Review: Tidewater Rip, by M.Z. Thwaite

About the book, Tidewater Rip Tidewater Rip


  • Series: Tidewater Novels
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 21, 2015)

In the dead of night, a blacked out plane flies over a river in coastal Georgia where moments later, a man is shot and left for dead. On a secluded two-lane road nearby, a woman is killed in a one-car accident. Atlanta Realtor Abbey Taylor Bunn plunges into action to find out what’s going on because the events seem to have one thing in common: the hunting and fishing club co-founded by her grandfather. Abbey isn’t the only one on the move and looking for answers. The car accident victim’s husband, an Atlanta attorney, believes his wife was murdered. When Abbey finds herself up against drug trafficking land grabbers, she is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the place and people she loves.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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

About the author, M.Z. Thwaite MZ Thwaite

M. Z. Thwaite is the author of the literary suspense novel Tidewater Rip in which she shares her life-long love affair with Georgia’s golden coast. A licensed Realtor since 1983, she continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of the hunting and fishing club on the coast of Georgia co-founded by her maternal grandfather. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her artist husband Steve Weeks of Riverton, New Jersey.

Connect with M.Z.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Every once in a while, a book falls into your lap, and you become instantly engaged. I have a pretty packed spring and summer review schedule, and I didn’t really want to add more to it, but M.Z. Thwaite’s email to me was so sincere, and the plot and location (coastal Carolina) intrigued me so much, that I had to say yes. Besides, it’s important for women to support other women.

I’m so glad I took a chance on Tidewater Rip. Protagonist Abbey is smart, brave, and generous with her heart, even though men have burned her before. Her mother, nicknamed Boonks (gotta love that) is equally smart, brave, and generous, and also a bit meddlesome. Together, they run a real estate agency, but Abbey also has a penchant for falling upon crime scenes, and indepentently investigating them.

In fact, that’s how we first meet her, and it’s a great way to meet a character for the first time. Author Thwaite has a knack for writing vivid descriptions and it’s that knack, as much as the plot and characters that really hooked me on this story. The sense of place was so strong, I felt like I was breathing the same salt air, or squelching through the same mud, as the characters.

I also loved the supporting characters, Snag especially, and Roosevelt, who both helped the plot and added to the sense of place. This book could not take place in any other part of the country. It’s location specific, and it transports you.

There is, of course, a dash of romance in the novel. Boonks has declared that since Abbey sucks at choosing partners, she will pick her daughter’s next man (only a Southern mother would do that), and one contender is Tom, widowed husband of a murder victim we meet in the early chapters.

The entire novel is a compelling combination of great characters, intricate plotting, and wonderful writing that builds suspense at exactly the right pace. I would happily spend a lot more time with Abbey and Boonks, and I really hope I’ll get the chance.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish, hush puppies, and sweet tea.





Review: The Turning Point, by Freya North

About the book, The Turning Point The Turning Point

• Paperback: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper (May 3, 2016)

“Rich, romantic, beautifully drawn and utterly compelling” Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author

Life is short. Sometimes you have to take a chance…

Two single parents, Scott and Frankie, meet by chance.

Their homes are thousands of miles apart: Frankie lives somewhat chaotically with her children on the shoreline of North Norfolk, while Scott’s life is in the mountains of British Columbia. Distance divides them – but it seems that a million little things connect them. A spark ignites, one so strong that it dares them to take a risk.

But fatehas one more trick in store…

There are some truths about life and family we only learn when we grow up. There are some we never thought we’d have to.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Freya North Freya North

Freya North is the author of many bestselling novels which have been translated into numerous languages. She was born in London but lives in rural Hertfordshire, where she writes from a stable in her back garden. A passionate reader since childhood, Freya was originally inspired by Mary Wesley, Rose Tremain and Barbara Trapido: fiction with strong and original characters.

Connect with Freya

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I started this book expecting it to be a kind of cozy contemporary romance story, and ended up with a rich novel about love, loss, and second chances, as well as glimpses into the creative process, which makes sense since the lead characters are a writer and a musician, respectively.

I was intrigued by Scott almost from the start, because he isn’t the typical romantic lead. He’s gregarious and handsome, yes, but he’s also very earthy and real. I love that in his scenes with Jenna, their relationship is a little nebulous at first, making the reader guess, although the cover blurb says both characters are single parents, so the guessing is only if your eyes are closed to the obvious.

