Cauchemar, by Alexandra Grigorescu (@a_grigorescu) – #review @ecwpress #Bibliotica

About the book Cauchemar Cauchemar

Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: ECW Press (March 17, 2015)

Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses. Like the nightmares that plague Hannah,

Cauchemar lingers and haunts.

Buy, read, and discuss Cauchemar

ECW Press | Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alexandra Grigorescu Alexandra Grigorescu

Alexandra Grigorescu has a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Toronto, where she attended writing workshops led by George Elliott Clark and Jeff Parker and wrote her thesis under the guidance of Camilla Gibb. She works as a freelance writer and lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Connect with Alexandra

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

When my husband asked me what it was that kept me in the bathtub reading until I’d turned into a prune, I told him it was a novel called Cauchemar, and that it was a sort of spooky, supernatural coming-of-age story that was both beautiful and haunting.

The story itself, Hannah’s story, is compelling: a young woman loses the maternal figure (not her biological mother) whom she’s lived with for most of her life, and is forced to face her family history, her mother’s reputation, and her actual mother while she tries to find herself.

Hannah’s love interest, Callum, reminded me of every working musician I ever dated before I got married. He’s not a superstar, he’s the kind of guy who plays gigs and has a couple groupies and is happy to share a beer after the show – but then he meets Hannah.

It could have been a perfunctory love story with a young woman, and an older (but not OLD), more experienced man, but author Alexandra Grigorescu mixes in a bayou setting, a dash of supernatural intrigue, and enough music and cookery to fill anyone’s plate. Even better, she does it well: you can hear the rippling of the river, the buzzing of the mosquitoes. You can smell the herbs in Hannah’s cooking, feel the way Callum’s music thrums through the floorboards, and, if you’re really receptive, you might even convince yourself you’ve seen something spooky out of the corner of your eye.

What I love about Grigorescu’s prose is that it’s lush and hearty, with enough vivid description to really give you a sense of place, but without any affectation. Likewise, her dialogue seems appropriate for a small town in the American south, with each character having a distinct voice that never detracts from the work as a whole.

For me, personally, an added benefit was that this story hit me in the sweet spot of my amygdala, the one that makes the spooky stuff seem spookier and the romantic parts seem even more romantic. I finished the novel sitting up in bed in the middle of the night, because I HAD to finish the story before I could sleep.

This is Alexandra Grigorescu’s debut novel, and I’m a little worried that she won’t be able to top it when she produces her second book, because it hits all the right notes (musical and foodie), and leaves you satisfied but willing to have more.

Goes well with Fresh-caught fish, gumbo, and sweet tea.


Alexandra Grigorescu’s Blog Tour Stops Cauchemar

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by the publisher, ECW Press. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE. For a guest post from the author, Alexandra Grigorescu, click HERE.

MARCH 1: Review and giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
MARCH 2: Review and guest post at Bibliotica (That’s ME!)
MARCH 3: Review and excerpt at Bella’s Bookshelves
MARCH 4: Guest post at Write All the Words! for their International Women’s Week feature
MARCH 5: Interview and excerpt at Editorial Eyes
MARCH 7: Review at Lavender Lines
MARCH 9: Review at Svetlana’s Reads
MARCH 10: Review and interview at The Book Stylist
MARCH 11: Review, guest post, and giveaway at Booking it with Hayley G
MARCH 12: Guest Post at Dear Teen Me
MARCH 13: Review and giveaway at The Book Bratz
MARCH 14: Interview and excerpt at Feisty Little Woman

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (@sonjayoerg) – #Review #Bibliotica

About the book House Broken House Broken

Pages: 332
Publisher: NAL (January 6, 2015)

Veterinarian Geneva Novak understands the behavior of umpteen species—just not her mother, Helen.

Geneva fled her childhood home—and her mother’s vodka-fueled disasters—without a backward glance. Twenty-five years later, Helen totals her car and her leg, and none of her children will play nurse. Geneva’s husband, whose family lives in each other’s pockets, convinces her that letting Helen move in might repair the mother-daughter relationship.

Geneva’s not holding her breath.

