3-chapter Review: Divine Lola by Cristina Morato (translated by Andrea Rosenberg)

About the book, Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity

  • Publisher: Amazon Crossing (September 1, 2021)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages

Divine Lola CoverAn enthralling biography about one of the most intriguing women of the Victorian age: the first self-invented international social celebrity.

Lola Montez was one of the most celebrated and notorious women of the nineteenth century. A raven-haired Andalusian who performed her scandalous “Spider Dance” in the greatest performance halls across Europe, she dazzled and beguiled all who met her with her astonishing beauty, sexuality, and shocking disregard for propriety. But Lola was an impostor, a self-invention. Born Eliza Gilbert, the beautiful Irish wild child escaped a stifling marriage and reimagined herself as Lola the Sevillian flamenco dancer and noblewoman, choosing a life of adventure, fame, sex, and scandal rather than submitting to the strictures of her era.

Lola cast her spell on the European aristocracy and the most famous intellectuals and artists of the time, including Alexandre Dumas, Franz Liszt, and George Sand, and became the obsession of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She then set out for the New World, arriving in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush, where she lived like a pioneer and performed for rowdy miners before making her way to New York. There, her inevitable downfall was every bit as dramatic as her rise. Yet there was one final reinvention to come for the most defiant woman of the Victorian age—a woman known as a “savage beauty” who was idolized, romanticized, vilified, truly known by no one, and a century ahead of her time.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cristina Morato

Born in Barcelona in 1961, Cristina Morató is a journalist, reporter, and author dedicated to writing about the lives of great women innovators and explorers that history has overlooked. Her research, tracing the footsteps of these remarkable women, has led her to travel to more than forty countries and has resulted in eight biographies: Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras(Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travelers); Las Reinas de África (African Queens); Las Damas de Oriente (Ladies of the East); Cautiva en Arabia (Arabian Captive); Divas rebeldes (Rebel Divas); Reinas malditas (Tragic Queens); Diosas de Hollywood (Hollywood Goddesses); and Divina Lola (Divine Lola), Cristina’s first to be translated into English. She is a founding member and the current vice president of the Spanish Geographical Society and belongs to the Royal Geographic Society of London.

For more information visit www.cristinamorato.com/home-2.

About the translator, Andrea Rosenberg

Andrea Rosenberg is a translator from Spanish and Portuguese. Her full-length translations include novels, graphic narratives, and nonfiction, including works by Manuel Vilas, Tomás González, Inês Pedrosa, Aura Xilonen, Juan Gómez Bárcena, Paco Roca, and Marcelo D’Salete. Two of her translations have won Eisner Awards, and she has been the recipient of awards and grants from the Fulbright Program, the American Literary Translators Association, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNeither a true biography nor a true work of fiction, but a hybrid of both, Cristina Morato’s Divine Lola is an accessible story of a fascinating woman: Eliza “Lola” Gilbert is a larger-than-life character, worthy of a limited series on the streaming platform of your choice, with a veritable who’s who of friends and acquaintances. Sure, she was famous for her scandalous “spider” dance, but she touched a lot more lives than those who saw her perform.

What I liked about this book was that there was enough history to provide context without overwhelming the extrapolated dialogue. Balance is key, and Morato struck exactly the right one. She also used a fabulous literary device, opening the book after Lola has died, making the entire narrative a flashback, in a sense, thus showing how much impact the woman really had.

Because this is a translation, it’s hard to know if the flow of the language is the work of Andrea Rosenberg, the translator, or the author herself, but either way, it’s an easy read, contemporary enough to be accessible, and yet still “period” enough to not be jarring.

I’ll definitely be finishing this book, and recommend it as a solid entry into the creative biography genre.


