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:

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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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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.


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Review: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

About the book, Boardwalk Summer Boardwalk Summer

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 19, 2018)

In this new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.

Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.

Buy, read, and discuss Boardwalk Summer:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Meredith Jaeger Meredith-Jaeger-AP-Erika-Pino-Photography

USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

Connect with Meredith:

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

It seems appropriate that my review of this book, Boardwalk Summer is going live on the day of the summer solstice, because it’s such a magical book with it’s twin stories, one set in nearly contemporary Santa Cruz, and one set several decades before.

Our two heroines, Marisol (2007) and Violet (1940) couldn’t be more different: Mari is Latinx, a single mother, a history buff, and part of a generations-old Santa Cruz family. Violet is an unhappy wife stuck in a brutal marriage, but left with unfulfilled dreams of an acting career.

The men in the story were all well drawn also, but it was the women, more than anything, that truly captured my attention.

Still, those surface differences hide something similar: both women are strong and determined, each in their own way, and each must ultimately make hard choices in order to find a life that is closer to the one they dream of.

Aside from the strong woman characters found, not just in Mari and Violet, but also in Marisol’s mother and young daughter, and in Violet’s friend’s Evie and Roxy, what I loved about this book was the way the city of Santa Cruz was a character in its own right, both in the 40’s and in the contemporary part of the story.

Boardwalk towns always have a kind of magic that other cities never do, but Santa Cruz is a special blend of old world California and new, hipster California, of the dark side of colonialism, and the brighter side of a thriving Latinx culture and a university town (Go Slugs!) blending into a quirky, lively, harmonious whole, and author Meredith Jaeger has captured that particularly well.

With realistic, dimensional characters, a true-to-life setting and a pair of plots that are equally compelling Boardwalk Summer is as delightful as a ride on the Giant Dipper (the vintage wooden roller coaster on the boardwalk) without any chance of nausea afterward.

Goes well with cotton candy eaten as you stroll along the wooden planks on a balmy summer evening, listening to the music from the carousel.


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Review: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), by Terri-Lynne DeFino

About the book The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) cover

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Buy, read and discuss The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers and Their Muses:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terri-Lynne DeFino

Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.

Find out more about Terri at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

There was a film that came out several years ago, starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly: Quartet. It was about a retirement home for aging musicians, and it was fabulous, populated by quirky characters who all had music in common. (Rent it, I beg you; you won’t be sorry.)

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) is the literary equivalent of that movie. It’s a funny, poignant novel full of quirky characters who have two things in common: they are writers, and they are aging.

While Alfonse is the highlighted character, and I enjoyed learning his story immensely, I have to admit, that Cecibel, the caregiver with the ruined face is one of the two characters who grabbed me even more (the other is Olivia, who use marijuana in the garden and whom we meet on the first page, but I confess that’s because we have a family friend who is an eccentric writer named Olivia.)

Cecibel’s arc is one that goes from caregiver to fan to friend, and watching her growth is fascinating, though honestly, the whole book is charming and engaging.

What I appreciated as much as the well-drawn characters was the author’s flair for specific description. “Mr Carducci’s suite of rooms smelled of pine cleaner and lemon wax, leather, and wood,” DeFino wrote, and I was instantly transported into his space. Description like that seems to be going out of style, but I love having a sense of place when I read.

This book is a great beach read, perfect as a summer choice for a book club. The characters are so richly and the story so good that even though the title makes it seem almost a gimick, the reality is that this is a very human look at the way we age as people and as artists.

Goes well with hot tea, fresh fruit, warm bread with butter, and a blank notebook with a smooth-writing pen.


Tour Stops for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Writers (and Their Muses) https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/

Review Stops:

Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 15th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

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

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 25th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

Instagram Features:

Tuesday, June 12th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Wednesday, June 13th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Thursday, June 14th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Friday, June 15th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Saturday, June 16th: Instagram: @bookishconnoisseur

Sunday, June 17th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Monday, June 18th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Review: Lighthouse Beach, by Shelley Noble

About the book, Lighthouse Beach Lighthouse Beach by Shelley Noble

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 29, 2018)

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams.

What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach.

Buy, read, and discuss Lighthouse Beach:

Harper Collins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Shelley Noble Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary Brown

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

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


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my favorite writers of “beach books,” as most of her novels are set in coastal locations. (I grew up on the Jersey shore, and it’s still the home of my heart, so even when a story takes place in Maine, as Lighthouse Beach does, I feel like I’m visiting the beaches of my childhood.)

In this book, she combines two of my favorite things: beach settings, and women supporting other women, which may be the ultimate combination of storytelling. Each of the five women in this story: Lillo, Jess, Allie, Diana, and Mac, are a bit broken, a bit lost, a bit in need of a restart. In “kidnapping” Jess from a wedding she truly didn’t want to go through with, and using Lillo’s Lighthouse Beach community as their sanctuary, each of them begins to heal. (Mac is a longtime resident, but her story becomes intertwined with that of the other four, so it seems wrong not to include her.)

Friendships between women are  things to be treasured, and while some of the friendships among these five people exist at the start of the story, others form as the tale is told. Never once does anything feel contrived. Noble’s characters all have distinct voices and personalities, and they feel like the women we all know.

While Lillo and Jess are the true heart of this book, I found myself (likely because I’m three months away from turning 48) identifying with Mac a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always harbored a secret desire to live in a lighthouse (or at least in the keeper’s cottage).

While the women in this book are the main characters, there are men, lovely men, in the story as well. Ned, Ian, Clancy  – all have their moments to shine, and all are as distinct and interesting as the women who interact with them.

As I was reading this, I found myself wishing I could join the group in Maggie’s kitchen or Lillo’s living room, or on the beach. It doesn’t matter if it’s wine or beer or tea or some of each. What matters is the support we get from our circle of friends, and Shelley Noble has captured that with humor, wit, sincerity, and real dimension.

Goes well with a glass of cabernet sipped while sitting in the sand on a chilly coastal evening. Sweaters, jeans, and bare feet recommended. Bonfire optional.


Lighthouse Beach Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, May 31st: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Friday, June 1st: Instagram: @megabunnyreads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 5th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, June 12th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, June 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, June 14th: Jessicamap Reviews

Friday, June 15th: Literary Quicksand

Review: Because I’m Worth It, by Linda Nielsen

About the book, Because I’m Worth It Because-Im-Worth-It-cover

• Paperback: 346 pages
• Publisher: TouchPoint Press (March 1, 2018)

An impressive contract combined with lavish perks influence Skye Topple to marry the boss’ daughter, Delaney Mae Anne Covington, a self-centered and spoiled southern belle. The “perfect” wedding is threatened when an alarming secret refuses to stay hidden. With no regard for anyone other than herself and her daughter, Delaney’s alcoholic mother takes control, inserting irrational solutions that leave mother and daughter looking foolish while a baby’s life, a grandmother’s love, and a man’s career hang in the balance. This is certainly not a North meets South story—more like South moves North and meets West, where what works for one family may not work for another. Choices must be made. Lives will be changed. One thing is for sure… Skye is smack dab in the middle when Big Sur life meets country club values.

Buy, read, and discuss Because I’m Worth It: 

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Linda Nielsen Linda Nielsen

Linda’s first book, Lasso the Stars, was published in 2011 under L.L. Nielsen. Her newest novel, Because I’m Worth It, is scheduled for release by TouchPoint Press in early 2018.

Find out more about Linda at her website, and find all her books at Author Central page.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Linda Nielsen is an excellent writer, a creator of vivid, dimensional characters, and it’s because she’s so good at this that I’m having difficulty in reviewing this book, Because I’m Worth It, because one of the main characters, Delaney’s mother, Terri Sue Ellen, is one of the most unlikable, annoying women I’ve ever encountered in fiction. And believe me, it takes talent to create a character who reads so real that you cringe every time she speaks.

Conversely, Skye’s mother, Melissa, is a character I could have read an entire novel about (and in many ways I did – this book is her story, and Terri Sue Ellen’s, as much as it is the story of Skye and Delaney and everyone else), and not just because we share a first name and a love of quirky houses and creativity.

Still a reviewer’s job isn’t to like the characters, it’s to highlight the good (or bad) points of a book, and, my visceral dislike of Terri Sue Ellen aside, I really enjoyed this book. The story is compelling with just enough twists and turns to keep it from being predictable. The contrast between Delaney’s family and Skye’s family is beautifully drawn, and the I had a great time escaping into other people’s lives for 346 pages.

Nielsen excels at dialogue as well as character crafting. I liked the differences between the breezy California styles of Skye and his family as compared to the mixture of Chicago and Southern tones in Delaney and her people. Those dialect cues made it much easier to remember where we were, as the story jumped back and forth between Big Sur, Chicago, Atlanta, and a few other places.

I haven’t read Nielsen’s other work, but I think she’s got a long, successful career ahead of her, and I’ll definitely be following it, eager to see what she writes next.

Goes well with steamed artichokes and warm butter, and a glass of California chardonnay, eaten on a coastal patio at sunset.

 


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 21st: Wining Wife

Tuesday, May 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @writersdream

Thursday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @jessicamap

Wednesday, May 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 4th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks

Tuesday, June 5th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, May 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Review: True Stories from an Unreliable Witness by Christine Lahti

About the book, True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness True-Stories-From-an-Unreliable-Eyewitness-cover

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (April 3, 2018)

A fiercely intelligent, hilarious, and deeply feminist collection of interrelated personal stories from Academy, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award–winning actress and director Christine Lahti.

For decades, actress and director Christine Lahti has captivated the hearts and minds of her audience through iconic roles in Chicago Hope, Running on Empty, Housekeeping, And Justice for All, Swing Shift, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, God of Carnage, and The Blacklist. Now, in True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness, this acclaimed performer channels her creativity inward to share her own story for the first time on the page.

In this poignant essay collection, Lahti focuses on three major periods of her life: her childhood, her early journey as an actress and activist, and the realities of her life as a middle-aged woman in Hollywood today. Lahti’s comical and self-deprecating voice shines through in stories such as “Kidnapped” and “Shit Happens,” and she takes a boldly honest look at the painful fissures in her family in pieces such as “Mama Mia” and “Running on Empty.” Taken together, the collection illuminates watershed moments in Lahti’s life, revealing her struggle to maintain integrity, fight her need for perfection, and remain true to her feminist inclinations.

Lahti’s wisdom and candid insights are reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and Joan Rivers’s I Hate Everyone—and yet her experiences are not exclusive to one generation. The soul of her writing can be seen as a spiritual mother to feminist actresses and comedic voices whose works are inspiring today’s young women, including Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, Caitlin Moran, and Jenny Lawson. Her stories reveal a stumbling journey toward agency and empowerment as a woman—a journey that’s still very much a work in progress.

True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness is about the power of storytelling to affirm and reframe the bedrock of who we are, revealing that we’re all unreliable eyewitnesses when it comes to our deeply personal memories. Told in a wildly fresh, unique voice, and with the unshakable ability to laugh at herself time and again, this is Christine Lahti’s best performance yet.

Buy, read, and discuss True Stories from an Unreliable Witness:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Christine Lahti Christine-Lahti-AP-Photo-by-Peter-Ash-Lee

Christine Lahti is an acclaimed director and stage, television, and film actress with a career that spans over forty years. She won an Oscar for her short film, Lieberman in Love; an Oscar nomination for Swing Shift; a Golden Globe Award for No Place Like Home; an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Chicago Hope; and an Obie Award for Little Murders. On Broadway, she starred in God of Carnage and The Heidi Chronicles, among many others. Her films include Running on Empty and Housekeeping. Her television shows include Jack and BobbyLaw & Order SVU, and The Blacklist. She lives in New York City and Los Angeles.

Connect with Christine:

Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

When I was a kid, I used to love checking the mail, especially since it meant that I’d get first crack at my mother’s copy of Ms. Magazine. At the tender age of ten, a lot of the material was outside of my experience, but I loved the section at the back called “clicks,” which was a monthly sampling of reader contributions, each describing a moment when feminism, or the need for it, “clicked” into place.

This book, True Stories from an Unreliable Witness, includes many essays that represent similar “clicks” in author Christine Lahti’s life, filtered through her personal experience as an actress and director as well as the fact that perception and memory are incredibly subjective.

Whether she’s talking about a turd incident when she was in first grade, or making a pact with her best friend to remain chaste until marriage (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen),  Ms. Lahti’s writing voice is authentic and engaging. She tells her stories without any Hollywood artifice, and admits that her version of various events are presented the way she recalls them, even if her friends and siblings might have differing accounts (hence the “unreliable witness” qualifier in the title).

While the essays highlighted in the promotional material for this book were wonderful, my favorites were “Losing Virginity,” which is mid-way through the collection, and manages to be sweet, sad, and hilarious, all at once, and “The Smile of Her” which is a textual portrait of Lahti’s mother.

Ms. Lahti was born the same year as my mother, which makes her a Baby Boomer to my solid Gen-X (I was born in 1970), and the difference a single generation can make really struck me. In the afore-mentioned  “Losing Virginity,” Lahti mentions having just read Our Bodies, Ourselves. I’m guessing she had a copy of the same booklet – not much more than a pamphlet, at that time – that my mother eventually passed on to me inside the cover of the dictionary-sized revised edition she gave me for my 21st birthday.

Because these are essays, it’s easy to skip around in the book, reading the titles that intrigue you most before moving on to another, but taken in order of presentation they form a memoir that is witty and wise, funny and frustrating, poignant and powerful. While these glimpses into Ms. Lahti’s life are absolutely her story, at the same time, I feel like they’re every woman’s story, too.

Goes well with a glass of red wine, good bread, sharp cheese, and a small dish of olives.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, April 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, April 12th: Openly Bookish

Monday, April 16th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, April 17th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Wednesday, April 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, April 19th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, April 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, April 24th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Wednesday, April 25th: Wining Wife

Thursday, April 26th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind

Friday, April 27th: Harry Times…all jacked up

TBD: Eliot’s Eats