Review: The Wonder of Lost Causes by Nick Trout

The-Wonder-of-Lost-Causes-coverAbout the book, The Wonder of Lost Causes

• Hardcover: 464 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 30, 2019)

In this unforgettable novel, perfect for fans of An Unexpected Grace and A Dog’s Way Home, a single mom and her chronically ill child receive a valuable lesson from an unlikely source—a very special dog who unexpectedly enters their lives and shows them that one person’s lost cause can be another’s greatest gift . . .

Dr. Kate Blunt will do anything for her son, Jasper. Well, almost anything. Since Jasper has the incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis, Kate’s always told him he couldn’t get a dog. It’s a tough call, but she’s a single mom taking care of a kid who fights for every breath he takes. The daily medical routine that keeps Jasper alive is complicated enough. Worse still, Kate’s personal resolve runs contrary to her work as the veterinarian in charge of a Cape Cod animal shelter, where she is on a mission to find forever homes for dogs in desperate need.

The scarred, mistreated wreck of a dog that turns up doesn’t stand a chance. Named Whistler, he’s too old, too ugly. But the dog forms an instantaneous bond with Jasper. Whistler never makes a sound, yet he speaks to Jasper in a myriad of mysterious ways. The clock’s ticking, the dog’s future hangs in the balance, and Jasper would do anything to find him a home; but Whistler has chosen them—for a reason.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Nick-Trout-AP-Photo-by-Deborah-FeingoldAbout the author, Nick Trout

Dr. Nick Trout works full-time as a staff surgeon at the prestigious Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. He is the author of five previous books, including the New York Times bestseller Tell Me Where It Hurts, and his writing has been translated into sixteen different languages. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Kathy; their daughter, Emily; their adopted labradoodle, Thai; and Emily’s service dog, a black Labrador named Bella.

Connect with Nick:

Find out more about him at his website.


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

A child with cystic fibrosis, a mother who wants her son to live a long and healthy life, a dog who desperately needs a home – these are the central figures of The Wonder of Lost Causes but while each can be perceived as such at the beginning of the story, by the end, it’s clear that each of these three beings is exactly who and what they’re meant to be.

Jasper – whom we meet as a young boy – struggles to breathe because of his disease. A family friend is an adult survivor of this illness -one of the oldest survivors of it, in fact – and I’ve heard him describe the sensation of drowning inside your own body that author Trout uses with Jasper so vividly.

Jasper’s mother, Kate Blunt, is a shelter veterinarian who takes in hard luck cases and rehomes them. Sure, Jasper always wants to take them home, but they can’t – they live in a no-pets-allowed apartment. (This is the only part of the story that didn’t ring true for me. I have four dogs, all rescues, and work in rescue, and every rescuer, every shelter worker, every vet and vet tech I know has multiple animals. Even the local animal control officers I know will “hide” dogs in the system if they think it will buy them time.) Still, I did believe that she wanted the best for her son. And having a child with a chronic illness does change the way you see the world.

Then there’s Whistler – that’s his name, we’re told, because he told Jasper so – the dog. He’s a hard luck case, abandoned by one loving owner, then either run away or given up by a string of others… I’ve met dogs like this, and usually, if they’re lucky, they find the right person, finally, to give them that final forever home.

These three beings come together over the course of the novel, in a story that is heart-wrenching, heartwarming, frustrating, and fabulous, all by turns.

Author Trout excels at writing the boy-and-dog interactions, especially, and I wanted to reach through the screen and hug both. Kate made be bristle a lot, but I finally warmed to her, understanding her fear and her hopes. As I said, her intentions were always the best.

At it’s heart, this isn’t a disease story or a vet story or an animal story, it’s a family story, and this family, is both familiar and unique.

But it’s also an emotionally satisfying one, and while there are sad moments, the tears are earned. “When you cry about losing a dog,” an adult Jasper tells another child late in the novel, “it means the dog did its job.” Like the dogs we all love, this novel does its job, and does it brilliantly.

Goes well with a hot dog a fries that you sneak a few of to your dog.


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Review: Star Trek Section 31: Control, by David Mack


About the book, Star Trek Section 31: Control
Section31 - control

  • Series: Star Trek
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (March 28, 2017)
  • Language: English

From the New York Times bestselling author David Mack comes an original, thrilling Section 31 novel set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe!

