Review: Beyond the Horizon, by Ella Carey – with Giveaway

BNR Beyond the Horizon

About the book, Beyond the Horizon

  • Historical Fiction / Friendship
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
  • Date of Publication: October 15, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 326
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Beyond the HorizonFrom the author of The House by the Lake comes a powerful novel of friendship during World War II, fighting for the truth, and making peace with the past.

At the height of World War II, Eva Scott’s dream comes true. Accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), she leaves balmy California and the man she loves for grueling training in Texas, ultimately landing at formidable Camp Davis in North Carolina.

Vastly outnumbered by men and amid contempt, discrimination, and sabotage, Eva and her closest friends, the unconventional Nina and straight-laced Helena, remain loyal to their mission and to each other. They stay focused on the horizon, determined to prove themselves capable women pilots. Until a fatal mission sends Eva’s dream crashing to earth . . .

Now, decades later, is it possible to discover the truth about the night that changed her life? Is there any hope she’ll recover all that she’s lost? When Eva finds herself embroiled in the fight to get military recognition for the WASP, she’s forced to confront the past, and to make a decision that could forever change her future.

Thrilling and inspiring, Beyond the Horizon is a portrait of love, friendship, and valor in a time of war—and a tribute to the brave women who risked their lives for their country.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Praise for Beyond the Horizon

Pull Quote - Beyond the Horizon

“With snappy dialogue, impressive historical details, a sense of adventure and courage on every page, and even a love story, Ella Carey has hit all the markers that make fine historical fiction.”

—Ann Howard Creel, bestselling author of The Whiskey Sea

“Fans of inspirational World War II fiction will cheer on Eva and her fellow pilots as they chase their dreams, endure heartbreak, and discover their true strength. Carey’s evocative descriptions bring home the exhilaration of flight—and the everyday indignities endured by young women who challenged the expectations of their time. The story’s final twist makes for a surprising and moving conclusion.” —Elizabeth Blackwell, author of On a Cold Dark Sea and In the Shadow of Lakecrest

“A moving, beautifully written novel about the amazing WASP during WWII. True to life and packed full of emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed feeling like I was one of these extraordinary women pilots as I read the story.” —Soraya M. Lane, Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Girls of Pearl Harbor


About the author, Ella Carey

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen countries, in twelve languages. Her sixth novel is Beyond The Horizon, set around the Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War Two.

Ella is incredibly excited to share this book with her readers, as her mother was a W.A.A.A.F during World War Two, and her father was in the R.A.F, flying airplanes over occupied France. Ella travelled to Sweetwater, Texas, to research the novel, and is grateful to Ann Hobing, the then Executive Director of the WASP museum for sharing her wonderful knowledge of the WASP. Ella also worked with two pilots to craft the flight scenes.

Ella loves to connect with her readers For more information on the background to her novels and updates about her next release, and to contact her about appearances at your local book club, please visit her website.

Connect with Ella:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | BookBub | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100I’ve been reading and reviewing Ella Carey’s work since she published her very first novel, and I’ve been a fan of her work almost as long, so when I had the opportunity to read and review Beyond the Horizon, there was no question that I was excited to do so.

What I did not expect to find was a deep connection to the piece. This novel is about a woman named Eva who was a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) during World War II. Set in both the late 1970s, (which is now technically historical even though it’s when I grew up) against a Congressional commission to accept women pilots in the general air force, with flashbacks to the 40s and the war, this novel moves between time periods effortlessly. You always know when you are, but each period is written with equal vividness.

So, why the deep connection? I have a great-aunt who, while not a WASP, was an army medic in WWII, and, like Eva, part of her story involves the fact that the women who served in that war were not always given the appropriate acknowledgement for their contributions.

Even without a personal connection, this novel is a rich and fascinating read. It’s an historical adventure with a dash of romance – Eva’s only love is not the sky, after all – but it’s also a very human examination of the choices we make as we grow up, and grow older, and the compromises we sometimes make between our dreams and our necessities.