But she recognizes an opportunity. With her mother dependent and hobbled, Geneva may finally get answers to questions that have plagued her for years: why her eldest sister exiled herself to Africa, why her mother won’t discuss Geneva’s long-dead father, and why—there has to be a reason—Helen treats alcohol like a general anesthetic.

Buy, read, and discuss House Broken

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


About the author, Sonja Yoerg Sonja Yoerg

Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, and studied learning in blue jays, kangaroo rats and spotted hyenas, among other species. Her non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA) was published in 2001.

While her two daughters were young, Sonja taught in their schools in California. Now that they are in college, she writes full-time.

She currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband. HOUSE BROKEN is her first novel.

Connect with Sonja

Website | Twitter


When Sonja Yoerg contacted me through this blog, asking if I’d read and review her book, I leaped at the chance. After all, I work in rescue, so I’m always up for reading about any character who works with animals. I’m really glad I accepted her offer, because House Broken is a wonderful book.

The main character, Geneva, is a veterinarian who clearly cares about her patients and their human companions, but, like many women who work in ‘caring’ professions, she has a hard time prioritizing her own self-care, and the needs of her family. While much of this novel is centered around Geneva’s relationship with her injured mother, I really liked that we got to see the whole picture of her life with its flaws and imperfections as well as its joys.

The mother-daughter dynamic was captured particularly well. Even those of us who, like me, have really strong relationships with our mothers, have still had to navigate tricky passages of our lives. I’m very fortunate that my own mother is hale and hearty, but having watched my mother deal with my grandmother’s recuperation from a hip replacement, decades ago, I know about the family secrets, bitter truths, and too-candid opinions that tend to surface during challenging times.

Helen, Geneva’s mother in the story, is a character made much more complicated by her love of vodka, because you never know if what she says is meant, or is enhanced by alcohol (or the lack of same). What is especially poignant is the realization that these women love each other, but they don’t really like each other very much.

One thing I really appreciated was that we saw Geneva not just as a daughter, but also as a mother. Her own relationship with her children is both counterpoint and learning opportunity, and seeing the ‘whole picture’ of her life made the whole novel that much more compelling.

With House Broken, Sonja Yoerg has given readers a meaty, interesting family drama, with the perfect balance of conventional relationships, and unconventional twists to them.

Buy this book for the cute dog on the cover, but read it for the amazing story inside.

Goes well with Strong coffee and an ‘everything’ bagel, toasted, with sun-dried tomato cream cheese.

One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis @tinaseskis) – Review

About the book One Step Too Far One Step Too Far

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (January 27, 2015)

The #1 international bestseller reminiscent of After I’m Gone, Sister, Before I Go to Sleep, and The Silent Wife—an intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive thriller that introduces a major new voice in suspense fiction—a mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.

No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can’t bury the past—or her own memories.

And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she’s done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss One Step Too Far

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Tina Seskis Tina Seskis

Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, England, and after graduating from the University of Bath spent more than twenty years working in marketing and advertising. One Step Too Far is her debut novel, and was first published independently in the UK, where it shot to the #1 spot on the bestseller list. Her second novel is forthcoming. She lives in North London with her husband and son.

Connect with Tina

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I read this novel in the course of a single weekend afternoon, and literally could not put it down because it was so gripping.

It begins with protagonist Emily (now calling herself Cat) leaving her husband and family, and beginning a new life. We follow Cat as she establishes her new identity, finds a place to live, friends, and a job, experiments with drugs, and basically reclaims her lost single-girl life, but it’s clear that there’s something she’s not sharing with her new friends, or possibly with herself, and that something isn’t revealed until the book is 50% gone.

I don’t do synopses as a rule, so no, I’m not going to tell you what Emily/Cat’s secret is. Instead, I’m going to say that Tina Seskis wrote the hell out of this story, and turned what could have been a fairly standard trope (woman gets fed up with married life, starts new life as own alter-ego) and twists it into a compelling collection of people, places, and events that will have you laughing, crying, and – sometimes – wanting to reach into the pages and shake some sense into the characters.

Supporting characters include new housemate/best friend Angel, a lost waif who has more common sense than one might imagine, Emily’s twin sister Caroline, and Emily’s husband Ben. We don’t really meet Ben until the second half of the book, but once we do, many things from the first half click into place.

