3-chapter Review: Divine Lola by Cristina Morato (translated by Andrea Rosenberg)

About the book, Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity

  • Publisher: Amazon Crossing (September 1, 2021)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages

Divine Lola CoverAn enthralling biography about one of the most intriguing women of the Victorian age: the first self-invented international social celebrity.

Lola Montez was one of the most celebrated and notorious women of the nineteenth century. A raven-haired Andalusian who performed her scandalous “Spider Dance” in the greatest performance halls across Europe, she dazzled and beguiled all who met her with her astonishing beauty, sexuality, and shocking disregard for propriety. But Lola was an impostor, a self-invention. Born Eliza Gilbert, the beautiful Irish wild child escaped a stifling marriage and reimagined herself as Lola the Sevillian flamenco dancer and noblewoman, choosing a life of adventure, fame, sex, and scandal rather than submitting to the strictures of her era.

Lola cast her spell on the European aristocracy and the most famous intellectuals and artists of the time, including Alexandre Dumas, Franz Liszt, and George Sand, and became the obsession of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She then set out for the New World, arriving in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush, where she lived like a pioneer and performed for rowdy miners before making her way to New York. There, her inevitable downfall was every bit as dramatic as her rise. Yet there was one final reinvention to come for the most defiant woman of the Victorian age—a woman known as a “savage beauty” who was idolized, romanticized, vilified, truly known by no one, and a century ahead of her time.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Cristina Morato

Born in Barcelona in 1961, Cristina Morató is a journalist, reporter, and author dedicated to writing about the lives of great women innovators and explorers that history has overlooked. Her research, tracing the footsteps of these remarkable women, has led her to travel to more than forty countries and has resulted in eight biographies: Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras(Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travelers); Las Reinas de África (African Queens); Las Damas de Oriente (Ladies of the East); Cautiva en Arabia (Arabian Captive); Divas rebeldes (Rebel Divas); Reinas malditas (Tragic Queens); Diosas de Hollywood (Hollywood Goddesses); and Divina Lola (Divine Lola), Cristina’s first to be translated into English. She is a founding member and the current vice president of the Spanish Geographical Society and belongs to the Royal Geographic Society of London.

For more information visit www.cristinamorato.com/home-2.

About the translator, Andrea Rosenberg

Andrea Rosenberg is a translator from Spanish and Portuguese. Her full-length translations include novels, graphic narratives, and nonfiction, including works by Manuel Vilas, Tomás González, Inês Pedrosa, Aura Xilonen, Juan Gómez Bárcena, Paco Roca, and Marcelo D’Salete. Two of her translations have won Eisner Awards, and she has been the recipient of awards and grants from the Fulbright Program, the American Literary Translators Association, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNeither a true biography nor a true work of fiction, but a hybrid of both, Cristina Morato’s Divine Lola is an accessible story of a fascinating woman: Eliza “Lola” Gilbert is a larger-than-life character, worthy of a limited series on the streaming platform of your choice, with a veritable who’s who of friends and acquaintances. Sure, she was famous for her scandalous “spider” dance, but she touched a lot more lives than those who saw her perform.

What I liked about this book was that there was enough history to provide context without overwhelming the extrapolated dialogue. Balance is key, and Morato struck exactly the right one. She also used a fabulous literary device, opening the book after Lola has died, making the entire narrative a flashback, in a sense, thus showing how much impact the woman really had.

Because this is a translation, it’s hard to know if the flow of the language is the work of Andrea Rosenberg, the translator, or the author herself, but either way, it’s an easy read, contemporary enough to be accessible, and yet still “period” enough to not be jarring.

I’ll definitely be finishing this book, and recommend it as a solid entry into the creative biography genre.


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Review and Giveaway: Trace of Doubt, by DiAnn Mills

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About the book, Trace of Doubt

  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Pub Date: September 7, 2021
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway!

