Review: The Janus Witch, by Michael Scott Clifton – with Giveaway

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 About the book, The Janus Witch

  • Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy / Romance
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 372 pages
  • Scroll down for giveaway.

Malice vs Love

A beautiful witch, a member of a murderous coven, is torn from her medieval world and transported to East Texas. The passage leaves her with no memory of her previous life. She falls in love with a young pediatrician, but her dark past threatens to reassert itself…and make her a threat.

Praise for The Janus Witch:

  • This book is filled with magic, intrigue, excitement, and fantasy. Michael Scott Clifton is a truly gifted author.  — Teresa Syms, Readers’ Favorite
  • This novel was an absolute page turner with action and great character development. I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m excited for the next work by Mike Clifton. — Bronwyn Pegues, Librarian, Longview Public Library
  • “Michael Scott Clifton weaves and casts a magical spell in his fantasy romance The Janus Witch. A must read for any Fantasy Romance, Urban Romance, or Paranormal Romance enthusiast!” — Ranay James, Author of The McKinnon Legends: A Time Travel Series
  • A continuous flow of witchery and energy that kept this reader captivated until the end. — The Electric Review, 5-Star Review

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Buy, read, and discuss, The Janus Witch:

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About the author, Michael Scott Clifton Janus Witch - Author

Michael Scott Clifton, public educator for over 38 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie, and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys…adventure, magic, fantasy, romance, and relationships. He has been a finalist in a number of short story contests. Clifton’s fantasy novel, The Conquest of the Veil, won a First Chapter Finalist award. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Janus Witch, the July Book Cover of the Month, is a featured book on the We Love Indie Books website. Currently, Clifton is completing Book I of The Conquest of the Veil, which will be released in March 2019. He can be reached at mike@michaelscottclifton.com.

Connect with Michael:

Website ║ Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Instagram ║ Goodreads ║ Amazon Author Page


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The title of this novel, The Janus Witch, is really perfectly chosen. A Janus coin depicts a two-headed (or two-faced) Roman god. Like the image on the coin, the main character in this story, a medieval witch named Tressalayne who struggles with her own duality. On the one hand, she’s a witch from an ancient culture, and revels in dark deeds, on the other, she’s thrust into contemporary East Texas and falls in love with a pediatrician – the epitome of good works.

As much as I enjoyed the initial introduction to Tressalayne in her world, watching her try to navigate a more modern era was fascinating. Clifton did some great world building in both times and places, and I felt transported into the fabric of his story. I especially appreciated his use of language, both in specific word choices and in the way he used the differences in the way people speak to really mark Tressalayne as someone other.

I’m a sucker for time-travel stories of any kind, but this one incorporated magic, romance, and a real moral struggle, and it was the combination of those elements that, I feel, make this book a satisfying read. When you finish it, you know where the characters are going, but you want to follow their journey just a bit longer. That leave-the-audience-wanting-more tone is so difficult to capture, but Clifton has absolutely done so.


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Spotlight on Covey Jenks, by Shelton L. Williams – With Excerpt

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About the book, Covey Jenks Covey Jenks Cover

  • Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
  • Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
  • Publication Date: February 10, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 229 pages
  • Audio Book Length: 6 hours, 38 minutes
  • Audio Book Narrator: Kathy James
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey, and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another!

Praise for Covey Jenks:

Williams seamlessly braids a murder mystery with a love story and a drama about the pervasiveness of racism in the South… The author’s prose is buoyantly eccentric, both insightful and self-effacingly humorous. And the clues Covey and JayJay track down are meted out to readers with impressive judiciousness: The author never prematurely surrenders so much information that the conclusion is rendered foregone while the tale’s swift pace prevents it from becoming tedious. An engrossing crime drama that’s both entertaining and provocative. — Kirkus Indie

Read an Excerpt from Chapter 45 of Covey Jenks:

When I am in one place, I often think of what is happening at the same moment in another place I used to be. Like, when I walked to work in D.C., I often saw this seemingly homeless guy playing chess with multiple persons near the fountain in DuPont Circle. I saw countless persons get up and walk away from his games with defeated looks on their faces. Is that still going on? Or, is some freshman in my old dorm room at Luckett finally settling into the pace of college life? Or flunking out? Who is wearing number 63 for Permian this year? They are very good again and will soon play another powerhouse, Converse Judson, I think, for the state championship. Does that guy start? Is he a good student? Why do I care?

