Review: Searching for Pilar by Patricia Hunt Holmes – with Giveaway

Searching for Pilar

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About the book, Searching for Pilar Searching for Pilar

  • Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
  • Publisher: River Grove Books
  • Publication Date: April 10, 2018
  • Number of Pages: 320 pages

Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking, while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.

Buy, read, and discuss Searching for Pilar:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Hunt Holmes

Patricia Hunt HolmesPatricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

Connect with Patricia:

Website  ║  Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads ║ LinkedIn


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With gritty subject matter – sex trafficking – at the heart of this novel, it was by no means an easy read, and I’m hesitant to say that I liked it, because, in terms of what Pilar suffered, I didn’t like it at all.

However, the fact that I even had to pause and think about what I was liking is testament to author Patricia Hunt Holmes’s talent as a storyteller. She create such a strong character in Pilar, and such a vibrant and rich (if often sinister and cold) world for her to occupy, that the story itself was gripping, and I stayed up far too late to read to the end, because I couldn’t let the story go unfinished.

What I really liked about Searching for Pilar was the author’s sense of place. Mexico scenes felt like Mexico, and Houston felt like Houston. That level of detail really made the novel feel real – too real, in places – but these are stories we need to hear, this is an awareness we need to have.

Author Holmes gives us a compelling, ultimately brilliant story about a horrible practice, but she does it with care and grace and considerable talent.

Goes well with a chicken quesadilla with mango salsa, and a margarita on the rocks.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS! 

1st & 2nd Prizes: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + Mexican Necklace

3rd Prize: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + $20 Amazon Gift Card

(U.S. Only)

Searching for Pilar Giveaway

 

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Searching for Pilar Blog Tour Stops

4/25/18 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
4/26/18 Review Momma on the Rocks
4/27/18 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
4/28/18 Review Tangled in Text
4/29/18 Guest Post The Page Unbound
4/30/18 Scrapbook Page That’s What She’s Reading
5/1/18 Review Bibliotica
5/2/18 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
5/3/18 Guest Post The Librarian Talks
5/4/18 Review Missus Gonzo

 

 

 

Review: The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, by J. Reeder Archuleta – with Giveaway

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

About the book, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories

El Paso Red Flame Gas Station

  • Genre: Fiction /Short Stories / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
  • Date of Publication: December 8, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 132

These short stories are about coming of age in rural far West Texas.  The stories are about the people who have come to stay in a remote part of Texas with a climate that can be harsh and unpredictable and that is demanding and unforgiving.  The stories are told through the eyes of Josh, a young boy, who finds himself alone in a small farm and ranch community and who realizes that he will have to make his own way in this place.  Along the way he meets a group of characters with different takes on life.  Some try to help shield him from the chaos of the world, some try to add more chaos. But all of them, in their own distinct way, through jobs, advice, or actions, play a part in his life.

Praise for The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

“Punchy, plainspoken dialogue…colorful and charismatic characters…The result is an atmospheric Texas…reminiscent of Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The universality of Josh’s journey gives it a timeless quality…a rich tapestry…The stories are conveyed in lean, elegant prose reminiscent of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy” — Blue Ink Review

“Archuleta’s collection offers poignant and hopeful stories of determination in the face of need. Thoroughly engaging…narrated with passion and eloquence…” — The Clarion Review       

Buy, read, and discuss The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, J. Reeder Archuleta J Reeder Archuleta

The author was raised in far West Texas and five generations of his family are in their final resting place there.  His great-grandfather is buried in Concordia Cemetery in El Paso within spitting distance of the grave of John Wesley Hardin.

Connect with J. Reeder:

Website | Amazon Author Page


My Thoughts

I love short stories. I love how much talent and skill it takes to tell a whole story in a relatively few words. I love the way they force writers to distill their ideas to the most important, the most vivid, the most visceral.

