Review: Meet the Frugalwoods, by Elizabeth Willard Thames

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Meet the Frugalwoods:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Willard Thames

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

Follow the Frugalwoods:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tour Stops

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

Wednesday, March 7th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, March 8th: Literary Quicksand

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

Monday, March 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 15th: Man of La Book

Monday, March 19th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 21st: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 22nd: Based on a True Story

 

 

Review: 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

 

 

Review: The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard

About the book, The Atomic City Girls

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

The-Atomic-City-Girls-cover“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Buy, read, and discuss The Atomic City Girls:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Janet Beard Janet-Beard-AP-Photo-by-Bradley-Cummings

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.

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


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the brief on this novel says, this book is very much in the vein of Hidden Figures, in that it’s a fictionalized version of a true story, and involves women working in STEM fields, on significant projects. The difference, of course, is that June didn’t know what she was working on at the time. In fact she didn’t learn what she’d been a part of until much later.

I felt that reading this novel at a time when we’re talking about arming teachers (please, God, I hope we don’t) was oddly appropriate. It’s easy to believe you have the power to shoot someone, but a far different thing to actually do it. It’s easy to say “kill the enemy!” and much less simple when you realize that enemy has a human face, and human lives.

While I appreciated the historical details author Janet Beard incorporated into her story – beginning with June’s grandfather being forced to leave his cabin in the area about to be commandeered by the U.S. military – what I liked was that she kept things simple and elegant. June is just like any other young woman experiencing her first taste of independence – a job, a romance – it’s just that her universal experience is set against patterns and events  – The Manhattan Project – the bombing of Hiroshima – that exist on a vastly different scale.

I found The Atomic City Girls to be a fascinating read and a truly gripping story.

Goes well with a turkey and havarti sandwich with pesto, and a glass of iced tea.


Tour Stopshttps://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

Tuesday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, February 9th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, February 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, February 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 14th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 15th: Time 2 Read

Monday, February 19th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20th: Openly Bookish

Wednesday, February 21st: A Literary Vacation

Thursday, February 22nd: Bibliotica

Monday, February 26th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, February 27th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_

Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Thursday, March 1st: bookchickdi

Review: The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

About the book The Lucky Ones The Lucky Ones

Print Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA (February 13, 2018)

They called themselves “the lucky ones”

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss The Lucky Ones:

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


About the author, Tiffany Reisz Tiffany Reisz

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

Connect with Tiffany:

Website | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Lucky Ones Review Tour: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 12th: Rockin’ & Reviewing

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

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

Tuesday, February 13th: Read Love Blog

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

Wednesday, February 14th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, February 15th: 5 Minutes for Books

Friday, February 16th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, February 20th: Books a la Mode

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

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

Thursday, February 22nd: Tales of a Book Addict

Friday, February 23rd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, February 23rd: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip

Monday, February 26th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, February 26th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, February 27th: @athousandbookstoread

Tuesday, February 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 28th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 28th: The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, March 2nd: Not in Jersey

Monday, March 5th: Snowdrop Dreams

Tuesday, March 6th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads

Thursday, March 8th: Hoser’s Blook

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

Friday, March 9th: What is That Book About

Review: Deborah Rising/Deborah Calling by Avraham Azrieli

About Deborah Calling Deborah Calling

• Print Length: 432 pages
• Publisher: HarperLegend (July 25, 2017)

The author of the bestselling Deborah Rising continues the fascinating story of the biblical prophetess Deborah in this entrancing work of visionary fiction—a tale of danger, mysticism, intrigue, and daring.

Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see this wish come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man by seeking out a mysterious elixirist who could turn women into men.

Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah’s help to escape enslavement and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat-and-mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer who has a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.Deborah Rising

As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.

A riveting adventure tale derived from traditional biblical fiction, Deborah Calling imagines the life of one of the most famous figures from the Old Testament as she continues on her path to becoming a prophetess.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Avraham Azrieli

Avraham Azrieli is the author of nine fiction and nonfiction works. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thrillers Writers Association, the Historical Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Authors Guild, and other professional societies, and his work has been reviewed by numerous outlets, including Examiner, US Review of Books, New York Daily News, The Jewish Journal, San Francisco Book Review, and more. He lives in Maryland.

Visit him online at azrielibooks.com.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Please note: I read Deborah Calling and its predecessor, Deborah Rising, back to back, so to me, they run together becoming one story, and I’m honestly no longer certain what was in book one and what was in book two.

While I typically enjoy historical fiction, it’s rare when I read anything based in a biblical tale. I’m not particularly religious, and I feel like I’m never the best audience for these things. When I do read such things, I’m afraid I compare them all to either The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant or Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle.

Azrieili’s two Deborah books are neither as splashy as Diamant’s novel, nor as intellectual as L’Engle’s, but they are not without their own merit. I found the author’s choice of relatively plain, simple language was a good contrast to the epic vastness of the story he was trying to tell, and he managed to bridge the gap between making things accessible to contemporary readers while also keeping the flavor of the source material.

That said, I’m finding it difficult to separate my emotional reaction to these books, which open with an extremely violent act against Deborah’s older sister, from my critical response.

Melissa-the-reader feels over-saturated with stories about women being mistreated, ignored, and brutalized, and to read about it happening in an historical setting was unsettling at best.

Melissa-the-reviewer, on the other hand, understands that much of the misogyny represented in these novels was accurate to the period, and she certainly understands that the author was in no way endorsing such treatment of women, or of people who are not of the dominant faith of any land. At the same time, that reviewer-self understands that when you’re reading about difficult concepts they should unsettle you, because that means the author has done his or her job.

My recommendation, then, is that while these are stories of a strong woman forging a unique, and often difficult, path from pawn to prophet, please ensure that you understand the context before you dive in.

Overall, I felt that these were well-written, well-paced, interesting stories, and the author’s writing voice is one of quiet grace, which I really appreciated.

Goes well with hot tea, and date-nut bread slathered in butter.


Tour Stops https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/01/avraham-azrieli-author-of-deborah-calling-on-tour-january-february-2018/

Friday, January 12th: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Rising

Wednesday, January 17th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.

Thursday, January 18th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, January 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Rising

Monday, February 12th: Mother’s Circle

Wednesday, February 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 19th: Write – Read – Life

Wednesday, February 21st: A Bookish AffairDeborah Rising

Friday, February 23rd: Reading Reality – Deborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: A Bookish AffairDeborah Calling

Monday, February 26th: Openly Bookish

TBD: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveDeborah Calling

TBD: Based on a True Story

Review: Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe

About the book, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud CafeMeet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

Buy, read, and discuss Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe:

Universal Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the Author, Richard Dee

Richard DeeA native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

Connect with Richard:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


BIG 8-3


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was literally bouncing in my chair when I was offered the chance to read Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. I mean, a novel about a feisty woman opening a cafe in a mining station in the rings of Saturn? As someone whose gateway into Science Fiction began with A Wrinkle in Time and continued with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this sounded like something I would really enjoy. Andorra

And I did.

Richard Dee has given us a tale that has everything – humor, suspense, a strong but struggling heroine, a fantastic sci-fi setting, and a truly universal story (no pun intended).

In Andorra Pett, I found a protagonist I would totally love to hang out with, and have coffee with. At times a tough entrepreneur, and at other times a vulnerable woman, she is smart, sassy, and incredibly resourceful. More than that, she embodies hope, something we can all use more of these days. From the moment Andorra walked into the derelict husk of a basement unit that would eventually become her cafe and worried about space spiders, to the final moment of the book, I was hooked on her story, and happy to follow her on her adventure.

With a supporting cast that covers every part of the spectrum of good and evil, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe is a must read for anyone who dreamed about sipping espresso with international spies in Paris… or out in space.

Goes well with coffee and a pastry ring (model of Saturn optional).


Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Full Banner

Review: The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, by Kristin Rockaway

About the book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World The-Wild-Womans-Guide-to-Traveling-the-World-cover

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: Center Street (June 6, 2017)

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and The Devil Wears Prada will love this smart, sexy debut novel of wanderlust.

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she’s got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn’t quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it’s secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls’ trip, and Sophie falls for Carson, a free spirited, globetrotting American artist. He begs her to join him on his haphazard journey, but she chooses responsibility and her five-year plan.

Back in New York, that plan feels less and less appealing. As Sophie recalls the dreams she’s suppressed, the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips no longer feel like enough. Carson isn’t ready to let her go either, but as they try to figure out their relationship, Sophie realizes she may have to pursue her passions with or without him.

Buy, read, and discuss The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kristin Rockaway Kristin-Rockaway-AP

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. Her debut novel, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, was released from Hachette Book Group in June 2017. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation.

Connect with Kristin:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World is one of those novels you really wish was a travel guide, because Kristin Rockaway is so good at describing places and food, that you want to instantly jump through the pages to Hong Kong or New York, or… wherever.

Fortunately, her skills at writing character and plot are just as good, so you jump into the pages of her story as well. I really enjoyed following Sophie on her journeys – both the literal and the emotional one – as she navigated not just the world, but her own needs and desires, as well as her own heart.

It’s a scary thing to step off the path we’ve created for ourselves, and Carson was the perfect catalyst for Sophie to do just that. Rockaway has given us a couple that is passionate, funny, and may or may not be perfect for each other, which ultimately makes them both slightly heightened and supremely real.

I really enjoyed the way Rockaway balanced the comedic and serious moments in this novel.

I recommend it to anyone who longs for an escape, but isn’t sure they’re quite ready.

