Review: Fiona and the Whale, by Hannah Lynn – with Giveaway

Fiona and the Whale

Fiona and the Whale coverAbout the book, Fiona and the Whale

 

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (September 30, 2019)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames.

Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Hannah LynnAbout the author, Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

Connect with Hannah:

Facebook | Bookbub | Goodreads | Twitter


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

Fiona and the Whale is my first introduction to Hannah Lynn’s work, and I’m in love. This novel is so refreshing with a main character (the titular Fiona)  being a woman in her 40s. Yes, her husband leaves her on the very day they send their son off to college, thus leaving her an empty-nester in more ways than one, but where this could have been a maudlin tale of being dumped, rather it becomes a “coming of middle age” novel.

Of course, there is also an actual whale, Martha, a sperm whale who turns up in the Thames (not the most hospitable of places for large cetaceans). As Fiona becomes more intrigued and invested in Martha’s fate, she also finds herself more aware of, and engaged in, the state of the world.

Obviously aquatic ecosystems are an important part of this story, but, through Fiona (and Martha) author Lynn also tackles food waste, which is an equally important issue in the contemporary world. The Dumpster Dive Cafe is a fabulous creation, and one I applauded while reading about.

At turns hilarious and poignant, this novel may exist in a slightly heightened version of reality, but the characters depicted within are absolutely real. I especially loved the way Lynn wrote about Fiona and her best friend. Well-written friendships between adult women (as opposed to childhood friends or college roommates) are not often found outside of literary fiction, and I was pleased to see it included here.

Overall, I found Fiona and the Whale to be an immensely satisfying read.

Goes well with hearty seven-vegetable soup, crusty bread, and a glass of wine. Red or white, as you prefer.


Giveaway

Enter our whale-sized giveaway.

Prizes are

$25 Amazon Gift card

2 print copies of Fiona and the Whale

10 ebooks of Fiona

5 ebooks of The Afterlife of Water Augustus

5 ebooks, of Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin.

 

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Fiona and the Whale

Review: Paranormal Texas, by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

Paranormal Texas

About the book, Paranormal Texas: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places Near Dallas & Fort Worth

  • Genre: Travel / Haunted Places / Texas History
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press
  • Date of Publication: September 19, 2019 (2nd Edition)
  • Number of Pages: 210 with 100+ black & white images
  • Scroll down for a Video
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Paranormal Texas More Haunted Places and True Ghost Stories!

Tui Snider’s popular travel guide to haunted places in North Texas is back with a fully updated 2nd Edition featuring more haunted places and true ghost stories!

What’s new in Paranormal Texas2nd Edition?

Just like the original travel guide, Paranormal Texas 2nd Edition gives readers haunted history and directions to sites where paranormal activity is reported in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.

The 2nd edition now includes:

  • Photos: Readers asked for photos of haunted places. Paranormal Texas, 2nd editionhas over 50 photos of haunted towns, haunted hotels, and more.
  • Ghost hunting tips: Tui Snider explains what she has learned since she began attending paranormal investigations with Texas ghost hunters.
  • More haunted places: Several new venues (including a haunted doll museum!) with fascinating haunted history were added to Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.
  • Firsthand accounts: Readers asked for more true ghost stories and hauntings. (She even shares personal experiences with paranormal activity, including a strange encounter with her doppelganger at a haunted hotel!)

All the above, PLUS a paranormal activity evidence database:

See the paranormal activity for yourself: Readers can access an online database with links to EVPs, ghost photos, videos, and other evidence gathered by paranormal investigators who have visited the haunted sites in her book.

  • Continually updated:This database will be continually updated with EVPs, anomalous photos, videos, and other data gathered at haunted places featured in Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.
  • Add your paranormal activity:Readers can contact the author if they have paranormal evidence to add!

Is Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition for YOU?

  1. Ghost Hunters– If you want to plan a fun road trip to haunted places (with or without ghost hunting equipment) Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can help.
  1. Armchair Travelers– If you prefer reading about haunted history, Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can take you on an exciting armchair tour through haunted towns of North Texas.

“Tui’s 2nd edition is spot on fun and thrilling for everyone to read as only Tui can tell it!”  – Greg Stephens, Paranormal Investigator (RIP)

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Tui Snider

Tui SniderTui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

Connect with Tui:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  INSTAGRAM  |  YOUTUBE  | GRAVE HOUR ON INSTAGRAM


Watch a Video from the Author

5 Surprising Facts about Haunted Places in Paranormal Texas

 

 


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I first encountered Tui Snider’s work when I read and reviewed Understanding Cemetery Symbols two years ago. What I found then was a woman who was part storyteller, part adventurer, and part believer in the things the rest of us prefer not to notice – the unexplained, the ineffable, the shouldn’t-be-possible.