This collection of short stories by J. Reeder Archuleta, The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station and Other Stories, is one of the best representatives of this art that I’ve seen from a contemporary author. Archuleta is specific with regard to detail – brands of whisky, kinds of beer, types of toys. His use of language is earthy and real, as gritty as the air during a windstorm on the plains. His dialogue makes you really see his characters.

I liked the way the young boy Josh, whom we meet in the first selection in this book, becomes the POV character, the thread that ties all the stories together. From the first time we see him, scared and young, being pulled away from the life he knows by is desperate mother, through the entire collection, we seem grow and change, and yet, because this isn’t a novel, it’s possible that he isn’t exactly the same Josh, that rather, he’s reflections of the original, each incarnation slightly different from the previous and the next.

I’ve lived in Texas for nearly fourteen years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere, but I don’t really know Texas. There’s so much of it I haven’t seen, certainly, except for when we drove through to Dallas from California, I’ve never experienced West Texas, and yet, from time spent in Colorado as a child, and South Dakota as a young wife, I feel a kind of kinship with the landscape Archuleta describes.

I went into this book afraid I might be turned off, and was surprised to find that I really connected with the easy storytelling and honest portrayals of real-seeming people.

Archuleta is a modern Hemingway. A Texas treasure. And these stories? They should be shared as far and wide as possible.

Goes well with: barbecued brisket and cold beer.


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A SIGNED COPY OF THE EL PASO RED FLAME GAS STATION +

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APRIL 17-26, 2018

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Visit the other great blogs on this tour

4/17/18 Promo The Page Unbound
4/17/18 Bonus Post Hall Ways Blog
4/18/18 Review Books and Broomsticks
4/19/18 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
4/20/18 Review Forgotten Winds
4/21/18 Excerpt Book Fidelity
4/22/18 Promo The Love of a Bibliophile
4/23/18 Review StoreyBook Reviews
4/24/18 Notable Quotable The Clueless Gent
4/25/18 Character Interview That’s What She’s Reading
4/26/18 Review Bibliotica

 

Review: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

About the book, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

 

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 24, 2018)

Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s coming-of-age story is, according to Booklist, “a novel that, if it doesn’t cross entirely over into John Irving territory, certainly nestles in close to the border.”

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

Buy, read and discuss The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Dugoni Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, including My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, The Trapped Girl, and Close to Home. The Crosswhite Series has sold more than 2,500,000 books worldwide, and My Sister’s Grave has been optioned for television series development. Dugoni is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane series, which includes The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction; the stand-alone novels The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, The 7th Canon, and Damage Control; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; as well as several short stories. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for both the International Thriller Award and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award. His books are sold worldwide in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages, including French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Connect with Robert:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve read several of Robert Dugoni’s novels, and enjoyed all of them, so when I was given the chance to read this novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, before it was actually released, I eagerly accepted.

As all the press about this novel is saying, it’s a departure from Dugoni’s usual fare. Rather than a mystery or thriller, this is a very personal coming-of-age novel that deals with friendship and love as well as the way different people experience ‘otherness’ whether it’s because they’re a girl, or have different skin color, or have oddly colored eyes.

As always, Dugoni’s use of language is what really caught me. Like Hemingway, he uses simple language, but it’s well chosen, and delicately crafted. Unlike Hemingway, there’s something really dimensional about the characters Dugoni has created. Sam, the POV character, is obviously the one who is drawn most vividly, but Ernie and Mickie are equally real, their dialogue natural and believable.

Dugoni excels at plot – a skill he honed with those afore-mentioned mysteries and thrillers – and it really shows here. This novel is perfectly paced, never plodding, never racing too quickly toward a conclusion. Overall, it was a compelling story and a greatly satisfying read.

Goes well with a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a touch of honey, served on organic, multigrain toast.

 

Review: Before I Let You Go, by Kelly Rimmer

About the book, Before I Let You Go Before I Let You Go cover

 

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Graydon House (April 3, 2018)

“Before I Let You Go is a heartbreaking book about an impossible decision. Kelly Rimmer writes with wisdom and compassion about the relationships between sisters, mother and daughter…. She captures the anguish of addiction, the agonizing conflict between an addict’s best and worst selves. Above all, this is a novel about the deepest love possible.” —Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

Buy, read, and discuss Before I Let You Go:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kelly Rimmer Kelly Rimmer author

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today best selling author of contemporary fiction novels including Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, When I Lost You, A Mother’s Confession and her most recent release, Before I Let You Go. She lives in rural Australia with her husband and children.

For further information about Kelly’s books, and to subscribe to her mailing list, visit www.kellyrimmer.com.

Connect with Kelly:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was literally up all night reading Before I Let You Go, because once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. It starts out as a conventional romance – Lexie and Sam, both doctors, are settling into the new home they’re remodeling – but almost immediately Lexie gets a call from her younger sister Annie, begging for help. Annie, it turns out, is a drug addict. She’s also pregnant, and being on drugs while pregnant is, because of a badly written law, criminal behavior in Alabama.

The book then tells the story from the parallel points of view of Lexie and Annie, though Lexie’s chapters are in the present, and Annie’s, which are dominated by journal entries addressed to Luke (we learn who he is mid-way through the novel) mostly detail the past.

Throughout it all, Sam is there, being the supportive fiance, insisting to Lexie that they’re a team, and ensuring that she takes care of herself, even when she’s trying to take care of others.

Sam is one of the best-written male characters I’ve seen in recent “women’s fiction” (I hate that term). He’s his own person, but he’s also a key support for Lexie, and in many ways, I felt that he was the heart of this story. Still, it’s really about Lexie and Annie, and eventually their mother, and Annie’s daughter, Daisy, and as a portrait of sisters who both love each other fiercely and frustrate each other completely, it’s a brilliantly crafted piece.

Goes well with Chinese take-out and cold beer.

 

 

 

Review: A Dangerous Game, by Heather Graham

A Dangerous GameAbout the book, A Dangerous Game

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (March 13, 2018)

TROUBLE ALWAYS FINDS HER…

Wrapping up a normal day at the office, criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan is accosted by a desperate woman who shoves an infant into her arms and then flees, only to be murdered minutes later on a busy Manhattan street.

Who was the woman? Where did the baby come from? Kieran can’t stop thinking about the child and the victim, so her boyfriend, Craig Frasier, does what any good special agent boyfriend would do—he gets the FBI involved. And asks Kieran to keep out of it.

But the Finnegans have a knack for getting into trouble, and Kieran won’t sit idle when a lead surfaces through her family’s pub. Investigating on her own, she uncovers a dangerous group that plays fast and loose with human lives and will stop at nothing to keep their secrets—and they plan to silence Kieran before she can expose their deadly enterprise.

Buy, read, and discuss A Dangerous Game:

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


About the author, Heather Graham Heather Graham

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She’s a winner of the RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

Connect with Heather:

Websites:

TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com | eHeatherGraham.com

Social Media:

Facebook | Twitter  | YouTube


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

I always enjoy Heather Graham’s work, and A Dangerous Game is no exception. It’s the third installment in her “New York Confidential” series, but even though I haven’t read the first two books in this trilogy, I had no problem following the backstories of the existing characters. In fact, one of the things I really liked was that when Graham writes intimate scenes between protagonist Kieran Finnegan and her boyfriend Craig Fraiser, they really show the comfort of an established relationship without feeling boring or stale.

Graham is equally deft at  writing intricate, fast-paced plots and vivid characters. The joy of reading something that’s part of a series is that the world you enter is rich and layered without the need for a ton of setup. The heart of the novel – the pub owned by Kieran and her brothers – was so well drawn that I found my mouth watering for shepherd’s pie, and I could hear the clanging of silverware and the driving beat of Irish rock music.

