Review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin

About the book, Dead Girls Dead Girls by Alice Bolin

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

Praise for Dead Girls:

Dead Girls is everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence… I love this book.” —  Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

“Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely.” — Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of You Will Know Me

Best of summer 2018 – included on best-of lists by Bitch Magazine, Harpers BazaarThe Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

Buy, read, and discuss Dead Girls: 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alice Bolin Alice-Bolin-AP

Alice Bolin’s nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE’s Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis.

Connect with Alice:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve always enjoyed essays and literary criticism, and this book, Dead Girls is a delicious collection of both. I really enjoyed the way the author, Alice Bolin, juxtaposed her own upbringing and life experiences with the observations and analysis she made about that genre of literature (primarily) and media in general that concerns the eponymous “dead girls” – the women who are already dead at the start of a story, and whose murder is solved (or not) through the narrative.

As someone who finds the psyche of serial killers morbidly fascinating, I appreciated Bolin’s choice of material, and responded to her use of language. She is a keen observer of her world – our world – and though she’s roughly twenty years younger than I am, I found myself nodding at her comments, appreciating what she had to say.

Then again, I’m also someone who binge-watched sixteen seasons of Law & Order: SVU in the name of “research” for a story I was writing, and I adore anyone who makes references to both Veronica Mars and Stieg Larsson in the same piece.

As this book is a collection of essays, the temptation is to pick and choose from the titles that seem interesting, and read them in whatever order. I would advice the prospective reader not to do this. These essays form a dual narrative of the author’s life and the evolution of “dead girl” literature, and the flow is so much better if you read them in order.

Goes well with a shot of bourbon, and slanted fedora, and a rainy night.


Tour Stops for Dead Girls TLC Book Tours

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Wednesday, June 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 28th: Bibliotica

Friday, June 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, July 2nd: Based on a True Story

Monday, July 2nd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, July 5th: Doing Dewey

Friday, July 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, July 9th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 10th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Wednesday, July 11th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Thursday, July 12th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, July 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Review: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

About the book, Boardwalk Summer Boardwalk Summer

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 19, 2018)

In this new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.

Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.

Buy, read, and discuss Boardwalk Summer:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Meredith Jaeger Meredith-Jaeger-AP-Erika-Pino-Photography

USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

Connect with Meredith:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It seems appropriate that my review of this book, Boardwalk Summer is going live on the day of the summer solstice, because it’s such a magical book with it’s twin stories, one set in nearly contemporary Santa Cruz, and one set several decades before.

Our two heroines, Marisol (2007) and Violet (1940) couldn’t be more different: Mari is Latinx, a single mother, a history buff, and part of a generations-old Santa Cruz family. Violet is an unhappy wife stuck in a brutal marriage, but left with unfulfilled dreams of an acting career.

The men in the story were all well drawn also, but it was the women, more than anything, that truly captured my attention.

Still, those surface differences hide something similar: both women are strong and determined, each in their own way, and each must ultimately make hard choices in order to find a life that is closer to the one they dream of.

Aside from the strong woman characters found, not just in Mari and Violet, but also in Marisol’s mother and young daughter, and in Violet’s friend’s Evie and Roxy, what I loved about this book was the way the city of Santa Cruz was a character in its own right, both in the 40’s and in the contemporary part of the story.

Boardwalk towns always have a kind of magic that other cities never do, but Santa Cruz is a special blend of old world California and new, hipster California, of the dark side of colonialism, and the brighter side of a thriving Latinx culture and a university town (Go Slugs!) blending into a quirky, lively, harmonious whole, and author Meredith Jaeger has captured that particularly well.

With realistic, dimensional characters, a true-to-life setting and a pair of plots that are equally compelling Boardwalk Summer is as delightful as a ride on the Giant Dipper (the vintage wooden roller coaster on the boardwalk) without any chance of nausea afterward.

Goes well with cotton candy eaten as you stroll along the wooden planks on a balmy summer evening, listening to the music from the carousel.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 19th: bookchickdi

Wednesday, June 20th: Reading Reality

Thursday, June 21st: Bibliotica

Friday, June 22nd: Literary Quicksand

Monday, June 25th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 26th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, June 27th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Thursday, June 28th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Tuesday, July 3rd: BookNAround

Wednesday, July 4th: Tina Says…

Thursday, July 5th: Instagram: @writersdream

 

 

 

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?

Buy, read, and discuss The Cottages on Silver Beach:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Raeanne Thayne RaeAnne-Thayne

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

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

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

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


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: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), by Terri-Lynne DeFino

About the book The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) cover

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Buy, read and discuss The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers and Their Muses:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terri-Lynne DeFino

Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.

Find out more about Terri at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

There was a film that came out several years ago, starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly: Quartet. It was about a retirement home for aging musicians, and it was fabulous, populated by quirky characters who all had music in common. (Rent it, I beg you; you won’t be sorry.)

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) is the literary equivalent of that movie. It’s a funny, poignant novel full of quirky characters who have two things in common: they are writers, and they are aging.

While Alfonse is the highlighted character, and I enjoyed learning his story immensely, I have to admit, that Cecibel, the caregiver with the ruined face is one of the two characters who grabbed me even more (the other is Olivia, who use marijuana in the garden and whom we meet on the first page, but I confess that’s because we have a family friend who is an eccentric writer named Olivia.)

Cecibel’s arc is one that goes from caregiver to fan to friend, and watching her growth is fascinating, though honestly, the whole book is charming and engaging.

What I appreciated as much as the well-drawn characters was the author’s flair for specific description. “Mr Carducci’s suite of rooms smelled of pine cleaner and lemon wax, leather, and wood,” DeFino wrote, and I was instantly transported into his space. Description like that seems to be going out of style, but I love having a sense of place when I read.

This book is a great beach read, perfect as a summer choice for a book club. The characters are so richly and the story so good that even though the title makes it seem almost a gimick, the reality is that this is a very human look at the way we age as people and as artists.

Goes well with hot tea, fresh fruit, warm bread with butter, and a blank notebook with a smooth-writing pen.


Tour Stops for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Writers (and Their Muses) https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

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Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

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Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

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Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

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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?

Buy, read, and discuss Chasing the Demon:

Amazon | Goodreads


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:

Facebook | Twitter


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: Lighthouse Beach, by Shelley Noble

About the book, Lighthouse Beach Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 29, 2018)

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams.

What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach.

Buy, read, and discuss Lighthouse Beach:

Harper Collins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary Brown

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my favorite writers of “beach books,” as most of her novels are set in coastal locations. (I grew up on the Jersey shore, and it’s still the home of my heart, so even when a story takes place in Maine, as Lighthouse Beach does, I feel like I’m visiting the beaches of my childhood.)

In this book, she combines two of my favorite things: beach settings, and women supporting other women, which may be the ultimate combination of storytelling. Each of the five women in this story: Lillo, Jess, Allie, Diana, and Mac, are a bit broken, a bit lost, a bit in need of a restart. In “kidnapping” Jess from a wedding she truly didn’t want to go through with, and using Lillo’s Lighthouse Beach community as their sanctuary, each of them begins to heal. (Mac is a longtime resident, but her story becomes intertwined with that of the other four, so it seems wrong not to include her.)

Friendships between women are  things to be treasured, and while some of the friendships among these five people exist at the start of the story, others form as the tale is told. Never once does anything feel contrived. Noble’s characters all have distinct voices and personalities, and they feel like the women we all know.

While Lillo and Jess are the true heart of this book, I found myself (likely because I’m three months away from turning 48) identifying with Mac a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always harbored a secret desire to live in a lighthouse (or at least in the keeper’s cottage).

While the women in this book are the main characters, there are men, lovely men, in the story as well. Ned, Ian, Clancy  – all have their moments to shine, and all are as distinct and interesting as the women who interact with them.

As I was reading this, I found myself wishing I could join the group in Maggie’s kitchen or Lillo’s living room, or on the beach. It doesn’t matter if it’s wine or beer or tea or some of each. What matters is the support we get from our circle of friends, and Shelley Noble has captured that with humor, wit, sincerity, and real dimension.

Goes well with a glass of cabernet sipped while sitting in the sand on a chilly coastal evening. Sweaters, jeans, and bare feet recommended. Bonfire optional.


Lighthouse Beach Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, May 31st: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Friday, June 1st: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 5th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 6th: A Chick Who Reads

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

Tuesday, June 12th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, June 14th: Jessicamap Reviews

Friday, June 15th: Literary Quicksand

Review: Because I’m Worth It, by Linda Nielsen

About the book, Because I’m Worth It Because-Im-Worth-It-cover

• Paperback: 346 pages
• Publisher: TouchPoint Press (March 1, 2018)

An impressive contract combined with lavish perks influence Skye Topple to marry the boss’ daughter, Delaney Mae Anne Covington, a self-centered and spoiled southern belle. The “perfect” wedding is threatened when an alarming secret refuses to stay hidden. With no regard for anyone other than herself and her daughter, Delaney’s alcoholic mother takes control, inserting irrational solutions that leave mother and daughter looking foolish while a baby’s life, a grandmother’s love, and a man’s career hang in the balance. This is certainly not a North meets South story—more like South moves North and meets West, where what works for one family may not work for another. Choices must be made. Lives will be changed. One thing is for sure… Skye is smack dab in the middle when Big Sur life meets country club values.

Buy, read, and discuss Because I’m Worth It: 

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Linda Nielsen Linda Nielsen

Linda’s first book, Lasso the Stars, was published in 2011 under L.L. Nielsen. Her newest novel, Because I’m Worth It, is scheduled for release by TouchPoint Press in early 2018.

Find out more about Linda at her website, and find all her books at Author Central page.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Linda Nielsen is an excellent writer, a creator of vivid, dimensional characters, and it’s because she’s so good at this that I’m having difficulty in reviewing this book, Because I’m Worth It, because one of the main characters, Delaney’s mother, Terri Sue Ellen, is one of the most unlikable, annoying women I’ve ever encountered in fiction. And believe me, it takes talent to create a character who reads so real that you cringe every time she speaks.

Conversely, Skye’s mother, Melissa, is a character I could have read an entire novel about (and in many ways I did – this book is her story, and Terri Sue Ellen’s, as much as it is the story of Skye and Delaney and everyone else), and not just because we share a first name and a love of quirky houses and creativity.

Still a reviewer’s job isn’t to like the characters, it’s to highlight the good (or bad) points of a book, and, my visceral dislike of Terri Sue Ellen aside, I really enjoyed this book. The story is compelling with just enough twists and turns to keep it from being predictable. The contrast between Delaney’s family and Skye’s family is beautifully drawn, and the I had a great time escaping into other people’s lives for 346 pages.

Nielsen excels at dialogue as well as character crafting. I liked the differences between the breezy California styles of Skye and his family as compared to the mixture of Chicago and Southern tones in Delaney and her people. Those dialect cues made it much easier to remember where we were, as the story jumped back and forth between Big Sur, Chicago, Atlanta, and a few other places.

I haven’t read Nielsen’s other work, but I think she’s got a long, successful career ahead of her, and I’ll definitely be following it, eager to see what she writes next.

Goes well with steamed artichokes and warm butter, and a glass of California chardonnay, eaten on a coastal patio at sunset.

 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 21st: Wining Wife

Tuesday, May 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Thursday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @jessicamap

Wednesday, May 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

Tuesday, June 5th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, May 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Review: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes – with Giveaway

Searching for Pilar

Scroll down for giveaway.

About the book, Searching for Pilar Searching for Pilar

  • Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
  • Publisher: River Grove Books
  • Publication Date: April 10, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 320 pages

Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking, while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.

Buy, read, and discuss Searching for Pilar:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Hunt Holmes

Patricia Hunt HolmesPatricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

Connect with Patricia:

Website  ║  Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads ║ LinkedIn


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With gritty subject matter – sex trafficking – at the heart of this novel, it was by no means an easy read, and I’m hesitant to say that I liked it, because, in terms of what Pilar suffered, I didn’t like it at all.

However, the fact that I even had to pause and think about what I was liking is testament to author Patricia Hunt Holmes’s talent as a storyteller. She create such a strong character in Pilar, and such a vibrant and rich (if often sinister and cold) world for her to occupy, that the story itself was gripping, and I stayed up far too late to read to the end, because I couldn’t let the story go unfinished.

What I really liked about Searching for Pilar was the author’s sense of place. Mexico scenes felt like Mexico, and Houston felt like Houston. That level of detail really made the novel feel real – too real, in places – but these are stories we need to hear, this is an awareness we need to have.

Author Holmes gives us a compelling, ultimately brilliant story about a horrible practice, but she does it with care and grace and considerable talent.

Goes well with a chicken quesadilla with mango salsa, and a margarita on the rocks.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS! 

1st & 2nd Prizes: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + Mexican Necklace

3rd Prize: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + $20 Amazon Gift Card

(U.S. Only)

Searching for Pilar Giveaway

 

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Searching for Pilar Blog Tour Stops

4/25/18 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
4/26/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
4/27/18 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
4/28/18 Review Tangled in Text
4/29/18 Guest Post The Page Unbound
4/30/18 Scrapbook Page That’s What She’s Reading
5/1/18 Review Bibliotica
5/2/18 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
5/3/18 Guest Post The Librarian Talks
5/4/18 Review Missus Gonzo

 

 

 

Review: The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, by J. Reeder Archuleta – with Giveaway

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

About the book, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

  • Genre: Fiction /Short Stories / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 132

These short stories are about coming of age in rural far West Texas.  The stories are about the people who have come to stay in a remote part of Texas with a climate that can be harsh and unpredictable and that is demanding and unforgiving.  The stories are told through the eyes of Josh, a young boy, who finds himself alone in a small farm and ranch community and who realizes that he will have to make his own way in this place.  Along the way he meets a group of characters with different takes on life.  Some try to help shield him from the chaos of the world, some try to add more chaos. But all of them, in their own distinct way, through jobs, advice, or actions, play a part in his life.

Praise for The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

“Punchy, plainspoken dialogue…colorful and charismatic characters…The result is an atmospheric Texas…reminiscent of Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The universality of Josh’s journey gives it a timeless quality…a rich tapestry…The stories are conveyed in lean, elegant prose reminiscent of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy” — Blue Ink Review

“Archuleta’s collection offers poignant and hopeful stories of determination in the face of need. Thoroughly engaging…narrated with passion and eloquence…” — The Clarion Review       

Buy, read, and discuss The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, J. Reeder Archuleta J Reeder Archuleta

The author was raised in far West Texas and five generations of his family are in their final resting place there.  His great-grandfather is buried in Concordia Cemetery in El Paso within spitting distance of the grave of John Wesley Hardin.

Connect with J. Reeder:

Website | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

I love short stories. I love how much talent and skill it takes to tell a whole story in a relatively few words. I love the way they force writers to distill their ideas to the most important, the most vivid, the most visceral.

This collection of short stories by J. Reeder Archuleta, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, is one of the best representatives of this art that I’ve seen from a contemporary author. Archuleta is specific with regard to detail – brands of whisky, kinds of beer, types of toys. His use of language is earthy and real, as gritty as the air during a windstorm on the plains. His dialogue makes you really see his characters.

I liked the way the young boy Josh, whom we meet in the first selection in this book, becomes the POV character, the thread that ties all the stories together. From the first time we see him, scared and young, being pulled away from the life he knows by is desperate mother, through the entire collection, we seem grow and change, and yet, because this isn’t a novel, it’s possible that he isn’t exactly the same Josh, that rather, he’s reflections of the original, each incarnation slightly different from the previous and the next.

I’ve lived in Texas for nearly fourteen years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere, but I don’t really know Texas. There’s so much of it I haven’t seen, certainly, except for when we drove through to Dallas from California, I’ve never experienced West Texas, and yet, from time spent in Colorado as a child, and South Dakota as a young wife, I feel a kind of kinship with the landscape Archuleta describes.

I went into this book afraid I might be turned off, and was surprised to find that I really connected with the easy storytelling and honest portrayals of real-seeming people.

Archuleta is a modern Hemingway. A Texas treasure. And these stories? They should be shared as far and wide as possible.

Goes well with: barbecued brisket and cold beer.


GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

Giveaway El Paso RFGS

READ & SIP!

TWO WINNERS EACH WIN

A SIGNED COPY OF THE EL PASO RED FLAME GAS STATION +

A $5 STARBUCKS GIFT CARD

APRIL 17-26, 2018

(US ONLY)

 

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Visit the other great blogs on this tour

4/17/18 Promo The Page Unbound
4/17/18 Bonus Post Hall Ways Blog
4/18/18 Review Books and Broomsticks
4/19/18 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
4/20/18 Review Forgotten Winds
4/21/18 Excerpt Book Fidelity
4/22/18 Promo The Love of a Bibliophile
4/23/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews
4/24/18 Notable Quotable The Clueless Gent
4/25/18 Character Interview That’s What She’s Reading
4/26/18 Review Bibliotica

 

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.

Buy, read, and discuss Before I Let You Go:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


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.