Life and Other Neath-Death Experiences, by Camille Pagan (@cnoepagan) #review #TLCbooktours #giveaway

About the book, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Paperback

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (November 1, 2015)

Many a novel has examined a woman’s life as she battles cancer—but perhaps no writer has approached the subject with the disarming charm and sharp wit that Camille Pagán employs in her second book, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences: A Novel (Lake Union; November 1, 2015). Pagán, an award-winning journalist, pits her optimistic heroine against not just a life-threatening disease, but also a host of startling revelations that cause her to question everything she thought she knew about life and love.

When Libby Miller learns that she has a rare form of cancer, she naturally assumes it is the worst news she could possibly get that day—or ever. So when she arrives home and her husband blurts out a startling confession that makes their long and (she thought) happy marriage a sham, Libby is pushed to her breaking point. On an uncharacteristic impulse, she quits her job and heads to a small island in Puerto Rico. Just when Libby thinks nothing else could go wrong, a near-fatal plane crash triggers a new adventure, and she begins to fall in love with Shiloh, a pilot who has his own philosophy on life—and how Libby can best cope with her disease. But that’s only the beginning.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences is a poignant, uplifting novel that examines just what it is that makes life worth living.

Buy, read, and discuss Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

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


About the author, Camille Pagán Camille Pagan

Camille Pagán’s work has appeared in dozens of publications and on websites including Forbes,Glamour, Men’s HealthParadeO: The Oprah MagazineReal SimpleWebMD.com, andWomen’s Health. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children.

Connect with Camille

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

You wouldn’t think a book that opens with the main character learning she has cancer would be hilarious, and yet Life and Other Near-Death Experiences is one of the most satisfying, funniest, freshest novels I’ve read in a long while.

While I disagreed with Libby’s initial reaction to the news of her cancer, I certainly understood it. As she progressed in her relationship with herself, with her cancer, and with the people she meets when she decides that the status quo isn’t working for her (prompted by her husband’s announcement on the same day she gets her diagnosis) I found myself liking her more and more. She’s smart, and acerbic, and can pass for being strong and confident, but she’s also flawed, and all-too-human.

Her brother Paul, seen mainly via text messages and such, and Shiloh, whom she meets and spends a significant amount of time with in the latter half of the book, form a sort of Greek Chorus (along with her husband) both commenting on her life, and reflecting her choices (and refusal to make choices back at her), and I really liked that construct, whether or not the author intended it to read that way.

Author Pagan (forgive me for not including the accent marks) has an ear for natural-seeming dialogue, and an eye for detail. I loved the way all the different characters had distinct voices and facial expressions, but I also took note of things like the barista who had piercings and dreadlocks.

While the subject would seem grim, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences is not a novel about cancer. It’s a novel about love and life and getting rid of anything that doesn’t improve your life.

Goes well with an ice cold margarita and a plate of ceviche, served surfside.


Giveaway Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

One lucky winner in the US or Canada can win a copy of Life and other Near-Death Experiences.

To enter:  Leave a comment on this entry (include a working email address – only I will see it) telling me about a time that you wanted to escape your life.

You can also find my tweet about this review (I’m @melysse on Twitter) and retweet it (make sure I’m tagged).

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CST on Monday, November 23rd.

Winner will be notified by email (or Twitter), and must provide their mailing address, which will be forwarded to the publicist for fulfillment.


Camille Pagán’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, November 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Wednesday, November 4th: BookNAround

Thursday, November 5th: Book Lover

Thursday, November 5th: Spiced Latte Reads

Monday, November 9th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Tuesday, November 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, November 11th: FictionZeal

Thursday, November 12th: Just Commonly – review

Thursday, November 12th: Just Commonly – guest post

Monday, November 16th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, November 17th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 17th: Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, November 17th: Booksie’s Blog

Wednesday, November 18th: Life is Story

Thursday, November 19th: Luxury Reading

Monday, November 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, November 25th: 5 Minutes for Books

 

Water on the Moon, by Jean P. Moore (@jean_pmoore) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book,  Water on the Moon Water on the Moon

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (June 3, 2014)

Acclaimed Debut Novel, Winner of the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award for Contemporary Fiction

When her husband comes out as gay and an airplane crash inexplicably destroys her home, the mother of teenage twin daughters must rethink everything she knows.