Frankie annoyed me a little. I understand all to well what it’s like when a project isn’t speaking to you, but when I’m stuck on a piece of writing I write something else. Also, I felt that her refusal to use modern technology, and social media, felt a little contrived. Did it add to her richness as a character? Maybe. But it made her feel older than she actually was. (For the record, these characters are in the forties, roughly my age.)

But together Frankie and Scott were an amazing pair, and separately, each of them felt like a totally legitimate single parent, one with two adolescent (or nearly so) kids, and one with a young-adult daughter. I’d happily have been either of their children, or taken their children in. That’s how dimensional and well written these characters were.

As for the plot, it starts out feeling like a mature version of a typical romance, and ends up being something vastly different, but even when sadness takes over for a while, the pace is perfect, the story is never maudlin, and the end is both hopeful and satisfying.

I want to applaud author Freya North for making me laugh, cry, fume, and cheer,  all in less than 500 pages. I want to give her a standing ovation for having lead characters who are flawed, human, fully-formed adults who still recognize that there are new things to learn and experience.

I loved this book.

Goes well with steak and chips and a cold beer.

Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 23rd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, May 24th: The Book Chick

Thursday, May 26th: Comfy Reading

Friday, May 27th: Booksellers Without Borders

Monday, May 30th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, May 31st: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 1st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, June 2nd: As I turn the pages

Monday, June 6th: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, June 7th: Book by Book

Thursday, June 9th: Ageless Pages Reviews

Review: Incarnation, by Laura Davis Hays

About the book, Incarnation Incarnation

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Terra Nova Books (March 1, 2016)

When Kelsey Dupuis takes a job working in a genetic engineering lab in the high desert of New Mexico, she begins to suffer from oceanic nightmares that soon escalate into waking visions, warnings, pleas for help, and finally visitations from a dark-braided, green-eyed girl named Iriel. Kelsey wrestles with the notion that Iriel could be a past life self who once lived in an ancient watery place no longer on this earth. At the same time, she confronts ethical issues at work, and a lover who becomes more and more abusive. As Kelsey seeks the truth, she learns that Iriel escaped an arranged marriage in her own time, and lived to witness the destruction of her ancient homeland, helpless, despite her formidable powers, to stop it.

Incarnation is the story of one woman’s confrontation with history as she learns the meaning of a soul-twin’s life and its karmic implications. Forced to relive her deepest fears, Kelsey is able to face her entwined past and present with courage, innovation, and forgiveness in order to break the chain, free her soul-twin, and become more truly herself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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

About the author, Laura Davis Hays Laura Davis Hays

Laura Davis Hays is the award winning author of Incarnation, a metaphysical thriller set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a remote Island off the coast of Belize, and the lost continent of Atlantis. She is also the author of the forthcoming fantasy series, The Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early part of the 20th century.

Laura writes with a mind balanced between right and left-brain capabilities that leads to a combination of flights of fancy and complexity of structure in her work.

A graduate of Rice University, Laura lives in Santa Fe with her husband, Jim, and two cats, Rufus and Dexter.

Connect with Laura.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love a good Atlantis story, and I love a good contemporary thriller, and I love female characters that are flawed, interesting, and real. This book has all of the above, in spades, and is also really well written.

Kelsey, the protagonist, reminded me of so many women I know, women who work in sciences but also have a strong spiritual side, even if they aren’t actually religious. I liked that her life wasn’t perfect, that she had conflict. Too often, fictional characters have such idealized lives that it can be difficult to relate. She had a journey from skeptic, to believer, to active participant in a metaphysical and I thought the way that journey corresponded to the different locations where events took place was excellent crafting on the part of Laura Davis Hays.

It’s difficult to really talk about any part of this novel without risk of spoiling it but I do want to point out that Hays made each location – Santa Fe, the island off the coast of Belize, and Atlantis itself – into characters as much as places, and each of them helps to inform the story, just as the characters of Kelsey and Iriel affect each others lives, across centuries.

If you want a book that doesn’t really fit into any box  – it’s a metaphysical mystery, but it’s not supernatural, and it’s kind of a thriller but it’s also an action/adventure story – then give Incarnation a try. You won’t regret it.

Goes well with dorado tacos and spicy black bean chili.

