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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cristina Morato

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

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

About the translator, Andrea Rosenberg

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


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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


Tour Schedule

00-tlc-tour-hostWednesday, September 1st: Books, Cooks, Looks – excerpt

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Monday, October 4th: Reading is My Remedy

 

Review: There Will Be Lobster, by Sara Arnell

About the book, There Will Be Lobster

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

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

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

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

Praise for this book:

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Simon & Schuster | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sara Arnell

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

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

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

Connect with Sara:

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


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Review: Eva and Eve, by Julie Metz

About the book, Eva and Eve

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

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

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

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

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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Julie Metz

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

Connect with Julie:

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goes well with: espresso and anisette toast.


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Review: Le Deal, by J. Byrne Murphy

About the book, Le Deal

• Publisher: Lyons Press (March 14, 2021)
• Paperback: 304 pages

Le Deal Le Deal is a business adventure story involving raw entrepreneurship and high-level politics. It is the true story of Byrne Murphy, a young businessman who abruptly moves to Paris in a quest to reignite his career and his fortunes. He quickly finds himself up against powerful forces, including wrestling with the Prime Minister of France, the soon-to-be Chancellor of Germany and wanna-be mafia in Italy. There are also charming encounters with the British Royal Family, including a near royal embarrassment of epic proportions.

Eight years after Byrne’s company, McArthurGlen Europe, was launched in his hotel room, it generated approximately $1 billion in sales from 11 centers across Europe; created nearly 8,000 jobs; opened 1,500 stores featuring 500 brands; attracted nearly 40 million shopping visits per year and spawned an array of competitors. In short, an industry was born.

Along the way, the author learns what he, and Americans in general, do and do not know about life beyond our borders. The book offers a message for Americans who work internationally to truly take “context” into account; to realize, in our quest to accomplish more in less time, that investing the time to understand the nuances of the foreign cultures we are dealing with is key to prospering in our twenty-first-century multicultural, polyglot, interconnected, globalized world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Goodreads


About the author, J. Byrne Murphy

J. Byrne Murphy was one of the founders and Deputy Chief Executive of McArthurGlen Europe. He spent eight years in an ultimately successful struggle to implant the concept of designer outlet centers in Europe, featuring brands ranging from Gucci and Prada to Polo and Nike. Murphy is an entrepreneur who has started up several European ventures. Recently these have included a data center operation in Scandinavia, and the redevelopment of a fifteenth-century Medici palazzo in Florence, Italy, into one of Europe’s first private residence clubs. He is a cum laude graduate of Harvard and received his MBA from the Darden School of Business at the Universtiy of Virginia. After living in Europe for twelve years, Murphy now resides in the Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Pamela and their four daughters.

Find our more about him at his website.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThis non-fiction story is the true story of the author’s relocation to Paris in an attempt to reignite his career. At times funny, honest, political, and loaded with hindsight, it’s the perfect book for anyone who has fantasized about reinventing themselves, opening a business, or moving to a different country. While only the latter applies to me (and not until retirement), I still found Le Deal to be a valuable read.

I was expecting the book to focus on Murphy’s experiences in France, so I was  pleased that his time in other countries was related, though I would have liked more in Italy and Germany. At the same time, there were a lot of people (I almost said characters, and truly, some of them are) to keep track of, and I would have appreciated more time with Pamela (Murphy’s wife). Not that she wasn’t present; I just wanted more.

I think for those who are interested in going into business, Murphy’s story is extremely relatable. Certainly, he’s a gifted writer, and this was an easy read. I liked that he shared his failures and bobbles as well as his successes (spoiler alert: ultimately he was quite successful). I think younger people, or at least people who didn’t find corporate life a bad fit, as I did, would find Le Deal useful as both an object lesson and a guideline.

Overall, Le Deal is a well-written, engaging true story about the struggles and successes of a man who takes on Europe in more ways than one.


Check Out the Other Participants in This Tour

TLC Book ToursTour participants include “bookstagrammers” and bloggers.

