Review: Wild Seas, by Thomas Peschak

About the book Wild Seas

• Publisher: National Geographic (November 30, 2021)
• Hardcover: 240 pages

Wild SeasOne of @NatGeo’s most popular nature photographers shares 200 breathtaking images — and the stories behind them — from a wide swath of wild ocean locales around the globe.

From gregarious gray whales plying the waters of Baja California to acrobatic manta rays in the Maldives and parading penguins in Antarctica, National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak has spent a lifetime documenting the beauty and fragility of underwater life and the majesty of wild coastlines.

This awe-inspiring book of photography charts his transformation from marine biologist to full-time conservation advocate, armed with little more than a mask, fins and a camera. In these vivid pages, Peschak photographs sharks in a feeding frenzy, tracks sea turtles the size of bears, and dodges marine poachers, to reveal the splendor of pristine seas as well as the dark side of pollution, overfishing, and climate change.

Filled with magnificent images from Southern Africa, the Galápagos, Seychelles, and more, this illuminating collection offers an impassioned case for revering and preserving the world’s oceans.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Thomas Peschak

Thomas Peschak is a National Geographic photographer who documents the beauty and fragility of the world’s oceans and coasts. Originally trained as a marine biologist, he embraced photography after realizing his images could have a greater conservation impact than his research. As the Director of Storytelling for the Save our Seas Foundation and a National Geographic Society Fellow, he merges science with photojournalism to tackle critical conservation issues. His TED Talk, “Dive into an Ocean Photographer’s World” has been viewed more than one million times. When he is not underwater or exploring remote islands, Peschak calls Cape Town, South Africa home.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellOpening Thomas Peschak’s new book, Wild Seas, is an amazing experience. Full color photos spread across the initial pages, and continue on almost every subsequent page, generally with brief captions clarifying what each image presents, and where it was captured. It’s almost as though one is stepping into an art exhibit rather than merely turning pages in a book, and, in fact, there have been exhibits that included some of the photos from this piece.

But Wild Seas is more than just pretty pictures. It also tells a story: Peschak’s own story, in which we learn about his childhood, his educational background, and what drew him to a great love of our planet’s oceans and their inhabitants, and how that love led to a career as one of National Geographic’s most popular lensmen. It is that story that had me turning page after page. The pictures, of course, are amazing, but the glimpse at the artist who took them, is equally so.

Ecology, oceanography, marine biology, and art all coalesce in this beautiful book. It’s heavy – the kind of book you leave on the coffee table so you can pick it up every so often and revisit your favorite sections (for me, it’s the chapters on Manta Rays and Sharks)  – and that your friends will gush over when you see it.

As the quotation goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In Wild Seas, Thomas Peschak shows that with words and with photos, he’s a serious storyteller.

Goes well with: Steamed mussels with garlic and butter, and a crisp Pinot Grigio.


Review Stops

00-tlc-tour-hostSunday, December 5th: Stranded in Chaos

Tuesday, December 7th: Instagram: @geronimoreads

Wednesday, December 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 9th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, December 13th: Instagram: @pickagoodbook

Tuesday, December 14th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, December 15th: Man of La Book

Friday, December 17th: Kahakai Kitchen

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Review: The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker

About the book, The Lighthouse

Lighthouse_Book

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Beacon Press Limited (October 22, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 368 pages

Amy Tucker is struggling to put her life back together following the death of her mother. The loss has left the eighteen-year-old heartbroken, and she doesn’t know if her world will ever be whole again.

Meanwhile, in Seabrook, a small town famous for its haunted lighthouse, Ryan Porter lives a simple but busy life, maintaining the ranch which he shares with his father. Separated by hundreds of miles, yet drawn to each other by forces they can’t understand, Amy and Ryan spend a magical day together and quickly forge a deep connection. But all is not what it seems in Seabrook and when strange events begin happening around town, they question if their meeting really was an accident at all.

Trusting in themselves and in each other, they attempt to unravel the mystery of why fate has brought them together, and in doing so they embark on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery, a journey that leads straight to the heart of Seabrook’s mysterious lighthouse where they uncover the most shocking secret of all… a secret that will change the course of their lives forever.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Christopher Parker

Christopher ParkerChristopher Parker was born in Takapuna, a seaside suburb in Auckland, New Zealand, where he currently lives with his daughter. Having loved writing stories growing up, it was a walk along Takapuna beach and a chance glimpse at a distant lighthouse that made him want to revisit his childhood passion and try his hand at producing a novel. Nearly 10 years on from that fateful stroll, he is proud to finally share his story.

Connect with Christopher:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m a sucker for lighthouses, and have even visited several, so when Simone from BooksForward PR offered me the chance to read Christopher Parker’s debut novel, The Lighthouse, I was happy to accept. I’m glad I did, because this haunting, hopeful story was just what I needed this fall, and while it’s not really scary, it has enough supernatural touches that it is perfect for a rainy-day read… especially in October.

I loved that all the major characters in this novel are flawed. Amy Tucker, age eighteen, is grieving for the mother she recently lost to a car accident. Her father, Kevin, a state police detective, is grieving the loss of his wife, and the apparent disconnection between himself and Amy. Then there’s Ryan, who is caring for his ailing father and trying desperately to save his horse ranch, which is in dire straits.

While Kevin disappears for the bulk of the story, his influence is felt throughout the tale. Amy is always concerned that something dangerous has happened to her father, clearly caring for him despite the communication issues the two have. I really liked how plausible Amy felt. Moody, grieving, acting out in small ways but still essentially a good kid, she tries to help herself, and ends up helping others.

Similarly, Ryan, with all he has to deal with, is still a good person. His love of animals is beautiful to see, and his distress over a missing horse is palpable.

Author Christopher Parker has created a cozy (with ominous undertones) village in Seabrook, making the coastal locale a character in its own right. He’s also very deft with dialogue and has created very real, dimensional characters whom the reader roots for from the very beginning.

Haunting, sometimes even spooky, but also cozy hopeful and full of love, The Lighthouse is a fast read defining its own genre: the cozy neo-gothic.

Goes well with: hot chocolate and pbj sandwiches (need not be deep-fried)

Spotlight: The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens by Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy

BNR T Boone Pickens

 

About the book, The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens

  • Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Courtroom Drama
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
  • Date of Paperback Publication: September 15, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 300 Pages

Cover Last Trial of T Boone Pickens 1Finalist, 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award

T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oilman and infamous corporate raider from the 1980s, climbed the steps of the Reeves County courthouse in Pecos, Texas in early November 2016. He entered the solitary courtroom and settled into the witness stand for two days of testimony in what would be the final trial of his life.

Pickens, who was 88 by then, had made and lost billions over his long career, but he’d come to Pecos seeking justice from several other oil companies. He claimed they cut him out of what became the biggest oil play he’d ever invested in—in an oil-rich section of far West Texas that was primed for an unprecedented boom. After years of dealing with the media, shareholders and politicians, Pickens would need to win over a dozen West Texas jurors in one last battle.

To lead his legal fight, he chose an unlikely advocate—Chrysta Castañeda, a Dallas solo practitioner who had only recently returned to the practice of law after a hiatus borne of disillusionment with big firms. Pickens was a hardline Republican, while Castañeda had run for public office as a Democrat. But they shared an unwavering determination to win and formed a friendship that spanned their differences in age, politics, and gender.

In a town where frontier justice was once meted out by Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos”—Pickens would gird for one final courtroom showdown. Sitting through trial every day, he was determined to prevail, even at the cost of his health.

The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens is a high-stakes courtroom drama told through the eyes of Castañeda. It’s the story of an American business legend still fighting in the twilight of his long career, and the lawyer determined to help him make one final stand for justice.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Praise for this book:

“Think you know T. Boone Pickens, the larger-than-life business titan, energy trader, and corporate raider? Think again. The attorney representing Pickens in his final major court battle and the business writer who covered him most over the decades reveal a whole other T. Boone that few people outside his bubble could have ever imagined.” —     Joe Nick Patoski, author of Austin to ATX and host of the Texas Music Hour of Power 

“Chrysta Castañeda and Loren Steffy have accomplished the remarkable. They’ve taken issues most familiar to lawyers and judges, woven them into an incredible story and presented to all an enjoyable journey through The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens.” —    Craig Enoch, Former Texas Supreme Court Justice and founder of the Enoch Kever law firm 

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About the authors, Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy

Author Pic CastanedaCHRYSTA CASTAÑEDA

… is a Texas trial attorney specializing in oil and gas disputes. She formed her own boutique law firm in 2014 after more than twenty years as a partner and associate in some of the world’s top law firms.

Connect with Chrysta:

TWITTER ◆ FACEBOOK ◆  AMAZON ◆  BOOKBUB

Author Pic SteffyLOREN STEFFY

… is a journalist and author of four other nonfiction books: Deconstructed: An Insider’s View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek) (Stoney Creek Publishing, 2020), George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet (Texas A&M University Press, 2019), Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (McGraw-Hill, 2010) and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship (Texas A&M University Press, 2012). His first novel, The Big Empty, was published in April 2021.

Connect with Loren:

TWITTER FACEBOOK   AMAZONGOODREADS BOOKBUB WEBSITE


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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:

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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: Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir Inspired by True Events, by Brent Spiner

About the book, Fan Fiction

  • Publisher: ‎ St. Martin’s Press (October 5,  2021)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Print length: ‎ 256 pages

Fan FictionBrent Spiner’s explosive and hilarious novel is a personal look at the slightly askew relationship between a celebrity and his fans. If the Coen Brothers were to make a Star Trek movie, involving the complexity of fan obsession and sci-fi, this noir comedy might just be the one.

Set in 1991, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation has rocketed the cast to global fame, the young and impressionable actor Brent Spiner receives a mysterious package and a series of disturbing letters, that take him on a terrifying and bizarre journey that enlists Paramount Security, the LAPD, and even the FBI in putting a stop to the danger that has his life and career hanging in the balance.

Featuring a cast of characters from Patrick Stewart to Levar Burton to Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to some completely imagined, this is the fictional autobiography that takes readers into the life of Brent Spiner, and tells an amazing tale about the trappings of celebrity and the fear he has carried with him his entire life.

Fan Fiction is a zany love letter to a world in which we all participate, the phenomenon of “Fandom.”

Praise for this book:

“Like the man himself, this book is funny, sharp, and brilliant. You’re going to love it, and Brent, even if you’ve never heard of “Star Trek”. It’s one of the most entertaining books ever written about entertainment.” ―Phil Rosenthal (creator, writer, producer), creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and star of Somebody Feed Phil

Fan Fiction is perfect! I loved that damn book. Lots of laugh out loud moments and real heart. Actor Brent Spiner’s pop-culture infused memoir is hilarious, warm, insightful, and absolutely delightful! Highly recommended!” ―Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Ink

“Brent Spiner’s rollicking meta-memoir is a meditation on celebrity, Hollywood, fandom, ego, and self-discovery, hidden inside a black comedy shell. This wildly entertaining novel opens the doors to the Starship Enterprise and the making of Star Trek: The Next Generation even as it peers into the soul of the actor and the utterly crazy world around him. Richly comic and surprisingly moving, Fan Fiction is a gift to both Trek fans and general readers. So put on your Raymond Chandler fedora, or your Starfleet uniform, and settle in for a wild ride through the underbelly and outer space of Hollywood.” ―John Logan, screenwriter of Skyfall, Gladiator, The Aviator

“Both laugh out loud funny and painfully dark, Brent Spiner has created a fictional autobiography that is filled with surprises.” ―Jonathan Frakes

“Brent takes us all on a wild ride in this fanciful tale.” ―Leonard Maltin

“Of all the pleasures Fan Fiction affords the reader ― a gripping plot, deftly and delightfully twisted; an insider’s slant on a pop culture mega-phenomenon; an affecting personal narrative of childhood trauma overcome; an insightful meditation on the ambiguities of fandom ― the greatest and most singular is Brent Spiner’s prose style. Dry, urbane, acerbic, self-deprecating and gently absurdist, it evokes a lost age of Hollywood autobiography. If Groucho Marx had played Commander Data, this is the kind of memoir he might have written.” ―Michael Chabon, Pulitzer-Prize winning author

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | NetGalley | Goodreads


Watch the Book Trailer

 

 


About the author, Brent Spiner

Brent SpinerBRENT SPINER is an actor, comedian, and singer best known for playing the android Lieutenant Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987-1994. He has appeared in numerous television roles, in films, and in theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. He currently has a role in the T.V. series Star Trek: Picard.

Connect with Brent

Facebook | Twitter

 


My ThoughtsMissMeliss2021

I’ve known Brent Spiner was a fantastic storyteller from his panels at conventions, brief interactions with him at those conventions, and from a thing he did on Twitter many years ago where he also wrote a fictionalized noir-esque version of his life. I cannot deny that part of my interest in reading Fan Fiction was because I am a longtime fan of his work. I have, therefore, tried to temper my review in order to counter my own bias.

In a book about improv (it might have been Truth in Comedy) I read that as long as you ground your scene work in emotional truth, the audience will take the journey with you no matter how preposterous things get. Spiner states in this book that everything in the prologue is true, and everything after is not, but he’s put in enough emotional truth that readers will happily stick with the story.

It’s important to remember when reading this, that Brent played Data on TV, but he isn’t an emotionless, perfectly correct android in real life, and in this tale which takes place in a heightened (at the very least) reality gives readers a decidedly earthy version of the actor. Die-hard fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation (in general) and Data (specifically) may find the cursing and references to sex and drugs (nothing scary) off-putting. I personally found them refreshing. Brent-the-character sounds like a real guy, with the sorts of neuroses so many gifted and talented people tend to display.  Similarly, the exaggerated versions of his TNG castmates (and the Roddenberries) added humor, but also helped tie the book more closely to reality.

The invented characters, especially Cindy and Candy, were breaths of fresh air, and despite their roles in the story (FBI agent and bodyguard, respectively) also added necessary warmth and light. If they came off as slightly shallow, I can only assume they were meant to be.

And then there are the Daddy issues. Those are a strong theme in this story, both in Brent’s memories and feelings about his stepfather and in the stalker who identifies as the character Lal. The latter leads to a “cameo” from Hallie Todd that is both hilarious and disturbing. The former… I can only hope that some of those instances really are fiction.

Overall, this piece of meta-fiction is a solid entry into the contemporary noir oeuvre and a fast (it took me three hours), enjoyable read. I’ve always felt that some of Spiner’s best work is when he plays darker characters. I’ve often heard that the best comedy comes from pain. In Fan Fiction, Brent Spiner shows that both are true.

Goes well with: Vegetables. Lots of vegetables… or a double espresso and a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

 

 

Review: Finding Summer Happiness, by Chris Penhall

Finding Summer Happiness

 

About the book, Finding Summer Happiness

Finding Summer Happiness by Chris PenhallYou won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?

Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realizes her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (USA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Chris Penhall

Chris PenhallChris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Her short story, Lily McKee’s Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction’s Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSomething I’ve learned in the last few years is that if a book has Chris Penhall as the author, it’s going to be a fabulous read. Finding Summer Happiness, the author’s most recent title completely supports my initial statement. Charming, with a bit of romance and a bit of intrigue, it came into my life when I really needed it, and put a smile on my face.

Protagonist Miriam is quite possibly my favorite Penhall lead so far. Savvy and smart, she’s burnt out with her business, and finally agrees to have her personal assistant arrange a break for her. Six months in a cottage by the sea. When she learns the actual terms of said break, I felt her disappointment, displeasure, and confusion, and wanted to rush in and help her out. Her work ethic and sense of honor merge with her attorney’s advice, and the story really takes off

A former business-owner myself, although not professionally, I really resonated with Miriam, especially since I’ve been through the experience of leaving the corporate world, but I enjoyed the characters of Jim the pub owner, Rhiannon the realtor (sorry, letting agent) and Alan the unwanted sort-of guest, and the largely offscreen Justin. These characters were all funny and interesting and felt the like odd assortment of friends and cohorts many of us tend to collect.

I also appreciated the various guests and villagers who rounded out the story. Penhall has a knack for creating vivid and dimensional characters and communities, and in this book she excels at both. I wanted to knock on the door of Miriam’s rented cottage and demand a seat in her supper club.

This is a light read that is grounded in serious topics, like how to change your life and when to make the leap and follow your dreams.

Goes well with: A rainy day, a glass of wine, and a bowl of onion soup.

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Spotlight with Giveaway: 70% Dark Intentions, by Amber Royer

BNR 70% Dark Intentions

 

About the book, 70% Dark Intentions

  • Series: Bean to Bar Mysteries
  • Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 260 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover 70% DarkAn Idyllic Chocolate Shop. An island with endangered species. And a murder.

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is bringing in plenty of customers – in part due to the notoriety of the recent murder of one of her assistants, which she managed to solve. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Her new assistant, Mateo, even gets along with Carmen, the shop’s barista turned pastry chef. Felicity thinks she’s learning to cope with change – right up until one of her friends gets engaged. Everyone’s expecting her to ask Logan, her former bodyguard, to be her plus one. But even the thought of asking out someone else still makes her feel disloyal to her late husband’s memory — so maybe she hasn’t moved on from her husband’s death as much as she thought.

Felicity isn’t planning to contact Logan any time soon. Only, Felicity finds ANOTHER body right outside her shop – making it two murders at Greetings and Felicitations in as many months. That night, Mateo disappears, leaving Felicity to take care of his pet octopus. The police believe that Mateo committed the murder, but Felicity is convinced that, despite the mounting evidence, something more is going on, and Mateo may actually be in trouble.

When Logan assumes that he’s going to help Felicity investigate, she realizes she’s going to have to spend time with him – whether she’s ready to really talk to him or not. Can Felicity find out what happened to Mateo, unmask a killer, and throw an engagement party all at the same time?

Praise for this book:

“Royer has concocted a sweetly dark confection with 70% DARK INTENTIONS, the second serving in her Bean to Bar Mysteries series…You’ll read this yummy treat late into the night.” –Amy Shojai, author of September Day & Shadow pet-centric thrillers.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.

Connect with Amber:

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Autographed copy of 70% DARK INTENTIONS

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Review: Lemons in the Garden of Love, by Ames Sheridan

About the book Lemons in the Garden of Love

Lemons in the Garden of Love

  • Publisher : She Writes Press (May 11, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 248 pages

It’s 1977 and Cassie Lyman, a graduate student in women’s history, is struggling to find a topic for her doctoral dissertation. When she discovers a trove of drawings, suffrage cartoons, letters, and diaries at Smith College belonging to Kate Easton, founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916, she believes she has located her subject.

Digging deeper into Kate’s life, Cassie learns that she and Kate are related―closely. Driven to understand why her family has never spoken of Kate, Cassie travels to Cape Ann to attend her sister’s shotgun wedding, where she questions her female relatives about Kate―only to find herself soon afterward in the same challenging situation Kate faced.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | IndieBound | She Writes Press | Goodreads


About the author, Ames Sheldon

Ames SheldonAMES SHELDON: was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota. After graduating from Northrop Collegiate School, she attended Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in English. After graduating, she worked in the legal department of a chemical company, as a reporter at two newspapers, as office manager of a start-up auto salvage business, and eventually as a grant writer and development officer for a variety of nonprofit organizations, ranging from the Sierra Club in San Francisco to the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Public Library. She has an M.A. in American Studies and was lead author and associate editor of the groundbreaking Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States (R.R. Bowker, 1979). In the process of working on this monumental reference book, Ames discovered her love of women’s history and of using primary sources for research. Her debut novel, Eleanor’s Wars, won the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice: Fiction. Her second novel, Don’t Put the Boats Away, was published on August 27, 2019, by She Writes Press. Her third novel, Lemons in the Garden of Love, will be published in 2021.

Connect with Ames:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

As a woman who was given my mother’s vintage original copy (then little more than a pamphlet) of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and as a woman who has fought for reproductive rights my entire  adult life (often with my mother beside me) I was eager to read Lemons in the Garden of Love when it was offered to me for review. This, I thought, was a story I could really relate to.

The parallel stories of Cassie, a grad student in the 1970s, and her aunt Kate, several decades earlier, are compelling reading. Both women were intellectually curious, passionate, and trapped in marriages to cold men. Both women found themselves facing a similar challenge. And both women had to deal with family members who were slaves to conservative views of gender roles, at best, and generally dreadful, at worst.

What I loved about this novel, was that you could tell that author Ames Sheldon had a personal investment in the story. Indeed, she is so committed to reproductive rights and  women’s healthcare that fifty percent of the proceeds from this novel are being donated to Planned Parenthood. That’s an amazing legacy, but so is this novel, which captures the very different experiences of women in the earlier and more recent twentieth century. As well, I really appreciated the technical knowledge that Sheldon included in her story, like how to make your own diaphragm from liquid latex and a darning ring, as many of our great-grandmothers had to do.

Beyond the technical detail, however, I liked how distinctive the two main characters’ voices were. Cassie is very much a contemporary woman, even if the seventies are considered “historical” now (as someone born in 1970 I have difficulty with that), and Kate’s words in her journals are stiffer, and more formal, really cementing her in the early twentieth century.

Overall, I feel Lemons in the Garden of Love is an important read. We must know where we came from as we face an increasingly autocratic future. We must take care not to repeat the worst parts of our history, and honor the best. Most importantly, we must continue to tell our stories, our mothers’ and grandmothers’ stories, and those of our sisters in spirit.

Goes well with grilled chicken, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms.

 

Review and Giveaway: Infinity’s Gateway by James S. Parker

BNR Infinity's Gateway

 

About the book, Infinity’s Gateway

  • Published by: Morgan James Publishing
  • Series: The Infinity’s Gateway Trilogy
  • Pages: 361 Pages
  • Pub Date: January 26th, 2021
  • Categories: Science Fiction / Adventure / Action
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Cover Infinity's GatewayEvery year, all across the planet, people simply vanish, completely disappear and are never seen again.  Some areas of the world are well known for this phenomenon.  Infinity’s Gateway opens with a very famous incident that took place just after the end of World War II with the United States Navy.  The story then jumps to the present day with an unexplainable event that occurs off the coast of Florida, an event that cannot be ignored by the military.

The Navy ship Eclipse and its crew are sent to investigate, but after several days come up empty.  Two days before returning to port, the event reoccurs, and the Eclipse is caught up in something it cannot escape.  The Eclipse and its crew suddenly find themselves completely isolated, all communication lost, surrounded by a terribly hostile environment where each day is a struggle to survive.  Infinity’s Gateway is an intense, action packed story of survival, self-reliance, and discovery.

Praise for this book:

Infinity’s Gateway is an engaging science fiction thriller with tones of Michael Crichton Tom Clancy.  To fans of the science fiction genre, it will feel like an old friend with a surprising, and exciting new makeover.”  —Joseph Mauceri, Executive Editor, Fearsmag.com.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, James S. Parker

Author Pic James ParkerEvery now and then author James S. Parker has a vision.  And, when he does, he sees people and places off in the misty distance.  Sometimes these visions are futuristic and filled with danger.  Most often they are mystical, with good and evil and a cast of characters who beautifully represent both.

In his high school years James experienced a spine-tingling brush with the supernatural.  That single event – complete with the sound of heavy footsteps and an invisible visitor – etched forever in his mind the idea that life is much more mysterious than we oftentimes admit — that the spiritual world is all around us, and that its impact on us cannot be denied.

Though he sees through a glass darkly, he writes as though he has been granted a glimpse into the unknown, one that has informed his novels and their powerful stories of good and evil and the struggles we all face every day to assure that good wins.

Infinity’s Gateway, the first book in a fascinating sci-fi adventure trilogy, is his latest work.  James lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Margaret. He is available for in-person and online book club visits.

Connect with James

 Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | Website

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’m a huge fan of the two authors whose work this novel, Infinity’s Gateway was compared to – Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy – and I love anything that takes place on ships, so I knew this novel would be right up my alley, and I was not wrong. James S. Parker’s latest novel has that perfect balance of technical detail and action-adventure that makes for a fun and gripping story. Plus it’s a new exploration of the Bermuda Triangle myths. It’s been far too long since we’ve had something new in that niche.

Beginning in post-WWII Florida and later jumping to a more contemporary setting, I found Parker’s story to be incredibly well crafted. His attention to the technical detail of both past and modern naval vessels was obvious as were the subtle differences in speech patterns and word choices for each time. I also felt that the pacing he used was appropriate for the story he was telling. There was enough specificity that you could easy visualize everything that was going on, but at no point did it feel like there was too much exposition. Similarly, while there were a LOT of characters introduced in the early chapters – from admirals to ensigns, and congressmen to chaplains – it was never confusing keeping track of who was who.

One thing I particularly loved about this novel were the interjections about the Bermuda Triangle itself, even mentioning that “Mr. Spock” had narrated a show about it in the 1970s. I like it when fiction acknowledges contemporary culture and pop culture (the comments about funding for Navy projects were also appreciated) instead of ignoring them, because it grounds the work in our world (references to the Many Worlds theory notwithstanding).

Overall, this is a well-written, compelling adventure story with touches of philosophy, mystery, and wonder, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Goes well with: Lobster rolls and cold beer.


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TWO WINNERS each receive a signed copy of Infinity’s Gateway!

(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, May 8, 2021)

 

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4/29/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
4/30/21 Guest Post Chapter Break Book Blog
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5/2/21 Author Interview Sybrina’s Book Blog
5/3/21 Character Interview All the Ups and Downs
5/4/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/5/21 Guest Post It’s Not All Gravy
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Review & Giveaway: Dire’s Club by Kimberly Packard

BNR Dire's Club

 

About the book Dire’s Club

  • Publisher: Abalos Publishing
  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Pages: 326 Pages
  • Categories: Action & Adventure / Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Dire's ClubDying isn’t just hard on the ones left behind, the regret of unfinished lives weighs heavily on the terminally ill. That’s where Dire’s Club steps in, a specialty travel agency that takes a small group of dying people on one final adventure-so they can be free of guilt, be more than a diagnosis, and find a way to confront life … and death.

Life Coach Charlotte Claybrooke built a successful second career guiding people out of grief, but the impending tenth anniversary of her own heart-wrenching tragedy sets her on a journey to find life among the dying.

Staring death in the face was Jimmy Dire’s business. He met it with a warm hug, a kind word, and a smile. Dire’s Club gave the terminally ill one final, bucket-list adventure before passing on, but dying was expensive. The bills, like Jimmy’s lies, were piling up. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to face a different type of death.

A rock god, a telenovela star, a grandmother living her life-long dream, and a young tech genius round out this group of strangers facing death together. But when tragedy strikes, their bond is shattered. Lies and fraud surface, forcing the dying to come together to save someone’s life.

Everybody dies. The lucky ones have fun doing it.

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Book Trailer

Dire’s Club trailer from Kimberly Walton on Vimeo.


About the author, Kimberly Packard

Author Pic PackardKimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Ollie and Tully, the precocious puppy.

Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. Other published works by Kimberly include a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix: Pardon Falls and Prospera Pass, and her stand-alone titles, Vortex and Dire’s Club. She was honored as one of the Top 10 Haute Young Authors by Southern Methodist University in 2019.

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads Bookbub


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellGathering a group of diverse strangers to go on a journey together has been a literary conceit since Chaucer gave us The Canterbury Tales, and there’s a reason for that: it’s a setup that is extremely effective. Kimberly Packard latest novel Dire’s Club, uses a modern twist on that setup, but it does so in a way that is completely new, and results in a story that is fresh, compelling, and surprisingly thought provoking.

The idea of a a club for terminally ill adults to share in each other’s ultimate – and quite literal – “bucket list” item is a fascinating one, and perfect for our health-obsessed modern era. Like a cross between Fantasy Island and Make-a-Wish for adults, Jimmy Dire’s business  is to grant wishes to the terminally ill, and he fits that Mr. Roarke roll well: wealthy, connected, operating legally (mostly), he’s the perfect ringleader, arranging things, but never quite stealing the spotlight. Rather, the first “member” of this group that we meet is the central figure: Charlotte Claybrooke, life coach. Yes, the irony is real. Even more so: Dire has used Claybrooke’s work in his own business.

If Charlotte and Jimmy are the central figures, the other Diers (even the title of the group is a pun) are equally interesting: Levi, the aging rock star, Celeste, a grandmotherly type, Dylan who may or may not be over the proscribed minimum age of 21, and Lourdes, the Mexican telenovela star are all fully realized, though some of their stories are given a bit more depth than others. Truly though, any one of these people could easily be the protagonist in their own novel, and author Kimberly Packard has done her job well, because I want more, of this group, of this concept, of her words.

If all of this sounds a bit grim, especially as you go into this novel knowing that a significant amount of the cast will be dead at the end, fear not. Packard has included a lot of humor into her story. From gallows humor, to sarcasm, to simple organic life moments that make you chuckle, this book is an amazingly lighthearted read, despite the heavy subject.

And then there’s the language. I love it when I encounter language that hooks me, and Packard’s writing did that. The first line that struck me was from Lourdes: “I want to know what it feels like to be alone. To bask in the light of the weaker stars.”  That sentence struck me so hard that I actually texted it to a friend (who just bought the Kindle copy of the book, based on my gushing.)

There’s an old theatre adage, attributed in various forms to the late Edmund Gwenn:  “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” In Dire’s Club Kimberly Packard handles both with grace and aplomb.

Goes well with: Grilled sea bass, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, mashed potatoes with Gouda, and a glass of pinot noir, which actually pairs really well with fish.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:
2 Winners: Autographed Paperbacks;
3 Winners: eBook copies

(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 4/16/2021)

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4/6/21 Book Trailer Chapter Break Book Blog
4/6/21 Review That’s What She’s Reading
4/6/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
4/7/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
4/7/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
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4/8/21 Notable Quotable The Page Unbound
4/9/21 Review The Clueless Gent
4/10/21 Review Jennie Reads
4/11/21 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
4/12/21 Review Bibliotica
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4/13/21 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
4/14/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
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