Laura Davis Hays’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 16th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Wednesday, May 18th: The Magic All Around Us

Friday, May 20th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, May 25th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, May 31st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 1st: From the TBR Pile – excerpt

Monday, June 6th: The Warlock’s Gray Book

Thursday, June 9th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt

Friday, June 10th: Write Read Life

Monday, June 13th: A Bookaholic Swede – excerpt

Wednesday, June 15th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Review: The Bridge Ladies, by Betsy Lerner

About the book,  The Bridge Ladies The Bridge Ladies

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (May 3, 2016)

A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.

By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollinsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Betsy Lerner Betsy-Lerner-AP

Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Connect with Betsy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I always find it odd to be reviewing a memoir, as if I’m passing judgement on the life lived, rather than the book about the life that was lived. If I disagree with a life choice, does that mean I don’t like the book, or don’t like the person? It’s a difficult position.

But The Bridge Ladies was not a difficult memoir to review, partly because it’s brilliantly written, and partly because it really resonated with me. The ladies in their dressy clothes and pearls, pumps and lipstick, playing cards and sharing food reminded me of my Italian grandmother and my great-aunts and cousins gathered around the table playing cards on hot summer nights. They played Canasta, rather than Bridge, but the echoes are there.

But I digress.

Lerner’s story is, at heart, a mother-daughter story. It’s a candid, funny, sometimes dark, often poignant glimpse into the lives of her mother and her mother’s friends, but it’s also a mirror through which Lerner examines herself. As someone who looks in the mirror most days and hears my own mother’s voice urging me to iron that or change my hair or stand up straighter, I completely understand the need for maternal approval that never entirely goes away, even when you try to rebel against it. As someone whose mother’s friends see her as a completely different person than I do, I also understand the way we sometimes have to step outside ourselves to really comprehend events, ideas, people.

That Lerner’s writing style is incredibly readable, almost conversational, helps suck you into The Bridge Ladies, but she also has a great ear for dialog and a great eye for detail. I could see the way those old women dressed, and I could hear their voices in my head almost as well as I could heart the cards being riffled and shuffled and dealt out.

The thing about memoirs is that even when you know, intellectually, that comparison is unhealthy, you can’t help but measure yourself against the person about whom you’re reading. In my case, I recognized that while her story resonates with me, I’m nothing like Betsy Lerner.

At the same time, though, I am – as all women are – a lot like Betsy Lerner: I still grade myself on the scale of Mom, and at nearly 46 years old, I crave and dread her company, simultaneously. This book made me realize that while my own mother is only 66, time goes by too quickly, and even mother-daughter relationships require a little investment.

This book also made me grateful for the relationship my mother and I actually have – the one where we can talk – and LAUGH – about nearly anything. Other women should be so lucky.

This is, I know, a rather odd review. But here’s the thing. Books should touch us. Stories should make us examine ourselves. The Bridge Ladies did both for me, and I’m betting it will do both for other readers as well.

And if it doesn’t, well, maybe it will at least urge some readers to pick up the phone and call their mothers.

Goes well with strong coffee and Stella D’oro anisette toast.

Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 3rd: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, May 4th: BookNAround

Thursday, May 5th: Books and Bindings

Friday, May 6th: Books on the Table – author interview

Monday, May 9th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, May 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, May 11th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Monday, May 16th: Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, May 17th: Puddletown Reviews

Wednesday, May 18th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 19th: West Metro Mommy

Friday, May 20th: Olduvai Reads

Monday, May 23rd: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, May 24th: I’m Shelf-ish

Wednesday, May 25th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Thursday, May 26th: The many thoughts of a reader

Friday, May 27th: Life By Kristen

TBD: Lavish Bookshelf

Review: Out Rider, by Lindsay McKenna

About the book,  Out Rider Out Rider

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (April 26, 2016)

With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness… 

A fresh start—that’s all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she’s grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good.

Dev’s mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings.

With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started…

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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



About the author, Lindsay McKenna Lindsay McKenna

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition.  Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women.  Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.

Connect with Lindsay.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve reviewed and/or spotlighted a few of Lindsay McKenna‘s books now, and I find that even though I’m not a heavy reader of romance novels, I always enjoy visiting with her characters, because the women are always strong and independent, and the men are usually sensitive and incredibly respectful of women, and both of those things need to be modeled more in our media.

While I’m NOT a fan of anything that smacks of Western, I have five dogs, and I grew up with a love of horses, and was fortunate enough to spend a couple of summers at riding camp in New Jersey, or visiting friends in Nebraska and Colorado who had horses. It was the horse-and-dog connection, as much as McKenna’s name,  that really drew me to this novel. I mean, the story was so engaging she made me want to visit Wyoming.

