Review: Lighthouse Beach, by Shelley Noble

About the book, Lighthouse Beach Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 29, 2018)

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams.

What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach.

Buy, read, and discuss Lighthouse Beach:

Harper Collins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary Brown

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my favorite writers of “beach books,” as most of her novels are set in coastal locations. (I grew up on the Jersey shore, and it’s still the home of my heart, so even when a story takes place in Maine, as Lighthouse Beach does, I feel like I’m visiting the beaches of my childhood.)

In this book, she combines two of my favorite things: beach settings, and women supporting other women, which may be the ultimate combination of storytelling. Each of the five women in this story: Lillo, Jess, Allie, Diana, and Mac, are a bit broken, a bit lost, a bit in need of a restart. In “kidnapping” Jess from a wedding she truly didn’t want to go through with, and using Lillo’s Lighthouse Beach community as their sanctuary, each of them begins to heal. (Mac is a longtime resident, but her story becomes intertwined with that of the other four, so it seems wrong not to include her.)

Friendships between women are  things to be treasured, and while some of the friendships among these five people exist at the start of the story, others form as the tale is told. Never once does anything feel contrived. Noble’s characters all have distinct voices and personalities, and they feel like the women we all know.

While Lillo and Jess are the true heart of this book, I found myself (likely because I’m three months away from turning 48) identifying with Mac a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always harbored a secret desire to live in a lighthouse (or at least in the keeper’s cottage).

While the women in this book are the main characters, there are men, lovely men, in the story as well. Ned, Ian, Clancy  – all have their moments to shine, and all are as distinct and interesting as the women who interact with them.

As I was reading this, I found myself wishing I could join the group in Maggie’s kitchen or Lillo’s living room, or on the beach. It doesn’t matter if it’s wine or beer or tea or some of each. What matters is the support we get from our circle of friends, and Shelley Noble has captured that with humor, wit, sincerity, and real dimension.

Goes well with a glass of cabernet sipped while sitting in the sand on a chilly coastal evening. Sweaters, jeans, and bare feet recommended. Bonfire optional.


Lighthouse Beach Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, May 31st: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Friday, June 1st: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 5th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, June 12th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, June 14th: Jessicamap Reviews

Friday, June 15th: Literary Quicksand

Review: Because I’m Worth It, by Linda Nielsen

About the book, Because I’m Worth It Because-Im-Worth-It-cover

• Paperback: 346 pages
• Publisher: TouchPoint Press (March 1, 2018)

An impressive contract combined with lavish perks influence Skye Topple to marry the boss’ daughter, Delaney Mae Anne Covington, a self-centered and spoiled southern belle. The “perfect” wedding is threatened when an alarming secret refuses to stay hidden. With no regard for anyone other than herself and her daughter, Delaney’s alcoholic mother takes control, inserting irrational solutions that leave mother and daughter looking foolish while a baby’s life, a grandmother’s love, and a man’s career hang in the balance. This is certainly not a North meets South story—more like South moves North and meets West, where what works for one family may not work for another. Choices must be made. Lives will be changed. One thing is for sure… Skye is smack dab in the middle when Big Sur life meets country club values.

Buy, read, and discuss Because I’m Worth It: 

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Linda Nielsen Linda Nielsen

Linda’s first book, Lasso the Stars, was published in 2011 under L.L. Nielsen. Her newest novel, Because I’m Worth It, is scheduled for release by TouchPoint Press in early 2018.

Find out more about Linda at her website, and find all her books at Author Central page.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Linda Nielsen is an excellent writer, a creator of vivid, dimensional characters, and it’s because she’s so good at this that I’m having difficulty in reviewing this book, Because I’m Worth It, because one of the main characters, Delaney’s mother, Terri Sue Ellen, is one of the most unlikable, annoying women I’ve ever encountered in fiction. And believe me, it takes talent to create a character who reads so real that you cringe every time she speaks.

Conversely, Skye’s mother, Melissa, is a character I could have read an entire novel about (and in many ways I did – this book is her story, and Terri Sue Ellen’s, as much as it is the story of Skye and Delaney and everyone else), and not just because we share a first name and a love of quirky houses and creativity.

Still a reviewer’s job isn’t to like the characters, it’s to highlight the good (or bad) points of a book, and, my visceral dislike of Terri Sue Ellen aside, I really enjoyed this book. The story is compelling with just enough twists and turns to keep it from being predictable. The contrast between Delaney’s family and Skye’s family is beautifully drawn, and the I had a great time escaping into other people’s lives for 346 pages.