Based on my thorough enjoyment of this novel, I think it’s safe to say that Tina Seskis is a force to be reckoned with. Her dialogue is witty, her characters feel very real, and nothing about the story in One Step Too Far was remotely cliche. I can’t wait to read her next book, and I’m excited to see – read? – such a great new voice in contemporary fiction.

Goes well with Tapas and frou-frou cocktails.


TLC Book Tours

This review is sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, as well as the book trailer, click HERE.

The Divorce Diet, by Ellen Hawley (@ellen_hawley) – Review

About the book The Divorce Diet The Divorce Diet

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Kensington (December 30, 2014)

The Divorce Diet is dedicated to every woman who ever walked away from a relationship—or a diet.

Abigail, an inspired cook and stay-at-home mother, decides to repair the problems in her marriage with a diet book for herself and an elaborate birthday dinner for her husband. But over dinner her husband announces that the whole marriage thing just doesn’t work for him. Reeling, she packs up her baby, her cookbooks, and her single estate extra virgin olive oil and moves in with her parents while she looks for work and child care.

Floundering and broke in this life she didn’t choose, she turns for guidance and emotional support to the internalized voice of her diet book, and it becomes her invisible guru. While she struggles to reconcile the joy she takes in cooking with the book’s joyless and increasingly bizarre recipes and her native good sense with its advice, she works her way from one underpaid job to the next, eats everything but what her diet book recommends, and swears to get her life in order before her daughter’s old enough to create long-term memories.

Her diet book has promised to help her become the person she wants to be, but it’s only when she strikes out on her own that she figures out who that is.

Buy, read, and discuss The Divorce Diet

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


About the author, Ellen Hawley Ellen Hawley

Ellen Hawley has published two previous novels, Open Line (Coffee House Press, 2008) and Trip Sheets (Milkweed Editions, 1998).

She has worked as an editor and copy editor, a creative writing teacher, a talk show host, a cab driver, a waitress, an assembler, a janitor, a file clerk, and for four panic-filled hours a receptionist. She lived in Minnesota for forty years and now lives in Cornwall, where she feeds a blog—as well as two cats, one dog, one partner, and any friends who stop by.

Awards include a Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Loft-McKnight Award.

Connect with Ellen

Blog | Website | Twitter


My Thoughts:

As someone who is very fortunate to have a stable, long-term marriage, you might think The Divorce Diet wouldn’t appeal to me, but you’d be wrong. Even though I’m not a twenty-five-year-old mother of a small child who’s marriage is crumbling, I found that a lot of Abigail’s story – wanting to improve herself, finding the meal plans in diet books appalling, and feeling like a teenager when she’s living with her parents (something I haven’t done since I was in my twenties, and then only temporarily) – really resonated with me.

Abigail’s story is a poignant one, full of pain and anguish, but it’s also incredibly funny…and author Ellen Hawley perfectly balances the humor that comes from pain and the humor that comes from diet books, mixing them both together into a tasty treat that tickles the brain and satisfies the imagination. (I especially liked things like an ingredient list that included fat-free quotation marks.)

No marriage is perfect. No one doesn’t think about improving themselves. And no pop-tart has a discernible flavor. These are universal truths. Another one: The Divorce Diet should go on your to-be-read pile immediately.

Goes well with a perfectly-cooked organic chicken breast with olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs, served with roasted squash and a fresh green salad.


Ellen Hawley’s TLC Book Tours Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information and the complete list of stops, see the list below, or click HERE.

Monday, January 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 6th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, January 7th: Books a la Mode – guest post and giveaway

Thursday, January 8th: Annabel and Alice

Monday, January 12th: The Well Read Redhead

Tuesday, January 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, January 14th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, January 15th: BookNAround

Monday, January 19th: The Discerning Reader

Tuesday, January 20th: Reading and Eating

Wednesday, January 21st: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, January 22nd: girlichef

Friday, January 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 26th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books

Tuesday, January 27th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, January 28th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Release, by Hope Russell Nunki (@hotbluestar) – Review