What I love about McKenna’s characters is that they’re usually seasoned adults. In the case of Out Rider, Dev and Sloane have each had their requisite tragic (for whatever reason) love affair/marriage. They’ve lived in the world, and experienced life’s fears and joys. That tempering, the fact that they’re not twenty-two-year-olds, is what I really love about this novel, in particular, and this author’s work in general. Yes, this couple is slightly idealized – it’s a romance novel, after all – but they’re still believable, dimensional characters.

I also appreciate the way McKenna, who is ex-Navy, works military backstories into her work. Many of her characters, both men and women, are either active-duty or ex-military, and not just as a line-item in a description. They rely on skills taught while they were in the service, and demonstrate a love of country that feels sincere without being preachy. It takes a really smart writer to pull that off.

As I mentioned before, part of what drew me to this novel was the animals. Dogs and horses are a classic combination, in life, and in fiction, and stories built around them always appeal. McKenna ties the love of these animals into the story making them almost-characters, but never, ever, allowing them to stray into cuteseyness.

If you want to read a formula romance, this is NOT the novel for you.

If, however, you want to read a really good love story about people who could be real (and maybe fall a little bit in love with Wyoming), I highly recommend Out Rider.

Goes well with chili rellenos, black beans and rice, and a cold beer.

Giveaway Out Rider

Want to read Out Rider for yourself. One lucky winner will get a DIGITAL COPY (e-book) of this novel. How do you enter? Find my post about this review on Twitter (@Melysse) and retweet it, or find my post on Facebook and like/share it. One of my dogs and I will pick the winner from all entries received by 11:59 PM  US CDT, on Sunday, May 29th.

Please note: aside from selecting the winner, I have NO CONTROL over this giveaway. I will supply the winner’s email address to the publicist, and they will be responsible for sending the book (in this case, an ebook).

Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 25th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, April 27th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, April 27th: Written Love Reviews – guest post

Friday, April 29th: Bookaholics Not-So-Anonymous

Monday, May 2nd: Read Love Blog

Tuesday, May 3rd: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, May 4th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, May 5th: Reading Reality

Friday, May 6th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy – guest post

Monday, May 9th: Books a la Mode – guest post

Wednesday, May 11th: Palmer’s Page Turners – guest post

Monday, May 16th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 18th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, May 19th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Friday, May 20th: What I’m Reading

Monday, May 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 25th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Review: Father’s Day, by Simon Van Booy

About the book, Father’s Day Father's Day

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 26, 2016)

“A strong voice full of poetic, timeless grace.”—San Francisco Examiner

When devastating news shatters the life of six-year-old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met—a disabled felon, haunted by a violent act he can’t escape.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood on Long Island and her life as a young woman in Paris.

Written in raw, spare prose that personifies the characters, this remarkable novel is the journey of two people searching for a future in the ruin of their past.

Father’s Day is a meditation on the quiet, sublime power of compassion and the beauty of simple, everyday things—a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Simon Van Booy Simon van Booy by Ken Brower

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Connect with Simon

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I can’t decide if I like this book or not.

I know that sounds weird. It is weird for me, because usually when I’m reading a novel, I have a good idea of whether or not I like it, and how much. With Father’s Day, though, I feel like it’s inserted itself into my brain so easily, so smoothly, that there was never a sense of “I’m reading this; what do I think?” rather than  “Oh, hey, I completely get this story.”

Simon Van Booy’s prose is deceptively simple. From the opening chapters, which are from child- Harvey’s point of view to the chapters twenty years later that let us see adult-Harvey living in Paris, the writing is clean, the characters well-defined. Her parents, though we don’t spend much time with them, seem like lovely people and Jason, the man who becomes her father after their death, is complex and prickly, but clearly has a good heart.  (I also really loved the characters of Leon, the French tutor, and his daughter Isabelle.)

I liked the method of Harvey’s box of father’s day presents to Jason being the triggers for memories, letting us see in flashback how six-year-old Harvey with two parents, became twenty-six-year-old Harvey with only Jason (technically her uncle) and a life in Paris. I liked that they earned their mutual affection and respect for each other. I felt that the book was generally truthful.

But at the same time, I’m left with the feeling that I didn’t so much experience this novel, as sort of assimilate it. Maybe it’s my own brain distancing itself from the emotional resonances with my own relationship with my stepfather, a man it took me twelve years to truly accept as family, or maybe it’s just that the plain, stark language didn’t give me that “oh, I love this language” feeling, even though ultimately, I found the story to be moving and very real.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely. It was engaging and interesting, and emotionally truthful.