No law…no conscience…no mercy. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answering to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost. The discovery of a two-hundred-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization. But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves just end up triggering its destruction. Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood. (via Amazon)

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, David Mack DavidMack

DAVID MACK is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of over three dozen novels and numerous short works of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, including the STAR TREK DESTINY trilogy.

Beyond prose, Mack’s writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) and comic books.

Mack’s most recent novels are THE MIDNIGHT FRONT and THE IRON CODEX, the first two books of his DARK ARTS series from Tor Books.

His upcoming works include THE SHADOW COMMISSION, book three of Dark Arts, coming in 2020, and a new STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION novel, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, on October 8, 2019. (via Amazon)

Connect with David:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

This novel is two years old, but I only read it last week, because somehow, I missed it. My timing was not the best – reading this story concurrently with the last episodes of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, which was also about Section 31’s AI Control, though, not the same story (though some themes were naturally similar, as you might expect whenever you deal with a super-intelligent AI) had me wishing the Discovery writers were telling Mack’s story.

Alas, they were not. And Discovery, which I love, is it’s own thing.

So, what about Control. Well, this novel takes place in two time periods. One is at the dawn of the Federation, and involves a civilian scientist who has created a threat assessment logarithm that he sells to the Federation. If you’ve read any of the articles about how the back room folks at Amazon, Google, and Apple work with Alexa, and Siri and such, you can understand where some of the inspiration came from. The characters in that section of the novel, with the exception of passing mentions of Archer, are largely original creations, but they mesh well with the Star Trek universe. I felt the ‘past’ parts of the story made sense, especially given our current level of technology and the growing dependence on “smart” devices.

The “contemporary” part of the story is in the post-Nemesis timeline of current TrekLit canon, and features Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas in their current guise as interstellar people of mystery… I mean special ops agents. I was never a particular fan of Bashir when DS9 was on, but he matured as a character as I’ve matured as a person, a viewer, and a reader, and now I really enjoy visits with him.

Data and Lal (resurrected in previous novels) also feature heavily in the contemporary part of the story, but I find myself never sure I “like” this new version of Data. Yes, this slightly jaded, slightly bitter, lonely, isolated version of him makes sense after all he’s been through – in another novel he, himself, described himself as “Data 2.0” – but there’s something hollow about him that makes him difficult for me to connect with. (I’m sure that’s just a fangirl reaction.)

Overall, I found this novel to be well-paced, balancing the two time periods really well, with the sections in the early Federation really building well to the world we are so much more familiar with as fans.

As much as I found the story interesting and compelling, I also found it a bit prescient. As I was reading it, those aforementioned articles about Alexa and Siri kept coming back to haunt me, but so did the line from Harry Potter about never trusting anything that appears to think for itself unless you can see where it keeps its brain.

Goes well with peach cobbler… and piping hot raktajino, obviously.

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)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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4/2/19 Series Spotlight The Clueless Gent
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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
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Review: The Garden Lady by Susan Dworkin

About the book, The Garden Lady

TheGardenLady-COVER-FINAL

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Susan Dworkin (July 18, 2018)

 

THE GARDEN LADY by Susan Dworkin is a novel about  unexpected love, the silence that becomes complicity, and the magic of redemption.  Urgent and compelling, the story resonates with today’s headlines as it poses the ethical question: How do we live with what we know but choose not to think about or act upon?

Maxie Dash, the heroine of THE GARDEN LADY, is a famous beauty, a fashion icon, the face of many national TV ads. Her first husband, a world-class photographer, took nude pictures of her, which are so beautiful that they now hang in museums.

On the cusp of her 50s, Maxie decides to make one more marriage, something permanent and restful, to a rich man who will guarantee her an affluent life and future security. Amazingly she finds the perfect man. Even more amazingly, she grows to love him. Albert shares Maxie’s passion for the opera and willingly supports her favorite charities. He indulges her delight in public gardens and allows her to endow the community with their beauty. All he asks in return is that she give him her love and her unswerving loyalty and agree to know nothing — absolutely nothing — about his business.