About the book, Release Release

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Noon Key Productions LLC (November 15, 2014)
  • Ecstasy. Absolution. Escape. After three years of desperation, her release may be a new beginning… or it may be her end. Miscarrying Theodore on Leap Day devastated Mandelyn and Henry in ways that weren’t obvious at first. As year followed year, postpartum depression, marital dysfunction, and ethical corruption quietly metastasized under the guise of a lovely home and stable careers. To free herself of yearning and regret, Mandelyn turns to journaling with a virtual counselor, waxing nostalgic for past loves-sharp-witted Joshua, mercurial Sam, and enigmatic Dante. Never mind that Joshua came out of the closet after years of chaste camaraderie, Sam toyed with her emotions, and Dante, after a steamy year that culminated in a summer trip to India, simply faded from her life without explanation. Never mind that, discovering her journals, Henry makes a heartbreaking decision: “I release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone- in your past or in your future-holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find that you have what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else to offer. Quantum nonlocality, Proustian memory, and the energy vortexes of Sedona, Arizona play into the Odyssey takes through the chasms between science and religion, perception and reality, masculine and feminine, head and heart, love and lust, and forgiveness and gratitude.

    Buy, read, and discuss Release

    Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Facebook


    About the author, Hope Russell Nunki (in her words)

    “I am a former professional mascot, signmaker, thespian, and school teacher. The common thread among these roles is a passion for illuminating common yet complex issues in accessible yet unusual ways. With a degree in theatre arts, communications, and English from Simpson College, I taught, directed plays, and coached speech teams in central Iowa before returning to my roots in the suburbs of Chicago.”

    “With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, I ghost-write and by-lines articles by day. By night, I volunteer her time and opinions far too easily and laugh really obnoxiously. I serve at the pleasure of my Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter, the local Panhellenic society, my daughters’ elementary school association, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services. I practice hatha yoga intermittently and run 5K races poorly. My husband and I are raising four daughters who are convinced we are the modern day incarnation of the March family.”

    Connect with Hope

    Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    When I was offered a review copy of this novel, I hesitated for a while, but only because I had so many reviews that I’d committed to. As it is, I waited longer than I meant to before posting it. This is in no way a reflection of Hope Russell Nunki’s fantastic novel.

    From the first scene, where Mandelyn comes home to find her husband Henry confronting her with information about her files, through the next chapter, where we learn about their stillborn son, four years earlier, through the rest of the novel, the author writes with a clear voice, in first person (which can often be tricky). We feel her protagonist’s pain even when we sympathize with Harry…and we want to see her life improve.

    What follows is a journey through pain and loss to self-awareness, and eventually self-fulfillment. The pitch I received described this novel as both ‘poignant’ and ‘hilarious’ and both are equally true. This is contemporary women’s fiction at its best: full of characters that sound real, emotions that ring true, and situations that may be somewhat heightened versions of reality, but never lack plausibility.

    It’s a gripping debut novel, a compelling read, and one I highly recommend. As well, I look forward to what Hope Russell Nunki creates next (no pressure.)

    Goes well with Koval white rye, and a cheese plate.

    The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde (@cryanhyde) – Review

    About the book, The Language of Hoofbeats The Language of Hoofbeats

    • Paperback: 342 pages
    • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (December 9, 2014)

    From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward, comes a story of the heartbreak and healing power of family. New to a small town, Jackie and Paula envision a quiet life for their kids: a young adopted son and two teenage foster children, including the troubled Star. However, they quickly butt heads with their neighbor, Clementine, who disapproves of their lifestyle and is incensed when Star befriends her spirited horse, Comet. Haunted by past tragedy and unable to properly care for Comet, Clem nevertheless resents the bond Star soon shares with the horse. When Star disappears with Comet, the neighbors are thrown together—far too close together. But as the search for the pair wears on, both families must learn to put aside their animosity and confront the choices they’ve made and the scars they carry. Plumbing the depths of regret and forgiveness, The Language of Hoofbeats explores the strange alchemy that transforms a group of people into a family.

    Buy, read, and discuss The Language of Hoofbeats

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


    About the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde

    Catherine Ryan Hyde is the bestselling author of twenty-four novels, including the 1999 smash hitPay It Forward, which has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and was made into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment. In addition to her novels, Hyde is the author of more than fifty short stories and is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation. During her years as a professional public speaker, she addressed the National Conference on Education, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with President Bill Clinton.

    Connect with Catherine

    Website | Facebook | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    The Language of Hoofbeats wasn’t a ‘fall in love from the first paragraph’ kind of book for me. Instead, it drew me in slowly – oh, okay, this is a lesbian couple. Cool. Wow, they have more pets than I do (I work in rescue. Five dogs live in my house). Oh! These are foster children…etc., but by the time teenager Star was across the street picking burrs from the hide of Comet the horse, I was hooked. I wanted, not just to read about this family, but to cook them a mess of pasta and salad and garlic bread, and join them for dinner.

    Between J-Mom and P-Mom, the kids, the pets, and the couple across the street, there were a lot of characters to sort out, but their stories all unfolded gently, layering themselves like the petals of a blooming flower, until, at the end, what you had was a story of loss and love, of grief and acceptance, and the answer – or one answer – to the question, “What is family?”

    As someone who is blessed to have a solid nuclear family as well as an extensive chosen one, and as someone who grew up with activist parents and now works in rescue, this novel spoke to me on many levels. It’s not funny, but it does have moments of humor that come from life. It’s not horribly said, but when the tears flow, they’re laced with the essence of truth.

    It’s a quiet book, one that makes you really count your blessings, and be grateful for what – and who you have, but it’s also a compelling and entertaining read

    Goes well with Warm pita, hummus, and yellow lentil soup.


    Catherine Ryan Hyde’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below, or click HERE.

    Tuesday, December 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Tuesday, December 2nd: Fueled by Fiction

    Thursday, December 4th: Bibliotica

    Friday, December 5th: Eating and Reading

    Monday, December 8th: My Bookshelf

    Tuesday, December 9th: BookNAround

    Wednesday, December 10th: Jorie Loves a Story

    Thursday, December 11th: 100 Pages a Day….Stephanie’s Book Reviews

    Friday, December 12th: Joyfully Retired

    Monday, December 15th: 5 Minutes for Books

    Monday, December 15th: Back Porchervations

    Tuesday, December 16th: Laura’s List

    Wednesday, December 17th: Too Fond

    Thursday, December 18th: Peeking Between the Pages

    Friday, December 19th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

    Saturday, December 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

    Monday, December 22nd: ebookclassics

    Tuesday, December 23rd: Nightly Reading

     

     

    Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, by S. R. Mallery (@sarahmallery1) – Review

    About the book, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    • Publication Date: December 16, 2013
    • Publisher:Mockingbird Lane Press
    • Formats: eBook, Paperback, Audio Book
    • Pages:
    • Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories

    The eleven long short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial star and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macrami artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.

    Watch the trailer for Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Buy, read, and discuss Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Buy the audio version of Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Amazon | Audible.com | iTunes


    About the author, S. R. Mallery S.R. Mallery

    S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life.

    First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

    Unexpected Gifts, her debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, her collection of short stories, was released in Jan. 2014. Both books are from Mockingbird Lane Press.

    Connect with S.R.

    Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    I don’t sew. I mean, I can hem pants if I really have to, and I can sew a button on, or make basic curtains, but I don’t have the love of fabric that real sewists (my mother’s word) have. I grew up in a house, however, where going barefoot meant you’d probably end up impaled by a straight pin, or three, and background noise nearly always included the cozy hum of a sewing machine’s flywheel punctuated by my mother’s cursing whenever something didn’t go according to plan.

    Despite not being a creator of fiber arts, myself, I have dabbled in crewel embroidery (and still do on rare occasions), I’ve tried to learn to knit (I had an excellent teacher, I am incapable of relaxing my grip enough), and I’m fascinated by quilting, and really will try it one day. The mostly-straight lines I can cope with, but quilting also involves math, and geometry was never my favorite subject.

    Reading about sewing, and other kinds of fiber arts, however, is something I love to do, so when I had the chance to review Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, I asked for it in paperback, partly because I knew the short stories would make the perfect “bath book,” and partly because I knew I could pass it on to my mother. (It’s part of her Christmas present this year. Shhh! Don’t tell her!!)

    I planned to read this book in the bath over a few days, but the first story hooked me so deeply that I was absorbed by Mallery’s prose and forgot to fill the tub. Also, like potato chips, you cannot (well, I cannot) read just one short story, so I had to keep going. Before I knew it, I’d read away a whole night, and only the fact that I didn’t have a bright enough light made me put this book down.