Cover - Trace of Doubt Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for this book:

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the Author, DiAnn Mills

DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn:

Blog Posts | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest | Goodreads  | LinkedIn | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellDiAnn Mills’ latest novel Trace of Doubt, is an intense thriller that’s equal parts mystery, faith, and love, that keeps you invested from the prologue to the epilogue.

Written in first person, mostly from the point of view of recent parolee Shelby and her neighbor, Denton (who may be more than he seems) this novel has everything – believable characters, a small-town setting, a gripping mystery, a dash of romance, puppies, horses and great coffee, and author Mills has wrapped all of that up in a meaty (432 pages) package that was a pleasure to read.

This book is categorized, in part, as Christian fiction, and it’s easy to see why because Shelby’s strong faith in God is both her her strength and part of the glue that binds her to her two biggest supporters, Edie, who is a landlady and friend, and Amy Jo, who runs the local bakery-cafe, but it’s not at all preachy. Their faith is simply part of these Texas women (and men) , and it’s part of what makes them feel so real. As someone who has always struggled with faith, and doesn’t mesh with organized religion, I appreciated the way the author made it a critical part of the novel, and and recommend this book to readers of all persuasions.

What I loved was the detailed character work that the author put into this novel. I really liked and sympathized with Shelby, and was rooting for her from day one. She’s much more than a classic underdog, and I’d happily share a pot of coffee with her. Denton, also, was drawn with real dimension. He felt like a “weathered” soul to me, and I was as committed to his story as I was to Shelby’s. The  town sheriff, local cop (also Edie’s brother), and parole officer were equally believable characters, and even the townsfolk, both kind and cruel had perfect moments that really let you see them.

I also enjoyed the pacing of this story. It’s an easy read, in terms of being accessible, but it’s also pretty long. At no point did I feel the urge to skip ahead and see what happened, and I felt the clues and twists in the narrative were all placed well, serving the story, and never letting the reader become too complacent.

If this had been JUST a romance, or JUST a mystery, or JUST a redemption story, Trace of Doutbt would still have been a worthy read. That the author combined all three elements into a satisfying and well-crafted whole just makes the whole thing a literary treat.

Goes well with: a cup of coffee with a dollop of half & half, and a lemon tart.


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Review & Giveaway: No Names to Be Given, by Julia Brewer Daily

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About the book, No Names to Be Given

  • Categories: Women’s Fiction / Vintage Fiction / Adoption / 1960s
  • Publisher: Admission Press Inc.
  • Pub Date: August 3, 2021
  • Pages: 334 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway

Cover Hi Res No Names to be Given1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.

But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.

Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make horrific decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.

Praise for this book:

A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart. Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas.

An insightful and sympathetic view offered into the lives of those who were adopted and those who adopted them. Pam Johnson, author of Justice for Ella.

A novel worthy of a Lifetime movie adaptation. Jess Hagemann, author of Headcheese.

Readers can expect deep knowledge of the world the characters inhabitSara Kocek, author of Promise Me Something.

This book is a relevant read and one that will keep readers guessing page after page until the very end. The US Review of Books

Today’s young women, especially, need to absorb No Names to Be Given. Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Julia Brewer Daily

Author photo Daily

Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS.  She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart. As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well.  A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

Connect with Julia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNo Names to Be Given is a beautiful, haunting novel about three very different women who find themselves in the same maternity home in New Orleans in the mid-1960s. Sandy, Faith, and Becca couldn’t be more different – one is escaping an abusive home, one suffers a horrible attack, and one falls in love with someone that society says she shouldn’t, but all find themselves alone and pregnant at a time when women were pressured to make horrible sacrifices in order to maintain the expectations of American culture in a time that is both bordering on free, and still holding onto the even deeper social structures of earlier times.

Julia Brewer Daily chose to write this book so that the point of view alternates between these women a chapter at a time, and in doing so, she first lets readers learn who they are and where they come from. In another author’s hands the story might have ended when they met, but Daily’s tale is far from over at that point. Rather, we get to see the devastation each experiences, and then we get to jump into the future and meet the older versions of the the women’s babies, and see how they grew up, and how (or if) they reconnect with their birth mothers.

