialect to be really deft in this novel. It gave a sense of time and place without ever creeping into caricature, and I also appreciated the rhythm of Graham’s prose. These characters, this story, really sing. I felt like I was visiting their town, and walking around with them.

The plot, too, was incredibly well crafted, and I particularly like that Hick’s sensitivity was a key point in both the story’s development and his own arc. He is a man of great feeling, but that makes him stronger rather than weaker.

While the infant plot is more than a little disturbing, especially in the early scenes where the state of the corpse is discussed in detail, the novel as a whole is cohesive, interesting, and manages to be homey and kind of creepy at the same time.

Goes well with a reuben sandwich and a cold beer.


Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Thursday, February 11th: Buried Under Books

Wednesday, February 17th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, February 25th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, March 2nd: Life is Story

Friday, March 4th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, March 8th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, March 9th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 10th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 11th: Luxury Reading

Monday, March 14th: SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, March 15th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

The Opposite of Everyone, by Joshilyn Jackson (@joshilynjackson) #TLCBookTours #review

About the book, The Opposite of Everyone The Opposide of Everyone

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (February 16, 2016)

A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama—an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to reinvent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name, Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. With the two of them separated, each holding her own secrets, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mystifying note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.

Buy, read, and discuss The Opposite of Everyone

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Joshilyn Jackson Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including gods in Alabama, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and Someone Else’s Love Story. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, she 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 Thoughts MissMeliss

Joshilyn Jackson is one of those authors you can always trust to tell a complex and interesting story, and The Opposite of Everyone is no exception. It sucked me in so deeply, that I devoured it in a single afternoon, not even aware of the thunder and lightning outside my window until I was done.

I really liked Paula/Kali, the narrator and main character in this novel. I love the way she described her entry into the world with a mix of brutal candor and poignant humor, and I like the way we see her as an adult for the first time – a lawyer on a case – texting completely wrong things to her ex lover who is also her go-to man when she needs a professional snoop. Her acronym BANKs- a twist on DINKs – made me snort with laughter, but also nod my head, because who doesn’t recognize people like that?

That’s really one of Jackson’s strengths, I think: creating characters who are incredibly real, flawed, and sometimes even scarred, human beings. This was evident with Birdwine, the afore=mentioned ex-lover, and with Kai – Paula’s mother who we never spend much time with in person, but get to know through memories and stories nevertheless. I think if she had been more present, instead of being more of a Presence – it would have changed the dynamic of the novel a lot.

While it would be easy to dismiss Paula’s cases as fluff or filler, I believe they’re more telling than we realize, not only because it gives us a context for how Paula lives her life, but because the irony of a woman who specializes in divorce but who becomes the driving force in keeping her family together is perfect.

And that, right there, is the essence of Jackson: perfect stories told about incredibly imperfect people.

Don’t buy this book if you think it’s going to be another fluffy relationship novel. There’s a place for those stories, too, but this one, The Opposite of Everyone, has more depth.

DO buy this book if you like contemporary fiction about strong women who sometimes have weak moments.

Goes well with tandoori chicken, jasmine rice, and iced hibiscus tea.


Joshilyn’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 16th: Doing Dewey

Wednesday, February 17th: M. Denise Costello

Thursday, February 18th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Friday, February 19th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Monday, February 22nd: BookNAround

Tuesday, February 23rd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, February 24th: Jens’ Book Thoughts

Thursday, February 25th: Lavish Bookshelf

Monday, February 29th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, March 1st: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, March 2nd: Book Journey

Thursday, March 3rd: Joyfully Retired

Friday, March 4th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, March 7th: Novel Escapes

Monday, March 7th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Wednesday, March 9th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, March 10th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, March 10th: Queen of All She Reads

Friday, March 11th: she treads softly

The Ramblers, by Aidan Donnelly Rowley (@adonnrowley) #review #tlcbooktours

About the book, The Ramblers The Ramblers

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (February 9, 2016)

For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Claire Messud, and Emma Straub, a gorgeous and absorbing novel of a trio of confused souls struggling to find themselves and the way forward in their lives, set against the spectacular backdrop of contemporary New York City.

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned in New York Magazine, is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend, Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.

Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds. The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City—an accomplished, sumptuous novel about fate, loss, hope, birds, friendship, love, the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the human spirit.

Buy, read, and discuss The Ramblers

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Aidan Donnelly Rowley Aidan Donnelly Rowley

Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, but her dream (long unconscious) was always to write. She is the author of a novel, Life After Yes; blogs at IvyLeagueInsecurities.com; contributes to The Huffington Post; and is the founder and curator of the popular Happier Hours Literary Salons. The middle of five sisters, she lives in New York with her husband and three young daughters.

Connect with Aidan

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I agreed to read The Ramblers, but it certainly wasn’t a triptych of love stories, combined with a dual homage to both E. B. White and the city he loved to write about, New York.

Almost like the different neighborhoods in the city, the three main characters have their own sections of the book, even though their stories overlap. Clio, whom we meet first, is, in many ways, the heart of the novel. Smith and Tate, despite having stories of their own, also serve as a sort of Greek chorus for Clio. It’s her story that opens the book, her story that closes it, and even the title refers to her tours of Central Park, and desire to ‘know everything about the Ramble.’

I found all three main characters, as well as the unofficial fourth main character, Clio’s lover, Henry the hotelier, to be very well drawn. My aunt used to teach Clio, Smith, and Tate’s alma mater, Yale University, and I attended enough social gatherings at her home to recognize all three of them as perfectly plausible graduates of that institution. I also thought Henry and his brother Patrick felt equally believable, and all of the characters were dimensional, flawed, and interesting.

Two of the characters in the novel are the city itself – specifically Central Park and the area around it – and E.B. White’s essay, “Here is New York,” both of which i mentioned above, and both of which offer key insights into the characters and their lives. In fact, the references to the essay (and my own experience with White’s work, both as a child, and since) pushed me to order a copy of his collected essays as soon as I finished reading the novels.

This is a lovely contemporary story that demonstrates the way even the people who seem to have it all are just as perfectly imperfect as the rest of us. It’s a feel-good novel, but it’s one that works through heavy personal truths in order to arrive at the feel-good place. It’s not fluffy, it’s just hopeful, and very, very real.

Goes well with a hot dog from a street-vendor and a beer from a local pub.


Aidan’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 9th: BookNAround

Wednesday, February 10th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Thursday, February 11th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, February 16th: West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Thursday, February 18th: Read. Write. Repeat.

Monday, February 22nd: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, February 23rd: Book Journey

Wednesday, February 24th: Curling Up by the Fire

Thursday, February 25th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Friday, February 26th: She’s Got Books On Her Mind

Monday, February 29th: Write Meg

 

 

What the Waves Know, by Tamara Valentine (@tamjval) #review #TLCbooktours

About the book What the Waves Know What the Waves Know

• Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 9, 2016)

“A beautifully written story of a daughter’s journey to find her voice, both literally and figuratively. Valentine reminds us that to be fully human is to be both a storyteller and a story dweller.”—Christina Meldrum, author of Madapple and Amaryllis in Blueberry

On the sharp crags of tiny Tillings Island lies the secret of Izabella Rae Haywood’s sixth birthday. That night, her father vanished, taking her voice—and the truth of what really happened—along with him. In the autumn of 1974, after eight long years of unsuccessful psychiatrist visits and silence, Iz’s mother packs up the tattered remains of their life, determined to return to Tillings in one last attempt to reclaim Iz’s voice—and piece together the splintered memories of the day her words ran dry. But when the residents of Tillings greet them with a standoffish welcome, it becomes clear that they know something about Iz, and the father she adored, that she does not.

Now, as the island’s annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Iz must unravel the tangled threads of her own history . . . or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollinsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Tamara Valentine Tamara Valentine

Tamara Valentine obtained an M.A. with distinction from Middlebury College and has spent the past fourteen years as a professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. Presently, she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Tamara:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

There’s a line near the end of this novel, She will gather her children back together beside the sea, that has been pinging at my brain since I finished reading this in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I don’t have children of my own, but I understand that sentiment as if it was bred into me – the bond between mothers and daughters, and the bond some of us have with the sea = they go hand in hand.

Tamara Valentine clearly has an intrinsic understanding of both those concepts, as well, because her novel What the Waves Know is imbued with it.