Nielsen excels at dialogue as well as character crafting. I liked the differences between the breezy California styles of Skye and his family as compared to the mixture of Chicago and Southern tones in Delaney and her people. Those dialect cues made it much easier to remember where we were, as the story jumped back and forth between Big Sur, Chicago, Atlanta, and a few other places.

I haven’t read Nielsen’s other work, but I think she’s got a long, successful career ahead of her, and I’ll definitely be following it, eager to see what she writes next.

Goes well with steamed artichokes and warm butter, and a glass of California chardonnay, eaten on a coastal patio at sunset.

 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 21st: Wining Wife

Tuesday, May 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Thursday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @jessicamap

Wednesday, May 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

Tuesday, June 5th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, May 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Spotlight: Dam Nation by Hays & McFall – with Giveaway

BNR Dam Nation Tour JPG

About the book, Bonnie & Clyde: Dam Nation

  • Series: Bonnie & Clyde (Book 2)
  • Genre: Historical / Alternative History / Romance
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: March 24, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 266

cover HI RES Dam NationBonnie and Clyde: Defending the working class from a river of greed.

The year is 1935 and the Great Depression has America in a death grip of poverty, unemployment and starvation. But the New Deal is rekindling hope, with federally funded infrastructure projects, like Hoover Dam, putting people back to work.  Set to harness the mighty Colorado River for electricity and irrigation, the dam is an engineering marvel and symbol of American can-do spirit.

So, why is someone trying to blow it up?

When an informant on the construction site is murdered, Bonnie and Clyde—spared from their gruesome deaths and forced into a covert life working for the government—are given their second assignment: stop the bomb and protect the thousands of laborers and families in the company town. It’s their most dangerous mission yet: working for a living.

Can the notorious lovers put aside their criminal ways long enough to find out who wants to extinguish the American dream, and hopefully reclaim a shred of redemption along the way?

The thrilling story cuts back and forth between the modern era where a reporter interviews the now-elderly Bonnie Parker, and the dangerous 1930s undercover exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, as they are thrust into a fight to defend the working class against corporate greed.

Dam Nation, a historical thriller with unsettling contemporary parallels, continues the explosive “what-if” series, started in Resurrection Road, about two unlikely heroes fighting to defend the working class during America’s Great Depression.

Praise for Dam Nation: GRAPHIC with Kirkus Review

Crisply written, well-researched, thoroughly entertaining. As in Resurrection Road, Hays and McFall evoke time and place well in this sequel. The story’s politics are fresh and timely. Readers will find Bonnie and Clyde to be great company, and the novel’s framing story (the widowed Bonnie’s 1984 recollections) gives their relationship an extra layer of poignancy. — Kirkus Reviews

“Dam Nation” highlights the real-life turmoil of the 1930s as only Hays and McFall can — shadowy intrigue, plenty of suspects and enough behind-the-scenes and under-the-covers action to keep the narrative sizzling along to the final page. — East Oregonian

A rollicking good read. The real history of the rise of unions and worker rights against the backdrop of a nation recovering from the Great Depression contributes an engrossing, realistic scenario; a vivid read that blends fiction with nonfiction elements in a way that makes the book hard to put down. — Midwest Book Review

Buy, read, and discuss Dam Nation:

Amazon | Goodreads

Check out a quote from Dam Nation:

Notable Quotable from Dam Nation

Watch the trailer for Resurrection Road (book one of Bonnie  & Clyde):

 


About the authors, Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall Authors Hays_Mcfall Photo

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Dam Nation is their sixth co-authored book.

Connect with Hays & McFall:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 


Giveaway

Three Winners Each Win a Signed Copy + $10 Amazon Gift Card

MAY 16-25, 2018

(U.S. Only)

Giveaway Dam Nation
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Bonnie & Clyde Dam Nation Blog Tour Stops

5/16/18 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
5/17/18 Review Forgotten Winds
5/18/18 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
5/19/18 Notable Quotable Bibliotica
5/20/18 Review Missus Gonzo
5/21/18 Character Interview Texas Book Lover
5/22/18 Notable Quotable Tangled in Text
5/23/18 Review Hall Ways Blog
5/24/18 Guest Post Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
5/25/18 Review Momma on the Rocks

 

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Review: In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo

About the book, In Praise of Difficult Women

• Hardcover: 352 pagesIn-Praise-of-Difficult-Women-cover
• Publisher: National Geographic (February 27, 2018)

From Amelia Earhart to Carrie Fisher, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Frida Kahlo, Nora Ephron, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes, Elizabeth Taylor, and Helen Gurley Brown, among others. Their lives–imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious–provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being “difficult,” Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling–whatever that means for you.