While I did not read the first edition of this book, Paranormal Texas: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places Near Dallas & Fort Worth, I can tell you that this edition, the second, had me urging my husband to plan some local and local-ish road trips, and the only thing that has kept us from doing so is that we were out-of-state when the book arrived at my house, and that I’m two weeks away from having (another) knee surgery.

Still, even just reading this book is like going on an adventure with Tui (I hope she doesn’t mind me using her first name) as your guide. Her language is friendly and accessible, as if she’s relating her experiences to a friend over coffee, and the information is presented in a logical manner: alphabetically by city.

It’s not just perfunctory information, either. Rather, Tui provides anecdotes that leave you steeped in local flavor, making this book almost as much a collection of spooky Texas folktales as it is a DFW travel guide.

Paranormal Texas is, of course, the perfect book for October (here’s hoping the weather cools down some so we can all explore these spirited sites in relative comfort), but it would be the perfect book for a lazy weekend in March or May, or (for the brave) August, as well.

Go forth and explore.

(Stay hydrated.)

Tui will guide you.

And if the hairs on your arms stand up when you’re looking at a gravesite or standing near an old bridge, well, that’s just a bonus feature.

Goes well with apple cider (hard or not) and bratwurst with mustard.


Giveaway 

 GRAND PRIZE (US only)

Signed Paperback + Handmade Cemetery Angel Pendant

+$10 Amazon Gift Card

2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy

3RD PRIZE (International)Kindle eBook

(US ONLY)

  October 1-October 11, 2019

Giveaway

 

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Paranormal Texas Blog Tour Links:

10/1/19 Reading by Moonlight
10/2/19 Bibliotica
10/2/19 Book Fidelity
10/3/19 StoreyBook Reviews
10/4/19 Nerd Narration
10/4/19 Hall Ways Blog
10/5/19 Carpe Diem Chronicles
10/6/19 Forgotten Winds
10/6/19 Books and Broomsticks
10/7/19 The Page Unbound
10/8/19 The Book Review
10/8/19 Chapter Break Book Blog
10/9/19 Missus Gonzo
10/10/19 All the Ups and Downs

 

Spotlight: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, by Hendrika de Vries

WHEN A TOY DOG BECAME A WOLF...About the book: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew

 

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (August 27, 2019)

Memoirist Embodies Resistance in Nazi-era Title

A nail-biting tale of female strength, spiritual resilience and resistance to evil that is relevant today. You won’t forget this beautifully written story ––Dr. Betsy Cohen, psychoanalyst

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA – In her award-winning memoir When a Toy Dog Become a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew (She Writes Press, August 27, 2019), Hendrika de Vries focuses on the importance of female empowerment. A story of survival and the power of love, courage, and imagination in a time of violent oppression, Hendrika de Vries shows how the bond between mother-daughter is made stronger amidst subversive activities and acts of moral courage.

Born when girls were to be housewives and mothers, a Dutch “daddy’s girl” in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam learns about female empowerment when her father is deported to a POW camp in Germany and her mother joins the Resistance. Freedoms taken for granted are eroded with escalating brutality by men with swastika armbands who aim to exterminate those they deem “inferior” and those who do not obey.

Following de Vries’ journey from child- to woman-hood, When A Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew bears witness to the strength that flourishes despite oppression, the power of women existing beyond cultural gender roles of the time, and shows that memories hold the keys to the betterment of our future. A therapist for over thirty years, de Vries has used her experience healing the trauma of others’ to tap into her childhood memories of Nazi-occupation to empower others to stand up in the face of injustice.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads | She Writes Press


Hendrika de VriesAbout the author, Hendrika de Vries

Author of When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, Hendrika de Vries’ life experiences, from the dark days of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam as a child, through her years as a swimming champion, young wife and mother in Australia, and a move to America in the sixties, have infused her work as a therapist, teacher, and writer. Hendrika holds a BA (with Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Colorado, an MTS (cum laude) in theological studies from Virginia Theological Seminary, and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Connect with Hendrika:

Website | Twitter


Praise for When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew

  • This beautifully crafted memoir reminds us that we are never far from oppression by those who wish to silence us.–– Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness
  • She is a master storyteller. –– Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D.
  • From the first page, DeVries’ book left me holding my breath at what she and her parents went through when the Nazis took over Amsterdam; one of the worst times in western history. When at age five, she lost a comfortable and safe world. DeVries’ storytelling makes this nonfiction book read like a good novel. Readers almost ‘live’ what she and her family experienced and how they rebuilt their life. – Nonfiction Authors Association Book Awards Program

WHEN A TOY DOG BECAME A WOLF...