Daily does a great job of setting the time period. Her scenes in the 60s are full of the social issues of the day, including racism and the civil rights movement, and as she moves into later times, she enhances her storytelling by mentioning  then-newly-developed DNA testing as a means of connecting mothers and the children they were forced to part with.

Issues of adoption and single motherhood run through the entire novel, of course. As the daughter of a single mother, who nearly faced the same ultimatum, but ultimately chose to keep me, it’s a story that really resonated with me. It was obviously a very personal story for the author, as well, for she was adopted from a maternity home.

It’s this personal connection that makes this story sing. Each of the women is compelling and interesting. It’s easy to like them, to be concerned when they make poor choices, and to root for them when they find success in any aspect of life. While the stigma of unwed motherhood has lessened somewhat today, echoes of it do remain, and this book made it clear how it felt to be in that position.

Well-written and well-paced, I feel this novel is more  than entertaining. It’s a gripping story that is as much social commentary as compelling fiction. It is intensely female, but deals with universal subjects. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the culture of America in the 1960’s, as a counterpoint to all the stories about free love and wild adventures (not to invalidate those stories), and make it required reading for anyone in a women’s studies program.

Goes well with: a shrimp po’boy and sweet tea.


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8/23/21 Review The Clueless Gent
8/24/21 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
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Review: Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir Inspired by True Events, by Brent Spiner

About the book, Fan Fiction

  • Publisher: ‎ St. Martin’s Press (October 5,  2021)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Print length: ‎ 256 pages

Fan FictionBrent Spiner’s explosive and hilarious novel is a personal look at the slightly askew relationship between a celebrity and his fans. If the Coen Brothers were to make a Star Trek movie, involving the complexity of fan obsession and sci-fi, this noir comedy might just be the one.

Set in 1991, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation has rocketed the cast to global fame, the young and impressionable actor Brent Spiner receives a mysterious package and a series of disturbing letters, that take him on a terrifying and bizarre journey that enlists Paramount Security, the LAPD, and even the FBI in putting a stop to the danger that has his life and career hanging in the balance.

Featuring a cast of characters from Patrick Stewart to Levar Burton to Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to some completely imagined, this is the fictional autobiography that takes readers into the life of Brent Spiner, and tells an amazing tale about the trappings of celebrity and the fear he has carried with him his entire life.

Fan Fiction is a zany love letter to a world in which we all participate, the phenomenon of “Fandom.”

Praise for this book:

“Like the man himself, this book is funny, sharp, and brilliant. You’re going to love it, and Brent, even if you’ve never heard of “Star Trek”. It’s one of the most entertaining books ever written about entertainment.” ―Phil Rosenthal (creator, writer, producer), creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and star of Somebody Feed Phil

Fan Fiction is perfect! I loved that damn book. Lots of laugh out loud moments and real heart. Actor Brent Spiner’s pop-culture infused memoir is hilarious, warm, insightful, and absolutely delightful! Highly recommended!” ―Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Ink

“Brent Spiner’s rollicking meta-memoir is a meditation on celebrity, Hollywood, fandom, ego, and self-discovery, hidden inside a black comedy shell. This wildly entertaining novel opens the doors to the Starship Enterprise and the making of Star Trek: The Next Generation even as it peers into the soul of the actor and the utterly crazy world around him. Richly comic and surprisingly moving, Fan Fiction is a gift to both Trek fans and general readers. So put on your Raymond Chandler fedora, or your Starfleet uniform, and settle in for a wild ride through the underbelly and outer space of Hollywood.” ―John Logan, screenwriter of Skyfall, Gladiator, The Aviator

“Both laugh out loud funny and painfully dark, Brent Spiner has created a fictional autobiography that is filled with surprises.” ―Jonathan Frakes

