Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson

About the book, Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery

  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Choc Lit (December 4, 2019)

Hanukkah days, Christmas nights and strawberry ice cream … 

Cohen Ford is a man who could do with a little bit of sweetening up. It’s no surprise that when he walks into The Great Greenwich Ice Creamery on a typically gloomy London day before Christmas, he insists on a black coffee rather than his childhood favourite – strawberry ice cream.

But then he meets River de Luca, the woman behind the flavours. After their first encounter, Cohen begins visiting the ice creamery every Tuesday, gradually learning more about the intriguing River. Could her influence encourage cynical Cohen to become the man who embraces Christmas, Hanukkah and even strawberry ice cream?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharon Ibbotson

Author Bio – Sharon was born in Sydney, Australia but now lives in London with her husband, two small children and two black cats named for desserts. She started writing ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fanfiction aged 15, which eventually transformed into the historical romance novels she writes today. She has two novels published by Choc Lit, and when not writing, can be found baking cakes badly or drinking wine well.

Connect with Sharon:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThere are books that fall into your life with little fanfare and end up being absolute treasures. For me, this December, one of those books is Sharon Ibbotson’s Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery, which is a romance told in food and shared stories.

It’s the structure of the novel that struck me first. Each chapter is headed by a word – usually a food item, but not always – and then the chapter builds to include that word. Sometimes that inclusion is offhand, other times it’s extremely important – in “Apple” for example, our romantic lead, Cohen Ford, learns the BSL sign for “apple,” from his love interest, Rachel, a deaf woman who was adopted as a young girl by his mother’s close friend. The keywords are important, but the chapters feel so organic that everything flows perfectly.

Then there’s the ice cream – the different flavors serve to punctuate the emotions of each character… another bit of craft that I admire Ibbotson for doing so, so well.

Of course, this novel isn’t just a romance. It’s a piece about mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons, those early relationships that color all our lives, and influence our choices long into our adulthoods.

While I began the novel not really liking Cohen Ford, I grew to appreciate him. His growth in this novel is exponential, and mostly self-directed. River may be his muse (of a sort), but he did the hard work, the internal work, himself, turning into a character I would love to follow into a future novel.

I also appreciated the way the author incorporated the use of sign into the piece. Any kind of foreign language or dialect can be tricky to depict, but Ibbotson did a fabulous job of incorporating descriptions of British Sign Language (some of which confused me, because it’s SO different from American Sign Language, which I’m not fluent in, but recognize and get the gist of).

While Cohen is the main character (and kudos to the author for writing a romance from the male POV), River, her mother Rushi, and Cohen’s mother Esther are all equally dynamic. Having spent a chunk of my life with a Jewish (step)grandmother, I found Esther’s cadences so familiar. She isn’t a stereotype by any means, but she’s very much a Jewish mother, despite her career and remarriage being less-than-typical.

I also liked the character of Billy a lot… this hearing father of a deaf son is the kind of parent every kid should have, and he acted as a sort of interpreter for Cohen and River, not only literally, but also translating their emotions. Everyone needs a family friend like Billy.

The pacing of this book was just right, neither super-fast nor mind-numbingly slow, and at times, when one of the characters was relating a memory, the language was almost lyrical.

And then there’s the delight of a novel that mixes Hanukkah and Christmas themes into a single story without it becoming us vs. them.

This is a much deeper novel than the back cover blurb implies, and I recommend it to everyone looking for a holiday read.

Goes well with: strawberry ice cream or melon gelato. You choose.

 

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Review: A Friend in Deed, by G.D. Harper – with Giveaway for UK Residents

A Friend In Deed

About the Book, A Friend in Deed

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Troubador Publishing (October 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • Scroll Down for Giveaway

A Friend In Deed CoverBritain: a few years from now. A new populist political party has won the recent general election.

Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger, loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for help.

A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, G.D. Harper

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the plot and setting that I used in A Friend in Deed.

Connect with G.D.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100A Friend in Deed is set “a few years from now” but it’s eerily close to what we see happening in both the U.S. and the U.K. with the shifts in politics and the way the media is being manipulated.

