Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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Spotlight: A Vote is a Powerful Thing, by Catherine Stier (illustrated by Courtney Dawson) – with Giveaway

BNR A Vote Is A Powerful Thing

 

About the book, A Vote is a Powerful Thing cover med res A Vote Is A Powerful Thing

  • Children’s Picture Book / American Historical Fiction / Elections and Voting
  • Ages 4-7
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Date of Publication: September 1, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 32
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up, and people will soon vote to decide the country’s leader.

Her class is having an election too, about an issue that affects them all–the class field trip. Should they choose the cookie factory or the wilderness park?

Join Callie as she campaigns for the wilderness park she loves and learns how people have organized, marched, and protested for the right to vote. And find out how a vote–even just one vote–can make a difference!

Praise for this book:

  • “Gets the job done.” ―Kirkus Reviews
  • “A galvanizing read for children interested in politics or parents who hope to instill such interests.” ―Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

The Twig Book Shop ║ IndieBound ║Barnes and Noble ║ Amazon || Goodreads

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About the author,  Catherine Stier

Catherine StierCatherine Stier is the author of several awarding-winning children’s books. Her titles include If I Were PresidentIf I Ran for PresidentIf I Were a Park Ranger, and the A Dog’s Day chapter-book series. In grade school, Catherine ran a class campaign for student council with handmade signs, and, although she didn’t win, she found the process exciting! She went on to earn an MA in reading and literacy from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has conducted children’s literature research. She now resides with her husband in San Antonio and volunteers at a local wilderness park.

Connect with Catherine:

Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Instagram ║ Amazon ║ Website

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Giveaway

ONE WINNER: Copies of each of the three election-series books;
patriotic socks, button, and pencils; plus a $15 gift card to The Twig Book Shop.

September 4-10, 2020

(US ONLY)

 

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR.

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Review: The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows, by Sharley Scott

Maddie Meadows - Banner

 

About the book, The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows

Maddie Meadows - CoverMaddie Meadows adores her family and loves her work. But she has good reason to keep them separate.

For single mum Maddie, home is a flat on a run-down estate. And family consists of an excitable toddler, a lonely Dad and a younger brother mired in a love triangle.

Meanwhile, professional Madeleine balances a tricky day job, made worse by a jealous colleague. No one at work knows about her other life, and she needs to keep it this way: one of the bosses has made his feelings very clear about single parents and the people on her estate.

Thank goodness for her fun-loving and loyal friends – although Maddie wishes they’d believe her when she insists she has no time for love. Or so she tells herself as she fights to quell her hidden feelings for her gorgeous colleague, Oliver, who comes from the posh part of town.

When her friends line up their ideal man for her – Sean, more beanstalk than Bean – Maddie wishes she’d told them the truth. It’s hard enough juggling two lives. But, with all the added complications, how long will be it be before Maddie’s carefully created world comes crashing down?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharley Scott

Sharley Scott is the author of the ‘Devon Seaside Guesthouse’ novels – Bedlam & Breakfast and B&Bers Behaving Madly.

Her latest book ‘The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows’ is being published in early July 2020. The second in the series ‘The Gift of a Rose’ will be available in the autumn.

Sharley is a guesthouse owner in South Devon. She is thankful to have been blessed with lots of amazing and kind-hearted guests, who are nothing like some of the characters featured in the Devon Seaside Guesthouse series.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a fictional account, but Sharley has never forgotten how interesting life can be with a toddler. Some of the mischief Josh gets up to will be familiar to all parents. Sharley has carried out the threats she made to her son decades ago and now embarrasses him by telling tales to his girlfriend, although he gets her back by recounting stories about his mum.

Connect with Sharley:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI try not to commit to reviewing books in August, because it’s my birthday month and it’s also the month when I’m usually doing a daily podcast project, but I had a few interactions with the author, Sharley Scott on Twitter when this novel launched, and she was so lovely, I couldn’t not review it.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a light read about serious topics. Part romance, part social commentary, it focuses on a young woman who lives in two worlds, the “posh” world of her corporate job, and the decidedly less-than-perfect one of being the single mother of a toddler, living in a rundown council estate.

Maddie (known as Madeleine at work) is the perfect heroine of the modern age. Her story is a love story, but it’s as much about falling in love with her true self as it as about the men in her life – handsome, co-worker Oliver and down-to-earth Sean.

