Review: Old Girls Behaving Badly by Kate Galley

Old Girls Behaving Badly

 

About the book, Old Girls Behaving Badly Old Girls Behaving Badly ebook

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (May 13, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 280 pages

A delightfully heartwarming and funny story that proves it’s never too late to change the habits of a lifetime, perfect for fans of Judy Leigh, Hazel Prior and Maddie Please.

Something old, something new, something stolen…?

Gina Knight is looking forward to the prospect of retirement with her husband of forty-three years. Until, to her surprise, said husband decides he needs to ‘find himself’ – alone – and disappears to Santa Fe, leaving divorce papers in his wake.

Now Gina needs a new role in life, not to mention somewhere to live, so she applies for the position of Companion to elderly Dorothy Reed. At eighty-three, ‘Dot’ needs someone to help her around the house – or at least, her family seems to think so. Her companion’s first role would be to accompany Dot for a week-long extravagant wedding party.

But when Georgina arrives at the large Norfolk estate where the wedding will take place, she quickly discovers Dot has an ulterior motive for hiring her. While the other guests are busy sipping champagne and playing croquet, Dot needs Georgina to help her solve a mystery – about a missing painting, which she believes is hidden somewhere in the house.

Because, after all, who would suspect two old ladies of getting up to mischief?

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About the author, Kate Galley Kate Galley

Kate Galley writes UpLit and Bookclub fiction full of heart and humour. The older generation are at the centre of her stories and are usually wrapped up in a mystery.

She lives with her family in Buckinghamshire and works part time as a mobile hairdresser in the surrounding Chiltern villages.

In her spare time she crochets blankets, knits jumpers and also disappears into her workshop to play with kiln formed glass.

Kate is the author of The Second Chance Holiday Club – which has been optioned for TV – and The Golden Girls’ Road Trip.

Connect with Kate:

Newsletter Signup | BookBub Profile | Facebook | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

There’s a meme going around which reads, “Your time on earth is limited. Don’t try to age with grace. Age with mischief, audacity, and a good story to tell.”  Gina and Dorothy, the two women at the heart of this novel are perfect representations of that thought. Gina is 71 when her husband asks for a divorce and, in an attempt to rebuild her life, answers an ad to be a companion for an older woman. The woman in question, Dorothy, is in her eighties and while her faculties seem fine, she did have a fall that has her children concerned.

What I liked about this novel is that it’s a love story but not in the romantic sense. Rather it’s the story of each of these women learning to love themselves, and the loving friendship they form through the course of the novel, which also has a wedding, business betrayals, adult children having issues about their parents’ divorce, and many other every-day dramas.

Author Kate Galley has given us a pair of vivid central characters, who are refreshingly authentic and timeless in the way the best writing always is. As someone who is inching ever closer to being Gina’s age, I was tickled to see older women portrayed with vitality and curiosity. As someone who lives in Florida, where there is a very large population of retirees, I see such women every day, and both of these characters felt like the same people I sit next to in the nail salon, or are at the next table and whatever lunch spot I take my mother to.

Also worthy of note was the pacing. This  book moved well – it’s  a relatively fast read, but felt much shorter than its 280 (in print) pages, never dragging.

Over all, this is a solid novel, perfect for summer reading, and it kept my interest all the way through.

Goes well with: strawberry shortcake.


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Review: We Burned Our Boats, by Karen Jones Gowen

About the book, We Burned Our Boats We Burned Our Boats

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ WiDo Publishing (January 18, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 306 pages

Bruce and Karen Gowen are facing a retirement that neither one wants. Bruce can’t imagine life without employment. Karen wants change, adventure, a chance to spread her wings and fly away after thirty years of raising their large family.

Their opportunity comes in a way they can both helping their daughter and son-in-law with a hotel project in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Never ones to do anything halfway, the Gowens sell everything, including one of their businesses. What they can’t sell, they give away. With their worldly possessions down to two checked bags and two carry-ons each, they fly one way to Guatemala City. Then on to Panajachel, a tourist town on scenic Lake Atitlan, in the southern highlands of Guatemala.

Here they begin their new life, a time filled with incredible experiences, tough challenges, and unexpected adventure in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. A place where the Maya culture permeates the land. A land and people that will transform anyone fortunate enough to encounter the magic of these hills in Guatemala.

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About the author, Karen Jones Gowen Karen Jones Gowan

Born and raised in central Illinois, Karen attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She transferred to Brigham Young University, where she met her husband Bruce, and there graduated with a degree in English and American Literature.

Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Karen’s writing.


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Many people – me included – fantasize about giving up everything we know and going on a mad adventure in another place. Most of us never do so, but Brian and Karen Gowen did, and their story is chronicled in We Burned Our Boats.

Part adventure-travel memoir, part personal examination, part analysis of a marriage and a life, the Gowens’ story has it all: love, fear, courageous acts, and international intrigue. Okay, maybe more like being intrigued by new customs and habits. It’s an easy read, and very vividly related. Karen’s writing makes you feel like you’re with them on their journey.

I’ve never really considered relocating to Guatemala (my fantasies typically involve Fez or Marrakech), but this book made me almost – almost – consider it.

I recommend We Burned our Boats to anyone who loves memoirs or travel, or travel-memoirs.

Goes well with tostadas and Moza dark lager.

Review: Annie in Paris by Carmen Reid

Annie In Paris

 

About the book, Annie in Paris 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (April 30, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages

Personal shopper Annie Valentine is back! Older and bolder! Annie In Paris

Fashion guru Annie is struggling to cope with her hectic life. With the demands of two older children, plus four-year-old twins, her marriage to Ed is in a romance-free rut and she’s clinging by a couture thread to her job as the nation’s favourite fashion fixer.

And where is Svetlana, her multi-millionaire friend, when Annie needs her? Busy with an expensive mid-life crisis, that’s where!

When Ed gets the chance to teach in Paris, Annie thinks time apart could be the answer. Wrong!

In Paris, Ed transforms into a debonair silver fox, attracting the attentions of stylish siren Sylvie.

Annie can’t lose her man or the job she loves, so bundling her bags, her babies and a reluctant Svetlana onto the Eurostar, she sets off to the rescue. But can the City of Love deliver the ooh la la that her marriage, and her fashion series, so desperately needs?

Another brilliant laugh out loud emotional read, perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson, Tracy Bloom and Sophie Ranald!

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Click to Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Carmen Reid Carmen Reid

Carmen Reid is the bestselling author of numerous woman’s fiction titles including the Personal Shopper series starring Annie Valentine. After taking a break from writing she is back, introducing her hallmark feisty women characters to a new generation of readers. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and children.

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

I’m new to Carmen Reid’s Annie Valentine series, but she provided a helpful character guide at the beginning of the book, which made jumping in at book seven much easier. It’s possible that I would have noticed different details or responded to in-jokes if I were more familiar with the series, but I felt this book, Annie in Paris, was perfectly enjoyable as a stand-alone.

I really loved that Annie is the working mother of young twins plus older children, and that we get to see the very real (if humor-injected) struggle of managing work and family.  I also appreciated that Annie is, essentially, a problem-solver, even though some of her solutions are over the top.

The ultimate example of this is, of course, the premise of the novel itself: when her husband, who is off in Paris on a work trip, is photographed sitting a little too close to his female colleague, Annie arranges for childcare, calls her producers (she’s a tv host) and goes to Paris herself.

Added to the mix is Annie’s close friend, Svetlana, who is feeling age creeping a bit to close – she joins the chaos in France as well, getting a much needed wardrobe update in the process.

Author Reid has given us some serious subjects in this book – fidelity (or lack thereof), aging, work/life-balance – but she wraps everything with the perfect combination of poignance and organic humor.

Overall, this is a lovely story, the perfect read for summer.

Goes well with: warm croissants, fresh strawberries, and café au lait.


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Review: Just a Hat by Shanah Khubiar

BNR Just a Hat

 

About the book, Just a Hat Cover Just a Hat

  • Genre: Young Adult / Coming of Age / Jewish Fiction / Small-Town Texas / 1970s
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • Page Count: 254
  • Publication Date: July 18, 2023
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Action-packed, humorous, and bittersweet, this 1970s-era coming-of-age novel is more relevant than ever–exploring how a second-generation immigrant kid in a new hometown must navigate bullying, unexpected friendships, and the struggle of keeping both feet firmly planted in two very different cultures.

It’s 1979, and thirteen-year-old Joseph Nissan can’t help but notice that small-town Texas has something in common with Revolution-era Iran: an absence of fellow Jews. And in such a small town it seems obvious that a brown kid like him was bound to make friends with Latinos–which is a plus, since his new buds, the Ybarra twins, have his back. But when the Iran hostage crisis, two neighborhood bullies, and the local reverend’s beautiful daughter put him in all sorts of danger, Joseph must find new ways to cope at home and at school.

As he struggles to trust others and stay true to himself, a fiercely guarded family secret keeps his father at a distance, and even his piano teacher, Miss Eleanor–who is like a grandmother to him–can’t always protect him. But Joseph is not alone, and with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to confront his fears and discovers he can inspire others to find their courage, too.

Just a Hat is an authentically one-of-a-kind YA debut that fuses the humor of Firoozeh Dumas’s Funny in Farsi with the poignancy of Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad Is Untrue.

This book comes with an Educator’s Guide.

Click here to download your free educator’s guide.

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About the author, Shanah Khubiar Author Photo Khubiar

Shanah Khubiar is a retired law enforcement officer, and she is now self-employed as a subject matter specialist. She holds a BS and MEd in education from East Texas State University and a PhD in philosophy.

A student of her Persian ancestry, she incorporates (Mizrachi) Middle Eastern Jewry into her fiction, examining the historical challenges and triumphs of a different culture and narrative than what usually appears in literature. Khubiar is a sometime resident and always fan of most things Texas.

Connect with Shanah:

Website | GoodReads | Amazon | BookBub | X (Twitter) | Blackstone Publishing


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Shanah Khubiar’s new young adult novel, Just a Hat is a brilliant, sometimes discomfiting, portrayal of what it’s like to be “other” in America.

Set in the Texas of the late 1970s, with the Iran hostage crisis as its background, this story introduces us to teenaged Joseph (Youssef) Nissan, the only Jewish-Iranian boy in his class. We walk with him as he navigates the cultural differences he experiences – he’s brown skinned, so gets along with the Mexican boys, especially Roberto and Mateo who are both friends and defenders, but he’s not Latino. He’s Persian. He’s a piano student but practicing on Shabat is considered “work” and therefore disallowed. And then there’s the whole thing about not being allowed to touch girls, even casually. It’s a lot to handle when you’ve got feet in different worlds – the secular world at large, and the closer, religious world of his family.

As someone who is not Jewish, but sort of Jewish-adjacent (my stepfather was Jewish, and his mother, my Bubbie, was a special person in my life) I found the glimpses of Iranian Jewish traditions particularly interesting. I’m familiar with eastern-European (Ashkenazi) traditions, and have been recently learning more about Iberian (Sephardic) traditions, but it’s my understanding that most Iranian Jews are actually Mizrahi, and the specifics were new to me.

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What I loved was the relationship Joseph had with Miss Eleanor – LaLa – the elderly piano teacher whom he helps out by buying groceries and other household tasks. I also appreciated that Joseph and his Baba – his father – managed to work through family history and family secrets and end up with a closer relationship after tackling difficult subjects.

The title can be taken literally – the different hats Joseph wears include his kippah (yarmulke) and his football helmet. But it also works as a metaphor, representing the different “hats” we all wear, – the roles we have in life – including those we use in order to hide our true selves for whatever reason.

Overall, I found this to be a very moving story, with interesting characters, and a well-paced coming-of-age plot. At times very serious, because it deals with fear, racism, and antisemitism, it’s also heartfelt and full of humor – the kind that comes from real life.

Goes well with: peach sharbet.


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Review: Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond by Dean Butler

I recently had the chance to read the digital ARC of Dean Butler’s forthcoming book, Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond.  As someone who grew up watching the series (it was appointment viewing for our family) and eventually married a real Prairie Man of my own, I was excited to read this book. Thanks to Kensington Publishing Corp. and NetGalley for the opportunity.

About the book, Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond Prairie Man Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Citadel (June 25, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages

An illuminating, insider’s journey through the world of Little House on the Prairie and beyond, from Dean Butler, who starred as Almanzo Wilder, the man Laura “Half Pint” Ingalls married—on the iconic show still beloved by millions of fans as it reaches its 50th anniversary.

With a foreword from Melissa Gilbert (Laura) and Alison Arngrim (Nellie)!

Cast just before his twenty-third birthday, Dean Butler joined Little House on the Prairie halfway through its run, gaining instant celebrity and fans’ enduring affection. Ironically, when the late, great Michael Landon remarked that Little House would outlive everyone involved in making it, Butler deemed it unlikely. Yet for four decades and counting, Butler has been defined in the public eye as Almanzo Wilder—a role he views as the great gift of his life.

Butler had been cast as a romantic lead before, notably in the made-for-TV movie of Judy Blume’s Forever, opposite Stephanie Zimbalist. But Little House was, and remains, one of the most treasured shows in television history. As the eventual husband of Laura “Half-pint” Ingalls—and the man who would share actress Melissa Gilbert’s first real-life romantic kiss—Butler landed as a central figure for the show’s devoted fans.

Now, with wit and candor, Butler recounts his passage through the Prairie, sharing stories and anecdotes of the remarkable cast who were his on-screen family. But that was merely the beginning of a diverse career that includes Broadway runs and roles on two other classic shows—Moondoggie in The New Gidget and Buffy’s ne’er-do-well father, Hank, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Coming of age during a golden era of entertainment, Butler has evolved along with it, and today enjoys success and fulfillment as a director and producer—notably of NBC Golf’s Feherty—while remaining deeply loyal to Little House.

The warmth, heart, and decency that fans of Laura and Almanzo fell in love with on Little House echo through this uplifting memoir, a story, in Butler’s words, about “good luck, good television, and the very good—if gloriously imperfect—people who made it so.”

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About the author, Dean Butler Dean Butler by Michael Roud(1)

Dean Butler is an actor, writer, director, and producer best known to television audiences all over the world for his portrayal of Almanzo Wilder on the long‑running series Little House on the Prairie, based on the iconic Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. On the other side of the camera Dean produced 80 episodes over 10 seasons of NBC Golf Channel’s Emmy nominated series, Feherty. Dean currently lives with his family in California.

Connect with Dean:

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

As a lifelong fan of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder (though my first loyalty is to the books), the television show Little House on the Prairie was an important part of my childhood, partly because I share a first name with two of the leads, and partly because I have fond memories of watching it with my mother. (I was born in 1970 -years before the show – so, no, I was NOT named after either of those two famous Melissas). I remember being giddy with joy when the character of Almanzo Wilder was finally added to the show, and, as I’ve shared with more than one person, I remember getting permission from my mother to do my homework in front of the TV (during commercials) so I wouldn’t miss a minute of the two-part episode where Laura and her “Manly” get married.

Needless to say, I’ve read all of the memoirs from various cast members, all women – until now – and I was excited to learn about this memoir.

I was not disappointed. Author Dean Butler is honest in the way he shares his story, and the tone is down to earth. Early in the text he mentions that a common attitude in his family is that of “modest pride,” and that really fits Butler – at least as he portrays himself here – perfectly.

If you’re expecting a salacious tell-all, this is not the book for you. Butler says himself that not all stories need to be told. So when discussing the relationship that ended in his first marriage, he withholds the woman’s name. I respect him for that.  He’s not a saint. He’s made human mistakes and has human flaws. And yet, he’s one of the good guys.

A through-line of Butler’s story is that his role as an actor -and in life – is to be the guy who supports a young actress, and it’s a role he’s particularly good at. From Forever (yes, there was a movie based on Judy Blume’s infamous young adult novel), to Little House, to The New Gidget, and even to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Dean made his name as the good guy the heroine could count on. (We don’t count the nightmare version of Hank Summers – that was fiction within fiction.)

When his career turned from being in front of the cameras to being a documentarian, writing, narrating, producing, and editing, it seems as if Butler found his true niche. He’s been a champion of the real Almanzo Wilder’s story, carried the torch for the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy, and become half the heart of contemporary Little House fandom (Alison Arngrim is the other half).  He spent years producing a talk show for the Golf Channel. He comes across as a thoughtful, self-aware man who has access to an incredible platform, and uses it for good.

They say that you should never meet your heroes. Butler himself recounts more than one encounter with someone he admired that did not go well. I haven’t met him, but if this book is anything to judge by, Dean Butler is exactly the person he seems to be. If you want to read a memoir that will shock you with secrets and harsh truths, go read anything Carrie Fisher wrote – she was candid and hilarious in her writing. If you want a fairly accurate portrait of one of Hollywood’s genuine “nice guys,” especially if you’re a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you’ll find Prairie Man a satisfying read.

Goes well with: cinnamon chicken (but personally I prefer shawarma).

 

 

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons by Sybrina Durant

BNR Magical Elements...Dragons

 

About the book, Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons  Cover Magical Elements Dragons

  • Series: Magical Elements of the Periodic Table, Book 2
  • Genre: Children’s Picture Book / STEM / Chemistry
  • Publisher: Sybrina Publishing
  • Page Count: 44
  • Publication Date: March 9, 2024
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

In this unique alphabet book, members of the Elemental Dragon Clan present 26 Magical Elements of the Periodic Table in alphabetical order. Each member of the clan has an element tipped tail. They also have magical powers based on the properties of their metals. There are no more perfect groups than unicorns and dragons to familiarize yourself with elements from the Periodic Table. Their theme is: “No Metal — No Magic. . .and No Technology.”

In this book, Antz starts out the book by introducing the very necessary metal, Antimony on his element page. Zora rounds out the alphabet by presenting scientific facts and other fun information about the metal, Zirconium, on her elemental page. In all, readers will get some great insight into the properties of 26 elements from the periodic table. Each page is full of amazing facts and tons of FUN. There’s a Magical Elemental themed periodic table, too!

This unique book will help tweens, teens and anyone else quickly absorb the elements of the Periodic Table.

REMEMBER. . .
No Metal,
No Magic…
And No Technology.
It’s Techno-Magical!

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Paperback eBook Hardcover | Goodreads


About the Author, Sybrina Durant Author Photo Durant

Sybrina Durant is a unicorn author and entrepreneur. In addition to books, she offers unicorn-themed activities, t-shirts, and more. Plus, she has pulled together a collection of nearly all the unicorn books available today from hundreds of authors. They are categorized on her website by Little Kid, Middle Kid, and Teen Unicorn Books.

Connect with Sybrina:

Website | Newsletter |  Facebook | LinkedIn | Amazon | Instagram | X (Twitter) | Pinterest | Goodreads | BookBub | LibraryThing


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons is the second book in the Magical Elements series. It is not necessary to have read the first one to appreciate this volume.

 

Aimed at kids in the middle grades, this book provides an in-depth look at 26 elements of the periodic table (well, really 25 plus an isotope) each presented by a magical dragon whose name shares the element’s first initial and whose power is defined by what the element does. It’s a clever way of disseminating real information without making it seem intimidating or overwhelming.

 

As a fantasy fan myself, I appreciated the artwork and the use of magic and dragons to make learning the elements more fun. I loved that they each had a unique look and personality. As a science geek, I enjoyed that the author gave some practical uses for each element.

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Also worthy of note is the glossary of terms in the back of the book, and the links to the publisher’s archive of enrichment activities for teachers who use this book in their classrooms.

 

Overall, this is a great way of introducing kids to chemical elements, and I’m a bit envious = where was this when I was in middle school?

 

Goes well with: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut in triangles, and chocolate milk.


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Review: A Kiss in Kashmir by Monica Saigal

A Kiss in Kashmir

 

About the book, A Kiss in Kashmir A Kiss. in Kashmir by Monica Saigal

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bodes Well Publishing (January 1, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 236 pages

Sharmila, a painter entering the autumn of her life, had gently set aside hopes of love after a heart-wrenching loss. In Kashmir to orchestrate her daughter Alina’s wedding, Sharmila never anticipated that the universe was crafting a different plan—one of second chances and unexpected love.

She crosses paths with George, a professor of Indian art history and a kindred spirit bearing the weight of lost love. Together, they explore Kashmir’s lush valleys, snow-draped mountains, clear lakes, and ancient shrines. A fragile romance quietly blossoms, gently guiding their hearts toward a future neither dared to dream of.

Is it possible for a single glance to kindle a connection, or for one to find a soulmate twice?
Yet, as their burgeoning love blooms, a startling revelation threatens to cut their story short. With the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir as its canvas, “A Kiss in Kashmir” is a touching story of love, loss, and second chances.

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About the author, Monica Saigal Monica Saigal 01

Equal parts storyteller and globe-trotter, Monica Saigal (Bhide), is an award-winning author, accomplished literary coach, and educator who transcends countless borders—chronological, geographical, religious, and economical—to inspire her readers. Born in New Delhi, raised in the Middle East, and now residing outside Washington, D.C., she currently serves as a corporate storyteller for one of the world’s leading professional services companies.

 

Monica writes in a variety of genres and has written best-selling short story collections and heartwarming love stories, as well as acclaimed memoirs and cookbooks—Eat Your Books chose Monica’s memoir, A Life of Spice as one of the top five food memoirs of 2015 and Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi picked Monica’s Modern Spice as one of the “Best Books Ever” for Newsweek in 2009. Her novel, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken, is a book club favorite and inspired the NPR café in Washington, D.C., to serve up creations inspired by her protagonist chef. Her much anticipated upcoming novel, A Kiss in Kashmir will be released in February 2024.

Connect with Monica:

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

There are so many words I can think of to describe A Kiss in Kashmir: magical, beautiful, colorful, soulful, tender.  Using the titular Kashmir as the setting, author Saigal has immersed the reading in the colors and culture of the region while spinning a believable romance between mature adults.

Art is a key theme, but also the way life’s sadnesses are balanced by joy. The central event in this story a wedding, but it’s the mother of the bride, Sharmila the painter, who is the primary figure in the composition. When she meets George, who teaches Indian art history, she finds a kindred spirit, and a second chance at love in the latter half of her life.

I liked the way Saigal balanced the art and history, the male and female, the old and young, in this story. I appreciated the way art wasn’t just something characters talked about, but something they lived. I wanted to step inside one of Sharmila’s paintings just so I would have a better view of her life.

Saigal’s writing style is also worthy of note. It begins with simple sentences, but they grow in complexity, becoming almost lyrical as the story unfolds. Unexpectedly, this novel was a quick read for me – it felt so fluid that I didn’t realize how much I was speeding through it, until, as sometimes happens with very vivid stories, I came to the end and felt myself having to readjust to my own world.

Overall, this is a deeply satisfying novel with excellent characters and rich storytelling.

Goes well with: fish curry and rice.

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Review: A Beggar’s Bargain, by Jan Sikes – with Giveaway

BNR A Beggar's Bargain

 

About the book, A Beggar’s Bargain

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
  • Publisher: Fresh Ink Group
  • Date of Publication: March 12, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 324 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover A Beggar's BargainA shocking proposal that changes everything

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and for time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger.

If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

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About the author, Jan Sikes Author Photo Sikes

Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

 

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, although she’s been an avid reader all her life. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale that encompasses four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

 

And now, this author can’t put down the pen. She continues to write fiction in a variety of genres and has published many award-winning short stories and novels.

 

Jan is an active blogger, a member of Story Empire, a devoted fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.

Connect with Jan:

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

While I’m not typically a fan of the forced marriage trope, I am familiar with author Jan Sikes’s work, and trust her ability to tell a good story, so I gave A Beggar’s Bargain a chance, and I’m so glad I did. From the first page to the last, this book is a tender, honest, period piece that shows the real meaning of “chosen family” and the strength behind such creations.

 

I found myself completely absorbed by Laykin and Sara Beth’s story – how they formed a partnership, then welcomed ‘Uncle Seymour’ into their home to become a team, adding stray humans and animals as they went along, showing that kindness is a universal quality, and trust can be restored even after it’s been lost.

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Sikes’s language in this book is plain, but not simple, and while the details of this story were definitely gritty, with challenges and villains that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic western, the way she made everyday people seem special and interesting reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder – if the Little House books had been written for an adult audience.

 

Maybe, then, Jan Sikes is one of Wilder’s spiritual successors, because this tale about a Little Farmhouse in Missouri has the makings of a classic. It’s also the first book in a series, and I’m excited to learn what happens next.

 

Goes well with cold tea and warm cornbread… or coffee and homemade chocolate cake.


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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly:

 

04/09/24 Forgotten Winds Guest Post
04/09/24 Hall Ways Blog Book Trailer
04/10/24 The Clueless Gent Review
04/10/24 LSBBT Blog Excerpt
04/11/24 The Book’s Delight Review
04/12/24 The Page Unbound Author Interview
04/13/24 Bibliotica Review
04/14/24 StoreyBook Reviews Top Ten List
04/15/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
04/16/24 The Real World According to Sam Excerpt
04/17/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
04/18/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review

 

 

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Review & Giveaway: The Desk from Hoboken, by ML Condike

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About the book, The Desk from Hoboken Cover The Desk from Hoboken

  • A Genealogy Mystery #1
  • Genre: Mystery / Women Sleuths / Forensic Genealogy
  • Publisher: Harbor Lane Books, LLC
  • Date of Publication: March 5, 2024
  • Number of Pages: 446 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

After a personal loss, forensic genealogist RaeJean Hunter accepts what she believes is a straightforward case to ease back into the game: a student at Connecticut College has found human remains on the school campus. The College hires RaeJean to confirm their tentative identification that it’s a woman named Mary Rogers, whose cause of death has never been determined.

 

Unfortunately, it becomes downright dangerous. Someone thwarts her investigation of the same case that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” Still, she meets relatives, some helpful and others not, amid escalating threats. Using her skills, including DNA analysis, historical records research, genealogy mapping, and guidance from a mystical antique desk, she follows every clue.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the author, ML Condike Author Photo Condike

ML Condike’s novel, The Desk from Hoboken, is the first in a genealogy mystery three-book series.

She also has short stories published in five anthologies. ML Condike completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path in Dallas in 2019 and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime North Dallas, Granbury Writers’ Bloc, and Key West Writers Guild.

Connect with ML:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn/a> | Amazon | GoodReads | X (Twitter)


My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

The Desk from Hoboken is fiction, but it has a similar feel to the James Burke show Connections, the one where he connects dots through history from conch shells to the creation of the Internet. The mystery in this first entry into ML Condike’s new series also connects dots – from exhumed remains to a Poe short story to backroom abortions in the early 20th century, and, yes, to an antique desk, using forensic genealogy as its main method.

 

RaeJean Hunter, said genealogist, and her husband Sam, an antiquities appraiser, are the sleuthing team at the heart of the story, and they’re a delightful couple. RaeJean is just getting back to work after a miscarriage that triggered severe depression, and she takes the case of identifying said remains thinking it will be easy – strawberries, as she puts it.

 

What unfolds is a compelling tale of intrigue – family secrets, cover-ups, a mysterious client, and a race to piece together all the clues before an obsessed relative of the deceased has them seized or destroyed. To keep things topical there’s also a subplot about human trafficking.

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I am not exaggerating when I say I devoured this novel. I loved RaeJean’s sensibility and no-nonsense attitude. I shared her love of simple food – a well-cooked burger and a cold beer. I really appreciated the little details author Condike included in the story – RaeJean’s original desk is a hollow-core door – I know sooooo many writers and academics who used the same sorts of things for years. (My own desk is a vintage library table – not much fancier.) I also enjoyed following the process of investigation and the need to find three primary sources.

 

The supporting cast – especially RaeJean’s sister Caitlin, her colleague Claire, and her friend Grace who works for the FBI – are all well drawn, and I’m hoping at least two of them show up in future books in this series. Worth mentioning is Sophie the corgi, who lit up the pages she was on.

 

The character of Lillian Baker, who looks a lot like Betty White, but has a conniving soul, made a brilliant foil and turned the “nice old lady” stereotype on its head.

 

Overall, I felt that the story was well-paced and the blend of the mystery with RaeJean’s emotional state was in balance. Her personal story added to the total experience of the novel, and lent color to the mystery, without ever overpowering it.

If you love a good mystery with undercurrents of real history and strong female characters, The Desk from Hoboken is the book for you.

 

Goes well with Chinese spareribs and won ton soup.


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1st: signed paperback + Corgi plush toy

2nd: signed paperback + $25 Amazon gift card

3rd: choice of $25 gift card OR signed paperback

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page for direct links to each post on this tour, or visit each blog directly.

 

03/19/24 Rainy Days with Amanda Review
03/19/24 Hall Ways Blog BONUS Stop
03/20/24 It’s Not All Gravy Review
03/20/24 LSBBT Blog BONUS Stop
03/21/24 StoreyBook Reviews Review
03/21/24 Boys’ Mom Reads Review
03/22/24 JennCaffeinated Review
03/22/24 Chapter Break Book Blog BONUS Stop
03/23/24 The Real World According to Sam Review
03/24/24 The Page Unbound Review
03/25/24 Rox Burkey Blog Review
03/26/24 Book Fidelity Review
03/26/24 The Book’s Delight Review
03/27/24 The Clueless Gent Review
03/27/24 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
03/28/24 Jennie Reads Review
03/28/24 Bibliotica Review

 

 

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Review & Giveaway: Amethyst, The Shallows, by Kellye Abernathy

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About the book, Amethyst, The Shallows

  • Genre: YA / Magical Realism / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 296 pages
  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

“This is a night for being brave.”

In the aftermath of a devastating sickness that shatters their close-knit beach town, six lonely kids are drawn together during the unpredictable autumn equinox. Among them are fourteen-year-old Lorelei, who yearns to be an oceanographer, and her peculiar younger brother, Tad, who possesses an otherworldly curiosity.

When Lorelei has a strange and almost deadly encounter in a sea cave, her loyal boyfriend, Casey, cannot reconcile her fantastical experience with the rational world. Condi, Lorelei’s best friend, understands ocean magic but isn’t free to share what she knows. Kait, a girl from Ireland, regrets her impulsive move to America–all because of an odd occurrence involving her deceased boyfriend’s lost surfboard. When tides turn and the moon shifts, Isaac, the new kid in town who despises the ocean, is forced to face the truth–a profound and powerful magic lives in the deep.

Guided by a wise surf master, mystical old women known as the Beachlings, and an open-hearted grandmother, six kids embark on transformative adventures that challenge their beliefs about possibilities and the intense nature of love.

Amethyst, the Shallows is the companion novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, Kellye Abernathy author photo Abernathy

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

Connect with Kellye:

Website | InstagramX (Twitter) | FacebookGoodreads | Amazon

 

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My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

This second book in the Yellow Cottage series opens with the coastal community of Dipitous Beach  still reeling in the aftermath of the Sickness, which felt very much like an analog for Covid, though it’s presented as something with mysterious origins.

 

Returning and new characters reflect what was like for young people during a statewide lockdown, maintaining friendships through digital communications, and suffering through the closure of beaches. It’s appropriate then, that the story begins on the day the beaches reopen.

 

This story continues from The Aquamarine Surfboard,  but the focus shifts somewhat. Condi, from the first book, is still present, but this story focuses on Lorelai, and also brings in her younger brother Tad, who is neurodivergent. His presence is just part of the way author Kellye Abernathy has addressed mental health issues, including anxiety and depression in this story – weaving them into the narrative as the very normal parts of life that they are, and doing so with grace and understanding.

 

Of course, surfing and the sea are still prominent in the story, and we not only get to spend more time with the Beachlings, a group of elderly women who live near (or on) the beach (I want to be one of them when I’m older), and an octopus who embodies wisdom.

 

As with the previous installment of this series, Abernathy blends fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism into a cohesive whole, leaving you with the scent of salt air and the feeling of having spent time in the water.

 

While this book is best appreciated if you’ve read the previous one, it also stands alone quite well. Overall, it’s an enchanting tale of friendship and community with other humans and the sea.

 

Goes well with: mahi tacos and pineapple-mango salsa.


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receive autographed two-book sets

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