Spotlight: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, by Hendrika de Vries

WHEN A TOY DOG BECAME A WOLF...About the book: When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew

 

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (August 27, 2019)

Memoirist Embodies Resistance in Nazi-era Title

A nail-biting tale of female strength, spiritual resilience and resistance to evil that is relevant today. You won’t forget this beautifully written story ––Dr. Betsy Cohen, psychoanalyst

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA – In her award-winning memoir When a Toy Dog Become a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew (She Writes Press, August 27, 2019), Hendrika de Vries focuses on the importance of female empowerment. A story of survival and the power of love, courage, and imagination in a time of violent oppression, Hendrika de Vries shows how the bond between mother-daughter is made stronger amidst subversive activities and acts of moral courage.

Born when girls were to be housewives and mothers, a Dutch “daddy’s girl” in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam learns about female empowerment when her father is deported to a POW camp in Germany and her mother joins the Resistance. Freedoms taken for granted are eroded with escalating brutality by men with swastika armbands who aim to exterminate those they deem “inferior” and those who do not obey.

Following de Vries’ journey from child- to woman-hood, When A Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew bears witness to the strength that flourishes despite oppression, the power of women existing beyond cultural gender roles of the time, and shows that memories hold the keys to the betterment of our future. A therapist for over thirty years, de Vries has used her experience healing the trauma of others’ to tap into her childhood memories of Nazi-occupation to empower others to stand up in the face of injustice.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads | She Writes Press


Hendrika de VriesAbout the author, Hendrika de Vries

Author of When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, Hendrika de Vries’ life experiences, from the dark days of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam as a child, through her years as a swimming champion, young wife and mother in Australia, and a move to America in the sixties, have infused her work as a therapist, teacher, and writer. Hendrika holds a BA (with Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Colorado, an MTS (cum laude) in theological studies from Virginia Theological Seminary, and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Connect with Hendrika:

Website | Twitter


Praise for When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew

  • This beautifully crafted memoir reminds us that we are never far from oppression by those who wish to silence us.–– Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness
  • She is a master storyteller. –– Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D.
  • From the first page, DeVries’ book left me holding my breath at what she and her parents went through when the Nazis took over Amsterdam; one of the worst times in western history. When at age five, she lost a comfortable and safe world. DeVries’ storytelling makes this nonfiction book read like a good novel. Readers almost ‘live’ what she and her family experienced and how they rebuilt their life. – Nonfiction Authors Association Book Awards Program

WHEN A TOY DOG BECAME A WOLF...

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

 

Review: Becoming Superman, by J. Michael Straczynski

Becoming-Superman-coverAbout the book, Becoming Superman

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 23, 2019)

Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

“J. Michael Straczynski is, without question, one of the greatest science fiction minds of our time.”   — Max Brooks (World War Z)

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

Joe’s early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past.

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


J.-Michael-Straczynski-AP-Photo-by-Peter-KonerkoAbout J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Connect with J. Michael Straczynski:

Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).
From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman fan, as well, so the combination was an automatic win-win for me, but getting to peek into the brain of someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for so long was a special experience.

Special… and often harrowing. I’m not one to spoil plots. I don’t even typically include a synopsis in my own thoughts, but JMS did not have an easy childhood, and there were moments when I wanted to reach back through the years and give that isolated, odd child a hug.

The moment when he discovered Superman is one I completely understood. My childhood was not nearly so traumatic, but we all have our moments – especially those of us who are geeks, or creators, or both – when something clicks inside us, and we recognize a kinship with something, even if that something is a fictional character in a red suit and tights. Superman is so iconic – is there any American kid who didn’t want to meet him or be him at some point in their life? – but that moment set the tone for the rest of the book, and the rest of this man’s life.

It’s a very honest narrative overall. Straczynski is clearly incredibly self-aware of who he is, where he’s from, and where’s he’s ended up. Like so many gifted people, he’s a little bit broken, but he’s made that work for him – and turned it into a gift for us.

This book isn’t a casual read, but if you’re a fan of JMS’s work, I’d highly recommend it.

Goes well with chicken shawarma and craft beer.


