Review: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), by Terri-Lynne DeFino

About the book The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) cover

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Buy, read and discuss The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers and Their Muses:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terri-Lynne DeFino

Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.

Find out more about Terri at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

There was a film that came out several years ago, starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly: Quartet. It was about a retirement home for aging musicians, and it was fabulous, populated by quirky characters who all had music in common. (Rent it, I beg you; you won’t be sorry.)

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) is the literary equivalent of that movie. It’s a funny, poignant novel full of quirky characters who have two things in common: they are writers, and they are aging.

While Alfonse is the highlighted character, and I enjoyed learning his story immensely, I have to admit, that Cecibel, the caregiver with the ruined face is one of the two characters who grabbed me even more (the other is Olivia, who use marijuana in the garden and whom we meet on the first page, but I confess that’s because we have a family friend who is an eccentric writer named Olivia.)

Cecibel’s arc is one that goes from caregiver to fan to friend, and watching her growth is fascinating, though honestly, the whole book is charming and engaging.

What I appreciated as much as the well-drawn characters was the author’s flair for specific description. “Mr Carducci’s suite of rooms smelled of pine cleaner and lemon wax, leather, and wood,” DeFino wrote, and I was instantly transported into his space. Description like that seems to be going out of style, but I love having a sense of place when I read.

This book is a great beach read, perfect as a summer choice for a book club. The characters are so richly and the story so good that even though the title makes it seem almost a gimick, the reality is that this is a very human look at the way we age as people and as artists.

Goes well with hot tea, fresh fruit, warm bread with butter, and a blank notebook with a smooth-writing pen.


Tour Stops for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Writers (and Their Muses) https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Review Stops:

Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 15th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 25th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

Instagram Features:

Tuesday, June 12th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Wednesday, June 13th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Thursday, June 14th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Friday, June 15th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Saturday, June 16th: Instagram: @bookishconnoisseur

Sunday, June 17th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Monday, June 18th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Review: Chasing the Demon, by Paul Sating

About the book, Chasing the Demon CHasing the Demon by Paul Sating

 

  • Series: Subject: Found (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Paul Sating Productions (May 15, 2018)

Jared Strong has been haunted by bigfoot since his childhood. An early life experience drove his passion for capturing the beast. Now, as an adult, he has given up everything to find the elusive creature. Determined to succeed, his passion and discipline have taken him to some of the greatest finds ever recorded. But he’s not satisfied with mere evidence. He wants to bring the world a bigfoot. There are things that stand between him and his dream. The creature doesn’t want to be found. But it isn’t alone. His estranged wife has moved on with her life. And other forces stand ready to block Jared’s path. Powerful people who don’t want him to succeed. Now Jared must make a choice between focusing on his crumbling marriage or giving everything he has for this last chance to prove this monster exists, even as he is threatened from all sides. Who will win in the end?

Buy, read, and discuss Chasing the Demon:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Paul Sating Paul Sating

Paul Sating is an author and audio dramatist who spends most of his time traveling the Pacific Northwest in search of elusive monsters everyone claims aren’t real.

The creator of Subject: Found, Who Killed Julie, and Diary of a Madman audio dramas, Paul began adapting many of those scripts to novel form and is looking to release his first two novels in 2018.

He stays grounded by rooting for bad soccer teams, traveling around the beautiful corner of the world he calls home, and spending every moment he can with his wife and two daughters.

Connect with Paul:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

My first introduction to Paul was through a posting in an audio drama group. He was looking for a reader for something. I didn’t get the part, but I asked to be his friend on Facebook, and quickly fell in love with his brain. When he asked if people would be willing to be advanced readers of the novelization of his audio drama of the same name, Chasing the Demon, I asked if I could, and he graciously sent me a digital copy. Then I got super-sick, had to make an emergency trip to South Dakota because my father-in-law died, and then had family here delivering inherited furniture. By the time my head was clear enough to be a critical reader, it was June, so I said I’d review his book here, instead.

Chasing the Demon is, put simply, brilliant. While a casual glance at the back cover blurb might lead you to think it’s a story about monsters  – which it is, in a way – it’s primarily a human story. It’s about obsession, the need to answer our deepest questions, and what that need can drive us to do.