In her debut novel Water on the Moon, Jean P. Moore introduces readers to Lidia Raven, whose life begins taking seemingly endless wrong turns. Lidia and her girls miraculously survive the plane crash that destroys their home and are taken in by Lidia’s friend Polly, a neighbor with a robust collection of first-edition books who lives alone on a sprawling estate.

Struggling to cope with each of these life-changing events, Lidia discovers a connection between herself and Tina Calderara, the pilot who crashed into her home. In the months that follow, Lidia plunges into a mystery that upends every aspect of her life.

Rife with age-old dilemmas, this contemporary novel explores the relationships between mothers and daughters and the trials and triumphs of women’s friendships. As Lidia learns to reconcile her pain with her need to be true to herself and to accept that need in others, she discovers that while life has the power to unhinge her, it also has the power to open her to new ways of being in the world.

Buy, read, and discuss Water on the Moon

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


About the author, Jean P. Moore Jean P. Moore

Jean P. Moore began her professional life as an English teacher, later becoming a telecommunications executive.  She and her husband, Steve, and Sly, their black Lab, divide their time between Greenwich, Connecticut and the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where Jean teaches yoga in the summers.

Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals such as upstreetSN ReviewAdannaDistillery, Skirt, Long Island Woman, the Hartford Courant, Greenwich Time, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Water on the Moon was published in June of 2014 and won the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award for Contemporary Fiction.

Connect with Jean

Website | Blog | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

While I don’t pay attention to whether or not a book has won awards when I’m in the process of reading it, it was easy to see why Water on the Moon has done so. This novel opened with a bang (literally: a small plane crashes on top of a suburban house), and while the pace isn’t exactly breakneck, the story never plods, but unwinds like miles on a road trip where the scenery is ever-changing and yet, still similar enough to be part of the same region.

Protagonist Lidia and her two daughters, the Ravens, or the Raven girls, are, in many ways just like every other suburban single mother and her children, at least until the afore-mentioned plane crash. She’s divorced, her husband left her for another man three years before, and like their mother, the girls are still angry with their father, and have little contact with them. When their house is destroyed we meet their neighbor Polly, who is really a surrogate mother to Lidia, though estranged from her own daughter. (I would love to have a neighbor like Polly. When I’m older (in my 70s) I want to be Polly, though, I don’t have children to be estranged from.)

I really liked that all of the main characters – Lidia, the girls, Polly, even Harry the FBI agent, and Owen (Lidia’s ex, met mostly via phone calls) were all fully realized, and each one had her (or his) own story arc. So many times children in novels are just accessories, but I’d happily read a novel from either of the girls’ point of view – they’re all that compelling.

As Lidia learns that there was a connection between herself and the pilot of the crashed plane, a woman named Tina, the plot becomes deeper and more intricate. Suddenly, instead of a suburban housewife with a personal disaster, we’re delving into family history, literary history (I love that Byron is part of the plot. Byron is a favorite of mine.), aviation history, and so much more. Lidia’s world, and, indeed her family, both literally and in terms of how she defines family, both expand.

As I said, all of the characters were fully realized, dimensional people. Any of them could live in your neighborhood. What I also loved was the author’s use of language – nothing ever felt too stilted or too slang-y – and her use of detail.  The juxtaposition between Polly’s ancient black CORDED phone and her completely up-to-date computer, for example, was rich and vivid. I felt like I could see, smell, and touch everything.

I also particularly liked the way the title was referenced (and relevant to) the novel as a whole, but I won’t spoil that happy surprise, because it’s a key moment in the story.

Suffice to say, this is no ordinary novel, it’s a breathtaking glimpse at a life that’s just a little bit less ordinary than our own, in a reality that’s ever-so-slightly heightened.

Goes well with hot coffee and apple tarts served on a rambling porch on a crisp fall afternoon. All partakers are wrapped in cozy flannel throws, of course.


Giveaway Water on the Moon

One lucky winner in the U.S. or Canada will be selected to receive a copy of Water on the Moon

To enter: Find my tweet about this review on Twitter, and retweet it (I’m @Melysse), or leave a comment on this post and tell me what figure from history you’re related to. (Not related to any great historical figures? Tell me who you WISH you were related to.)

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Sunday, October 25st.

Winner will be notified by email (or Twitter), and must provide their mailing address, which will be forwarded to the publicist for fulfillment.


