Review: Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck

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

• Paperback: 278 pages
• Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads


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

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

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

Connect with Sarahlyn:

Facebook  | TwitterInstagram

 


My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monday, September 10th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee

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Review Stops

Monday, August 20th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 21st: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 23rd: Comfy Reading

Friday, August 24th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 27th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, August 28th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, August 29th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, August 30th: Leigh Kramer

Friday, August 31st: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, September 3rd: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, September 4th: Wining Wife

Wednesday, September 5th: Will Read Anything

Thursday, September 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, September 7th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, September 10th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, September 11th: Instagram: @writersdream

Wednesday, September 12th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, September 13th: Instagram: @booenetics

Review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin

About the book, Dead Girls Dead Girls by Alice Bolin

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

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

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

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

Praise for Dead Girls:

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Dead Girls: 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alice Bolin Alice-Bolin-AP

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

Connect with Alice:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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


Tour Stops for Dead Girls TLC Book Tours

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Wednesday, June 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

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Friday, June 29th: Stranded in Chaos

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Monday, July 2nd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, July 5th: Doing Dewey

Friday, July 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, July 9th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 10th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

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

Thursday, July 12th: From the TBR Pile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terri-Lynne DeFino

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

Find out more about Terri at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Review Stops:

Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 15th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

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

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 25th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

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

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

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

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

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

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

Praise for The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

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

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

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, J. Reeder Archuleta J Reeder Archuleta

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

Connect with J. Reeder:

Website | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: barbecued brisket and cold beer.


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4/17/18 Promo The Page Unbound
4/17/18 Bonus Post Hall Ways Blog
4/18/18 Review Books and Broomsticks
4/19/18 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
4/20/18 Review Forgotten Winds
4/21/18 Excerpt Book Fidelity
4/22/18 Promo The Love of a Bibliophile
4/23/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews
4/24/18 Notable Quotable The Clueless Gent
4/25/18 Character Interview That’s What She’s Reading
4/26/18 Review Bibliotica

 

Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Dugoni Robert Dugoni

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

Connect with Robert:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

 

Review: The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

About the book, The Wild Inside

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 20, 2018)

The Wild InsideThe Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King.” —John Irving

A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

 

Buy, read, and discuss The Wild Inside:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jamey Bradbury Jamey-Bradbury-AP-Photo-by-Brooke-Taylor

Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News, TheBillfold.com, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

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


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI had a hard time getting into this book because the main character’s thoughts are written with intentionally bad grammar. While I recognize that it was a stylistic choice, meant to give us a clear view of who protagonist Tracy Petrikoff truly is, I find double negatives and such so off-putting when they’re not limited to dialogue, that I nearly put this book down. Twice.

I admit it; I’m a language snob.

Still, the description intrigued me, and I had committed to read the novel. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, because what I found was a gripping, suspenseful story, with some great detail and character work from the author, Jamey Bradbury.

Tracy herself is a mix of strong and weak, and that inner dichotomy is what makes her feel real, as well as making her an interesting character to follow. As a dog person myself (I have four and work in rescue), I was hooked most by the initial scenes describing her dogs, and how she was born in the kennel.

As I kept reading, I enjoyed watching the layers of the story unfold, and that same reaction to Tracy’s poor grammar outside of dialogue became something I appreciated when she was speaking to others.

This is a great read for anyone who likes a little bit of romance and a touch of horror wrapped in a compelling mystery. It’s also a great read for people who appreciate vivid three-dimensional characters and setting described so well, you feel as if you were there.

Goes well with a bowl of chili, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a mug of steaming hot coffee.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 26th: Jessicamap Reviews

Tuesday, March 27th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Wednesday, March 28th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 29th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, April 2nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, April 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, April 4th: Sweet Southern Home

Thursday, April 5th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, April 9th: As I turn the pages

Friday, April 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Ms. Nose in a Book

TBD: Write – Read – Life

Review: Love Unleashed, by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

About the book, Love Unleashed

Love Unleashed• Hardcover: 160 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 6, 2018)

A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives.

In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend. Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man’s best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.

Buy, read, and discuss Love Unleashed:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 


About the author, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Photo by Mark Mann

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a writer who specializes in celebrity and lifestyle coverage, but who also loves dogs and telling stories about amazing animals. She contributes to many newspapers and national magazines including Entertainment Weekly, Adweek, and the Los Angeles Times. She is a volunteer at a high-kill shelter in Manhattan and a founding director of the Deja Foundation, devoted to funding the medical care and training costs of dogs rescued from high-kill shelters.

 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI work in rescue, and typically have a foster dog in addition to the four dogs my husband and I actually adopted, so I thought I knew the array of stories that rescues represented. Still, Love Unleashed introduced me to some stories I hadn’t heard, and some scenarios I hadn’t personally encounter.

Author Rebecca Ascher-Walsh treats every animal in this book like the amazing animal it is. The pictures are gorgeous, the stories told to maximize our appreciation of our canine friends, and maybe elicit some tears. (I know my eyes were wet as I paged through this gallery of fluffy, sweet, beloved animals.)