Tour Schedule

00-tlc-tour-hostWednesday, September 1st: Books, Cooks, Looks – excerpt

Friday, September 3rd: Seaside Book Nook – excerpt

Sunday, September 5th: The Cozy Book Blog – excerpt

Monday, September 6th: @babygotbooks4life

Wednesday, September 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, September 10th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Monday, September 13th: @Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 15th: @aimeedarsreads

Thursday, September 16th: @msanniecathryn

Friday, September 17th: Maryann Writes

Monday, September 20th: @chez_colline

Wednesday, September 22nd: @as_seen_in_life

Thursday, September 23rd: @thebookishalix

Friday, September 24th: @jenniaahava

Monday, September 27th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, September 29th: @books.cats.travel.food

Thursday, September 30th: @rickys_radical_reads

Friday, October 1st: @amanda.the.bookish

Monday, October 4th: Reading is My Remedy

 

Review and Giveaway: Trace of Doubt, by DiAnn Mills

Trace of Doubt Banner

About the book, Trace of Doubt

  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Pub Date: September 7, 2021
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!

Cover - Trace of Doubt Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for this book:

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for Trace of Doubt

 


About the Author, DiAnn Mills

DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn:

Blog Posts | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest | Goodreads  | LinkedIn | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellDiAnn Mills’ latest novel Trace of Doubt, is an intense thriller that’s equal parts mystery, faith, and love, that keeps you invested from the prologue to the epilogue.

Written in first person, mostly from the point of view of recent parolee Shelby and her neighbor, Denton (who may be more than he seems) this novel has everything – believable characters, a small-town setting, a gripping mystery, a dash of romance, puppies, horses and great coffee, and author Mills has wrapped all of that up in a meaty (432 pages) package that was a pleasure to read.

This book is categorized, in part, as Christian fiction, and it’s easy to see why because Shelby’s strong faith in God is both her her strength and part of the glue that binds her to her two biggest supporters, Edie, who is a landlady and friend, and Amy Jo, who runs the local bakery-cafe, but it’s not at all preachy. Their faith is simply part of these Texas women (and men) , and it’s part of what makes them feel so real. As someone who has always struggled with faith, and doesn’t mesh with organized religion, I appreciated the way the author made it a critical part of the novel, and and recommend this book to readers of all persuasions.

What I loved was the detailed character work that the author put into this novel. I really liked and sympathized with Shelby, and was rooting for her from day one. She’s much more than a classic underdog, and I’d happily share a pot of coffee with her. Denton, also, was drawn with real dimension. He felt like a “weathered” soul to me, and I was as committed to his story as I was to Shelby’s. The  town sheriff, local cop (also Edie’s brother), and parole officer were equally believable characters, and even the townsfolk, both kind and cruel had perfect moments that really let you see them.

I also enjoyed the pacing of this story. It’s an easy read, in terms of being accessible, but it’s also pretty long. At no point did I feel the urge to skip ahead and see what happened, and I felt the clues and twists in the narrative were all placed well, serving the story, and never letting the reader become too complacent.

If this had been JUST a romance, or JUST a mystery, or JUST a redemption story, Trace of Doutbt would still have been a worthy read. That the author combined all three elements into a satisfying and well-crafted whole just makes the whole thing a literary treat.

Goes well with: a cup of coffee with a dollop of half & half, and a lemon tart.


Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS
 Each winner receives a $25 e-gift card to winner’s choice of either Amazon or B&N.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/3/2021)

 

Giveaway Trace of Doubt

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour:

Check out the tour page at Lone Star Literary Life, or visit each blog directly:

8/24/21 Guest Post The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
8/24/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
8/25/21 Review The Book’s Delight
8/25/21 Top 7 List The Plain-Spoken Pen
8/25/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
8/26/21 Guest Post Jennifer Silverwood
8/27/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/27/21 Playlist The Clueless Gent
8/28/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/29/21 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
8/30/21 Top 10 List Reading by Moonlight
8/31/21 Guest Post StoreyBook Reviews
8/31/21 Review KayBee’s Bookshelf
9/1/21 Review The Page Unbound
9/1/21 Top 5 List Chapter Break Book Blog
9/2/21 Review Forgotten Winds
9/2/21 Review Bibliotica

 

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Review: Eva and Eve, by Julie Metz

About the book, Eva and Eve

• Publisher: Atria Books (April 6, 2021)
• Hardcover: 320 pages

Eva and EveThe author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Perfection returns with an unforgettable account of her late mother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Austria and the parallels she sees in present-day America.