I think I care because I am fascinated by connections, my connections, in life. Our shared connections and shared patterns must result in similar outcomes and similar life lessons, no? Or not, I guess, depending on parents, experiences, and mental capacities. Useless thoughts really, but what about the Gladstone boys? We had so many connections and shared patterns, but we simply did not see the world in the same way. We grew up in the same town, played the same games, went to the same schools, had the same friends, had the same kind of uneducated, racist parents, and dated the same girls. The similarities no doubt did not end there, but in the end the differences became the defining connection.

Buy, read, and discuss Covey Jenks:

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About the author, Shelton L. Williams Shelton L Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the BloodSummer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelton:

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About the Narrator, Kathy James

Kathy JamesMy first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.


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Review: Aphrodite’s Closet, by Suzy Turner

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About the book, Aphrodite’s Closet

Aphrodite's Closet NEW COVER

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (May 9, 2017)

Agatha Trout didn’t even know she had a Great Aunt Petunia, so imagine her surprise when she finds Petunia left her a corner shop in her will. But it’s not just any old corner shop—it’s a corner shop that needs something unique, something the town of Frambleberry has never seen before.

 

Influenced by her confident best friend, Coco, Agatha is soon convinced that there’s only one way to go: an adults-only sex shop.

While some of the townspeople are clutching their pearls in horror, others are open to the new experiences this shop offers. But not everyone in Frambleberry is convinced. Will the women soldier on in the face of violent threats or will their fears get the best of them—and their new venture—before it even gets off the ground?

Buy, read, and discuss Aphrodite’s Closet:

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About the author, Suzy Turner Suzy Turner 2017

Born in England and raised in Portugal, Suzy lives with her childhood sweetheart Michael, their two crazy dogs and three cats.

Shortly after completing her studies, Suzy worked as a trainee journalist for a local newspaper. Her love of writing developed and a few years later she took the job of assistant editor for the region’s largest English language publisher before becoming editor of a monthly lifestyle magazine. Early in 2010 however, Suzy became a full time author. She has since written several books: Raven, December Moon, The Lost Soul (The Raven Saga), Daisy Madigan’s Paradise, The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw, The Temporal Stone, Looking for Lucy Jo, We Stand Against Evil (The Morgan Sisters), Forever FredlessAnd Then There Was You, Stormy Summer and her latest, Aphrodite’s Closet.

In 2015 she launched her popular 40+ lifestyle blog which continues to go from strength to strength, while just over a year later, she trained to become a yoga instructor. Suzy continues to write, blog and teach yoga in one of Portugal’s loveliest settings – the Algarve.

Connect with Suzy:

Lifestyle Blog | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI am in love with Aphrodite’s Closet. Funny and smart, and a perfect example of the genre we used to call “chick lit,” but is really just another type of contemporary fiction, this novel will make you laugh, make you cry, make you nod in agreement with universal truths, and make you root for the heroine, Agatha Trout.

Author Suzy Turner has drawn two dynamic leads in Agatha and her best friend Coco. Either woman could easily be someone you know. Agatha is more low key, less adventurous, and more level-headed. At times she can even be frumpy. Coco, on the other hand, is bold and a little brassy, wears five-inch heels, and is also generous to a fault. Together they represent everything that is best about deep friendship.

That core friendship is what I loved about the novel, but I also appreciated Turner’s flair for snappy dialogue and her ability to create characters with just a few descriptors (busy-body Amelia and Agatha’s mother are prime examples).

Overall, this novel is a light, fast read that balances comedy and truth really well.

Goes well with cosmopolitans and light hors d’oeuvres.


Aphrodite's Closet

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

About the book, Pieces of Her Pieces-of-Her-cover

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (August 21, 2018)

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girlsand The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss Pieces of Her:

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About the author, Karin Slaughter Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Townand the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, Karin Slaughter lives in Atlanta. Her standalone novels The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television.