Jean P. Moore’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, October 19th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, October 21st: Mallory Heart Reviews

Thursday, October 22nd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, October 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, October 27th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Wednesday, October 28th: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, October 29th: Mallory Heart Reviews – author guest post

Monday, November 2nd: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, November 3rd: Just One More Chapter – author guest post

Wednesday, November 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, November 6th: Necromancy Never Pays

Monday, November 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, November 10th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 12th: Kahakai Kitchen

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom (@mitchalbom) #review

About the book, The Magic Strings Of Frankie Presto The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

 Hardcover: 512 pages
• Publisher: Harper (November 10, 2015)

Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the earth—in this magical novel about the power of talent to change our lives.

In Mitch Albom’s epic new novel, the voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, Frankie Presto, a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, Frankie is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six magical strings.

But Frankie’s talent is touched by the gods, and it weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. Along the way, Frankie influences many artists: he translates for Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.

Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people’s futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell.

With its Forrest Gump–like journey through the music world, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is a classic in the making. A lifelong musician himself, Mitch Albom delivers an unforgettable story. “Everyone joins a band in this life,” he observes, be it through music, family, friends, or lovers. And those connections change the world.

Buy, read, and discuss The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Mitch Albom Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom is a bestselling novelist, a screen-writer, a playwright, and an award-winning journalist. He is the author of six consecutive number-one New York Times bestsellers and has sold more than thirty-four million copies of his books in forty-two languages worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie, which spent four years atop the New York Times list, is the bestselling memoir of all time.

Albom has founded seven charities, including the first-ever full-time medical clinic for homeless children in America. He also operates an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He lives with his wife, Janine, in suburban Detroit.

Connect with Mitch

Find out more about Mitch at his website, connect with him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The first thing that really grabbed me about The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto was that the narrator of the opening chapter was Music itself. Not quite Music personified, but definitely Music as a sentient being. As a musician myself (cello, singing, learning guitar), as well as the daughter of a woman whom Music passed by, this narrative choice made a lot of sense to me, and I would have been incredibly happy if the whole novel had been narrated by Music.

As the supporting characters worked their way in, however, and their voices strengthened, my initial rush of interest wore off. Don’t get me wrong, Magic Strings is eminently readable, but it seems a lot like, aside from Music, the author didn’t really have a strong sense of his characters.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the story. Mitch Albom made the inclusion of real people practically seamlessly (the description compares the novel to Forest Gump in that respect, but people have been doing such things for ages). It always makes me grin when authors can do that without it feeling disruptive or gimmicky, but since the epynomous (if fictional) Frankie Presto is a contemporary of people like Elvis, it makes sense to use that storytelling device. It drives me crazy when novelists set their stories in contemporary or recently historical periods and then pretend none of the pop culture we all know ever existed.

I loved that Frankie had a miles-long birth name that demonstrated his Spanish roots, and that he came to see his musical gift (both the actual playing, and the secondary gift of the blue strings on his guitar and their special power) as both a blessing and a curse, because even those of us who are strictly amateurs often feel that way, even without magic. I liked that the simple language Albom tends to use was both really natural, but that he also gave it a rhythm that felt like someone strumming a guitar.

Since my only previous exposure to Albom’s work was is memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, which I loved, I was worried that his fiction voice wouldn’t be as engaging. I was wrong, though I will caution that this book isn’t an action novel or a romance. Instead it’s a gentle, quirky story about a man, a guitar with magic strings, and the sometimes-fickle mistress/muse/calling that is Music.

Goes well with tapas and craft-brewed beer.


Mitch Albom’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, September 21st: Priscilla and Her Books

Wednesday, September 23rd: Lavish Bookshelf

Thursday, September 24th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Monday, September 28th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 30th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, September 30th: Mom in Love With Fiction

Thursday, October 1st: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, October 5th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, October 6th: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, October 7th: A Dream Within a Dream

Thursday, October 8th: Mama Vicky Says

Tuesday, October 13th: Book Loving Hippo

Wednesday, October 14th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Monday, October 19th: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, October 20th: Curling Up by the Fire

Wednesday, October 21st: Book by Book

Tuesday, October 27th: The Novel Life

Wednesday, October 28th: Shelf Full of Books

Thursday, October 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, November 2nd: Seaside Book Nook

Tuesday, November 3rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, November 4th: The Book Wheel

Thursday, November 5th: Books and Bindings

Monday, November 9th: Suko’s Notebook

Tuesday, November 10th: My Life in Books

Broken Homes & Gardens, by Rebecca Kelley (@rkelleywrites) #review #TLCbooktours

About Broken Homes & Gardens Broken Homes & Gardens

Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Blank Slate Press (April 28, 2015)

A girl, a guy, a broken-down house. Not exactly on-again, off-again, Malcolm and Joanna are in-again, out-again: in love, out of each other’s arms, in an awkward co-living arrangement, out of the country. Their unconventional relationship is the only way, Joanna says, to protect herself from the specter of commitment, which inevitably leads to heartbreak.