Scott’s dialogue is excellent, and really differentiates the characters who populate Maddie’s two worlds. Her friends and family are much more casual in their speech, while those she works with speak the bland corporate-ese that masks one’s origins the world over. (Scott gets extra points from me for explaining the code-switching Maddie displays, and acknowledging that everyone does it to some degree.)

What I loved about this novel was that even when Maddie was uncertain about her place in either world, she was still very much herself. She might not be a cookie-cutter mother, but she showed real love for her son, and true devotion to her father and brother.

As an American reader, I found myself re-examining class differences in my own country, even as Maddie was facing them during her life. On this side of the pond, where even millionaires are still middle class, the divisions are harsher, if often less  obvious.

In this novel, Sharley Scott has given us a story about identity and family that also provides a look at life in one corner of the UK, and she has done so with humor and grace. From the first page, I was rooting for Maddie, and I was not disappointed.

Goes well with ice cream cones eaten in a park after feeding ducks.


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Review: Santa Claus Bank Robbery by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

BNR Santa Claus Bank Robbery

About the book Santa Claus Bank Robbery

  • Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / Texas History
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 146 pages + black & white photos
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Santa Claus Robber hi resWhen Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running – with loaded guns in hand!

But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.

This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning!

Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion.

Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?

Watch the trailer for this book:

 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author Tui Snider

Tui SniderTui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

Connect with Tui:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  INSTAGRAM  |  YOUTUBE  | GRAVE HOUR ON INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellOver the last few years of doing book reviews for Lone Star Book Blog Tours, I’ve fallen in love with Tui Snider’s books about cemetery symbology and spooky Texas locations, but with this book, Santa Claus Bank Robbery, I got to see a side of her work that is slightly more narrative, though still non-fiction.

And I loved it.

Presented almost like a forensic analysis (though with a lot more warmth and humor), this book tells the true story of a 1920s bank robbery where one of the bandits dressed in a (stolen) Santa Claus suit to rob a bank. Well, part of a suit. He didn’t have the pants, and that’s actually just one of the many things that went wrong with the heist, and the bandits’ lives.

True crime novels tend to be either very dry or quite grisly. Santa Claus Bank Robbery is neither. Rather, it’s a dive into Texas history that offers insights only a contemporary historian/storyteller could consider. (Example: one of the people in the book, a young girl, says she spent so much time in court in one year that she flunked 7th grade. Snider posits the theory that the child was suffering from burnout and PTSD… and she’s probably not wrong.)

One thing I really liked is that Snider corrected and clarified an earlier work about the events in Santa Claus Bank Robbery without being disrespectful to the previous author’s work. She does question his choice to use pseudonyms for a lot of the key figures, and also notes his avoidance of going too deeply into the details of one family, but she also expresses envy that he (A.C. Greene) had access to at least one of the original sources, one of the men who was with Santa Claus (really Marshall Ratliff) in the bank.

While I’m not a native Texan (I’m a Jersey girl who was raised in Colorado and California), I’ve now lived in Texas longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and reading Snider’s books has really been a wonderful way for me to explore the Lone Star State in new and interesting ways.

That said, even if you have no connection to Texas at all, Santa Claus Bank Robbery is a fascinating picture of a period between the “wild west” and modern Texas, and Snider’s treatment of it is fair and balanced without whitewashing or soft-pedaling anything.

Goes well with: BBQ brisket, fried squash, potato salad, and sweet tea.


Giveaway

GRAND PRIZE (US only)

Signed Paperback +$10 Amazon Gift Card

+ Thank You Post Card

2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy + Thank You Post Card

3RD PRIZE (International)Kindle eBook

  December 12-22, 2019

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Check Out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

12/12/19 Review Bibliotica
12/12/19 Review Hall Ways Blog
12/13/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
12/14/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
12/14/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/15/19 Review Book Fidelity
12/16/19 Review All the Ups and Downs
12/17/19 Review The Page Unbound
12/17/19 Review Books and Broomsticks
12/18/19 Review The Book Review
12/19/19 Review The Clueless Gent
12/20/19 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
12/20/19 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/21/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/21/19 Review Forgotten Winds

 

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Lone Star Lit

Review: Paranormal Texas, by Tui Snider – with Giveaway

Paranormal Texas

About the book, Paranormal Texas: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places Near Dallas & Fort Worth

  • Genre: Travel / Haunted Places / Texas History
  • Publisher: Castle Azle Press
  • Date of Publication: September 19, 2019 (2nd Edition)
  • Number of Pages: 210 with 100+ black & white images
  • Scroll down for a Video
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Paranormal Texas More Haunted Places and True Ghost Stories!