Maxie is sustained by her best friend, the designer Ceecee Rodriguez, whom she treasures as a sister. But she is shaken by the persistent enmity of Sam Euphemia, a fierce young business executive, who suspects Albert of terrible crimes.

Add Maxie Dash to the list of great heroines of contemporary fiction. Smart, funny, enjoying every moment of her hard-won success,  she ultimately faces the truth about her life, moves past denial and realizes that “her loyalty was a side effect of her greed and her greed was a crime against nature and her silence, her willful, terror-stricken silence, the true disaster.”  Her attempt to turn Garbage Mountain, a New Jersey landfill, into a beautiful park is key to her redemption.

THE GARDEN LADY reads like a thriller or a binge-worthy Netflix series. Entertaining and provocative, it is packed with ethical questions, dark humor and insight and offers us a female protagonist you will never forget.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Susan Dworkin

Susan-Dworkin-APSUSAN DWORKIN wrote the New York Times bestseller The Nazi Officer’s Wife, a tale of love and terror in the Third Reich, with the woman who lived the story, the late Edith Hahn Beer Other books include Making Tootsie, the inside story of the great film comedy with Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack; The Viking in the Wheat Field about the eminent seed banker, Dr. Bent Skovmand; Miss America, 1945, Bess Myerson’s story; Stolen Goods, a novel of love and larceny in the 80s; and The Commons, about an agrarian revolt led by a pop star and set in the not-so-distant future. Susan was a long-time contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. Her plays are often performed in regional theatres. She lives in Massachusetts.

Connect with Susan:

Find out more about Susan at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

For a relatively short, fast-paced novel, Susan Dworkin packed a lot of story into The Garden Lady. It’s got a tragic childhood, a hard luck, rags-to-riches tale, a revenge saga, family drama, international smuggling and corporate crime, and passionate love affairs, all within  220 pages. If that seems overwhelming, fear not, because this tale is well told.

Dworkin excels at setting up characters with just a few phrases, and makes us see them from the moment of their first lines of dialogue. We know Maxie fears aging in solitude, we know her best friend Ceecee is fiercely loyal, we know the former has a tendency to choose men who are bad for her, until her first husband, whom we never meet “on camera” and only learn about in the final chapters of the novel (a pity, because his presence is felt throughout the book) and we know Ceecee’s  husband is a truly good man, who gives good advice.

And yet, as much as this novel is about Maxie and her push to build a memorial garden, it’s also about her last husband, Albert. Mysterious, rich, dangerous, involved in dubious business practices that Maxie chooses not to see, Albert is the point around which this story pivots, while Maxie is the observer and the observed.

While it’s typical for protagonists to be the heroes of their own stories, I felt as though Maxie, more often than not, was a prisoner of her own life. True, it was by choice. But a gilded cage you enter willingly is still, in the end, a cage. Even when she faces a potential nemesis in the form of Sam Euphemia, who suspects the truth of Albert’s business dealings, Maxie keeps her eyes closed, until, finally, she must force them open.

In many ways this novel is about awakenings – Maxie’s own awakening to her needs as a woman, as a wife, as a person – but it’s also about family. The families we are born to, and the families we choose.

It’s an interesting, if quirky, novel. Fast, compelling, and a bit unsettling, but I think that’s the intent.

Goes well with: an ante-pasta plate and red wine.


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Review: The Quintland Sisters, by Shelly Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss The Quintland Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


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

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

Connect with Shelley:

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with tea and strawberry cupcakes. Carnival food.


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Review: Fatality in F, by Alexia Gordon – with Giveaway

bnr-fatalityinf

About the book, Fatality in F: A Gethsemane Brown Mystery

cvrfatalityinfGenre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery

Publisher: Henery Press

Date of Publication: February 26, 2019

Number of Pages: 234

Scroll down for Giveaway.

Fresh from solving her third mystery—and saving Dunmullach’s firstborn males from a vengeful ghost—Gethsemane Brown’s ready to relax and enjoy her summer. Her plans include nothing more dangerous than performing in the opening ceremony of the annual rose and garden show and cheering on Frankie Grennan, who’s entered his hybrid rose into the competition.

 

But when a mysterious stalker starts leaving Frankie floral bouquets as coded messages, Gethsemane fears a copy-cat may be planning to recreate the still-unsolved murders of the infamous Flower Shop Killer. Then Frankie’s main competitor in the rose show—and the reason his marriage failed—turns up dead in Frankie’s rose garden. Frankie takes first prize in the category “prime suspect.”