Goes well with Asian street food, though I prefer Singaporean dishes to those from Hong Kong.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Friday, January 19th: Staircase Wit

Monday, January 22nd: #redhead.with.book

Friday, January 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, January 26th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, February 6th: Rockin’ and Reviewing

Friday, February 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 12th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, February 13th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, February 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, February 15th: Eliot’s Eats

Friday, February 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Monday, February 26th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Tuesday, March 6th: Just One More Chapter

Review: The Magic of Stars by Jackie Ladbury

The Magic of Stars

About the book, The Magic of Stars

The Magic of Stars Sapphire Montrose always felt like a loser in the struggle of life, but when she becomes the airline manager of a run-down airline she starts to believe she is a winner – until she unwittingly propositions her new boss and all her hard work is undone.

In a moment of recklessness air stewardess, Sapphire Montrose throws caution and her dress to the wind by propositioning a handsome stranger in a hotel in Florence, only to find herself waking up alone and embarrassed in her hotel room.

Unfortunately for Sapphire, it turns out that her new boss, Marco Cavarelli, is the man she failed to seduce and she is now fighting for her job and her self-respect when he tells her there is no place in his revamped airline for an alcoholic woman with lascivious tendencies. To make matters worse she is increasingly attracted to him and he seems to be giving out the same vibes. Or is he simply testing her? One wrong move could be the end of her career. But what if he really is offering love – and is he worth the risk?

Buy, read, and discuss The Magic of Stars:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jackie Ladbury

Jackie LadburyJackie Ladbury was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen.

Short and sharp lesson learned.

Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.

Fast forward a good few years and, after being short-listed in a couple of prestigious romantic writing competitions, Jackie decided it was time to discard her stilettos, say goodbye to the skies and concentrate on writing romantic novels, where the only given is a guaranteed ‘happy ever after.’

Connect with Jackie:

Website | The Write Romantics | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellLove is complicated. Affairs are messy. When either of those pleasures mixes with work – in this case a woman and her boss – complicated and messy become exponentially worse.

In Jackie Ladbury’s deft hands, what could be a story of soap opera exaggeration is, instead, a very human story about love and lust and the choices we make. Sapphire is a perfect representation of the contemporary woman: flawed but working on those flaws, self-aware, but sometimes only in hindsight, and yearning for more than just a paycheck or a one night stand. Marco is also flawed, sexy and smart and a little bit reckless. The perfect object of adoration (at first) and affection (later).

In The Magic of Stars Ladbury has given us a romance that combines a touch of fantasy with a large dose of reality. Her plot moves at a good pace. Her dialogue feels believable. Her characters are dimensional.

This is the perfect read for a wintry weekend by the fire.

Goes well with Irish coffee and a chocolate brownie.


The Magic of Stars Full Tour

Review: Best Friends Forever, by Margot Hunt

About the book, Best Friends Forever

Best Friends ForeverHardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: MIRA (January 23, 2018)

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

Buy, read, and discuss Best Friends Forever:

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


About the author, Margot Hunt

Margot HuntMargot Hunt is the pseudonym of a bestselling writer of twelve previous novels. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is her first psychological thriller.

Connect with Margot:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellOpening with a scene of contemporary domestic life, we are introduced to Alice Campbell before we ever meet Kat, wife of the deceased, and that’s appropriate, because most of this novel is from Alice’s point of view.

I really liked Alice’s internal commentary, the way she kept biting back her initial responses (something she learned from a marriage counselor) but more than that, I liked that even though she didn’t always like the choices she’d made during her life, she owned them.

Overall, this novel was a really satisfying read. I liked that the two female protagonists, Alice and Kat, were both mature adults with families, not wide-eyed ingenues, or still-naive newlyweds. I liked that their friendship was formed organically – a chance meeting – rather than in a PTA.

As to the story, Margot Hunt’s style kept me interested from the first page to the end, and she truly surprised me with a couple of her plot twists. Her voice is contemporary and fresh, very readable, and her descriptions are cinematic. I could totally see Best Friends Forever as a Lifetime movie (though I’d rather see it as a Starz limited series.)

Interesting, truthful characters, not just Alice and Kat, but also Alice’s husband Todd, and the two investigating officers, really grounded this novel in reality, while the tightly-woven plot really sang.

Goes well with a vodka martini, really dirty.


Review Tour for Best Friends Forever

Monday, January 22nd: Girls in Books blog and Instagram

Monday, January 22nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 23rd: The Literary Llama on Instagram

Wednesday, January 24th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram

Thursday, January 25th: Clues and Reviews

Friday, January 26th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 29th: The Book Diva’s Reads

Tuesday, January 30th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram

Wednesday, January 31st: Bibliotica

Friday, February 2nd: Chick Lit Central

Monday, February 5th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Tuesday, February 6th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, February 7th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, February 8th: A Holland Reads

Friday, February 9th: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind and Instagram

Sunday, February 11th: Books and Bindings

Monday, February 12th: Novel Gossip blog and Instagram

Monday, February 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, February 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 15th: Bookchickdi

Friday, February 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Review: Aransas Morning, by Jeff Hampton – with Giveaway

 

About the book, Aransas Morning Aransas Morning

  • Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Life
  • Date of Publication: September 22, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 304

When Sam Barnes’ high-flying life in Dallas falls apart, he flees to the coastal town of Port Aransas, Texas and fades into the life of a reclusive beach bum. But things start to change when he meets Dave, a young widower working through his own loss; Shelly, owner of the Dream Bean coffee shop; Bo, a crusty old shrimper; and Allie, Bo’s free-spirited daughter. Together they are tested and forced to confront their own issues. In doing so they discover family and community.

Praise for Aransas Morning:

  • “Engrossing characters that keep doing unexpected things. Strong sense of place along the Texas coast and deep knowledge of the culture. This book is about relationships and how ‘family’ and ‘community’ might be redefined.”
  • “In this heartwarming book, Jeff Hampton took me to a place I’ve never been and captured me with his delightful characters, seaside landscape, and deft use of words to portray a small group of people who came together to create and run the Dream Bean cafe. Great summer reading.”
  • “I loved the characters, with their flaws and their graces. It is an honest and heart-warming story of redemption coming through community. I’m really glad I read it.”
  • “Really nice character development, articulating in a very comfortable and readable style the messy, complex, joyous and hopeful ways we build, break and nurture ‘community.’”
  • “Very quickly in the story, the characters became like friends. The book is engaging and held my interest.”

Buy, read, and discuss Aransas Morning:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Etsy | Jeff Hampton Writer


About the Author, Jeff Hampton

Author pic Jeff HamptonDuring a 35-year career in journalism and communications, Jeff Hampton has covered and written about topics ranging from business and finance to history and faith. His bylines have appeared in publications ranging from The Dallas Morning News to The New York Times.

He attended Baylor University where he majored in journalism and was editor of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper. He began his professional career at the Waco Tribune-Herald and has written for newspapers, magazines, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Hampton has based his life and career in Texas where his interest in observing the people around him has led him to write essays, short stories, and novels that explore relationships and communities in their many forms.

Aransas Morning is his fifth book, following Grandpa JackWhen the Light Returned to Main StreetJonah Prophet and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane.

Connect with Jeff:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’ve lived in Texas for almost fourteen years, but I’ve never been to the Gulf Coast, and my first thought when reading Aransas Morning was, “I have to correct that error.”

My second thought was that beach towns are essentially the same whether they’re in New Jersey, California, Mexico, or, apparently, Texas, and as a long-time visitor and some-time resident of such towns, I really loved how well the author, Jeff Hampton, captured the laid-back vibe so inherent to such places. There’s just something about living so close to sun, sand, and surf that changes your internal rhythms, and even I, a life-long night owl, find myself up at sunrise whenever I’m at the beach.

Aside from immediately putting the reader in that beachy state of mind, Hampton tells a compelling story. There’s nothing flashy in his writing – the language is pretty simple, and the characters are the kinds of ordinary people we interact with every day – and yet there’s something about Sam, Dave, Bo, Shelly, and Allie that makes you want to keep reading.

From the first chapter, I was rooting for every character. I particularly loved that grizzled fisherman Bo had that softer side, that twinkle in his eye. Gruff characters run the risk of being stereotypes, but Hampton gave this gruff character just enough depth that he became supremely real.

In fact, that’s true of all of the characters in this novel. Each is flawed; none are villains. They’re a collection of people who are each on their own journey, and any one of them is interesting enough to follow, but Hampton has woven them together into a tapestry of growth and change, new relationships, and old dreams, and created something truly special.

Isak Dineson once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” In Aransas Morning, Jeff Hampton has illustrated that with grace, elegance, and excellent coffee.

Goes well with: Fresh-caught fish, grilled on an open fire, served with a simple salad and cold beer.


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Aransas Morning Blog Tour Links

1/23/18 Promo A Page Before Bedtime
1/23/18 Promo Reading by Moonlight
1/24/18 Guest Post Chapter Break Book Blog
1/24/18 Review Bibliotica
1/25/18 Excerpt Part 1 StoreyBook Reviews
1/25/18 Excerpt Part 2 Forgotten Winds
1/26/18 Review Texan Girl Reads
1/27/18 Review Tangled in Text
1/28/18 Author Interview The Page Unbound
1/28/18 Playlist Syd Savvy
1/29/18 Review The Clueless Gent
1/30/18 Promo Texas Book Lover
1/30/18 Scrapbook Page The Librarian Talks
1/31/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/1/18 Review Missus Gonzo