Tui Snider’s popular travel guide to haunted places in North Texas is back with a fully updated 2nd Edition featuring more haunted places and true ghost stories!

What’s new in Paranormal Texas2nd Edition?

Just like the original travel guide, Paranormal Texas 2nd Edition gives readers haunted history and directions to sites where paranormal activity is reported in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.

The 2nd edition now includes:

  • Photos: Readers asked for photos of haunted places. Paranormal Texas, 2nd editionhas over 50 photos of haunted towns, haunted hotels, and more.
  • Ghost hunting tips: Tui Snider explains what she has learned since she began attending paranormal investigations with Texas ghost hunters.
  • More haunted places: Several new venues (including a haunted doll museum!) with fascinating haunted history were added to Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.
  • Firsthand accounts: Readers asked for more true ghost stories and hauntings. (She even shares personal experiences with paranormal activity, including a strange encounter with her doppelganger at a haunted hotel!)

All the above, PLUS a paranormal activity evidence database:

See the paranormal activity for yourself: Readers can access an online database with links to EVPs, ghost photos, videos, and other evidence gathered by paranormal investigators who have visited the haunted sites in her book.

  • Continually updated:This database will be continually updated with EVPs, anomalous photos, videos, and other data gathered at haunted places featured in Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.
  • Add your paranormal activity:Readers can contact the author if they have paranormal evidence to add!

Is Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition for YOU?

  1. Ghost Hunters– If you want to plan a fun road trip to haunted places (with or without ghost hunting equipment) Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can help.
  1. Armchair Travelers– If you prefer reading about haunted history, Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can take you on an exciting armchair tour through haunted towns of North Texas.

“Tui’s 2nd edition is spot on fun and thrilling for everyone to read as only Tui can tell it!”  – Greg Stephens, Paranormal Investigator (RIP)

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Tui Snider

Tui SniderTui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

Connect with Tui:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  INSTAGRAM  |  YOUTUBE  | GRAVE HOUR ON INSTAGRAM


Watch a Video from the Author

5 Surprising Facts about Haunted Places in Paranormal Texas

 

 


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I first encountered Tui Snider’s work when I read and reviewed Understanding Cemetery Symbols two years ago. What I found then was a woman who was part storyteller, part adventurer, and part believer in the things the rest of us prefer not to notice – the unexplained, the ineffable, the shouldn’t-be-possible.

While I did not read the first edition of this book, Paranormal Texas: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places Near Dallas & Fort Worth, I can tell you that this edition, the second, had me urging my husband to plan some local and local-ish road trips, and the only thing that has kept us from doing so is that we were out-of-state when the book arrived at my house, and that I’m two weeks away from having (another) knee surgery.

Still, even just reading this book is like going on an adventure with Tui (I hope she doesn’t mind me using her first name) as your guide. Her language is friendly and accessible, as if she’s relating her experiences to a friend over coffee, and the information is presented in a logical manner: alphabetically by city.

It’s not just perfunctory information, either. Rather, Tui provides anecdotes that leave you steeped in local flavor, making this book almost as much a collection of spooky Texas folktales as it is a DFW travel guide.

Paranormal Texas is, of course, the perfect book for October (here’s hoping the weather cools down some so we can all explore these spirited sites in relative comfort), but it would be the perfect book for a lazy weekend in March or May, or (for the brave) August, as well.

Go forth and explore.

(Stay hydrated.)

Tui will guide you.

And if the hairs on your arms stand up when you’re looking at a gravesite or standing near an old bridge, well, that’s just a bonus feature.

Goes well with apple cider (hard or not) and bratwurst with mustard.


