Review: Genny’s Ballad (The Sisters #5) by Becki Willis (with Giveaway!)

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About the book, Genny’s Ballad

  • Genre: Cozy Mystery / Romance / Women Sleuths
  • Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
  • Date of Publication: October, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 258
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Genny Cover2018 Best Mystery Series, Texas Association of Authors

By all accounts, everyone loves Genny.
So why does someone want her dead?

There’s something special about Genesis Baker, owner of The Sister’s popular New Beginnings Café. With her dimpled smile and twinkling blue eyes, Genny has practically the entire town eating from the palm of her hand. But Genny is hiding a secret. Despite her sunny disposition and golden touch, there is heartache in her past, and heartache, they say, comes in threes.

Heartache Number One: An unwelcomed customer shows up at New Beginnings. Apparently, the restraining order has lapsed.

Heartache Number Two: Genny’s arch nemesis from high school returns to town. Twenty years has done nothing to mellow the bitter feud between these two women.

Heartache Number Three: As Genny finally acknowledges her feelings for a younger man—sexy firefighter Cutter Montgomery—memories of her first love come back to haunt her.

On top of it all, someone is stalking Genny, determined to make her life miserable.

As it turns out, being kidnapped is only the beginning of her troubles… 

Book Five of the award winning The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series, voted Best Mystery Series by the Texas Association of Authors, three years in a row!

Buy, read, and discuss this book – and the whole series!

Buy the book on Amazon! $0.99 Kindle Countdown promotional pricing 6/22 – 6/28!

Buy all or part of The Sisters series from the author’s website | Check the series out on Goodreads


About the author, Becki Willis

LinkedIn ║ BookBub║ Amazon Author PageBecki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of ’13, that dream became a reality.

Since that time, she has published numerous books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction, Best Women’s Detective Fiction, and Best Audio Book, won the 2018 RONE Award for Paranormal Fiction, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, Writer’s League of Texas, Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Connect with Becki

Website | Twitter | Goodreads  | Email | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube | LinkedIn  | BookBub | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellCreepy ex-boyfriends, layers of mystery, hunky firefighters, supportive female friends, a cozy small-town setting, and apple turnovers – Genny’s Ballad, book five in Becki Willis’s The Sisters Texas Mysteries has all of that and more.

What more? How about a compelling plot that opens with bumps and grunts in the night and said hunky firefighter coming to the rescue. But while that’s a good beginning, a novel needs more than just an opening scene. Fortunately author Willis delivers. This is no ordinary cozy mystery. It’s got layered stories and nuanced characters, and it deals with the reality that the hopes, dreams, and loves we have when we’re young are not necessarily the hopes, dreams, and loves we get to keep, or choose to follow through with as we mature.

While I enjoyed that one of the many subplots involved the main character Genesis “Genny” Baker’s best friend Madison going through the joys and perils of her home (and life) being featured on a reality show about remodeling (and, by extension, Genny herself and many of their other friends) a scene I found particularly delicate and touching was one with an aging teacher who was clearly suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Working that into the story in a way that felt organic but still respectful of real people who live with such conditions speaks a lot to the author’s talent for writing believable characters.

I also  liked that Genny was flawed. She didn’t like asking for help, and that meant that she put herself in harm’s way. It’s easy to write a protagonist who is perfect. To write a character who is imperfect and still really likeable, someone we want to root for, takes real craft.

And I did root for Genny to resolve her issues, and for Madison to resolve her cases, just as wanted all of the various romances to end successfully, because in a cozy mystery you get to solve the crime and have the perfect kiss, if the author has done her job, and Becki Willis has absolutely done her job. (Similarly, I wanted the less savory characters to get their comeuppance. I’m looking at you in particular Pembroke. You really annoyed me.)

Of course, I have to mention that Genny’s Ballad  is book five in an ongoing series, in which book eight has just been released. While it’s completely satisfying as a stand-alone read, it would be even more enjoyable within the context of the series at large.

Cuddling, coziness, and creative crime solving by strong women characters – Genny’s Ballad has it all.

Goes well with apple turnovers and fresh coffee.