 

So much for a relaxing summer.

 

As bodies start dropping like rose petals, Gethsemane must judge the other suspects and find the real killer. Or rose bushes won’t be the only things dead-headed in Dunmullach.

Praise for the Gethsemane Brown mystery series:

Book 1, Murder in G Major

Winner of the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel

2016 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel

Suspense magazine “Best of 2016” selection in Debut Novel category

Book 2, Death in D Minor

Runner-Up, 2017 Lone Star Bloggers’ Choice Awards, Best Mystery

Book 3, Killing in C Sharp

Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly, January 29, 2018

Buy, read, and discuss Fatality in F:

Amazon  ┃  Barnes & Noble  ┃  iBooks  ┃  Kobo  ┃ Goodreads


About the author, Alexia Gordon Alexia Gordon

A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in North Chicago, IL. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories

Connect with Alexia:

Website ║ Facebook ║ Instagram  ║BookBub  ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI confess! I didn’t read the first three books in this series. Normally, that’s a no-no in the world of reviews, but Alexia Gordon’s characters are so vivid, and the world they inhabit is so well-drawn that everything I needed to know about Gethsemane Brown that wasn’t spelled out in this novel, Fatality in F, was made clear from context. Seriously, stepping into this series unprepared was NOT a problem, so if you happen to do so, don’t let it it throw you. This book is a fantastic story, and not knowing the backstory doesn’t detract from the experience one whit.

Here’s what’s important to know: Alexia Gordon combines mystery, cozy, romance and a hint of paranormal in the perfect combinations. She has the best-ever setting – a cute Irish town, a rose and garden show, and a private boys school – it’s like she checked every box in some ultimate fantasy combination for all of us who have PBS brains and Hallmark hearts and then put her own spin on it, because nothing is sappy. Music, math, esoteric knowledge of the language of flowers – she manages to make it all fascinating and relevant, and leave you wanting more.

At the heart of it, of course, is Gethsemane Brown. She’s eccentric. She’s brilliant. She’s the kind of person you want to observe from a distance before approaching with caution and then spending an intense afternoon with, trading stories (and shots of whiskey). Better yet, she has male friends who aren’t in competition to be romantic partners. She’s confident and strong without needing a man to complete her, and that’s really refreshing.

Fatality in F is the perfect cure for a gray winter day: a compelling mystery with shots of humor and and whimsy and plenty of grace notes that never fall flat.

Goes well with Irish stew with brown bread and your favorite whiskey.


Giveaway

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One winner receives a signed copy of Fatality in F and 

a $30 Gift Card to David Austin Roses

FEBRUARY 26-MARCH 8, 2019

(US ONLY)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Stops for Fatality in F

 

2/26/19 Sneak Peek Texas Book Lover
2/26/19 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
2/27/19 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/28/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
3/1/19 Top 5 List StoreyBook Reviews
3/1/19 Author Interview Max Knight
3/2/19 Review Bibliotica
3/3/19 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
3/4/19 Top 5 List That’s What She’s Reading
3/4/19 Top 5 List The Love of a Bibliophile
3/5/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
3/6/19 Series Spotlight Kelly Well Read
3/6/19 Excerpt Syd Savvy
3/7/19 Review Forgotten Winds
3/7/19 Review Book Fidelity

 

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Review: The Sisters Hemingway, by Annie England Noblin

The-Sisters-Hemingway-coverAbout the book, The Sisters Hemingway

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 12, 2019)

For fans of Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, or Susan Wiggs, this is a novel for anyone who loves stories about sisters, dogs, and family secrets. 

 The Sisters Hemingway: they couldn’t be more different…or more alike.

The Hemingway Sisters of Cold River, Missouri are local legends. Raised by a mother obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, they were named after the author’s four wives—Hadley, Pfeiffer, Martha, and Mary. The sisters couldn’t be more different—or more alike. Now they’re back in town, reunited to repair their fractured relationships.

Hadley is the poised, polished wife of a senator.

Pfeiffer is a successful New York book editor.

Martha has skyrocketed to Nashville stardom.