One detail that I really liked was the image of oranges, used in the opening scene at a 1977 farmers’ market and then in a flashback when the woman wanted oranges that were reserved for the men. Oranges seemed to be a symbol of freedom and identity in this novel, and it was a subtle touch I really appreciated.

Ella Carey’s novels are always well crafted, and this book is no exception. If you like stories that are both gentle and frank, while still compelling, read Beyond the Horizon.

Goes well with fresh oranges and cappuccino.


Giveaway

THREE PAPERBACK COPIES OF BEYOND THE HORIZON

OCTOBER 17-27, 2019

(U.S. Only)

Giveaway - Beyond the Horizon

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

10/17/19 Promo Texas Book Lover
10/17/19 Promo Hall Ways Blog
10/18/19 Review Sydney Young, Stories
10/19/19 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
10/21/19 Character Interview Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
10/21/19 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
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10/23/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/23/19 Review Book Fidelity
10/24/19 Excerpt That’s What She’s Reading
10/24/19 Scrapbook All the Ups and Downs
10/25/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
10/26/19 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
10/26/19 Review The Clueless Gent

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

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

 

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

Memoirist Embodies Resistance in Nazi-era Title

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads | She Writes Press


Hendrika de VriesAbout the author, Hendrika de Vries

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

Connect with Hendrika:

Website | Twitter


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

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

WHEN A TOY DOG BECAME A WOLF...

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

 

Review: The Land of Last Chances, by Joan Cohen

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

 

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Joan CohenAbout the author, Joan Cohen

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

 


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summer To Remember

A Summer to RememberAbout the book, A Summer to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


Victoria CookeAbout the author, Victoria Cooke

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

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

Connect with Victoria

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summer to Remember is a novel to be enjoyed.

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


Giveaway (UK Residents Only)

A Summer Giveaway Prize

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

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

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Review: Emerald City, by Brian Birnbaum

EmeraldCityAbout the book, Emerald City

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

 

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Brian BirnbaumAbout the author, Brian Birnbaum

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

Connect with Brian:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Review: Moon Rush by Leonard David

Moon-Rush-cover-670x1024About the book, Moon Rush

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (May 7, 2019)

Veteran space journalist digs into the science and technology–past, present, and future–central to our explorations of Earth’s only satellite, the space destination most hotly pursued today.

In these rich pages, veteran science journalist Leonard David explores the moon in all its facets, from ancient myth to future “Moon Village” plans. Illustrating his text with maps, graphics, and photographs, David offers inside information about how the United States, allies and competitors, as well as key private corporations like Moon Express and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, plan to reach, inhabit, and even harvest the moon in the decades to come.

Spurred on by the Google Lunar XPRIZE–$20 million for the first to get to the moon and send images home–the 21st-century space race back to the moon has become more urgent, and more timely, than ever. Accounts of these new strategies are set against past efforts, including stories never before told about the Apollo missions and Cold War plans for military surveillance and missile launches from the moon. Timely and fascinating, this book sheds new light on our constant lunar companion, offering reasons to gaze up and see it in a different way than ever before.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been a science fiction fan practically forever, but my love of science fiction led me to want to know the real story of our solar system. For years, the definitive view of the American space program has been Maury Chakin’s book From the Earth to the Moon, which is a detailed look at the Apollo missions (it’s worth a read, by the way).

But now, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of that historic first moon landing, we are looking at the moon in a new light: as a possible launch pad for missions to Mars and eventually beyond.

In Moon Rush, science journalist Leonard David reminds of of the history  we have the moon, but also guides us toward the future, discussing science and technology in terms that are not simplistic but also don’t require that one be an actual rocket scientist to comprehend.

One thing I appreciated was that David highlighted the differences between NASA’s plan for our closest satellite (and possible sister planet) and the way private companies are looking at the new space race. Twenty-first century technology isn’t limited to government sources, and this book addresses the very real possibility of a privatized moon. How would that look? What could happen.