“Brent takes us all on a wild ride in this fanciful tale.” ―Leonard Maltin

“Of all the pleasures Fan Fiction affords the reader ― a gripping plot, deftly and delightfully twisted; an insider’s slant on a pop culture mega-phenomenon; an affecting personal narrative of childhood trauma overcome; an insightful meditation on the ambiguities of fandom ― the greatest and most singular is Brent Spiner’s prose style. Dry, urbane, acerbic, self-deprecating and gently absurdist, it evokes a lost age of Hollywood autobiography. If Groucho Marx had played Commander Data, this is the kind of memoir he might have written.” ―Michael Chabon, Pulitzer-Prize winning author

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | NetGalley | Goodreads


About the author, Brent Spiner

Brent SpinerBRENT SPINER is an actor, comedian, and singer best known for playing the android Lieutenant Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987-1994. He has appeared in numerous television roles, in films, and in theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. He currently has a role in the T.V. series Star Trek: Picard.

Connect with Brent

Facebook | Twitter

 


My ThoughtsMelissa A. Bartell

I’ve known Brent Spiner was a fantastic storyteller from his panels at conventions, brief interactions with him at those conventions, and from a thing he did on Twitter many years ago where he also wrote a fictionalized noir-esque version of his life. I cannot deny that part of my interest in reading Fan Fiction was because I am a longtime fan of his work. I have, therefore, tried to temper my review in order to counter my own bias.

In a book about improv (it might have been Truth in Comedy) I read that as long as you ground your scene work in emotional truth, the audience will take the journey with you no matter how preposterous things get. Spiner states in this book that everything in the prologue is true, and everything after is not, but he’s put in enough emotional truth that readers will happily stick with the story.

It’s important to remember when reading this, that Brent played Data on TV, but he isn’t an emotionless, perfectly correct android in real life, and in this tale which takes place in a heightened (at the very least) reality gives readers a decidedly earthy version of the actor. Die-hard fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation (in general) and Data (specifically) may find the cursing and references to sex and drugs (nothing scary) off-putting. I personally found them refreshing. Brent-the-character sounds like a real guy, with the sorts of neuroses so many gifted and talented people tend to display.  Similarly, the exaggerated versions of his TNG castmates (and the Roddenberries) added humor, but also helped tie the book more closely to reality.

The invented characters, especially Cindy and Candy, were breaths of fresh air, and despite their roles in the story (FBI agent and bodyguard, respectively) also added necessary warmth and light. If they came off as slightly shallow, I can only assume they were meant to be.

And then there are the Daddy issues. Those are a strong theme in this story, both in Brent’s memories and feelings about his stepfather and in the stalker who identifies as the character Lal. The latter leads to a “cameo” from Hallie Todd that is both hilarious and disturbing. The former… I can only hope that some of those instances really are fiction.

Overall, this piece of meta-fiction is a solid entry into the contemporary noir oeuvre and a fast (it took me three hours), enjoyable read. I’ve always felt that some of Spiner’s best work is when he plays darker characters. I’ve often heard that the best comedy comes from pain. In Fan Fiction, Brent Spiner shows that both are true.

Goes well with: Vegetables. Lots of vegetables… or a double espresso and a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

 

 

Review: There Will Be Lobster, by Sara Arnell

About the book, There Will Be Lobster

• Publisher: Savio Republic (July 20, 2021)
• Hardcover: 176 pages

There-Will-Be-Lobster-coverYou know her. You’ve seen her. You may even see yourself in her.

If you’re arriving to the midlife crisis party—the one that’s serving low self-esteem, desperation, unreliable behavior, forgetfulness, carelessness, and the loneliness of loss—the stories and anecdotes in this memoir will assure you that you are not alone.

For Sara Arnell, it took a rogue lobster, a dying rock star, an eighteen-pound tumor, a meditation guru, a famous medium, and a former monk to put her on a path toward light, hope, and healing. If reading this book helps even one person, according to Sara, then telling this story is all worth it.