They each have a secret—a marriage on the rocks,  a job lost, a stint in rehab…and they haven’t been together in years.

Together, they must stay in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother—and their youngest sister, Mary—they rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that have long seemed broken. With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new—and one endearing and determined Basset Hound—the Sisters Hemingway learn that he happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, waiting to be claimed.

Buy, read, and discuss The Sisters Hemingway:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


AnnieNoblinAbout the author, Annie England Noblin

Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs.

Connect with Annie:

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This book came into my life when I really needed a cozy, gentle novel about family, and that’s what I got. At the same time, though, it’s also an honest look at family, at the secrets we keep from the people we love, and the truths that only those who love us most ever know, often without saying.

With The Sisters Hemingway, author Noblin gives us three separate stories in one novel, though all three eventually converge with a fourth to form a family portrait of courage and heartbreak, and unspoken selflessness.

The actual sisters of the story are all fully formed adults when we meet them, approaching middle age with less stability than they probably wished to have. Martha, the music star, has ended a relationship with someone who diminished her talents and self-worth. Pfeiffer made a stupid mistake that cost her a thriving career, and Hadley is a dutiful wife to a politician. Their fourth sister dies in the prologue – we never know what she would have been as an adult – but she’s still very present in the novel.

What I really loved about this book was the way Noblin showed us that just because you’re an adult, or even middle-aged doesn’t mean you have to be finished or perfect or even know exactly what you want. Rather, we are capable of growth and and change, and finding new love at any age, and for me, someone who is fast approaching the magic age of fifty, that’s something I don’t often see in contemporary fiction, except in mysteries and thrillers.

Noblin’s writing voice is fresh and accessible, her plot is well-paced, and her characters are vividly drawn. I recommend this book highly.

Goes well with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches and homemade chili, with glasses of cold sweet tea.


Visit the other great blogs on this tour: https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Tuesday, February 12th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, February 13th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 14th: Bibliotica

Friday, February 15th: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Monday, February 18th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Tuesday, February 19th: BookNAround

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

Friday, February 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, February 22nd: Literary Quicksand

Monday, February 25th: Instagram: @giuliland

Tuesday, February 26th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 27th: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, February 28th: What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 28th: From the TBR Pile

Review: 99% Mine, by Sally Thorne

99-Percent-Mine-coverAbout  the book, 99 Percent Mine

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (January 29, 2019)

Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game, which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush—if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

Buy, read, and discuss 99% Mine:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sally Thorne Sally-Thorne-AP-Photo-by-Katie-Saarikko

Sally Thorne is the USA Today-bestselling author of The Hating Game. She spends her days climbing into fictional worlds of her own creation. She lives in Canberra, Australia with her husband in a house filled with vintage toys, too many cushions, a haunted dollhouse and the world’s sweetest pug.

Connect with Sally

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

99% Mine was my first introduction to Sally Thorne’s writing, but it was a welcome one, and the perfect antidote for a glum January weekend as I was recovering from oral surgery with characters who are witty, refreshingly real, and unaffected, and also delightfully flawed, just the way real people should be. Main character Darcy, who has a congenital heart defect, is first introduced to us as she’s working as a bartender under an assumed name, where she provides us with this key piece of information: when confronted with any group of men, identify the alpha. She does this with a group of guys who come in to drink, and immediately proves that her power is greater than theirs.

At home, however, author Thorne shows us another side to Darcy – lonely, isolated, and not as together as she seems. When childhood-best-friend Tom Valeska shows up to start the remodel on Darcy’s inherited house (she shares ownership with her twin brother Jamie, whom we meet through phone calls, for the most part) the tenor of the story changes to one of reclaimed friendship with a dash of romantic comedy.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying read, a fresh spin on family dramas mixed with a healthy dose of romance for balance. I found all the characters to be compelling, including the house, which was more than a plot device or a setting, if slightly less than an actual member of the cast. As well, I liked the fact that Loretta, the twin’s dead grandmother was also a sort of character, appearing through memories, references and signs.

While I was aware that author Thorne is Australian, I found it interesting that she chose not to specify the setting of her novel. It could have taken place in any major city in almost any English-speaking country.

Overall, this was an entertaining, fast-paced read.

Goes well with hot pizza and cold beer.