Giveaway 

 GRAND PRIZE (US only)

Signed Paperback + Handmade Cemetery Angel Pendant

+$10 Amazon Gift Card

2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy

3RD PRIZE (International)Kindle eBook

(US ONLY)

  October 1-October 11, 2019

Giveaway

 

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Paranormal Texas Blog Tour Links:

10/1/19 Reading by Moonlight
10/2/19 Bibliotica
10/2/19 Book Fidelity
10/3/19 StoreyBook Reviews
10/4/19 Nerd Narration
10/4/19 Hall Ways Blog
10/5/19 Carpe Diem Chronicles
10/6/19 Forgotten Winds
10/6/19 Books and Broomsticks
10/7/19 The Page Unbound
10/8/19 The Book Review
10/8/19 Chapter Break Book Blog
10/9/19 Missus Gonzo
10/10/19 All the Ups and Downs

 

Review: Coming Home for Christmas, by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for ChristmasAbout the book, Coming Home for Christmas

 

  • Series: Haven Point (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (September 24, 2019)

Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Raeanne Thayne RaeAnne-Thayne

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on: cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page, and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 40 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA® Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Cracking open a RaeAnne Thayne book, even when it’s a virtual ‘cracking’ because you’re reading a digital copy, is like hanging out with an old friend. The story will be new and exciting, but the voice telling it will be familiar.

This is especially true of Coming Home for Christmas, which isn’t just Thayne’s most recent release, but is also the tenth novel in her delightful Haven Point series. And while some may think the second day of autumn is a touch early to be reading a story set over the holidays, I found it a lovely respite from the heat and humidity of late summer.

As always, Thayne brings us a story rooted in family and relationships. Luke and Elizabeth are an estranged husband and wife, the latter having been missing for seven years when the novel opens with him storming into her current residence and demanding he return home with her. It’s an abrupt opening. Almost, I felt as though I’d missed a chapter, and yet, it set the pace of the novel perfectly, giving us a sense of urgency from Luke that carried through the entire book.

Both characters, as well as their friends and family, are written truthfully. No one is perfect; all are drawn with the charms and flaws of real people. This is what makes a RaeAnne Thayne novel so compelling: she peoples her fictional towns with the sorts of neighbors we all long to have, and populates their streets with the shops we all want to visit.

Is September a little early for a Christmas story? Maybe. But when you read Coming Home for Christmas, you’ll feel like you’re coming home to Haven Point, and you won’t mind that the calendar on your phone is a bit behind the one in the story.

Goes well with hot coffee and chocolate gingerbread.

 

Review: The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

The Girl Who Loved GhostsAbout the book, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts

 

  • Series: Unbelievables (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (September 16, 2019)

She’d do anything to save her friends and family. But will that mean sacrificing the ghosts she’s grown to love?

Kat is trying to settle back into her senior year at McTernan Academy, but destiny keeps getting in the way of schoolwork and friendships. Continuing her magical training means abandoning her best friend, until an attack by a mysterious entity on campus proves that the only place they’ll both be safe is Dumbarton, the ancestral home of the Langley family.

Evan struggles with his coursework, a flirty new housemate, and his daunting responsibilities as the Kingsley heir and new owner of Ravenhurst manor. He tries to hold onto his normal college life, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before he and Kat have to travel into the past again… And Kat is in mortal danger every minute they wait to retrieve the last amulet they need to defeat the Dark One.

As her normal life slips further away, Kat must face the terrible cost that comes with time travel. Completing her quest in the present requires changing the past. She knows that the results of her actions can be disastrous–because the ghosts of her ancestors tell her of their tragic fates. A trip to eighteenth-century Connecticut might change everything. Kat tries to protect everyone she loves, but risks destroying every relationship that matters to her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


KC TansleyAbout the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and two quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been reading The Unbelievables series since the beginning, and it’s been a pleasure watching Kat grow up, just as it’s been a pleasure seeing K.C. Tansley’s writing get deeper and more evocative with every novel. Part of that, of course, is that her main character is getting older, but part of that is that when you’ve been writing in the same world for a while it becomes more and more real, just as it does when you’ve been reading it for a while.

At this point, I feel like Kat and her roommate/best friend Morgan, Evan, and even Seth are my friends, not just characters in books – they’re that well-drawn. When Kat feels alienated from Evan because his houseguest is getting flirty, I feel for her as keenly as I did when my own high school crush showed interest in someone else.

But this third installment in The Unbelievables series, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, isn’t some teen romance. Sure, there are elements of romance in it, but it’s really about Kat’s calling to speak with ghosts, to help them solve their unfinished business, and for her combined work with Evan to unite their families, working with the living and the dead to do so.