Praise for this book:

“Sara Arnell is the only writer I know who can make self-deprecation and wisdom look like the same thing. There Will Be Lobster is a darkly funny memoir with a big heart, and it’s the exact comeback story we all need right now.” —David Hollander, author of Anthropica and L.I.E.

“This book is a deeply personal story that’s not afraid to show you the crazy moments that we all have, but often don’t admit to. Read this memoir if you want to learn how honesty, vulnerability, and sheer perseverance can help you step into your light and illuminate a new path—one that is happy, healthy, and full of hope.” —André Leon Talley, author of New York Times bestseller The Chiffon Trenches and former Vogue editor-at-large

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Simon & Schuster | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sara Arnell

Sara-Arnell-AP-713x1024While working alongside acclaimed fashion icon Andre Leon Talley at Vanity Fair magazine in her mid-20’s, Sara was offered an opportunity to write a press release for fashion designer, Donna Karan, who was about to launch one of her acclaimed collections. This moment marked the beginning of Sara’s impressive thirty-year career in fashion, writing and advertising.

Sara worked as Chief Strategy Officer at one of New York’s most renowned and successful advertising agencies, eventually rising to CEO. Under her long tenure, she broke new ground, winning awards and global recognition for her agency and its clients. She traveled the world, working with some of the best known and most beloved consumer brands such as Pepsi, Samsung, McDonalds and Goop.

Today, Sara is a Professor at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and continues to consult with the world’s top brands on marketing strategy and brand design. She regularly advises start-ups and entrepreneurs and has served on several boards for educational institutions. She is a sought after speaker and founder of Karmic, a platform for ‘what-you-do-comes-back-to-you’ ideas and advice. Sara has a BA from Skidmore College and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the mother of three children and one small poodle.

Connect with Sara:

Find out more about Sara at her website, and follow her on Instagram.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe thing that struck me most about Sara Arnell’s serio-comic memoir, There Will Be Lobster, is that her conversational style immediately makes the reader feel like a friend, rather than an outsider peeking into someone’s life. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Arnell breezy, as that implies a level of fluffiness that this book does not have, but her written words flow as easily as spoken ones do.

The second thing that struck me about this book is that it’s so relatable. I don’t have children, adult or otherwise, but I know what it is to want to reconnect with family, and I know that sometimes a good buzz can cloud the recollection of a bad night, or enhance the memory of a good one. Which is not to imply that Arnell is drunk throughout this memoir. The book simply opens with the memory of a drunken experience.

Written as a series of anecdotal essays, this book doesn’t really have a plot – it’s a memoir, after all – but there is a theme of aging, of self-awareness, and of wanting to restore severed ties to people and places once beloved.

This book isn’t for every woman, but it’s for a broad spectrum of women of all ages, who need a nudge toward being honest with themselves about who they are and what they really want out of life.

Less self-help than simply setting an example, There Will Be Lobster is both witty and engaging, and I highly recommend it, especially to women my age (I’ll be 51 next Tuesday.)

Goes well with: A lobster roll and a bottle of your favorite microbrew, but nothing too hoppy.


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Review: Eva and Eve, by Julie Metz

About the book, Eva and Eve

• Publisher: Atria Books (April 6, 2021)
• Hardcover: 320 pages

Eva and EveThe author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Perfection returns with an unforgettable account of her late mother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Austria and the parallels she sees in present-day America.

To Julie Metz, her mother, Eve, was the quintessential New Yorker. Eve rarely spoke about her childhood and it was difficult to imagine her living anywhere else except Manhattan, where she could be found attending Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera or inspecting a round of French triple crème at Zabar’s.