Tour Stops for 99% Mine TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Tuesday, January 29th: Instagram: @worldswithinpages

Wednesday, January 30th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee

Thursday, January 31st: Instagram: @readwithkat

Friday, February 1st: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Saturday, February 2nd: Instagram: @absorbedinpages

Sunday, February 3rd: Instagram: @lavieestbooks

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @katieladyreads

Review Stops

Tuesday, January 29th: The Literary Llama

Wednesday, January 30th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, January 31st: Instagram: @diaryofaclosetreader

Friday, February 1st: Bibliotica

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @laceybooklovers

Tuesday, February 5th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, February 6th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Thursday, February 7th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, February 11th: Instagram: @giuliland

Tuesday, February 12th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Wednesday, February 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 14th: What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 14th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, February 18th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, February 19th: Spinatale Reviews

Wednesday, February 20th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Thursday, February 21st: InkyMoments

Friday, February 22nd: Fuelled by Fiction

 

Review: Learning to See, by Elise Hooper

About the book, Learning to See

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 22, 2019)

Learning-to-See-cover“Written with grace, empathy, and bright imagination, Learning to See gives us the vivid interior life of a remarkably resilient woman. Dorothea Lange’s story is about passion and art, love and family, but also about the sacrifices women make—and have always made—to illuminate the truth of the world.” Danya Kukafka, national bestselling author of Girl in Snow

Learning to See is a gripping account of the Dorothea Lange, the woman behind the camera who risked everything for art, activism, and love. …

In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon.

By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.

At a time when women were supposed to keep the home fires burning, Dorothea Lange, creator of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, dares to be different. But her choices came at a steep price…

Buy, read, and discuss Learning to See:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise-Hooper-AP-Photo-by-Chris-Landry-PhotographyA New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature. The Other Alcott was her first novel.

Connect with Elise:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI come from a long line of amateur photographers, so I’ve long been familiar with the real Dorothea Lange’s work. Reading a fictionalized version of her life, then, was something I was eager to do. Having read and enjoyed author Elise Hooper’s freshman outing, The Other Alcott, I was familiar with her crisp, no-nonsense style, one that makes her extrapolations feel like proper docu-dramas. In this case, I imagined Katharine Hepburn playing the lead character, though I’m not sure why. Possibly because Lange is from the time period that lends itself to that ‘trans-Atlantic’ accent.

I immediately fell in love with both the historic San Francisco setting, and the character at the heart of the novel, the prickly, feisty, determined Lange herself. Like her, I’m a brunette, and hardly a ‘looker,’ and have had to rely on brains and talent (as we all should, really), so I empathized with her a lot. Immediately I was thankful that she was living in a time when women in trousers was finally acceptable – how much easier to hide that ‘withered right leg’ that way.

Of course, it wasn’t just Lange’s struggle to become successful as an artist that intrigued me, but also her perspective on the world. She humanized the American poor, and, equally importantly, turned her lens on our worst selves, documenting the truth of the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Hooper’s novel shows us this, of course, but she also lets us see Lange’s private self: the young mother struggling to raise two children in the Depression-era economy, and balancing the need to make a living with the innate requirement that she must retain her own sense of integrity, both personal and artistic.

This is a novel, not a biography, but it’s a compelling and fascinating read, and where it may err in facts, it resounds with truth.

Goes well with bacon, eggs, pancakes, and a steaming mug of black coffee.


Tour Stops for Learning to See TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @readvoraciously

Wednesday, January 23rd: Instagram: @reading.betweenthewines

Wednesday, January 23rd: Instagram: @katieladyreads

Thursday, January 24th: Instagram: @readingbringsjoy

Thursday, January 24th: Instagram: @basicbsguide

Friday, January 25th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines

Saturday, January 26th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Sunday, January 27th: Instagram: @wellreadmama

Monday, January 28th: Instagram: @ciannereads

Review Stops

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Wednesday, January 23rd: BookNAround

Thursday, January 24th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 25th: InkyMoments

Monday, January 28th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, January 28th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, January 29th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, January 30th: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, January 31st: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Tuesday, February 5th: Doing Dewey

Wednesday, February 6th: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Thursday, February 7th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 8th: 5 Minutes For Books

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

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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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