Originally released as an audio drama, this book reads quite well as a novel. I purposely did NOT listen to the audio drama before reading it, because I wanted to approach it with no preconceptions, and I was blown away by Sating’s use of dialogue, and his deftness at crafting characters. Protagonist Jared Strong is, at times, frustrating because there are choices he makes that are detrimental to his personal life, but that tendency only makes him feel more real. At the same time, he’s sympathetic. As a reader, I was rooting for him to succeed. The fact that one character evokes both of these responses is, I feel, a testament to the author’s dedication.

But Jared is not the only character in this novel.

His friends Lucas and Peter, very different people, indulge him in his obsession, to a point, but they also speak truth to him, the way only real friends can. Their relationship is well-developed, and mixes humor with natural skepticism and real concern. We could all use friends like this.

Then there is Maria. There is a lot of reflection about Maria – Jared muses about the way their marriage has been crumbling – but we don’t really hear from her until about a third of the way into the story. That’s fine. It’s Jared’s story. But where I was prepared to be disappointed in her minimal presence, I was instead impressed by the way Sating wrote the initial phone call between the estranged husband and wife. He has captured the tone of such conversations – the poignance, the annoyance, the very real sorrow and regret – perfectly.

Overall, Chasing the Demon is an excellent first novel. While it is a little bit exposition-heavy (of necessity, I feel), that choice doesn’t detract from the flow or pacing of the story. It’s a satisfying read, with crisp dialogue, a compelling plot, and dimensional characters.

Goes well with a cold beer – maybe a microbrew IPA –  and hot dogs roasted over a campfire.

CHasing the Demon by Paul Sating

 

Review: Lighthouse Beach, by Shelley Noble

About the book, Lighthouse Beach Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 29, 2018)

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams.

What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach.

Buy, read, and discuss Lighthouse Beach:

Harper Collins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary Brown

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my favorite writers of “beach books,” as most of her novels are set in coastal locations. (I grew up on the Jersey shore, and it’s still the home of my heart, so even when a story takes place in Maine, as Lighthouse Beach does, I feel like I’m visiting the beaches of my childhood.)

In this book, she combines two of my favorite things: beach settings, and women supporting other women, which may be the ultimate combination of storytelling. Each of the five women in this story: Lillo, Jess, Allie, Diana, and Mac, are a bit broken, a bit lost, a bit in need of a restart. In “kidnapping” Jess from a wedding she truly didn’t want to go through with, and using Lillo’s Lighthouse Beach community as their sanctuary, each of them begins to heal. (Mac is a longtime resident, but her story becomes intertwined with that of the other four, so it seems wrong not to include her.)

Friendships between women are  things to be treasured, and while some of the friendships among these five people exist at the start of the story, others form as the tale is told. Never once does anything feel contrived. Noble’s characters all have distinct voices and personalities, and they feel like the women we all know.

While Lillo and Jess are the true heart of this book, I found myself (likely because I’m three months away from turning 48) identifying with Mac a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always harbored a secret desire to live in a lighthouse (or at least in the keeper’s cottage).

While the women in this book are the main characters, there are men, lovely men, in the story as well. Ned, Ian, Clancy  – all have their moments to shine, and all are as distinct and interesting as the women who interact with them.

As I was reading this, I found myself wishing I could join the group in Maggie’s kitchen or Lillo’s living room, or on the beach. It doesn’t matter if it’s wine or beer or tea or some of each. What matters is the support we get from our circle of friends, and Shelley Noble has captured that with humor, wit, sincerity, and real dimension.

Goes well with a glass of cabernet sipped while sitting in the sand on a chilly coastal evening. Sweaters, jeans, and bare feet recommended. Bonfire optional.


Lighthouse Beach Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, May 31st: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Friday, June 1st: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 5th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, June 12th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, June 14th: Jessicamap Reviews

Friday, June 15th: Literary Quicksand

Review: Because I’m Worth It, by Linda Nielsen

About the book, Because I’m Worth It Because-Im-Worth-It-cover

• Paperback: 346 pages
• Publisher: TouchPoint Press (March 1, 2018)

An impressive contract combined with lavish perks influence Skye Topple to marry the boss’ daughter, Delaney Mae Anne Covington, a self-centered and spoiled southern belle. The “perfect” wedding is threatened when an alarming secret refuses to stay hidden. With no regard for anyone other than herself and her daughter, Delaney’s alcoholic mother takes control, inserting irrational solutions that leave mother and daughter looking foolish while a baby’s life, a grandmother’s love, and a man’s career hang in the balance. This is certainly not a North meets South story—more like South moves North and meets West, where what works for one family may not work for another. Choices must be made. Lives will be changed. One thing is for sure… Skye is smack dab in the middle when Big Sur life meets country club values.