Buy, read, and discuss In Praise of Difficult Women:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Karen Karbo

KAREN KARBO is the author of multiple award-winning novels, memoirs and works of nonfiction. Her best-selling “Kick-Ass Women” series includes The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman, which was an international bestseller. Karbo’s short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Karbo lives in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to kick ass.

Connect with Karen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I asked to review this collection of essays, I originally thought it was a collection of works by the women included. It is not. Instead, it’s a collection of essays – part biography/part anecdote – about twenty-nine of the women our culture in general, and author Karen Karbo specifically, consider to be iconic.

It’s a fairly well-rounded collection of women, each given an a specific adjective. J.K. Rowling is dubbed ‘feisty,’ for example and Shonda Rimes is ‘unstoppable,’ while Jane Goodall is described as ‘determined,’ Hillary Clinton is ‘ambitious’ and Carrie Fisher, the final essay in this collection, is ‘droll.’  The order seems haphazard – Janis Joplin is among the final entries, while Coco Chanel is in the middle – but this isn’t the sort of book where order particularly matters. Rather, it’s the kind of book you can pick up anywhere, read an essay or two, and then come back to a while later, and read a few more.

Karbo’s writing voice is crisp and easy. This doesn’t negate the seriousness of some of her subject matter, it just makes it feel like you’re hearing these women described by a friend. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because while all of the women represented here are (or were) at the tops of their field, this book humanizes them. Through Karbo’s eyes we see them as women first, and icons second.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this book was the author’s use of footnotes. Some merely clarified dates and titles, while others were personal asides. Her comment about naming an indie rock band “Forest of Dean,” made me laugh out loud.

Over all, this is a fantastic collection of well-written essays about iconic women who are supremely real people.

Goes well with hot coffee and an almond croissant.


Tour Stops https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair

Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica

Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi

Monday, March 19th: Openly Bookish

Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: The Magic of Stars by Jackie Ladbury

The Magic of Stars

About the book, The Magic of Stars

The Magic of Stars Sapphire Montrose always felt like a loser in the struggle of life, but when she becomes the airline manager of a run-down airline she starts to believe she is a winner – until she unwittingly propositions her new boss and all her hard work is undone.

In a moment of recklessness air stewardess, Sapphire Montrose throws caution and her dress to the wind by propositioning a handsome stranger in a hotel in Florence, only to find herself waking up alone and embarrassed in her hotel room.

Unfortunately for Sapphire, it turns out that her new boss, Marco Cavarelli, is the man she failed to seduce and she is now fighting for her job and her self-respect when he tells her there is no place in his revamped airline for an alcoholic woman with lascivious tendencies. To make matters worse she is increasingly attracted to him and he seems to be giving out the same vibes. Or is he simply testing her? One wrong move could be the end of her career. But what if he really is offering love – and is he worth the risk?

Buy, read, and discuss The Magic of Stars:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jackie Ladbury

Jackie LadburyJackie Ladbury was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen.

Short and sharp lesson learned.

Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.

Fast forward a good few years and, after being short-listed in a couple of prestigious romantic writing competitions, Jackie decided it was time to discard her stilettos, say goodbye to the skies and concentrate on writing romantic novels, where the only given is a guaranteed ‘happy ever after.’

Connect with Jackie:

Website | The Write Romantics | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellLove is complicated. Affairs are messy. When either of those pleasures mixes with work – in this case a woman and her boss – complicated and messy become exponentially worse.

In Jackie Ladbury’s deft hands, what could be a story of soap opera exaggeration is, instead, a very human story about love and lust and the choices we make. Sapphire is a perfect representation of the contemporary woman: flawed but working on those flaws, self-aware, but sometimes only in hindsight, and yearning for more than just a paycheck or a one night stand. Marco is also flawed, sexy and smart and a little bit reckless. The perfect object of adoration (at first) and affection (later).

In The Magic of Stars Ladbury has given us a romance that combines a touch of fantasy with a large dose of reality. Her plot moves at a good pace. Her dialogue feels believable. Her characters are dimensional.

