Review: Invitation to Italy, by Victoria Springfield

Invitation To Italy

 

About the book, Invitation to Italy Invitation to Italy - Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orion (September 3, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

Abi is distraught when her ex-husband Alex takes their twelve-year-old daughter, Chloe to spend the summer with his glamorous fiancée Marisa and her parents at their home on the beautiful Italian island of Procida. Persuaded by her best friend to book a holiday at the island’s Hotel Paradiso, Abi finally meets the woman she’s been avoiding for so long. Will the two women’s strained relationship survive the summer?

One-time teenage swimming sensation, Loretta, has run the Hotel Paradiso since leaving Capri broken-hearted. When childhood friend Salvo comes to stay, Loretta is forced to confront her past and the fears that have kept her away from the water for forty years. But just as she finds the courage to open her heart, she discovers all is not as it seems with Salvo…

It’s a summer of new beginnings for Abi and Loretta – and one they will never forget.

 Take a trip to Italy with Victoria Springfield for a summery getaway any time of the year!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Victoria Springfield Victoria Springfield b&w-13

Victoria Springfield writes contemporary women’s fiction immersed in the sights, sounds and flavours of Italy. Victoria grew up in Upminster, Essex. After many years in London, she now lives in Kent with her husband in a house by the river. She likes to write in the garden with a neighbour’s cat by her feet or whilst drinking cappuccino in her favourite café. Then she types up her scribblings in silence whilst her mind drifts away to Italy.

Connect with Victoria:

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Connect with Orion Books:

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

I love reading books set in places I’ve never been, because they always make me want to be there. In this case, the Island of Procida, off the coast of Naples. (My family originates from Naples, so I’m always extra-excited when stories are set in that region.)  Invitation to Italy not only added a new destination to my travel bucket list, but also gave me two stories in one.

 

The first story is that Abi, who basically crashes her ex-husband’s holiday in order (ostensibly) to keep an eye on their thirteen-year-old daughter who, like most young teens, is at that age where she believes she can do anything and get away with it.

 

I come from a generation where parents didn’t hover like that. In fact, from the age of seven, I was shuttled off to my grandparents’ house on the beach (and halfway across the country) for entire summers, and my mother was likely relieved not to be the Entertainment Committee for those months, so I didn’t really relate to that plot, though I totally understood Abi’s need for a vacation of her own and her curiosity about Marisa, her ex’s new partner.

 

The second story, that of Loretta, the owner/manager of Hotel Paradiso (where the action is set) was more relatable to me, because I know what it’s like to feel like a slave to a business you own and once loved, and I also related to the fearlessness she had as a younger woman and somehow lost.

 

Author Victoria Springfield’s talent for vivid descriptions – the specific colors of nailpoliish for example, really go a long way to set the scene. I could feel the sun, smell the salt air, and taste the limoncello. Similarly, her writing style is breezy without being shallow, and I adore that about her books.

 

Overall, Invitation to Italy is a satisfying summer read, with great characters and a fabulous setting.

 

Goes well with: grilled calamari and prosecco.


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Review: Shadow of the Witch, by Colin Garrow

Shadow of the Witch

 

About the book Shadow of the Witch Shadow of the Witch cover ebook

  • Series: Black Witch Saga (Book 2)
  • Publisher: ‎ Independently published (November 18, 2023)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Paperback: ‎ 193 pages

London, 1677. A house with a dark secret. A lawyer in pursuit of magick. A witch, dead for fifty years.

Israel Cutler, dealer in second-hand goods, discovers the journals of Doctor Winter. Detailing the doctor’s relationship with a hanged witch, he recognises an opportunity. Seeking out a lawyer he knows with an interest in the occult, Cutler tries to sell the journals, but soon finds himself involved in a terrifying ritual—one that could bring black witch Lizzie Pickin back from the dead. Again.

Forced into a dangerous partnership, the witch leads Cutler on a trail of murder and revenge.

In this horror series set in London, Shadow of the Witch is book #2 in the Black Witch Saga.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | SmashWords | Goodreads


About the author, Colin Garrow

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate.

His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in Northeast Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

He also makes rather nice vegan cakes.