Monday, April 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

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Thursday, May 13th: Bibliotica

Friday, May 14th: What Is That Book About

TBD: Tuesday, April 27th: Run Wright

Review: Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-cover-654x1024About the book Forever 51

• Paperback: 332 pages
• Publisher: Fawkes Press, LLC (November 5, 2020)

Immortality’s a bitch.

Veronica is eternally fifty-one years old with a proclivity for problematic drinking. Like most hormonally challenged women negotiating the change of life, she is a hot mess. To retain her sanity, she attends weekly AA meetings and adheres to a strict diet of organic, locally-sourced, (mostly) cruelty-free human blood from the hospice facility where she works. Her life stopped being fun about a hundred years ago, right about the time her teenage daughter stole her soul and took off for California with a hot, older guy. These days, Veronica’s existence is just that – an existence, as flat and empty as her own non-reflection in the bathroom mirror.

When her estranged daughter contacts her via Facebook, Veronica learns that she has one chance to escape her eternal personal summer: she must find and apologize to every one of the people she’s turned into vampires in the last century. That is, if they’re still out there. With raging hormones and a ticking clock, Veronica embarks on a last-ditch road trip to regain her mortality, reclaim her humanity, and ultimately, die on her own terms.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Goodreads


About the author, Pamela Skjolsvik

Forever-51-Pamela-Skjolsvik-APA curious thing happens when you have the audacity to call yourself the death writer; people want to talk to you about death. A lot. This is all well and good for those daring types of writers like Mary Roach or Jessica Mitford, but for me it was initially problematic. Prior to declaring my morbid writing intention of exploring death professions during my first semester of Goucher College’s MFA program in 2008, I had little experience with death or grief, not to mention very little social engagement with the living. It wasn’t until after I finished the two years of research for this book that I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and went through four months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy through a research study at Southern Methodist University.

My writing life began in 2005 when I received a fellowship to the San Juan Writers’ Workshop. The instructor, Lee Gutkind, told me not to publish for the sake of publishing, but to publish well. He also informed me that I was a horrible public speaker. Admittedly that stung, but he did like an essay I’d written. It was published in Creative Nonfiction Issue 33 and in Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives. In August 2010, I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and read five pages from my manuscript in front of a packed room without passing out.

As part of my therapy, I was encouraged to join a writer’s group where I would have to read regularly in front of a group, as this was one of my main fears. I am happy to say that I am now an active member of the DFW Writers Workshop in Euless, TX. We meet every Wednesday and I make it a point to read out loud every week.

Connect with Pamela:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhen I first heard about this book, and that the lead character was a vampire who’d been turned in middle age and was eternally menopausal, I laughed out loud, because as someone who just turned fifty in August, I could totally relate. Then I leapt into reading it.

Wow! What a refreshing take on the vampire trope! Veronica Bouchard is middle-aged, crotchety, confident about everything except her body, tand addicted to the red stuff -blood. So much so, that she attends AA meetings in order to help keep herself from killing people for food, and works as a night nurse in a hospice where the deaths she must cause are largely merciful.

When her biological daughter, forever fifteen, and estranged from her since the 1930s, contacts Veronica (via Facebook – how else?) and informs her that she can become mortal again, hijinks ensue, involving a young junkie, and a lot of practice of the ninth step of the Twelve Step program: Make direct amends to [people they have wronged]  wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Through Veronica’s Great Apology Road Trip, we meet the men and women who most impacted her (un)life, and learn her history with each of them. We also see some popular vampire myths completely debunked (garlic, crosses, sunlight, invitations to enter) which causes Veronica to be annoyed, frustrated, amused, and even a little smug when she realizes how much information isn’t shared among her kind.

What I loved about this novel was that the central figure could, except for the specifics of her “addiction,” be any woman entering or experience menopause. The hot flashes, the mood shifts, the dissatisfaction with what she sees (or doesn’t see) in the mirror are all universal, and, to be honest, we all have addictions of some kind or another, though not all require meetings and intervention.