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Check Out the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

6/20/19 Chicken Scratch, #1 StoreyBook Reviews
6/20/19 When the Stars Fall, #2 Tangled in Text
6/21/19 Stipulations & Complications, #3 Max Knight
6/22/19 Home Again: Starting Over, #4 Reading by Moonlight
6/23/19 Genny’s Ballad, #5 Bibliotica
6/24/19 Christmas in The Sisters, #6 The Clueless Gent
6/25/19 The Lilac Code, #7 Hall Ways Blog
6/26/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Book Fidelity
6/26/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Carpe Diem Chronicles
6/27/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Chapter Break Book Blog
6/27/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 The Librarian Talks
6/28/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Forgotten Winds
6/28/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Nerd Narration
6/29/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 That’s What She’s Reading
6/29/19 Wildflower Wedding, #8 Sydney Young, Stories

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Review: The Quintland Sisters, by Shelly Wood

The-Quintland-Sisters-coverAbout the book, The Quintland Sisters

• Paperback: 464 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 5, 2019)

“A historical novel that will enthrall you… I was utterly captivated…” — Joanna Goodman, author of The Home for Unwanted Girls

For fans of Sold on a Monday or The Home for Unwanted Girls,Shelley Wood’s novel tells the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world’s first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world.

Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, The Quintland Sisters is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood—a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.

Buy, read, and discuss The Quintland Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Shelley-Wood-AP-Tyler-DyckAbout the author, Shelley Wood

Shelley Wood is a writer, journalist, and editor. Her work has appeared in the New Quarterly, Room, the Antigonish Review, Causeway Lit, and the Globe and Mail (UK). Born and raised in Vancouver, she has lived in Montreal, Cape Town, and the Middle East, and now has a home, a man, and a dog in British Columbia, Canada.

Connect with Shelley:

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Reality television – or any television – hadn’t been invented yet when the Dionne Quintuplets were born in Canada in 1934, but if it had been, their lives wouldn’t have been any less tragic, or crazy.

Their story, as told by Emma Trimpany, a seventeen-year-old midwife-in-training, is the dichotomy of the the fish and the fishbowl. Inside, Emma sees each of the five “Quintland Sisters”  – ripped from their family by the doctors who saw them as a means to fame and fortune – as a unique person, each with a name, a personality, her own personhood. But to outsiders it’s the similarities that attract, and people come from miles around to gawk at the girls in their specially-built playground.

What struck me about this book, which is a fictional retelling of a true story, is how much the Dionne Quintuplets’ story is so similar to the stories we see today – the OctoMom media frenzy ended up with similar product placement opportunities, and, while not precisely the same, the Hensel twins (the famous conjoined twins) have likewise been media darlings their entire lives.

Wood does an amazing job capturing the period, the Dionne family’s distress and confusion – sure, they’re uneducated and poor, but that doesn’t make them unfit parents. The juxtaposition of Depression-era austerity with the lavishness given to the girls, and not their parents was also quite well shown. I liked the device of using Emily as the point of view character, as she was closer in class to the Dionnes and closer in education to the doctors… she was the perfect betwixt-and-between person to let us see all perspectives.

Overall, I found the story to be unsettling, but I believe that was the intent. It should be unsettling to read about children being treated more like an exhibition than people.

Goes well with tea and strawberry cupcakes. Carnival food.


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

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Tuesday, March 5th: As I turn the pages

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Thursday, March 21st: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Spotlight on Covey Jenks, by Shelton L. Williams – With Excerpt

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About the book, Covey Jenks Covey Jenks Cover

  • Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
  • Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
  • Publication Date: February 10, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 229 pages
  • Audio Book Length: 6 hours, 38 minutes
  • Audio Book Narrator: Kathy James
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey, and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another!

