Review: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, by Susan Mallery

Summer of sunshine and margotAbout the book, The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (June 11, 2019)

The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


susan-mallery-3About the author Susan Mallery

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Susan Mallery is one of those authors whose books never fail to disappoint. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, which had me hooked from the very title, is no exception.

As an only child, I think I’m drawn to stories about sisters – I’ve always wanted one, and yet, selfishly, I’m also glad not to have one. Reading about Margot – serious, steadfast, respectable – and Sunshine – fun-loving, a bit more wild, definitely less conscientious – made me wistful for a sister again. Oh, I have girlfriends, but it’s not the same.

What I loved about this novel is that the sisters were very different, but still shared common traits (not the least a tendency to make poor romantic choices), and that they were always unfailingly supportive of each other. True, they could be brutally honest, but such honesty always came from a place of love, never from jealousy or meanness.

As well, I enjoyed our glimpses into their love lives. While it’s true that no woman need be defined by her romantic partner, it’s fun to see love blossom, and even more so to experience it vicariously through such well-drawn characters. Mallery excels at capturing emotion on the page. Her characters never feel flat or fake, and that’s just one of the reasons I keep coming back to her work.

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is the perfect summer read. Bring it to the beach or pool, or keep it inside where the air conditioning is keeping the heat and humidity at bay. But do read it; you won’t be disappointed.

Goes well with tuna sandwiches, tomatoes and avocados in vinaigrette, and chilled lemon water, eaten al fresco.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

Excerpt tour:

Tuesday, May 28th: Sincerely Karen Jo

Wednesday, May 29th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, May 29th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, May 30th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, May 31st: Books and Spoons

Saturday, June 1st: The Lit Bitch

Monday, June 3rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Tuesday, June 4th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, June 5th: Reading Reality

Thursday, June 6th: Romantic Reads and Such

Friday, June 7th: Broken Teepee

Monday, June 10th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

 

Instagram tour:

Monday, June 10th: @diaryofaclosetreader

Tuesday, June 11th: @booksandjil

Tuesday, June 11th: @_ebl_inc_

Wednesday, June 12th: @girlandherbooks

Thursday, June 13th: @thebooksellersdaughter

Friday, June 14th: @nerdybooknurse

Friday, June 14th: @radbabesread

Saturday, June 15th: @thesaggingbookshelf

Sunday, June 16th: @ohthebooksshewillread

Monday, June 17th: @pnwbookworm

TOUR REPLAY: @TLCBookTours

 

Review tour:

Monday, June 10th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Tuesday, June 11th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Reads

Wednesday, June 12th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, June 13th: Reading Reality

Monday, June 17th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm

Tuesday, June 18th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, June 19th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, June 20th: Seaside Book Nook

Friday, June 21st: Jathan & Heather

Monday, June 24th: Run Wright

Tuesday, June 25th: @libraryinprogress

Wednesday, June 26th: What is That Book About

Thursday, June 27th: Audio Killed the Bookmark and @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Friday, June 28th: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip

Monday, July 1st: Amy’s Book-et List

Wednesday, July 3rd: Books & Bindings

Wednesday, July 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, July 5th: @booktimistic

Tuesday, July 9th: Romantic Reads and Such

Wednesday, July 10th: Sincerely Karen Jo

Wednesday, July 10th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, July 11th: Why Girls are Weird

Friday, July 12th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, July 15th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, July 16th: Treestand Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, July 17th: Book Fidelity

Thursday, July 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, July 19th: Not in Jersey

Review: The Islanders, by Meg Mitchell Moore

The-Islanders-coverAbout the book The Islanders

• Hardcover: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (June 11, 2019)

“One of my own favorite writers.” –Elin Hilderbrand

J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine meets the works of Elin Hilderbrand in this delicious summer read involving three strangers, one island, and a season packed with unexpected romance, well-meaning lies, and damaging secrets.

Anthony Puckett was a rising literary star. The son of an uber-famous thriller writer, Anthony’s debut novel spent two years on the bestseller list and won the adoration of critics. But something went very wrong with his second work. Now Anthony’s borrowing an old college’s friend’s crumbling beach house on Block Island in the hopes that solitude will help him get back to the person he used to be.

Joy Sousa owns and runs Block Island’s beloved whoopie pie café. She came to this quiet space eleven years ago, newly divorced and with a young daughter, and built a life for them here. To her customers and friends, Joy is a model of independence, hard-working and happy. And mostly she is. But this summer she’s thrown off balance. A food truck from a famous New York City brand is roving around the island, selling goodies—and threatening her business.

Lu Trusdale is spending the summer on her in-laws’ dime, living on Block Island with her two young sons while her surgeon husband commutes to the mainland hospital. When Lu’s second son was born, she and her husband made a deal: he’d work and she’d quit her corporate law job to stay home with the boys. But a few years ago, Lu quietly began working on a private project that has becoming increasingly demanding on her time. Torn between her work and home, she’s beginning to question that deal she made.

Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Meg-Mitchell-Moore-APAbout the author, Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore works as a non-fiction writer in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and three young daughters.

Connect with Meg:

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Block Island is one of those places that family friends of mine often visit and talk about, but that I’ve never been to myself. I have a lovely china coffee service from the island, but that’s the closest I’ve come to being there… until I read The Islanders, because Meg Mitchell Moore’s story transported me to the place I’ve always wanted to be.

It’s the perfect summer read. A heightened version of a delicious beachy setting, fantastic characters (Joy, Lu, and Anthony) who are each interesting in their own right, and more so as their stories and secrets intertwine. I loved the combination of realistic interactions, charming settings and insidious small-town gossip, and Moore handled all quite deftly. Her characters never felt like caricatures, but were totally believable as the sorts of people one runs into in such places.

This is a great book to take on vacation, but if a visit to the shore isn’t in your plans this summer, it also provides a virtual seaside break. I was especially impressed with the way the author handled dialogue, but I confess, I wanted to hang out at Joy’s cafe and sample the whoopie pies while sipping espresso.

Add The Islanders to your summer reading list; you won’t be sorry.

Goes well with crab salad and fresh lemonade.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Islanders

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 11th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Wednesday, June 12th: Instagram: @michellereadsbooks

Thursday, June 13th: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_

Friday, June 14th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread

Saturday, June 15th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines

Sunday, June 16th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read

Monday, June 17th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 11th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, June 14th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, June 18th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, June 20th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 21st: Bookapotamus

Monday, June 24th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Tuesday, June 25th: Write – Read – Life

Wednesday, June 26th: Booked J

Thursday, June 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, June 28th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, July 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, July 3rd: Bibliotica

Friday, July 5th: Comfy Reading

TBD: Monday, July 1st: Books and Bindings

Review: The Road to Cromer Pier, by Martin Gore

The Road to Cromer Pier

 

The Road to Cromer Pier cover-2 (1)About the book, The Road to Cromer Pier:

 

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: nielsen (April 29, 2019)

Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after thirty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits. The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Martin Gore

I am a 61 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, had its first highly successful showing in January 2016, so I intend to move forward in all three creative areas.

Pen Pals was my first novel, but a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, will be released in the Summer of 2019.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

Connect with Martin:

Twitter | Facebook


My Thoughts

I had a feeling going into The Road to Cromer Pier that I would connect with the story, and I was not wrong. A theatre brat myself, I miss the days when I got to live and breathe musicals, and when life revolved around rehearsals and performances. That this novel also had a coastal setting only increased it’s worth. If it had come with a barista delivering lattes and chocolate croissants every three chapters, it could not have been more perfectly designed for my tastes.

But preferences alone are not enough. The author must also demonstrate talent and craft, and Martin Gore has done both with this book. I’m new to his writing, and I’m not British, but I’ve read enough novels set in the UK that they never feel foreign to me. Rather, his storytelling was so immersive that I was completely engaged from the first page to the last.

Obviously, my main focus was on Janet and her story, because she is the glue that keeps the narrative flowing, but every character was compelling and dimensional and each one felt like someone I might have encountered doing improv or summer stock or even as a resident ingenue at a theatre camp when I was in high school.

As well, the Show itself felt like a character in its own right, and I loved that about Gore’s work. Having grown up on the periphery of several family businesses, including a neighborhood diner, I know how much they take on a life and power of their own, and he showed that so well.

The Road to Cromer Pier is no fluffy summer read, but a family drama with equal parts heartbreak and hearty laughter and I highly recommend it.

Goes well with Cracker Jacks, the old-style kind that still have a decent toy surprise, not because they have anything to do with the story, but because they fit the mood of it.

The Road to Cromer Pier Full Tour Banner

 

 

Review: A Beach Wish, by Shelley Noble

A-Beach-Wish-coverAbout the book, A Beach Wish

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 25, 2019)

New York Times bestselling author Shelley Noble returns to the beach in her latest summer read about the family we create and the wishes we make that can shape us.

Zoe Bascombe has never said no to her family. When she blew her Juilliard audition, she caved to their wishes and went to business school. But when her mother dies and leaves instructions for Zoe to spread her ashes at a place called Wind Chime Beach, she defies her brothers and starts out for a New England town none of them has ever heard of and discovers a side of her garden club mother that her wildest dreams hadn’t imagined.

Zoe has another family.

Her first instinct is to run home. Instead she is caught in the middle of her feuding new relatives. With one family fighting among themselves and the other not speaking to her, Zoe must somehow find a way to bridge her new life with her old.

For the first time in her life, Zoe must make a stand for her family—both of them. If only she can only figure out how.

Her answer lies at Wind Chime Beach where for generations people have come to add their chimes to the ones already left among the trees. And when the wind blows and the air fills with music, their secrets, dreams, and hopes are sent into the world. There’s a message for Zoe here—if she has the courage to open her heart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary BrownAbout the author, Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Whisper Beachand Beach Colors. Other titles include Stargazey PointBreakwater Bay, and Forever Beach—a story of foster adoption in New Jersey—and four spin-off novellas. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she lives on the Jersey shore and loves to discover new beaches and indulge her passion for lighthouses and vintage carousels. Shelley is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Connect with Shelley:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my go-to authors of beach books. I don’t mean this in a frivolous way, because she doesn’t write throw-away novels. Rather she’s a master of compelling family dramas that take place at or near beaches. This summer’s offering, A Beach Wish, is no exception. It’s a family drama that looks at the themes of blood family vs. chosen family, of nature vs. nurture, and of following your own dreams vs. staying on the path others choose for you.

Like many of Noble’s other works, this novel is centered around a beach, in this case Wind Chime Beach, that becomes its own character in the story. As much place as symbol, the beach is both a refuge and a place where one goes to confront one’s truth. It takes a lot to talent to endow a stretch of sand and water with that much presence and character, but it’s one of the ways the author really excels.

Speaking of characters, the people we meet in this novel read like real people. Quirky and flawed, sometimes even downright prickly, they are a group – an extended family, really – of individuals who are each well-rounded and dimensional. Lee, the musician who shares his secrets through his songs, Hannah, the would-be matriarch who is controlling but well-meaning, David, the photographer who buries his heart, Floret and Henry, keepers of the history, Noelle, Mel, and Eli, the younger generation, Eve, the innkeeper who is so much more, and Zoe, who is the POV character we first meet… all could easily populate the streets of any beach town we might visit. And their stories, if somewhat heightened because they’re in a novel, are still fairly plausible.

In A Beach Wish, Shelly Nobel has done once more what she has done before: crafted a warm and satisfying story that lets us look at yet another permutation of family, and come away wishing, just a little, that we were part of it.

Goes well with homemade cookies and iced tea.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour stops for A Beach Wish

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 25th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Wednesday, June 26th: Instagram: @reallyintothis

Thursday, June 27th: Instagram: @writersdream

Friday, June 28th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread

Saturday, June 29th: Instagram: @slreadsbooks

Sunday, June 30th: Instagram: @books.coffee.cats

Monday, July 1st: Instagram: @jessicamap

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 25th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, June 26th: Bibliotica

Thursday, June 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, June 28th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, July 1st: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, July 5th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Monday, July 8th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 9th: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, July 10th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 11th: Tina Says…