Connect with Colin:

Website | BookBub | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

I’m a huge horror fan, and I love a good thriller as well, so I was happy to find that Shadow of the Witch is a blend of both genres. I did not realize it was the second book in a series when I read it, but I didn’t feel like I was missing a ton of backstory.  Would I have enjoyed this more if I’d read the first book. Maybe, maybe not.

 

But this isn’t just a horror/thriller. It’s also an historical novel, and author Colin Garrow did an excellent job of setting the scene. The language was accessible but didn’t feel too contemporary, and his descriptions of people and places – especially the latter – were cinematic. I felt like I was walking dark, damp streets.

 

I also really liked the main character, Israel Cutler and his exploration of Dr. Winter’s journal and the story contained within. It’s rare to see an historical story with an even deeper (if not particularly disparate in years) historic narrative inside, and I like the way Garrow made his novel into a series of fictional nesting dolls, unfolding layer by layer.

 

I want to mention that Garrow chose to write this novel in present tense. This is something that seems easy but is actually difficult, because you only get the main character’s point of view. He pulled this off with aplomb and I had a great time being inside Cutler’s head.

 

At only 193 pages, Shadow of the Witch is a fast read, but a meaty one, and the perfect companion on a rainy weekend.

 

Goes well with: Venison stew and a tankard of stout.


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Review: A Kiss in Kashmir by Monica Saigal

A Kiss in Kashmir

 

About the book, A Kiss in Kashmir A Kiss. in Kashmir by Monica Saigal

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bodes Well Publishing (January 1, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 236 pages

Sharmila, a painter entering the autumn of her life, had gently set aside hopes of love after a heart-wrenching loss. In Kashmir to orchestrate her daughter Alina’s wedding, Sharmila never anticipated that the universe was crafting a different plan—one of second chances and unexpected love.

She crosses paths with George, a professor of Indian art history and a kindred spirit bearing the weight of lost love. Together, they explore Kashmir’s lush valleys, snow-draped mountains, clear lakes, and ancient shrines. A fragile romance quietly blossoms, gently guiding their hearts toward a future neither dared to dream of.

Is it possible for a single glance to kindle a connection, or for one to find a soulmate twice?
Yet, as their burgeoning love blooms, a startling revelation threatens to cut their story short. With the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir as its canvas, “A Kiss in Kashmir” is a touching story of love, loss, and second chances.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Monica Saigal Monica Saigal 01

Equal parts storyteller and globe-trotter, Monica Saigal (Bhide), is an award-winning author, accomplished literary coach, and educator who transcends countless borders—chronological, geographical, religious, and economical—to inspire her readers. Born in New Delhi, raised in the Middle East, and now residing outside Washington, D.C., she currently serves as a corporate storyteller for one of the world’s leading professional services companies.

 

Monica writes in a variety of genres and has written best-selling short story collections and heartwarming love stories, as well as acclaimed memoirs and cookbooks—Eat Your Books chose Monica’s memoir, A Life of Spice as one of the top five food memoirs of 2015 and Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi picked Monica’s Modern Spice as one of the “Best Books Ever” for Newsweek in 2009. Her novel, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken, is a book club favorite and inspired the NPR café in Washington, D.C., to serve up creations inspired by her protagonist chef. Her much anticipated upcoming novel, A Kiss in Kashmir will be released in February 2024.

Connect with Monica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

There are so many words I can think of to describe A Kiss in Kashmir: magical, beautiful, colorful, soulful, tender.  Using the titular Kashmir as the setting, author Saigal has immersed the reading in the colors and culture of the region while spinning a believable romance between mature adults.

Art is a key theme, but also the way life’s sadnesses are balanced by joy. The central event in this story a wedding, but it’s the mother of the bride, Sharmila the painter, who is the primary figure in the composition. When she meets George, who teaches Indian art history, she finds a kindred spirit, and a second chance at love in the latter half of her life.

I liked the way Saigal balanced the art and history, the male and female, the old and young, in this story. I appreciated the way art wasn’t just something characters talked about, but something they lived. I wanted to step inside one of Sharmila’s paintings just so I would have a better view of her life.

Saigal’s writing style is also worthy of note. It begins with simple sentences, but they grow in complexity, becoming almost lyrical as the story unfolds. Unexpectedly, this novel was a quick read for me – it felt so fluid that I didn’t realize how much I was speeding through it, until, as sometimes happens with very vivid stories, I came to the end and felt myself having to readjust to my own world.