But I’m still not sure I liked it, because I’m not sure that word ‘like’ is an appropriate choice.

Goes well with a ham sandwich on warm baguette and a glass of sparkling lemonade.

Simon’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround

Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac

Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much

Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal

Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly

Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts

Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek

Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader

Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, May 20th: Time 2 Read

Review: The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom, by Alison Love

About the book, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (April 19, 2016)

An epic love story featuring an Italian singer and a British dancer, set against the backdrop of war-torn England.

The first meeting between Antonio and Olivia at the Paradise Ballroom is brief, but electric.

Years later, on the dawn of World War II, when struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron, he recognizes her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia fears Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist–but when Italy declares war on England, the impact threatens to separate them forever.

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties amid the most devastating war in human history.

Buy, read, and discuss The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom

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



About the author, Alison Love Alison Love

ALISON LOVE is the author of the historical novels Mallingford and Serafina. Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and in 2013 her story Sophie Stops the Clock was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. Alison has worked in the theater, television, and public relations. The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is her American fiction debut.

Connect with Alison




My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The first thing that struck me about this novel, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom,  was that it has a very specific soundtrack. We meet Antonio when he is a temporary singer at the eponymous Paradise Ballroom, and song titles are peppered throughout the story. All those lovely standards, classics, even if they’re not classical, didn’t just set the period for this novel; they set the tone, and they did so brilliantly. As a musician, I found that the mentions of songs peppered throughout the narrative really kept me hooked.

Similarly, the use of language in this novel was just thrilling. Alison Love’s biography (see above) says that she’s worked in theatre, so maybe that’s where she honed her ear for dialogue, but she also excels at evocative description. Read this paragraph from early in the book:

In Soho one of the cafes, Ricci’s, was open still. Antonio could hear the rise and fall of voices punctuated by the twang of a mandolin. He thought of Maurice Goodyear’s parchment face, of eanie’s violent scent, of the way he had fluffed a high note in “Night and Day.” He tried not to think  about the tango dancer, and the terrible thing she had done to her own body.

And then read this one, from near the end:

A flock of rooks flew across the iron-gray sky, cawing as they landed in the beech trees beyond the orchard. Olivia was standing on the terrace where once, on a sunlit evening, she had drunk juniper-scented Negronis with Uncle Dickie. She was huge and stately in a loose crimson dress, her hair knotted untidily at her neck.

Language like this is just delicious to read, to submerge yourself in.

Of course, language and music aren’t enough, there has to be plot an character, but again, Love’s work is outstanding. Olivia and Antonio are the central figures of the novel, and they are brilliantly written: flawed, funny, sad, passionate, vivid, real people., but the supporting characters, Bernard, Danila, Filomena, others, are equally well-defined. The story – two people who meet and connect, who are constantly drawn to each other despite having separate lives, and being committed to other people – is a familiar one, but even though the bones of the plot are familiar, mixing it into a period piece that focuses on the Italian experience of World War II makes it fresh and interesting.

I didn’t just enjoy reading The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom; I felt as though I’d been transported by it.

I hope you let yourself be transported, as well.

Goes well with a glass of Merlot and a smoky baritone.

Giveaway The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom

One lucky reader in the United States or Canada will win a paperback copy of this book. To enter, find me on Twitter (@Melysse), follow me, and retweet my tweet about this book review OR leave a comment here (you must use a valid email address) and tell me about a song that has particular meaning for you. 

The winner will be chosen by me, and their information will be forwarded to the tour host/publicist for fulfillment. This may take up to six weeks after the day of the end of this blog tour.

This giveaway opportunity is open until noon, central time, on Monday, May 23rd.

Alison Love’s TLC Book Tour’s TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 18th: Luxury Reading

Monday, April 18th: The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 19th: The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, April 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, April 21st: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, April 25th: Books a la Mode – guest post/giveaway

Tuesday, April 26th: Mom’s Small Victories

Wednesday, April 27th: BookNAround

Thursday, April 28th: Just Commonly

Friday, April 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, May 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, May 3rd: The Best Books Ever

Wednesday, May 4th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, May 5th: Write Read Life

Monday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 10th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 11th: A Bookaholic Swede

Friday, May 13th: Broken Teepee

Monday, May 16th: Diary of an Eccentric

#Bibliotica reviews The Railway Man’s Wife, by Ashley Hay

About the book, The Railway Man’s Wife The Railway Man's Wife

  • Publication Date: April 5, 2016
    Publisher: Atria Books, 288 Pages
  • Format: Hardcover, eBook, & AudioBook; 288 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.