    My favorite piece is the the second story, which is about quilts and curses, and appealed to my love of all things spooky and dark, but every single story is a gem – or, more accurately, a hand-sewn bead among a collection of hand-sewn beads. Mallery’s voice is clear and consistent even when moods and tones are radically different, and it was lovely having so many different women as protagonists. Many of these stories could easily be expanded into longer works, if the author chose to do so, but they also stand well in their current format.

    Read this for yourself, even if you don’t sew. And buy a copy for a woman in your life who does sew, because she’ll love it.

    Goes well with Bold dark coffee laced with egg nog and mince pie served slightly warm.


    Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Blog Tour Schedule Sewing Can Be Dangerous Blog Tour

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

    Monday, December 1
    Review at Unshelfish

    Tuesday, December 2
    Review at Bibliotica

    Wednesday, December 3
    Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

    Thursday, December 4
    Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More

    Friday, December 5
    Guest Post at What Is That Book About
    Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog

    Monday, December 8
    Review at WV Stitcher

    Tuesday, December 9
    Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
    Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

    Wednesday, December 10
    Review at A Book Geek

    Thursday, December 11
    Review at Book Nerd

    Friday, December 12
    Review at Based on a True Story

    Monday, December 15
    Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

    Tuesday, December 16
    Review at Book Babe

    Wednesday, December 17
    Review at Just One More Chapter

    Friday, December 19
    Review at Book Drunkard

    Review: Someone Else’s Love Story, by Joshilyn Jackson

    About the book, Someone Else’s Love Story Someone Else's Love Story

    • Paperback: 336 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 5, 2014)

    For single mom Shandi Pierce, life is a juggling act. She’s finishing college, raising precocious three-year-old Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents.Then she gets caught in the middle of a stickup at a gas station and falls instantly in love with William Ashe, when he steps between the armed robber and her son.

    Shandi doesn’t know that William’s act wasn’t about bravery. When he looked down the barrel of the robber’s gun he believed it was destiny: it’s been exactly one year since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do—to him destiny is about choice.

    Now William and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.

    Buy, read, & discuss Someone Else’s Love Story

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


    About the author, Joshilyn Jackson Joshilyn Jackson

    Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including Gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

    Connect with Joshilyn

    Website | Facebook | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    Joshilyn Jackson’s books are always stories I look forward to reading. Her work is the perfect compliment to a cup of mint tea or glass of wine, a tub full of bubbles and a long, relaxing soak. This book, Someone Else’s Love Story is no exception.

    From the first page, the story is compelling. We meet Shandi, her mother, her young son Natty, and her childhood friend Walcott. In any other novel Walcott would be the gay best friend, but Jackson defies convention…he’s absolutely straight.

    A bit later, we meet William, intelligent, athletic, ex-military William, who has his own tragic backstory. Then we see Shandi and William thrown together in the worst possible scenario: a convenience story robbery, and we think this book is about them.

    Well, it is, and it isn’t, and to say more would spoil the story, so here’s what you need to know: in Jackson’s character’s words you can hear ever nuance of the South, you can smell the magnolia blossoms, taste the fried chicken, and you know exactly how much twang every character has in his or her voice. The women are especially vivid, but Jackson’s male characters are always dimensional as well.

    One of Jackson’s other flair’s though, is that she finds parts of southern culture no one expects. This book looks at what it’s like to be the only (part) Jewish person in a sleepy Southern town, and how it feels to be the son of two lesbians in the same small-town culture. It also examines themes like motherhood, the mother-daughter relationship, and the difference between comfortable friends and the comfort of a lover.

    Taken as a whole, Someone Else’s Love Story should be on everyone’s must-read list, because it’s a fast read with a deceptively deep meaning.

    Goes well with chicken salad and iced sweet tea, followed by peach cobbler.


    TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops click HERE.

    Review: A Matter of Mercy by Lynne Hugo (@LynneHugo)

    About the book A Matter of Mercy A Matter of Mercy

    Paperback: 278 pages
    Publisher: Blank Slate Press (August 1, 2014)

    Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past-and his prison term-behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust-and love. Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends. And where it begins.

    Buy, read, and discuss A Matter of Mercy

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


    About the author, Lynne Hugo Lynne Hugo

    Lynne Hugo is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

    She has published five previous novels, one of which became a Lifetime Original Movie of the Month, two books of poetry, and a children’s book. Her memoir, Where The Trail Grows Faint, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize.

    Born and educated in New England, she and her husband currently live in Ohio with a yellow Lab feared by squirrels in a three state area.

    Connect with Lynne

    Website | Facebook | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    I read A Matter of Mercy during a month when I was also attempting to write an produce a podcast every day as part of the Dog Days of Podcasting Challenge, and I have to say, even though emotions run high among the characters, author Lynne Hugo captured the feeling of living on the shore so well, that the novel itself felt restful while I was reading it.

    But ‘restful’ should in no way be interpreted as ‘boring.’

    The two main characters, Caroline “CiCi” Marcum and Ridley “Rid” Neal are each interesting in their own right, each recovering from a somewhat tumultuous past, and each a little bit cracked around the edges, if not actually broken. Caroline has returned to Wellfleet to see her mother through the older woman’s final days with ovarian cancer. (As someone who watched a dear friend of my mother’s go through just such a disease – there is no cure – those scenes were especially poignant for me). Rid is running the family oyster business. Together, they learn to forgive, to let go, to grab onto something new, and even to find love.

    What I really loved about these characters, and all the characters in the novel, is that all of them were richly layered. Even Caroline’s mother, whom we see pretty much entirely cloaked by her cancer, is a vibrant soul, and through Caroline’s rememberances we learn about both women. There’s a flash of memory, early on, where Caroline recalls her mother brushing out her hair, as a child. What mother and daughter haven’t had that same experience?

    Likewise the men in the novel are really dimensional. I’m often frustrated by women who write women characters really well, and then turn all the men into cardboard cutouts, but Lynne Hugo is a master of her craft, and every person we meet, friend or foe, local or summer person, feels like a real person.

    The novel was, of course, inspired by an actual summerfolk vs. locals lawsuit, as happens wherever people want the shoreline to be more about development, and less about sustainable lifestyles, but while the suit may have been a jumping-off point, it’s clear that Hugo’s work is her very own.

    I want to add a note, as well about the author herself. When I received the ARC of this novel, directly from the author, she’d included a bunch of promotional bookmarks and postcards, and a really lovely note apologizing for the sending of an ARC! As well, she signed it, which makes it all the more special.

    Bottom line? This is a wonderful, poignant, novel by an extremely classy woman, and you should waste no time reading it. Don’t let the shoreline setting confuse you; this is a year-round novel. It’s not just for summer reading.

    Goes well with a raw oyster bar (hello, Ceviche) and a good local microbrew beer.


    TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

    Review: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet, by Jenny Ruden

    About Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet

    Paperback: 300 pages
    Publisher: Koehler Books (July 1, 2014)

    Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.

    Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”

    Buy, read, and discuss Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


    About the author, Jenny Ruden Jenny Ruden

    Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row.

    She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Connect with Jenny

    Website | Facebook | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet is everything I needed to read when I was fourteen, and sixteen, and twenty-one. It’s fresh, funny, and grounded in a heightened reality that never takes itself too seriously.

    Protagonist Bethany is painfully real, depicted at the age when so many of us were battling the desire to conform to peer-defined norms with the equally strong urges to be true to ourselves. She faces the world with a combination of spunk and sadness, idealism and naivete that make her pop out from the pages and seem as if she’s recounting her story from across the kitchen table. So much did I feel for her, that I wanted to pull her into a hug, and assure her that things would eventually get better, even if she never lost an ounce.

    While her sister (and her sister’s boyfriend) were also interesting characters, it is TJ, the boy-magician next door, who really captured my attention. How many of us have just such an unrequited love in our lives, even today. How many of us have done stupid things in an attempt to seem bolder, more interesting, more attractive?

    Jenny Ruden has written a story that is part comedy, part drama, and wholly true, in the way that the best stories always are. Maybe you can’t lose weight by writing names on pieces of paper, but you can gain a stronger perspective of who you really are in the world by reading this novel.

    Goes well with a plate of apples, strong cheddar cheese, and a handful of cashews, and a glass of peach iced tea.


    TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.