This is the perfect read for a wintry weekend by the fire.

Goes well with Irish coffee and a chocolate brownie.


The Magic of Stars Full Tour

Cover Reveal: The Magic of Stars, by Jackie Ladbury

The Magic of Stars Cover Reveal

About the book, The Magic of Stars

The Magic of Stars Sapphire Montrose always felt like a loser in the struggle of life, but when she becomes the airline manager of a run-down airline she starts to believe she is a winner – until she unwittingly propositions her new boss and all her hard work is undone.

In a moment of recklessness air stewardess, Sapphire Montrose throws caution and her dress to the wind by propositioning a handsome stranger in a hotel in Florence, only to find herself waking up alone and embarrassed in her hotel room.

Unfortunately for Sapphire, it turns out that her new boss, Marco Cavarelli, is the man she failed to seduce and she is now fighting for her job and her self-respect when he tells her there is no place in his revamped airline for an alcoholic woman with lascivious tendencies. To make matters worse she is increasingly attracted to him and he seems to be giving out the same vibes. Or is he simply testing her? One wrong move could be the end of her career. But what if he really is offering love – and is he worth the risk?

Buy, read, and discuss The Magic of Stars:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jackie Ladbury

Jackie LadburyJackie Ladbury was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen.

Short and sharp lesson learned.

Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.

Fast forward a good few years and, after being short-listed in a couple of prestigious romantic writing competitions, Jackie decided it was time to discard her stilettos, say goodbye to the skies and concentrate on writing romantic novels, where the only given is a guaranteed ‘happy ever after.’

Connect with Jackie:

Website | The Write Romantics | Facebook | Twitter

 

Review: A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug, by Sarah Lacy

About the book, A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug A Uterus is a Feature Not a Bug

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (November 14, 2017)

A rallying cry for working mothers everywhere that demolishes the “distracted, emotional, weak” stereotype and definitively shows that these professionals are more focused, decisive, and stronger than any other force.

Working mothers aren’t a liability. They are assets you—and every manager and executive—want in your company, in your investment portfolio, and in your corner.

There is copious academic research showing the benefits of working mothers on families and the benefits to companies who give women longer and more flexible parental leave. There are even findings that demonstrate women with multiple children actually perform better at work than those with none or one.

Yet despite this concrete proof that working mothers are a lucrative asset, they still face the “Maternal Wall”—widespread unconscious bias about their abilities, contributions, and commitment. Nearly eighty percent of women are less likely to be hired if they have children—and are half as likely to be promoted. Mothers earn an average $11,000 less in salary and are held to higher punctuality and performance standards. Forty percent of Silicon Valley women said they felt the need to speak less about their family to be taken more seriously. Many have been told that having a second child would cost them a promotion.

Fortunately, this prejudice is slowly giving way to new attitudes, thanks to more women starting their own businesses, and companies like Netflix, Facebook, Apple, and Google implementing more parent-friendly policies. But the most important barrier to change isn’t about men. Women must rethink the way they see themselves after giving birth. As entrepreneur Sarah Lacy makes clear in this cogent, persuasive analysis and clarion cry, the strongest, most lucrative, and most ambitious time of a woman’s career may easily be after she sees a plus sign on a pregnancy test.

Buy, read, and discuss A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Lacy Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is the founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the investigative tech news site Pando.com. She has been covering technology news and entrepreneurship for over fifteen years, with stints at BusinessWeek and TechCrunch before founding her own company while on maternity leave in 2011. She lives in San Francisco. Most importantly of all, she is the mother of two young children.

Connect with Sarah:

Follow Sarah on Twitter.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It would be far too easy to gush over this book, to say that it should be required reading for every woman who works outside the home, or has a daughter who does. It would be ridiculously simple to refer to the author, Sarah Lacy as one of the most important feminist voices of the modern era. Those things would be easy and simple because they are both true.

This book is witty, yes, but it’s also wise. It’s a gift from one woman to many others, of the author’s experience and insight, and while it’s written in an upbeat tone, it’s also quite frank.

More specifically, this book provides real advice on women in the workplace, especially after they become mothers. It talks about how to balance career goals with parenthood goals, but it also encourages women to be firm about how they’re treated, and sheds light on the way women in general, and women with children specifically, are perceived, and how to both cope and counter the (mostly) white, male establishment.