In this novel, Duncan Jones, aka political blogger Richard Foxe, and novelist Mark Jackson is a middle-aged journalist finding himself a victim of the fading of print media when two things happen at once: his paper downsizes him, basically requiring that every story be a “scoop,” and he meets Tanya, a younger-than-he-is (but not scandalously young) woman from Ukraine.

From this simple setup comes a novel that grips you and doesn’t let go. Duncan is the perfect everyman. He isn’t a hero, he just wants the truth, even if that truth comes with a risk. And risk there is. Part spy novel, replete with an introverted tech genius, and part psychological thriller – are the connections Duncan is making too good to be true? Does his past really inform his present and future? – we follow Mr. Jones down the darkened paths of London, Moscow, and the internet in his attempt to write the perfect political expose and also conquer his inner demons.

I loved the pop culture elements that author Harper included in this novel, from the opening, with Jones staring (and being stared at) by a portrait of Peter Capaldi, to the references to Tanya eventually (maybe) appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. I liked that Jones experienced real fear and trepidation about involving his friends in his… adventures… and I really appreciated the use of the character Nigel to explain the ins and outs of contemporary (ish) hacking and internet security.

One nuance I really appreciated is that Harper writes really good friendships between men and women. Sure, there’s some flirting, but it’s meant in fun. It’s clear that Harper respects his characters and his readers, but that particular bit of craft really mattered to me.

Overall, this is a compelling story that is both an entertaining read and a warning to all of us to be informed citizens of our respective nations.

Goes well with: fish and chips and a microbrew beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway to Win all 3 paperbacks of GD Harper’s Psychological Fiction Trilogy (Open UK Only)

  • Prize features all three books, Love’s Long Road, Silent Money and A Friend in Deed

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: Comfort Songs, by Kimberly Fish – with Giveaway

Comfort Songs Blog Tour

About the book, Comfort Songs

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Fish Tales, LLC
  • Date of Publication: September 19, 2019
  • Number of Pages: 348
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Comfort Songs by Kimberly FishAward-winning author of Comfort Plans, Kimberly Fish, delivers a novel about family, forgiveness, and the seeds of second chances.

Eight years ago, Autumn Joy Worthington, still reeling from the bitter divorce of her Grammy-Award-winning parents, endured the betrayal of a man who’d promised her a wedding. Running from pain seemed the logical response. Reinventing herself in Comfort, Texas, as a lavender grower, she creates a wildly successful gardening haven that draws in tourists and establishes an identity far removed from her parents’ fame. Her mother’s retirement from stardom inspires AJ to offer her refuge and nurse the dream that they could move past old hurts and the tarnish of the music industry … to find friendship. A grandmother in the early stages of dementia and the return of AJ’s father complicate the recovery, but nothing sets the fragile reality spinning like the arrival of Nashville music executive, Luke English.

As Alzheimer’s slowly knocks away the filters of their family, AJ comes to appreciate the true meanings of love and forgiveness — and that the power of redemption can generate from the most unlikely sources. When AJ uncovers the grit to make hard choices, she also discovers that the flowers that bloom the brightest can have the most tangled roots.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Kimberly FishKimberly Fish is a professional writer with almost thirty years of media experience. She’s been telling stories far longer. She published her first novel, a WWII historical fiction novel, because of a true story in her adopted hometown that was too good to ignore.  She quickly followed that success with a sequel. Since then, she’s continued writing fiction and added a contemporary second-chance romance series set in Comfort, Texas, to her list of fun, fast-paced novels. Kimberly lives with her family in East Texas.

Connect with Kimberly:

WEBSITE |  INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | YOUTUBE | PINTEREST |  TWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100I reviewed Kimberly Fish’s previous novel Comfort Plans two years ago, and it was a pleasure to revisit her writing and the world she’s created in Comfort, Texas, with this novel, Comfort Songs.