When Anikka Lachlan’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident, she is offered—and accepts—a job at the Railway Institute’s library and searches there for some solace in her unexpectedly new life. But in Thirroul, in 1948, she’s not the only person trying to chase dreams through books. There’s Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, but who has now lost his words and his hope. There’s Frank Draper, trapped by the guilt of those his medical treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle to find their own peace, and their own new story.

But along with the firming of this triangle of friendship and a sense of lives inching towards renewal come other extremities—and misunderstandings. In the end, love and freedom can have unexpected ways of expressing themselves.

The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

Buy, read, and discuss The Railway Man’s Wife

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

About the author, Ashley Hay Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of four nonfiction books, including The Secret: The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, and the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

For more information please visit Ashley Hay’s website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

“This is how you touch grief.” Ani Lachlan’s thought a short while after hearing of her husband’s work-related death rocked me in a way that few sentences have. So much so that as I read the line, I texted it to a friend.

Ani is the railway man’s wife, but she’s also a book lover, a reader, mother to an adorable young girl, Isabelle, and a woman who, like most of us, possesses more inner strength than she at firest realizes. This novel is really her story, and I found it quite easy to connect with her, and her life in a coastal village in Australia.

Early in the novel  – chapter two – Ani and Mac are on a shopping trip, and their last item to purchase is “something magical” for their daughter’s birthday. They choose a kaleidoscope, and I can’t help feeling that this story was also a kaleidoscope of sorts, in that everything happens within a constrained set of parameters, in a close town, within a relatively few changes of scene, despite the emotional twists and turns. Yes, it’s a satisfying 288 pages, but it’s a literary novel, so it’s okay that this lyrical story never explores much beyond the town limits, or that we only really see a few locations. It’s not about place, anyway, it’s about people, and they way they respond to love, loss, grief, and solace.

Author Ashley Hay works magic, populating her pages with people who leap of the page. Ani, of course, and Mac, her husband. While we don’t really get to see a lot of them before he dies, what we do see is so emotionally truthful that I reacted to news of his death with that visceral knife-in-the-gut feeling. Their love for each other, and for their daughter, is imbued in every page of the story. Similarly, the characters of Roy, the WWII veteran who writes poetry to process his pain, and Frank, who is carrying his own guilt and hurt, felt dimensional and real. I believed their dual gravitation toward the (sort of) oblivious about it Ani.

The post-war coastal Australia setting worked well for me – a story like this needs to be set against the blue expanse of the sea.

This is a story about grief and loss and love and hope, and while it is both literary and historical, its themes are universal ones, and it feels contemporary in terms of language and style, but not in an anachronistic way.

This is a novel that touched me.

I think it will touch you, too.

Goes well with a bowl of clam chowder, crusty bread, and a mug of brisk, black tea.

Giveaway The Railway Man's Wife

One lucky reader in the United States will win a paperback copy of this book. To enter, find me on Twitter, follow me, and retweet my tweet about this book review OR leave a comment here (you must use a valid email address) and tell me about your favorite library.

The winner will be chosen by me, and their information will be forwarded to the tour host/publicist for fulfillment. This may take up to six weeks after the day of the end of this blog tour.

This giveaway opportunity is open until noon, central time, on Wednesday, May 18th.

Railway Man's Wife Blog TourBlog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 18
Review at

Tuesday, April 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Wednesday, April 20
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, April 25
Review & Giveaway at Poof Books
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, April 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Ashley LaMar

Monday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, May 3
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, May 5
Review & Giveaway at Bibliotica

Friday, May 6
Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Monday, May 23
Giveaway at Passages to the Past




#Bibliotica reviews Where We Fall, by Rochelle B. Weinstein

About the book, Where We Fall Where We Fall

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 19, 2016)

On the surface, Abby Holden has it all. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter and the wife of Ryana beloved high school football coach. Yet, depression has a vice grip on Abby and every day tugs a little harder on the loose threads of her marriage, threatening to unravel her charmed life. Meanwhile, Ryan is a charismatic, loyal husband who can coach the local high school football team to victory, but is powerless to lift his wife’s depression, which has settled into their marriage like a deep fog. Although this isn’t the life he’s dreamed of, Ryan is determined to heal the rifts in his family. Lauren Sheppard was once Ryan’s girlfriend and Abby’s closest friend. Now a globe-trotting photographer who documents the power and beauty of waterfalls around the world, she returns back home to the mountains of North Carolina, where she must face the scene of a devastating heartbreak that forever changed the course of her life.