This is a gripping adventure through time. It has moments of darkness and danger, but it also has moments of great poignance. It’s about honoring family, but it’s also about being true to yourself.

I loved revisiting Kat at her school, and joining her and Evan (and their friends) on their trans-dimensional trips to Dumbarton, but, as always, I was sad for the visit to end, and cannot wait for book four.

Goes well with beef stew and hard cider.

 

 

Review: Becoming Superman, by J. Michael Straczynski

Becoming-Superman-coverAbout the book, Becoming Superman

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 23, 2019)

Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

“J. Michael Straczynski is, without question, one of the greatest science fiction minds of our time.”   — Max Brooks (World War Z)

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

Joe’s early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past.

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


J.-Michael-Straczynski-AP-Photo-by-Peter-KonerkoAbout J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Connect with J. Michael Straczynski:

Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).
From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman fan, as well, so the combination was an automatic win-win for me, but getting to peek into the brain of someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for so long was a special experience.

Special… and often harrowing. I’m not one to spoil plots. I don’t even typically include a synopsis in my own thoughts, but JMS did not have an easy childhood, and there were moments when I wanted to reach back through the years and give that isolated, odd child a hug.

The moment when he discovered Superman is one I completely understood. My childhood was not nearly so traumatic, but we all have our moments – especially those of us who are geeks, or creators, or both – when something clicks inside us, and we recognize a kinship with something, even if that something is a fictional character in a red suit and tights. Superman is so iconic – is there any American kid who didn’t want to meet him or be him at some point in their life? – but that moment set the tone for the rest of the book, and the rest of this man’s life.

It’s a very honest narrative overall. Straczynski is clearly incredibly self-aware of who he is, where he’s from, and where’s he’s ended up. Like so many gifted people, he’s a little bit broken, but he’s made that work for him – and turned it into a gift for us.

This book isn’t a casual read, but if you’re a fan of JMS’s work, I’d highly recommend it.

Goes well with chicken shawarma and craft beer.


TLC BOOK TOURSReview Stops for Becoming Superman

Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 5th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading

 

Review: Summer on Mirror Lake, by JoAnn Ross

summer-on-mirror-lakeAbout the book, Summer on Mirror Lake

Hardcover: 384 Pages

Publisher: HQN; Original edition (June 11, 2019)

Summertime is the best time to lose yourself in the romance of Honeymoon Harbor…

When he lands in the emergency room after collapsing at the funeral of a colleague and friend, Wall Street hotshot Gabriel Mannion initially rejects the diagnosis of an anxiety attack. But when warned that if he doesn’t change his adrenaline-fueled, workaholic lifestyle he could end up like his friend, Gabe reluctantly returns to his hometown of Honeymoon Harbor to regroup.

As he adjusts to the sight of mountains instead of skyscrapers, Gabe discovers advantages to this small Pacific Northwest town he once couldn’t wait to escape. But it’s irresistible librarian Chelsea Prescott who, along with the two foster children she’s taken under her wing, makes slowing down seem like the best prescription ever.

Over the course of their summer romance, Gabe gets a taste of the life he might have had if he’d taken a different path. But with his return to New York City looming on the horizon, he’ll have to choose between the success he’s worked tirelessly for and a ready-made family who offers a very different, richly rewarding future…if he’ll only take the risk.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


JoAnn-Ross-300x200About the author, JoAnn Ross

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll of bestselling authors, JoAnn lives with her husband and three rescued dogs — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest.

Connect with JoAnn:

Website | Facebook | Instagram


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

If you want a summer read with depth and heart, JoAnn Ross’s Summer on Mirror Lake is it. Set in the charming Pacific Northwest village of Honeymoon Harbor (one of those towns that doesn’t really exist, but you totally wish did), this is a charming romance with a dash of social justice thrown in.

Main Characters Chelsea the librarian and Gabe the Wall Street mogul-turned-recreational-shipwright who works too hard come together in the way of all summer romances, when the former asks the latter to show the summer library kids what he’s doing (building a reproduction Viking ship). Chemistry ensues. Where the depth and social justice comes in are in the story of two sisters who are in the hands of a foster mother who means well, but doesn’t have a ton of time.

Author Ross has created a vibrant community in Honeymoon Harbor, one that makes you want to step inside the pages of the the book and spend a long weekend sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe, and poking around the galleries and cute shops. As well, she has created a collection of dimensional, believable characters, led by Chelsea and Gabe, but not limited to those two people.