With this story, set in the present but with flashbacks to previous eras, Fish really demonstrates her prowess at writing compelling tales of women in transition. Inez (aka Gran) is facing the descent into Alzheimer’s Disease. July, whose retirement as a performer opens the novel, is facing new directions in her career and her personal life, and AJ, the connective tissue between the two, claims she just wants to run her farm, Lavender Hill, but is also exploring creative pursuits and a possible romance, as well as reconnecting with her mother (July).

Fish handles all three story lines with equal care, weaving them in and out of each other, showing us the way Inez’s youth and July’s career have informed AJ’s choices. Each woman stands alone as a distinct character, but each also shares the commonality of family and personal struggle.

What I love about Fish’s writing is that she depicts the sorts of issues we all deal with every day – aging, adult mother-daughter relationships, and the search for personal fulfillment – using characters that may have sprung from her imagination, but feel incredibly real. These are women (and their partners) that we not only may know, but that we might even be, to some extent.

If you are looking for an inter-generational story with music, romance, and the sort of community we all sort of wish we could live in, read Comfort Songs; you will not be disappointed.

Goes well with hot coffee and scones with lemon curd.


Giveaway

SIGNED COPY OF COMFORT SONGS

+  HUMMINGBIRD FARMS HAND CREAM & HAND SOAP

OCTOBER 22-NOVEMBER 1, 2019

(U.S. Only)

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10/23/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
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10/24/19 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
10/25/19 Review Sydney Young, Stories
10/25/19 Review Bibliotica
10/26/19 Review That’s What She’s Reading
10/27/19 Review Book Fidelity
10/28/19 Review The Book Review
10/28/19 Review Missus Gonzo
10/29/19 Review Forgotten Winds
10/30/19 Review The Clueless Gent
10/30/19 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/31/19 Review Hall Ways Blog
10/31/19 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles

 

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Review: Fiona and the Whale, by Hannah Lynn – with Giveaway

Fiona and the Whale

Fiona and the Whale coverAbout the book, Fiona and the Whale

 

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (September 30, 2019)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames.

Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Hannah LynnAbout the author, Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

Connect with Hannah:

Facebook | Bookbub | Goodreads | Twitter


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

Fiona and the Whale is my first introduction to Hannah Lynn’s work, and I’m in love. This novel is so refreshing with a main character (the titular Fiona)  being a woman in her 40s. Yes, her husband leaves her on the very day they send their son off to college, thus leaving her an empty-nester in more ways than one, but where this could have been a maudlin tale of being dumped, rather it becomes a “coming of middle age” novel.

Of course, there is also an actual whale, Martha, a sperm whale who turns up in the Thames (not the most hospitable of places for large cetaceans). As Fiona becomes more intrigued and invested in Martha’s fate, she also finds herself more aware of, and engaged in, the state of the world.

Obviously aquatic ecosystems are an important part of this story, but, through Fiona (and Martha) author Lynn also tackles food waste, which is an equally important issue in the contemporary world. The Dumpster Dive Cafe is a fabulous creation, and one I applauded while reading about.

At turns hilarious and poignant, this novel may exist in a slightly heightened version of reality, but the characters depicted within are absolutely real. I especially loved the way Lynn wrote about Fiona and her best friend. Well-written friendships between adult women (as opposed to childhood friends or college roommates) are not often found outside of literary fiction, and I was pleased to see it included here.

Overall, I found Fiona and the Whale to be an immensely satisfying read.

Goes well with hearty seven-vegetable soup, crusty bread, and a glass of wine. Red or white, as you prefer.


Giveaway

Enter our whale-sized giveaway.

Prizes are

$25 Amazon Gift card

2 print copies of Fiona and the Whale

10 ebooks of Fiona

5 ebooks of The Afterlife of Water Augustus

5 ebooks, of Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin.