I’m not a mother, and I’ve been out of corporate America for over a decade, but I still found this book incredibly informative, insightful, and even empowering, and I’m recommending it to all of my friends – women and men – who still work for other people.

Will this book really help to overthrow the patriarchy? Maybe, maybe not. But it will open your eyes to what women face in the workplace every day, and, as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Goes well with grilled salmon, roasted red potatoes, a lush salad, and a glass of wine.


Tour Stops The Silent Fountain at TLC Book Tours

Thursday, November 16th: Openly Bookish

Monday, November 20th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, November 21st: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, November 22nd: Wining Wife

Monday, November 27th: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, November 28th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, November 29th: Literary Lindsey

Thursday, November 30th: Instagram: @juliecookies413

Friday, December 1st: Harry Times…all jacked up

TBD: Bibliotica

Review: The Welcome Home Diner, by Peggy Lampman

About the book, The Welcome Home DinerThe Welcome Home Diner

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Buy, read, and discuss The Welcome Home Diner:

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


About the author, Peggy Lampman

Peggy LampmanPeggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

Connect with Peggy:

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I didn’t grow up working in the New Jersey diner my family owned, but that’s mostly because my mother moved us away from New Jersey… and also because I was too young… but I have fond memories of spinning on the blue vinyl stools until I was sick, or arriving with my grandparents and being given a dish of my cousin Anthony’s amazing rice pudding.

Peggy Lampman’s novel The Welcome Home Diner reminded me of all the best parts of the diner experience – the regulars, being an integral part of the neighborhood – but it also reminded me of the drama that comes with any family-owned business: the resentment, the stress, the struggle to have a life separate from work.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Addie and Samantha, these cousins who act much like sisters. I have cousins like that as well, but I’m not sure I’d want to go into business with them.

While the diner Addie and Samantha are trying to restore and reopen is almost its own character in this story, I found the heart of the novel to be family. What won’t we do for those we love, and what will we jump into, sometimes without due preparation?

Full of vivid characters, emotionally truthful situations, and great descriptions, The Welcome Home Diner is better than any blue plate special.

Goes well with a cup of coffee and a dish of rice pudding.


Peggy Lampman’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 16th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 17th: A Thousand Books to Read

Wednesday, October 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Thursday, October 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, October 20th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram

Saturday, October 21st: Beth Fish Reads

Monday, October 23rd: The Sketchy Reader

Tuesday, October 24th: The Sketchy Reader – recipe from the book

Tuesday, October 24th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, October 25th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 26th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 27th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Wednesday, November 1st: Why Girls are Weird

Thursday, November 2nd: Bookchickdi

Friday, November 3rd: BookNAround

Monday, November 6th: Read Write Repeat

Tuesday, November 7th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, November 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 9th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Friday, November 10th: What is That Book About

Review: Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire

Hiddensee, by Gregory MaguireAbout the book, Hiddensee

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)

From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

Buy, read, and discuss Hiddensee:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Gregory Maguire Gregory-Maguire-AP-2017-Photo-credit-Andy-Newman

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes WickedSon of a WitchA Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Connect with Gregory:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of The Nutcracker in all its variations since a family friend gifted me with a copy of the book A Very Young Dancer when I was five. Forty-two years later, I still can’t get enough of it. The Tchaikovsky music is ever present in my iTunes playlist, and I spend the month of December watching every single production of the ballet that makes it to cable. (Ovation‘s annual ‘Battle of the Nutcrackers’ is a favorite event.) Somewhere in a box, I even have a wooden nutcracker doll, sent to me by my oldest auntie, when she and her husband were stationed in Ramstein, Germany in the 1970s.

My point is, The Nutcracker is part of my DNA, and the reason I was initially drawn to read and review this book, Hiddensee.

The thing is, Gregory Maguire’s novel has no resemblance to the story we all love. At first, that was disappointing. I was looking forward to an in-depth look at the Nutcracker-Prince’s story. I was hoping for the unresolved sexual tension between Herr Drosselmeier and Klara (known as Marie in some versions of the story) to be resolved.

That is not what Hiddensee is.

Instead, Maguire’s novel is the origin story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the boy who grows up to become the toymaker who creates the famous doll.

In terms of style and craft, Hiddensee is excellent. Maguire has a way of using simple language to create vivid scenes, evoke real emotion, and immerse us in whatever world he’s choosing to inhabit. In this novel, he recreated the tone of all those early E.T.A. Hoffman (who wrote the original Nutcracker fairy tale) and the Brothers Grimm, mixing in more than a little German romanticism. If you’ve ever read Rilke or Goethe, you will be extremely comfortable with Hiddensee, because it has that faintly dreamlike quality those two poets used to great effect.