Far more than a fluffy romance or your typical beach read, this book is a romance with meaning.

Goes well with hot coffee and a slice of peach pie.


TLC BOOK TOURSJoAnn Ross’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 3rd: Bookmark Lit

Monday, June 3rd: @nerdybooknurse

Monday, June 3rd: @angelareadsbooks

Tuesday, June 4th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm and @pnwbookworm

Wednesday, June 5th: Book by Book

Thursday, June 6th: Reading Reality

Friday, June 7th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 10th: Romancing the Readers

Monday, June 10th: @_ebl_inc_

Tuesday, June 11th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, June 12th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, June 13th; Bibliotica

Friday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 17th: A Holland Reads

Wednesday, June 19th: Amy’s Book-et List

Thursday, June 20th: Why Girls Are Weird

Friday, June 21st: The Lit Bitch

Monday, June 24th: @simplykelina

Tuesday, June 25th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, June 26th: Jathan and Heather

Thursday, June 27th: Lori’s Reading Corner – excerpt

Friday, June 28th: @cassies_books_reviews

Review: One Minute Later, by Susan Lewis

One-Minute-Later-coverAbout the book, One Minute Later

• Paperback: 512 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 11, 2019)

International bestselling author Susan Lewis’ riveting, unforgettable novel of a woman whose life changes in an instant and the handsome young man with whom she shares a secret history—perfect for readers of Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult and Susan Wiggs.

How well do you know the people you love? For one young woman returning to the past, the answer could be heart-shattering…

Vivi Shager is living her dream. Raised with drive and ambition by a resolutely single mother, Vivi has a thriving law career, a gorgeous apartment in London, and a full calendar that keeps her busy at work and at play. Then on the day of her twenty-seventh birthday, an undiagnosed heart condition sends Vivi’s prospects for the future into a tailspin. After escaping her roots nearly a decade ago, she’s forced to return to her childhood home to be cared for by her devoted and enigmatic mother. Vivi has always known the woman is hiding something and now she’s determined to find out what it is. Though her condition makes her fragile and vulnerable and she’s afraid of what may happen, her spirit remains strong. Then comes an unexpected ray of light.

Josh Raynor, a local veterinarian who his sisters claim is too handsome for his own good, brings a forbidden love to Vivi’s world. Josh and Vivi are soon inseparable, unaware of the past their families share. All Vivi knows is that Josh is wrestling with a demon of his own…

Then quite suddenly the awful truth is staring Vivi in the face and it changes everything.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Susan-Lewis-AP-Photo-by-Antony-Thompson-thousandwordmedia-dot-comAbout the author, Susan Lewis

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of more than forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense, and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, James; stepsons, Michael and Luke; and mischievous dogs, Coco and Lulu.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel is a somewhat sad, extremely honest family drama that centers around organ donation, but adds in a complex mother-daughter relationship as well (as if those are ever simple). Through the main character, Vivi’s eyes, it also examines the differences between our expectations and our realities.

I felt the author created extremely realistic family dynamics. The way returning to your childhood home makes you feel less than an adult was very relatable to me, even without the twist of a chronic illness. As well I felt crafting the story so it took place in two time periods was a deft move letting us have more scope than just Vivi’s immediate surroundings.

While parts of this book are a bit harrowing, overall, I think this is a meaty novel that is well worth the read, and can certainly provide catharsis for women with difficulty relating to their own mothers or their own adult daughters.

Goes well with a glass of red wine, crisp apples and sharp cheddar.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for One Minute Later

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 11th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes

Wednesday, June 12th: Instagram: @readingwithmere

Thursday, June 13th: Instagram: @reallyintothis

Friday, June 14th: Instagram: @crystals_library

Saturday, June 15th: Instagram: @writersdream

Sunday, June 16th: Instagram: @theoxfordcommamomma

Monday, June 17th: Instagram: @storiesandcoffee

Tuesday, June 18th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 11th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 12th: bookchickdi

Thursday, June 13th: Girl Who Reads

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

Monday, June 17th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Tuesday, June 18th: Booked J

Wednesday, June 19th: Literary Quicksand

Thursday, June 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, June 24th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, June 25th: Brooke’s Books and Brews

Wednesday, June 26th: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, June 27th: Comfy Reading