Buy, read, and discuss Because I’m Worth It: 

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Linda Nielsen Linda Nielsen

Linda’s first book, Lasso the Stars, was published in 2011 under L.L. Nielsen. Her newest novel, Because I’m Worth It, is scheduled for release by TouchPoint Press in early 2018.

Find out more about Linda at her website, and find all her books at Author Central page.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Linda Nielsen is an excellent writer, a creator of vivid, dimensional characters, and it’s because she’s so good at this that I’m having difficulty in reviewing this book, Because I’m Worth It, because one of the main characters, Delaney’s mother, Terri Sue Ellen, is one of the most unlikable, annoying women I’ve ever encountered in fiction. And believe me, it takes talent to create a character who reads so real that you cringe every time she speaks.

Conversely, Skye’s mother, Melissa, is a character I could have read an entire novel about (and in many ways I did – this book is her story, and Terri Sue Ellen’s, as much as it is the story of Skye and Delaney and everyone else), and not just because we share a first name and a love of quirky houses and creativity.

Still a reviewer’s job isn’t to like the characters, it’s to highlight the good (or bad) points of a book, and, my visceral dislike of Terri Sue Ellen aside, I really enjoyed this book. The story is compelling with just enough twists and turns to keep it from being predictable. The contrast between Delaney’s family and Skye’s family is beautifully drawn, and the I had a great time escaping into other people’s lives for 346 pages.

Nielsen excels at dialogue as well as character crafting. I liked the differences between the breezy California styles of Skye and his family as compared to the mixture of Chicago and Southern tones in Delaney and her people. Those dialect cues made it much easier to remember where we were, as the story jumped back and forth between Big Sur, Chicago, Atlanta, and a few other places.

I haven’t read Nielsen’s other work, but I think she’s got a long, successful career ahead of her, and I’ll definitely be following it, eager to see what she writes next.

Goes well with steamed artichokes and warm butter, and a glass of California chardonnay, eaten on a coastal patio at sunset.

 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 21st: Wining Wife

Tuesday, May 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Thursday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @jessicamap

Wednesday, May 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

Tuesday, June 5th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, May 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Spotlight: Dam Nation by Hays & McFall – with Giveaway

BNR Dam Nation Tour JPG

About the book, Bonnie & Clyde: Dam Nation

  • Series: Bonnie & Clyde (Book 2)
  • Genre: Historical / Alternative History / Romance
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: March 24, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 266

cover HI RES Dam NationBonnie and Clyde: Defending the working class from a river of greed.

The year is 1935 and the Great Depression has America in a death grip of poverty, unemployment and starvation. But the New Deal is rekindling hope, with federally funded infrastructure projects, like Hoover Dam, putting people back to work.  Set to harness the mighty Colorado River for electricity and irrigation, the dam is an engineering marvel and symbol of American can-do spirit.

So, why is someone trying to blow it up?

When an informant on the construction site is murdered, Bonnie and Clyde—spared from their gruesome deaths and forced into a covert life working for the government—are given their second assignment: stop the bomb and protect the thousands of laborers and families in the company town. It’s their most dangerous mission yet: working for a living.

Can the notorious lovers put aside their criminal ways long enough to find out who wants to extinguish the American dream, and hopefully reclaim a shred of redemption along the way?

The thrilling story cuts back and forth between the modern era where a reporter interviews the now-elderly Bonnie Parker, and the dangerous 1930s undercover exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, as they are thrust into a fight to defend the working class against corporate greed.

Dam Nation, a historical thriller with unsettling contemporary parallels, continues the explosive “what-if” series, started in Resurrection Road, about two unlikely heroes fighting to defend the working class during America’s Great Depression.