In truth, Eve had endured a harrowing childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna. After her mother passed, Julie discovered a keepsake book filled with farewell notes from friends and relatives addressed to a ten-year-old girl named Eva. This long-hidden memento was the first clue to the secret pain that Julie’s mother had carried as a refugee and immigrant, shining a light on a family that had to persevere at every turn to escape the antisemitism and xenophobia that threatened their survival.

Interweaving personal memoir and family history, Eva and Eve vividly traces one woman’s search for her mother’s lost childhood while revealing the resilience of our forebears and the sacrifices that ordinary people are called to make during history’s darkest hours.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Julie Metz

Julie MetzJulie Metz is the New York Times bestselling author of PERFECTION. Her new release is EVA AND EVE: A SEARCH FOR MY MOTHER’S LOST CHILDHOOD AND WHAT A WAR LEFT BEHIND. Julie is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has written for publications including The New York Times, Dame, and Salon and essays have appeared in THE MOMENT and THE HOUSE THAT MADE ME. She lives with her family in the Hudson Valley.

Connect with Julie:

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThis review is very late in coming. My life has been utter chaos since February with too-infrequent moments of calm. Apologies to the author, and to TLC Book Reviews, which provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Julie Metz’s book Eva and Eve is not your average holocaust survivor story, though it would be a worthy read in any case. Rather, it’s the author’s personal story of learning about her mother as the woman she knew and the girl she once was. As someone who has recently experienced a lot of loss, I’m no stranger to the surprises we find hidden away in our parents’ and grandparents’ houses. My family is Italian and Catholic, Metz’s family is Austrian and Jewish, but her story resonated with me because what we share, though for me it’s one generation removed, is the experience of being related to recent (so to speak) immigrants.

But you don’t have to be the daughter or granddaughter of immigrants to appreciate this book, because, from word  one, Eva and Eve is a work of both art and love.

Let’s start with the language. I’ve both read this and listened to the audiobook, and the language Metz uses is both beautiful and lyrical, while also being completely honest and authentic. There are passages that are serious, even brutal, and moments where levity takes over, and both in the extrapolated, even lightly fictionalized stories of her mother’s (and grandmother’s) youth, and in her own, contemporary observations there is a perfect flow, and graceful pace.

Metz’s observations were actually one of my favorite part of this book, because she isn’t just reciting research, she’s immersed herself in history and exploration, of the places where her family originated, and of the remaining people who knew them or at least knew of them.

One of my favorite examples of Metz’s voice is this line that appears about 2/3 into the book: The houses looked different right away – now stone and stucco – and the people on the narrow streets dressed like Italians, somehow more put together than rumpled Americans, even in jeans and t-shirts. It’s a line that has nothing to do with the details of the history the author is trying to discover, but everything to do with how she sees the world, and I love the way it’s presented.

Eva and Eve is not an average holocaust survivor story. Nor is it a typical memoir. Rather, it’s an artful, loving dive into the history of the author’s own family, and a deeply satisfying read that almost every woman will find somehow relatable.

Goes well with: espresso and anisette toast.


Review Stops

TLC Book ToursMonday, June 21st: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads

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Friday, June 25th: BookNAround

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Thursday, July 1st: Instagram: @reading_with_nicole

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Wednesday, July 7th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

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TBD: Tuesday, July 6th: Instagram: @bluntscissorsbookreviews

TBD: Monday, August 2nd: Bibliotica

Review: Finding Summer Happiness, by Chris Penhall

Finding Summer Happiness

 

About the book, Finding Summer Happiness

Finding Summer Happiness by Chris PenhallYou won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?

Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realizes her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (USA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Chris Penhall

Chris PenhallChris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Her short story, Lily McKee’s Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction’s Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSomething I’ve learned in the last few years is that if a book has Chris Penhall as the author, it’s going to be a fabulous read. Finding Summer Happiness, the author’s most recent title completely supports my initial statement. Charming, with a bit of romance and a bit of intrigue, it came into my life when I really needed it, and put a smile on my face.

Protagonist Miriam is quite possibly my favorite Penhall lead so far. Savvy and smart, she’s burnt out with her business, and finally agrees to have her personal assistant arrange a break for her. Six months in a cottage by the sea. When she learns the actual terms of said break, I felt her disappointment, displeasure, and confusion, and wanted to rush in and help her out. Her work ethic and sense of honor merge with her attorney’s advice, and the story really takes off

A former business-owner myself, although not professionally, I really resonated with Miriam, especially since I’ve been through the experience of leaving the corporate world, but I enjoyed the characters of Jim the pub owner, Rhiannon the realtor (sorry, letting agent) and Alan the unwanted sort-of guest, and the largely offscreen Justin. These characters were all funny and interesting and felt the like odd assortment of friends and cohorts many of us tend to collect.

I also appreciated the various guests and villagers who rounded out the story. Penhall has a knack for creating vivid and dimensional characters and communities, and in this book she excels at both. I wanted to knock on the door of Miriam’s rented cottage and demand a seat in her supper club.

This is a light read that is grounded in serious topics, like how to change your life and when to make the leap and follow your dreams.

Goes well with: A rainy day, a glass of wine, and a bowl of onion soup.

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Review & Giveaway: Deadly Business by Anita Dickason

Deadly Business Blog Tour

 

About the book, Deadly Business

  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Publication Date: July 4, 2021
  • Genre: Suspense / Thriller / Crime Thriller
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Deadly Business by Anita DickasonA Texas Multi-Billion Dollar Lure!

Following a tactical raid at an Oklahoma farm, a phone call sends U.S. Deputy Marshal Piper McKay rushing back to the East Texas cattle ranch where she grew up. Her grandmother, Jennie Layton, is near death from a crushed skull. When local authorities claim the cause of the injury was an accident, Piper isn’t convinced.

Who wants Jennie dead and why? Is the reason connected to a dubious contract Piper finds in Jennie’s desk?

Piper realizes her grandmother isn’t the only one in danger when she barely escapes a deadly attack. Thrust into the middle of a high-stakes, high-risk shell game, Piper’s become the target. The case takes a bizarre turn when Piper unknowingly crosses paths with a Special Ranger. If he can’t derail her investigation, it could cost him his life.

With millions of dollars on the line, nothing will stop a ring of cold-blooded killers, including the murders of a U.S. Marshal and a Special Ranger.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


Watch the trailer for Deadly Business


About the author, Anita Dickason

Author Pic DickasonAward-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo. The novels are not a series and can be read in any order.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

Connect with Anita:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Linkedin | Vimeo | Amazon | Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI was privileged to participate in a cover reveal for this novel, Deadly Business, last month, and I was so intrigued by the premise that I begged to review it. I’m glad I did, because this book was literally “unputdownable,” keeping me enthralled from the first page to the last.

Dropping the reader into the middle of a high-stakes action sequence at the very beginning, Anita Dickason could very easily have kept up an unrelenting pace, and this still would have been an entertaining read. Instead, she shows off her range and skill by resolving the initial situation, and then radically changing the tone, sending lead character Piper McKay home to her grandmother’s Texas ranch, where the old woman was found thrown from a horse.

From there, the author interweaves some quintessentially Texan elements like the modern version of cattle rustling, with the universal experiences of worrying about a beloved family member in the hospital, and the intricacies of what happens when U.S. marshals and Special Rangers (which are another Texas-specific element) are not the hunters, but the hunted.

Main character Piper is so vividly drawn that I had to wonder how much of the author herself was in the character. After all, Dickason was the first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team, and “write what you know” seems to be her oeuvre. But even if she’s purely fictional, it doesn’t matter, because she feels real. She’s the kind of person I’d love to sit around a fire pit with and share a drink and trade stories, though admittedly, my stories are far less action packed.

The somewhat elusive Special Agent Cade Tanner is equally vividly drawn, as is Piper’s grandmother, Jen, who is the heartstring that connects everything and everyone. (I would read a whole novel just about Jen. Just saying.) Some of my favorite scenes were between Piper and Cade, and I’d love to see more of their interactions.

Overall, this novel is a suspense-filled adventure grounded by human stories (with a special nod to Leopold the Bull) crafted with great care and is b. oth gripping and satisfying.

A word to the wise: don’t skip the “story after the story” at the end of the book, where author Dickason gives a short history of cattle thievery and special rangers. It’s not crucial to the plot, but makes a richer experience.

Goes well with: smoked brisket and Shiner bock.


Giveaway

FOUR WINNERS:
1st: Autographed hardcover copy + tote back, mousepad, pen, & bookmark;
2nd: Tote bag, coaster, pen, & bookmark;
3rd & 4th: eBook copy.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, July 30, 2021) 

 

Giveaway Deadly Business

 

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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 tour stop, updated daily. Or visit the blogs directly:

7/20/21 Review Bibliotica
7/20/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
7/21/21 Notable Quotable Missus Gonzo
7/21/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
7/22/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
7/23/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
7/24/21 Video Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
7/25/21 Video Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/26/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
7/27/21 Guest Post The Plain-Spoken Pen
7/28/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/29/21 Review Forgotten Winds
7/29/21 BONUS Review Jennie Reads

LoneStarLitLife

 

LoneStarBookBlogTours

Mini Review: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

About the book, Beach House Reunion

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery Books (May 22, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 22, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 401 pages

Beach House ReunionThe New York Times bestselling author and “skilled storyteller who never lets her readers down” (Huffington Post) returns to her beloved Beach House series with this “authentic, generous, and heartfelt” (Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author) tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Comforting in its familiarity, it is still rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara let go of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new career and love.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate with an uncertain future, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is free to join the turtle team, learn to surf, and fall in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In “this tender and openhearted novel of familial expectations, new boundaries, and the power of forgiveness” (Booklist), three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The Beach House series has long been a favorite of mine, and this is no exception. Well written with dynamic characters and vivid descriptions of both people and places, this novel is a satisfying read for anyone who loves family stories and beachy settings.

One of the things I love about Mary Alice Monroe is that her books often weave together similar experiences from different generations of the same family. In this case the through-line is sea turtles, and their conservation, and I liked the way the protection of the turtles echoed the maternal protection between the characters.

If you’ve seen the Hallmark movie “The Beach House,” this is the book it was based on. The movie was cozy and entertaining. The book is rich and rewarding.

You will not be disappointed.

Review: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley

Blooming Murder

About the book, Blooming Murder

Blooming Murder ebook coverMURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Simon Whaley

Blooming Simon Whaley squareSimon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love getting into a series when it’s brand new. I get to meet all the main characters and then look forward to their returns in future novels. I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you, I’m really looking forward to seeing where Simon Whaley’s new “Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries” go from here.

But let’s talk about the beginning. Blooming Murder is the opening novel of what I hope will be a series of many books. Whaley’s writing style is straight-forward and hooks you instantly, and his plot builds steadily from there. Aldermaston, the Marquess, is one of the first characters we meet, of course, and it’s clear that he’s going to be our POV character, after all, it’s “his” series.

Characters abound in this novel, many of whom are involved either in local (village) politics, or in the politics of a gardening club, or both, and Whaley describes them vividly (dainty feet stuck in my head) and writes them with just as much care. This novel takes place in Wales, and the author doesn’t write in dialect, but he still manages to convey where each character hails from and how they sound, as much as how they look.

What I really loved about Blooming Murder is that the murder in question felt really organic, not just shoved in as a plot contrivance. I also appreciated that there are touches of humor throughout the book, lightening some of the more serious moments. (A character hoping the body won’t be in frame for a photo opp is just one example.)

Overall, Blooming Murder is a charming, engaging novel, and I am looking forward to the series continuing.

Goes well with: a glass of Prosecco and a salad that includes edible flowers.


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