Connect with Karin:

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


My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

I absolutely loved this novel! Not only was it well-paced and deftly plotted, but the characters really felt plausible. Yes, there’s mystery and intrigue, action and adventure, and those are all constructed brilliantly. The mall scene never had me wondering where people were in space (something that can often be an issue during chaotic scenes), and the unfolding truths about who Laura really is, kept me interesting.

But what hooked me was the Andy-Laura relationship. I’m forty-eight, not thirty-one, but I really identified with Andy. My own mother is the type who irons t-shirts and is always impeccably dressed. I’m self-employed and live in t-shirts and jeans and have to have special black shirts for when we eat Japanese food, for the inevitable moment when soy sauce ends up on my chest, and as for my iron… I’m pretty sure I could find it if I had to.

Author Karin Slaughter’s depiction of a mother-daughter relationship is perfect. Just perfect. The love Andy feels for her mother who is a breast cancer patient, the fear  and curiosity, and even a bit of betrayal at not knowing her mother’s real history – these things were so emotionally truthful that they drove the novel as much as the actual plot.

If you want a really satisfying read that combines believable characters and a compelling story, you must read Pieces of Her.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and iced mango tea.


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Review: Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck

About the book Designer You Designer-You-cover-640x1024

• Paperback: 278 pages
• Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies suddenly and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.

When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.

Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.

It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Sarahlyn Bruck Sarahlyn-Bruck-AP-683x1024

Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of Designer You, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.

Designer You is Sarahlyn’s debut, and she is hard at work on her next book. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at sarahlynbruck.com. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.

Connect with Sarahlyn:

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My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

This was a difficult book for me, because I was reading it just at the time that my stepfather died, and I was getting daily calls from my mother about what she should do now: Should she sell the house, etc? In a way, that made made empathize with Pam a bit more, I suppose.

Once I managed to set grief aside and focus, I really enjoyed Designer You. This is the author’s freshman novel, but it feels very smooth and very polished.

I liked that Pam wasn’t Ms. Perfect, and that she took the time to react to her husband’s death, and process her grief. I also liked that she wasn’t the perfect parent. Her relationship with her teenage daughter, Grace, felt very real to me, especially when she skips school to avoid people staring at her.

I also liked that Pam’s parents were supportive, but firm about their daughter needing to stand on her own. It’s proof that even when we’re in our forties we still need our parents’ guidance from time to time, and I think many of us forget that.

Overall, this was a hopeful and uplifting novel, and a great read, despite – or maybe because of – the opening tragedy.

Goes well with: a chicken burrito bowl and a shot of tequila.


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Review: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

About the book, America for Beginners America-for-Beginners-cover

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (July 24, 2018)

Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circumstances.

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week “working” vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

A bittersweet and bighearted tale of forgiveness, hope, and acceptance, America for Beginners illuminates the unexpected enchantments life can hold, and reminds us that our most precious connections aren’t always the ones we seek

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Leah Franqui Leah-Franqui-AP-Photo-by-Priyam-Dhar

Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.

Connect with Leah:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

At first, I had a tough time connecting with this book – my stepfather was in the hospital in his last days of life, and I’d just had surgery and was dealing with Norco fog. I had to set it aside and go back to it. A month after surgery, and a week after the loss of my stepfather, I was feeling steady enough to tackle it again.

I’m glad I did.

Leah Franqui has, in this book, given us a fresh and interesting take on the “misfits take a road trip” trope. An Indian housewife, a Bangladeshi man masquerading as an Indian man, and a struggling actress are not the typical cast of such a book, especially with each of their backstories, but together, they present a charming picture as they experience both America and each other ‘uncensored.’

I really appreciated the way Franqui used posture and language to show us each character’s real self, and I also liked that we got so much backstory at the beginning. The characters may have been strangers to each other, but we readers had deep introductions to them, that made it less confusing when we were presented with so many characters to start.

For a first novel, America for Beginners really sings, and as much as I enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to reading whatever Ms. Franqui publishes next.

Goes well with chicken tikka masala and any beer with a rye note, such as Boulevard Rye-on-Rye.


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TBD: Bibliotica

Review: The Daisy Children, by Sofia Grant

About the book, The Daisy Children The-Daisy-Children-cover

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 7, 2018)

Inspired by true events, in Sofia Grant’s powerfully moving new novel a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth.