Praise for Dam Nation: GRAPHIC with Kirkus Review

Crisply written, well-researched, thoroughly entertaining. As in Resurrection Road, Hays and McFall evoke time and place well in this sequel. The story’s politics are fresh and timely. Readers will find Bonnie and Clyde to be great company, and the novel’s framing story (the widowed Bonnie’s 1984 recollections) gives their relationship an extra layer of poignancy. — Kirkus Reviews

“Dam Nation” highlights the real-life turmoil of the 1930s as only Hays and McFall can — shadowy intrigue, plenty of suspects and enough behind-the-scenes and under-the-covers action to keep the narrative sizzling along to the final page. — East Oregonian

A rollicking good read. The real history of the rise of unions and worker rights against the backdrop of a nation recovering from the Great Depression contributes an engrossing, realistic scenario; a vivid read that blends fiction with nonfiction elements in a way that makes the book hard to put down. — Midwest Book Review

Buy, read, and discuss Dam Nation:

Amazon | Goodreads

Check out a quote from Dam Nation:

Notable Quotable from Dam Nation

Watch the trailer for Resurrection Road (book one of Bonnie  & Clyde):

 


About the authors, Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall Authors Hays_Mcfall Photo

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Dam Nation is their sixth co-authored book.

Connect with Hays & McFall:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 


Giveaway

Three Winners Each Win a Signed Copy + $10 Amazon Gift Card

MAY 16-25, 2018

(U.S. Only)

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Bonnie & Clyde Dam Nation Blog Tour Stops

5/16/18 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
5/17/18 Review Forgotten Winds
5/18/18 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
5/19/18 Notable Quotable Bibliotica
5/20/18 Review Missus Gonzo
5/21/18 Character Interview Texas Book Lover
5/22/18 Notable Quotable Tangled in Text
5/23/18 Review Hall Ways Blog
5/24/18 Guest Post Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/25/18 Review Momma on the Rocks

 

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Review: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes – with Giveaway

Searching for Pilar

Scroll down for giveaway.

About the book, Searching for Pilar Searching for Pilar

  • Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
  • Publisher: River Grove Books
  • Publication Date: April 10, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 320 pages

Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking, while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.

Buy, read, and discuss Searching for Pilar:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Hunt Holmes

Patricia Hunt HolmesPatricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

Connect with Patricia:

Website  ║  Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads ║ LinkedIn


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With gritty subject matter – sex trafficking – at the heart of this novel, it was by no means an easy read, and I’m hesitant to say that I liked it, because, in terms of what Pilar suffered, I didn’t like it at all.

However, the fact that I even had to pause and think about what I was liking is testament to author Patricia Hunt Holmes’s talent as a storyteller. She create such a strong character in Pilar, and such a vibrant and rich (if often sinister and cold) world for her to occupy, that the story itself was gripping, and I stayed up far too late to read to the end, because I couldn’t let the story go unfinished.

What I really liked about Searching for Pilar was the author’s sense of place. Mexico scenes felt like Mexico, and Houston felt like Houston. That level of detail really made the novel feel real – too real, in places – but these are stories we need to hear, this is an awareness we need to have.

Author Holmes gives us a compelling, ultimately brilliant story about a horrible practice, but she does it with care and grace and considerable talent.

Goes well with a chicken quesadilla with mango salsa, and a margarita on the rocks.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS! 

1st & 2nd Prizes: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + Mexican Necklace

3rd Prize: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + $20 Amazon Gift Card

(U.S. Only)

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Searching for Pilar Blog Tour Stops

4/25/18 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
4/26/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
4/27/18 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
4/28/18 Review Tangled in Text
4/29/18 Guest Post The Page Unbound
4/30/18 Scrapbook Page That’s What She’s Reading
5/1/18 Review Bibliotica
5/2/18 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
5/3/18 Guest Post The Librarian Talks
5/4/18 Review Missus Gonzo

 

 

 

Review: The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, by J. Reeder Archuleta – with Giveaway

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

About the book, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

  • Genre: Fiction /Short Stories / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 132

These short stories are about coming of age in rural far West Texas.  The stories are about the people who have come to stay in a remote part of Texas with a climate that can be harsh and unpredictable and that is demanding and unforgiving.  The stories are told through the eyes of Josh, a young boy, who finds himself alone in a small farm and ranch community and who realizes that he will have to make his own way in this place.  Along the way he meets a group of characters with different takes on life.  Some try to help shield him from the chaos of the world, some try to add more chaos. But all of them, in their own distinct way, through jobs, advice, or actions, play a part in his life.

Praise for The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

“Punchy, plainspoken dialogue…colorful and charismatic characters…The result is an atmospheric Texas…reminiscent of Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The universality of Josh’s journey gives it a timeless quality…a rich tapestry…The stories are conveyed in lean, elegant prose reminiscent of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy” — Blue Ink Review

“Archuleta’s collection offers poignant and hopeful stories of determination in the face of need. Thoroughly engaging…narrated with passion and eloquence…” — The Clarion Review       

Buy, read, and discuss The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, J. Reeder Archuleta J Reeder Archuleta

The author was raised in far West Texas and five generations of his family are in their final resting place there.  His great-grandfather is buried in Concordia Cemetery in El Paso within spitting distance of the grave of John Wesley Hardin.

Connect with J. Reeder:

Website | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

I love short stories. I love how much talent and skill it takes to tell a whole story in a relatively few words. I love the way they force writers to distill their ideas to the most important, the most vivid, the most visceral.

This collection of short stories by J. Reeder Archuleta, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, is one of the best representatives of this art that I’ve seen from a contemporary author. Archuleta is specific with regard to detail – brands of whisky, kinds of beer, types of toys. His use of language is earthy and real, as gritty as the air during a windstorm on the plains. His dialogue makes you really see his characters.

I liked the way the young boy Josh, whom we meet in the first selection in this book, becomes the POV character, the thread that ties all the stories together. From the first time we see him, scared and young, being pulled away from the life he knows by is desperate mother, through the entire collection, we seem grow and change, and yet, because this isn’t a novel, it’s possible that he isn’t exactly the same Josh, that rather, he’s reflections of the original, each incarnation slightly different from the previous and the next.

I’ve lived in Texas for nearly fourteen years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere, but I don’t really know Texas. There’s so much of it I haven’t seen, certainly, except for when we drove through to Dallas from California, I’ve never experienced West Texas, and yet, from time spent in Colorado as a child, and South Dakota as a young wife, I feel a kind of kinship with the landscape Archuleta describes.

I went into this book afraid I might be turned off, and was surprised to find that I really connected with the easy storytelling and honest portrayals of real-seeming people.

Archuleta is a modern Hemingway. A Texas treasure. And these stories? They should be shared as far and wide as possible.

Goes well with: barbecued brisket and cold beer.


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TWO WINNERS EACH WIN

A SIGNED COPY OF THE EL PASO RED FLAME GAS STATION +

A $5 STARBUCKS GIFT CARD

APRIL 17-26, 2018

(US ONLY)

 

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Visit the other great blogs on this tour

4/17/18 Promo The Page Unbound
4/17/18 Bonus Post Hall Ways Blog
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Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

About the book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

 

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 24, 2018)

Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s coming-of-age story is, according to Booklist, “a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border.”

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

Buy, read and discuss The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Dugoni Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, including My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, The Trapped Girl, and Close to Home. The Crosswhite Series has sold more than 2,500,000 books worldwide, and My Sister’s Grave has been optioned for television series development. Dugoni is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane series, which includes The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction; the stand-alone novels The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, The 7th Canon, and Damage Control; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; as well as several short stories. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for both the International Thriller Award and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award. His books are sold worldwide in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages, including French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Connect with Robert:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve read several of Robert Dugoni’s novels, and enjoyed all of them, so when I was given the chance to read this novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, before it was actually released, I eagerly accepted.

As all the press about this novel is saying, it’s a departure from Dugoni’s usual fare. Rather than a mystery or thriller, this is a very personal coming-of-age novel that deals with friendship and love as well as the way different people experience ‘otherness’ whether it’s because they’re a girl, or have different skin color, or have oddly colored eyes.

As always, Dugoni’s use of language is what really caught me. Like Hemingway, he uses simple language, but it’s well chosen, and delicately crafted. Unlike Hemingway, there’s something really dimensional about the characters Dugoni has created. Sam, the POV character, is obviously the one who is drawn most vividly, but Ernie and Mickie are equally real, their dialogue natural and believable.