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

 

Review: The Land of Last Chances, by Joan Cohen

The Land of Last ChancesAbout the book, The Land of Last Chances

 

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (August 13, 2019)

Jeanne Bridgeton, an unmarried executive in her late forties, discovers life doesn’t begin and end on a spreadsheet when her expected menopause instead becomes an unexpected pregnancy. Though accomplished at managing risk professionally, Jeanne realizes her skills don’t extend to her personal life, where she has allowed the professional and the personal to become intertwined. She’s not even sure which of two men in her life is the father. Worse yet, a previously undisclosed family secret reveals that she may carry a rare hereditary gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s―and it’s too late to get genetic tests. This leaves Jeanne to cope with her intense fear of risk without the aid of the mountain of data she’s accustomed to relying upon. Wrestling with the question of whether her own needs, or those of her child, should prevail takes Jeanne on an intensely emotional journey―one that ultimately leads to growth and enlightenment.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Joan CohenAbout the author, Joan Cohen

Originally from Mount Vernon, New York, Joan Cohen received her BA from Cornell University and her MBA from New York University. She pursued a career in sales and marketing at computer hardware and software companies until she retired to return to school for an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been a Massachusetts resident for many years, first living in Newton, where she raised her family, and later in Wayland. She now resides in Stockbridge, in the Berkshires, with her husband and golden retriever.

 


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I was a little trepidatious about reading The Land of Last Chances. Novels that talk about things like aging and abortion can so often be preachy and insipid. What a relief to find that this was not the case with Joan Cohen’s wonderful creation!

Rather, this novel is a candid look at a woman in my age range (I turned 49 four days after this book was released) who is living a childfree existence, and suddenly finds herself pregnant rather than entering menopause, as she anticipated. That alone is enough to fill a plot, but Cohen has given our main character, Jeanne, so much else to deal with – more than one possible father for her baby, and the discovery of a family history of early-onset Alzheimer’s as well.

It could have all too easily become melodrama, but it didn’t. Rather, this novel is an emotionally truthful look at some very heavy issues, through the guise of fiction. Jeanne is a wonderfully realistic character, and feels like someone you could run into at work or at a coffee place, sometimes prickly, and sometimes engaging, always her own person. The supporting characters, and in particular Vince, are not quite as vivid, but were well-drawn, also.

Cohen’s plot was deftly crafted and perfectly paced. There was enough background to let us get to know the characters, but no so much that we were overloaded with unnecessary information. In short, this is a novel for adults, about adults, that covers adult themes, and it’s an extremely satisfying read in all respects.

Goes well with strong black tea and a tomato sandwich on multigrain bread.

Review: Coming Home for Christmas, by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for ChristmasAbout the book, Coming Home for Christmas

 

  • Series: Haven Point (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (September 24, 2019)

Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Raeanne Thayne RaeAnne-Thayne

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on: cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page, and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 40 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA® Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Cracking open a RaeAnne Thayne book, even when it’s a virtual ‘cracking’ because you’re reading a digital copy, is like hanging out with an old friend. The story will be new and exciting, but the voice telling it will be familiar.

This is especially true of Coming Home for Christmas, which isn’t just Thayne’s most recent release, but is also the tenth novel in her delightful Haven Point series. And while some may think the second day of autumn is a touch early to be reading a story set over the holidays, I found it a lovely respite from the heat and humidity of late summer.

As always, Thayne brings us a story rooted in family and relationships. Luke and Elizabeth are an estranged husband and wife, the latter having been missing for seven years when the novel opens with him storming into her current residence and demanding he return home with her. It’s an abrupt opening. Almost, I felt as though I’d missed a chapter, and yet, it set the pace of the novel perfectly, giving us a sense of urgency from Luke that carried through the entire book.