TLC BOOK TOURSReview Stops for Becoming Superman

Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 5th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading

 

Review: Bent But Not Broken, by Don Cummings

Bent-But-Not-Broken-coverAbout the book Bent But Not Broken

• Paperback: 214 pages
• Publisher: Heliotrope Books LLC (March 15, 2019)

Bent But Not Broken is an unflinchingly honest memoir about the onset of Peyronie’s disease, a painful and sexually limiting condition that is estimated to affect more than 5% of the worldwide adult male population. Don Cummings writes humorously about the emotional and collateral damage brought on by a suddenly curved penis as he struggles to maintain his sense of sex and self. He openly details the doctor visits, the excruciating treatments, and the acute anxiety over the state of his long-term relationship with a man who is supportive but often helpless in the face of nature’s whims. Discordant domestic life, a harrowing kidnapping by a handsome stranger, and reminiscences of a hyper-active sexual past are woven into the single-minded quest to minimize the effects of this deforming disorder. Brace yourself for a daring, heartfelt and beautifully twisted story of love and survival.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Don Cummings

DON CUMMINGS is known for his fearless and humorous writing, presented in books, theatre and film. His love-sex-and-health memoir, Bent But not Broken, was released in March, 2019, published by Heliotrope Books. Don Cummings has had short stories published in Cagibi and Epiphany. He often performs his personal essays at venues around the country: Comedy Central’s Sit ‘n Spin, HBO Workspace, Largo, Brooklyn Reading Works, Tell It!, Personal Space and True Story.

His many plays have been produced on both coasts: The Fat of the Land was a semifinalist for the Kaufman & Hart Award for New American Comedy and was published in The Coachella Review. A Good Smoke was a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, had a reading at The Public Theater, directed by Pam MacKinnon, with Meryl Streep, Henry Wolfe, Grace Gummer and Debra Monk, and was optioned for Broadway. Piss Play is About Minorities So It’s Really Important, was produced as part of The New York Cringe Festival where it received the Golden Pineapple Award for best play. The Winner was a finalist for The Heideman Award at the Actors Theater of Louisville and was published in Post Road Magazine. His plays, American Air, Stark Raving Mad, Loose Joints and Feed the Children! have been produced in Los Angeles. Box, starring Mink Stole and Lou Liberatore, was an official selection in the Toronto Independent Film Festival, Dam Short Film Festival, New Filmmakers New York Festival, Twin Rivers Media Festival, and was distributed by Shorts International. Oh the Horror!, a graphic novel about zombies, is now live on Instagram and Tumblr @ohthehorrola.

Don Cummings has often appeared on television—most famously as someone’s favorite snarky waiter on Dharma & Greg—and in film, but more frequently on the stage, having performed in over fifty plays. A graduate of Tufts University with a degree in biology and the two-year acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he spends his days reading, writing, composing music, and helping out other writers. He lives in Los Angeles while adhering to Hawaii’s time zone.

Connect with Don:

Find out more about Don at his website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

When I was approached to review this memoir, I hesitated, not because of the material, but because whenever I review a memoir, I feel a little like I’m sitting in judgement of the author’s life, rather than the specific work. Ultimately, I chose to read and review Bent But Not Broken because I felt Mr. Cummings’s story should be treated with the same respect and sensitivity we give to every woman who writes about dealing with breast cancer. Just because his memoir has to do with a disease of the penis, doesn’t mean we should be blushing and tittering when we talk about it.

I’m honestly glad I read his book.

Don Cummings presents his story with wit and candor and no small amount of grace. After reading his bio, I expected the wit. I did not expect to become so personally engaged with his story. I winced with him when he described his physical pain, and worried with him between doctor appointments. I sympathized when his sex life suffered. And I learned a lot about how men – not all, but certainly some – see their penises as representative of their entire identities.

As open, honest, and informative as this memoir is, however, it’s a hard read. At times Cummings is brutally explicit with us and with himself. His pain – both physical and emotional – is palpable. For that reason, this isn’t the sort of memoir you pick up as a casual read when you’re about to hop a plane. It’s the kind of memoir you read with intent, because you’ve heard of Peyronie’s disease, or you know someone who has it.

Goes well with wine and cheese.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for Bent But Not Broken

Tuesday, April 23rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Wednesday, April 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 25th: BookNAround

Monday, April 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 3rd: Tina Says…

Friday, May 10th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon

Monday, May 13th: Openly Bookish

Tuesday, May 14th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 16th: The Reading Corner For All

Monday, May 20th: BEE+BIRCH

Thursday, May 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Meet the Frugalwoods, by Elizabeth Willard Thames

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss Meet the Frugalwoods:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Elizabeth Willard Thames

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

Follow the Frugalwoods:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tour Stops

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

Wednesday, March 7th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, March 8th: Literary Quicksand

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

Monday, March 12th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 15th: Man of La Book

Monday, March 19th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 21st: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 22nd: Based on a True Story

 

 

Review: Leave Tomorrow, by Dirk Weisiger – with Giveaway

Leave Tomorrow

About the book: Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World

Leave TomorrowScroll down for giveaway.

  • Genre: Memoir / Travel / Inspiration
  • Date of Publication: October 27, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 232

After building a successful business, Dirk Weisiger was ready for something new. But he wasn’t sure what. Maybe a motorcycle adventure, I’ve never done that! 

What followed was a fourteen-month, solo motorcycle journey from Austin, Texas to Ushuaia, Argentina, filled with unexpected adventures, surprises, and lessons about life and travel.

In this book, you’ll not only enjoy Dirk’s adventure and insights, but find inspiration for your own journey.

Praise for Leave Tomorrow

I may not ride a motorcycle to the bottom of the world, but my soul comes alive when I hear about people smashing fear and following their dreams. This book will truly inspire you. –Abigail Irene Fisher, traveler and speaker

Leave Tomorrow is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for a blend of humanity, culture, scary moments with a medicine man, military police, attempts at extortion, and unexpected challenges–along with insightful observations and humor, this book will definitely spark your imagination to “live your own movie.”  –Steve Scott, business coach and author of Wings to Fly

This inspiring and entertaining book is just the tonic needed to get you up out of your chair and ready to “Leave Tomorrow.” –Julie Mundy, Guidebook Author and Travel Blogger, Australia

For everyone thinking of a new adventure, a new life, or even a new venture: DO IT. –Jim Rogers, bestselling author of Investment Biker and Street Smarts 

This is not the first book I’ve read on riding to Ushuaia, but it is probably the most enjoyable. Dirk writes about his experiences in an upbeat manner, taking each experience and each day in perspective. –Muriel Farrington, Ambassador, BMW Motorcycles of America

Buy, read, and discuss Leave Tomorrow

(A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.)

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Dirk Weisiger

Author Pic Dirk_previewDirk Weisiger is a travel trekker, trick roper, and storyteller. He’s the author of the new book, Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World. Dirk has always enjoyed speaking to groups, spinning tales, ropes, and offering lessons he’s learned in adventures of life and business. He’s traveled to five continents and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of all, Dirk loves people and believes that making new friends is the best part of travel.

Connect with Dirk:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I saw the sign up for this blog tour, I begged to be one of the reviewers of Leave Tomorrow, because something about the description spoke to my inner nomad. Now, having read it, I’m glad for the experience, because I enjoyed it on many levels.

First, it’s a fun read, and if you get nothing out of it other than ‘this guy rode  motorcycle from Texas to the end of South America’ you’ll have had an enjoyable experience with this book as a travelogue.

But it’s more than that. It’s a guide for taking the chances most of us think we can’t do, or think we shouldn’t, or just don’t. Sure, some of author Dirk Weisiger’s decisions seem impulsive, but they tend to pay off in rich, organic experiences of the kind that you can’t get from a guidebook or a package tour.

This book spoke to me on yet another level, because my parents emigrated to Baja California Sur, Mexico, about eighteen years ago. Unlike a lot of American ex-pats, they’ve made a point of becoming integrated into their community. Their friends include local Mexicans, Canadian and American snow-birds, and people from a variety of countries (Columbia, Israel, France, Switzerland) who have also chosen to live in a foreign country.

Like my parents, like the author of Leave Tomorrow, I love meeting the people who really live in the countries I visit. I’ve impulsively invited stranded travelers home with me, and I’ve been a traveler invited to a local’s home. Both experiences have their pros and cons, but I would never trade either.

Weisiger’s writing is immediate and accessible. Reading it, you feel like you’re sharing a drink with him, while he’s telling you the story of his latest adventure. You may not decide to leave tomorrow, but you’ll definitely feel inspired to make a change or take a trip in the near future.

Goes well with street tacos and Mexican beer. I like Indio.


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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

2/21/18 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
2/22/18 Guest Post 1 Texas Book Lover
2/23/18 Review Reading by Moonlight
2/24/18 Guest Post 2 Forgotten Winds
2/25/18 Trip Pic Books and Broomsticks
2/26/18 Review Missus Gonzo
2/27/18 Trip Pic A Page Before Bedtime
2/28/18 Guest Post 3 The Librarian Talks
3/1/18 Review Bibliotica
3/2/18 Review The Clueless Gent

 

 

Review: A Recipe for Disaster, by Stephen Phelps – with Giveaway

About the book, A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking up a Big Italian Idea

A Recipe for Disaster is a cookbook, a travelogue and the companion to Cookucina, a six-part TV series available on Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play – see www.cookucina.com .

It’s also the entertaining journey of an Englishman struggling with the ups and downs of living in rural Italy. After giving up a successful career in television, Stephen found himself dragged back into a world he had happily given up when his neighbour, Lia, persuaded him to listen to her Big Idea – making a TV cookery series. But Lia speaks no English.

And Stephen’s partner, Tam, can’t cook. So, much against Stephen’s better judgement, the three of them embarked on a six-part series set among the rolling hills of the little-known, but spectacularly beautiful, Italian region of Le Marche. In the Cookucina TV series Lia teaches Tam to cook alla Marchigiana, while Tam translates. A Recipe for Disaster follows their many encounters with the real Italy – a world away from the picture-book ideal of summer holidays in Tuscany.

As the team try to construct a professional series with no funding they come to rely on the generosity of the Marchigiana people, while attempting to overcome the constant difficulties thrown up by those whose stubborn adherence to their age-old way of life is rooted in their beloved fields and woods. A Recipe for Disaster is a goldmine of simple yet delicious recipes, while peeling back the veneer of television professionalism and opening the door to a world of Italian surprise and delight.

A Recipe for Disaster comes with unique access to Cookucina, the final six-part TV series, so you can see for yourself how the team cracked their problems and (just about) held it all together in a blistering heatwave. Experience this contradictory world of vendettas and kind hearts through the laughter and frustrations of Stephen and the team, as you follow A Recipe for Disaster slowly coming to its surprising fruition.

Buy, read, and discuss A Recipe for Disaster:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | iBooks | SmashWords | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Phelps

Stephen PhelpsEducated at Oxford University, I began working with BBC Radio, moving to BBC TV where I launched Watchdog and produced the investigative legal series Rough Justice. In Hong Kong for BBC World Service Television I oversaw the start of BBC World. I then spent twelve years running my own TV production company, Just Television, specialising in investigative programmes in the field of law, justice and policing. In particular, Trial and Error for Channel 4 which exposed and investigated major miscarriages of justice, winning the Royal Television Society’s inaugural Specialist Journalism Award in 1999. Recently I have been working as a consultant for Aljazeera English on major documentary projects.

In 2002 I took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Writing credits include many plays for BBC Radio, my most recent being a drama documentary for the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Books: The Tizard Mission published by Westholme Publishing in the United States, tells the extraordinary story of how Britain’s top scientists travelled in secret to America in the autumn of 1940 to give away all their wartime secrets to secure US support in WWII. A Recipe for Disaster is a book about living in Italy while trying to make a TV cookery series, Cookucina (now available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.

I have several other books and three screenplays in development.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Medium | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI love travelogues and cookbooks and true stories about people undertaking bold things. Under the Tuscan Sun and Peter Mayle’s Provence series are some of my favorite books in this genre. I read them, and I imagine leaving my cushy suburban lifestyle and relocating to Guadalajara, MX, or somewhere in Scotland.

Agreeing to read and review A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking Up a Big Italian Idea was obviously a no-brainer for me. I expected that I would enjoy Stephen Phelps’ story about living and cooking in Italy, especially when he has a non-cooking partner. (My own partner has a limited repertoire of boxed pudding, soup from the deli, and pasta with pre-made sauce, and I still have to walk him through the latter.)

What I did not expect was to fall in love with the book so hard that I paid the $12 to buy the series from Amazon. What I did not expect was to spend page after page laughing, crying, and drooling over Stephen, Tam, and Lia, the process of making a tv show, the process of learning to cook, and the shared experience of living in such a surreal bubble in time.

Reading this book makes you want to get your grandmother’s recipe box and systematically work through every family favorite you’ve ever known, but it also makes you want to start a restaurant, make a tv show, and learn to cook a new-to-you kind of food, or speak a new-to-you language.

At the same time, makes you want to run far away from all those things because each one has its own frustrations.

Candid, funny, sometimes poignant, A Recipe for Disaster is one tasty piece of fiction.

Goes well with any of the food mentioned in the book with a glass of a good Italian table wine. Need not be fancy. (I really want to make the roasted tomatoes (with breadcrumbs, baked herbs and orange zest).)


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Review: The First Signs of April, by Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

About the book, The First Signs of April

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (September 5, 2017)

The First Signs of AprilWounds fester and spread in the darkness of silence. The swirling reds, oranges, and yellows of fall’s foliage dance alongside Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe like flames as she tears through the winding back roads of the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Desperate to outrun memories that flood her mind, no matter how hard she rolls her motorcycle’s throttle, she cannot escape them.

Shut down and disconnected, Briscoe has lived her life in silence in order to stay alive. Her grief is buried, and shame is the skin that wraps around her bones—but then, following the brutal murder of a local teacher, she is forced as a grief counselor to face her lifetime of unresolved sorrow. Will she finally be able to crack the hard edges of her heart and allow in the light of truth so real healing can occur?

Buy, read, and discuss The First Signs of April

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

Mary-Elizabeth BriscoeMary-Elizabeth Briscoe is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont. She currently spends her time between Cape Cod, Vermont, and Ireland. She has a masters degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lesley University and is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a Certified Trauma Professional. She has been a lecturer for Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies St. Johnsbury, Vermont campus. She has contributed to Cape Woman Online and Sweatpants and Coffee magazine. This is her first book. 

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love memoirs, because I love to peek into other people’s lives, but I often feel weird reviewing them, because in a way, reviewing a memoir is like passing judgement on the writer’s life, rather than just their book.

In this case, I didn’t have that problem, because Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s memoir The First Signs of April, is so well written it feels like reading a novel. Her descriptions are vivid and realistic – I felt like I was on her motorcycle with her, or walking her dog, or any number of other places – and her voice is one of wit and candor mixed with hard-won self-awareness.

I really appreciated the way Briscoe alternated chapters set in the ‘present’ of her memoir – 2014 – with chapters in 2000 and 1982. It really felt cinematic experiencing her story that way, her growing up/coming of age, her early adulthood, and her more contemporary self, and it’s that juxtaposition that really made this book more than just a memoir, but something truly special.

True, there are some very dark moment in Briscoe’s story. There is blood and loss and heartache. Overall, though, I believe that this memoir has a note of hope running through it.

Goes well with sharp cheddar, fresh bread, and a nice red wine.


Tour Schedule:

Sept. 7: Teddy Rose Book Reviews and Plus More (Book Spotlight/Giveaway)
Sept. 20: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Review)
Sept. 28: Debra Smouse (Review)
Oct. 3: Soapy Violinist (Review)
Oct. 4: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 18: The Book Connection (Guest Post)
Oct. 24: Bibliotica (Review)
Nov. 3: Life’s a Stage (Guest Post)
Nov. 4: Readaholic Zone (Review)
Nov. 15: Donna’s Book Reviews (Review)
 

Review: Equal Opportunity Hero by Phil Price

Equal Opportunity Hero

About the book, Equal Opportunity Hero: T.J. Patterson’s Service to West Texas

  • Texas Tech University Press (November, 2017)
  • 277 Pages

Equal Opportunity HeroOn April 7, 1984, T. J. Patterson became the first African American elected to the Lubbock City Council, winning handily over his four opponents. It was a position he would go on to hold for more than twenty years, and his natural leadership would lead him to state and national recognition.

Patterson grew up during a time of American social unrest, protest, and upheaval, and he recounts memorable instances of segregation and integration in West Texas. As a two-year-old, he survived polio when African Americans were excluded from “whites only” hospitals. When he attempted to enroll at Texas Tech after graduating from all-black Bishop College, he was not allowed even to enter the administration building–the president would speak with him only outside, and then only to say Patterson could not be enrolled. Two years later, his aunt would become the first African American to attend Texas Tech.

Patterson spent his whole adult life as a grassroots activist, and as a city councilman he understood how important it was to work in solid partnership with representatives from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of the city. Over the years, Patterson took every opportunity to join African American and Hispanic forces, but with a few exceptions, the traditional geographic divide of the minority population limited his efforts–and yet Patterson never gave up. His brave public marches to homes of known drug dealers brought attention to their undesirable activities. Patterson also supported city investment in Lubbock history and culture, plus new development activity, from annexation to paved roads to water mains to fire stations. During his long career he truly was an equal-opportunity hero for all of Lubbock’s citizens.

Buy, read, and discuss Equal Opportunity Hero:

Purchase | Amazon | Texas Tech University Press | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


About the author, Phil Price

Phil PricePhil Price has been friends with T. J. Patterson for more than twenty years. Now retired, Price was President and CEO of a marketing and design agency. Over the years he has served the Lubbock Independent School District, the Lubbock Better Business Bureau, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, and other city agencies. He lives in Lubbock USA, with his wife, Victoria.

 

 


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs someone who isn’t native to Texas, I always enjoy learning more about the people who helped to form the the state, or who were instrumental in its politics and culture over the decades. T.J. Patterson is one of the latter, and the author, his friend Phil Price, paints a picture of him that is vibrant and interesting, but also extremely real.

I appreciated that this biography was not a dry academic treatise, but a real glimpse into Patterson’s life, from his time at Bishop College (a black college) and beyond, Price shows him to be intelligent, witty, and somewhat self-deprecating, but also extremely self-aware.

Patterson is quoted extensively, to the point where it almost feels like his own voice outshines that of author Price, but maybe that’s how it should be. After all a biographer’s job is not to take the spotlight, but to put their subject in it. And in this book Patterson shines, not only in the glow of his own achievements but in the obvious affection and respect the author has for him.

As the child of activists, and someone who has been involved in her own causes since the age of twelve – not all the same causes, of course – I understand what it is to stand for the things you believe in, and I came away from this book knowing more about Texas, about how the civil rights movement was received in Texas, and about a fundamental player in recent Texas history.

Goes well with a tall glass of sweet tea and a baked potato stuffed with brisket.


CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

10/3 Promo Tangled in Text
10/4 Review Bibliotica
10/5 Promo Missus Gonzo
10/6 Review A Page Before Bedtime
10/7 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
10/8 Promo Texas Book Lover
10/9 Review Hall Ways Blog
10/10 Excerpt Texan Girl Reads
10/11 Review Reading By Moonlight
10/12 Promo Chapter Break Book Blog

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

 

Lone Star Literary Life

Review: It’s Messy, by Amanda de Cadenet

About the book, It’s Messy Its-Messy-cover

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (September 19, 2017)

In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture. Edgy, irreverent, poignant and provocative, It’s Messy addresses the issues, concerns, and experiences relevant to women today.

Buy, read, and discuss It’s Messy:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Amanda de Cadenet

Amanda-de-Cadenet-APAmanda de Cadenet is a creative force with a lifelong career in the media. She began as a host on British television at the age of fifteen and became a sought-after photographer shortly after—as a result her impressive photography career already spans nearly twenty years. She is the youngest woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover and has photographed many of the most influential figures in popular and political culture. As a media entrepreneur, Amanda is the creator of The Conversation, a series that showcases her in-depth interviews on real topics with celebrated women. Whether it’s in conversations with Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Zoe Saldana, Chelsea Handler, or Gwyneth Paltrow, or in discussions with devoted followers of her social channels, Amanda delivers an honest and authentic voice. The series has aired in eighteen countries and is featured online, with over ten million viewers. In January 2016, Amanda conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with presidential candidate Secretary Clinton. In February 2016, Amanda launched #Girlgaze, a digital media company utilizing user submitted content and highlighting the work of  Gen Z women photographers and directors.