As college coeds, Abby, Ryan, and Lauren had an unbreakable bond. Now, for the first time in seventeen years, the once-inseparable friends find themselves confronting their past loves, hurts, and the rapid rush of a current that still pulls them together. With hypnotic, swift storytelling, Weinstein weaves in and out of Abby, Ryan, and Lauren’s lives and imparts lessons of love, loyalty, friendship, and living with mental illness.

Ripe with emotional insight, WHERE WE FALL explores the depths of the human mind and a heart that sees what the eyes cannot. As Abby, Ryan, and Lauren struggle to repair their relationships and resolve their inner demons, they unflinchingly hold the mirror to the reader, reminding us not only of our own flaws, but also how beautiful and human those imperfections can be.

Buy, read, and discuss Where We Fall

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

About the author, Rochelle B. Weinstein Rochelle B. Weinstein

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Rochelle B. Weinstein followed her love of the written word across the country. She moved north to attend the University of Maryland, earning a degree in journalism, and began her career in Los Angeles at the LA Weekly. After moving back to Miami, she enjoyed a stint in the entertainment industry, marrying her love of music with all things creative. When her twins arrived, she sat down one afternoon while they were napping and began to write. The resulting novel, the highly acclaimed What We Leave Behind, explores the poignancy of love and the human condition. Her second book, The Mourning After, is a moving story of hope and resiliency.

Connect with Rochelle

Website | Facebook | Twitter



My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This book is a contemporary, literary look at what it’s like to live with a mental health condition (in this case, clinical depression) both as the person who has the condition, and the people who surround her, but while the subject is a difficult one, the book is a gripping read, the kind of novel you sit down with, only to look up several hours later to realize that you’ve finished it, and it’s suddenly dark outside (or light outside, if you’re nocturnal, like me.)

Author Rochelle B. Weinstein has created three main characters (four, if you include Abby and Ryan’s daughter Juliana) and a cast of supporting characters who all feel as vibrant and real – and flawed – as anyone you may know in life. At the center of it is Abby, of course, whose outwardly perfect life is the mask she wears to hide her depression. Her flaws are not limited to her condition – but they are the most obvious. Ryan is her husband, the former boyfriend of her best college friend, and while he’s far from perfect himself (except in memory and imagination) he’s lovingly imperfect in a way that makes you root for him. We don’t really meet Lauren until about a quarter of the way into the story, but when we do, she is as real and dynamic as the other two.

It’s easy to say that a love triangle is a trope, but Weinstein doesn’t just flip the trope, she dissects it. She makes us see all the different things that influence the way we live and love, grow and change, over the course of a year, a relationship, a lifetime.  When she puts it back together, there are extra pieces, but that’s okay, because they fill the center, and make everything dimensional and real.

It would be easy to say “read this book if you or someone you know is clinically depressed,” but that would be shortchanging both Weinstein and her work, because most of the themes in this novel are universal. I say: read this book if you love a compelling, deeply human story.

Goes well with hot coffee and multigrain toast with almond butter.

Giveaway Where We Fall

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of this book. How do you do it? Leave a comment on this blog telling me about someone you loved who got away (make sure you use a valid email address – no one but me will see it) , OR follow me on twitter (I’m @Melysse), and retweet my post about this book.

If you win, I’ll forward your information to the publicist, and they will ensure that you receive your copy. (It can take up to a month from the end of the whole tour.)

This giveaway opportunity is open until Monday, May 16th, at 12:00 pm Central time.


Rochelle B. Weinstein’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 18th: Just Commonly

Thursday, April 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, April 25th: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, April 26th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, April 27th: Alexa Loves Books

Thursday, April 28th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, April 28th: Worth Getting In Bed For

Friday, April 29th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Monday, May 2nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 3rd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 4th: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, May 5th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, May 6th: BookNAround

Monday, May 9th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, May 11th: I’d Rather Be Reading at the Beach

Thursday, May 12th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, May 13th: Not in Jersey

Friday, May 13th: Bewitched Bookworms