Dugoni excels at plot – a skill he honed with those afore-mentioned mysteries and thrillers – and it really shows here. This novel is perfectly paced, never plodding, never racing too quickly toward a conclusion. Overall, it was a compelling story and a greatly satisfying read.

Goes well with a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a touch of honey, served on organic, multigrain toast.

 

Review: True Stories from an Unreliable Witness by Christine Lahti

About the book, True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness True-Stories-From-an-Unreliable-Eyewitness-cover

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (April 3, 2018)

A fiercely intelligent, hilarious, and deeply feminist collection of interrelated personal stories from Academy, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award–winning actress and director Christine Lahti.

For decades, actress and director Christine Lahti has captivated the hearts and minds of her audience through iconic roles in Chicago Hope, Running on Empty, Housekeeping, And Justice for All, Swing Shift, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, God of Carnage, and The Blacklist. Now, in True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness, this acclaimed performer channels her creativity inward to share her own story for the first time on the page.

In this poignant essay collection, Lahti focuses on three major periods of her life: her childhood, her early journey as an actress and activist, and the realities of her life as a middle-aged woman in Hollywood today. Lahti’s comical and self-deprecating voice shines through in stories such as “Kidnapped” and “Shit Happens,” and she takes a boldly honest look at the painful fissures in her family in pieces such as “Mama Mia” and “Running on Empty.” Taken together, the collection illuminates watershed moments in Lahti’s life, revealing her struggle to maintain integrity, fight her need for perfection, and remain true to her feminist inclinations.

Lahti’s wisdom and candid insights are reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and Joan Rivers’s I Hate Everyone—and yet her experiences are not exclusive to one generation. The soul of her writing can be seen as a spiritual mother to feminist actresses and comedic voices whose works are inspiring today’s young women, including Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, Caitlin Moran, and Jenny Lawson. Her stories reveal a stumbling journey toward agency and empowerment as a woman—a journey that’s still very much a work in progress.

True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness is about the power of storytelling to affirm and reframe the bedrock of who we are, revealing that we’re all unreliable eyewitnesses when it comes to our deeply personal memories. Told in a wildly fresh, unique voice, and with the unshakable ability to laugh at herself time and again, this is Christine Lahti’s best performance yet.

Buy, read, and discuss True Stories from an Unreliable Witness:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Christine Lahti Christine-Lahti-AP-Photo-by-Peter-Ash-Lee

Christine Lahti is an acclaimed director and stage, television, and film actress with a career that spans over forty years. She won an Oscar for her short film, Lieberman in Love; an Oscar nomination for Swing Shift; a Golden Globe Award for No Place Like Home; an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Chicago Hope; and an Obie Award for Little Murders. On Broadway, she starred in God of Carnage and The Heidi Chronicles, among many others. Her films include Running on Empty and Housekeeping. Her television shows include Jack and BobbyLaw & Order SVU, and The Blacklist. She lives in New York City and Los Angeles.

Connect with Christine:

Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I was a kid, I used to love checking the mail, especially since it meant that I’d get first crack at my mother’s copy of Ms. Magazine. At the tender age of ten, a lot of the material was outside of my experience, but I loved the section at the back called “clicks,” which was a monthly sampling of reader contributions, each describing a moment when feminism, or the need for it, “clicked” into place.

This book, True Stories from an Unreliable Witness, includes many essays that represent similar “clicks” in author Christine Lahti’s life, filtered through her personal experience as an actress and director as well as the fact that perception and memory are incredibly subjective.

Whether she’s talking about a turd incident when she was in first grade, or making a pact with her best friend to remain chaste until marriage (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen),  Ms. Lahti’s writing voice is authentic and engaging. She tells her stories without any Hollywood artifice, and admits that her version of various events are presented the way she recalls them, even if her friends and siblings might have differing accounts (hence the “unreliable witness” qualifier in the title).

While the essays highlighted in the promotional material for this book were wonderful, my favorites were “Losing Virginity,” which is mid-way through the collection, and manages to be sweet, sad, and hilarious, all at once, and “The Smile of Her” which is a textual portrait of Lahti’s mother.