While Veronica is the  most vividly drawn figure, her daughter Ingrid, her (current) husband Frank, and her adopted tag-a-long happy meal with legs, Jenny the junkie, are all equally dimensional, and the characters we encounter are all well crafted, too. I’m not sure if my favorite was Desmond, Ingrid’s maker (and also a waiter and a morgue attendant) or Knud, one of Veronica’s first post-death partners, who reminded me of a deeper, more in-touch version of Olaf the Viking from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

At turns funny, sad, frustrating, and poignant, Forever 51 is a fast-paced adventure of personal transformation and discovery, and one that you can really (forgive the obvious pun) sink your teeth into.

Goes well with a bacon cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a Bloody Mary, naturally.


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Tuesday, November 10th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

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Monday, November 23rd: Books and Bindings


Bonus Chapter

Pamela Skjolsvik is hosting a challenge on her Twitter. Tag her (@pamelaskjolsvik) with an image of yourself doing one of the things in the image below, and she’ll send you a bonus chapter:

Forever-51-cover-bonus-chapter

 

Review: The Ancestor, by Lee Matthew Goldberg

About the Book, The Ancestor

The Ancestor• Paperback: 348 pages
• Publisher: All Due Respect (August 20, 2020)

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.

After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.

The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Down & Out Books | Goodreads


About the author, Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew GoldbergLee Matthew Goldberg is the author of THE DESIRE CARD, SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR from St. Martin’s Press. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second novel in The Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming. THE ANCESTOR will be out from All Due Respect books in 2020 along with a reissue of his debut novel. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series(guerrillalit.wordpress.com). He lives in New York City.

Connect with Lee:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe Ancestor is one of those novels that isn’t easily categorized. It’s sort of a fantasy, in that one of the main characters is introduced to us when he wakes up after being frozen into the Alaskan ice for the better part of a century, but it turns into a thriller/suspense novel once he encounters Travis Barlow and decides they must be related, and that Barlow’s family is the key to his own identity and purpose. More than any of these, though, the language and imagery in this novel elevate it to literary fiction.

Lee Matthew Goldberg grabbed me by the scruff of my neck from the very first chapter, when Wyatt, cold, hungry, confused, still manages to kill, skin, and eat a wolf with little more than his bare hands and sheer determination. This, however, is just one of many visceral scenes that really make it seem as though we readers have stepped into the Alaskan wilderness (without appropriate gear) and must survive.

The juxtaposition of Wyatt’s needy desperation with Travis’s cozy (but realistically imperfect) family life, really kept me hooked, and the interconnected relationships of the Barlows, Wyatt, Travis friend Gray, and the rest of the population of the funky frontier town (well, it FEELS like a frontier town) grounded the story with the sense of place and time that the main character lacked.

Goldberg excels at descriptions, of people and places, and at times I had to check my city-girl squeamishness. At the same time, his depiction of gold rush culture took me back to my childhood in the mountains of Colorado, where panning for gold has become a tourist attraction near more than one Rocky Mountain creek.

Overall, I found this both fascinating and compelling. Perhaps because I read it very quickly, I felt like I experienced a lot of the action with the characters, but I recommend The Ancestor to anyone who likes their adventure tales married to searches for identity, and no small amount of soul.

Goes well with: a stew made of game meat – venison or caribou – and a strong red table wine.


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Sunday, September 13th: Instagram: @thebookishalix

Monday, September 14th: Instagram: @booksandetcetera

Tuesday, September 15th: Instagram: @the.magicalpages

Wednesday, September 16th: Instagram: @melanatedreader

Thursday, September 17th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines

Review Stops

Tuesday, September 8th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, September 9th: Bibliotica

Friday, September 11th: Write – Read – Life

Sunday, September 13th: The Reading Chemist

Monday, September 14th: Always With a Book

Tuesday, September 15th: Instagram: @gingersbookclub

Wednesday, September 16th: Candid with Courtney

Thursday, September 17th: Instagram: @bookin.good

Friday, September 18th: Instagram: @thereadingroom444

Monday, September 21st: Openly Bookish

Tuesday, September 22nd: Instagram: @biblio.jojo

Tuesday, September 22nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 23rd: Instagram: @nurse_bookie

Thursday, September 24th: Instagram: @readinggirlreviews

Monday, September 28th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Tuesday, September 29th: Welcome to Nurse Bookie

Wednesday, September 30th: She Just Loves Books

 

Excerpt: Say Yes to What’s Next, by Lori Allen

About the Book, Say Yes to What’s Next: How to Age With Elegance and Class While Never Losing Your Beauty and Sass!