When Harry Met Sally for the Millennial generation, set in the damp and drizzly neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon, Broken Homes and Gardens is an ode to friendship, lust, and the unrelenting pull of love.

Buy, read, and discuss Broken Homes & Gardens

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


About the author, Rebecca Kelley Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley grew up in Carson City, Nevada, wandered for a few years, and eventually landed in Portland, where she teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft. She is the co-author of The Eco-nomical Baby GuideBroken Homes & Gardens is her first novel.

Connect with Rebecca

Goodreads | Website | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Sometimes a book arrives in your life exactly when you need it to. Lisa at TLC Book Tours offered this book to me when most of my summer review schedule was already set, but it looked like a fun and quirky novel (and I loved the title, a play on a certain magazine of some note), and I knew I’d be reading it at the end of my Dog Days of Podcasting run over at <a href=”http://www.bathtubmermaid.com”>The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Tub</a>.

I didn’t just read it, though. I devoured it.

I quickly fell in love with the somewhat aloof and more than a little clueless Joanna and the inscrutable (at first) Malcolm, thrown together when both are essentially abandoned at a party by her sister and his roommate (her sister’s lover/fiance/husband). Malcolm is leaving the country the next day, and the two become pen pals while dating other people, then he returns but they never quite hook up even though they end up cohabitating, and even though they’re so obviously meant for each other that you want to hit them with a blunt object. Or two.

In any case, Rebecca Kelley manages to balance poignance and absurdity, heartbreak and hopefulness in a way that never feels overly crafted, just well written. Her characters feel like the real, if sometimes annoying, people most of us know, or have been, and the core relationships – Joanna and Laura as sisters, and as daughters of Tess, Laura and Ted, Joanna and Malcolm, and old friends Ted and Malcolm all ring true.

It’s not a piece of somber, serious literature, but neither is Broken Homes & Gardens romance novel fluff. It’s a perfectly contemporary love story about imperfect contemporary lovers, and it should be on your reading list, for the next time you want something that’s light, but not frothy.

Goes well with a steaming mug of chai and an oatmeal craisin cookie.


Rebecca Kelley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 17th: Open Book Society

Monday, August 24th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Wednesday, August 26th: Chick Lit Central

Thursday, August 27th:  Palmer’s Page Turners

Monday, August 31st: Diary of a Stay At Home Mom

Wednesday, September 2nd: Bookmark Lit

Thursday, September 3rd: Bibliotica

Monday, September 7th: girlichef

Tuesday, September 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, September 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, September 9th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, September 10th: Book Dilettante

Friday, September 11th: From L.A. to LA

Wednesday, September 16th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, September 17th: Book Mama Blog

 

 

A Remarkable Kindness, by Diana Bletter (@dianabletter) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, A Remarkable Kindness A Remarkable Kindness

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015)

Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life

It’s 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.

The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.

Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women’s friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive.

Buy, read, and discuss A Remarkable Kindness

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Diana Bletter Diana Bletter

Diana Bletter is a writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, was shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. In 1991, she moved from New York to a seaside village in northern Israel where she lives with her husband and children, and volunteers in a burial circle.

Connect with Diana

Website |  Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve had this novel on my kindle for months, and I read it when I first downloaded it (but stupidly didn’t write the draft for the review), so my thoughts are a bit musty, but my first impression, meeting Aviva outside the burial house, and seeing her seek shelter during a bombing was that this was no sweet piece of literary fiction, but a gem of a story that offered a great blend of contemporary Israeli/Palestinian politics, gritty reality, and excellent character work, and I was not wrong. In fact when I next met Laura, transplanted from Boston to Peleg with her new husband (well, new-ish, they’ve been married about a year) I was hooked.

But it’s not enough to have two women at the heart of this story, for author Bletter introduces us to Laura’s friend Emily, and college student Rachel, each of whom also comes to Israel for her own reason.

Eventually of course Aviva and Laura, Emily and Rachel, all become friends and true compatriots, and their burgeoning friendship is an integral part of this story, but the politics and the harsh reality of daily life in a small Israeli village are equally important, and Diana Bletter does an excellent job of giving us a look at these four women and their lives as well as the bigger picture of life in Peleg and how it relates to the region – and the world – as a home.

Literature with Jewish themes has been a recurring thing for me this year, quite by accident, and I’ve really enjoyed the various glimpses into a culture that is at once similar to and very different from the middle-class American life I lead.

Some of the most beautiful and haunting sections of A Remarkable Kindness were the scenes directly relating to burial circles, and I found myself quite drawn to the simple spirituality displayed.

Goes well with fresh baked challah with golden raisins, and strong coffee.


Diana’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 11th: 5 Minutes For Books

Wednesday, August 12th: Becca Rowan

Thursday, August 13th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, August 14th: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, August 17th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, August 19th: Mel’s Shelves

Thursday, August 20th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Monday, August 24th: Raven Haired Girl

Tuesday, August 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, August 26th: JulzReads

Thursday, August 27th: Bibliotica

TBD: Novel Escapes

 

Blue, by Kayce Stevens Hughlett (@kaycehughlett) #review @netgalley

About the book, Blue Blue

  • File Size: 1490 KB
  • Print Length: 235 pages
  • Publisher: BQB Publishing (September 10, 2015)
  • Publication Date: September 10, 2015

One insecure perfectionist. One guilt-ridden artist. One child-woman who talks to peacocks. A trio of complex heroines on separate journeys toward a single intertwined truth.Imagine living exclusively for others and waking up one day with a chance to start over. The terrifying new beginning reeks of abandonment and betrayal. The choice for Seattle resident Monica lingers between now and then. . .them and her. Izabel’s idyllic existence on Orcas Island is turned upside down during the birth of a friend’s child. Suddenly, pain rips through her own body, and life as she knows it shifts, hinting at a forgotten past and propelling her toward an uncertain future. On another island, young Daisy awakens surrounded by infinite shades of blue. Is she dreaming or has she stepped through the portal into a fantastical land where animals spout philosophy and a gruesome monster plots her destruction? Blue – a subtle psychological mind-bender where each heroine is her own worst enemy. Eccentric. Loveable. Unforgettable.

Buy, read, and discuss Blue

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


About the author, Kayce Stevens Hughlett Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a soulful and spirited woman. In her roles as psychotherapist, life coach, author, spiritual director, and speaker, she invites us to playfully and fearlessly cross the thresholds toward authentic living. A strong proponent of compassionate care in the world, Kayce’s live and online work focuses on the principle that we must live it to give it. Her early career began with a multi-national accounting firm to be later refined as the path of an artist. She delights in walking alongside others as they explore and unearth their own pathways toward passionate living.

Kayce is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach and holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She is the co-author of “Arts Centered Supervision” published in Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction, as well as contributor to other collections and online publications. Kayce is a trained SoulCollage® facilitator, a dedicated supporter of the Soltura Foundation, and co-founder of the Soul Care Institute–a professional development program facilitating the formation, nourishment, and deep inner work of soul care practitioners. Raised in the heartland of Oklahoma, she now resides in Seattle, Washington with her family and muse, Aslan the Cat.

Connect with Kayce

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

My friend Debra mentioned to me that one of her other friends had recently published a novel. “You read a lot,” she said, “you might like it.” I immediately went looking for that novel – Blue – on NetGalley, and was approved for an advance e-copy, which I devoured in one afternoon. Then I ‘met’ the author through our mutual participation in one of Debra’s projects, and asked her if she’d prefer a specific date for the review. She chose August 20th.

Weeks after reading Blue, there are several things that linger with me, the strongest being the use of the color, blue, as the through-connection in this novel which is really the story of three different women, Monica, Izabel, and Daisy.  I’m hesitant to elaborate because I don’t want to spoil anything, but Hughlett showed how good she is with crafting plot and writing nuances with that element.

All three women had distinct personalities, and I really liked the way each interacted with the world on her own (apparent) terms, but also had some kind of secret lurking. I wouldn’t consider this novel an out-and-out mystery, but it definitely had mysterious elements.

I find that it’s easier for me to treat Monica and Izabel’s sections as one unit for purposes of review -these women were both obviously hurting, and obviously seeking things they weren’t ready to admit they needed. I found that their lives were rich and interesting and yet felt incomplete. Each lived in surroundings that completely suited her. With Izabel, I was reminded of the line from the movie The Wedding Date about how every woman has the relationship she wants.

Daisy’s story, on the other hand, was completely surreal with talking animals and a personal island paradise. My vision of her story is blend of Chagall’s art and Lewis Carroll’s stories, except that she was a lot more introspective and interesting than Alice. (Of course, Alice was a child, so…there’s that.)

Overall, I found Hughlett’s writing voice to be engaging and interesting. The opening of the novel confused me a little, but also hooked me, and made me want to figure everything out.  Her characters – even the animals – felt very real. The three central women were especially dimensional.

In anyone else’s hands, the same story would have descended into cheap comedy or depressing sadness. From Kayce Stevens Hughlett’s deft hands comes, instead, a novel that manages to be poignant, compelling, puzzling, engaging, and incredibly readable.

Goes well with lemonade, blueberry pound cake, and fresh fruit, served al fresco in a lush garden.

 

 

 

Baker’s Blues, by Judith Ryan Hendricks #review #TLC Book Tours

About Baker’s Blues Baker's Blues

Publisher: Chien Bleu Press

In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 AM phone call usually means problems at her bakery—equipment trouble or a first shift employee calling in sick—annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.

Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.

Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief. Friends and family are bewildered by her spiral into sadness, Mac’s daughter Skye blames her for his death.

For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons of bread that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals, and the future waits.

Buy, read, and discuss Baker’s Blues

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Judith Ryan Hendricks Judith Ryan Hendricks

.Judith Ryan Hendricks was born in San Jose, California, when Silicon Valley was the Santa Clara Valley, better known for orchards than for computer chips.

Armed with a degree in journalism, she worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress and baker before turning to fiction writing. Her experiences at the McGraw Street Bakery in Seattle led to her first novel, Bread Alone and the sequel, The Baker’s Apprentice.

A life-long infatuation with the Southwest provided inspiration for Isabel’s Daughter and her fourth book, The Laws of Harmony. Hendricks’ fiction has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in more than 16 countries worldwide.

Her nonfiction has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Essay, Grand Gourmet in Italy and The London Sunday Express. Her short fiction has appeared in Woman’s Weekly in Britain and AMERICAN GIRLS ON THE TOWN, an anthology, in the U.S. and U.K.

She lives in New Mexico with husband Geoff and dog Blue.

Connect with Judi at her website, judihendricks.com


My Thoughts: MissMeliss

I’m not going to lie: when it comes to Judith Ryan Hendricks, I’m an unabashed fangirl. So much of what she writes speaks to me, and it’s because of her that I started experimenting with baking bread again just after reading her first novel Bread Alone.

Baker’s Blues is the second sequel to that first novel, and our protagonist, Wynter (Wyn) has matured in this book. She seems much more grounded and centered, even as she’s dealing with major life events, for this book opens with the off-camera death of Mac (the lover, then husband, then ex-husband she met in the first book) and the family drama that comes with it, much of which is embodied in his adult daughter Skye.

As Wyn has matured, so has Hendricks’s writing. Always full of imagery, always replete with splendid, dimensional characterization, in Baker’s Blues we see that the author, like her character, is ‘simplified’  – honed down to the most essential words and phrases.

The result is a reading experience that’s just luscious. The dialogue sounds completely true-to-life, and I was really impressed by the way Hendricks conveys so much with body language. The prickly don’t-touch-me of Skye and Wyn’s inner battle to reach out or stay safely within herself are both particularly notable.

Where Hendricks’s writing soars is when food – especially bread – enter the story. If her first novel bordered on ‘food porn,’ this one is more a sumptuous feast: elegant, perfectly balanced, and incredibly satisfying.

But then, those words could be used to describe Baker’s Blues as a whole, as well.

Goes well with bread, cheese, olives and/or raisins, and a glass of wine….what else?


Judith Ryan Hendrick’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 3rd: Farmgirl Fare – Review & A Conversation with the Author

Monday, August 3rd: Thoughts on This and That

Tuesday, August 4th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, August 4th: Jorie Loves a Story – guest post

Wednesday, August 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 6th: Griperang’s Bookmarks

Friday, August 7th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, August 10th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Wednesday, August 12th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, August 12th: Time 2 Read

Friday, August 14th: Walking with Nora

Monday, August 17th: Guiltless Reading

Tuesday, August 18th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, August 19th: Bibliotica – review and guest post

Thursday, August 20th: 5 Minutes for Books

Monday, August 24th: girlichef

Tuesday, August 25th: BookNAround

Wednesday, August 26th: Bell Book and Candle

Thursday, August 27th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

The Ones We Trust, by Kimberly Belle (@kimberlysbelle) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Ones We Trust The Ones We Trust

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (July 28, 2015)

When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.

The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier’s brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.

Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail’s search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping—and seeking hope in the impossible.

Buy, read, and discuss The Ones We Trust

Amazon | Indie Bound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Belle Kimberly Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She’s the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Connect with Kimberly

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I know it’s a completely unfounded bias, but I’m always a bit wary when I crack open a book from Mira, because I know they’re a Harlequin imprint. Most of the time, my wariness is completely unwarranted, and with The Ones we Trust that was absolutely true. This novel is intelligent, interesting, and completely engaging.

I really liked main character Abby. Specifically, I liked her as much for her spunk and resolve as I did for her mad research skills and for the fact that even with all her good points, she was still a flawed, faltering human being. Similarly, the male lead, Gabe, was a compelling, dimensional character, not just a cookie-cutter romance hero.

The plot was well-paced and I liked that elements like PTSD, while integral to the story, were never treated exploitatively. There’s a fine balance with things like that, and in less able hands, the story could have gone in unfortunate directions.

That said, Belle’s writing voice is fresh and compelling.

If you want to read a novel that blends political intrigue and believable romance, you can trust The Ones We Trust.


Kimberly Belle’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

TLC Book Tours
Tuesday, July 28th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, July 29th: Life is Story

Thursday, July 30th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, August 4th: Mom’s Small Victories

Thursday, August 6th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Friday, August 7th: Romancing the Book – review & interview

Monday, August 10th: Books and Spoons

Monday, August 10th: Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, August 11th: Just One More Chapter – author guest post

Tuesday, August 11th: Jorie Loves a Story – author guest post

Wednesday, August 12th: Bibliotica

Friday, August 14th: From the TBR Pile – review and author Q&A

Monday, August 17th: Feminist Reflections

Wednesday, August 19th: Read Love Blog – author guest post

Thursday, August 20th: The World As I See It

TBD: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

 

The Reinvention of Albert Paugh, by Jean Davies Okimoto #review #TLCBookTours

About the book The Reinvention of Albert Paugh The Reinvention of Albert Paugh

Page count: 288 pages

Publisher: Endicott and Hugh Books

Dr. Albert Paugh is flunking retirement. After selling his Vashon Island veterinary practice, he soon finds himself not only lost without his work, but suddenly single. His efforts to carve out a new life, both as a bachelor and a retiree, only leave him feeling like his golden years are fast becoming years of gloom. His regrets pile up until he moves to Baker’s Beach where he gets to know a very special neighbor, learns that friends are the family you choose, and finds a new sense of purpose. The Reinvention of Albert Paugh is a sweet, funny love story about retirees that will delight readers (and dog lovers) of any age.

The Reinvention of Albert Paugh is the third book in Jean Davies Okimoto’s Island Trilogy, following The Love Ceiling and Walter’s Muse.

Buy, read, and discuss The Reinvention of Albert Paugh

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million


About the author, Jean Davis Okimoto Jean Davies Okimoto

Jean Davies Okimoto is an author and playwright whose books and short stories have been translated into Japanese, Italian, Chinese, German, Danish, Korean and Hebrew. She is the recipient  of numerous awards including Smithsonian Notable Book, the American LibraryAssociation Best Book for Young Adults, the Washington Governor’s Award and the International Reading Association Readers Choice Award. Her picture book, Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat was adapted by Shelly Duvall for the HBO and Showtime television series “Bedtime Stories.” Her debut novel for adults The Love Ceiling was a season’s pick by the King County Library System, named to the ABA Indie Next Reading Group List and ebook Fiction Winner in the 2009 Indie Next Generation Awards. She has appeared on CNN, Oprah, and The Today Show. Jeanie, who is also a retired psychotherapist, began writing for adults when she and her husband Joe retired to Vashon Island in 2004 where they (and their dogs Bert and Willie) are visited by deer families and their six grandchildren.

For more information on Ms. Okimoto, please visit her website at www.jeandaviesokimoto.com.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The Reinvention of Albert Paugh is a quirky and sweet novel, with an idyllic Pacific Northwest island setting and a cast of characters that can charm the pants off you, even while they’re driving you crazy. Reading it is like visiting the village you never knew you wanted to live in.

If I had to pick a word – a single word – to describe the eponymous title character, I would describe Albert as ‘befuddled,’ and while this novel could be considered to be ‘about’ his love of animals, his divorce, his post-retirement lifestyle, in many ways it’s really about Albert clearing away his terminal befuddlement and seeing the world with fresh, new, eyes.

As someone who has watched her parents move through many post-retirement configurations, and as someone who is no longer in any of the ticky-boxes that are anything other than ‘middle aged’ (this despite the fact that I got carded buying wine on Friday) this story felt especially relevant and poignant. We will all wake up one morning and realize our lives are not what we planned or hoped, and that the only people who can change that is ourselves.

Author Jean Davis Okimoto has a knack for characterization – every person (and dog) in this novel felt completely real, from the annoying woman with the corgi to the wife who demands a divorce in the early chapters, and the settings also felt incredibly cinematic.

This is the third book in a trilogy, but I haven’t read the first two. While I’m certain doing so would have given me greater familiarity with Vashon Island and it’s denizens, I did not feel like I was coming into the middle of a story at all.

If you want to read something that will charm the pants off you, and then get you out of your chair to play fetch with the dog in your life, The Reinvention of Albert Paugh would be an excellent choice.

Goes well with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and a cold locally brewed craft beer.


Jean Davies Okimoto’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, August 3rd: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, August 5th: Mama Vicky Says

Monday, August 10th: The Book Wheel

Tuesday, August 11th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 12th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Thursday, August 13th: BookNAround

Friday, August 14th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, August 17th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, August 19th: Life is Story

Monday, August 24th: Joyfully Retired

Wednesday, August 26th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, August 28th: View from the Birdhouse

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt (@KateHewitt1) #review

About the book, Rainy Day Sisters Rainy Day Sisters

  • Series: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (August 4, 2015)

The USA Today bestselling author presents a heartfelt novel about two sisters struggling toward new lives and loves.

Welcome to Hartley-by-the-Sea in England’s beautiful Lake District, where two sisters who meet as strangers find small miracles tucked into the corners of every day….

When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet.

Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.

Buy, Read, and discuss Rainy Day Sisters

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


About the author, Kate Hewitt Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt is the bestselling author of over 40 novels of romance and women’s fiction, including The Emigrants Trilogy set in Scotland and North America, the Hartley-by-the-Sea series set in the Lake District, and Tales From Goswell written as Katharine Swartz.

She lives in England’s Lake District with her husband and five children. You can read about her experience as an ex-pat living in a tiny village on her blog, www.acumbrianlife.blogspot.co.uk.

Connect with Kate

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Rainy Day Sisters showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago, sent by the publisher. At first, I was confused: had I signed up to do a tour of this novel? But no, it was just the publicist picking bloggers she thought might read/review. Well, this publicist chose wisely, because it’s exactly the kind of book I would pick to devour over afternoon coffee. It’s the kind of book I’d have been attracted to on the ‘new in trade paperback’ table at Barnes and Noble, if I ever went to physical bookstores anymore. (I MISS spending rainy weekends browsing through bookstores, finally ending up in the cafe, sharing a table with my husband as we each sink into a new read…sorry, I digress.)

In any case, this novel was full of delight. Lucy shows up on the doorstep of her sister’s  – well, basically it’s a B&B – invited, but lost in the world. She’s an artist whose career was just tanked by her own mother, and her sister, Juliet, has invited her to come get a fresh start in her quaint English village.

At first, I was annoyed by both sisters – Lucy seemed to choose to be helpless and Juliet was far too prickly, but as I got to know the characters better, I realized they were much more than those initial impressions. Lucy is creative, plucky, outgoing and optimistic. Juliet is methodical, more introverted, almost compulsively organized. Together, they make a formidable pair as they work from being relative strangers to becoming true sisters, and also experience love, friendship, and belonging in the village itself.

Author Hewitt has a knack for dialogue, description and characterization, and I felt a really strong sense of place. The plot was well-paced and the story enjoyable. I would happily read more of her work, and even more happily spend a week or so in Hartley-by-the-Sea.

Goes well with hot tea, warm scones, and clotted cream, obviously.