Ms. Lahti was born the same year as my mother, which makes her a Baby Boomer to my solid Gen-X (I was born in 1970), and the difference a single generation can make really struck me. In the afore-mentioned  “Losing Virginity,” Lahti mentions having just read Our Bodies, Ourselves. I’m guessing she had a copy of the same booklet – not much more than a pamphlet, at that time – that my mother eventually passed on to me inside the cover of the dictionary-sized revised edition she gave me for my 21st birthday.

Because these are essays, it’s easy to skip around in the book, reading the titles that intrigue you most before moving on to another, but taken in order of presentation they form a memoir that is witty and wise, funny and frustrating, poignant and powerful. While these glimpses into Ms. Lahti’s life are absolutely her story, at the same time, I feel like they’re every woman’s story, too.

Goes well with a glass of red wine, good bread, sharp cheese, and a small dish of olives.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, April 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, April 12th: Openly Bookish

Monday, April 16th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, April 17th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Wednesday, April 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, April 19th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, April 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, April 24th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Wednesday, April 25th: Wining Wife

Thursday, April 26th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Friday, April 27th: Harry Times…all jacked up

TBD: Eliot’s Eats

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

About the book, The Secret to Southern Charm The Secret to Southern Charm by Smith Harvey Photography

 

  • Series: The Peachtree Bluff Series (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (April 3, 2018)

 

Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

Harvey’s signature warmth and wit make this a charming and poignant story of first loves, missed opportunities, and second chances and proves that she is “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author).

Buy, read, and discuss The Secret to Southern Charm:

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


About the author, Kristy Woodson Harvey Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the bestselling author of Dear Carolina (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2015), Lies and Other Acts of Love (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2016) and the Peachtree Bluff Series, beginning with Slightly South of Simple (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, 2017). Dear Carolina was long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, has been optioned for film and has appeared on numerous “must-read” lists. Lies and Other Acts of Love was a Romantic Times top pick, a Southern Booksellers Okra Pick and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. Slightly South of Simple was a Southern Bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Bestseller, one of PopSugar’s picks for “Ultimate Summer Reading” and one of Glitter Guide’s “Must-Reads for April.” The Secret to Southern Charm, the second book in the Peachtree Bluff series, releases April 3, 2018.

She blogs with her mom, Beth Woodson, daily on Design Chic, the inaugural member of the Design Blogger Hall of Fame sponsored by Traditional Home and winner of Amara’s Best Luxury Blog, sponsored by Roberto Cavalli, about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a master’s in English from East Carolina University, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, Parade, USA Today, Domino, Our State and O. Henry. She has been seen in Women’s Health, The Washington Post, US News and World Report, The Huffington Post, USA Today’s Happy Every After, Marie Claire’s The Fix, Woman’s World, Readers’ Digest and North Carolina Bookwatch, among others. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and six-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

Connect with Kristy:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve been reviewing Kristy Woodson Harvey’s work since Dear Carolina, in 2015, and I’ve never been disappointed. This book, The Secret to Southern Charm, is her first sequel, continuing on from last year’s Slightly South of Simple. If you’re at all worried that you have to be familiar with the previous book, don’t be. This novel works as a standalone, though you’ll probably want to go read the earlier story.  Similarly, if you’re the type to be concerned that sequels are never as good as book one, you may put those concerns to rest. Harvey is as strong as ever. In fact, I feel like in this novel, her voice has become fully realized.

Harvey’s novels always involve strong female characters who take all the southern stereotypes and pulverize them. Her characters are richly painted and dimensional. You really feel for them, especially for Sloane with her two kids and her militaary husband who is MIA.

In fact, it’s in Sloane that I believe Harvey has done some of her best work, showing the combination of hope and fear and grief that Army wives experience whenever their partners are deployed. What could have been angsty, was poignant, and as Sloane’s experience changes, it’s as if we’re glimpsing the soul of a real person.

Which isn’t to say that the entire book wasn’t wonderful – it was. Harvey is extremely adept at capturing the mother-daughter dynamic. Ansley, Sloane’s mother, is the perfect example to this. Essentially the second lead in this story, she’s mother to Sloane and her sisters, grandmother to their children, and a daughter herself, caring for an aging mother (whose lack of filter often provides beats of humor).

If you want a believable, relatable family drama – if you want to read a book that is full of vivid descriptions and characters who are, for the most part, truly charming, then the answer is simple. Read The Secret to Southern Charm.

Goes well with iced tea and chicken salad on a bed of lettuce.