Overall, this is a deeply satisfying novel with excellent characters and rich storytelling.

Goes well with: fish curry and rice.

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Review: A Beggar’s Bargain, by Jan Sikes – with Giveaway

BNR A Beggar's Bargain

 

About the book, A Beggar’s Bargain

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
  • Publisher: Fresh Ink Group
  • Date of Publication: March 12, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 324 pages
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Cover A Beggar's BargainA shocking proposal that changes everything

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and for time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger.

If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


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About the author, Jan Sikes Author Photo Sikes

Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

 

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, although she’s been an avid reader all her life. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale that encompasses four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

 

And now, this author can’t put down the pen. She continues to write fiction in a variety of genres and has published many award-winning short stories and novels.

 

Jan is an active blogger, a member of Story Empire, a devoted fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.

Connect with Jan:

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | X (TWITTER) | NEWSLETTER | BOOKBUB | AMAZON | GOODREADS


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

While I’m not typically a fan of the forced marriage trope, I am familiar with author Jan Sikes’s work, and trust her ability to tell a good story, so I gave A Beggar’s Bargain a chance, and I’m so glad I did. From the first page to the last, this book is a tender, honest, period piece that shows the real meaning of “chosen family” and the strength behind such creations.

 

I found myself completely absorbed by Laykin and Sara Beth’s story – how they formed a partnership, then welcomed ‘Uncle Seymour’ into their home to become a team, adding stray humans and animals as they went along, showing that kindness is a universal quality, and trust can be restored even after it’s been lost.

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Sikes’s language in this book is plain, but not simple, and while the details of this story were definitely gritty, with challenges and villains that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic western, the way she made everyday people seem special and interesting reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder – if the Little House books had been written for an adult audience.

 

Maybe, then, Jan Sikes is one of Wilder’s spiritual successors, because this tale about a Little Farmhouse in Missouri has the makings of a classic. It’s also the first book in a series, and I’m excited to learn what happens next.

 

Goes well with cold tea and warm cornbread… or coffee and homemade chocolate cake.


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Two winners receive $20 Amazon gift cards;

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04/09/24 Forgotten Winds Guest Post
04/09/24 Hall Ways Blog Book Trailer
04/10/24 The Clueless Gent Review
04/10/24 LSBBT Blog Excerpt
04/11/24 The Book’s Delight Review
04/12/24 The Page Unbound Author Interview
04/13/24 Bibliotica Review
04/14/24 StoreyBook Reviews Top Ten List
04/15/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
04/16/24 The Real World According to Sam Excerpt
04/17/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
04/18/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

 

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Shahrazad’s Gift by Gretchen McCullough – Review & Giveaway

BNR Shaharazad's Gift

 

About the Book, Shahrazad’s Gift Cover Shahrazad's Gift

  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Linked Short Stories / Humor
  • Publisher: Cune Press
  • Date of Publication: February 20, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 198 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo—magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough’s Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

 

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, Gretchen McCullough Author Photo Gretchen

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.

Connect with Gretchen:

Website | Goodreads | American University Faculty Webpage


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This book is a collection of short stories set in Cairo. While there is some intersection of the characters, for the most part, each story stands alone.

 

In these different narratives, author Gretchen McCullough has given us a glimpse of the city from the perspectives of American, British,  and Japanese ex-pats and locals alike. Each story shows the struggles of cultural differences while also delving into the individual struggles of the characters. Queenie is a costume designer with a rocky past. Joe is terminally ill. Keiko is certain she is hearing noises from the empty flat upstairs. Hoda is obsessed with her neighbor and his sexual escapades, using voyeurism as an escape from a depressing and distressing marriage and family.

 

A couple of the stories very specifically referenced the events of September 11, 2001 and how the mostly American ex-pats living in Egypt reacted – some became paranoid, others became news junkies. Similarly represented were responses to the protests in that county several years later.

 

Every story features dimensional, well-drawn characters, all of whom are supremely human and flawed. Author McCullough is a deft hand with description but also excelled with dialogue, making the background and history of each character very clear.

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While I appreciated this collection of stories for it’s homage to A Thousand and One Nights  and the incredible craft of the author, it was a challenging read for me because I found so many of the characters unlikeable that I just couldn’t relate to their stories very well. Still, good writing provokes a reaction, even if that reaction is to hope you never, ever, meet any of these people in real life.

 

Of all the stories, the one I found most fascinating was “The Charm” which depicts the deterioration of Dr. Sheri as seen by her cleaning woman, Zeinab. It’s a gradual spiraling out of control and a fantastic portrait of anxiety, paranoia, and other mental illness.

 

I also really appreciated “Tiger” about an American visiting “the Pyramids” after losing their job as a teaching assistant in Mississippi.

 

Overall, Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of candid portrayals and gritty situations as well as an exploration of what it is to be “other.”

 

Goes well with: mint tea and honey cakes.


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Two winners receive paperbacks

One winner receives the eBook of Shahrazad’s Gift

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04/02/24 Rox Burkey Blog Excerpt
04/02/24 Hall Ways Blog Notable Quotables
04/03/24 StoreyBook Reviews Guest Post
04/03/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
04/04/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
04/05/24 Bibliotica Review
04/06/24 Rebecca R. Cahill, Author Author Interview
04/07/24 The Page Unbound Review
04/08/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
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04/10/24 Carpe Diem Chronicles Review
04/11/24 The Real World According to Sam Review

 

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Review: Gwendolyn Greene and the Moondog Coronation Ball of 1957 by Kevin P. Keating

About the Book, Gwendolyn Greene and the Moondog Coronation Ball of 1957 Gwendolyn Greene

  • Publication date: ‎ April 25, 2023
  • Pages Count: 56 pages

Cover Reveal: A Scottish Highland Hideaway by Julie Shackman

A Scottish Highland Hideaway

 

I’m so excited to be part of the cover reveal for Julie Shackman’s next book, coming in August. I’ve read other books in this series, and they never fail to disappoint.

About the Book: A Scottish Highland Hideaway

  • Publisher: One More Chapter (August 23, 2024)
  • Publication date: August 23, 2024 (ebook), August 29, 2004 (paperback)
  • Pages: 384

A brand new autumnal story of love, believing in yourself and starting over set in the Scottish Highlands

For Bailey McArthur, her family and job mean everything. She runs her own floristry shop and loves spending time in nature in the pretty town of Heather Moore, whilst desperately trying to forget about being jilted on her wedding day.

When journalist Zach Stern arrives in town asking questions about a famous actor, Bailey decides to throw him off the trail of the superstar hiding out in the Scottish Highlands.

But despite Bailey’s efforts to thwart Zach’s investigation, she finds herself falling for him. It’s just a shame she can’t be honest with him. But then, Bailey might not be the only one with a secret to hide…

Pre-order this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)


About the Author, Julie Shackman Julie - HC Summer Party Hair 2023

Julie Shackman is a former journalist from Scotland, who has always wanted to write feel-good romance.

As well as being an author, Julie also writes verses and captions for greetings card companies. Julie admits to having an obsession with stationery and handbags.

She is married, has two sons and adopted a Romanian rescue puppy, Cooper.

A Scottish Highland Hideaway is Julie’s eleventh novel.

Connect with Julie:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | X (Twitter)


And now, the cover!

AScottishHighlandHideaway

Review & Giveaway: The Desk from Hoboken, by ML Condike

BNR Desk from Hoboken

About the book, The Desk from Hoboken Cover The Desk from Hoboken

  • A Genealogy Mystery #1
  • Genre: Mystery / Women Sleuths / Forensic Genealogy
  • Publisher: Harbor Lane Books, LLC
  • Date of Publication: March 5, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 446 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

After a personal loss, forensic genealogist RaeJean Hunter accepts what she believes is a straightforward case to ease back into the game: a student at Connecticut College has found human remains on the school campus. The College hires RaeJean to confirm their tentative identification that it’s a woman named Mary Rogers, whose cause of death has never been determined.

 

Unfortunately, it becomes downright dangerous. Someone thwarts her investigation of the same case that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” Still, she meets relatives, some helpful and others not, amid escalating threats. Using her skills, including DNA analysis, historical records research, genealogy mapping, and guidance from a mystical antique desk, she follows every clue.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the author, ML Condike Author Photo Condike

ML Condike’s novel, The Desk from Hoboken, is the first in a genealogy mystery three-book series.

