Review: The Sisters Hemingway, by Annie England Noblin

The-Sisters-Hemingway-coverAbout the book, The Sisters Hemingway

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 12, 2019)

For fans of Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, or Susan Wiggs, this is a novel for anyone who loves stories about sisters, dogs, and family secrets. 

 The Sisters Hemingway: they couldn’t be more different…or more alike.

The Hemingway Sisters of Cold River, Missouri are local legends. Raised by a mother obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, they were named after the author’s four wives—Hadley, Pfeiffer, Martha, and Mary. The sisters couldn’t be more different—or more alike. Now they’re back in town, reunited to repair their fractured relationships.

Hadley is the poised, polished wife of a senator.

Pfeiffer is a successful New York book editor.

Martha has skyrocketed to Nashville stardom.

They each have a secret—a marriage on the rocks,  a job lost, a stint in rehab…and they haven’t been together in years.

Together, they must stay in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother—and their youngest sister, Mary—they rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that have long seemed broken. With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new—and one endearing and determined Basset Hound—the Sisters Hemingway learn that he happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, waiting to be claimed.

Buy, read, and discuss The Sisters Hemingway:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


AnnieNoblinAbout the author, Annie England Noblin

Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs.

Connect with Annie:

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This book came into my life when I really needed a cozy, gentle novel about family, and that’s what I got. At the same time, though, it’s also an honest look at family, at the secrets we keep from the people we love, and the truths that only those who love us most ever know, often without saying.

With The Sisters Hemingway, author Noblin gives us three separate stories in one novel, though all three eventually converge with a fourth to form a family portrait of courage and heartbreak, and unspoken selflessness.

The actual sisters of the story are all fully formed adults when we meet them, approaching middle age with less stability than they probably wished to have. Martha, the music star, has ended a relationship with someone who diminished her talents and self-worth. Pfeiffer made a stupid mistake that cost her a thriving career, and Hadley is a dutiful wife to a politician. Their fourth sister dies in the prologue – we never know what she would have been as an adult – but she’s still very present in the novel.

What I really loved about this book was the way Noblin showed us that just because you’re an adult, or even middle-aged doesn’t mean you have to be finished or perfect or even know exactly what you want. Rather, we are capable of growth and and change, and finding new love at any age, and for me, someone who is fast approaching the magic age of fifty, that’s something I don’t often see in contemporary fiction, except in mysteries and thrillers.

Noblin’s writing voice is fresh and accessible, her plot is well-paced, and her characters are vividly drawn. I recommend this book highly.

Goes well with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches and homemade chili, with glasses of cold sweet tea.


Visit the other great blogs on this tour: https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Tuesday, February 12th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, February 13th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, February 14th: Bibliotica

Friday, February 15th: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Monday, February 18th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Tuesday, February 19th: BookNAround

Wednesday, February 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, February 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, February 22nd: Literary Quicksand

Monday, February 25th: Instagram: @giuliland

Tuesday, February 26th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 27th: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, February 28th: What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 28th: From the TBR Pile

Review: 99% Mine, by Sally Thorne

99-Percent-Mine-coverAbout  the book, 99 Percent Mine

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (January 29, 2019)

Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game, which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush—if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

Buy, read, and discuss 99% Mine:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sally Thorne Sally-Thorne-AP-Photo-by-Katie-Saarikko

Sally Thorne is the USA Today-bestselling author of The Hating Game. She spends her days climbing into fictional worlds of her own creation. She lives in Canberra, Australia with her husband in a house filled with vintage toys, too many cushions, a haunted dollhouse and the world’s sweetest pug.

Connect with Sally

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

99% Mine was my first introduction to Sally Thorne’s writing, but it was a welcome one, and the perfect antidote for a glum January weekend as I was recovering from oral surgery with characters who are witty, refreshingly real, and unaffected, and also delightfully flawed, just the way real people should be. Main character Darcy, who has a congenital heart defect, is first introduced to us as she’s working as a bartender under an assumed name, where she provides us with this key piece of information: when confronted with any group of men, identify the alpha. She does this with a group of guys who come in to drink, and immediately proves that her power is greater than theirs.

At home, however, author Thorne shows us another side to Darcy – lonely, isolated, and not as together as she seems. When childhood-best-friend Tom Valeska shows up to start the remodel on Darcy’s inherited house (she shares ownership with her twin brother Jamie, whom we meet through phone calls, for the most part) the tenor of the story changes to one of reclaimed friendship with a dash of romantic comedy.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying read, a fresh spin on family dramas mixed with a healthy dose of romance for balance. I found all the characters to be compelling, including the house, which was more than a plot device or a setting, if slightly less than an actual member of the cast. As well, I liked the fact that Loretta, the twin’s dead grandmother was also a sort of character, appearing through memories, references and signs.

While I was aware that author Thorne is Australian, I found it interesting that she chose not to specify the setting of her novel. It could have taken place in any major city in almost any English-speaking country.

Overall, this was an entertaining, fast-paced read.

Goes well with hot pizza and cold beer.


Tour Stops for 99% Mine TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Tuesday, January 29th: Instagram: @worldswithinpages

Wednesday, January 30th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee

Thursday, January 31st: Instagram: @readwithkat

Friday, February 1st: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Saturday, February 2nd: Instagram: @absorbedinpages

Sunday, February 3rd: Instagram: @lavieestbooks

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @katieladyreads

Review Stops

Tuesday, January 29th: The Literary Llama

Wednesday, January 30th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, January 31st: Instagram: @diaryofaclosetreader

Friday, February 1st: Bibliotica

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @laceybooklovers

Tuesday, February 5th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, February 6th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Thursday, February 7th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, February 8th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, February 11th: Instagram: @giuliland

Tuesday, February 12th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Wednesday, February 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 14th: What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 14th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, February 18th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, February 19th: Spinatale Reviews

Wednesday, February 20th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Thursday, February 21st: InkyMoments

Friday, February 22nd: Fuelled by Fiction

 

Review: Learning to See, by Elise Hooper

About the book, Learning to See

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 22, 2019)

Learning-to-See-cover“Written with grace, empathy, and bright imagination, Learning to See gives us the vivid interior life of a remarkably resilient woman. Dorothea Lange’s story is about passion and art, love and family, but also about the sacrifices women make—and have always made—to illuminate the truth of the world.” Danya Kukafka, national bestselling author of Girl in Snow

Learning to See is a gripping account of the Dorothea Lange, the woman behind the camera who risked everything for art, activism, and love. …

In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon.

By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.

At a time when women were supposed to keep the home fires burning, Dorothea Lange, creator of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, dares to be different. But her choices came at a steep price…

Buy, read, and discuss Learning to See:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise-Hooper-AP-Photo-by-Chris-Landry-PhotographyA New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature. The Other Alcott was her first novel.

Connect with Elise:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI come from a long line of amateur photographers, so I’ve long been familiar with the real Dorothea Lange’s work. Reading a fictionalized version of her life, then, was something I was eager to do. Having read and enjoyed author Elise Hooper’s freshman outing, The Other Alcott, I was familiar with her crisp, no-nonsense style, one that makes her extrapolations feel like proper docu-dramas. In this case, I imagined Katharine Hepburn playing the lead character, though I’m not sure why. Possibly because Lange is from the time period that lends itself to that ‘trans-Atlantic’ accent.

I immediately fell in love with both the historic San Francisco setting, and the character at the heart of the novel, the prickly, feisty, determined Lange herself. Like her, I’m a brunette, and hardly a ‘looker,’ and have had to rely on brains and talent (as we all should, really), so I empathized with her a lot. Immediately I was thankful that she was living in a time when women in trousers was finally acceptable – how much easier to hide that ‘withered right leg’ that way.

Of course, it wasn’t just Lange’s struggle to become successful as an artist that intrigued me, but also her perspective on the world. She humanized the American poor, and, equally importantly, turned her lens on our worst selves, documenting the truth of the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Hooper’s novel shows us this, of course, but she also lets us see Lange’s private self: the young mother struggling to raise two children in the Depression-era economy, and balancing the need to make a living with the innate requirement that she must retain her own sense of integrity, both personal and artistic.

This is a novel, not a biography, but it’s a compelling and fascinating read, and where it may err in facts, it resounds with truth.

Goes well with bacon, eggs, pancakes, and a steaming mug of black coffee.


Tour Stops for Learning to See TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @readvoraciously

Wednesday, January 23rd: Instagram: @reading.betweenthewines

Wednesday, January 23rd: Instagram: @katieladyreads

Thursday, January 24th: Instagram: @readingbringsjoy

Thursday, January 24th: Instagram: @basicbsguide

Friday, January 25th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines

Saturday, January 26th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Sunday, January 27th: Instagram: @wellreadmama

Monday, January 28th: Instagram: @ciannereads

Review Stops

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Wednesday, January 23rd: BookNAround

Thursday, January 24th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 25th: InkyMoments

Monday, January 28th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, January 28th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, January 29th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, January 30th: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, January 31st: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, February 4th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Tuesday, February 5th: Doing Dewey

Wednesday, February 6th: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Thursday, February 7th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 8th: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: In This Ground by Beth Castrodale

About the book, In This Ground In-This-Ground

  • Paperback: 160 Pages
  • Publisher: Garland Press (September 18, 2018)

Just as his indie-rock band was poised to make it big, Ben Dirjery traded it all in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at Bolster Hill Cemetery. Now closing in on fifty, the former guitarist finds himself divorced and at loose ends, and still haunted by the tragic death of his former band’s lead singer, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. Then Ben’s daughter begins questioning a past he has tried to bury. If he can face her questions, he might finally put to rest his guilt over his bandmate’s death, and bring music back into his life.

Praise for In This Ground:

“Startlingly incongruous parts–graveyards, guitars, and mushrooms–come together in satisfying and unexpected ways. Sharp writing and an unconventional plot make for a darkly enjoyable read.”–Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author, Beth Castrodale Beth-Castrodale

Beth Castrodale has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. Her novels include Marion Hatley, a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (published by Garland Press in 2017), and In This Ground (Garland Press, 2018). Beth’s stories have appeared in such journals as Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and the Mulberry Fork Review. Get a free copy of her novel Gold River when you sign up for her e-newsletter, at http://www.bethcastrodale.com/gold-river/.

Connect with Beth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Quirky characters, music, knitting bombs, mushrooms, and green funerals all combine in this gripping novel from Beth Castrodale, In This Ground. It’s part mystery part character study, with multiple intertwining threads and overlapping stories, not to mention that it’s set in a cemetery.

At the center of it all, of course, is Ben, divorced, lonely, with his ambitions of being in a successful rock band long gone to seed, he is the POV character we first meet, and while the story pays more attention to his (dead and buried) former bandmate Nick Graves, and the Unknown Vagrant, whose very existence is a point of contention in the community, it is Ben’s arc that I found most compelling and most poignant.

In truth, though, every plot thread is equally fascinating, and every character is dimensional and interesting, and author Castrodale has woven (or knitted) it all together into a story that begs you to read it, and leaves you hoping for a sequel.

Goes well with: mushroom and olive pizza and a cold beer.


Beth Castrodale’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 7th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, January 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 10th: Books and Bindings

Monday, January 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 15th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post

Wednesday, January 16th: Booklover Book Reviews

Thursday, January 17th: @crystals_library

Monday, January 21st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, January 22nd: Really Into This and @mountain_reader_

Wednesday, January 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, January 24th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, January 28th: Book By Book

Tuesday, January 29th: Erica Robyn Reads

Review: The Hollow Middle by John Popielaski

The-Hollow-Middle-coverAbout the book, The Hollow Middle

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (December 4, 2018)

The Hollow Middle follows Albert Lesiak, an aging English teacher in Connecticut, who receives a windfall in delayed acknowledgment of the government’s complicity in his father’s cancer death and decides that it is time to live a different life on land he owns in Maine.

When his wife Mary suggests that they could foster or adopt autistic twin boys she fell in love with on a website and could use the stipend money in furtherance of Albert’s vision, Albert gradually perceives himself as possibly adapting to the role of patriarch.

A meditation on the curiosity of making sense and the dilemma of becoming true, The Hollow Middle ambles, mostly, and goes still for periods of various duration, acting like it’s not beholden after all to the rhetorical.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Unsolicited Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


JohnPopielaski-Bio-PictureAbout the author, John Popielaski

John Popielaski is the author of several poetry collections, including, most recently, Isn’t It Romantic? which won the Robert Phillips Chapbook Award from Texas Review Press. The Hollow Middle is his first novel.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John on his website, and follow him on Facebook.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe Hollow Middle is not a fast read. In fact, it’s mindfully, even meditatively slow. It’s the kind of novel you read a few chapters of over a mug – or several – of tea, take time to digest them, and then go back for more. This is not a bad thing. In fact, the stillness of this book is an asset, because it means you really get to know the protagonist, Albert Lesiak.

In the initial chapters, Albert comes off as both prickly and kind of pompous. He’s detached from the world, an observer, rather than a real participant. You get the sense that things like sticky fingers would offend his sensibilities.

Despite this, he’s not a shallow character. He’s clearly leading an examined life and made decisions based on his perceived results.

And then everything changes.

But within that change, Albert remains surprisingly constant. His wife, Mary, serves as both chorus and director at different times, suggesting changes (adopting two boys being the biggest one) and then sitting back while Albert plays with all the angles and finds his own peace in the decision.

As I said, it’s a slow novel, almost more of a character study than anything else, and yet, it’s also compelling.

Author John Popielaski uses language with a combination of eloquence and economy of phrase that is refreshing to read. I found myself repeating sentences out loud because I was drawn to their rhythm. The characters feel like real – if slightly eccentric – people, and the situation is an interesting consideration of how we do or don’t change when we suddenly have the money to do whatever we want.

Goes well with: hot tea and shortbread cookies.


Tour Stops TLC BOOK TOURS

Wednesday, January 2nd: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 3rd: Life By Kristen

Friday, January 4th: she treads softly

Monday, January 7th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, January 8th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, January 9th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Thursday, January 10th: Instagram: @bookwormmommyof3

Tuesday, January 15th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, January 16th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, January 17th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, January 17th: Broken Teepee

Monday, January 21st: Jessicamap Reviews

Wednesday, January 23rd: Girl Who Reads

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

About the book, Pieces of Her Pieces-of-Her-cover

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (August 21, 2018)

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girlsand The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss Pieces of Her:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Karin Slaughter Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Townand the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, Karin Slaughter lives in Atlanta. Her standalone novels The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television.

Connect with Karin:

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


My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

I absolutely loved this novel! Not only was it well-paced and deftly plotted, but the characters really felt plausible. Yes, there’s mystery and intrigue, action and adventure, and those are all constructed brilliantly. The mall scene never had me wondering where people were in space (something that can often be an issue during chaotic scenes), and the unfolding truths about who Laura really is, kept me interesting.

But what hooked me was the Andy-Laura relationship. I’m forty-eight, not thirty-one, but I really identified with Andy. My own mother is the type who irons t-shirts and is always impeccably dressed. I’m self-employed and live in t-shirts and jeans and have to have special black shirts for when we eat Japanese food, for the inevitable moment when soy sauce ends up on my chest, and as for my iron… I’m pretty sure I could find it if I had to.

Author Karin Slaughter’s depiction of a mother-daughter relationship is perfect. Just perfect. The love Andy feels for her mother who is a breast cancer patient, the fear  and curiosity, and even a bit of betrayal at not knowing her mother’s real history – these things were so emotionally truthful that they drove the novel as much as the actual plot.

If you want a really satisfying read that combines believable characters and a compelling story, you must read Pieces of Her.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and iced mango tea.


Tour Stops for Pieces of Her TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Tuesday, August 21st: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks

Wednesday, August 22nd: Instagram: @withniki

Friday, August 24th: Instagram: @thepagesinbetween

Saturday, August 25th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Sunday, August 26th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee

Monday, August 27th: Instagram: @givemeallthebooks

Monday, September 3rd: Instagram: @_ebl_inc_

Review Stops

Tuesday, August 21st: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, August 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, August 27th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, August 28th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

Wednesday, August 29th: Jessicamap Reviews

Thursday, August 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, September 3rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Tuesday, September 4th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Wednesday, September 5th: Instagram: @absorbedinpages

Thursday, September 6th: Bibliotica

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

Review: Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck

About the book Designer You Designer-You-cover-640x1024

• Paperback: 278 pages
• Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies suddenly and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.

When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.

Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.

It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads


About the author, Sarahlyn Bruck Sarahlyn-Bruck-AP-683x1024

Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of Designer You, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.

Designer You is Sarahlyn’s debut, and she is hard at work on her next book. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at sarahlynbruck.com. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.

Connect with Sarahlyn:

Facebook  | TwitterInstagram

 


My Thoughts 00-MissMelysse2017

This was a difficult book for me, because I was reading it just at the time that my stepfather died, and I was getting daily calls from my mother about what she should do now: Should she sell the house, etc? In a way, that made made empathize with Pam a bit more, I suppose.

Once I managed to set grief aside and focus, I really enjoyed Designer You. This is the author’s freshman novel, but it feels very smooth and very polished.

I liked that Pam wasn’t Ms. Perfect, and that she took the time to react to her husband’s death, and process her grief. I also liked that she wasn’t the perfect parent. Her relationship with her teenage daughter, Grace, felt very real to me, especially when she skips school to avoid people staring at her.

I also liked that Pam’s parents were supportive, but firm about their daughter needing to stand on her own. It’s proof that even when we’re in our forties we still need our parents’ guidance from time to time, and I think many of us forget that.

Overall, this was a hopeful and uplifting novel, and a great read, despite – or maybe because of – the opening tragedy.

Goes well with: a chicken burrito bowl and a shot of tequila.


Designer You Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Instagram Features

Wednesday, September 5th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Thursday, September 6th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read

Friday, September 7th: Instagram: @brittanyfiiasco

Saturday, September 8th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading

Sunday, September 9th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Monday, September 10th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee

Tuesday, September 11th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Review Stops

Monday, August 20th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 21st: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 23rd: Comfy Reading

Friday, August 24th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 27th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, August 28th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, August 29th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, August 30th: Leigh Kramer

Friday, August 31st: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, September 3rd: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, September 4th: Wining Wife

Wednesday, September 5th: Will Read Anything

Thursday, September 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, September 7th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, September 10th: The Desert Bibliophile

Tuesday, September 11th: Instagram: @writersdream

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Review: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

About the book, America for Beginners America-for-Beginners-cover

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (July 24, 2018)

Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circumstances.

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week “working” vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

A bittersweet and bighearted tale of forgiveness, hope, and acceptance, America for Beginners illuminates the unexpected enchantments life can hold, and reminds us that our most precious connections aren’t always the ones we seek

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Leah Franqui Leah-Franqui-AP-Photo-by-Priyam-Dhar

Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.

Connect with Leah:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

At first, I had a tough time connecting with this book – my stepfather was in the hospital in his last days of life, and I’d just had surgery and was dealing with Norco fog. I had to set it aside and go back to it. A month after surgery, and a week after the loss of my stepfather, I was feeling steady enough to tackle it again.

I’m glad I did.

Leah Franqui has, in this book, given us a fresh and interesting take on the “misfits take a road trip” trope. An Indian housewife, a Bangladeshi man masquerading as an Indian man, and a struggling actress are not the typical cast of such a book, especially with each of their backstories, but together, they present a charming picture as they experience both America and each other ‘uncensored.’

I really appreciated the way Franqui used posture and language to show us each character’s real self, and I also liked that we got so much backstory at the beginning. The characters may have been strangers to each other, but we readers had deep introductions to them, that made it less confusing when we were presented with so many characters to start.

For a first novel, America for Beginners really sings, and as much as I enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to reading whatever Ms. Franqui publishes next.

Goes well with chicken tikka masala and any beer with a rye note, such as Boulevard Rye-on-Rye.


America for Beginners Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

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Tuesday, July 24th: Wining Wife

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Wednesday, August 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, August 2nd: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, August 6th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, August 7th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 8th: Literary Quicksand

Thursday, August 9th: From the TBR Pile

TBD: Bibliotica

Review: The Daisy Children, by Sofia Grant

About the book, The Daisy Children The-Daisy-Children-cover

• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 7, 2018)

Inspired by true events, in Sofia Grant’s powerfully moving new novel a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth.

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear…

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sofia Grant Sofia-Grant-AP-Photo-by-Madeira-James

Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Connect with Sofia:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I always enjoy it when a novel incorporates real events in a fresh way. In the case of The Daisy Children, that event is the 1937 explosion of a school in a small town in Texas. Interestingly, that event is what led to the requirement that a bad scent be added to natural gas, so that you can tell when there’s a leak.

Within the context of this novel, however, the explosion was a connection point for protagonist Katie, whom we meet on the day she’s fired from her job, and her vivacious cousin Scarlett, as the two go through ancient family photographs while waiting to collect a surprise (at least on Katie’s part) inheritance.

As with her first novel, The Dress in the Window, Sofia Grant’s touch is a delicate one, giving the impression that she was listening to characters as they told their own stories, rather than creating them from imagination and research. Her dialogue is spot-on, with Katie and Scarlett having their own distinct voices, of course, but also with the period characters sounding as if they were accurately placed in the 30s and 40s, but without being fussy.

The plot was interesting – I never lost focus, and zipped through this book in a few hours – and descriptions were vivid (sometimes a bit too much so.)

Overall, this is a solid sophomore offering, and I recommend Grant’s work to anyone who wants to get lost in a good book.

Goes well with sweet tea and chicken salad served with homemade biscuits.


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Tuesday, August 7th: Bibliotica

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Friday, August 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

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Wednesday, August 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 15th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, August 16th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, August 20th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, August 21st: Instagram: @writersdream

Wednesday, August 22nd: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

TBD: A Bookish Affair

Review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin

About the book, Dead Girls Dead Girls by Alice Bolin

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

Praise for Dead Girls:

Dead Girls is everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence… I love this book.” —  Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

“Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely.” — Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of You Will Know Me

Best of summer 2018 – included on best-of lists by Bitch Magazine, Harpers BazaarThe Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

Buy, read, and discuss Dead Girls: 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alice Bolin Alice-Bolin-AP

Alice Bolin’s nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE’s Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis.

Connect with Alice:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve always enjoyed essays and literary criticism, and this book, Dead Girls is a delicious collection of both. I really enjoyed the way the author, Alice Bolin, juxtaposed her own upbringing and life experiences with the observations and analysis she made about that genre of literature (primarily) and media in general that concerns the eponymous “dead girls” – the women who are already dead at the start of a story, and whose murder is solved (or not) through the narrative.

As someone who finds the psyche of serial killers morbidly fascinating, I appreciated Bolin’s choice of material, and responded to her use of language. She is a keen observer of her world – our world – and though she’s roughly twenty years younger than I am, I found myself nodding at her comments, appreciating what she had to say.

Then again, I’m also someone who binge-watched sixteen seasons of Law & Order: SVU in the name of “research” for a story I was writing, and I adore anyone who makes references to both Veronica Mars and Stieg Larsson in the same piece.

As this book is a collection of essays, the temptation is to pick and choose from the titles that seem interesting, and read them in whatever order. I would advice the prospective reader not to do this. These essays form a dual narrative of the author’s life and the evolution of “dead girl” literature, and the flow is so much better if you read them in order.

Goes well with a shot of bourbon, and slanted fedora, and a rainy night.


Tour Stops for Dead Girls TLC Book Tours

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Wednesday, June 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

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Thursday, July 5th: Doing Dewey

Friday, July 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, July 9th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, July 10th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Wednesday, July 11th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Thursday, July 12th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, July 13th: Thoughts On This ‘n That