More importantly, though, David’s writing retains the one thing all we space buffs share: a sense of hope and wonder. Moon Rush is about science and technology in space, yes, but it’s also about possibility.

Goes well with: mango-peach iced tea, sliced apples, and sharp cheddar cheese.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops

Tuesday, May 21st: Instagram: @dropandgivemenerdy

Thursday, May 23rd: Thrill me. Chill me. Reads.

Friday, May 24th: Instagram: @createexploreread

Tuesday, May 28th: Just a Secular Homeschooler

Tuesday, May 28th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 3rd: Man of La Book

Thursday, June 6th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, June 7th: Real Life Reading

Monday, June 10th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, June 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 19th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Review: You, Me and the Sea, by Meg Donohue

You-Me-and-the-Sea-coverAbout the book, You, Me, and the Sea

• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (May 7, 2019)

From the USA Today bestselling author of All the Summer Girlsand Dog Crazy comes a spellbinding and suspenseful tale inspired by Wuthering Heights that illuminates the ways in which hope—and even magic—can blossom in the darkest of places.

To find her way, she must abandon everything she loves…

As a child, Merrow Shawe believes she is born of the sea: strong, joyous, and wild. Her beloved home is Horseshoe Cliff, a small farm on the coast of Northern California where she spends her days exploring fog-cloaked bluffs, swimming in the cove, and basking in the light of golden sunsets as her father entertains her with fantastical stories. It is an enchanting childhood, but it is not without hardship—the mystery of Merrow’s mother’s death haunts her, as does the increasingly senseless cruelty of her older brother, Bear.

Then, like sea glass carried from a distant land, Amir arrives in Merrow’s life. He’s been tossed about from India to New York City and now to Horseshoe Cliff, to stay with her family. Merrow is immediately drawn to his spirit, his passion, and his resilience in the face of Bear’s viciousness. Together they embrace their love of the sea, and their growing love for each other.

But the ocean holds secrets in its darkest depths. When tragedy strikes, Merrow is forced to question whether Amir is really the person she believed him to be. In order to escape the danger she finds herself in and find her own path forward, she must let go of the only home she’s ever known, and the only boy she’s ever loved….

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Meg-Donahue-AP-Photo-by-Sarah-DeragenAbout the author, Meg Donohue

Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake, All the Summer Girls, and Dog Crazy. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three children, and dog.

Connect with Meg:

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


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

Despite it’s wild coastal setting, You, Me, and the Sea is not a “beach book” in the sense of a light summer read. Rather, it’s a complex family drama that tackles serious subjects like death, loss, and abuse, and balances them with an unconventional coming-of-age story and a touch of heartfelt romance.

Protagonist Merrow seems like a broken bird, at times, suffering torture at the hands of her older brother Bear, to the point where you want to shake her and make her go get help, though when her father brings home a friend’s adopted (and now-orphaned) son, Amir, she at least gains a friend and an ally.

Bear, Amir, caring neighbor Rei, and later the Langford family, all play their parts, filling out the chorus of Merrow’s life, but this novel is really her story, from tortured waif, to successful teacher and partner, as she struggles to find her own truth and make sense of her own life.

Early in the novel, Merrow tells us that her father once shared that “The past never leaves you. It just changes shape.” Like the sea Merrow is so connected to, her past, her present, and her future continually change shape through this wonderful, powerfully written story.

Goes well with hot chocolate and a butter croissant.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for You, Me, and the Sea

Instagram Features

Tuesday, May 7th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes

Wednesday, May 8th: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_

Thursday, May 9th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Friday, May 10th: Instagram: @readingwithmere

Saturday, May 11th: Instagram: @giuliland

Sunday, May 12th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver

Monday, May 13th: Instagram: @writersdream

Review Stops

Tuesday, May 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 9th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Friday, May 10th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Monday, May 13th: Read Like a Mother

Tuesday, May 14th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Wednesday, May 15th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, May 16th: Brooke’s Books and Brews

Friday, May 17th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, May 21st: Always With a Book

Wednesday, May 22nd: Girl Who Reads

Review: Bent But Not Broken, by Don Cummings

Bent-But-Not-Broken-coverAbout the book Bent But Not Broken

• Paperback: 214 pages
• Publisher: Heliotrope Books LLC (March 15, 2019)

Bent But Not Broken is an unflinchingly honest memoir about the onset of Peyronie’s disease, a painful and sexually limiting condition that is estimated to affect more than 5% of the worldwide adult male population. Don Cummings writes humorously about the emotional and collateral damage brought on by a suddenly curved penis as he struggles to maintain his sense of sex and self. He openly details the doctor visits, the excruciating treatments, and the acute anxiety over the state of his long-term relationship with a man who is supportive but often helpless in the face of nature’s whims. Discordant domestic life, a harrowing kidnapping by a handsome stranger, and reminiscences of a hyper-active sexual past are woven into the single-minded quest to minimize the effects of this deforming disorder. Brace yourself for a daring, heartfelt and beautifully twisted story of love and survival.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Don Cummings

DON CUMMINGS is known for his fearless and humorous writing, presented in books, theatre and film. His love-sex-and-health memoir, Bent But not Broken, was released in March, 2019, published by Heliotrope Books. Don Cummings has had short stories published in Cagibi and Epiphany. He often performs his personal essays at venues around the country: Comedy Central’s Sit ‘n Spin, HBO Workspace, Largo, Brooklyn Reading Works, Tell It!, Personal Space and True Story.

His many plays have been produced on both coasts: The Fat of the Land was a semifinalist for the Kaufman & Hart Award for New American Comedy and was published in The Coachella Review. A Good Smoke was a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, had a reading at The Public Theater, directed by Pam MacKinnon, with Meryl Streep, Henry Wolfe, Grace Gummer and Debra Monk, and was optioned for Broadway. Piss Play is About Minorities So It’s Really Important, was produced as part of The New York Cringe Festival where it received the Golden Pineapple Award for best play. The Winner was a finalist for The Heideman Award at the Actors Theater of Louisville and was published in Post Road Magazine. His plays, American Air, Stark Raving Mad, Loose Joints and Feed the Children! have been produced in Los Angeles. Box, starring Mink Stole and Lou Liberatore, was an official selection in the Toronto Independent Film Festival, Dam Short Film Festival, New Filmmakers New York Festival, Twin Rivers Media Festival, and was distributed by Shorts International. Oh the Horror!, a graphic novel about zombies, is now live on Instagram and Tumblr @ohthehorrola.

Don Cummings has often appeared on television—most famously as someone’s favorite snarky waiter on Dharma & Greg—and in film, but more frequently on the stage, having performed in over fifty plays. A graduate of Tufts University with a degree in biology and the two-year acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he spends his days reading, writing, composing music, and helping out other writers. He lives in Los Angeles while adhering to Hawaii’s time zone.

Connect with Don:

Find out more about Don at his website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

When I was approached to review this memoir, I hesitated, not because of the material, but because whenever I review a memoir, I feel a little like I’m sitting in judgement of the author’s life, rather than the specific work. Ultimately, I chose to read and review Bent But Not Broken because I felt Mr. Cummings’s story should be treated with the same respect and sensitivity we give to every woman who writes about dealing with breast cancer. Just because his memoir has to do with a disease of the penis, doesn’t mean we should be blushing and tittering when we talk about it.

I’m honestly glad I read his book.

Don Cummings presents his story with wit and candor and no small amount of grace. After reading his bio, I expected the wit. I did not expect to become so personally engaged with his story. I winced with him when he described his physical pain, and worried with him between doctor appointments. I sympathized when his sex life suffered. And I learned a lot about how men – not all, but certainly some – see their penises as representative of their entire identities.

As open, honest, and informative as this memoir is, however, it’s a hard read. At times Cummings is brutally explicit with us and with himself. His pain – both physical and emotional – is palpable. For that reason, this isn’t the sort of memoir you pick up as a casual read when you’re about to hop a plane. It’s the kind of memoir you read with intent, because you’ve heard of Peyronie’s disease, or you know someone who has it.

Goes well with wine and cheese.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for Bent But Not Broken

Tuesday, April 23rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Wednesday, April 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 25th: BookNAround

Monday, April 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 3rd: Tina Says…

Friday, May 10th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon

Monday, May 13th: Openly Bookish

Tuesday, May 14th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 16th: The Reading Corner For All

Monday, May 20th: BEE+BIRCH

Thursday, May 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: The Garden Lady by Susan Dworkin

About the book, The Garden Lady

TheGardenLady-COVER-FINAL

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Susan Dworkin (July 18, 2018)

 

THE GARDEN LADY by Susan Dworkin is a novel about  unexpected love, the silence that becomes complicity, and the magic of redemption.  Urgent and compelling, the story resonates with today’s headlines as it poses the ethical question: How do we live with what we know but choose not to think about or act upon?

Maxie Dash, the heroine of THE GARDEN LADY, is a famous beauty, a fashion icon, the face of many national TV ads. Her first husband, a world-class photographer, took nude pictures of her, which are so beautiful that they now hang in museums.

On the cusp of her 50s, Maxie decides to make one more marriage, something permanent and restful, to a rich man who will guarantee her an affluent life and future security. Amazingly she finds the perfect man. Even more amazingly, she grows to love him. Albert shares Maxie’s passion for the opera and willingly supports her favorite charities. He indulges her delight in public gardens and allows her to endow the community with their beauty. All he asks in return is that she give him her love and her unswerving loyalty and agree to know nothing — absolutely nothing — about his business.

Maxie is sustained by her best friend, the designer Ceecee Rodriguez, whom she treasures as a sister. But she is shaken by the persistent enmity of Sam Euphemia, a fierce young business executive, who suspects Albert of terrible crimes.

Add Maxie Dash to the list of great heroines of contemporary fiction. Smart, funny, enjoying every moment of her hard-won success,  she ultimately faces the truth about her life, moves past denial and realizes that “her loyalty was a side effect of her greed and her greed was a crime against nature and her silence, her willful, terror-stricken silence, the true disaster.”  Her attempt to turn Garbage Mountain, a New Jersey landfill, into a beautiful park is key to her redemption.

THE GARDEN LADY reads like a thriller or a binge-worthy Netflix series. Entertaining and provocative, it is packed with ethical questions, dark humor and insight and offers us a female protagonist you will never forget.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Susan Dworkin

Susan-Dworkin-APSUSAN DWORKIN wrote the New York Times bestseller The Nazi Officer’s Wife, a tale of love and terror in the Third Reich, with the woman who lived the story, the late Edith Hahn Beer Other books include Making Tootsie, the inside story of the great film comedy with Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack; The Viking in the Wheat Field about the eminent seed banker, Dr. Bent Skovmand; Miss America, 1945, Bess Myerson’s story; Stolen Goods, a novel of love and larceny in the 80s; and The Commons, about an agrarian revolt led by a pop star and set in the not-so-distant future. Susan was a long-time contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. Her plays are often performed in regional theatres. She lives in Massachusetts.

Connect with Susan:

Find out more about Susan at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

For a relatively short, fast-paced novel, Susan Dworkin packed a lot of story into The Garden Lady. It’s got a tragic childhood, a hard luck, rags-to-riches tale, a revenge saga, family drama, international smuggling and corporate crime, and passionate love affairs, all within  220 pages. If that seems overwhelming, fear not, because this tale is well told.

Dworkin excels at setting up characters with just a few phrases, and makes us see them from the moment of their first lines of dialogue. We know Maxie fears aging in solitude, we know her best friend Ceecee is fiercely loyal, we know the former has a tendency to choose men who are bad for her, until her first husband, whom we never meet “on camera” and only learn about in the final chapters of the novel (a pity, because his presence is felt throughout the book) and we know Ceecee’s  husband is a truly good man, who gives good advice.

And yet, as much as this novel is about Maxie and her push to build a memorial garden, it’s also about her last husband, Albert. Mysterious, rich, dangerous, involved in dubious business practices that Maxie chooses not to see, Albert is the point around which this story pivots, while Maxie is the observer and the observed.

While it’s typical for protagonists to be the heroes of their own stories, I felt as though Maxie, more often than not, was a prisoner of her own life. True, it was by choice. But a gilded cage you enter willingly is still, in the end, a cage. Even when she faces a potential nemesis in the form of Sam Euphemia, who suspects the truth of Albert’s business dealings, Maxie keeps her eyes closed, until, finally, she must force them open.

In many ways this novel is about awakenings – Maxie’s own awakening to her needs as a woman, as a wife, as a person – but it’s also about family. The families we are born to, and the families we choose.

It’s an interesting, if quirky, novel. Fast, compelling, and a bit unsettling, but I think that’s the intent.

Goes well with: an ante-pasta plate and red wine.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Friday, March 22nd: Jathan & Heather

Monday, March 25th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 26th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver

Wednesday, March 27th: Life By Kristen

Friday, March 29th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, April 1st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, April 2nd: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Thursday, April 4th: Wining Wife

Monday, April 8th: bookchickdi

Thursday, April 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, April 12th: Broken Teepee

Review: In This Ground by Beth Castrodale

About the book, In This Ground In-This-Ground

  • Paperback: 160 Pages
  • Publisher: Garland Press (September 18, 2018)

Just as his indie-rock band was poised to make it big, Ben Dirjery traded it all in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at Bolster Hill Cemetery. Now closing in on fifty, the former guitarist finds himself divorced and at loose ends, and still haunted by the tragic death of his former band’s lead singer, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. Then Ben’s daughter begins questioning a past he has tried to bury. If he can face her questions, he might finally put to rest his guilt over his bandmate’s death, and bring music back into his life.

Praise for In This Ground:

“Startlingly incongruous parts–graveyards, guitars, and mushrooms–come together in satisfying and unexpected ways. Sharp writing and an unconventional plot make for a darkly enjoyable read.”–Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Beth Castrodale Beth-Castrodale

Beth Castrodale has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. Her novels include Marion Hatley, a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (published by Garland Press in 2017), and In This Ground (Garland Press, 2018). Beth’s stories have appeared in such journals as Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and the Mulberry Fork Review. Get a free copy of her novel Gold River when you sign up for her e-newsletter, at http://www.bethcastrodale.com/gold-river/.

Connect with Beth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Quirky characters, music, knitting bombs, mushrooms, and green funerals all combine in this gripping novel from Beth Castrodale, In This Ground. It’s part mystery part character study, with multiple intertwining threads and overlapping stories, not to mention that it’s set in a cemetery.

At the center of it all, of course, is Ben, divorced, lonely, with his ambitions of being in a successful rock band long gone to seed, he is the POV character we first meet, and while the story pays more attention to his (dead and buried) former bandmate Nick Graves, and the Unknown Vagrant, whose very existence is a point of contention in the community, it is Ben’s arc that I found most compelling and most poignant.

In truth, though, every plot thread is equally fascinating, and every character is dimensional and interesting, and author Castrodale has woven (or knitted) it all together into a story that begs you to read it, and leaves you hoping for a sequel.

Goes well with: mushroom and olive pizza and a cold beer.


Beth Castrodale’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 7th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, January 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 10th: Books and Bindings

Monday, January 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 15th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post

Wednesday, January 16th: Booklover Book Reviews

Thursday, January 17th: @crystals_library

Monday, January 21st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, January 22nd: Really Into This and @mountain_reader_

Wednesday, January 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, January 24th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, January 28th: Book By Book

Tuesday, January 29th: Erica Robyn Reads