 

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Fiona and the Whale

Review: The Land of Last Chances, by Joan Cohen

The Land of Last ChancesAbout the book, The Land of Last Chances

 

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (August 13, 2019)

Jeanne Bridgeton, an unmarried executive in her late forties, discovers life doesn’t begin and end on a spreadsheet when her expected menopause instead becomes an unexpected pregnancy. Though accomplished at managing risk professionally, Jeanne realizes her skills don’t extend to her personal life, where she has allowed the professional and the personal to become intertwined. She’s not even sure which of two men in her life is the father. Worse yet, a previously undisclosed family secret reveals that she may carry a rare hereditary gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s―and it’s too late to get genetic tests. This leaves Jeanne to cope with her intense fear of risk without the aid of the mountain of data she’s accustomed to relying upon. Wrestling with the question of whether her own needs, or those of her child, should prevail takes Jeanne on an intensely emotional journey―one that ultimately leads to growth and enlightenment.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Joan CohenAbout the author, Joan Cohen

Originally from Mount Vernon, New York, Joan Cohen received her BA from Cornell University and her MBA from New York University. She pursued a career in sales and marketing at computer hardware and software companies until she retired to return to school for an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been a Massachusetts resident for many years, first living in Newton, where she raised her family, and later in Wayland. She now resides in Stockbridge, in the Berkshires, with her husband and golden retriever.

 


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I was a little trepidatious about reading The Land of Last Chances. Novels that talk about things like aging and abortion can so often be preachy and insipid. What a relief to find that this was not the case with Joan Cohen’s wonderful creation!

Rather, this novel is a candid look at a woman in my age range (I turned 49 four days after this book was released) who is living a childfree existence, and suddenly finds herself pregnant rather than entering menopause, as she anticipated. That alone is enough to fill a plot, but Cohen has given our main character, Jeanne, so much else to deal with – more than one possible father for her baby, and the discovery of a family history of early-onset Alzheimer’s as well.

It could have all too easily become melodrama, but it didn’t. Rather, this novel is an emotionally truthful look at some very heavy issues, through the guise of fiction. Jeanne is a wonderfully realistic character, and feels like someone you could run into at work or at a coffee place, sometimes prickly, and sometimes engaging, always her own person. The supporting characters, and in particular Vince, are not quite as vivid, but were well-drawn, also.

Cohen’s plot was deftly crafted and perfectly paced. There was enough background to let us get to know the characters, but no so much that we were overloaded with unnecessary information. In short, this is a novel for adults, about adults, that covers adult themes, and it’s an extremely satisfying read in all respects.

Goes well with strong black tea and a tomato sandwich on multigrain bread.

Review: Coming Home for Christmas, by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for ChristmasAbout the book, Coming Home for Christmas

 

  • Series: Haven Point (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (September 24, 2019)

Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Raeanne Thayne RaeAnne-Thayne

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

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

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

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Cracking open a RaeAnne Thayne book, even when it’s a virtual ‘cracking’ because you’re reading a digital copy, is like hanging out with an old friend. The story will be new and exciting, but the voice telling it will be familiar.

This is especially true of Coming Home for Christmas, which isn’t just Thayne’s most recent release, but is also the tenth novel in her delightful Haven Point series. And while some may think the second day of autumn is a touch early to be reading a story set over the holidays, I found it a lovely respite from the heat and humidity of late summer.

As always, Thayne brings us a story rooted in family and relationships. Luke and Elizabeth are an estranged husband and wife, the latter having been missing for seven years when the novel opens with him storming into her current residence and demanding he return home with her. It’s an abrupt opening. Almost, I felt as though I’d missed a chapter, and yet, it set the pace of the novel perfectly, giving us a sense of urgency from Luke that carried through the entire book.

Both characters, as well as their friends and family, are written truthfully. No one is perfect; all are drawn with the charms and flaws of real people. This is what makes a RaeAnne Thayne novel so compelling: she peoples her fictional towns with the sorts of neighbors we all long to have, and populates their streets with the shops we all want to visit.

Is September a little early for a Christmas story? Maybe. But when you read Coming Home for Christmas, you’ll feel like you’re coming home to Haven Point, and you won’t mind that the calendar on your phone is a bit behind the one in the story.

Goes well with hot coffee and chocolate gingerbread.