In terms of story, I was a little disappointed. Oh, I was invested in young Dirk as a character, but I was expecting a Nutcracker story, not a coming-of-age story about a young man. As well, I found that this novel lacked Maguire’s typically excellent pacing, having a start-and-stop effect that I found a bit off-putting.

Perhaps my perception was colored by expectation, or perhaps in the twenty years since Maguire gave us Wicked (and I was an early reader of that novel), he’s lost sight of his goals, because I’m honestly not entirely sure what story he was trying to tell. Dirk is an interesting young man, but there was an air of detachment about him – almost as if he was on the Asperger’s spectrum – that kept me slightly disconnected from his story.

Then, too, there was the fact that every time the story started to rev up, it seemed to stall.

Don’t get me wrong, an ‘average’ offering from Maguire is still more engaging than any offering from a host of other authors, and there was much about this story to love – introductions to German philosophy included – but if you’re going into it expecting it to be a rehashing of the ballet or the fairy tale, you will be disappointed.

Bottom line: read this without the ballet goggles and you’ll find much to enjoy.

Goes well with chestnut pastries and strong coffee.


Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 31st: BookExpression

Wednesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 2nd: Man of La Book

Friday, November 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, November 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 7th: The Sketchy Reader

Wednesday, November 8th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Wednesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Thursday, November 9th: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 10th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, November 13th: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, November 14th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 15th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, November 17th: Based on a True Story

Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisted, by Sarah Miller – with Giveaway

About the book, Caroline

Caroline: Little House, Revisited• Hardcover: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 19, 2017)

A September Indie Next Pick

One of Refinery29’s Best Reads of September

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly re-imagines our past.

Buy, read, and discuss Caroline:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Miller

Sarah MillerSarah Miller began writing her first novel at the age of ten, and has spent the last two decades working in libraries and bookstores. She is the author of two previous historical novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown. Her nonfiction debut, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century, was hailed by the New York Times as “a historical version of Law & Order.” She lives in Michigan.

Connect with Sarah:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSometimes a book falls into your life at exactly the right time, and that’s what happened to me with this book, Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

While I typically start looking for scary reads around this time of year, we’ve had some family events that stirred my need for warmth and comfort in my reading, and what could be more comforting than a novel that tells the familiar story of Little House on the Prairie, in a new and unfamiliar way: it’s not written for children, and it’s from Ma’s – that’s the Caroline in the book – point of view.

What I appreciated was that author Sarah Miller’s use of language, while sophisticated, managed to stay in a tone that was reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original books. This gave the story an air of authenticity, and also made it feel like the literary equivalent of home. I wasn’t transported to the bedroom in Georgetown, CO that I inhabited as a seven-year-old reading through all the novels, but I did have the sense that I was visiting a former hometown and seeing it through adult eyes.

I also really liked the glimpses of the physical intimacy – little touches – between Caroline and Charles. We don’t see a lot of their relationship in Wilder’s books, but Miller had the room to play a bit, and as a result both of the adult Ingallses are made more dimensional, and even – dare I say it? more human.

One thing that struck me was that Miller gave Caroline a lot of agency. She could have prevented  – or at least delayed – the initial move from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to the Kansas prairie, but chose not to.

Those who are only familiar with the books will notice that this story is more true to the facts of the Ingalls’ life than to Wilder’s novels, which fictionalized her life. Baby Carrie, for example, is not yet born at the star of the book.

While this book is most likely to appeal to people like me, who are big fans of All Things Laura, I think it would be a satisfying read for almost anyone who likes historical fiction or Americana.

Goes well with fresh, hot cornbread with tart cherry jam, and hot coffee.


Giveaway

Caroline: Little House, RevisitedOne lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your own experiences with the Little House books. Or if you haven’t read them, tell me what book series is like home to you.

(You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, October 6th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, September 19th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, September 20th: BookExpression

Thursday, September 21st: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, September 26th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, September 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, September 27th: Bibliotica

Thursday, September 28th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, October 2nd: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Tuesday, October 3rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, October 4th: A Bookworm’s World

Thursday, October 5th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 6th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, October 9th: View from the Birdhouse

TBD: History from a Woman’s Perspective