Both characters, as well as their friends and family, are written truthfully. No one is perfect; all are drawn with the charms and flaws of real people. This is what makes a RaeAnne Thayne novel so compelling: she peoples her fictional towns with the sorts of neighbors we all long to have, and populates their streets with the shops we all want to visit.

Is September a little early for a Christmas story? Maybe. But when you read Coming Home for Christmas, you’ll feel like you’re coming home to Haven Point, and you won’t mind that the calendar on your phone is a bit behind the one in the story.

Goes well with hot coffee and chocolate gingerbread.

 

Review: A Summer to Remember, by Victoria Cooke – with Giveaway (UK only)

A Summer To Remember

A Summer to RememberAbout the book, A Summer to Remember

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Digital (September 19, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Sam lives by the mantra that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

After the tragic loss of her husband, Sam built a new life around friends, her cat Coco and a career she loves. Fending off frequent set-ups and well-meaning advice to ‘move on’, Sam is resolutely happy being single.

But when Sam gets seconded to her firm’s Boston office for the summer, it is more than her career that is in for a shake-up. A spur of the moment decision to visit the idyllic beaches of Cape Cod could end up changing her life forever.

One thing is for sure, Sam won’t finish the summer the same woman who started it…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Victoria CookeAbout the author, Victoria Cooke

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and traveling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016.

Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Connect with Victoria

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel, A Summer to Remember, was my first introduction to Victoria Cooke’s work, but it was just the warm-hearted beach read I always enjoy picking up in between heavier pieces of literature. Even better, it has many scenes set in a cute coastal town with lovely, welcoming people of the type we all secretly wish would take us under their wings, pour cocktails down our throats, and become our new best friends when we most need a new perspective.

For main character Sam, a new perspective is precisely what she gets when she temporarily relocates from London to Boston for work. It’s an assignment she’s been wanting for the better part of a decade, ever since losing her husband in a tragic accident, but she gets off to a rocky start, and escapes to Provincetown on the weekend to soothe her soul at the beach.

It’s there where Sam meets and befriends an array of delightful characters – Harry and Barney chief among them – who become her American support system, giving her advice and shaking her out of her self-imposed bubble. It’s also there that she gets to know Ethan, our male lead.

In the last two years, my own family has seen a lot of death and loss – both of my in-laws and my own stepfather, as well as a member of my chosen family – and dealing with that grief, and watching my mother continue to deal with the loss of her life-partner – has been challenging, but it’s also made me a harsh critic of stories covering similar territory. Cooke handles both Sam’s and Ethan’s grief and healing with sensitivity and truthfulness that I found to be profoundly real and incredibly believable.

Yes, these are characters in a summer romance novel, and so their reality is a slightly heightened one, but I still found everything I read to be completely plausible (with the possible exception of anyone getting seasick on a kayak.)

A Summer to Remember was exactly the book I needed to finish out the last days of summer. Okay, I live in Texas, so our hot weather will continue until Halloween, but the light is changing, and there’s a bite beneath the heat that means autumn is arriving, but, just as the end of summer in this novel doesn’t mean an end to new friendships or new relationships, merely a redrawing of parameters, so, too, does the end of summer where I live merely mean that the sun sets a bit earlier and the swimming pool isn’t quite as warm.

A Summer to Remember is a novel to be enjoyed.

Goes well with burgers grilled over an open flame and cold beer, ideally consumed while sitting in the sand.


Giveaway (UK Residents Only)

A Summer Giveaway Prize

Giveaway to Win A Summer to Remember by Victoria Cooke and Chocolates (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

The Girl Who Loved GhostsAbout the book, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts

 

  • Series: Unbelievables (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (September 16, 2019)

She’d do anything to save her friends and family. But will that mean sacrificing the ghosts she’s grown to love?

Kat is trying to settle back into her senior year at McTernan Academy, but destiny keeps getting in the way of schoolwork and friendships. Continuing her magical training means abandoning her best friend, until an attack by a mysterious entity on campus proves that the only place they’ll both be safe is Dumbarton, the ancestral home of the Langley family.

Evan struggles with his coursework, a flirty new housemate, and his daunting responsibilities as the Kingsley heir and new owner of Ravenhurst manor. He tries to hold onto his normal college life, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before he and Kat have to travel into the past again… And Kat is in mortal danger every minute they wait to retrieve the last amulet they need to defeat the Dark One.