Connect with Amanda:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love collections of essays and short stories. You can pick them up and put them down, start from random points, if you’re of a mind to, and leave them in the bathroom for a week, to be read when you’re pretty much a captive audience. When such a collection is good, it hooks you, makes you think, makes you want to phone the author and gush over her words.

It’s Messy was good  – in that way – for me.

The author, Amanda de Cadenet is, like me, a solid GenXer. Okay, she’s British and comes from a famous family, and we had radically different lives, but she has a sensibility I really responded to – to the point where I was following my husband around our house reading bits of her essays out loud.

Here’s what I loved about It’s Messy: It’s candid – it’s candid in the kind of way I wish I was comfortable being. It’s not ha-ha funny, but there’s a wry undertone that runs through even the most poignant of pieces. I responded to that very strongly. And mostly – it’s universal. Sure, the details are specific to the author, but the emotional truths she shares, the life lessons she relates  – those apply to all of us.

I also liked – and this may seem a small thing, but in an age when we are just learning about intersectionality, it’s important – in her introduction she referred to “anyone who identifies as female.” As an ally, that phrase sold me on the entire book.

And, let me be clear, It’s Messy: Essays on Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women, is a great book. I laughed, I cried, I felt like I’d been having a two hundred-ish-page-long conversation with a dear friend, the kind who is insightful and blunt, but also caring.

Because people always want to know what our favorites are, I will call out two of the essays as things I responded to particularly. The first is “Life According to Little Amanda” which is sort of a bio, but a little bit deeper, and slightly less linear. While I’ve never sat down next to a member of Duran Duran and ended up dating him, or spend time in juvie, I know what it is to feel out of place, or like regular life just isn’t working.

The second which I particularly enjoyed despite the fact that I’m not a parent, is “How to Parent in the Time of Trump,” because it’s so very important that we nurture our younger generation but that we’re also honest with them. Many of my friends have kids who are asking the same sorts of questions Amanda’s kids are asking, and I feel like I should make copies of this essay and share it with all of them.

Naah… they all just need the whole book.

Goes well with a tall glass of milk (or your favorite milk-alternative) and a slice of leftover birthday cake.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, August 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, August 28th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, August 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 30th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, August 31st: Book Hooked Blog

Friday, September 1st: The Geeky Bibliophile

Tuesday, September 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 6th: Wining Wife

Thursday, September 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, September 8th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, September 11th: Literary Quicksand

TBD: Books & Tea

Review: My Glory Was I have Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – with Giveaway

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends About the book, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Buy, read, and discuss, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes &  Noble | Goodreads


Amy Silverstein AP Photo by Deborah FeingoldAbout the author, Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Memoirs are always tricky things to review, at least for me, because it feels a little like you’re judging the author’s life, rather than their writing and storytelling skills. In the case of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, though, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, because the writing is so tight, the voice so consistent, and the storytelling so well-paced that it reads like a novel.

Silverstein is candid in telling her story. I haven’t read her previous book, Sick Girl, but I’m guessing her tone was similar in that: upbeat, despite the description of sometimes-grim events, a little bit snarky, a little bit self-deprecating, a lot poignant…

What really struck me, though, is that Silverstein’s book is full of joy.

Obviously when writing a story about life-threatening heart issues and the race between remaining beats in your existing heart and time to be hooked up with a new organ ready for transplant, you’re going to be joyful just for having survived it (spoiler: she lived, and wrote this book). But the sense of joy I felt while reading this was more than that. It was the sense that every friend mentioned in this memoir, these women (including one actually called Joy) who took chunks of their lives to support the author through a harrowing experience, both gave Amy strength and comfort, but also received the same.

It is my hope that most of us will never have to get so close to a ‘premature’ death that we’re not just looking it in the eye, but smelling its foul breath (seriously, does death floss?) , but if we do, we should all be so lucky as to have friends like Amy’s, and like Amy herself, because it’s clear from this memoir that her friendships go both ways.

Goes well with banana pudding with ‘nilla wafers.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Giveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Thursday, July 20th. Winner will be notified by email.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 28th: Becklist

Thursday, June 29th: Tina Says…

Friday, June 30th: Openly Bookish

Monday, July 3rd: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, July 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 6th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 11th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, July 12th: The Desert Bibliophile

Thursday, July 13th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 17th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, July 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, July 19th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 20th: Wining Wife