Some of these stories – the pit bull who waited five years for a home, the golden retriever who lost his eyes to infection – are heartbreaking. Others – the little girl and her service dog, the pup who helped a cancer survivor find a new lease on life – are heartwarming. All, however, are full of soft fur, big eyes, and feet that, I’m pretty sure, all smell like corn chips.

As an animal lover, this book made me appreciate my own dogs.

As an animal rescuer, this book reminded me why we do what we do, why we fight for every animal, why we’re constantly begging people for money or to open their homes to a foster pet, why we manage to make room for just one more, even when we know we shouldn’t.

It’s more than a coffee table book, but the coffee table is where my beautiful copy will live, because it’s too pretty, and too special, to hide on a shelf.

Goes well with a mug of coffee and a plate of apples and cheddar cheese, the latter to be shared with whatever fourfoot insists that they like cheese, too.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 6th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, March 7th: G. Jacks Writes

Friday, March 9th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, March 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, March 14th: Literary Quicksand

Thursday, March 15th: Openly Bookish

Monday, March 19th: The Geeky Bibliophile

Tuesday, March 20th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, March 21st: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 22nd: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, March 26nd: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, March 27th: What Is That Book About

Guest Post by Stolen Obsession author Marlene M. Bell – with Giveaway

Stolen Obsession

About the book Stolen Obsession Stolen Obsession

  • Genre: Spicy Romantic Mystery
  • Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
  • Date of Publication: March 20, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 284
  • Series: Annalisse, book 1
  • Scroll down for the guest post and giveaway!

PEOPLE DIE, BUT LEGENDS LIVE ON.

Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.

Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.

Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.

Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.

But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?

Hold on for a heart-thumping adventure through exotic lands in this fast moving, romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M Bell.

Watch the Trailer for Stolen Obsession:

Pre-Order Stolen Obsession:

AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AU


About the author, Marlene M. Bell

Marlene M. BellMarlene M Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!The ShepherdRanch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested at  www.marlenembell.com  or www.texassheep.com.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in East Texas with their 50 head of Horned Dorset sheep, a lovable Maremma guard dog named, Tia, and 3 spoiled cats who rule the household.

Connect with Marlene:

Website║ Facebook ║ Twitter ║ LinkedIn ║ Google+ ║ Blog


Guest Post: The Top Nine Writing Pitfalls by Marlene M. Bell

Stolen ObsessionWriting is hard.

Toiling on STOLEN OBSESSION for nearly a decade felt insane at times. It never occurred to me to give up on the project or stop learning the craft as the years ticked by. I love a challenge, but honestly, birthing a novel was the hardest chore I’ve ever undertaken. And I raise breeding stock sheep! I thought that was tough. Being an artistic person with a paintbrush or camera ought to have helped me tackle a creative project like, the novel. I was sure of it. How hard could writing fiction be? Think of a story, dig through personal memories and cherry pick the best ones. Layer the juicy episodes between characters and create a great read. Easy, right? If you’ve written a novel to the end, your laughter stings my ears.

Would I tackle STOLEN OBSESSION the same way if I could shave off some time? C’mon, eight years is an eternity in front of a computer. I’ve asked myself that question many times and wondered what my story would’ve looked like without the stops and starts. Pretty rotten and unreadable, I’d say. Here’s a link to the press release for STOLEN OBSESSION if you’re interested in how my 8-year project turned out. Novel Release Date: 3-20-2018.  https://tinyurl.com/yaqenzp3

In case you’ve considered writing a book, or have entered the deep, squishy end of your work in progress, I’ve listed 9 areas of frustration I had to learn the hard way:

  • Crack open books on how to craft fiction before writing the first paragraph.
  • Lots of reading = the greatest chance for stellar writing.
  • Debut authors should outline the story ahead of time.
  • Critiques and edits are ALL subjective.  
  • Know what genre or sub-genre your story falls within.
  • Network with fellow writers.
  • Budget for the expense of a good developmental editor, (or two.)
  • Most novels need tons of rewrites. 
  • There are writing rules. Read from famed authors at great peril.

To read more about my experiences with each of these pitfalls, click to visit my blog for the full post!


GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

TWO Readers Each Win a SIGNED COPY

+ $50 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

MARCH 1-10, 2018

(Open Internationally)

 

Giveaway Stolen Obsession_preview

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Stolen Obsession Blog Tour Stops:

3/1/18 Notable Quotable The Page Unbound
3/1/18 Notable Quotable Momma on the Rocks
3/2/18 Review Syd Savvy
3/2/18 Excerpt 1 Books and Broomsticks
3/3/18 Review Tangled in Text
3/4/18 Review The Librarian Talks
3/5/18 Author Interview The Clueless Gent
3/5/18 Excerpt 2 Missus Gonzo
3/6/18 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
3/7/18 Guest Post Bibliotica
3/7/18 Author Interview The Love of a Bibliophile
3/8/18 Review Rebecca R. Cahill
3/9/18 Scrapbook Page Reading by Moonlight
3/9/18 Excerpt 3 Forgotten Winds
3/10/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews

 

LoneStarLitLife

LoneStarBookBlogTours sm

Review: The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard

About the book, The Atomic City Girls

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

The-Atomic-City-Girls-cover“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Buy, read, and discuss The Atomic City Girls:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Janet Beard Janet-Beard-AP-Photo-by-Bradley-Cummings

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.

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


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the brief on this novel says, this book is very much in the vein of Hidden Figures, in that it’s a fictionalized version of a true story, and involves women working in STEM fields, on significant projects. The difference, of course, is that June didn’t know what she was working on at the time. In fact she didn’t learn what she’d been a part of until much later.

I felt that reading this novel at a time when we’re talking about arming teachers (please, God, I hope we don’t) was oddly appropriate. It’s easy to believe you have the power to shoot someone, but a far different thing to actually do it. It’s easy to say “kill the enemy!” and much less simple when you realize that enemy has a human face, and human lives.

While I appreciated the historical details author Janet Beard incorporated into her story – beginning with June’s grandfather being forced to leave his cabin in the area about to be commandeered by the U.S. military – what I liked was that she kept things simple and elegant. June is just like any other young woman experiencing her first taste of independence – a job, a romance – it’s just that her universal experience is set against patterns and events  – The Manhattan Project – the bombing of Hiroshima – that exist on a vastly different scale.

I found The Atomic City Girls to be a fascinating read and a truly gripping story.

Goes well with a turkey and havarti sandwich with pesto, and a glass of iced tea.


Tour Stopshttps://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read

Monday, February 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish

Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation

Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica

Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_

Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi

Review: Deborah Rising/Deborah Calling by Avraham Azrieli

About Deborah Calling Deborah Calling

• Print Length: 432 pages
• Publisher: HarperLegend (July 25, 2017)

The author of the bestselling Deborah Rising continues the fascinating story of the biblical prophetess Deborah in this entrancing work of visionary fiction—a tale of danger, mysticism, intrigue, and daring.

Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see this wish come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man by seeking out a mysterious elixirist who could turn women into men.

Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah’s help to escape enslavement and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat-and-mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer who has a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.Deborah Rising

As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.

A riveting adventure tale derived from traditional biblical fiction, Deborah Calling imagines the life of one of the most famous figures from the Old Testament as she continues on her path to becoming a prophetess.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Avraham Azrieli

Avraham Azrieli is the author of nine fiction and nonfiction works. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thrillers Writers Association, the Historical Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Authors Guild, and other professional societies, and his work has been reviewed by numerous outlets, including Examiner, US Review of Books, New York Daily News, The Jewish Journal, San Francisco Book Review, and more. He lives in Maryland.

Visit him online at azrielibooks.com.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Please note: I read Deborah Calling and its predecessor, Deborah Rising, back to back, so to me, they run together becoming one story, and I’m honestly no longer certain what was in book one and what was in book two.

While I typically enjoy historical fiction, it’s rare when I read anything based in a biblical tale. I’m not particularly religious, and I feel like I’m never the best audience for these things. When I do read such things, I’m afraid I compare them all to either The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant or Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle.

Azrieili’s two Deborah books are neither as splashy as Diamant’s novel, nor as intellectual as L’Engle’s, but they are not without their own merit. I found the author’s choice of relatively plain, simple language was a good contrast to the epic vastness of the story he was trying to tell, and he managed to bridge the gap between making things accessible to contemporary readers while also keeping the flavor of the source material.

That said, I’m finding it difficult to separate my emotional reaction to these books, which open with an extremely violent act against Deborah’s older sister, from my critical response.

Melissa-the-reader feels over-saturated with stories about women being mistreated, ignored, and brutalized, and to read about it happening in an historical setting was unsettling at best.

Melissa-the-reviewer, on the other hand, understands that much of the misogyny represented in these novels was accurate to the period, and she certainly understands that the author was in no way endorsing such treatment of women, or of people who are not of the dominant faith of any land. At the same time, that reviewer-self understands that when you’re reading about difficult concepts they should unsettle you, because that means the author has done his or her job.

My recommendation, then, is that while these are stories of a strong woman forging a unique, and often difficult, path from pawn to prophet, please ensure that you understand the context before you dive in.

Overall, I felt that these were well-written, well-paced, interesting stories, and the author’s writing voice is one of quiet grace, which I really appreciated.

Goes well with hot tea, and date-nut bread slathered in butter.


Tour Stops https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

Friday, January 12th: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Rising

Wednesday, January 17th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Thursday, January 18th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, January 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Rising

Monday, February 12th: Mother’s Circle

Wednesday, February 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Write – Read – Life

Wednesday, February 21st: A Bookish AffairDeborah Rising

Friday, February 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: A Bookish AffairDeborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: Openly Bookish

TBD: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Calling

TBD: Based on a True Story