Friday, July 12th: Reading Reality

Review: Driftwood Bay, by Irene Hannon – with Giveaway

BNR Driftwood Bay

Cover HIGH Res Driftwood BayAbout the book Driftwood Bay

  • Series: Hope Harbor Novel, Book 5
  • Genre: Contemporary / Christian / Romance
  • Publisher: Revell, April 2, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 368
  • Scroll down for giveaway

After tragedy upends her world, Jeannette Mason retreats to the tiny Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor to create a new life. Vowing to avoid emotional attachments, she focuses on running her lavender farm and tea-room—until a new neighbor with a destructive dog and a forlorn little girl invades her turf. But she needn’t worry. Dr. Logan West is too busy coping with an unexpected family, a radical lifestyle change, and an unruly pup to have any interest in his aloof and disagreeable neighbor.

Yet when both Jeanette and Logan find themselves pulled into the life of a tattered Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, might they discover that love sometimes comes calling when it’s least expected?

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon invites readers back to the charming seaside town of Hope Harbor, where they are sure to find peace, healing, and a second chance at happiness.

Buy, read, and discuss Driftwood Bay:

Baker Book House  ┃  Amazon  ┃  Barnes & Noble ┃  Christianbook.com  ┃ Books-A-Million  ┃  Kobo  ┃ Get It Local Today | Goodreads


Author Pic SMALLAbout the Author, Irene Hannon

Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including One Perfect Spring, Hope Harbor, Sea Rose Lane, Sandpiper Cove, and Pelican Point, as well as Dangerous Illusions and the Private Justice and Men of Valor suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, and she is a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. Her many other awards include National Readers’ Choice, Daphne du Maurier, Retailers’ Choice, Booksellers’ Best, Carols, and Reviewers’ Choice from RT Book Reviews magazine, which also honored her with a Career Achievement award for her entire body of work. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist.

Connect with Irene:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Warmth, wisdom, hope, and fish tacos – that’s what you get from reading Irene Hannon’s latest Hope Harbor novel Driftwood Bay, and it’s a delightful combination that blends wholesome family drama, realistic life transitions and a cute small town with just enough romance to keep things interesting.

I must confess, I haven’t read the previous four installments in this series, and when I agreed to review this novel, I didn’t realize it was a Christian romance. In truth, I’m glad I didn’t notice that element because I’m not that into organized religion and it might have kept me from reading this novel. That would have been a big mistake, because Irene Hannon’s work is accessible to all, and while the characters in this story both mentioned and took strength from their faith, there was nothing preachy about the book. Faith was a character element and handled as such. The church community was also an integral part of the plot, acting the way the best faith communities should: taking in refugees, and otherwise helping people make useful connections to better their lives.

The other elements of the novel were equally well-crafted: lead characters Jeannette Mason (“the lavender lady”) and Logan West begin as neighbors brought together by the latter’s destructo-dog Toby, and watching their relationship evolve from somewhat prickly ‘just neighbors’ to an uncertain friendship, to more was both amusing and endearing. Each of these people had baggage in their backstory, but author Hannon managed to make their metaphorical luggage match in.  the best way.

Similarly, Hannon handled the Syrian refugee family, Mariam, Thomma, and Elisa, with great sensitivity, showing their struggles to overcome the loss of their home and family members, their struggles to learn English, and to acclimate to life in a fishing village rather than a mining town.

One thing I particularly appreciated, because I struggle with it in my own writing is the way Hannon depicted the child-characters Elisa and Molly (Logan’s young niece). It can be so easy to make little kids into caricatures rather than characters, but these two little girls are as real and dimensional as any of the adults, and the friendship they form is as special as any of the other relationships in the novel.

One side character I do want to mention is Charley who runs the taco truck (when he’s not off painting). I kept getting the feeling there was meant to be more to him than what we saw, but even if it was just the way I was reading him, I loved him as the person who tells you what you need you hear, when you most need to hear it, even if it’s sometimes a bit cryptic.

Overall, this is a wholesome, heartwarming novel that leaves you believing that communities can still come together and there is still hope in the world.

Goes well with fish tacos and a cold beer.