She also has short stories published in five anthologies. ML Condike completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path in Dallas in 2019 and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime North Dallas, Granbury Writers’ Bloc, and Key West Writers Guild.

Connect with ML:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn/a> | Amazon | GoodReads | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

The Desk from Hoboken is fiction, but it has a similar feel to the James Burke show Connections, the one where he connects dots through history from conch shells to the creation of the Internet. The mystery in this first entry into ML Condike’s new series also connects dots – from exhumed remains to a Poe short story to backroom abortions in the early 20th century, and, yes, to an antique desk, using forensic genealogy as its main method.

 

RaeJean Hunter, said genealogist, and her husband Sam, an antiquities appraiser, are the sleuthing team at the heart of the story, and they’re a delightful couple. RaeJean is just getting back to work after a miscarriage that triggered severe depression, and she takes the case of identifying said remains thinking it will be easy – strawberries, as she puts it.

 

What unfolds is a compelling tale of intrigue – family secrets, cover-ups, a mysterious client, and a race to piece together all the clues before an obsessed relative of the deceased has them seized or destroyed. To keep things topical there’s also a subplot about human trafficking.

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I am not exaggerating when I say I devoured this novel. I loved RaeJean’s sensibility and no-nonsense attitude. I shared her love of simple food – a well-cooked burger and a cold beer. I really appreciated the little details author Condike included in the story – RaeJean’s original desk is a hollow-core door – I know sooooo many writers and academics who used the same sorts of things for years. (My own desk is a vintage library table – not much fancier.) I also enjoyed following the process of investigation and the need to find three primary sources.

 

The supporting cast – especially RaeJean’s sister Caitlin, her colleague Claire, and her friend Grace who works for the FBI – are all well drawn, and I’m hoping at least two of them show up in future books in this series. Worth mentioning is Sophie the corgi, who lit up the pages she was on.

 

The character of Lillian Baker, who looks a lot like Betty White, but has a conniving soul, made a brilliant foil and turned the “nice old lady” stereotype on its head.

 

Overall, I felt that the story was well-paced and the blend of the mystery with RaeJean’s emotional state was in balance. Her personal story added to the total experience of the novel, and lent color to the mystery, without ever overpowering it.

If you love a good mystery with undercurrents of real history and strong female characters, The Desk from Hoboken is the book for you.

 

Goes well with Chinese spareribs and won ton soup.


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2nd: signed paperback + $25 Amazon gift card

3rd: choice of $25 gift card OR signed paperback

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03/19/24 Rainy Days with Amanda Review
03/19/24 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
03/20/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
03/20/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
03/21/24 StoreyBook Reviews Review
03/21/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
03/22/24 JennCaffeinated Review
03/22/24 Chapter Break Book Blog BONUS Stop
03/23/24 The Real World According to Sam Review
03/24/24 The Page Unbound Review
03/25/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
03/26/24 Book Fidelity Review
03/26/24 The Book’s Delight Review
03/27/24 The Clueless Gent Review
03/27/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
03/28/24 Jennie Reads Review
03/28/24 Bibliotica Review

 

 

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Review: Kookaburras, Cuppas, and Kangaroos

Kookaburras Cuppas & Kangaroos

 

About the Book, Kookaburras, Cuppas, & Kangaroos: Adventures of a Yorkshire Lass Down Under in the ’60s Cover Kookaburras

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (December 12, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 260 pages

 

Fueled by her spirit for adventure and with her £10.00 ticket in hand, Elizabeth Isle leaves 1960s England, determined to see it all, not just Australia and New Zealand, but as much as she can on the way, too. She surrenders her passport to the Australian government and must find work to support herself on the other side of the world from her family and friends.

There can be no going back for two years. Join this intrepid young woman on the adventure of her lifetime. Share her amazing experiences, discover what exotic animals await, get travel tips and meet her new friends through her letters home and over plenty of cups of tea.

Beware – the travel bug might prove infectious!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, S. Bavey Sue

Sue Bavey (writing as S. Bavey) a British mother of two teenagers, now living in Franklin, Massachusetts, having moved to the US in 2003. Writing as S. Bavey, she won a gold award from Readers’ Favorite for her grandfather’s biography: Lucky Jack (1894 – 2000), which she wrote during COVID lockdown. She also has a number of non-fiction stories published in various anthologies.

Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos is the story of her late mother’s emigration from Yorkshire to Australia in 1960 for three years, told via airmail letters and travel diary entries.

A free prequel to Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos”, called “A Yorkshire Lass: The Early Years” is available for free download from www.suebavey.com.

Connect with Sue:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This memoir-once-removed tells the story of the author’s mother, Elizabeth Isle who participated in the Assisted Passenger Program which encouraged emigration to Australia in the 1960s.

Told mainly in epistolary format, the writing of which were sustained by endless cups of tea,  it’s a delightful tale of a wide-eyed young woman on her first travel adventures, from innocence to awareness personally and culturally.

I enjoyed reading about the universal experiences that Elizabeth had – driving her (affectionate) uncle’s car, searching for a job that would be fulfilling but also allow time and money for explorations, and making new friends.

I also appreciated the glimpses of what life was like in the Australia of the 1960s. As someone from a similarly “young” country, the parallels and differences between the United States and Australia have always fascinated me, and seeing the latter through Elizabeth’s eyes was particularly rewarding.

Author Sue Bavey (writing as S. Bavey) has done an admirable job capturing both the excitement and the challenges of moving half a world away from home. I liked that she kept the language period appropriate. It’s slightly more sophisticated than the way young women speak and write today, and the difference really added to the feeling of immersion in Elizabeth’s adventures.

If you, like me, love memoirs in general, and travel memoirs specifically, you will love this book.

Goes well with hot tea and ribbon sandwiches.

 

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Review: Perestroika by João Cerqueira

About the Book, Perestroika Perestroika

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Arkbound (November 26, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 448 pages

Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth

Perestroika is a historical fiction novel that provides thrilling insights into the late Communist era. The book opens in 1978 and introduces citizens of Slavia like artist Ludwig Kirchner, struggling to survive in concentration camps, whilst the terrifying elites of the regime live in luxury and moral depravity. It all changes in 1989, with Perestroika. In the revolutionary turmoil, former crime boss Ivan Fiorov leads the newly formed ‘Freedom Party’, heralding a wave of insecurity that resembles the previous dictatorship.

Revenge, redemption and catharsis collide head on with recent European history. With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, alongside a resurgence of populist leaders and neo-Nazi movements across the world, Perestroika is as much a lens into the present as an exciting epitome for the past.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the Author, João Cerqueira Joao-Cerqueira

João Cerqueira was born and lives in Viana do Castelo, Portugal. He holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Porto, he is a professor at ESE and a columnist for the newspaper Sun.

He is the author of nine books and is published in eight countries. His novels use satire and humor to address human nature and contemporary problems. He tries to continue the literary tradition that goes from “Cantigas de Escárnio and Maldizer” to Eça de Queiroz and Camilo, without forgetting Gil Vicente, Camões and Bocage.

Connect with João:

Website | Facebook | LinkedIn | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

I’m late in reviewing Perestroika because it’s a novel that requires careful attention. It’s historical fiction, based in the invented nation of Slavia which is a stand-in for several (too many) former Soviet Bloc countries. It’s a portrait of a small country caught up in the changes that happened in Europe during the Gorbachev era, and the echoes of what is still changing.

The use of a fictional country allows author Cerqueira to blend real history with created history. Events feel plausible because they’re inspired by truth, though the names have been changed and serial numbers filed off.

Subtitled “Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth” the core of the story is about dynamic characters who are each facing their own challenges. Those which I was particularly interested in are former President Ionescu, a man who longer has the power or control he once did; Helena, who is responsible for education and is the ray of goodness and hope in an otherwise bleak landscape, and Olin, a dedicated father trying to give his disabled son a decent life.

Author Cerqueira has given us a story set in somewhat heightened-reality versions of the two time periods where it takes place: 1978, where we first learn of Slavia and the communist regime in power, and 1989, when Glasnost has become common. What makes it really compelling is the vivid, almost cinematic, description the author has provided. You don’t just read this novel, you experience it.

If you’re a fan of hardcore, sometimes brutal, historical fiction, or are interested in the politics of equality and human rights, this book is perfect for you. It’s the perfect combination of tragedy and hope, politics and art, truth and imagination.

Goes well with: potato-leek soup and hard cider.