Praise for Covey Jenks:

Williams seamlessly braids a murder mystery with a love story and a drama about the pervasiveness of racism in the South… The author’s prose is buoyantly eccentric, both insightful and self-effacingly humorous. And the clues Covey and JayJay track down are meted out to readers with impressive judiciousness: The author never prematurely surrenders so much information that the conclusion is rendered foregone while the tale’s swift pace prevents it from becoming tedious. An engrossing crime drama that’s both entertaining and provocative. — Kirkus Indie

Read an Excerpt from Chapter 45 of Covey Jenks:

When I am in one place, I often think of what is happening at the same moment in another place I used to be. Like, when I walked to work in D.C., I often saw this seemingly homeless guy playing chess with multiple persons near the fountain in DuPont Circle. I saw countless persons get up and walk away from his games with defeated looks on their faces. Is that still going on? Or, is some freshman in my old dorm room at Luckett finally settling into the pace of college life? Or flunking out? Who is wearing number 63 for Permian this year? They are very good again and will soon play another powerhouse, Converse Judson, I think, for the state championship. Does that guy start? Is he a good student? Why do I care?

I think I care because I am fascinated by connections, my connections, in life. Our shared connections and shared patterns must result in similar outcomes and similar life lessons, no? Or not, I guess, depending on parents, experiences, and mental capacities. Useless thoughts really, but what about the Gladstone boys? We had so many connections and shared patterns, but we simply did not see the world in the same way. We grew up in the same town, played the same games, went to the same schools, had the same friends, had the same kind of uneducated, racist parents, and dated the same girls. The similarities no doubt did not end there, but in the end the differences became the defining connection.

Buy, read, and discuss Covey Jenks:

In Print | In Audio | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams Shelton L Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the BloodSummer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelton:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


About the Narrator, Kathy James

Kathy JamesMy first part time job while I was in high school was announcing at the local radio station, and I had fun being “on the air” and using my sarcastic sense of humor.  I worked in the radio business for more than twenty years. My favorite pastimes are teaching figure skating, getting lost in a great book, and watching movies.  I narrate and produce audio books in my home studio, and I truly enjoy bringing an author’s characters to life with an audio book. I currently reside in Minnesota with my slightly overweight cat and two childlike golden retrievers.


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Visit All the Blogs on This Tour

11/27/18 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
11/27/18 Excerpt Bibliotica
11/28/18 Audio Review Hall Ways Blog
11/29/18 Guest Post Max Knight
11/29/18 Playlist That’s What She’s Reading
11/30/18 Audio Review The Book Review
12/1/18 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
12/1/18 Character Interview The Clueless Gent
12/2/18 Review Reading by Moonlight
12/2/18 Scrapbook Page Book Fidelity
12/3/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews
12/4/18 Audio Review Missus Gonzo
12/5/18 Excerpt The Page Unbound
12/6/18 Audio Review Forgotten Winds
12/6/18 Review Rainy Days with Amanda

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Review: Leave Tomorrow, by Dirk Weisiger – with Giveaway

Leave Tomorrow

About the book: Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World

Leave TomorrowScroll down for giveaway.

  • Genre: Memoir / Travel / Inspiration
  • Date of Publication: October 27, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 232

After building a successful business, Dirk Weisiger was ready for something new. But he wasn’t sure what. Maybe a motorcycle adventure, I’ve never done that! 

What followed was a fourteen-month, solo motorcycle journey from Austin, Texas to Ushuaia, Argentina, filled with unexpected adventures, surprises, and lessons about life and travel.

In this book, you’ll not only enjoy Dirk’s adventure and insights, but find inspiration for your own journey.

Praise for Leave Tomorrow

I may not ride a motorcycle to the bottom of the world, but my soul comes alive when I hear about people smashing fear and following their dreams. This book will truly inspire you. –Abigail Irene Fisher, traveler and speaker

Leave Tomorrow is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for a blend of humanity, culture, scary moments with a medicine man, military police, attempts at extortion, and unexpected challenges–along with insightful observations and humor, this book will definitely spark your imagination to “live your own movie.”  –Steve Scott, business coach and author of Wings to Fly

This inspiring and entertaining book is just the tonic needed to get you up out of your chair and ready to “Leave Tomorrow.” –Julie Mundy, Guidebook Author and Travel Blogger, Australia

For everyone thinking of a new adventure, a new life, or even a new venture: DO IT. –Jim Rogers, bestselling author of Investment Biker and Street Smarts 

This is not the first book I’ve read on riding to Ushuaia, but it is probably the most enjoyable. Dirk writes about his experiences in an upbeat manner, taking each experience and each day in perspective. –Muriel Farrington, Ambassador, BMW Motorcycles of America

Buy, read, and discuss Leave Tomorrow

(A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.)