To Julie Metz, her mother, Eve, was the quintessential New Yorker. Eve rarely spoke about her childhood and it was difficult to imagine her living anywhere else except Manhattan, where she could be found attending Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera or inspecting a round of French triple crème at Zabar’s.

In truth, Eve had endured a harrowing childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna. After her mother passed, Julie discovered a keepsake book filled with farewell notes from friends and relatives addressed to a ten-year-old girl named Eva. This long-hidden memento was the first clue to the secret pain that Julie’s mother had carried as a refugee and immigrant, shining a light on a family that had to persevere at every turn to escape the antisemitism and xenophobia that threatened their survival.

Interweaving personal memoir and family history, Eva and Eve vividly traces one woman’s search for her mother’s lost childhood while revealing the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people are called to make during history’s darkest hours.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Julie Metz

Julie MetzJulie Metz is the New York Times bestselling author of PERFECTION. Her new release is EVA AND EVE: A SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER’S LOST CHILDHOOD AND WHAT A WAR LEFT BEHIND. Julie is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has written for publications including The New York Times, Dame, and Salon and essays have appeared in THE MOMENT and THE HOUSE THAT MADE ME. She lives with her family in the Hudson Valley.

Connect with Julie:

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThis review is very late in coming. My life has been utter chaos since February with too-infrequent moments of calm. Apologies to the author, and to TLC Book Reviews, which provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Julie Metz’s book Eva and Eve is not your average holocaust survivor story, though it would be a worthy read in any case. Rather, it’s the author’s personal story of learning about her mother as the woman she knew and the girl she once was. As someone who has recently experienced a lot of loss, I’m no stranger to the surprises we find hidden away in our parents’ and grandparents’ houses. My family is Italian and Catholic, Metz’s family is Austrian and Jewish, but her story resonated with me because what we share, though for me it’s one generation removed, is the experience of being related to recent (so to speak) immigrants.

But you don’t have to be the daughter or granddaughter of immigrants to appreciate this book, because, from word  one, Eva and Eve is a work of both art and love.

Let’s start with the language. I’ve both read this and listened to the audiobook, and the language Metz uses is both beautiful and lyrical, while also being completely honest and authentic. There are passages that are serious, even brutal, and moments where levity takes over, and both in the extrapolated, even lightly fictionalized stories of her mother’s (and grandmother’s) youth, and in her own, contemporary observations there is a perfect flow, and graceful pace.

Metz’s observations were actually one of my favorite part of this book, because she isn’t just reciting research, she’s immersed herself in history and exploration, of the places where her family originated, and of the remaining people who knew them or at least knew of them.

One of my favorite examples of Metz’s voice is this line that appears about 2/3 into the book: The houses looked different right away – now stone and stucco – and the people on the narrow streets dressed like Italians, somehow more put together than rumpled Americans, even in jeans and t-shirts. It’s a line that has nothing to do with the details of the history the author is trying to discover, but everything to do with how she sees the world, and I love the way it’s presented.

Eva and Eve is not an average holocaust survivor story. Nor is it a typical memoir. Rather, it’s an artful, loving dive into the history of the author’s own family, and a deeply satisfying read that almost every woman will find somehow relatable.

Goes well with: espresso and anisette toast.


Review Stops

TLC Book ToursMonday, June 21st: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads

Tuesday, June 22nd: Instagram: @littlefoot_books

Thursday, June 24th: Instagram: @books_and_broadway_

Friday, June 25th: BookNAround

Tuesday, June 29th: bookchickdi

Thursday, July 1st: Instagram: @reading_with_nicole

Friday, July 2nd: Instagram: @workreadsleeprepeat

Wednesday, July 7th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Saturday, July 10th: Instagram: @babygotbooks4life

Monday, July 12th: Instagram: @what.ems.reading

Friday, August 6th: Instagram: @kennatellyouastory

TBD: Tuesday, July 6th: Instagram: @bluntscissorsbookreviews

TBD: Monday, August 2nd: Bibliotica

Mini Review: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

About the book, Beach House Reunion

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery Books (May 22, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 22, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 401 pages

Beach House ReunionThe New York Times bestselling author and “skilled storyteller who never lets her readers down” (Huffington Post) returns to her beloved Beach House series with this “authentic, generous, and heartfelt” (Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author) tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Comforting in its familiarity, it is still rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara let go of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new career and love.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate with an uncertain future, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is free to join the turtle team, learn to surf, and fall in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In “this tender and openhearted novel of familial expectations, new boundaries, and the power of forgiveness” (Booklist), three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The Beach House series has long been a favorite of mine, and this is no exception. Well written with dynamic characters and vivid descriptions of both people and places, this novel is a satisfying read for anyone who loves family stories and beachy settings.

One of the things I love about Mary Alice Monroe is that her books often weave together similar experiences from different generations of the same family. In this case the through-line is sea turtles, and their conservation, and I liked the way the protection of the turtles echoed the maternal protection between the characters.

If you’ve seen the Hallmark movie “The Beach House,” this is the book it was based on. The movie was cozy and entertaining. The book is rich and rewarding.

You will not be disappointed.

Review: Le Deal, by J. Byrne Murphy

About the book, Le Deal

• Publisher: Lyons Press (March 14, 2021)
• Paperback: 304 pages

Le Deal Le Deal is a business adventure story involving raw entrepreneurship and high-level politics. It is the true story of Byrne Murphy, a young businessman who abruptly moves to Paris in a quest to reignite his career and his fortunes. He quickly finds himself up against powerful forces, including wrestling with the Prime Minister of France, the soon-to-be Chancellor of Germany and wanna-be mafia in Italy. There are also charming encounters with the British Royal Family, including a near royal embarrassment of epic proportions.

Eight years after Byrne’s company, McArthurGlen Europe, was launched in his hotel room, it generated approximately $1 billion in sales from 11 centers across Europe; created nearly 8,000 jobs; opened 1,500 stores featuring 500 brands; attracted nearly 40 million shopping visits per year and spawned an array of competitors. In short, an industry was born.

Along the way, the author learns what he, and Americans in general, do and do not know about life beyond our borders. The book offers a message for Americans who work internationally to truly take “context” into account; to realize, in our quest to accomplish more in less time, that investing the time to understand the nuances of the foreign cultures we are dealing with is key to prospering in our twenty-first-century multicultural, polyglot, interconnected, globalized world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, J. Byrne Murphy

J. Byrne Murphy was one of the founders and Deputy Chief Executive of McArthurGlen Europe. He spent eight years in an ultimately successful struggle to implant the concept of designer outlet centers in Europe, featuring brands ranging from Gucci and Prada to Polo and Nike. Murphy is an entrepreneur who has started up several European ventures. Recently these have included a data center operation in Scandinavia, and the redevelopment of a fifteenth-century Medici palazzo in Florence, Italy, into one of Europe’s first private residence clubs. He is a cum laude graduate of Harvard and received his MBA from the Darden School of Business at the Universtiy of Virginia. After living in Europe for twelve years, Murphy now resides in the Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Pamela and their four daughters.

Find our more about him at his website.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThis non-fiction story is the true story of the author’s relocation to Paris in an attempt to reignite his career. At times funny, honest, political, and loaded with hindsight, it’s the perfect book for anyone who has fantasized about reinventing themselves, opening a business, or moving to a different country. While only the latter applies to me (and not until retirement), I still found Le Deal to be a valuable read.

I was expecting the book to focus on Murphy’s experiences in France, so I was  pleased that his time in other countries was related, though I would have liked more in Italy and Germany. At the same time, there were a lot of people (I almost said characters, and truly, some of them are) to keep track of, and I would have appreciated more time with Pamela (Murphy’s wife). Not that she wasn’t present; I just wanted more.