As her normal life slips further away, Kat must face the terrible cost that comes with time travel. Completing her quest in the present requires changing the past. She knows that the results of her actions can be disastrous–because the ghosts of her ancestors tell her of their tragic fates. A trip to eighteenth-century Connecticut might change everything. Kat tries to protect everyone she loves, but risks destroying every relationship that matters to her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


KC TansleyAbout the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and two quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been reading The Unbelievables series since the beginning, and it’s been a pleasure watching Kat grow up, just as it’s been a pleasure seeing K.C. Tansley’s writing get deeper and more evocative with every novel. Part of that, of course, is that her main character is getting older, but part of that is that when you’ve been writing in the same world for a while it becomes more and more real, just as it does when you’ve been reading it for a while.

At this point, I feel like Kat and her roommate/best friend Morgan, Evan, and even Seth are my friends, not just characters in books – they’re that well-drawn. When Kat feels alienated from Evan because his houseguest is getting flirty, I feel for her as keenly as I did when my own high school crush showed interest in someone else.

But this third installment in The Unbelievables series, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, isn’t some teen romance. Sure, there are elements of romance in it, but it’s really about Kat’s calling to speak with ghosts, to help them solve their unfinished business, and for her combined work with Evan to unite their families, working with the living and the dead to do so.

This is a gripping adventure through time. It has moments of darkness and danger, but it also has moments of great poignance. It’s about honoring family, but it’s also about being true to yourself.

I loved revisiting Kat at her school, and joining her and Evan (and their friends) on their trans-dimensional trips to Dumbarton, but, as always, I was sad for the visit to end, and cannot wait for book four.

Goes well with beef stew and hard cider.

 

 

Review: Emerald City, by Brian Birnbaum

EmeraldCityAbout the book, Emerald City

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dead Rabbits LLC (September 6, 2019)
  • Language: English

 

Set in Seattle, Emerald City follows Benison Behrenreich, the hearing son of deaf royalty. His father, CEO of a multimillion-dollar deaf access agency, has bribed Myriadal College officials for Benison’s spot on their powerhouse basketball team, where he struggles to prove himself and compensate for his father’s sins.

Julia Paolantonio has recently lost her father to a drug relapse. Her mother ships her off to live with her estranged granddad, Johnny Raciti, during the summer before her freshman year at Myriadal. Johnny offers her a deal: bring him Peter Fosch – tormented college dropout and the best drug runner west of the Cascades – and he’ll give Julia’s freshly widowed mother a board seat on his mobbed-up securities firm.

When Benison’s father is arrested for defrauding government subsidies for the deaf, the Behrenreichs are left vulnerable to his company’s ruthless backers – namely Johnny Raciti – forcing Julia and Peter to navigate the minefield left in the aftermath.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Brian BirnbaumAbout the author, Brian Birnbaum

Brian Birnbaum received his MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2015. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, The Smart Set, Potluck Magazine, LUMINA, 3AM Magazine, The Collagist, Anti-Heroin Chic, and more. His debut novel, Emerald City, is forthcoming in 2019 with Dead Rabbits, whose NYC reading series is spinning off into a literary press funded by a former Amazon dev manager. He also hosts the Dead Rabbits Podcast. Brian is an only Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), and works in development for his father’s deaf access company.

Connect with Brian:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Every so often you encounter a book that just blows you away. For me, this summer (September is still summer), Emerald City is that book. Sure, the description sounds like any number of other books – Seattle, crime syndicate, family drama – these are common pieces – but Brian Birnbaum moves them distinctly uncommon ways.

First, there’s his use of language. It’s gritty, it’s present, it’s very, very real. I felt like his characters were people I would have run into on buses, in bistros, or in board rooms, as the situation might require. Then there are his characters, Julia, Johnny, and especially Benison. These characters aren’t merely dimensional, they practically leap off the page and get in your face, demanding that you listen to their stories.

And let’s not forget to talk about the Deaf culture that’s woven through the story. At no time does this addition feel like a ploy to make Emerald City unique or noticeable; rather, it’s completely organic, both incidental and important (yes, it’s possible to be both).

Reading this novel, I often felt like I had to pause and catch my breath, but I loved feeling that way, because it meant I was immersed in the story. I cannot wait to read Birnbaum’s next creation, and I foresee a long and successful career.

Goes well with a rare steak, twice-baked potatoes, and a Jameson & Ginger with a twist of lime.