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Dirk Weisiger

Author Pic Dirk_previewDirk Weisiger is a travel trekker, trick roper, and storyteller. He’s the author of the new book, Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World. Dirk has always enjoyed speaking to groups, spinning tales, ropes, and offering lessons he’s learned in adventures of life and business. He’s traveled to five continents and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of all, Dirk loves people and believes that making new friends is the best part of travel.

Connect with Dirk:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I saw the sign up for this blog tour, I begged to be one of the reviewers of Leave Tomorrow, because something about the description spoke to my inner nomad. Now, having read it, I’m glad for the experience, because I enjoyed it on many levels.

First, it’s a fun read, and if you get nothing out of it other than ‘this guy rode  motorcycle from Texas to the end of South America’ you’ll have had an enjoyable experience with this book as a travelogue.

But it’s more than that. It’s a guide for taking the chances most of us think we can’t do, or think we shouldn’t, or just don’t. Sure, some of author Dirk Weisiger’s decisions seem impulsive, but they tend to pay off in rich, organic experiences of the kind that you can’t get from a guidebook or a package tour.

This book spoke to me on yet another level, because my parents emigrated to Baja California Sur, Mexico, about eighteen years ago. Unlike a lot of American ex-pats, they’ve made a point of becoming integrated into their community. Their friends include local Mexicans, Canadian and American snow-birds, and people from a variety of countries (Columbia, Israel, France, Switzerland) who have also chosen to live in a foreign country.

Like my parents, like the author of Leave Tomorrow, I love meeting the people who really live in the countries I visit. I’ve impulsively invited stranded travelers home with me, and I’ve been a traveler invited to a local’s home. Both experiences have their pros and cons, but I would never trade either.

Weisiger’s writing is immediate and accessible. Reading it, you feel like you’re sharing a drink with him, while he’s telling you the story of his latest adventure. You may not decide to leave tomorrow, but you’ll definitely feel inspired to make a change or take a trip in the near future.

Goes well with street tacos and Mexican beer. I like Indio.


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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

2/21/18 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
2/22/18 Guest Post 1 Texas Book Lover
2/23/18 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/24/18 Guest Post 2 Forgotten Winds
2/25/18 Trip Pic Books and Broomsticks
2/26/18 Review Missus Gonzo
2/27/18 Trip Pic A Page Before Bedtime
2/28/18 Guest Post 3 The Librarian Talks
3/1/18 Review Bibliotica
3/2/18 Review The Clueless Gent

 

 

Spotlight: The Langsford Series, by A.E. Wasserman – with Giveaway

About the books in The Langsford Series

1884 - No Boundaries1884 No Boundaries: A Story of Espionage, and International Intrigue

  • Publication Date: April 29, 2015
    Archway Publishing – Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook;
  • Pages: 382
  • Series: Langford Series, Book #1
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

Love, murder, sex, and terrorism swirl within a collapsed world economy.

No, it’s not today.

It’s London, 1884.

Recently married Langsford, born of wealth and privilege, is bound by the restrictions of Victorian society. Dynamite has been invented, but the term “homosexuality” has not and men can be arrested for either.

Langsford accompanies his visiting friend, HEINRICH, eighteen, who innocently flirts with young ANNA at London’s Leadenhall Market.

What should be the end of the story becomes the beginning, for Heinrich falls in love with her, never part of the plan. Instead it becomes the catalyst for everything that follows when he flees Germany to return to her. Events unfold that expose terrorists, espionage and international intrigue.

Langsford walks a fine line as he crosses boundaries he never imagined, rubbing elbows with spies, killers and would-be assassins to save his friend, stop an assassination, and prevent a war.

“Wasserman’s writing is atmospherically rich. Very strongly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society, London, critical review of 1884 No Boundaries

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Goodreads

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1886 Ties That Bind: A Story of Politics, Graft, and Greed

  • Publication Date: November 3, 2016
    Archway Publishing – Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook; 320 Pages
  • Series: Langford Series, Book #2
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

It is 1886 as Englishman Lord Langsford travels by train to San Francisco. Newly widowed, Langsford is desperate to escape his grief, demons, and life in England. As Langsford completes the last leg of his transcontinental journey, his life unexpectedly changes once again when he crosses paths with Miss Sally Baxter, a beautiful rancher who packs a pistol in her purse.