  • Hardcover: 240 Pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 14, 2020)
  • Scroll down to read an excerpt from this book.

Say Yes to What's NextFrom the star of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, now filming its eleventh season for TLC, comes a book and a life-makeover movement for women approaching fifty and beyond.

Move over, girlfriend, Lori Allen is here to help you say yes to what’s next! Star of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, Lori Allen uses her confidence, wisdom, and signature humor not only to help young brides on their most important day ever but also to model to them and their mothers how to live out the coming years as the best of their lives.

Lori Allen is owner/operator of one of the biggest and busiest bridal mega-salons in the country, Atlanta’s Bridals by Lori. But she’s also a wife, mother, grandmother, and breast cancer survivor.

Whether you’re feeling invisible, disappearing into the fabric of your couch a little more every year, or simply being indecisive about what’s next, Lori offers herself as the poster child of what to do, not do, and how to see your way through the unexpected.

In Say Yes to What’s Next she addresses essential issues, such as

  • don’t let yourself go,
  • marriage is awesome, but it’s no fairytale,
  • keep your mouth shut and your heart open to your kids (and they’ll bring you grandkids),
  • make time to parent your parents,
  • maintain a close circle of girlfriends,
  • get off the couch and live your passion,
  • take charge of your money, and
  • what to do when life gives you a faceplant.

Say Yes to What’s Next is a life makeover and therapy session from a relatable you-can-and-you-should-do-this straight-shooter as Lori helps women shape their own futures with confidence, style, and sass.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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


About the author Lori Allen

Lori Allen Lori Allen opened Bridals by Lori just two weeks after graduating from the all-female Columbia College in South Carolina. Four decades later, she is one of the world’s foremost experts on bridal couture and the central figure of TLC’s reality show Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, filmed on site at Lori’s bridal salon and shown in more than 120 countries.

Lori’s role as a bridal expert, successful female business entrepreneur, TV personality, and breast cancer survivor has led her to interviews by top-tier media outlets, including CNN, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and the Wall Street Journal. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband, Eddie, and, thankfully, not far from their son and his wife, daughter and her husband, and granddaughters.

Connect with Lori:

Facebook | Instagram


Read an Excerpt from Say Yes to What’s Next

Say Yes to What's NextAn Ounce of Wisdom from Lori Allen

Think Like a Bride

Many young women come into the salon looking for the hottest new fashion, and frankly, that’s not always a good idea. I encourage each bride to choose a dress that reflects her own personality, but I also advise her to think beyond the wedding itself. The day she’s a bride will come and go in what seems like a nanosecond, but the photos from her wedding are going to be around for a long time— and today’s trend is tomorrow’s costume. (Poodle skirts, enormous shoulder pads, and go- go boots come to mind.)

From “Say Yes to What’s Next”, Chapter 2: Self-Care is the New Black


Check Out the Other Sites on This Tour

TLC Book ToursInstagram tour:

Monday, July 13th: @lesa_cap

Tuesday, July 14th: @books_with_bethany

Thursday, July 16th: @readtowander

Friday, July 17th: @thelit_bitch

Monday, July 20th: @wellreadtraveler

Tuesday, July 21st: @livingmybestbooklife

Monday, July 27th: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Thursday, July 30th: @sweethoneyandbrei

Review tour:

Monday, July 13th: Bibliotica – excerpt

Tuesday, July 14th: Lesa’s Book Critiques – author guest post

Wednesday, July 15th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Friday, July 17th: Novel Gossip – author guest post

Saturday, July 18th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Monday, July 20th: Well Read Traveler

Tuesday, July 21st: Living My Best Book Life

Wednesday, July 22nd: Running Through the Storms

Thursday, July 23rd: @bookscoffeephotography

Thursday, July 23rd: From the TBR Pile – author guest post

Monday, July 27th: Tabi Thoughts

Tuesday, July 28th: Blooming with Books

Wednesday, July 29th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Thursday, July 30th: Seaside Book Nook

Friday, July 31st: Bewitched Bookworms – excerpt

Monday, August 3rd: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt

Friday, August 7th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, August 14th: What is That Book About

Review: Resurrecting Rain, by Patricia Averbach

About the book, Resurrecting Rain

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Golden Antelope Press (February 3, 2020)

Resurrecting RainDeena’s house is being auctioned off at sheriff’s sale and her marriage is falling apart. As her carefully constructed life unravels, her thoughts return to the New Moon Commune outside Santa Fe where she was born, and to Rain, the lesbian mother she had abandoned at fourteen. No one, not even her husband and children, know about New Moon or that she sat Shiva for Rain in exchange for living in her Orthodox grandmother’s house in an upscale suburb of Cleveland.

Deena’s story unfolds with empathy and wit as a cascade of disasters leaves this middle aged librarian unmoored from her home and family, penniless and alone on the streets of Sarasota, Florida. The novel is populated with deftly drawn characters full of their own secrets and surprises–from Deena’s blue haired freegan daughter who refuses to tell her parents where she lives, to the octogenarian TV writer who believes that crows are the reincarnated souls of Jews lost in the Holocaust. Deena loses her house, but will she find a home? Maybe the crows know.

Resurrecting Rain explores the unanticipated consequences of the choices that we make, the bonds and boundaries of love and the cost of our infatuation with materialism. At its heart the novel is a tale of loss and redemption, a reevaluation of our material culture and an appreciation for the blessing of friends and family. It demonstrates that sometimes you have to lose everything before you find yourself.

Praise for Resurrecting Rain:

“Averbach unspools her story with dark humor and a mounting sense of calamity. Her prose is measured yet vigorous, capturing the chagrin Deena feels with each new humiliation…Averbach approaches Deena’s problems with restraint and seriousness and has things to say about materialism and self-exploration… an organic and quite captivating plot. A finely drawn story of a woman losing everything and finding herself.”
 -Kirkus Review

“A deftly crafted novel by an author with an engaging narrative storytelling style — extraordinary and unique-— highly recommended, especially for contemporary literary fiction collections. “Resurrecting Rain” is one of those novels that linger in the mind of the reader long after the book itself has been set back upon the shelf.”
-MidwestBook Review

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Patricia Averbach

Patricia AverbachPatricia Averbach, a Cleveland native, is the former director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center in Chautauqua, New York.

Averbach’s second novel, Resurrecting Rain, the contemporary story of a woman who loses her house but finds her home, was released by Golden Antelope Press in 2020.

Her first novel, Painting Bridges, was described in a Cleveland Plain Dealer review as “introspective, intelligent and moving.” Her poetry chapbook, Missing Persons, received the London based Lumen/Camden award in 2013 and was selected by the Times of London Literary Supplement (Nov. 2014) as one of the best short collections of the year.

Previous work includes a memoir about her early career as Anzia Yezierska’s sixteen year old literary assistant and an article about the Jewish community in a virtual world called, Second Life. Her work has appeared in Lilith Magazine, Margie, The Muse, and The Blue Angel Review.

Connect with Patricia:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissAs much as I enjoy all fiction, I always find it really refreshing when the protagonist of a story is a mature adult. Not old, just not twenty. Patricia Averbach’s novel Resurrecting Rain is the perfect example of such a novel, because when we initially meet Deena she’s a librarian with a failing marriage, among other catastrophic life events.

What I loved about this story was the way Averbach wove together Deena’s past and present. The novel never felt like it was overwhelming you with exposition, but rather, the backstory was offered in context, so we got to see our main character fully formed, and in the process of forming.

I also appreciated the way Averbach wrote dialogue. From Deena’s grandmother to her mother to herself, each character had a distinct voice and tone, and yet, the sense that they were all connected by family ties was also evident in the characterization, the descriptions, and even some of the speech patterns. This attention to detail is what made Resurrecting Rain really sing for me.