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear…

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sofia Grant Sofia-Grant-AP-Photo-by-Madeira-James

Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Connect with Sofia:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I always enjoy it when a novel incorporates real events in a fresh way. In the case of The Daisy Children, that event is the 1937 explosion of a school in a small town in Texas. Interestingly, that event is what led to the requirement that a bad scent be added to natural gas, so that you can tell when there’s a leak.

Within the context of this novel, however, the explosion was a connection point for protagonist Katie, whom we meet on the day she’s fired from her job, and her vivacious cousin Scarlett, as the two go through ancient family photographs while waiting to collect a surprise (at least on Katie’s part) inheritance.

As with her first novel, The Dress in the Window, Sofia Grant’s touch is a delicate one, giving the impression that she was listening to characters as they told their own stories, rather than creating them from imagination and research. Her dialogue is spot-on, with Katie and Scarlett having their own distinct voices, of course, but also with the period characters sounding as if they were accurately placed in the 30s and 40s, but without being fussy.

The plot was interesting – I never lost focus, and zipped through this book in a few hours – and descriptions were vivid (sometimes a bit too much so.)

Overall, this is a solid sophomore offering, and I recommend Grant’s work to anyone who wants to get lost in a good book.

Goes well with sweet tea and chicken salad served with homemade biscuits.


Tour Stops for The Daisy Children TLC Book Tours

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Friday, August 10th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Saturday, August 11th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Review Stops

Tuesday, August 7th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 8th: Broken Teepee

Friday, August 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, August 13th: bookchickdi

Tuesday, August 14th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Wednesday, August 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 15th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, August 16th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, August 20th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, August 21st: Instagram: @writersdream

Wednesday, August 22nd: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

TBD: A Bookish Affair

Review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin

About the book, Dead Girls Dead Girls by Alice Bolin

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

Praise for Dead Girls:

Dead Girls is everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence… I love this book.” —  Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

“Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely.” — Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of You Will Know Me

Best of summer 2018 – included on best-of lists by Bitch Magazine, Harpers BazaarThe Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

Buy, read, and discuss Dead Girls: 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alice Bolin Alice-Bolin-AP

Alice Bolin’s nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE’s Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis.

Connect with Alice:

Find out more about Alice at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve always enjoyed essays and literary criticism, and this book, Dead Girls is a delicious collection of both. I really enjoyed the way the author, Alice Bolin, juxtaposed her own upbringing and life experiences with the observations and analysis she made about that genre of literature (primarily) and media in general that concerns the eponymous “dead girls” – the women who are already dead at the start of a story, and whose murder is solved (or not) through the narrative.

As someone who finds the psyche of serial killers morbidly fascinating, I appreciated Bolin’s choice of material, and responded to her use of language. She is a keen observer of her world – our world – and though she’s roughly twenty years younger than I am, I found myself nodding at her comments, appreciating what she had to say.

Then again, I’m also someone who binge-watched sixteen seasons of Law & Order: SVU in the name of “research” for a story I was writing, and I adore anyone who makes references to both Veronica Mars and Stieg Larsson in the same piece.

As this book is a collection of essays, the temptation is to pick and choose from the titles that seem interesting, and read them in whatever order. I would advice the prospective reader not to do this. These essays form a dual narrative of the author’s life and the evolution of “dead girl” literature, and the flow is so much better if you read them in order.

Goes well with a shot of bourbon, and slanted fedora, and a rainy night.


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Friday, June 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, July 2nd: Based on a True Story

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Thursday, July 5th: Doing Dewey

Friday, July 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, July 9th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 10th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Wednesday, July 11th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Thursday, July 12th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, July 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Review: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

About the book, Boardwalk Summer Boardwalk Summer

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 19, 2018)

In this new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.

Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.

Buy, read, and discuss Boardwalk Summer:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Meredith Jaeger Meredith-Jaeger-AP-Erika-Pino-Photography

USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

Connect with Meredith:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It seems appropriate that my review of this book, Boardwalk Summer is going live on the day of the summer solstice, because it’s such a magical book with it’s twin stories, one set in nearly contemporary Santa Cruz, and one set several decades before.