 

 


Giveaway MED Driftwood Bay

Grand Prize:  

A Copy of Driftwood Bay + Oregon Coast RainGlobe

1st Runner-Up:  

A Copy of Driftwood Bay + Book Lover’s Coffee Mug

2nd Runner-Up:  

A Copy of Driftwood Bay + $10 Starbucks Gift Card

April 2-12, 2019

(U.S. Only)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

4/2/19 Series Spotlight The Clueless Gent
4/2/19 Scrapbook Page Hall Ways Blog
4/3/19 Review Forgotten Winds
4/4/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
4/5/19 Character Interview Sybrina’s Book Blog
4/6/19 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
4/7/19 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
4/8/19 Author Interview Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
4/9/19 Top Ten List Rainy Days with Amanda
4/10/19 Review Bibliotica
4/11/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews

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Review: Aransas Evening, by Jeff Hampton – with Giveaway

BNR Aransas Evening JPG

About the book, Aransas Evening

  • Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
  • Publisher: Jeff Hampton, Writer
  • Publication Date: October 4, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 346 pages
  • Scroll down for giveaway

Cover hi res Aransas EveningLife in Port Aransas was looking breezy and bright for Sam and his friends at the Dream Bean coffee shop. Shelly and Dave were talking marriage, Allie and Bo were tightening their family ties, and Sam was welcoming newcomers to town and falling for a new singer at the Sea Garden. But storms are never far away on the Texas Gulf Coast, and there would be none more destructive than Hurricane Harvey. Would Sam and his friends survive Harvey’s awful fury? And would life in Port Aransas ever be the same again? Find out in Aransas Evening, the sequel to Aransas Morning by Jeff Hampton.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Author Website │ Amazon │ Etsy  | Goodreads

Praise for the Aransas series:

–    “Hampton’s characters pulled me in; hook, line, and sinker.”

–    “The pace of the book is slow and easy, and I slipped into its rhythm like the ebb and flow of the water lapping against the shoreline.”

–    “A lovely story about community, and how family isn’t always the one you are born into.

–    “Isak Dinesen once wrote, ‘The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.’  Jeff Hampton has illustrated that with grace, elegance, and excellent coffee.”


About the author, Jeff Hampton

Author Pic Jeff HamptonJeff Hampton has based his life and career in Texas writing for newspapers, magazines, businesses, and institutions. 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 Evening is his sixth book, following Aransas MorningGrandpa JackJonah ProphetWhen the Light Returned to Main Street, and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane.

Connect with Jeff:

Website ║ Goodreads ║ Twitter ║ Instagram ║ Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I read Jeff Hampton’s previous Aransas novel, Aransas Morning, I immediately fell in love with the setting, the people, and the theme of never being too old to discover who you truly are. It wasn’t a shock, then, that I jumped to read and review the sequel, and I’m glad I did, because returning to Port A was like coming home to a place I’d visited once, but only ever lived in my dreams.

The themes are a bit stronger in this novel, as is appropriate for a story that spans the days before and after Hurricane Harvey. (One could argue that we are still living in the ‘after,’ just not quite so close). We see Dave and Shelley’s relationship progressing toward marriage, albeit one built entirely on their terms, while we also see our beloved salty fisherman Bo and his daughter accept and try to handle his aging, and specifically his increasing memory loss/dementia/Alzheimer’s issues. For me, this story line hit particularly close to home, because as a young woman I watched my grandmother become diminished in that way, and also because in the time since August 2017, we’ve bid a permanent farewell to both of my in-laws, my stepfather (really my only father-figure) and my last great-uncle.

Death and loss and changing positions in life are part of growing older, and seeing characters in novels go through these very human changes is both revealing of who they are, and of who we are, as readers.

And then there is Sam. In the first novel, Sam was very much the central character; the major story line was his own escape from a previous life in Dallas and his evolution into the person he is by the end of the story. In Aransas Evening, while Sam is still a pivotal player, he’s more catalyst than protagonist at times, or maybe this novel is just more coherent as an ensemble piece.

Overall, Aransas Evening is a treat of a book, full of characters – old and new – who feel real enough to jump off the pages and share a mug of coffee while sitting with our toes in the sand. It’s a portrait of a place I wish I could visit in person, and a place I want to revisit in fiction over and over again.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish grilled over an open flame, and a cold beer.


Giveaway

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

Grand Prize Winner:

Signed Copies of all six of Jeff Hampton’s books

2 Winners:

Signed Copies of both Aransas books + Grandpa Jack + a pack of Texas Themed note cards

2 Winners:

Signed Copies of Aransas Evening & Grandpa Jack + a pack of Texas Themed note cards

JANUARY 17-26, 2019

(USA only)

Giveaway Aransas Evening

 

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Tour Stops for Aransas Evening

1/17/19 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
1/17/19 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
1/18/19 Review Bibliotica
1/19/19 Excerpt Max Knight
1/20/19 Playlist Chapter Break Book Blog
1/21/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
1/22/19 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
1/23/19 Review The Clueless Gent
1/24/19 Review The Love of a Bibliophile
1/25/19 Scrapbook Reading by Moonlight
1/26/19 Review Forgotten Winds

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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: 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: 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.


Giveaway

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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

 

 

Review: Tidewater Hit, by M.Z. Thwaite

About the book, Tidewater Hit Tidewater Hit

  • Series: Tidewater Novels
  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher:

One determined woman refusing to leave well enough alone.

In a heart-stopping moment, while rowing off the coast of Georgia the summer of 1986, Abbey Taylor Bunn discovers a dazed boating hit-and-run victim.

In the days following the successful rescue, Abbey becomes acquainted with a new potential real estate client, but the unidentified man worries a recently awakened side of her, the sleuth.

Who is he? Who left him to die, and why?

Ever-curious and afraid of nothing, she digs for clues and is rewarded by discovery after discovery until a grim picture begins to form. Only when she confronts the assailant does the final piece fall into place, and she realizes how fully her moral duty inserted her into the wounded framework of the lives of others.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, M.Z. Thwaite MZ Thwaite

M. Z. Thwaite is the author of the literary suspense novel Tidewater Rip in which she shares her life-long love affair with Georgia’s golden coast. A licensed Realtor since 1983, she continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of the hunting and fishing club on the coast of Georgia co-founded by her maternal grandfather. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her artist husband Steve Weeks of Riverton, New Jersey.

Connect with M.Z.:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellTwo years ago, I read the first novel in this series, Tidewater Rip, and loved it to bits. Over the last full weekend of September, I devoured this sequel, Tidewater Hit, and am happy to report that the community of Kings Bluff, Georgia is one where I still feel completely at home.

Dropping in on the fictional adventures of Abbey Taylor Bunn is like visiting an old friend. You may not see them very often, but you know the ice tea will be sweet and cold, the dog will be waiting to greet you, and the mystery will be incredibly compelling.

Such is the case with this novel.

From the opening, with Abbey rowing and discovering a man floating in a place where one is more likely than not to become sharkbait through every twist and turn I was on the edge of my seat. Or I would have been if I hadn’t been reading this in the bathtub.

What I loved was that relationships from the original novel – specifically Abbey’s with Atlanta-based lawyer Tom, but others as well – were continued. I also loved Sarge and his ‘dead rise’ fishing boat, which can be used for a multitude of other purposes. He made a big impression on me.

As well, author Thwaite has turned the community of Kings Bluff and those secluded cabins into a character in its own right.

While Thwaite’s skill and plot and dialogue is undeniable, where she excels is at giving readers a vivid sense of place. As I was reading this, I could taste the salt air, feel the tiny stinging bites of sand fleas (sand gnats), and feel the muggy heat. It is that feeling, as much as the story itself, that made the novel for me.

While Tidewater Hit is better enjoyed if you’ve read the previous novel, it can be read as a stand-alone work with little confusion on the reader’s part. Thwaite gives us enough backstory to understand Abbey’s history and mindset, but not so much that we’re bogged down in any kind of literary ‘previously on…’

As well, the author does an excellent job of honoring the 1986 setting without making it feel campy or too ‘period.’ This story may be set 31 years in our past, but it reads as contemporary literature.

Read this book if you love mysteries with strong female characters, a touch of humor in the right places, and plots that are intricate enough to be interesting, but not so convoluted that a diagram is required.

Goes well with a tomato and vidalia onion sandwich, or, if you’re more mainstream, fresh-caught shrimp cooked however you like them and cold sweet tea or chilled beer.