Review: 99% Mine, by Sally Thorne

99-Percent-Mine-coverAbout  the book, 99 Percent Mine

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (January 29, 2019)

Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game, which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush—if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

Buy, read, and discuss 99% Mine:

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About the author, Sally Thorne Sally-Thorne-AP-Photo-by-Katie-Saarikko

Sally Thorne is the USA Today-bestselling author of The Hating Game. She spends her days climbing into fictional worlds of her own creation. She lives in Canberra, Australia with her husband in a house filled with vintage toys, too many cushions, a haunted dollhouse and the world’s sweetest pug.

Connect with Sally

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

99% Mine was my first introduction to Sally Thorne’s writing, but it was a welcome one, and the perfect antidote for a glum January weekend as I was recovering from oral surgery with characters who are witty, refreshingly real, and unaffected, and also delightfully flawed, just the way real people should be. Main character Darcy, who has a congenital heart defect, is first introduced to us as she’s working as a bartender under an assumed name, where she provides us with this key piece of information: when confronted with any group of men, identify the alpha. She does this with a group of guys who come in to drink, and immediately proves that her power is greater than theirs.

At home, however, author Thorne shows us another side to Darcy – lonely, isolated, and not as together as she seems. When childhood-best-friend Tom Valeska shows up to start the remodel on Darcy’s inherited house (she shares ownership with her twin brother Jamie, whom we meet through phone calls, for the most part) the tenor of the story changes to one of reclaimed friendship with a dash of romantic comedy.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying read, a fresh spin on family dramas mixed with a healthy dose of romance for balance. I found all the characters to be compelling, including the house, which was more than a plot device or a setting, if slightly less than an actual member of the cast. As well, I liked the fact that Loretta, the twin’s dead grandmother was also a sort of character, appearing through memories, references and signs.

While I was aware that author Thorne is Australian, I found it interesting that she chose not to specify the setting of her novel. It could have taken place in any major city in almost any English-speaking country.

Overall, this was an entertaining, fast-paced read.

Goes well with hot pizza and cold beer.


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Review: The Hollow Middle by John Popielaski

The-Hollow-Middle-coverAbout the book, The Hollow Middle

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (December 4, 2018)

The Hollow Middle follows Albert Lesiak, an aging English teacher in Connecticut, who receives a windfall in delayed acknowledgment of the government’s complicity in his father’s cancer death and decides that it is time to live a different life on land he owns in Maine.

When his wife Mary suggests that they could foster or adopt autistic twin boys she fell in love with on a website and could use the stipend money in furtherance of Albert’s vision, Albert gradually perceives himself as possibly adapting to the role of patriarch.

A meditation on the curiosity of making sense and the dilemma of becoming true, The Hollow Middle ambles, mostly, and goes still for periods of various duration, acting like it’s not beholden after all to the rhetorical.

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JohnPopielaski-Bio-PictureAbout the author, John Popielaski

John Popielaski is the author of several poetry collections, including, most recently, Isn’t It Romantic? which won the Robert Phillips Chapbook Award from Texas Review Press. The Hollow Middle is his first novel.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John on his website, and follow him on Facebook.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe Hollow Middle is not a fast read. In fact, it’s mindfully, even meditatively slow. It’s the kind of novel you read a few chapters of over a mug – or several – of tea, take time to digest them, and then go back for more. This is not a bad thing. In fact, the stillness of this book is an asset, because it means you really get to know the protagonist, Albert Lesiak.

In the initial chapters, Albert comes off as both prickly and kind of pompous. He’s detached from the world, an observer, rather than a real participant. You get the sense that things like sticky fingers would offend his sensibilities.

Despite this, he’s not a shallow character. He’s clearly leading an examined life and made decisions based on his perceived results.

And then everything changes.

But within that change, Albert remains surprisingly constant. His wife, Mary, serves as both chorus and director at different times, suggesting changes (adopting two boys being the biggest one) and then sitting back while Albert plays with all the angles and finds his own peace in the decision.

As I said, it’s a slow novel, almost more of a character study than anything else, and yet, it’s also compelling.

Author John Popielaski uses language with a combination of eloquence and economy of phrase that is refreshing to read. I found myself repeating sentences out loud because I was drawn to their rhythm. The characters feel like real – if slightly eccentric – people, and the situation is an interesting consideration of how we do or don’t change when we suddenly have the money to do whatever we want.

Goes well with: hot tea and shortbread cookies.


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Review: Aphrodite’s Closet, by Suzy Turner

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About the book, Aphrodite’s Closet

Aphrodite's Closet NEW COVER

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (May 9, 2017)

Agatha Trout didn’t even know she had a Great Aunt Petunia, so imagine her surprise when she finds Petunia left her a corner shop in her will. But it’s not just any old corner shop—it’s a corner shop that needs something unique, something the town of Frambleberry has never seen before.

 

Influenced by her confident best friend, Coco, Agatha is soon convinced that there’s only one way to go: an adults-only sex shop.

While some of the townspeople are clutching their pearls in horror, others are open to the new experiences this shop offers. But not everyone in Frambleberry is convinced. Will the women soldier on in the face of violent threats or will their fears get the best of them—and their new venture—before it even gets off the ground?

Buy, read, and discuss Aphrodite’s Closet:

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About the author, Suzy Turner Suzy Turner 2017

Born in England and raised in Portugal, Suzy lives with her childhood sweetheart Michael, their two crazy dogs and three cats.

Shortly after completing her studies, Suzy worked as a trainee journalist for a local newspaper. Her love of writing developed and a few years later she took the job of assistant editor for the region’s largest English language publisher before becoming editor of a monthly lifestyle magazine. Early in 2010 however, Suzy became a full time author. She has since written several books: Raven, December Moon, The Lost Soul (The Raven Saga), Daisy Madigan’s Paradise, The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw, The Temporal Stone, Looking for Lucy Jo, We Stand Against Evil (The Morgan Sisters), Forever FredlessAnd Then There Was You, Stormy Summer and her latest, Aphrodite’s Closet.

In 2015 she launched her popular 40+ lifestyle blog which continues to go from strength to strength, while just over a year later, she trained to become a yoga instructor. Suzy continues to write, blog and teach yoga in one of Portugal’s loveliest settings – the Algarve.

Connect with Suzy:

Lifestyle Blog | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI am in love with Aphrodite’s Closet. Funny and smart, and a perfect example of the genre we used to call “chick lit,” but is really just another type of contemporary fiction, this novel will make you laugh, make you cry, make you nod in agreement with universal truths, and make you root for the heroine, Agatha Trout.

Author Suzy Turner has drawn two dynamic leads in Agatha and her best friend Coco. Either woman could easily be someone you know. Agatha is more low key, less adventurous, and more level-headed. At times she can even be frumpy. Coco, on the other hand, is bold and a little brassy, wears five-inch heels, and is also generous to a fault. Together they represent everything that is best about deep friendship.

That core friendship is what I loved about the novel, but I also appreciated Turner’s flair for snappy dialogue and her ability to create characters with just a few descriptors (busy-body Amelia and Agatha’s mother are prime examples).

Overall, this novel is a light, fast read that balances comedy and truth really well.

Goes well with cosmopolitans and light hors d’oeuvres.


Aphrodite's Closet

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

About the book, Pieces of Her Pieces-of-Her-cover

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (August 21, 2018)

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girlsand The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

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About the author, Karin Slaughter Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Townand the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, Karin Slaughter lives in Atlanta. Her standalone novels The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television.

Connect with Karin:

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


My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

I absolutely loved this novel! Not only was it well-paced and deftly plotted, but the characters really felt plausible. Yes, there’s mystery and intrigue, action and adventure, and those are all constructed brilliantly. The mall scene never had me wondering where people were in space (something that can often be an issue during chaotic scenes), and the unfolding truths about who Laura really is, kept me interesting.

But what hooked me was the Andy-Laura relationship. I’m forty-eight, not thirty-one, but I really identified with Andy. My own mother is the type who irons t-shirts and is always impeccably dressed. I’m self-employed and live in t-shirts and jeans and have to have special black shirts for when we eat Japanese food, for the inevitable moment when soy sauce ends up on my chest, and as for my iron… I’m pretty sure I could find it if I had to.

Author Karin Slaughter’s depiction of a mother-daughter relationship is perfect. Just perfect. The love Andy feels for her mother who is a breast cancer patient, the fear  and curiosity, and even a bit of betrayal at not knowing her mother’s real history – these things were so emotionally truthful that they drove the novel as much as the actual plot.

If you want a really satisfying read that combines believable characters and a compelling story, you must read Pieces of Her.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and iced mango tea.


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TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: The Cottages on Silver Beach, by RaeAnne Thayne

About the book, The Cottages on Silver Beach Cottages on Silver Beach

 

  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books; Original edition (July 1, 2018)
  • Publication Date: June 19, 2018

Years after betraying her, he’s back in Haven Point…and ready to learn the truth

Megan Hamilton never really liked Elliot Bailey. He turned his back on her family when they needed him the most and it almost tore them all apart. So she’s shocked when Elliot arrives at her family’s inn, needing a place to stay and asking questions that dredge up the past. Megan will rent him a cottage, but that’s where it ends—no matter how gorgeous Elliot has become.

Coming back home to Haven Point was the last thing bestselling writer Elliot Bailey thought he’d ever do. But the book he’s writing now is his most personal one yet and it’s drawn him back to the woman he can’t get out of his mind. Seeing Megan again is harder than he expected and it brings up feelings he’d thought were long buried. Could this be his chance to win over his first love?

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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.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I reviewed another of Thayne’s Haven Point novels, Sugar Pine Trail, last fall, and really enjoyed the way she mixed a cozy small town environment with equal parts of romance and light suspense, so when I was offered the opportunity to review The Cottages on Silver Beach this spring, I was delighted to accept.

In this novel, we see Haven Point during a shoulder season – it’s not the height of summer or winter, when most tourists visit – and we are introduced to inn owner and fine art photographer Megan and her dog Cyrus. Megan has lived at the inn since childhood, and run it for most of her adult life, and it’s not just a job to her, it’s truly her home. In fact, she lives in one of the eponymous rental cottages that are part of the inn.

We also meet Elliot, FBI agent and popular crime writer, as well as the childhood best friend of Megan’s brother. He’s in town for a family wedding, and rents the cottage next door to Megan’s.

The romance that follows is very much the story of two adults who are attracted to each other, but have baggage they need to deal with before they can act on that attraction. It’s alternately sweet and frustrating, which is proof that author Thayne writes believable, dimensional characters: sometimes you’re rooting for them, sometimes you want to shake them so they come to their senses, and most of the time, it’s a combination of both.

I also like the way Thayne’s created setting of Haven Point feels like a real town. It’s just cute enough to be a tourist destination, but neither the town nor its citizens are without flaws, and that lends to the feeling that this is a place you could visit, if you just knew where to turn.

Overall, this is an enjoyable book, neither to sappy nor too suspenseful, but a perfect balance of both, making it the perfect summer escape.

Goes well with a fresh cup of hot coffee and a perfectly fluffy omelet.

 

 

Review: Chasing the Demon, by Paul Sating

About the book, Chasing the Demon CHasing the Demon by Paul Sating

 

  • Series: Subject: Found (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Paul Sating Productions (May 15, 2018)

Jared Strong has been haunted by bigfoot since his childhood. An early life experience drove his passion for capturing the beast. Now, as an adult, he has given up everything to find the elusive creature. Determined to succeed, his passion and discipline have taken him to some of the greatest finds ever recorded. But he’s not satisfied with mere evidence. He wants to bring the world a bigfoot. There are things that stand between him and his dream. The creature doesn’t want to be found. But it isn’t alone. His estranged wife has moved on with her life. And other forces stand ready to block Jared’s path. Powerful people who don’t want him to succeed. Now Jared must make a choice between focusing on his crumbling marriage or giving everything he has for this last chance to prove this monster exists, even as he is threatened from all sides. Who will win in the end?

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About the author, Paul Sating Paul Sating

Paul Sating is an author and audio dramatist who spends most of his time traveling the Pacific Northwest in search of elusive monsters everyone claims aren’t real.

The creator of Subject: Found, Who Killed Julie, and Diary of a Madman audio dramas, Paul began adapting many of those scripts to novel form and is looking to release his first two novels in 2018.

He stays grounded by rooting for bad soccer teams, traveling around the beautiful corner of the world he calls home, and spending every moment he can with his wife and two daughters.

Connect with Paul:

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My Thoughts

My first introduction to Paul was through a posting in an audio drama group. He was looking for a reader for something. I didn’t get the part, but I asked to be his friend on Facebook, and quickly fell in love with his brain. When he asked if people would be willing to be advanced readers of the novelization of his audio drama of the same name, Chasing the Demon, I asked if I could, and he graciously sent me a digital copy. Then I got super-sick, had to make an emergency trip to South Dakota because my father-in-law died, and then had family here delivering inherited furniture. By the time my head was clear enough to be a critical reader, it was June, so I said I’d review his book here, instead.

Chasing the Demon is, put simply, brilliant. While a casual glance at the back cover blurb might lead you to think it’s a story about monsters  – which it is, in a way – it’s primarily a human story. It’s about obsession, the need to answer our deepest questions, and what that need can drive us to do.

Originally released as an audio drama, this book reads quite well as a novel. I purposely did NOT listen to the audio drama before reading it, because I wanted to approach it with no preconceptions, and I was blown away by Sating’s use of dialogue, and his deftness at crafting characters. Protagonist Jared Strong is, at times, frustrating because there are choices he makes that are detrimental to his personal life, but that tendency only makes him feel more real. At the same time, he’s sympathetic. As a reader, I was rooting for him to succeed. The fact that one character evokes both of these responses is, I feel, a testament to the author’s dedication.

But Jared is not the only character in this novel.

His friends Lucas and Peter, very different people, indulge him in his obsession, to a point, but they also speak truth to him, the way only real friends can. Their relationship is well-developed, and mixes humor with natural skepticism and real concern. We could all use friends like this.

Then there is Maria. There is a lot of reflection about Maria – Jared muses about the way their marriage has been crumbling – but we don’t really hear from her until about a third of the way into the story. That’s fine. It’s Jared’s story. But where I was prepared to be disappointed in her minimal presence, I was instead impressed by the way Sating wrote the initial phone call between the estranged husband and wife. He has captured the tone of such conversations – the poignance, the annoyance, the very real sorrow and regret – perfectly.

Overall, Chasing the Demon is an excellent first novel. While it is a little bit exposition-heavy (of necessity, I feel), that choice doesn’t detract from the flow or pacing of the story. It’s a satisfying read, with crisp dialogue, a compelling plot, and dimensional characters.

Goes well with a cold beer – maybe a microbrew IPA –  and hot dogs roasted over a campfire.

CHasing the Demon by Paul Sating

 

Review: Before I Let You Go, by Kelly Rimmer

About the book, Before I Let You Go Before I Let You Go cover

 

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Graydon House (April 3, 2018)

“Before I Let You Go is a heartbreaking book about an impossible decision. Kelly Rimmer writes with wisdom and compassion about the relationships between sisters, mother and daughter…. She captures the anguish of addiction, the agonizing conflict between an addict’s best and worst selves. Above all, this is a novel about the deepest love possible.” —Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

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About the author, Kelly Rimmer Kelly Rimmer author

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today best selling author of contemporary fiction novels including Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, When I Lost You, A Mother’s Confession and her most recent release, Before I Let You Go. She lives in rural Australia with her husband and children.

For further information about Kelly’s books, and to subscribe to her mailing list, visit www.kellyrimmer.com.

Connect with Kelly:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was literally up all night reading Before I Let You Go, because once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. It starts out as a conventional romance – Lexie and Sam, both doctors, are settling into the new home they’re remodeling – but almost immediately Lexie gets a call from her younger sister Annie, begging for help. Annie, it turns out, is a drug addict. She’s also pregnant, and being on drugs while pregnant is, because of a badly written law, criminal behavior in Alabama.

The book then tells the story from the parallel points of view of Lexie and Annie, though Lexie’s chapters are in the present, and Annie’s, which are dominated by journal entries addressed to Luke (we learn who he is mid-way through the novel) mostly detail the past.

Throughout it all, Sam is there, being the supportive fiance, insisting to Lexie that they’re a team, and ensuring that she takes care of herself, even when she’s trying to take care of others.

Sam is one of the best-written male characters I’ve seen in recent “women’s fiction” (I hate that term). He’s his own person, but he’s also a key support for Lexie, and in many ways, I felt that he was the heart of this story. Still, it’s really about Lexie and Annie, and eventually their mother, and Annie’s daughter, Daisy, and as a portrait of sisters who both love each other fiercely and frustrate each other completely, it’s a brilliantly crafted piece.

Goes well with Chinese take-out and cold beer.

 

 

 

Review: Night Music, by Deanna Lynn Sletten

About the book, Night MusicNight Music

 

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Deanna Lynn Sletten (February 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941212336

 

1968 – 1971

Charlotte Parsons is devastated over losing her brother in the Vietnam War. Desperate to learn more about the war, she joins a group of college women who send letters to soldiers and befriends Joseph Russo, a young soldier. But a few months after they begin corresponding, his letters stop coming, and Char moves on, still confused as to why so many young lives are being lost so far away from home.

Two years later, Char begins college in her small Illinois town of Grand Falls. She’s been dating her brother’s long-time best friend, Deke Masterson, who is a senior in college and is deep into the anti-war movement. Char isn’t sure how she feels about the war. Then a stranger comes to town and changes everything.

Joseph Russo served in the Vietnam War, earning a Purple Heart for his injury as well as a life-long limp. He’s ready to put the war behind him. While in Vietnam, he’d corresponded with a girl from Grand Falls and he enjoyed reading about her idyllic life. When he’s discharged, he moves there to attend college. And when he meets Charlotte in person, he’s taken with her sweetness, intelligence, and beauty.

The battle lines are drawn as Deke resents Joe’s presence around Char. What started out as a well-deserved escape to a small town for Joe soon turns into a battle of wills between him and the idealistic Deke. And there stands Charlotte, right in the middle.

Night Music is a story about a moment in time when the world was chaotic and nothing was completely clear. In the midst of all the chaos, can Char and Joe find enough middle ground to fall in love?

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About the author, Deanna Lynn Sletten

Deanna Lynn SlettenDeanna Lynn Sletten writes women’s fiction and romance novels. She began her writing career self-publishing novels in 2012 and has since published several novels. Her latest novel, One Wrong Turn, is her third book published by Lake Union Publishing. Deanna believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after, and her novels reflect that.

Deanna lives in a small town in northern Minnesota and is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake.

Connect with Deanna:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

I’ve been reading and reviewing Deanna Lynn Sletten’s work for years, so when she asked me if I’d consider reviewing her latest novel Night Music, there was no way I was going to say no.

Set in the very early 1970’s this novel technically qualifies as a ‘period’ or ‘historical’ work, and yet, it feels absolutely contemporary, showing that young people nearly fifty years ago (wow, that was hard to write – I was born in 1970) had many of the same issues and conflicts that we do today when it comes to war – when is it appropriate, when does it go to far – and the way we treat veterans.

As the granddaughter of a career Army officer and the daughter of an activist, as well as someone who is an activist herself, I was steeped in the concept of “love the soldier, not the war,” from an early age, and I completely related to the issues in this novel.

And yet, what Sletten has written in Night Music is not a war story, nor is it a political treatise. Rather, it’s a lovely novel about love – the love of home, the love of family, and the love we feel for friends and romantic partners.

As well, it’s a coming of age novel. The three central characters, Charlotte, Joe, and Deke are all college students. Charlotte is young, and somewhat naive, and her journey is one toward confidence and a stronger sense of self, but Joe and Deke are also coming of age. The former, in processing his experiences as a young solider returned home injured from Vietnam, and Deke, a an anti-war activist.

As usual, Sletten has given us characters who feel three-dimensional, a setting that is almost its own character, and a story that entertains while also challenging us to think.

Goes well with a burger, a beer, and a stimulating conversation. Or maybe a Hemingway novel.

Review: Meet the Frugalwoods, by Elizabeth Willard Thames

About the book Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence through Simple Living

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (March 6, 2018)

Meet-the-Frugalwoods-coverThe deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.

In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.

In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to “the good life.” Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums.

Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.

Buy, read, and discuss Meet the Frugalwoods:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Willard Thames

Elizabeth Willard Thames is the personal finance blogger behind the award-winning Frugalwoods.com. At thirty-two she abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced extreme frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life and retire to a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of Vermont with her husband and young daughter. Started in April 2014, Frugalwoods is a respected voice in the personal finance, early retirement, and lifestyle blogging sector and empowers readers to take charge of their finances and create fulfilling lives. Thames holds BAs in political science and creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MA in public administration from American University. Prior to following her calling as a writer and homesteader, she worked for ten years in the nonprofit sector as a fund-raiser and communications manager.

Follow the Frugalwoods:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMy husband and I suck at saving. Well, we don’t suck, so much as we rely on retail therapy and have way too much house for two people and four dogs.

It’s because of this that I was initially attracted to reading Meet the Frugalwoods.

I haven’t read the Frugalwoods blog, but in this book Elizabeth Willard Thames has given us something that’s partly an autobiography and partly an object lesson on how to achieve, if not your actual dream, than at least a better level of financial security.

Thames’s voice is simple and accessible. There’s a touch of self-deprecating humor, but mostly she’s pretty no-nonsense. Reading this book doesn’t make you feel like you’ve done everything wrong; rather it gives a different perspective on how you could be managing finances, and I say this as someone who worked in the mortgage industry for half a lifetime, before quitting to write and podcast and do audio drama.

Granted, at 47, I’m a bit out of the Frugalwoods demographic, but I still found Thames’s story inspiring and uplifting, and I think for the millennial generation, especially those on the older end of it, the advice and information shared in Meet the Frugalwoods could be invaluable.

Goes well with a grocery store bagel and cream cheese (but only if your grocery store makes decent bagels), and coffee you brew at home.


Tour Stops

https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/Tuesday, March 6th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 7th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, March 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, March 9th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Monday, March 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 15th: Man of La Book

Monday, March 19th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 21st: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 22nd: Based on a True Story

 

 

Review: The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

About the book The Lucky Ones The Lucky Ones

Print Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA (February 13, 2018)

They called themselves “the lucky ones”

They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.

Buy, read, and discuss The Lucky Ones:

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


About the author, Tiffany Reisz Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, author Andrew Shaffer.

Connect with Tiffany:

Website | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Every so often you stumble across a novel that doesn’t look all that amazing, and then you get into it and you find out it’s compelling, interesting, and really satisfying, and pretty amazing after all.

That was my experience with The Lucky Ones. I was part of the excerpt tour in January, but hadn’t read the book at the time I posted my excerpt. When I finally sat down to start it and read the opening scenes with Allison with her ten-lover McQueen, I was half-convinced I was reading the wrong novel.

But then the story unfolded. Allison read the letter from Roland, and dashed back to the Oregon coast, and not only did I fall in love with the house – The Dragon (I want a house like that, in a place like that)  – but I was hooked on the story.

I really liked the way the author, Tiffany Reisz, crafted this novel like a romance, until it became a thriller disguised as a family drama with romantic interludes. I loved all the characters, flawed and human as they were. The layers of secrets, peeling away like onions, kept me intrigued til the very end.

Reisz’s use of language is really effective. Allison was the point of view character, so her voice was the clearest, but each character had his or her own distinct voice – Roland was suitably introspective. Dr. Capello reminded me of an older, gritter version of Alan Alda, and Thora was someone I’d have loved to hang out with.

Overall, it’s we, the readers, who are lucky, because we get to read The Lucky Ones.

Goes well with a burger and a beer, enjoyed on a beach blanket on the sand.


The Lucky Ones Review Tour: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 12th: Rockin’ & Reviewing

Monday, February 12th: Into the Hall of Books and @intothehallofbooks

Tuesday, February 13th: Clues and Reviews and @cluesandreviews

Tuesday, February 13th: Read Love Blog

Tuesday, February 13th: @anniabbauer and @beach.house.books

Wednesday, February 14th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, February 15th: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, February 20th: Books a la Mode

Tuesday, February 20th: Katy’s Library and @katyslibrary

Wednesday, February 21st: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind and @artbookscoffeee

Thursday, February 22nd: Tales of a Book Addict

Friday, February 23rd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, February 23rd: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip

Monday, February 26th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, February 26th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, February 27th: @athousandbookstoread

Tuesday, February 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 28th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 28th: The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 2nd: Not in Jersey

Monday, March 5th: Snowdrop Dreams

Tuesday, March 6th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 8th: Hoser’s Blook

Friday, March 9th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, March 9th: What is That Book About