Our two heroines, Marisol (2007) and Violet (1940) couldn’t be more different: Mari is Latinx, a single mother, a history buff, and part of a generations-old Santa Cruz family. Violet is an unhappy wife stuck in a brutal marriage, but left with unfulfilled dreams of an acting career.

The men in the story were all well drawn also, but it was the women, more than anything, that truly captured my attention.

Still, those surface differences hide something similar: both women are strong and determined, each in their own way, and each must ultimately make hard choices in order to find a life that is closer to the one they dream of.

Aside from the strong woman characters found, not just in Mari and Violet, but also in Marisol’s mother and young daughter, and in Violet’s friend’s Evie and Roxy, what I loved about this book was the way the city of Santa Cruz was a character in its own right, both in the 40’s and in the contemporary part of the story.

Boardwalk towns always have a kind of magic that other cities never do, but Santa Cruz is a special blend of old world California and new, hipster California, of the dark side of colonialism, and the brighter side of a thriving Latinx culture and a university town (Go Slugs!) blending into a quirky, lively, harmonious whole, and author Meredith Jaeger has captured that particularly well.

With realistic, dimensional characters, a true-to-life setting and a pair of plots that are equally compelling Boardwalk Summer is as delightful as a ride on the Giant Dipper (the vintage wooden roller coaster on the boardwalk) without any chance of nausea afterward.

Goes well with cotton candy eaten as you stroll along the wooden planks on a balmy summer evening, listening to the music from the carousel.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 19th: bookchickdi

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Tuesday, July 3rd: BookNAround

Wednesday, July 4th: Tina Says…

Thursday, July 5th: Instagram: @writersdream

 

 

 

Review: The Cottages on Silver Beach, by RaeAnne Thayne

About the book, The Cottages on Silver Beach Cottages on Silver Beach

 

  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books; Original edition (July 1, 2018)
  • Publication Date: June 19, 2018

Years after betraying her, he’s back in Haven Point…and ready to learn the truth

Megan Hamilton never really liked Elliot Bailey. He turned his back on her family when they needed him the most and it almost tore them all apart. So she’s shocked when Elliot arrives at her family’s inn, needing a place to stay and asking questions that dredge up the past. Megan will rent him a cottage, but that’s where it ends—no matter how gorgeous Elliot has become.

Coming back home to Haven Point was the last thing bestselling writer Elliot Bailey thought he’d ever do. But the book he’s writing now is his most personal one yet and it’s drawn him back to the woman he can’t get out of his mind. Seeing Megan again is harder than he expected and it brings up feelings he’d thought were long buried. Could this be his chance to win over his first love?

Buy, read, and discuss The Cottages on Silver Beach:

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.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I reviewed another of Thayne’s Haven Point novels, Sugar Pine Trail, last fall, and really enjoyed the way she mixed a cozy small town environment with equal parts of romance and light suspense, so when I was offered the opportunity to review The Cottages on Silver Beach this spring, I was delighted to accept.

In this novel, we see Haven Point during a shoulder season – it’s not the height of summer or winter, when most tourists visit – and we are introduced to inn owner and fine art photographer Megan and her dog Cyrus. Megan has lived at the inn since childhood, and run it for most of her adult life, and it’s not just a job to her, it’s truly her home. In fact, she lives in one of the eponymous rental cottages that are part of the inn.

We also meet Elliot, FBI agent and popular crime writer, as well as the childhood best friend of Megan’s brother. He’s in town for a family wedding, and rents the cottage next door to Megan’s.

The romance that follows is very much the story of two adults who are attracted to each other, but have baggage they need to deal with before they can act on that attraction. It’s alternately sweet and frustrating, which is proof that author Thayne writes believable, dimensional characters: sometimes you’re rooting for them, sometimes you want to shake them so they come to their senses, and most of the time, it’s a combination of both.

I also like the way Thayne’s created setting of Haven Point feels like a real town. It’s just cute enough to be a tourist destination, but neither the town nor its citizens are without flaws, and that lends to the feeling that this is a place you could visit, if you just knew where to turn.

Overall, this is an enjoyable book, neither to sappy nor too suspenseful, but a perfect balance of both, making it the perfect summer escape.

Goes well with a fresh cup of hot coffee and a perfectly fluffy omelet.