This isn’t ‘just’ a romance novel, however, it’s also a mystery, and that part of the book is never forgotten, nor is plot sacrificed for character moments that wouldn’t make sense.

Graham has given us another novel to devour – that’s really the way her books are best enjoyed – and, as always, I find that the experience was both entertaining and incredibly satisfying.

Goes well with Irish stew served with brown bread and a glass of hard cider.


Excerpt Tour Stops:  TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 19th: Stuck in Books

Tuesday, February 20th: Books & Spoons

Wednesday, February 21st: Read Love Blog

Thursday, February 22nd: Jathan & Heather

Monday, February 26th: Moonlight Rendezvous

Tuesday, February 27th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, February 28th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, March 1st: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Friday, March 2nd: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, March 5th: What is That Book About

Tuesday, March 6th: A Holland Reads

Wednesday, March 7th: Books a la Mode

Thursday, March 8th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, March 9th: Nightbird Novels

 

Review Tour Stops:

Monday, March 12th: Moonlight Rendezvous

Monday, March 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, March 13th: Books & Bindings

Wednesday, March 14th: Romancing the Readers

Monday, March 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, March 20th: Thoughts of a Blond

Wednesday, March 21st: Books & Spoons

Thursday, March 22nd: Write Read Life

Friday, March 23rd: The Romance Dish

Friday, March 23rd: Jathan & Heather

Monday, March 26th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, March 27th: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, March 28th: A Holland Reads

Thursday, March 29th: Cheryl’s Book Nook

Friday, March 30th: Clues & Reviews

Monday, April 2nd: Sultry Sirens Book Blog

Tuesday, April 3rd: Book Nerd

Wednesday, April 4th: OMG Reads – Spotlight

Thursday, April 5th: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Friday, April 6th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, April 10th: Evermore Books

TBD: A Fortress of Books

Review: The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

About the book, The Wild Inside

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 20, 2018)

The Wild InsideThe Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King.” —John Irving

A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

 

Buy, read, and discuss The Wild Inside:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jamey Bradbury Jamey-Bradbury-AP-Photo-by-Brooke-Taylor

Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News, TheBillfold.com, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

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


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI had a hard time getting into this book because the main character’s thoughts are written with intentionally bad grammar. While I recognize that it was a stylistic choice, meant to give us a clear view of who protagonist Tracy Petrikoff truly is, I find double negatives and such so off-putting when they’re not limited to dialogue, that I nearly put this book down. Twice.

I admit it; I’m a language snob.

Still, the description intrigued me, and I had committed to read the novel. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, because what I found was a gripping, suspenseful story, with some great detail and character work from the author, Jamey Bradbury.

Tracy herself is a mix of strong and weak, and that inner dichotomy is what makes her feel real, as well as making her an interesting character to follow. As a dog person myself (I have four and work in rescue), I was hooked most by the initial scenes describing her dogs, and how she was born in the kennel.

As I kept reading, I enjoyed watching the layers of the story unfold, and that same reaction to Tracy’s poor grammar outside of dialogue became something I appreciated when she was speaking to others.

This is a great read for anyone who likes a little bit of romance and a touch of horror wrapped in a compelling mystery. It’s also a great read for people who appreciate vivid three-dimensional characters and setting described so well, you feel as if you were there.

Goes well with a bowl of chili, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a mug of steaming hot coffee.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 26th: Jessicamap Reviews

Tuesday, March 27th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Wednesday, March 28th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 29th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, April 2nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, April 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, April 4th: Sweet Southern Home

Thursday, April 5th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, April 9th: As I turn the pages

Friday, April 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Ms. Nose in a Book

TBD: Write – Read – Life

Review: Love Unleashed, by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

About the book, Love Unleashed

Love Unleashed• Hardcover: 160 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 6, 2018)

A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives.

In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend. Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man’s best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.

Buy, read, and discuss Love Unleashed:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 


About the author, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Photo by Mark Mann

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a writer who specializes in celebrity and lifestyle coverage, but who also loves dogs and telling stories about amazing animals. She contributes to many newspapers and national magazines including Entertainment Weekly, Adweek, and the Los Angeles Times. She is a volunteer at a high-kill shelter in Manhattan and a founding director of the Deja Foundation, devoted to funding the medical care and training costs of dogs rescued from high-kill shelters.

 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI work in rescue, and typically have a foster dog in addition to the four dogs my husband and I actually adopted, so I thought I knew the array of stories that rescues represented. Still, Love Unleashed introduced me to some stories I hadn’t heard, and some scenarios I hadn’t personally encounter.

Author Rebecca Ascher-Walsh treats every animal in this book like the amazing animal it is. The pictures are gorgeous, the stories told to maximize our appreciation of our canine friends, and maybe elicit some tears. (I know my eyes were wet as I paged through this gallery of fluffy, sweet, beloved animals.)

Some of these stories – the pit bull who waited five years for a home, the golden retriever who lost his eyes to infection – are heartbreaking. Others – the little girl and her service dog, the pup who helped a cancer survivor find a new lease on life – are heartwarming. All, however, are full of soft fur, big eyes, and feet that, I’m pretty sure, all smell like corn chips.

As an animal lover, this book made me appreciate my own dogs.

As an animal rescuer, this book reminded me why we do what we do, why we fight for every animal, why we’re constantly begging people for money or to open their homes to a foster pet, why we manage to make room for just one more, even when we know we shouldn’t.

It’s more than a coffee table book, but the coffee table is where my beautiful copy will live, because it’s too pretty, and too special, to hide on a shelf.

Goes well with a mug of coffee and a plate of apples and cheddar cheese, the latter to be shared with whatever fourfoot insists that they like cheese, too.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 6th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, March 7th: G. Jacks Writes

Friday, March 9th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, March 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, March 14th: Literary Quicksand

Thursday, March 15th: Openly Bookish

Monday, March 19th: The Geeky Bibliophile

Tuesday, March 20th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, March 21st: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 22nd: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, March 26nd: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, March 27th: What Is That Book About

Review: In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo

About the book, In Praise of Difficult Women

• Hardcover: 352 pagesIn-Praise-of-Difficult-Women-cover
• Publisher: National Geographic (February 27, 2018)

From Amelia Earhart to Carrie Fisher, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Frida Kahlo, Nora Ephron, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes, Elizabeth Taylor, and Helen Gurley Brown, among others. Their lives–imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious–provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being “difficult,” Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling–whatever that means for you.

Buy, read, and discuss In Praise of Difficult Women:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Karen Karbo

KAREN KARBO is the author of multiple award-winning novels, memoirs and works of nonfiction. Her best-selling “Kick-Ass Women” series includes The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman, which was an international bestseller. Karbo’s short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Karbo lives in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to kick ass.

Connect with Karen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I asked to review this collection of essays, I originally thought it was a collection of works by the women included. It is not. Instead, it’s a collection of essays – part biography/part anecdote – about twenty-nine of the women our culture in general, and author Karen Karbo specifically, consider to be iconic.

It’s a fairly well-rounded collection of women, each given an a specific adjective. J.K. Rowling is dubbed ‘feisty,’ for example and Shonda Rimes is ‘unstoppable,’ while Jane Goodall is described as ‘determined,’ Hillary Clinton is ‘ambitious’ and Carrie Fisher, the final essay in this collection, is ‘droll.’  The order seems haphazard – Janis Joplin is among the final entries, while Coco Chanel is in the middle – but this isn’t the sort of book where order particularly matters. Rather, it’s the kind of book you can pick up anywhere, read an essay or two, and then come back to a while later, and read a few more.

Karbo’s writing voice is crisp and easy. This doesn’t negate the seriousness of some of her subject matter, it just makes it feel like you’re hearing these women described by a friend. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because while all of the women represented here are (or were) at the tops of their field, this book humanizes them. Through Karbo’s eyes we see them as women first, and icons second.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this book was the author’s use of footnotes. Some merely clarified dates and titles, while others were personal asides. Her comment about naming an indie rock band “Forest of Dean,” made me laugh out loud.

Over all, this is a fantastic collection of well-written essays about iconic women who are supremely real people.

Goes well with hot coffee and an almond croissant.


Tour Stops https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair

Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica

Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi

Monday, March 19th: Openly Bookish

Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: Night Music, by Deanna Lynn Sletten

About the book, Night MusicNight Music

 

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Deanna Lynn Sletten (February 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941212336

 

1968 – 1971

Charlotte Parsons is devastated over losing her brother in the Vietnam War. Desperate to learn more about the war, she joins a group of college women who send letters to soldiers and befriends Joseph Russo, a young soldier. But a few months after they begin corresponding, his letters stop coming, and Char moves on, still confused as to why so many young lives are being lost so far away from home.

Two years later, Char begins college in her small Illinois town of Grand Falls. She’s been dating her brother’s long-time best friend, Deke Masterson, who is a senior in college and is deep into the anti-war movement. Char isn’t sure how she feels about the war. Then a stranger comes to town and changes everything.

Joseph Russo served in the Vietnam War, earning a Purple Heart for his injury as well as a life-long limp. He’s ready to put the war behind him. While in Vietnam, he’d corresponded with a girl from Grand Falls and he enjoyed reading about her idyllic life. When he’s discharged, he moves there to attend college. And when he meets Charlotte in person, he’s taken with her sweetness, intelligence, and beauty.

The battle lines are drawn as Deke resents Joe’s presence around Char. What started out as a well-deserved escape to a small town for Joe soon turns into a battle of wills between him and the idealistic Deke. And there stands Charlotte, right in the middle.

Night Music is a story about a moment in time when the world was chaotic and nothing was completely clear. In the midst of all the chaos, can Char and Joe find enough middle ground to fall in love?

Buy, read, and discuss Night Music:

Amazon | Barnes & NobleGoodreads


About the author, Deanna Lynn Sletten

Deanna Lynn SlettenDeanna Lynn Sletten writes women’s fiction and romance novels. She began her writing career self-publishing novels in 2012 and has since published several novels. Her latest novel, One Wrong Turn, is her third book published by Lake Union Publishing. Deanna believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after, and her novels reflect that.

Deanna lives in a small town in northern Minnesota and is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake.

Connect with Deanna:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

I’ve been reading and reviewing Deanna Lynn Sletten’s work for years, so when she asked me if I’d consider reviewing her latest novel Night Music, there was no way I was going to say no.

Set in the very early 1970’s this novel technically qualifies as a ‘period’ or ‘historical’ work, and yet, it feels absolutely contemporary, showing that young people nearly fifty years ago (wow, that was hard to write – I was born in 1970) had many of the same issues and conflicts that we do today when it comes to war – when is it appropriate, when does it go to far – and the way we treat veterans.

As the granddaughter of a career Army officer and the daughter of an activist, as well as someone who is an activist herself, I was steeped in the concept of “love the soldier, not the war,” from an early age, and I completely related to the issues in this novel.

And yet, what Sletten has written in Night Music is not a war story, nor is it a political treatise. Rather, it’s a lovely novel about love – the love of home, the love of family, and the love we feel for friends and romantic partners.

As well, it’s a coming of age novel. The three central characters, Charlotte, Joe, and Deke are all college students. Charlotte is young, and somewhat naive, and her journey is one toward confidence and a stronger sense of self, but Joe and Deke are also coming of age. The former, in processing his experiences as a young solider returned home injured from Vietnam, and Deke, a an anti-war activist.

As usual, Sletten has given us characters who feel three-dimensional, a setting that is almost its own character, and a story that entertains while also challenging us to think.

Goes well with a burger, a beer, and a stimulating conversation. Or maybe a Hemingway novel.

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