I think for those who are interested in going into business, Murphy’s story is extremely relatable. Certainly, he’s a gifted writer, and this was an easy read. I liked that he shared his failures and bobbles as well as his successes (spoiler alert: ultimately he was quite successful). I think younger people, or at least people who didn’t find corporate life a bad fit, as I did, would find Le Deal useful as both an object lesson and a guideline.

Overall, Le Deal is a well-written, engaging true story about the struggles and successes of a man who takes on Europe in more ways than one.


Check Out the Other Participants in This Tour

TLC Book ToursTour participants include “bookstagrammers” and bloggers.

Monday, April 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, April 20th: Instagram: @readingmama_reviews

Thursday, April 22nd: Musings of a Literary Wanderer

Monday, April 26th: bookchickdi

Wednesday, April 28th: Instagram: @gracereads82

Wednesday, May 5th: Instagram: @megsbookclub

Thursday, May 6th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, May 11th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, May 12th: Instagram: @jenguerdy

Thursday, May 13th: Bibliotica

Friday, May 14th: What Is That Book About

TBD: Tuesday, April 27th: Run Wright

Review: Alfie Carter, by BJ Mayo – with Giveaway

BNR Alfie Carter

 

About the book, Alfie Carter

  • Published by Skyhorse Publishing
  • Pages: 288
  • Published: January 19th, 2021
  • Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Alfie Carter med resThe seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Skyhorse Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, BJ Mayo

BJ MayoBJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

Connect with BJ:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAlfie Carter is one of those novels that should be on everyone’s reading list, because it’s such a well-crafted, compelling story. Actually, it’s two stories that become entangled at the end of the book, but even though Jackaleena’s story begins in Africa and involves some horrific scenes of the type typically only seen in 30-second clips on CNN, and Alfie’s begins with him climbing a mountain to spend some time camping in order to get out of his own head, the themes are the same: identity, purpose, and faith.

As we open, both characters are adults. Jackaleena is an attorney known for her toughness. Alfie is a gritty detective. But the narrative very quickly goes back in time to give us the history of these two powerful characters, and author BJ Mayo handles the time changes and perspective changes with a deft hand. Interestingly, he chose not to begin the novel from the title character’s point of view. Readers don’t encounter him until slightly later. But the reality is that it might be Alfie Carter’s name in the title, but this story really has dual leads.

What I loved about this book was the specific use of language. When Jackaleena is a child in Africa, her thought processes and speech are young, and even though there’s no written dialect, it’s obvious that this isn’t a kid whose first language is English. The rhythm and cadence of her words is different than it is years later when she has largely assimilated into American culture.

Similarly, Alfie Carter feels exactly the way one expects a lifelong Texan to be – I felt like I could hear a rough voice with a slight drawl even when what I was reading were his thoughts and observations.

At times a difficult read, especially because of Jackaleena’s childhood experiences (though Alfie is certainly no stranger to rough times), this novel is one that is grounded in the individual faith of both main characters. It’s never preachy, and there are moments of humor to break up the serious nature of the main story, but that faith, and each characters relationship with it, helps drive the story and should not be overlooked as an integral element of the novel.

Overall, Alfie Carter is the kind of novel that sticks with you long after you’ve finished it, and makes you think about your own reactions, beliefs, and assumptions.

Goes well with: steak cooked over an open fire and a slug of whiskey.


Giveaway

Giveaway Alfie Carter SMALLER

 

THREE WINNERS each receive an

autographed copy of ALFIE CARTER.

US only. Ends midnight, CST, March 5, 2021.

 

 

 

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Check Out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

And don’t forget to visit the page for this tour at Lone Star Literary Life.

 

2/23/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/23/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
2/23/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/24/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/24/21 Review The Clueless Gent
2/25/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/25/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
2/26/21 Review Jennie Reads
2/26/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
2/27/21 Review Bibliotica
2/28/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
3/1/21 Review Book Fidelity
3/1/21 Review That’s What She’s Reading
3/2/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
3/3/21 Review Forgotten Winds
3/3/21 Review Librariel Book Adventures
3/4/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
3/4/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen

 

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Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (February 12, 2021)
  • Publication date : February 12, 2021
  • Language : English
  • File size : 2794 KB

A Brush with Death coverJodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is back!