Sally has made it her mission to find the men who robbed a train and killed her brother. Unfortunately, no one—not even the owners of the Southern Pacific Railroad—seem to care. Unable to resist her pleas, Langsford offers to help Sally and soon becomes entangled in a web of politics, corruption, and greed. As murder, threats, and attacks ensue that endanger both Sally and Langsford, influential men in both California and Washington, D.C. jockey for positions of power. Langsford, who finds himself oddly attracted to Sally, now must sort through criminals and politicians alike to discover the truth behind her brother’s death and prevent his own murder.

“The author has woven a complex net of intrigue and background to the murder that makes the entire book so much more than just a mystery. As the title appropriately states, this deals with issues of politics, corruption and greed in a very accomplished way. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended.” – Christoph Fischer, UK Reviewer Discovering Diamonds

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

1885: Crossings

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2017
    Archway Publishing, Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook; 142 Pages
  • Series: Langford Series, Book #3
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

Anna’s hand holding the letter trembled as her vision rocked, going in and out of focus. She felt as though she was falling backward and at the same time rolling forward, expecting to land face first on the floor. She put her hand on the table to brace herself. She no longer heard the song birds in the buckeye tree outside the window, or the hoof beats on the cobblestones passing the front door, or any sound at all.

The world around her ceased to exist—only the paper with Henry’s written words: his own account of what happened during the past year.

The entire time, she’d known he wasn’t telling her everything—but this—she could never have imagined any of it. The hard fact was, Henry will never escape the truth.

“1885 Crossings gives us another opportunity to return to the world of Henry, Anna, and Langsford. A.E. Wasserman’s writing is beautifully done—tense and uncomfortable. The ending gave me a chill.” -Chuck Sambuchino, Bestselling Author

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, A.E. Wasserman

The daughter of a newspaperman, A.E. Wasserman grew up in a household filled with books and stories. At age 14, she wrote her first novella and never stopped writing.

She is the author of a new mystery/thrillers series, the first of which takes place in London: 1884 No Boundaries, A Story of Espionage and International Intrigue. The second in the Langsford Series, 1886 Ties That Bind, A Story of Politics, Graft and Greed, has just been released.

Her work, critically acclaimed as “richly atmospheric,” is being noticed by readers and critics alike, and has garnered international attention, not only in the U.S., but Europe and the U.K. as well. She recently received top honors from Writer’s Digest for her work.

After graduating from The Ohio State University, she lived in London, then San Francisco. Currently she resides in Southern California with her family and her muse, a Border Collie named Topper.

For more information, please Visit the author’s web site at www.aewasserman.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Giveaway

During the Book Blast we will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Review: Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

About the book, Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 3, 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Buy, read and discuss Last Christmas in Paris:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Connect with Hazel:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Heather WebbHEATHER WEBB writes historical fiction for Penguin, including her novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.

As a former military brat, Heather naturally grew up obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before channeling these passions into fiction. When not writing, she flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Connect with Heather:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAs genres go, epistolary fiction is woefully underrepresented, but that’s probably because it’s really difficult to do well. In this novel, Last Christmas in Paris, authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb blew away all my fears, and gave me – gave all of us – a delightful read in the process.

While I enjoyed the novel as a whole, and nearly fell in love with Tom myself, it was Evie’s story that really gripped me. So many writers have the women just staying home when they write novels set during wartime, but Gaynor and Webb made their female lead into a woman with drive and determination, as well as a career, and friends that were separate from the circle of people she and Tom knew collectively. It’s so important to represent women as whole, dimensional beings, and these authors did so exceptionally well.

I felt the descriptions of places and people within this novel were incredibly cinematic, and I can easily imagine this story on the big screen as a Merchant Ivory production. As well, I felt that, despite things like the final letter being read at Christmastime in Paris, this novel managed to stay grounded in reality. It’s essentially an historical romance, yes, but it’s one grounded in reality, and the characters are incredibly human and flawed.

If you’re a sucker for a well-written letter, if you hoard stationery ‘just to have,’ as I do, or if you’re simply in the mood for a sentimental (but never sappy) love story, Last Christmas in Paris is the novel for you.

Goes well with hot chocolate and those ‘Danish’ butter cookies they sell in tins around holiday times.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, October 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, October 4th: Back Porchervations

Thursday, October 5th: Bibliotica

Friday, October 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Monday, October 9th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, October 9th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, October 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 16th: BookNAround

Tuesday, October 17th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, October 18th: Girl Who Reads

Wednesday, October 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, October 19th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, October 20th: Books and Bindings

Monday, October 23rd: West Metro Mommy

Review: The White Light of Tomorrow, by D. Pierce Williams

About the book, The White Light of Tomorrow The White Light of Tomorrow

 

  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Publisher: D. Pierce Williams (May 1, 2017)

In a future dominated by the Church and defended by the sword, one piece of forbidden technology may change all the rules.

Adrian of Tarsus is a veteran Knight Hospitaler. His adopted daughter, Mariel, serves as his squire, and together they travel the galaxy aboard the ancient merchant ship Miranda. Adrian uses his position as a Church enforcer to provide cover for his real quest: a cure for Mariel’s mysterious and painful illness, which worsens every day.

Trouble is, Adrian’s certain the cure requires Machina Infernus, heretical technology forbidden by the Church, and not even a Knight can hide from the Holy Office of the Universal Inquisition.

When the Miranda’s crew are ambushed while acquiring such an object, Adrian turns to Sabine Adler, an old flame and specialist in Machina, for help.

But once on the planet Bethany, Sabine’s home and the seat of Christendom, assassins come out of the woodwork and everyone seems to want Adrian’s relic –mercenaries, cultists, thugs, politicians, even the Inquisition. Most troubling of all are a pair of unusual nuns who claim to know the location of the lab where the relic originated, and the fact that one of them bears a striking resemblance to Mariel.

Adrian has survived galactic crusades, skilled assassins, and Church politics, but these women may be the death of him.

Buy, read, and discuss The White Light of Tomorrow

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


About the author, D. Pierce Williams D. Pierce Williams

I am a computer geek, history nut, aviation enthusiast, and very efficient procrastinator. I play tabletop role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, White Wolf, etc.) like it’s 1989. I like to listen to Bach, Van Halen, and Snoop Dogg in that order. I loves dogs. All of them.

I studied history in college and graduated cum laude with a BA in 1997. The focus of my study was modern European history with emphasis on the period from approximately 1850 to 1950, covering industrialization, the rise of nationalism, fascism and communism, and the world wars.

I entered a History Master’s program in the fall of ’97. For reasons having everything to do with money, I left the program and instead completed an MBA focusing on information technology management. I graduated from this program in 2000. From 1999 onward I’ve pursued a successful career in IT, and worked as a network and systems engineer for a Fortune 100 life-insurance and retirement services company for the past ten years.

Since 2013 I’ve been working hard on this, THE WHITE LIGHT OF TOMORROW, my first novel, which draws on my interest in science fiction and my love of history and technology.

Connect with D. Pierce Williams:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

“I’m reading this great book,” I told my husband. “It’s got elements of history, science fiction, and high fantasy.”

“Oh, really?” he asked, his entire face lighting up with interest. “It sounds like something I might enjoy.”

And so even before this review goes live, I’ve put this novel, The White Light of Tomorrow into another reader’s hands. Go, me!

Seriously though, D. Pierce Williams’ debut offering is a compelling read.

The tone is best described as Firefly meets the Renaissance, but that’s an over-simplification, because the author, a self-described history nut, has clearly done a lot of research to make the world of this book feel, not just vivid and dimensional, but wholly original. When Sabine was complaining about her shoes, in the first scene where we meet her, I was so into the story that my feet hurt in sympathy. I could hear the noise of her pub, and, in street scenes, I could feel dirt roads beneath my feet. At the same time, when I realized the ship that Adrian and Mariel call home was a space-going vessel, I was pleasantly surprised (this despite having read the description and the marketing materials for the book).

I really liked the mix of historic society – swords and cloaks and taverns – with bits of technology – space ships and DNA drives, and I found that the author meshed these seemingly disparate cultures into a cohesive one very believably. I also appreciated the diversity of his characters. Not only were women well represented, but not every major character was a middle-class white guy. Instead, there was a realistic and plausible blend of people from all levels of education, wealth, and nationality. This is something that contemporary speculative fiction often has trouble with, and there’s a line between having believable diversity and making the cast of characters feel like a Very Special Episode of some drama.

I don’t generally tell people who my favorite characters are, but something about Mariel, who is roughly fourteen when we meet her, really resonated with me. I think it was the combination of her spunk, and the way she essentially created her own family.

As aspiring writers, we are often admonished to ‘write what you know,’ which is difficult when you’re writing a piece that doesn’t take place on contemporary (or near-contemporary) Earth. With The White Light of Tomorrow, it’s clear that author Williams has taken all the things he knows and loves – history, science fiction, aviation – and woven them together into a story that tickles the imagination and makes you beg for more.

It’s implied that this book is meant to be the first of a series; I eagerly await the subsequent volumes.

Goes well with pub food: fish and chips or shepherd’s pie and a pint of ale.

 

 

 

Review: All Our Waves Are Water, by Jamail Yogis – with Giveaway

All Our Waves Are Water coverAbout the book All Our Waves Are Water

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (July 4, 2017)

In this meditative memoir—a compelling fusion of Barbarian Days and the journals of Thomas Merton—the author of Saltwater Buddha reflects on his “failing toward enlightenment,” his continued search to find meaning and a greater understanding of the Divine in the world’s oceans as well as everyday life.

For Jaimal Yogis, the path to enlightenment is surfing. Between water and air, between control and surrender, between the tangible and intangible realities of life, the spiritual can be found. Born to a family of seekers, he left home at sixteen to surf in Hawaii and join a monastery—an adventure he chronicled in Saltwater Buddha. Now, in his early twenties, his heart is broken and he’s lost his way. Hitting the road again, he lands in a monastery in Dharamsala, where he meets Sonam, a displaced Tibetan.

To help his friend, Jaimal makes a cockamamie attempt to reunite him with his family in Tibet by way of America. Though he does not succeed, witnessing Sonam’s indomitable spirit in the face of failure offers Jaimal a deeper understanding of faith. When the two friends part, he cannot fathom the unlikely circumstances that will reunite them.

All Our Waves Are Water follows Jaimal’s trek from the Himalayas to Indonesia; to a Franciscan Friary in New York City to the dusty streets of Jerusalem; and finally to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Along his journey, Jaimal prays and surfs; mourning a lost love and seeking something that keeps eluding him, until he ultimately finds what he’s been looking for—that the perfect ride may well be the one we are on right now.

The poet Rumi wrote, “we are not a drop in the ocean. We are the ocean in a drop.” All Our Waves Are Water is Jaimal’s “attempt to understand the ocean in a drop, to find that one moon shining in the water everywhere”—to find the Divine that unites us all.

Buy, read, and discuss All Our Waves Are Water:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jaimal Yogis AP Photo by Peter DawsonAbout the author, Jaimal Yogis

Jaimal Yogis is an award-winning writer, outdoorsman, and frequent teacher. He is the author of the memoir Saltwater Buddha, which has been made into a feature documentary film, and The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing, and Love.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he has written for ESPN: The Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco magazine, Surfer’s Journal, and many other publications.He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and their three sons.

Connect with Jaimal:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Defining Jaimal Yogis’ most recent book, All Our Waves Are Water, proved difficult for me. As I was describing the book to friends and family, I said, “well, it’s kind of a travel memoir, but it’s also about spirituality and physics  and neuroscience and surfing.” The truth is, that book is all of those things, but it’s also the perfect example of a finished product, a whole work, being much greater than the sum of its parts, because it’s also about creativity, finding your own path, and practicing self-care.

I don’t surf (I swim recreationally), but I eagerly read about surfing, because I share that connection to the water. That’s what initially drew me to this book, but all too quickly I found myself sharing bits of it that resonated with me with my husband, my friends, and my social media followers. I even tweeted the author as I was beginning to read it, sharing that I was hooked from the first page. (He was very kind in his response.)

I love it when a book grabs me like this, when it makes me think, examine, ponder, and then – because it’s the way I’m wired – pick up a notebook and pen and write something of my own. The first passage I quoted at people, I actually turned into a jpeg so I could put it on Instagram, with credit of course:

“The paths are simply fingers pointing at the moon, rafts across the ocean of suffering, different strokes for different folks. Or to use my favorite metaphor, the paths – like all things subject to birth and death – are waves.”

“God is the sea.”

And it went on from there.

Yogis’ writing is sophisticated, but still accessible. He’s sometimes funny, but his humor is the organic kind that is inspired by ordinary life. He’s candid, but never treads into TMI territory, and when he does discuss deeper subjects he does so in a way that is both informative and insightful. He never panders, but assumes that his audience can keep up with the shifts between tone and topic.

If you’re looking for a smarmy attempt to convince you to learn surfing and take up meditation – you won’t find it in All Our Waves are Water.

But… if you want to spend a few hours feeling like you’re having a conversation with a man who’s sharing some of his own experiences and life-lessons, you should read this book. No, you should devour it – absorb it the way I did.

Goes well with a mug of hot coffee and fresh scones, preferably enjoyed on a chilly coastal morning, while gazing at the ocean.


All Our Waves Are Water coverGiveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 4th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 17th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Openly Bookish

Thursday, July 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, July 24th: Toning the OM

Thursday, August 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Friday, August 4th: Everyone Needs Therapy

TBD: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Breezes at Dawn

TBD: Girl in a Boy House

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: Return to Glow, by Chandi Wyant

About the book, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

 

  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chandi Wyant (March 30, 2017)

In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.

Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

Buy, read, and discuss Return to Glow:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Chandi Wyant Chandi Wyant

A world traveler, photographer, writer and historian, Chandi Wyant has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland and England, and has been returning to Italy with unremitting passion since she first lived there at age twenty. She holds a Masters degree in Florentine Renaissance history and is the former head of Sogni Italiani, an events planning firm specializing in weddings, vow renewals, and honeymoons in Italy.  The manuscript of her memoir, Return to Glow (2017), won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

When she’s not dreaming in Italian, she can be found teaching history and writing about travel for the Huffington Post and her blog, Paradise of Exiles.

Connect with Chandi:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If you came across Chandi Wyant’s fascinating memoir Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy, you might note the athletic-looking blonde woman on the cover and think, “Oh, this is a rip-off of Wild,” and pass it by.

You would be missing out on a story that shares the barest of similarities with that oh-so-famous book – “woman heals herself emotionally and spiritually by taking a long hike”  – but is absolutely original. Even more, I found this book to be highly engaging, and really uplifting, though, forgive me, I will remain an armchair hiker.

When we first meet Chandi, she is recovering from the emergency appendectomy she had to undergo while on vacation in Italy, a relatively routine surgery that was complicated by sepsis. Back in the states, still healing physically, Chandi is also in the midst of a divorce, and is re-evaluating her life.

A variety of factors, including the sometimes bone-deep chill of Boulder, CO, during a damp winter, sends Chandi on her new mission: she will walk across Italy. Research is begun  – are there trails? Are there convenient stops on the most promising route? Finally something connects: Chandi will hike the Via Francigena – the road that connects Canterbury to Rome.

Of course, Wyant’s route doesn’t actually start in England, but at the Italian border – a 40-day hike on this ancient trail, sometimes in solitude, sometimes running into strangers and sharing their stories. There’s time in a convent, and time on the open trail, and the entire story meshes beautifully as the author’s hike leads her, not just to one of the world’s most famous cities, but back to her best self, back to her glow.

In some ways, each chapter of this book felt like a separate essay, but there was still connection. Part travelogue, part memoir, I found Wyant’s writing style to be intimate and conversational, her descriptions as vivid as the photos she takes.

If you read only one “personal transformation” memoir this year, make it Return to Glow. After reading it, I felt closer to my own glow, even without the physical pilgrimage.

Goes well with roasted chicken and vegetables and a glass of wine.