 

Review: A Summer to Remember, by Victoria Cooke – with Giveaway (UK only)

A Summer To Remember

A Summer to RememberAbout the book, A Summer to Remember

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Digital (September 19, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Sam lives by the mantra that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

After the tragic loss of her husband, Sam built a new life around friends, her cat Coco and a career she loves. Fending off frequent set-ups and well-meaning advice to ‘move on’, Sam is resolutely happy being single.

But when Sam gets seconded to her firm’s Boston office for the summer, it is more than her career that is in for a shake-up. A spur of the moment decision to visit the idyllic beaches of Cape Cod could end up changing her life forever.

One thing is for sure, Sam won’t finish the summer the same woman who started it…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Victoria CookeAbout the author, Victoria Cooke

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and traveling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016.

Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Connect with Victoria

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel, A Summer to Remember, was my first introduction to Victoria Cooke’s work, but it was just the warm-hearted beach read I always enjoy picking up in between heavier pieces of literature. Even better, it has many scenes set in a cute coastal town with lovely, welcoming people of the type we all secretly wish would take us under their wings, pour cocktails down our throats, and become our new best friends when we most need a new perspective.

For main character Sam, a new perspective is precisely what she gets when she temporarily relocates from London to Boston for work. It’s an assignment she’s been wanting for the better part of a decade, ever since losing her husband in a tragic accident, but she gets off to a rocky start, and escapes to Provincetown on the weekend to soothe her soul at the beach.

It’s there where Sam meets and befriends an array of delightful characters – Harry and Barney chief among them – who become her American support system, giving her advice and shaking her out of her self-imposed bubble. It’s also there that she gets to know Ethan, our male lead.

In the last two years, my own family has seen a lot of death and loss – both of my in-laws and my own stepfather, as well as a member of my chosen family – and dealing with that grief, and watching my mother continue to deal with the loss of her life-partner – has been challenging, but it’s also made me a harsh critic of stories covering similar territory. Cooke handles both Sam’s and Ethan’s grief and healing with sensitivity and truthfulness that I found to be profoundly real and incredibly believable.

Yes, these are characters in a summer romance novel, and so their reality is a slightly heightened one, but I still found everything I read to be completely plausible (with the possible exception of anyone getting seasick on a kayak.)

A Summer to Remember was exactly the book I needed to finish out the last days of summer. Okay, I live in Texas, so our hot weather will continue until Halloween, but the light is changing, and there’s a bite beneath the heat that means autumn is arriving, but, just as the end of summer in this novel doesn’t mean an end to new friendships or new relationships, merely a redrawing of parameters, so, too, does the end of summer where I live merely mean that the sun sets a bit earlier and the swimming pool isn’t quite as warm.

A Summer to Remember is a novel to be enjoyed.

Goes well with burgers grilled over an open flame and cold beer, ideally consumed while sitting in the sand.


Giveaway (UK Residents Only)

A Summer Giveaway Prize

Giveaway to Win A Summer to Remember by Victoria Cooke and Chocolates (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

The Girl Who Loved GhostsAbout the book, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts

 

  • Series: Unbelievables (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (September 16, 2019)

She’d do anything to save her friends and family. But will that mean sacrificing the ghosts she’s grown to love?

Kat is trying to settle back into her senior year at McTernan Academy, but destiny keeps getting in the way of schoolwork and friendships. Continuing her magical training means abandoning her best friend, until an attack by a mysterious entity on campus proves that the only place they’ll both be safe is Dumbarton, the ancestral home of the Langley family.

Evan struggles with his coursework, a flirty new housemate, and his daunting responsibilities as the Kingsley heir and new owner of Ravenhurst manor. He tries to hold onto his normal college life, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before he and Kat have to travel into the past again… And Kat is in mortal danger every minute they wait to retrieve the last amulet they need to defeat the Dark One.

As her normal life slips further away, Kat must face the terrible cost that comes with time travel. Completing her quest in the present requires changing the past. She knows that the results of her actions can be disastrous–because the ghosts of her ancestors tell her of their tragic fates. A trip to eighteenth-century Connecticut might change everything. Kat tries to protect everyone she loves, but risks destroying every relationship that matters to her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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KC TansleyAbout the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and two quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been reading The Unbelievables series since the beginning, and it’s been a pleasure watching Kat grow up, just as it’s been a pleasure seeing K.C. Tansley’s writing get deeper and more evocative with every novel. Part of that, of course, is that her main character is getting older, but part of that is that when you’ve been writing in the same world for a while it becomes more and more real, just as it does when you’ve been reading it for a while.

At this point, I feel like Kat and her roommate/best friend Morgan, Evan, and even Seth are my friends, not just characters in books – they’re that well-drawn. When Kat feels alienated from Evan because his houseguest is getting flirty, I feel for her as keenly as I did when my own high school crush showed interest in someone else.

But this third installment in The Unbelievables series, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, isn’t some teen romance. Sure, there are elements of romance in it, but it’s really about Kat’s calling to speak with ghosts, to help them solve their unfinished business, and for her combined work with Evan to unite their families, working with the living and the dead to do so.

This is a gripping adventure through time. It has moments of darkness and danger, but it also has moments of great poignance. It’s about honoring family, but it’s also about being true to yourself.

I loved revisiting Kat at her school, and joining her and Evan (and their friends) on their trans-dimensional trips to Dumbarton, but, as always, I was sad for the visit to end, and cannot wait for book four.

Goes well with beef stew and hard cider.

 

 

Review: Emerald City, by Brian Birnbaum

EmeraldCityAbout the book, Emerald City

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dead Rabbits LLC (September 6, 2019)
  • Language: English

 

Set in Seattle, Emerald City follows Benison Behrenreich, the hearing son of deaf royalty. His father, CEO of a multimillion-dollar deaf access agency, has bribed Myriadal College officials for Benison’s spot on their powerhouse basketball team, where he struggles to prove himself and compensate for his father’s sins.

Julia Paolantonio has recently lost her father to a drug relapse. Her mother ships her off to live with her estranged granddad, Johnny Raciti, during the summer before her freshman year at Myriadal. Johnny offers her a deal: bring him Peter Fosch – tormented college dropout and the best drug runner west of the Cascades – and he’ll give Julia’s freshly widowed mother a board seat on his mobbed-up securities firm.

When Benison’s father is arrested for defrauding government subsidies for the deaf, the Behrenreichs are left vulnerable to his company’s ruthless backers – namely Johnny Raciti – forcing Julia and Peter to navigate the minefield left in the aftermath.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Brian BirnbaumAbout the author, Brian Birnbaum

Brian Birnbaum received his MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2015. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, The Smart Set, Potluck Magazine, LUMINA, 3AM Magazine, The Collagist, Anti-Heroin Chic, and more. His debut novel, Emerald City, is forthcoming in 2019 with Dead Rabbits, whose NYC reading series is spinning off into a literary press funded by a former Amazon dev manager. He also hosts the Dead Rabbits Podcast. Brian is an only Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), and works in development for his father’s deaf access company.

Connect with Brian:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Every so often you encounter a book that just blows you away. For me, this summer (September is still summer), Emerald City is that book. Sure, the description sounds like any number of other books – Seattle, crime syndicate, family drama – these are common pieces – but Brian Birnbaum moves them distinctly uncommon ways.

First, there’s his use of language. It’s gritty, it’s present, it’s very, very real. I felt like his characters were people I would have run into on buses, in bistros, or in board rooms, as the situation might require. Then there are his characters, Julia, Johnny, and especially Benison. These characters aren’t merely dimensional, they practically leap off the page and get in your face, demanding that you listen to their stories.

And let’s not forget to talk about the Deaf culture that’s woven through the story. At no time does this addition feel like a ploy to make Emerald City unique or noticeable; rather, it’s completely organic, both incidental and important (yes, it’s possible to be both).

Reading this novel, I often felt like I had to pause and catch my breath, but I loved feeling that way, because it meant I was immersed in the story. I cannot wait to read Birnbaum’s next creation, and I foresee a long and successful career.

Goes well with a rare steak, twice-baked potatoes, and a Jameson & Ginger with a twist of lime.

 

 

 

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