Izzabella Rae Haywood, the narrator of this story, jumps off the page and crackles with life and electricity. Reading her POV is like sitting in a room with an old friend, hearing her tell a story you know you were meant to be part of, but somehow weren’t. Her voice is a storyteller’s voice. It catches you and sucks you in, which is all the more ironic when you learn that the character herself doesn’t speak, hasn’t for years, since the night her father disappeared.

But this book isn’t really about childhood trauma. It’s about the way our brains protect us from knowing too much, or feeling too much, and it’s about the way mothers and daughters, whether they’re blood family or the chosen kind, also protect us. It’s about the power of the sea as as secret keeper as well as a force of nature, and its about the way we perceive and later create, our own versions of Truth.

What I loved about this novel was that Valentine kept everything grounded in a tiny Rhode Island town (okay, Rhode Island isn’t exactly huge anyway, but tiny, run down towns have a special kind of magic, and Valentine used it well).

I also especially loved Grandma Jo, and the way she would spout pieces of utterly profound wisdom in an almost casual manner. I’ve known so many people like that.

This book affected me so much that, as you can read, my thoughts are barely coherent.

So here’s what you need to know: It’s the story of mothers and daughters, and the way generations of women forge strong bonds. It’s about family secrets and family love. It’s short enough to be read, well, devoured, in a single day, but so deep that you’ll want to take breaks.

It’s full of messy truths and rough affection and the whole thing feels wind-tossed and salt-licked.

And you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t read it.

Goes well with homemade fish-n-chips and strong iced tea, eaten somewhere where the tang of sea air becomes a part of the meal.


Tamara’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 9th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, February 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, February 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Friday, February 12th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Monday, February 22nd: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, February 23rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, February 24th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 26th: Kritters Ramblings

 

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore (@libbycudmore) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Big Rewind The Big Rewind

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 2, 2016)

Listening to someone else’s mix tapes is a huge breach of trust. But KitKat was dead . . . and curiosity got the better of me.

When a mix tape destined for her friend KitKat accidentally arrives in Jett Bennett’s mailbox, Jett doesn’t think twice about it—even in the age of iTunes and Spotify, the hipster residents of the Barter Street district of Brooklyn are in a constant competition to see who can be the most retro.

But when Jett finds KitKat dead on her own kitchen floor, she suspects the tape might be more than just a quirky collection of lovelorn ballads. And when KitKat’s boyfriend, Bronco, is arrested for her murder, Jett and her best friend, Sid, set out on an epic urban quest through strip joints and record stores, vegan bakeries and basement nightclubs, to discover who the real killer is. However, the further Jett digs into KitKat’s past, the more she discovers about her own left-behind love life—and the mysterious man whose song she still clings to. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss The Big Rewind:

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Libby Cudmore Libby Cudmore

Libby Cudmore worked at video stores, bookstores, and temp agencies before settling down in upstate New York to write. Her short stories have appeared in PANK, The Stoneslide Corrective, The Big Click, and Big Lucks. The Big Rewind is her first novel.

Connect with Libby:

Blog | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I read this book the second it arrived on my kindle a few weeks ago, because I was so intrigued by the concept. Between the time lag since I actually read it, the fact that in writing this sentence I’ve been interrupted by dogs three times, and the fact that it’s a mystery and I’m loathe to spoil the plot, this review may be a bit disjointed.

So, here’s what I loved: Jett is a great narrator POV. She has a snarky inner monologue that really appealed to me – that combination of observational skills and dry wit is one I especially appreciate, and her comments, largely unspoken, inject much needed humor  – even if it’s sometimes gallows humor – to what would otherwise be a grim story.

Sid – Jett’s best friend. I love the setup of that relationship, and the way he’s both protective of her but also challenges her. We all need someone like that in our lives.

KitKat – the deceased. How can you not love a woman you only meet in flashbacks and through other people’s experiences? She seems like the slightly eccentric person we all know, and secretly want to be, maybe, a little. I love that she was the epicenter of her found community and chosen family.

Author Libby Cudmore has a fresh voice that spans the Gen-X and Millenial generations. She’s got the knack for writing the voices of modern hipsters with their love of all things retro (care to buy an album on vinyl, anyone?) but she also lends perspective that isn’t limited to one generation, one culture, even one person. Her dialogue is always believable. Early in the novel, in the wake/apartment-cleaning party where everyone is picking through KitKat’s belongings, she spotlights several different people – Natalie, Mac, Hilary – and they all have distinct voices. I felt like I was sitting in a chair in the corner, hearing all the bits of dialogue. That’s how realistic her writing is.

The mystery plot and the mix-tape that’s mentioned one the first page are both nostalgic (somewhere I have a box of Maxtel tapes. I liked the 90-minute-long translucent ones with the pink and orange highlights) but also completely contemporary. Similarly she blends the use of modern technology (the community has a group on Facebook, on the subway people display their dead friend’s picture on iphones), with the gritty reality of face-to-face communications.

What results is a mystery that is grounded in human relationships and rounded out with music, art, fashion, and all of the other things that give our lives shape and form.

Don’t dismiss this novel as something cheeky and fun. It is that, but it’s also a gripping mystery laced with wry, and sometimes biting, social commentary.

Goes well with a latte made with organic milk (soy is 35 cents extra) and fair-trade, single origin espresso, and a vegan brownie.


Libby’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 2nd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, February 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Thursday, February 4th: The Reader’s Hollow

Tuesday, February 9th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, February 11th: fangirl confessions

Monday, February 15th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, February 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, February 19th: A Chick Who Reads

The Lady’s Command, by Stephanie Laurens #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Lady’s Command The Lady's Command

  • Series: The Adventurers Quartet (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (December 29, 2015)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens brings you THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, intrigue and romance

His to cherish

Declan Frobisher chose Lady Edwina Delbraith as his wife. Scion of a bold, seafaring dynasty, he’s accustomed to getting his way—Edwina would be the woman who graced his arm, warmed his bed and remained safely at home when he returned to sea. But once the knot is tied, Declan discovers Edwina is unconventional and strong-willed, and his marriage promises to be as tempestuous as the high seas.

Hers to command

Edwina’s fairy-princess beauty hides a spine of steel. Born into the aristocracy—born to rule—and with Declan’s ring gracing her finger, she expects to forge a marriage by his side. Then bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is recruited to sail on a secret mission. Edwina—naturally—declares she must accompany him.

Theirs to conquer

Facing unforeseen perils and unexpected enemies while battling to expose a dastardly scheme, Declan and Edwina discover that their unusual marriage demands something they both possess—bold and adventurous hearts.

JOIN THE ADVENTURERS—four couples whose passionate voyages will transport you. Start the journey here and follow the adventures, the mysteries and the romances to the cataclysmic end!

Buy, read, and discuss The Lady’s Command.

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


About Stephanie Laurens Stephanie Laurens

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

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Buckle your swashes and loosen those corsets so you can breathe because this book, the first in a quartet, both honors the historical romance genre and turns it on its ear, and it does so with a fast-paced adventure balanced with a believable love story that may not make you swoon, but it will definitely make you long for the cool sea breeze (and salt spray) in your face as you and your beloved ride the wild waves.

Here’s what I loved about this book: Declan and Edwina could be cookie-cutter romance novel characters. He’s the son of a seafaring family – rugged, dashing, well-informed. She’s an aristocrat born and bred, with the expected beauty that goes within such characters. But author Stephanie Laurens defies the trope by making Edwina an action-seeker in her own right. She doesn’t want to sit at home or pace a widow’s walk, she wants to be on the ship, at the wheel, with her husband. Better yet, Declan goes along with it, so husband and wife form a team.

I enjoyed the interplay between the two characters, and the way they would play against either other and with others when situations required it, but I also loved the way they would always come together in the end.

The dialogue and settings felt true to the period without being at all stilted (as can often happen in historical novels) and the supporting characters had enough dimension to feel like real people, whether they were sailors, other members of society, or just average people.

I’m not usually a fan of historical romances, but I am a great fan of any kind of high seas adventure, so asking to review this was an impulsive choice, and one I’m glad I made, because I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

My only issue with this novel is that it’s book one of a quartet, which means I have to read three more books to have the whole story!

(I expect I’ll survive.)

Don’t be a scurvy dog; read this book. You’ll enjoy every word of it.

Goes well with fresh caught fish, pan seared with limes, and a crisp chablis – OR – fish’n’chips with proper vinegar and a good local lager.


Stephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 4th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, January 5th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Wednesday, January 13th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, January 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, January 18th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 19th: The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, January 21st: FictionZeal

Friday, January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, January 26th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Tuesday, January 26th: Books a la Mode – excerpt and giveaway

Thursday, January 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, January 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, February 1st: Bibliotica

TBD: One Curvy Blogger

TBD: Worth Getting in Bed For

Night Hawk by Lindsay McKenna (@lindsaymckenna) #review @TLCBookTours #Giveaway

About the book,  Night Hawk Night Hawk

  • Series: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (December 29, 2015)

ONCE UPON A RANCH IN WYOMING…

After losing his comrade, Sergeant Gil Hanford thought a visit to the man’s widow would be the decent way to honor his late friend. But Gil found more than comfort in Kai Tiernan—he had always secretly desired beautiful Kai, but a sudden, mutual passion helped assuage their grief…until duty reared its head, removing him from her arms, seemingly forever.

Four years later, Kai is starting over at the Triple H Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Born a rancher, she is looking for a new beginning—but her new boss is unforgivably familiar. Kai has tried to move past the memory of what happened between her and Gil, even though she’s never forgiven him for leaving her. But even as they begin their journey toward something new and oh-so-uncertain, a shadow emerges, determined to claim Kai for itself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Lindsay McKenna Lindsay McKenna

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition. Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.

Connect with Lindsay

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Lindsay McKenna is a really engaging writer, and even though I don’t go out of my way to read romances, I pleaded to be allowed on this blog tour, because I respect her work so much. I love that she honors our military (active duty and veterans) by featuring military characters in her novels, and I love that she treats both the people and the institution with honesty and respect.

I am less a fan of westerns, so for me, Night Hawk was a little difficult because of the Wyoming ranch community setting. A childhood that took place, in part, in the Colorado Rockies, and a marriage that began in the Great Plains of South Dakota taught me that there is beauty in those rugged, wide open places, but I’m really glad I only ever have to visit them in books and movies. I’m a city girl with beachy proclivities, and I’m okay with that.

But enough about me. Kai, the heroine of this novel, is ex-military, retired after ten years of service, and looking for work as a wrangler or mechanic when we first meet her, and from page one, I wanted to befriend her. Gil, Kai’s one-time lover, and best friend of her deceased husband, is the perfect romance novel hero, but with the depth and nuance that only Ms. McKenna can bring. Actually, it’s her depiction of the heroes where I think McKenna particularly excels, because while romance novels are usually written by women, for women, with women as protagonists, if the men don’t come across as dimensional beings, the romance doesn’t work.

Their story is one of grief and loss, hope and love, separation and coming back together, and McKenna handles each mood with a deft hand, making the novel feel like a glimpse into an ever-so-slightly-heightened version of reality. There are no roller-coaster extreme ups and downs, no soap opera-esque histrionics, just solid storytelling and a good amount of yummy love scenes that feel steamy without being uncomfortably explicit.

I look forward to more from Ms. McKenna, in this series, and her others.

Goes well with a bowl of thick, spicy chili, and a cold beer.


Giveaway Wolf Haven

One person in the US/Canada can win a copy of one of Lindsay McKenna’s other novels, Wolf Haven.

How? You have two options:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@melysse) and retweet MY tweet with the link to this review.

OR

2) Leave a comment (make sure there’s a valid email address – no one will see it but me) telling me about a person you reconnected with after a long separation.

You have until 11:59 PM US Central time on Tuesday, February 2nd.

Winner will be informed by email or direct message on Twitter (as applicable).


Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 4th: Majorly Delicious

Monday, January 4th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 6th: Reading Reality

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, January 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 13th: Mignon Mykel Reviews

Friday, January 15th: Read Love Blog

Monday, January 18th: Romantic Reads and Such

Tuesday, January 19th: It’s A Reading Thing

Wednesday, January 20th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Thursday, January 21st: Life is Story

Friday, January 22nd: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, January 25th: What I’m Reading

Tuesday, January 26th: Bookaholics Not-so-Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 28th: Books a la Mode

Friday, January 29th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot

TBR: From the TBR Pile