Overall, this novel is proof that one can have a coming-of-age experience at any point in their life. Deena, when we meet her, is a character in flux, but as her story progresses she becomes more and more herself, owning her past and, building on it. This not only made for a satisfying read, but it also made her feel more real.

Averbach is definitely a writer whose work I’ll be reading more of, and Resurrecting Rain is a novel I’m recommending to every woman I know.

Goes well with: coffee and an onion bagel with cream cheese and lox. Capers and tomato optional.


Patricia Averbach’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

TLC BOOK TOURSWednesday, April 15th: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, April 22nd: Really Into This – author guest post

Monday, April 27th: BookNAround

Monday, May 4th: Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, May 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, May 11th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm – author guest post

Monday, May 11th: @pnwbookworm

Monday, May 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, May 20th: Bibliotica

Thursday, May 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Friday, April 17th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews

TBD: Wednesday, April 29th: Openly Bookish

TBD: Thursday, May 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: The Road to Delano, by John DeSimone

With apologies, this was supposed to post yesterday, and something went wrong with WordPress, so I’ve posted it today, April 7.

About the book The Road to Delano

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Rare Bird Books (March 10, 2020)

The-Road-to-Delano-coverJack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond?as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Rare Bird Books | Goodreads


About the author, John DeSimone

John-DeSimone-APJohn DeSimone is a published writer, novelist, and teacher. He’s been an adjunct professor and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His recent co-authored books include Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan (Little A Publishers), and Courage to Say No by Dr. Raana Mahmood, about her struggles against sexual exploitation as a female physician in Karachi. His published novel Leonardo’s Chair published in 2005.

In 2012, he won a prestigious Norman Mailer Fellowship to complete his most recent historical novel, Road to Delano. His novels Leonardo’s Chair and No Ordinary Man have received critical recognition.

He works with select clients to write stories of inspiration and determination and with those who have a vital message to bring to the marketplace of ideas in well-written books.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Instagram.


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2020The Road to Delano is novel, but it’s based in truth even if the characters aren’t all based on specific real people, and John DeSimone has written that truth in a way that is vivid and cinematic, while still being emotionally real.

While I’m not a lifelong Californian like the author, I did spend my teen years in the San Joaquin valley, in Modesto and Fresno, and while those years were in the 80s, not the 60s, I remember all too well the news coverage of Cesar Chavez’s last hunger strike – the one that was contemporary to my life – as well as picket lines at grocery stores. To this day, I feel guilty whenever I buy grapes.

It is for that reason that this novel gripped me so much. I knew the vagaries of the United Farm Workers’ battle for basic rights and fair work conditions, but I didn’t have a real connection to it. This book gave me that. It gave me context. It gave me a better sense of the history of central California. And, by framing the story as a novel, it also gave me just enough distance that I didn’t have to clench my fists, or walk away from the text and cool down before going back.

As the daughter of activist parents (my parents formed the Amnesty International chapter in Modesto when I was twelve or thirteen), I really appreciated some of the cultural touchstones that DeSimone worked into his story. As someone who grew up with Joan Baez’s music (my Mom was a fan) and later got to meet her (she came for a benefit and slept in a sleeping bag on our floor!) the scene with her singing “Blowin’ in the Wind”  – even though it wasn’t a scene of terrible importance to the plot – really made me feel like I was in the book, and not just reading it.

That was made easier because of DeSimone’s deft use of dialogue. (I hadn’t realized the word “bitchin'” was quite that old – I thought it was from my generation). Similarly, his characters, especially Jack, Adrian, and Ella – but also the growers, the families, the other members of Jack and Adrian’s baseball team – were dimensional. These were not real people, but they easily could have been, and they certainly felt real.

If you’ve ever heard the name “Cesar Chavez” and wanted to know the context of his fight, if you’ve ever seen people protesting the sale of grapes, if you’ve ever heard the song “Deportee,” or even if you’re just vaguely familiar with the plight of farm workers in America you will find value in this novel. But even if you’re just picking it up because it seems interesting, it is a worthy read, and an important story.

