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

Review: The Janus Witch, by Michael Scott Clifton – with Giveaway

Janus Witch - Banner

 About the book, The Janus Witch

  • Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy / Romance
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 372 pages
  • Scroll down for giveaway.

Malice vs Love

A beautiful witch, a member of a murderous coven, is torn from her medieval world and transported to East Texas. The passage leaves her with no memory of her previous life. She falls in love with a young pediatrician, but her dark past threatens to reassert itself…and make her a threat.

Praise for The Janus Witch:

  • This book is filled with magic, intrigue, excitement, and fantasy. Michael Scott Clifton is a truly gifted author.  — Teresa Syms, Readers’ Favorite
  • This novel was an absolute page turner with action and great character development. I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m excited for the next work by Mike Clifton. — Bronwyn Pegues, Librarian, Longview Public Library
  • “Michael Scott Clifton weaves and casts a magical spell in his fantasy romance The Janus Witch. A must read for any Fantasy Romance, Urban Romance, or Paranormal Romance enthusiast!” — Ranay James, Author of The McKinnon Legends: A Time Travel Series
  • A continuous flow of witchery and energy that kept this reader captivated until the end. — The Electric Review, 5-Star Review

Watch the trailer for The Janus Witch:

Buy, read, and discuss, The Janus Witch:

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


About the author, Michael Scott Clifton Janus Witch - Author

Michael Scott Clifton, public educator for over 38 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie, and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys…adventure, magic, fantasy, romance, and relationships. He has been a finalist in a number of short story contests. Clifton’s fantasy novel, The Conquest of the Veil, won a First Chapter Finalist award. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Janus Witch, the July Book Cover of the Month, is a featured book on the We Love Indie Books website. Currently, Clifton is completing Book I of The Conquest of the Veil, which will be released in March 2019. He can be reached at mike@michaelscottclifton.com.

Connect with Michael:

Website ║ Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Instagram ║ Goodreads ║ Amazon Author Page


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The title of this novel, The Janus Witch, is really perfectly chosen. A Janus coin depicts a two-headed (or two-faced) Roman god. Like the image on the coin, the main character in this story, a medieval witch named Tressalayne who struggles with her own duality. On the one hand, she’s a witch from an ancient culture, and revels in dark deeds, on the other, she’s thrust into contemporary East Texas and falls in love with a pediatrician – the epitome of good works.

As much as I enjoyed the initial introduction to Tressalayne in her world, watching her try to navigate a more modern era was fascinating. Clifton did some great world building in both times and places, and I felt transported into the fabric of his story. I especially appreciated his use of language, both in specific word choices and in the way he used the differences in the way people speak to really mark Tressalayne as someone other.

I’m a sucker for time-travel stories of any kind, but this one incorporated magic, romance, and a real moral struggle, and it was the combination of those elements that, I feel, make this book a satisfying read. When you finish it, you know where the characters are going, but you want to follow their journey just a bit longer. That leave-the-audience-wanting-more tone is so difficult to capture, but Clifton has absolutely done so.


Giveaway!

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THREE WINNERS!
One Winner: One Signed Copy + $10 Amazon Gift Card + Bookmark

Two Winners: eBook Copies

DECEMBER 4-13, 2018

(U.S. Only)

Janus Witch - Giveaway

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Tour Stops for The Janus Witch

12/4/18 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
12/4/18 Book Trailer Books and Broomsticks
12/5/18 Review Bibliotica
12/6/18 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
12/6/18 Top 5 List StoreyBook Reviews
12/7/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/8/18 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
12/8/18 Promo The Book Review
12/9/18 Review Book Fidelity
12/10/18 Author Interview Rebecca R. Cahill, Author
12/10/18 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
12/11/18 Review Nerd Narration
12/12/18 Guest Post Rainy Days with Amanda
12/13/18 Review The Clueless Gent
2/13/18 Review Reading by Moonlight

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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.


Designer You Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Wednesday, September 5th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Thursday, September 6th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read

Friday, September 7th: Instagram: @brittanyfiiasco

Saturday, September 8th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading

Sunday, September 9th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

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

Tuesday, September 11th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

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.


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Friday, June 29th: Stranded in Chaos

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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.


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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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Visit the other great blogs on this tour

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.