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: 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

Review: Lona Chang, by AshleyRose Sullivan

About the book, Lona Chang

Lona Change: A Superhero Detective Story• Paperback
• Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (August 30, 2017)

When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves.

As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Buy, read, and discuss Lona Chang:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, AshleyRose Sullivan

AshleyRose SullivanOriginally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Monkey Bicycle and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press.

Connect with AshleyRose:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellLona Chang is a secretary in a print shop, but she’s also a budding superhero and an amateur detective. Her partner – in love and and saving people – is Awesome Jones, also a superhero, but a normal guy, as well. Together they fight crime.

Okay, this book is more than that. In concept Lona Chang and it’s predecessor are comicbooks (Stan Lee insists that it should be one word, and I refuse to argue with him on a such a topic) in novel form, but they’re also a bit more complex than an actual comic, because in a novel there’s time to dig into people’s inner monologues and really explore the details of a world.

Author AshleyRose (also one word) Sullivan has given us a fairy tale for adults, one rich with characters and backstories and interconnected relationships, as well as diametrically opposed goals and desires. She’s given us a compelling mystery and two people who are ordinary people on the surface, until they let their extraordinary selves take over.

The writing style is contemporary and upbeat, riding the blurred edge between sophisticated Young Adult/New Adult fare and general fiction. The dialogue is snappy and believable. The world of Arc City is as vivid as Gotham, Star City, or Metropolis ever were, and the plot is well-paced, and truly interesting. From opening to ending, I was hooked on this story.

While I enjoyed Lona Chang as a stand-alone (I’m pretty good at extrapolating things from context) there are a lot of relationships and details that are better understood if you read Awesome Jones first. This review was actually rescheduled so I could have time to go back and read the first novel, and I’m not sorry. Both books are enjoyable, but the second is so much better after having read the first.

If you (like me) used to tie your hoodie over your head and let the rest of it flow free so you could have a cape, or if you tucked a beach towel into the collar of your t-shirt (also as a cape) – if you have perfected your delivery of the phrase “I’m Batman” – if last summers Wonder Woman movie made you cry, you will love Lona Chang and Awesome Jones – the characters, and their stories.

Goes well with a hot dog and a Coke, purchased from a street vendor and – hey! Did you see someone WOOSH by just now?


Tour Stops

Monday, October 16th: G. Jacks Writes

Tuesday, October 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, October 18th: The Book Diva’s Reads

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

Friday, November 3rd: Bibliotica

Monday, November 6th: The Paperback Pilgrim

Thursday, November 16th: The Sketchy Reader – Awesome Jones

Friday, November 17th: The Sketchy Reader –Lona Chang

Monday, November 27th: Book Hooked Blog – Awesome Jones

Tuesday, November 28th: Book Hooked Blog – Lona Chang

Thursday, December 7th: The Desert Bibliophile

Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

About the book Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 10, 2017)

Christmas at Little Beach Street BakeryIt’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months.

In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.

Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

Buy, read, and discuss Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Bookshop on the Corner, Little Beach Street Bakery, and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Connect with Jenny:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellRevisiting the Little Beach Street Bakery and the world that Jenny Colgan has created around it, in her version of Cornwall, is like reuniting with an old friend. You may not have spoken for years, but as soon as you see each other, you pick up as if no time has left.

I won’t give Colgan all the credit for my own fantasies of living in a lighthouse, but I’m sure her work stokes the fire. Sure Polly and Huckle (and Neil the gull) are living in the cold and damp much of the time, but they do it with such good humor and zest for life that having to bundle yourself under layers of sweaters (each more shapeless than the last) or preheat the electric blanket on your bed feels romantic rather than distressingly rustic.

What I continue to love about this series is that the characters grow and change, but remain intrinsically themselves. Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, is dealing with a communications issues within her marriage and a pregnancy, but she still retains the wild-child element that so defines her, and Polly herself, while more settled with Huckle, and keeping her bakery a success is still delightfully neurotic, and full of heart.

Set at Christmas time, this novel is perhaps a bit fluffier, or more soft-focus, than the previous entries in the series, but I think considering the subject matter, and the amazing ending, that softening is appropriate.

This whole series makes you want to curl up in a chilly room with a heavy quilt, a pot of coffee, and freshly-baked treats. Conveniently, there are even recipes included in the back.

Goes well with mincemeat twists and awesome hot chocolate; recipes for both are in the book!


Tour Stops for Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

Tuesday, October 10th: BookExpression

Wednesday, October 11th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 16th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, October 17th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, October 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, October 20th: Reading Reality

Saturday, October 21st: Girl Who Reads

Monday, October 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 24th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, October 25th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, October 27th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 27th: Books and Bindings

Review: The Other Alcott, by Elise Hooper

About the book, The Other Alcott

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 5, 2017)

Named one of POPSUGAR’s 25 Books to Read This Fall!

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”

Praise for The Other Alcott:

“Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families. To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow on our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”—Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens

Buy, read, and discuss The Other Alcott:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elise Hooper

Elise HooperThough a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature.

Connect with Elise:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I was six or seven, my mother and I started reading Little Women, a chapter a night, as we had every book until then. It was the last book we read that way, because my reading ability had finally progressed enough that the tiny print and paper-thin pages (it was all three of the March sisters’ novels in one volume) posed no challenge to me, and a chapter a night was no longer enough.

Like most fans of those books, I wanted to be Jo March. There are times when I still want to be Jo. But I never disliked Amy, and when I was given the chance to read The Other Alcott, a novelization of May Alcott’s (the model for Amy) life, I jumped at it. There might even have been begging involved.

I was not disappointed.

Author Elise Hooper has taken a massive amount of research and turned it into an engaging novel that gives us a glimpse at the youngest Alcott sister. As well, she shows how May and her fictional counterpart are similar, and how they are different.

While some of the connections May makes in this novel are merely supposition; others are true to life. Mary Cassatt, whose art I’ve loved ever since I learned what Impressionism was, was both a contemporary and a friend. May spent a lot of time in Europe, making the French countryside her home – and I find myself a bit envious.

Part biography, part love story (May has a  great love come into her life when he’s in her mid-thirties – old for the time) and entirely engaging, The Other Alcott exists in that area between pure fact and total fiction. It’s truthful even when the author has extrapolated information (or even just made stuff up) and it feels like a much-needed addition to the library of any Louisa May Alcott fan.

Goes well with hot tea served in hand-painted china cups, and scones with jam and clotted cream.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursThursday, September 7th: History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, September 8th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, September 13th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, September 14th: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, September 18th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Thursday, September 21st: bookchickdi

Friday, September 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Monday, September 25th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, September 26th: BookNAround

Wednesday, September 27th: She’s All Booked

Thursday, September 28th: Openly Bookish

Friday, September 29th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 3rd: View From the Birdhouse

Wednesday, October 4th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, October 9th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation

TBD: Unabridged Chick

TBD: Into the Hall of Books

Review: Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

About the book, Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 3, 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Buy, read and discuss Last Christmas in Paris:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Connect with Hazel:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Heather WebbHEATHER WEBB writes historical fiction for Penguin, including her novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.

As a former military brat, Heather naturally grew up obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before channeling these passions into fiction. When not writing, she flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Connect with Heather:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAs genres go, epistolary fiction is woefully underrepresented, but that’s probably because it’s really difficult to do well. In this novel, Last Christmas in Paris, authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb blew away all my fears, and gave me – gave all of us – a delightful read in the process.

While I enjoyed the novel as a whole, and nearly fell in love with Tom myself, it was Evie’s story that really gripped me. So many writers have the women just staying home when they write novels set during wartime, but Gaynor and Webb made their female lead into a woman with drive and determination, as well as a career, and friends that were separate from the circle of people she and Tom knew collectively. It’s so important to represent women as whole, dimensional beings, and these authors did so exceptionally well.

I felt the descriptions of places and people within this novel were incredibly cinematic, and I can easily imagine this story on the big screen as a Merchant Ivory production. As well, I felt that, despite things like the final letter being read at Christmastime in Paris, this novel managed to stay grounded in reality. It’s essentially an historical romance, yes, but it’s one grounded in reality, and the characters are incredibly human and flawed.

If you’re a sucker for a well-written letter, if you hoard stationery ‘just to have,’ as I do, or if you’re simply in the mood for a sentimental (but never sappy) love story, Last Christmas in Paris is the novel for you.

Goes well with hot chocolate and those ‘Danish’ butter cookies they sell in tins around holiday times.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, October 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, October 4th: Back Porchervations

Thursday, October 5th: Bibliotica

Friday, October 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Monday, October 9th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, October 9th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, October 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 16th: BookNAround

Tuesday, October 17th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, October 18th: Girl Who Reads

Wednesday, October 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, October 19th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, October 20th: Books and Bindings

Monday, October 23rd: West Metro Mommy

Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisted, by Sarah Miller – with Giveaway

About the book, Caroline

Caroline: Little House, Revisited• Hardcover: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 19, 2017)

A September Indie Next Pick

One of Refinery29’s Best Reads of September

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly re-imagines our past.

Buy, read, and discuss Caroline:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Miller

Sarah MillerSarah Miller began writing her first novel at the age of ten, and has spent the last two decades working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of two previous historical novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown. Her nonfiction debut, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, was hailed by the New York Times as “a historical version of Law & Order.” She lives in Michigan.

Connect with Sarah:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSometimes a book falls into your life at exactly the right time, and that’s what happened to me with this book, Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

While I typically start looking for scary reads around this time of year, we’ve had some family events that stirred my need for warmth and comfort in my reading, and what could be more comforting than a novel that tells the familiar story of Little House on the Prairie, in a new and unfamiliar way: it’s not written for children, and it’s from Ma’s – that’s the Caroline in the book – point of view.

What I appreciated was that author Sarah Miller’s use of language, while sophisticated, managed to stay in a tone that was reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original books. This gave the story an air of authenticity, and also made it feel like the literary equivalent of home. I wasn’t transported to the bedroom in Georgetown, CO that I inhabited as a seven-year-old reading through all the novels, but I did have the sense that I was visiting a former hometown and seeing it through adult eyes.

I also really liked the glimpses of the physical intimacy – little touches – between Caroline and Charles. We don’t see a lot of their relationship in Wilder’s books, but Miller had the room to play a bit, and as a result both of the adult Ingallses are made more dimensional, and even – dare I say it? more human.

One thing that struck me was that Miller gave Caroline a lot of agency. She could have prevented  – or at least delayed – the initial move from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to the Kansas prairie, but chose not to.

Those who are only familiar with the books will notice that this story is more true to the facts of the Ingalls’ life than to Wilder’s novels, which fictionalized her life. Baby Carrie, for example, is not yet born at the star of the book.

While this book is most likely to appeal to people like me, who are big fans of All Things Laura, I think it would be a satisfying read for almost anyone who likes historical fiction or Americana.

Goes well with fresh, hot cornbread with tart cherry jam, and hot coffee.


Giveaway

Caroline: Little House, RevisitedOne lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your own experiences with the Little House books. Or if you haven’t read them, tell me what book series is like home to you.

(You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, October 6th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, September 19th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, September 20th: BookExpression

Thursday, September 21st: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, September 26th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, September 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, September 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, September 28th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, October 2nd: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Tuesday, October 3rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, October 4th: A Bookworm’s World

Thursday, October 5th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 6th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, October 9th: View from the Birdhouse

TBD: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Review: The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, by David Handler

About The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, David Handler

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

Connect with David:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with Chinese food and beer. Preferably delivered.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 15th: Brown Dog Solutions

Wednesday, August 16th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, August 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, August 18th: A Bookish Way of Life

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

Tuesday, August 22nd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, August 23rd: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, August 23rd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 24th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 28th: Mama Vicky Says

Tuesday, August 29th: Reading is My Super Power

Wednesday, August 30th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, August 31st: BookNAround

TBD: In Bed with Books

TBD: Writing and Running Through Life

Review: Presidents’ Day by Seth Margolis

About the book, Presidents’ Day Presidents' Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Presidents’ Day:

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


About the author, Seth Margolis Seth Margolis

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

Connect with Seth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, July 31st: Tales of a Book Addict

Wednesday, August 2nd: Write Read Life

Monday, August 7th: Book Nerd

Tuesday, August 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 10th: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Friday, August 11th: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Tuesday, August 15th: Helen’s Book Blog

Wednesday, August 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

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

Friday, August 25th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, August 31st: Bibliotica

Thursday, August 31st: Tome Tender

Monday, September 4th: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Staircase Wit

TBD: Blogging with A

TBD: Brooke Blogs