Goes well with beer and tacos. Because I needed both after finishing this novel.


Tour Stops TLC BOOK TOURS

Tuesday, March 10th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites

Wednesday, March 11th: Run Wright

Thursday, March 12th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, March 13th: Orange County Readers

Monday, March 16th: BookNAround

Thursday, March 19th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, March 20th: Broken Teepee

Monday, March 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, March 25th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, March 27th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Monday, March 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 30th: Life By Kristen

Monday, April 6th: Bibliotica

TBD: Thursday, March 26th: Wellreadtraveler

 

Review: The Blue Zones Kitchen, by Dan Buettner

The-Blue-Zones-Kitchen-coverAbout the Book: The Blue Zones Kitchen

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (December 3, 2019)

Best-selling author Dan Buettner debuts his first cookbook, filled with 100 longevity recipes inspired by the Blue Zones locations around the world, where people live the longest.

Building on decades of research, longevity expert Dan Buettner has gathered 100 recipes inspired by the Blue Zones, home to the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. Each dish–for example, Sardinian Herbed Lentil Minestrone; Costa Rican Hearts of Palm Ceviche; Cornmeal Waffles from Loma Linda, California; and Okinawan Sweet Potatoes–uses ingredients and cooking methods proven to increase longevity, wellness, and mental health. Complemented by mouthwatering photography, the recipes also include lifestyle tips (including the best times to eat dinner and proper portion sizes), all gleaned from countries as far away as Japan and as near as Blue Zones project cities in Texas. Innovative, easy to follow, and delicious, these healthy living recipes make the Blue Zones lifestyle even more attainable, thereby improving your health, extending your life, and filling your kitchen with happiness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


Dan-Buettner-APAbout the author, Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner is the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story “Secrets of Living Longer” and two national bestsellers, The Blue Zones and Thrive. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Connect with Dan:

Visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at his website bluezones.com


MissMeliss2020My Thoughts

The Blue Zones Kitchen is a beautiful cookbook with fantastic pictures and a hundred recipes from different “blue zones” around the world. What are blue zones? They’re regions that the author has identified as having populations with above average longevity and health.  Along with diet, the theory is that these people are longer-lived because walking is their primary source of transportation, they have a strong sense of community, and while their diets are not completely vegan, they are mostly plant-based with occasional meat and fish, and minimal dairy.

The regions highlighted in this cookbook are:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicola, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California

In each section, author Dan Buettner talks about about the customs and cultures of the region, and what their staple foods are, and then shares a selection of recipes specific to that region. So far, tried a couple of the Sardinian vegetable dishes and found them really tasty. As a mid-level foodie and kitchen improvisor who tries to eat mindfully (though I’m not a vegetarian), I found this cookbook really expanded my idea of meat-free eating. It uses a lot of fresh vegetables and regional seasonings – the Okinawa section might be my favorite once I have time to explore those offerings – though some of those seasonings could be difficult for people outside of major cities to find.

The instructions for each recipe are well organized, though they do assume you have a basic knowledge of cooking. The level of difficulty varies with each recipe, but since most use vegetables – and especially beans – nothing is hugely complicated.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan looking for more variety in the dishes you serve, this book is ideal. If you’re a mindful omnivore, like me, who wants to broaden their culinary repertoire, it’s also a good bet.

Goes  well with a rainy afternoon and a freshly-arrived community supported agriculture box.


TLC BOOK TOURSTour Stops for The Blue Zones Kitchen

Tuesday, February 18th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, February 19th: Read. Eat. Repeat.

Thursday, February 20th: Instagram: @books_with_bethany

Monday, February 24th: Run Wright

Tuesday, February 25th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites

Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @thelastbiteblog

Friday, February 28th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Monday, March 2nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, March 3rd: Living My Best Book Life

Wednesday, March 4th: Eliot’s Eats

Thursday, March 5th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, March 6th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 9th: PNW Pixie

Monday, March 30th: Bibliotica