When a body turned up at her last catering gig it certainly put people off the hor d’oeuvres. So with a reputation to salvage, Jodie’s determined that her next job for the village’s festival will go without a hitch.

But when chaos breaks out, Jodie Parker somehow always finds herself in the picture.

The body of a writer from the festival is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, and the prime suspect is the guest of honour, the esteemed painter Duncan Stovall. With her background in the Met police, Jodie has got solving cases down to a fine art and she knows things are rarely as they seem.

Can she find the killer before the village faces another brush with death?

The second book in the Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe second novel in Fiona Leitch’s delightful Nosey Parker mystery series can be read and enjoyed as a standalone story, but leaping into it immediately after finishing the first provides a richer experience because it becomes evident that these wonderfully rich characters have further developed.

Opening a few weeks after the original story, A Brush with Death focuses on an arts festival with all of the quirky personalities such events inevitably draw. These include the familiar characters of Jodie “Nosey” Parker, her mother and daughter, her friend Tony, DCI Nathan Withers, and Germaine the dog. All of them seem a bit more developed than they were in Murder on the Menu, but the differences are subtle. Nathan seems a little less officious. Tony feels more grounded. And Jodie “Nosey” Parker herself has reached the point in her post-London life where she’s open to romance again.

Of course, there’s a murder early in the festival activities, and Jodie is in the thick of it, trying to prove the truth of what happened even when it takes her away from other things. While her relationship with the one of the figures at the center of the investigation, famous painter Duncan Stoval, calls her judgement into  question, her choices are understandable for a woman in her position. Similarly, she gives real consideration to her flirtatious friendship with Withers, even as she’s inserting herself into his attempt to solve the murder.

As before, the backdrop of the Cornish seaside is as much a character as any of the humans (or dogs), but this time the action moves further afield from Penstowan than before.

Fiona Leitch has given readers a compelling mystery and an accurate look at dating after a divorce, lacing it with her usual humor and deftness at writing dialect. Whether or not you’ve read the first Nosey Parker novel, A Brush with Death is not a book to be brushed aside.

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Review: Murder on the Menu, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Mysteries

 

About the book, Murder on the Menu

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (January 15, 2021)
  • Publication date : January 15, 2021
  • Language : English
  • Series: Nosey Parker Cozy Mysteries

Murder on the Menu coverThe first book in a NEW cozy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realizing that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cozy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cozy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | My Book | Goodreads


About the Author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFiona Leitch’s Murder on the Menu, the first of her Nosey Parker novels, is one of those books that feels like it should be something you see on television. Here in the U.S. it would be a perfect member of the PBS “Mystery” series, or for more contemporary viewers something you stream on BritBox.

Labeled as a cozy mystery, this novel certainly lives up to it’s niche. The main character, Jodie “Nosey” Parker is a former cop and a single mother who moves back to her hometown to give her daughter a life free from worry over her mother’s job. She’s smart, funny, engaging, and I really loved watching her code-switch, speaking proper English to people like the (hot) DCI Nathan Withers but switching into the local vernacular when speaking to people like the local cops her father (a former Chief Inspector) recruited to the small-town force, or the townsfolk, many of which have known her since birth. The use of dialect in this book is one of the things I really appreciated because it’s used both sparingly and organically.

Jodie Parker’s choice to become a caterer after leaving the police behind is something I identified with because I always find catharsis in cooking. (Spoiler alert: there’s a recipe at the end of the book, and I plan to try it!), but it was also amusing to watch her reactions to DCI Withers, first annoyance at his handling of the case (a death at her childhood’s friend wedding which she is catering, and later the recognition that he’s attractive in general, finally, getting a bit flirty.

Jodie is more than flirty though, she’s still got being a cop (though not a detective) in her blood, and it’s hard to stifle a lifelong need to know things.

While the murder mystery is gripping and fast paced, the character interactions are just as fascinating. Jodie’s mother and daughter often act as a sort of Greek chorus for her, while her friend Tony (the groom in the wedding) and their other childhood friends are equally dimensional.

The Cornish coast is also a character in this novel, with its beaches and meadows – Jodie’s back yard has a wall just high enough to keep the cows from visiting – and the setting, here, is important because it sets a tone, not just of cozy small-town life, but also of a very specific culture.

Leitch’s writing is compelling, and she balances humor and gravity very well.

I leapt into reading book two as soon as I finished Murder on the Menu and I fear this series may be my new addiction. It may well be yours, too. Highly recommend.

Goes well with: organic sausages and mashed potatoes.


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Review: The Black-Marketer’s Daughter, by Suman Mallick

BNR Black-Marketer's Daughter

 

About the book, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

  • Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 166 pages

Cover Black-Marketer's Daughter, TheZuleikha arrives in the US from Lahore, Pakistan, by marriage, having trained as a pianist without ever owning a real piano. Now she finally has one-a wedding present from her husband-but nevertheless finds it difficult to get used to her new role of a suburban middle-class housewife who has an abundance of time to play it.

Haunted by the imaginary worlds of the confiscated contraband books and movies that her father trafficked in to pay for her education and her dowry, and unable to reconcile them with the expectations of the real world of her present, she ends up as the central figure in a scandal that catapults her into the public eye and plays out in equal measures in the local news and in backroom deliberations, all fueled by winds of anti-Muslim hysteria.

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter was a finalist for the Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize, and praised by the jury as a “complicated and compelling story” of our times, with two key cornerstones of the novel being the unsympathetic voice with which Mallick, almost objectively, relays catastrophic and deeply emotional events, and the unsparing eye with which he illuminates the different angles and conflicting interests at work in a complex situation. The cumulative effects, while deliberately unsettling to readers, nevertheless keeps them glued to the pages out of sheer curiosity about what will happen next.

Praise for this book:

  • “Mallick offers an impressively realistic depiction of a woman caught between tradition, family, and her own sense of empowerment.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is a key-hole look at a few things: a mismatched marriage, the plight of immigrants in the U.S., the emotional toll of culture shock, and the brutal way Muslim women are treated, especially by men within their own community. Titling it—defining the heroine by her relationship to a man rather than as a woman in her own right—suggests how deeply ingrained that inequality can be.” ~ IndieReader Reviews 
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is the portrait of a woman who endures violence, intimidation, xenophobia and grief, and yet refuses to be called a victim. In this slender novel, Suman Mallick deftly navigates the funhouse maze of immigrant life in contemporary America—around each corner the possibility of a delight, a terror, or a distorted reflection of oneself.” ~ Matthew Valentine, Winner, Montana Prize for Fiction; Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

 


Author Pic MallickAbout the author, Suman Mallick

Suman Mallick received his MFA from Portland State University and is the assistant managing editor of the quarterly literary magazine Under the Gum Tree. He lives in Texas.

Connect with Suman:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSuman Mallick’s debut novel The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is more than just a story. It’s a sonata that unfolds one movement at a time, in lyrical language that compels, frustrates, infuriates, and finally delights the reader. It’s a portrait of the culture-within-a-culture of Muslim Pakistani immigrants to the United States, and specifically North Texas (where I also live) that exposes the harsh reality of assimilating into American society, of being a modern immigrant, and, yes, of the status of women in general, and abused women in particular. It’s also a celebration of diversity, of identity, and of personal strength and growth.

And all that in less than two hundred pages!

Zuleikha, our heroine, is a musician and a dreamer. She wants love, and wants to be in love. At one point, she even explains to someone that the books and DVDs her father sold on the black market to fund her piano lessons and her dowry taught her to fall in love with the idea of falling in love. It is her point of view through which this story unfolds, and that view is rich and complex. She’s intellectually curious, but has never really bothered to expose herself to current affairs, choosing the focus on the arts section of newspapers.

Iskander, her husband via an arranged marriage is not a villain, though parts of this story attempt to paint him as one, but is reserved, stoic to the point where I felt like I was reading about some of my husband’s midwestern relatives who are much the same. For the first half of the novel, he is simply there. An unremarkable presence in the life of a woman who is meant to be remarkable, and clearly a poor match for Zuleikha.

Mallick’s tale isn’t one of happy families, though. Rather it’s about what we do when we are desperate for love, and cannot find it. He writes about the darker events in this novel with the same craft he used to describe music, motorcycles, and a Ferris wheel ride at the state fair. There is only one violent scene, and it’s written so that you cannot look away, but must bear witness, because it represents many, many violent scenes that happen outside the pages of novels.

What I loved about this book was the language. Mallick’s writing is music The high points sing in lofty trills and glorious crescendos. The heavier moments thud like the bass notes on a piano keyboard, dark and thunderous, but still gripping. Even the parts of the story that were dark and disturbing were so carefully phrased that I couldn’t skip through them, but had to drink in every delicious word.

I also appreciated that Mallick didn’t pause his narrative to explain Muslim or Pakistani terms for white readers. Articles of clothing, items of food – these were referred to as Zuleikha and Iskander would have grown up calling them, and that made the story more real. He trusted us to either figure things out from context or look them up. It takes a confident author to trust his readers to meet him where he stands.

If I had one problem with this novel it was only that it was relatively short. 166 pages may have completed the story, but I wanted more.

If you want a novel that you can read in a day, but may also choose to savor, with dynamic characters and amazing language, read The Black-Marketer’s Daughter. You will be richer for the experience.

Goes well with: chicken biryani, lamb kebabs, and Murree’s classic lager.


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

(or check out the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for direct links to each post.)

1/6/21 Promo Hall Ways Blog
1/7/21 Review The Clueless Gent
1/7/21 Guest Post Momma on the Rocks
1/8/21 Review Forgotten Winds
1/8/21 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
1/9/21 Review Bibliotica
1/10/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
1/11/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
1/11/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
1/12/21 Playlist Chapter Break Book Blog
1/13/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
1/13/21 Scrapbook Page The Page Unbound
1/14/21 Author Interview KayBee’s Book Shelf
1/15/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
1/15/21 Review Missus Gonzo

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Review: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Christmas at Cockleberry Bay FINAL FRONTAbout the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

  • Publication date : November 13, 2020
  • Print length : 237 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Nowell Publishing (November 13, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback | Goodreads


About the author, Nicola May Nicola May

Nicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Dropping into Nicola May’s Cockleberry Bay again was a delightful experience, made even more so by the fact that this visit happened at Christmas time. This fictional seaside community with it’s cast of lovable, funny, dramatic, and irascible characters is fast becoming a second home to me, and this visit was probably one of my favorites.

Like any good family reunion, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is replete with babies, both new and soon-to-come, dogs, couples having typical couplish dramas, eccentric relatives, and small business owners trying to improve their lots by earning new rating stars from the coastal rating group. Oh, and Christmas cookies (sorry, biscuits) – we mustn’t forget those.

As always the Corner Store and Rosa’s Cafe are the cornerstones of a trip to the Bay, though this story has us spending a significant time at the Ship Hotel and Lobster Pot as well.

What I love about Nicola May’s writing is that she’s equally adept at writing one-on-one scenes, like the ones with Rosa and Titch comparing the joys and woes of young motherhood, and massive chaotic ensemble bits with people talking over each other and having side conversations, which latter is extraordinarily difficult to convey in writing.

What I love about this series is that while the focus characters change, everyone we’ve met so far, plus the new additions, get their moment in the spotlight.

Some details I really appreciated were Tina trying to hide her natural accent when she’s answering the hotel phone, and Nate being concerned – unnecessarily – when he introduces his Christmas “plus one” to his sister. (I’m being intentionally vague because I don’t want to spoil the reveal.)

Any visit to Cockleberry Bay is worth the time spent, but spending Christmas in Cockleberry Bay might just be the perfect antidote for the socially distanced, largely separate holidays we’re all facing this year. Or at least, it’s a warm and wonderful story seasoned with love and salt air, that makes this very atypical December feel a bit brighter.

Goes well with mulled wine, sharp cheddar, a crackling fire, and a (non-lethal) coastal storm.


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