 

 

 

Review: Dragonfly, by Leila Meacham – with Giveaway

About the book, Dragonfly

  • Genre: Historical / WWII / Espionage
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Date of Publication: July 9, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 576
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Dragonfly coverFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Roses comes a gripping new novel about five young spies embedded among the highest Nazi ranks in occupied Paris

At the height of World War II, a handful of idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the government, asking them if they are willing to fight for their country. The men and women from very different backgrounds-a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and a wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer, and a ravishingly beautiful female fencer-all answer the call of duty, but each for a secret reason of her or his own. They bond immediately, in a group code-named Dragonfly.

Thus begins a dramatic cat-and-mouse game, as the group seeks to stay under the radar until a fatal misstep leads to the capture and the firing-squad execution of one of their team. But…is everything as it seems, or is this one more elaborate act of spycraft?

Praise for Dragonfly:

“Meacham’s impeccable pacing and razor-wire tension evoke the daily drama of life under a Reich whose French reign might have lasted little more than four years but felt like the thousand years that it threatened to endure.” ―Bookpage

“Meacham’s nail-biting tale will please fans looking for an intricate story of spycraft and deception.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Meacham ratchets the suspense ever tighter, while providing fascinating backstory on the intrepid five [American spies] as well as delivering a detail-rich portrait of Paris during the Occupation.” ―Booklist

“Complex, epic, and rich in historical detail-an uplifting story of finding friendship behind enemy lines.” ― Kirkus

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


Leila MeachamAbout the author, Leila Meacham

Leila Meacham is a writer and former teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the bestselling novels Roses, Tumbleweeds, Somerset, and Titans.

Connect with Leila:

Website | Bookbub | Facebook | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Mystery. Intrigue. War. Nazis. Leila Meacham’s epic novel Dragonfly is an immersive tale of espionage and evil, but more than that, it examines what we humans are willing to do for the causes we believe in, just or not.

Her tale opens in 1962, but we’re quickly propelled back in time, to memories of occupied France, where the author’s vivid descriptions were so visceral that there were times I literally jumped when shots rang out or people were jostled in the streets.

With five POV characters – all of whom we initially meet as tender twenty-two-year-olds – Dragonfly could be confusing. Instead, it’s a richly woven tapestry of character and plot, detail and description. I was particularly entranced with the author’s use of language, which was neither affected nor overly simple but captured the era perfectly.

Other reviewers have commented that this novel captures the echoes of today’s political culture as well as the period in which it was set, and I agree, but I have to wonder if it’s not so much that the novel’s tone is echoing the time, as that our culture has not progressed as much as we would hope.

At 576 pages, Dragonfly is a novel to savor, a book for slow, summer nights of pleasure-reading. You could rush through it if you tried, but you’d be doing yourself, and Ms. Meacham’s lovely prose, a great disservice.

Goes well with salad Nicoise, baguette, and peach iced tea.


Giveaway

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Review: Becoming Superman, by J. Michael Straczynski

Becoming-Superman-coverAbout the book, Becoming Superman

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 23, 2019)

Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

“J. Michael Straczynski is, without question, one of the greatest science fiction minds of our time.”   — Max Brooks (World War Z)

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

Joe’s early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past.

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


J.-Michael-Straczynski-AP-Photo-by-Peter-KonerkoAbout J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Connect with J. Michael Straczynski:

Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).
From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman fan, as well, so the combination was an automatic win-win for me, but getting to peek into the brain of someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for so long was a special experience.

Special… and often harrowing. I’m not one to spoil plots. I don’t even typically include a synopsis in my own thoughts, but JMS did not have an easy childhood, and there were moments when I wanted to reach back through the years and give that isolated, odd child a hug.

The moment when he discovered Superman is one I completely understood. My childhood was not nearly so traumatic, but we all have our moments – especially those of us who are geeks, or creators, or both – when something clicks inside us, and we recognize a kinship with something, even if that something is a fictional character in a red suit and tights. Superman is so iconic – is there any American kid who didn’t want to meet him or be him at some point in their life? – but that moment set the tone for the rest of the book, and the rest of this man’s life.

It’s a very honest narrative overall. Straczynski is clearly incredibly self-aware of who he is, where he’s from, and where’s he’s ended up. Like so many gifted people, he’s a little bit broken, but he’s made that work for him – and turned it into a gift for us.

This book isn’t a casual read, but if you’re a fan of JMS’s work, I’d highly recommend it.

Goes well with chicken shawarma and craft beer.


TLC BOOK TOURSReview Stops for Becoming Superman

Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 5th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading