Review: Becoming Superman, by J. Michael Straczynski

Becoming-Superman-coverAbout the book, Becoming Superman

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 23, 2019)

Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

“J. Michael Straczynski is, without question, one of the greatest science fiction minds of our time.”   — Max Brooks (World War Z)

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

Joe’s early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past.

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


J.-Michael-Straczynski-AP-Photo-by-Peter-KonerkoAbout J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Connect with J. Michael Straczynski:

Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

While I never got into Sense 8, my husband did, and we were both fans of J. Michael Straczynski’s previous television offerings, most notably Babylon 5, and Jeremiah. When I was offered the chance to read the man’s autobiography, then, I jumped at the chance, both to read it for my own enjoyment, and because I knew my husband would also like the opportunity (we share a Kindle library).
From the first word of Neil Gaiman’s introduction, I was hooked. Well, how could I not be? I mean, I’m a Gaiman fan, as well, so the combination was an automatic win-win for me, but getting to peek into the brain of someone whose work I’ve enjoyed for so long was a special experience.

Special… and often harrowing. I’m not one to spoil plots. I don’t even typically include a synopsis in my own thoughts, but JMS did not have an easy childhood, and there were moments when I wanted to reach back through the years and give that isolated, odd child a hug.

The moment when he discovered Superman is one I completely understood. My childhood was not nearly so traumatic, but we all have our moments – especially those of us who are geeks, or creators, or both – when something clicks inside us, and we recognize a kinship with something, even if that something is a fictional character in a red suit and tights. Superman is so iconic – is there any American kid who didn’t want to meet him or be him at some point in their life? – but that moment set the tone for the rest of the book, and the rest of this man’s life.

It’s a very honest narrative overall. Straczynski is clearly incredibly self-aware of who he is, where he’s from, and where’s he’s ended up. Like so many gifted people, he’s a little bit broken, but he’s made that work for him – and turned it into a gift for us.

This book isn’t a casual read, but if you’re a fan of JMS’s work, I’d highly recommend it.

Goes well with chicken shawarma and craft beer.


TLC BOOK TOURSReview Stops for Becoming Superman

Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 5th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading

 

Review: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, by Susan Mallery

Summer of sunshine and margotAbout the book, The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (June 11, 2019)

The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


susan-mallery-3About the author Susan Mallery

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Susan Mallery is one of those authors whose books never fail to disappoint. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, which had me hooked from the very title, is no exception.

As an only child, I think I’m drawn to stories about sisters – I’ve always wanted one, and yet, selfishly, I’m also glad not to have one. Reading about Margot – serious, steadfast, respectable – and Sunshine – fun-loving, a bit more wild, definitely less conscientious – made me wistful for a sister again. Oh, I have girlfriends, but it’s not the same.

What I loved about this novel is that the sisters were very different, but still shared common traits (not the least a tendency to make poor romantic choices), and that they were always unfailingly supportive of each other. True, they could be brutally honest, but such honesty always came from a place of love, never from jealousy or meanness.

As well, I enjoyed our glimpses into their love lives. While it’s true that no woman need be defined by her romantic partner, it’s fun to see love blossom, and even more so to experience it vicariously through such well-drawn characters. Mallery excels at capturing emotion on the page. Her characters never feel flat or fake, and that’s just one of the reasons I keep coming back to her work.

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is the perfect summer read. Bring it to the beach or pool, or keep it inside where the air conditioning is keeping the heat and humidity at bay. But do read it; you won’t be disappointed.

Goes well with tuna sandwiches, tomatoes and avocados in vinaigrette, and chilled lemon water, eaten al fresco.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Summer of Sunshine and Margot

Excerpt tour:

Tuesday, May 28th: Sincerely Karen Jo

Wednesday, May 29th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Wednesday, May 29th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, May 30th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, May 31st: Books and Spoons

Saturday, June 1st: The Lit Bitch

Monday, June 3rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Tuesday, June 4th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, June 5th: Reading Reality

Thursday, June 6th: Romantic Reads and Such

Friday, June 7th: Broken Teepee

Monday, June 10th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

 

Instagram tour:

Monday, June 10th: @diaryofaclosetreader

Tuesday, June 11th: @booksandjil

Tuesday, June 11th: @_ebl_inc_

Wednesday, June 12th: @girlandherbooks

Thursday, June 13th: @thebooksellersdaughter

Friday, June 14th: @nerdybooknurse

Friday, June 14th: @radbabesread

Saturday, June 15th: @thesaggingbookshelf

Sunday, June 16th: @ohthebooksshewillread

Monday, June 17th: @pnwbookworm

TOUR REPLAY: @TLCBookTours

 

Review tour:

Monday, June 10th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Tuesday, June 11th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Reads

Wednesday, June 12th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Thursday, June 13th: Reading Reality

Monday, June 17th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm

Tuesday, June 18th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, June 19th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, June 20th: Seaside Book Nook

Friday, June 21st: Jathan & Heather

Monday, June 24th: Run Wright

Tuesday, June 25th: @libraryinprogress

Wednesday, June 26th: What is That Book About

Thursday, June 27th: Audio Killed the Bookmark and @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Friday, June 28th: Novel Gossip and @novelgossip

Monday, July 1st: Amy’s Book-et List

Wednesday, July 3rd: Books & Bindings

Wednesday, July 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, July 5th: @booktimistic

Tuesday, July 9th: Romantic Reads and Such

Wednesday, July 10th: Sincerely Karen Jo

Wednesday, July 10th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, July 11th: Why Girls are Weird

Friday, July 12th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, July 15th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, July 16th: Treestand Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, July 17th: Book Fidelity

Thursday, July 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, July 19th: Not in Jersey

Review: The Islanders, by Meg Mitchell Moore

The-Islanders-coverAbout the book The Islanders

• Hardcover: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (June 11, 2019)

“One of my own favorite writers.” –Elin Hilderbrand

J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine meets the works of Elin Hilderbrand in this delicious summer read involving three strangers, one island, and a season packed with unexpected romance, well-meaning lies, and damaging secrets.

Anthony Puckett was a rising literary star. The son of an uber-famous thriller writer, Anthony’s debut novel spent two years on the bestseller list and won the adoration of critics. But something went very wrong with his second work. Now Anthony’s borrowing an old college’s friend’s crumbling beach house on Block Island in the hopes that solitude will help him get back to the person he used to be.

Joy Sousa owns and runs Block Island’s beloved whoopie pie café. She came to this quiet space eleven years ago, newly divorced and with a young daughter, and built a life for them here. To her customers and friends, Joy is a model of independence, hard-working and happy. And mostly she is. But this summer she’s thrown off balance. A food truck from a famous New York City brand is roving around the island, selling goodies—and threatening her business.

Lu Trusdale is spending the summer on her in-laws’ dime, living on Block Island with her two young sons while her surgeon husband commutes to the mainland hospital. When Lu’s second son was born, she and her husband made a deal: he’d work and she’d quit her corporate law job to stay home with the boys. But a few years ago, Lu quietly began working on a private project that has becoming increasingly demanding on her time. Torn between her work and home, she’s beginning to question that deal she made.

Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Meg-Mitchell-Moore-APAbout the author, Meg Mitchell Moore

Meg Mitchell Moore works as a non-fiction writer in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and three young daughters.

Connect with Meg:

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


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Block Island is one of those places that family friends of mine often visit and talk about, but that I’ve never been to myself. I have a lovely china coffee service from the island, but that’s the closest I’ve come to being there… until I read The Islanders, because Meg Mitchell Moore’s story transported me to the place I’ve always wanted to be.

It’s the perfect summer read. A heightened version of a delicious beachy setting, fantastic characters (Joy, Lu, and Anthony) who are each interesting in their own right, and more so as their stories and secrets intertwine. I loved the combination of realistic interactions, charming settings and insidious small-town gossip, and Moore handled all quite deftly. Her characters never felt like caricatures, but were totally believable as the sorts of people one runs into in such places.

This is a great book to take on vacation, but if a visit to the shore isn’t in your plans this summer, it also provides a virtual seaside break. I was especially impressed with the way the author handled dialogue, but I confess, I wanted to hang out at Joy’s cafe and sample the whoopie pies while sipping espresso.

Add The Islanders to your summer reading list; you won’t be sorry.

Goes well with crab salad and fresh lemonade.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Islanders

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 11th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Wednesday, June 12th: Instagram: @michellereadsbooks

Thursday, June 13th: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_

Friday, June 14th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread

Saturday, June 15th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines

Sunday, June 16th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read

Monday, June 17th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 11th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, June 14th: Literary Quicksand

Tuesday, June 18th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, June 20th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 21st: Bookapotamus

Monday, June 24th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Tuesday, June 25th: Write – Read – Life

Wednesday, June 26th: Booked J

Thursday, June 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, June 28th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, July 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, July 3rd: Bibliotica

Friday, July 5th: Comfy Reading

TBD: Monday, July 1st: Books and Bindings

Review: A Beach Wish, by Shelley Noble

A-Beach-Wish-coverAbout the book, A Beach Wish

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 25, 2019)

New York Times bestselling author Shelley Noble returns to the beach in her latest summer read about the family we create and the wishes we make that can shape us.

Zoe Bascombe has never said no to her family. When she blew her Juilliard audition, she caved to their wishes and went to business school. But when her mother dies and leaves instructions for Zoe to spread her ashes at a place called Wind Chime Beach, she defies her brothers and starts out for a New England town none of them has ever heard of and discovers a side of her garden club mother that her wildest dreams hadn’t imagined.

Zoe has another family.

Her first instinct is to run home. Instead she is caught in the middle of her feuding new relatives. With one family fighting among themselves and the other not speaking to her, Zoe must somehow find a way to bridge her new life with her old.

For the first time in her life, Zoe must make a stand for her family—both of them. If only she can only figure out how.

Her answer lies at Wind Chime Beach where for generations people have come to add their chimes to the ones already left among the trees. And when the wind blows and the air fills with music, their secrets, dreams, and hopes are sent into the world. There’s a message for Zoe here—if she has the courage to open her heart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Shelley Noble AP Photo by Gary BrownAbout the author, Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Whisper Beachand Beach Colors. Other titles include Stargazey PointBreakwater Bay, and Forever Beach—a story of foster adoption in New Jersey—and four spin-off novellas. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she lives on the Jersey shore and loves to discover new beaches and indulge her passion for lighthouses and vintage carousels. Shelley is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Connect with Shelley:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Shelley Noble has, over the years, become one of my go-to authors of beach books. I don’t mean this in a frivolous way, because she doesn’t write throw-away novels. Rather she’s a master of compelling family dramas that take place at or near beaches. This summer’s offering, A Beach Wish, is no exception. It’s a family drama that looks at the themes of blood family vs. chosen family, of nature vs. nurture, and of following your own dreams vs. staying on the path others choose for you.

Like many of Noble’s other works, this novel is centered around a beach, in this case Wind Chime Beach, that becomes its own character in the story. As much place as symbol, the beach is both a refuge and a place where one goes to confront one’s truth. It takes a lot to talent to endow a stretch of sand and water with that much presence and character, but it’s one of the ways the author really excels.

Speaking of characters, the people we meet in this novel read like real people. Quirky and flawed, sometimes even downright prickly, they are a group – an extended family, really – of individuals who are each well-rounded and dimensional. Lee, the musician who shares his secrets through his songs, Hannah, the would-be matriarch who is controlling but well-meaning, David, the photographer who buries his heart, Floret and Henry, keepers of the history, Noelle, Mel, and Eli, the younger generation, Eve, the innkeeper who is so much more, and Zoe, who is the POV character we first meet… all could easily populate the streets of any beach town we might visit. And their stories, if somewhat heightened because they’re in a novel, are still fairly plausible.

In A Beach Wish, Shelly Nobel has done once more what she has done before: crafted a warm and satisfying story that lets us look at yet another permutation of family, and come away wishing, just a little, that we were part of it.

Goes well with homemade cookies and iced tea.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour stops for A Beach Wish

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 25th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Wednesday, June 26th: Instagram: @reallyintothis

Thursday, June 27th: Instagram: @writersdream

Friday, June 28th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread

Saturday, June 29th: Instagram: @slreadsbooks

Sunday, June 30th: Instagram: @books.coffee.cats

Monday, July 1st: Instagram: @jessicamap

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 25th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, June 26th: Bibliotica

Thursday, June 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, June 28th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, June 28th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, July 1st: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, July 5th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Monday, July 8th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, July 9th: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, July 10th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 11th: Tina Says…

Friday, July 12th: Reading Reality

Review: Moon Rush by Leonard David

Moon-Rush-cover-670x1024About the book, Moon Rush

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (May 7, 2019)

Veteran space journalist digs into the science and technology–past, present, and future–central to our explorations of Earth’s only satellite, the space destination most hotly pursued today.

In these rich pages, veteran science journalist Leonard David explores the moon in all its facets, from ancient myth to future “Moon Village” plans. Illustrating his text with maps, graphics, and photographs, David offers inside information about how the United States, allies and competitors, as well as key private corporations like Moon Express and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, plan to reach, inhabit, and even harvest the moon in the decades to come.

Spurred on by the Google Lunar XPRIZE–$20 million for the first to get to the moon and send images home–the 21st-century space race back to the moon has become more urgent, and more timely, than ever. Accounts of these new strategies are set against past efforts, including stories never before told about the Apollo missions and Cold War plans for military surveillance and missile launches from the moon. Timely and fascinating, this book sheds new light on our constant lunar companion, offering reasons to gaze up and see it in a different way than ever before.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been a science fiction fan practically forever, but my love of science fiction led me to want to know the real story of our solar system. For years, the definitive view of the American space program has been Maury Chakin’s book From the Earth to the Moon, which is a detailed look at the Apollo missions (it’s worth a read, by the way).

But now, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of that historic first moon landing, we are looking at the moon in a new light: as a possible launch pad for missions to Mars and eventually beyond.

In Moon Rush, science journalist Leonard David reminds of of the history  we have the moon, but also guides us toward the future, discussing science and technology in terms that are not simplistic but also don’t require that one be an actual rocket scientist to comprehend.

One thing I appreciated was that David highlighted the differences between NASA’s plan for our closest satellite (and possible sister planet) and the way private companies are looking at the new space race. Twenty-first century technology isn’t limited to government sources, and this book addresses the very real possibility of a privatized moon. How would that look? What could happen.

More importantly, though, David’s writing retains the one thing all we space buffs share: a sense of hope and wonder. Moon Rush is about science and technology in space, yes, but it’s also about possibility.

Goes well with: mango-peach iced tea, sliced apples, and sharp cheddar cheese.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops

Tuesday, May 21st: Instagram: @dropandgivemenerdy

Thursday, May 23rd: Thrill me. Chill me. Reads.

Friday, May 24th: Instagram: @createexploreread

Tuesday, May 28th: Just a Secular Homeschooler

Tuesday, May 28th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 3rd: Man of La Book

Thursday, June 6th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, June 7th: Real Life Reading

Monday, June 10th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, June 17th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 19th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats

Review: Summer on Mirror Lake, by JoAnn Ross

summer-on-mirror-lakeAbout the book, Summer on Mirror Lake

Hardcover: 384 Pages

Publisher: HQN; Original edition (June 11, 2019)

Summertime is the best time to lose yourself in the romance of Honeymoon Harbor…

When he lands in the emergency room after collapsing at the funeral of a colleague and friend, Wall Street hotshot Gabriel Mannion initially rejects the diagnosis of an anxiety attack. But when warned that if he doesn’t change his adrenaline-fueled, workaholic lifestyle he could end up like his friend, Gabe reluctantly returns to his hometown of Honeymoon Harbor to regroup.

As he adjusts to the sight of mountains instead of skyscrapers, Gabe discovers advantages to this small Pacific Northwest town he once couldn’t wait to escape. But it’s irresistible librarian Chelsea Prescott who, along with the two foster children she’s taken under her wing, makes slowing down seem like the best prescription ever.

Over the course of their summer romance, Gabe gets a taste of the life he might have had if he’d taken a different path. But with his return to New York City looming on the horizon, he’ll have to choose between the success he’s worked tirelessly for and a ready-made family who offers a very different, richly rewarding future…if he’ll only take the risk.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


JoAnn-Ross-300x200About the author, JoAnn Ross

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll of bestselling authors, JoAnn lives with her husband and three rescued dogs — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest.

Connect with JoAnn:

Website | Facebook | Instagram


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

If you want a summer read with depth and heart, JoAnn Ross’s Summer on Mirror Lake is it. Set in the charming Pacific Northwest village of Honeymoon Harbor (one of those towns that doesn’t really exist, but you totally wish did), this is a charming romance with a dash of social justice thrown in.

Main Characters Chelsea the librarian and Gabe the Wall Street mogul-turned-recreational-shipwright who works too hard come together in the way of all summer romances, when the former asks the latter to show the summer library kids what he’s doing (building a reproduction Viking ship). Chemistry ensues. Where the depth and social justice comes in are in the story of two sisters who are in the hands of a foster mother who means well, but doesn’t have a ton of time.

Author Ross has created a vibrant community in Honeymoon Harbor, one that makes you want to step inside the pages of the the book and spend a long weekend sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe, and poking around the galleries and cute shops. As well, she has created a collection of dimensional, believable characters, led by Chelsea and Gabe, but not limited to those two people.

Far more than a fluffy romance or your typical beach read, this book is a romance with meaning.

Goes well with hot coffee and a slice of peach pie.


TLC BOOK TOURSJoAnn Ross’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 3rd: Bookmark Lit

Monday, June 3rd: @nerdybooknurse

Monday, June 3rd: @angelareadsbooks

Tuesday, June 4th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm and @pnwbookworm

Wednesday, June 5th: Book by Book

Thursday, June 6th: Reading Reality

Friday, June 7th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 10th: Romancing the Readers

Monday, June 10th: @_ebl_inc_

Tuesday, June 11th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, June 12th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, June 13th; Bibliotica

Friday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, June 17th: A Holland Reads

Wednesday, June 19th: Amy’s Book-et List

Thursday, June 20th: Why Girls Are Weird

Friday, June 21st: The Lit Bitch

Monday, June 24th: @simplykelina

Tuesday, June 25th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, June 26th: Jathan and Heather

Thursday, June 27th: Lori’s Reading Corner – excerpt

Friday, June 28th: @cassies_books_reviews

Review: One Minute Later, by Susan Lewis

One-Minute-Later-coverAbout the book, One Minute Later

• Paperback: 512 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 11, 2019)

International bestselling author Susan Lewis’ riveting, unforgettable novel of a woman whose life changes in an instant and the handsome young man with whom she shares a secret history—perfect for readers of Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult and Susan Wiggs.

How well do you know the people you love? For one young woman returning to the past, the answer could be heart-shattering…

Vivi Shager is living her dream. Raised with drive and ambition by a resolutely single mother, Vivi has a thriving law career, a gorgeous apartment in London, and a full calendar that keeps her busy at work and at play. Then on the day of her twenty-seventh birthday, an undiagnosed heart condition sends Vivi’s prospects for the future into a tailspin. After escaping her roots nearly a decade ago, she’s forced to return to her childhood home to be cared for by her devoted and enigmatic mother. Vivi has always known the woman is hiding something and now she’s determined to find out what it is. Though her condition makes her fragile and vulnerable and she’s afraid of what may happen, her spirit remains strong. Then comes an unexpected ray of light.

Josh Raynor, a local veterinarian who his sisters claim is too handsome for his own good, brings a forbidden love to Vivi’s world. Josh and Vivi are soon inseparable, unaware of the past their families share. All Vivi knows is that Josh is wrestling with a demon of his own…

Then quite suddenly the awful truth is staring Vivi in the face and it changes everything.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Susan-Lewis-AP-Photo-by-Antony-Thompson-thousandwordmedia-dot-comAbout the author, Susan Lewis

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of more than forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense, and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, James; stepsons, Michael and Luke; and mischievous dogs, Coco and Lulu.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

This novel is a somewhat sad, extremely honest family drama that centers around organ donation, but adds in a complex mother-daughter relationship as well (as if those are ever simple). Through the main character, Vivi’s eyes, it also examines the differences between our expectations and our realities.

I felt the author created extremely realistic family dynamics. The way returning to your childhood home makes you feel less than an adult was very relatable to me, even without the twist of a chronic illness. As well I felt crafting the story so it took place in two time periods was a deft move letting us have more scope than just Vivi’s immediate surroundings.

While parts of this book are a bit harrowing, overall, I think this is a meaty novel that is well worth the read, and can certainly provide catharsis for women with difficulty relating to their own mothers or their own adult daughters.

Goes well with a glass of red wine, crisp apples and sharp cheddar.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for One Minute Later

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Review: You, Me and the Sea, by Meg Donohue

You-Me-and-the-Sea-coverAbout the book, You, Me, and the Sea

• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (May 7, 2019)

From the USA Today bestselling author of All the Summer Girlsand Dog Crazy comes a spellbinding and suspenseful tale inspired by Wuthering Heights that illuminates the ways in which hope—and even magic—can blossom in the darkest of places.

To find her way, she must abandon everything she loves…

As a child, Merrow Shawe believes she is born of the sea: strong, joyous, and wild. Her beloved home is Horseshoe Cliff, a small farm on the coast of Northern California where she spends her days exploring fog-cloaked bluffs, swimming in the cove, and basking in the light of golden sunsets as her father entertains her with fantastical stories. It is an enchanting childhood, but it is not without hardship—the mystery of Merrow’s mother’s death haunts her, as does the increasingly senseless cruelty of her older brother, Bear.

Then, like sea glass carried from a distant land, Amir arrives in Merrow’s life. He’s been tossed about from India to New York City and now to Horseshoe Cliff, to stay with her family. Merrow is immediately drawn to his spirit, his passion, and his resilience in the face of Bear’s viciousness. Together they embrace their love of the sea, and their growing love for each other.

But the ocean holds secrets in its darkest depths. When tragedy strikes, Merrow is forced to question whether Amir is really the person she believed him to be. In order to escape the danger she finds herself in and find her own path forward, she must let go of the only home she’s ever known, and the only boy she’s ever loved….

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Meg-Donahue-AP-Photo-by-Sarah-DeragenAbout the author, Meg Donohue

Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake, All the Summer Girls, and Dog Crazy. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three children, and dog.

Connect with Meg:

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


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

Despite it’s wild coastal setting, You, Me, and the Sea is not a “beach book” in the sense of a light summer read. Rather, it’s a complex family drama that tackles serious subjects like death, loss, and abuse, and balances them with an unconventional coming-of-age story and a touch of heartfelt romance.

Protagonist Merrow seems like a broken bird, at times, suffering torture at the hands of her older brother Bear, to the point where you want to shake her and make her go get help, though when her father brings home a friend’s adopted (and now-orphaned) son, Amir, she at least gains a friend and an ally.

Bear, Amir, caring neighbor Rei, and later the Langford family, all play their parts, filling out the chorus of Merrow’s life, but this novel is really her story, from tortured waif, to successful teacher and partner, as she struggles to find her own truth and make sense of her own life.

Early in the novel, Merrow tells us that her father once shared that “The past never leaves you. It just changes shape.” Like the sea Merrow is so connected to, her past, her present, and her future continually change shape through this wonderful, powerfully written story.

Goes well with hot chocolate and a butter croissant.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for You, Me, and the Sea

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Review: The Wonder of Lost Causes by Nick Trout

The-Wonder-of-Lost-Causes-coverAbout the book, The Wonder of Lost Causes

• Hardcover: 464 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 30, 2019)

In this unforgettable novel, perfect for fans of An Unexpected Grace and A Dog’s Way Home, a single mom and her chronically ill child receive a valuable lesson from an unlikely source—a very special dog who unexpectedly enters their lives and shows them that one person’s lost cause can be another’s greatest gift . . .

Dr. Kate Blunt will do anything for her son, Jasper. Well, almost anything. Since Jasper has the incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis, Kate’s always told him he couldn’t get a dog. It’s a tough call, but she’s a single mom taking care of a kid who fights for every breath he takes. The daily medical routine that keeps Jasper alive is complicated enough. Worse still, Kate’s personal resolve runs contrary to her work as the veterinarian in charge of a Cape Cod animal shelter, where she is on a mission to find forever homes for dogs in desperate need.

The scarred, mistreated wreck of a dog that turns up doesn’t stand a chance. Named Whistler, he’s too old, too ugly. But the dog forms an instantaneous bond with Jasper. Whistler never makes a sound, yet he speaks to Jasper in a myriad of mysterious ways. The clock’s ticking, the dog’s future hangs in the balance, and Jasper would do anything to find him a home; but Whistler has chosen them—for a reason.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Nick-Trout-AP-Photo-by-Deborah-FeingoldAbout the author, Nick Trout

Dr. Nick Trout works full-time as a staff surgeon at the prestigious Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. He is the author of five previous books, including the New York Times bestseller Tell Me Where It Hurts, and his writing has been translated into sixteen different languages. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Kathy; their daughter, Emily; their adopted labradoodle, Thai; and Emily’s service dog, a black Labrador named Bella.

Connect with Nick:

Find out more about him at his website.


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

A child with cystic fibrosis, a mother who wants her son to live a long and healthy life, a dog who desperately needs a home – these are the central figures of The Wonder of Lost Causes but while each can be perceived as such at the beginning of the story, by the end, it’s clear that each of these three beings is exactly who and what they’re meant to be.

Jasper – whom we meet as a young boy – struggles to breathe because of his disease. A family friend is an adult survivor of this illness -one of the oldest survivors of it, in fact – and I’ve heard him describe the sensation of drowning inside your own body that author Trout uses with Jasper so vividly.

Jasper’s mother, Kate Blunt, is a shelter veterinarian who takes in hard luck cases and rehomes them. Sure, Jasper always wants to take them home, but they can’t – they live in a no-pets-allowed apartment. (This is the only part of the story that didn’t ring true for me. I have four dogs, all rescues, and work in rescue, and every rescuer, every shelter worker, every vet and vet tech I know has multiple animals. Even the local animal control officers I know will “hide” dogs in the system if they think it will buy them time.) Still, I did believe that she wanted the best for her son. And having a child with a chronic illness does change the way you see the world.

Then there’s Whistler – that’s his name, we’re told, because he told Jasper so – the dog. He’s a hard luck case, abandoned by one loving owner, then either run away or given up by a string of others… I’ve met dogs like this, and usually, if they’re lucky, they find the right person, finally, to give them that final forever home.

These three beings come together over the course of the novel, in a story that is heart-wrenching, heartwarming, frustrating, and fabulous, all by turns.

Author Trout excels at writing the boy-and-dog interactions, especially, and I wanted to reach through the screen and hug both. Kate made be bristle a lot, but I finally warmed to her, understanding her fear and her hopes. As I said, her intentions were always the best.

At it’s heart, this isn’t a disease story or a vet story or an animal story, it’s a family story, and this family, is both familiar and unique.

But it’s also an emotionally satisfying one, and while there are sad moments, the tears are earned. “When you cry about losing a dog,” an adult Jasper tells another child late in the novel, “it means the dog did its job.” Like the dogs we all love, this novel does its job, and does it brilliantly.

Goes well with a hot dog a fries that you sneak a few of to your dog.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Wonder of Lost Causes

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Review: Bent But Not Broken, by Don Cummings

Bent-But-Not-Broken-coverAbout the book Bent But Not Broken

• Paperback: 214 pages
• Publisher: Heliotrope Books LLC (March 15, 2019)

Bent But Not Broken is an unflinchingly honest memoir about the onset of Peyronie’s disease, a painful and sexually limiting condition that is estimated to affect more than 5% of the worldwide adult male population. Don Cummings writes humorously about the emotional and collateral damage brought on by a suddenly curved penis as he struggles to maintain his sense of sex and self. He openly details the doctor visits, the excruciating treatments, and the acute anxiety over the state of his long-term relationship with a man who is supportive but often helpless in the face of nature’s whims. Discordant domestic life, a harrowing kidnapping by a handsome stranger, and reminiscences of a hyper-active sexual past are woven into the single-minded quest to minimize the effects of this deforming disorder. Brace yourself for a daring, heartfelt and beautifully twisted story of love and survival.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Don Cummings

DON CUMMINGS is known for his fearless and humorous writing, presented in books, theatre and film. His love-sex-and-health memoir, Bent But not Broken, was released in March, 2019, published by Heliotrope Books. Don Cummings has had short stories published in Cagibi and Epiphany. He often performs his personal essays at venues around the country: Comedy Central’s Sit ‘n Spin, HBO Workspace, Largo, Brooklyn Reading Works, Tell It!, Personal Space and True Story.

His many plays have been produced on both coasts: The Fat of the Land was a semifinalist for the Kaufman & Hart Award for New American Comedy and was published in The Coachella Review. A Good Smoke was a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, had a reading at The Public Theater, directed by Pam MacKinnon, with Meryl Streep, Henry Wolfe, Grace Gummer and Debra Monk, and was optioned for Broadway. Piss Play is About Minorities So It’s Really Important, was produced as part of The New York Cringe Festival where it received the Golden Pineapple Award for best play. The Winner was a finalist for The Heideman Award at the Actors Theater of Louisville and was published in Post Road Magazine. His plays, American Air, Stark Raving Mad, Loose Joints and Feed the Children! have been produced in Los Angeles. Box, starring Mink Stole and Lou Liberatore, was an official selection in the Toronto Independent Film Festival, Dam Short Film Festival, New Filmmakers New York Festival, Twin Rivers Media Festival, and was distributed by Shorts International. Oh the Horror!, a graphic novel about zombies, is now live on Instagram and Tumblr @ohthehorrola.

Don Cummings has often appeared on television—most famously as someone’s favorite snarky waiter on Dharma & Greg—and in film, but more frequently on the stage, having performed in over fifty plays. A graduate of Tufts University with a degree in biology and the two-year acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he spends his days reading, writing, composing music, and helping out other writers. He lives in Los Angeles while adhering to Hawaii’s time zone.

Connect with Don:

Find out more about Don at his website, and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

When I was approached to review this memoir, I hesitated, not because of the material, but because whenever I review a memoir, I feel a little like I’m sitting in judgement of the author’s life, rather than the specific work. Ultimately, I chose to read and review Bent But Not Broken because I felt Mr. Cummings’s story should be treated with the same respect and sensitivity we give to every woman who writes about dealing with breast cancer. Just because his memoir has to do with a disease of the penis, doesn’t mean we should be blushing and tittering when we talk about it.

I’m honestly glad I read his book.

Don Cummings presents his story with wit and candor and no small amount of grace. After reading his bio, I expected the wit. I did not expect to become so personally engaged with his story. I winced with him when he described his physical pain, and worried with him between doctor appointments. I sympathized when his sex life suffered. And I learned a lot about how men – not all, but certainly some – see their penises as representative of their entire identities.

As open, honest, and informative as this memoir is, however, it’s a hard read. At times Cummings is brutally explicit with us and with himself. His pain – both physical and emotional – is palpable. For that reason, this isn’t the sort of memoir you pick up as a casual read when you’re about to hop a plane. It’s the kind of memoir you read with intent, because you’ve heard of Peyronie’s disease, or you know someone who has it.

Goes well with wine and cheese.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for Bent But Not Broken

Tuesday, April 23rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Wednesday, April 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 25th: BookNAround

Monday, April 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 3rd: Tina Says…

Friday, May 10th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon

Monday, May 13th: Openly Bookish

Tuesday, May 14th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 16th: The Reading Corner For All

Monday, May 20th: BEE+BIRCH

Thursday, May 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom