Review: We Burned Our Boats, by Karen Jones Gowen

About the book, We Burned Our Boats We Burned Our Boats

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ WiDo Publishing (January 18, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 306 pages

Bruce and Karen Gowen are facing a retirement that neither one wants. Bruce can’t imagine life without employment. Karen wants change, adventure, a chance to spread her wings and fly away after thirty years of raising their large family.

Their opportunity comes in a way they can both helping their daughter and son-in-law with a hotel project in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Never ones to do anything halfway, the Gowens sell everything, including one of their businesses. What they can’t sell, they give away. With their worldly possessions down to two checked bags and two carry-ons each, they fly one way to Guatemala City. Then on to Panajachel, a tourist town on scenic Lake Atitlan, in the southern highlands of Guatemala.

Here they begin their new life, a time filled with incredible experiences, tough challenges, and unexpected adventure in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. A place where the Maya culture permeates the land. A land and people that will transform anyone fortunate enough to encounter the magic of these hills in Guatemala.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Karen Jones Gowen Karen Jones Gowan

Born and raised in central Illinois, Karen attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She transferred to Brigham Young University, where she met her husband Bruce, and there graduated with a degree in English and American Literature.

Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Karen’s writing.

My Thoughts MelissaBartell - photo

Many people – me included – fantasize about giving up everything we know and going on a mad adventure in another place. Most of us never do so, but Brian and Karen Gowen did, and their story is chronicled in We Burned Our Boats.

Part adventure-travel memoir, part personal examination, part analysis of a marriage and a life, the Gowens’ story has it all: love, fear, courageous acts, and international intrigue. Okay, maybe more like being intrigued by new customs and habits. It’s an easy read, and very vividly related. Karen’s writing makes you feel like you’re with them on their journey.

I’ve never really considered relocating to Guatemala (my fantasies typically involve Fez or Marrakech), but this book made me almost – almost – consider it.

I recommend We Burned our Boats to anyone who loves memoirs or travel, or travel-memoirs.

Goes well with tostadas and Moza dark lager.

Review: Voices of the Sea, by Bethany Masone Harar

About the book Voices of the Sea Voices from the Sea

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 22, 2014)
Paperback: 285 pages

The Sirens of Pacific Grove, California are being exterminated, and seventeen-year-old Loralei Reines is their next target. Lora may look like a normal teenager, but her voice has the power to enchant and hypnotize men. Like the other Sirens in her clan, however, she keeps her true identity a secret to protect their species.

Lora’s birthright as the next clan leader seems far off, until the Sons of Orpheus, a vicious cult determined to kill all Sirens on Earth, begin exterminating her people. When an unexpected tragedy occurs, Lora must take her place as Guardian of the Clan.

Lora is determined to gain control of her skills to help her clan, but they are developing too slowly, until she meets Ryan, a human boy. When Ryan is near, Lora’s abilities strengthen. She knows she shouldn’t be with a human. Yet, she can’t resist her attraction to him, or the surge in power she feels whenever they’re together.

And the Sirens are running out of time. If Lora can’t unlock the secret to defeat the Sons of Orpheus, she, along with everyone she loves, will be annihilated.

Buy, read, and discuss Voices of the Sea

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About the author, Bethany Masone Harar Bethany Harar

Bethany Masone Harar graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English from James Madison University and a Masters in Secondary English Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has enjoyed teaching high school English ever since. As a teacher, Bethany is able to connect with the very audience for whom she writes, and this connection gives her insight into their interests. As a writer, she wants to make her readers gasp out loud, sigh with longing and identify with her characters. Bethany also enjoys posting on her blog, is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is an avid follower of literary-driven social media. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband, two beautiful children, and her miniature poodle, Annie.

Connect with Bethany

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My Thoughts

As a self-described Bathtub Mermaid, and someone whose first sound (other than her mothers voice) in the morning and last sound at night during the first two years of life was the sound of the foghorn over Raritan Bay, New Jersey, I know what it means to have the sea in your blood.

Bethany Harar obviously also knows this primal connection to the ocean, because the sirens she’s created in Voices of the Sea can hear the water sing to them, and, if they’re Guardians like protagonist Lora, can even hear it speak.

What I really loved about this book was that it’s YA that transcends age-limitations. I’m 44, and I felt the cool caress of the Pacific when Lora got her feet wet, and shivered with her when the fog rolled in (though, it helps that I lived many years near the central coast of California). I also loved that Lora felt like a real seventeen-year-old, with needs and wants in addition to her Siren-self.

All three of the men in Lora’s life, her childhood friend Will, her father, and new boy Ryan, are as dimensional as Lora herself, and I could feel the tension at being caught between these three personalities. As well, Lora’s grandmother, Devin, is someone I’d love to sit down and have a mug of tea or bowl of clam chowder with, preferably in her surfside cottage.

It took me a while to figure out who the killer was, but Harar laid out the clues nicely. It wasn’t obvious, until, finally, it was.

Harar weaves a lovely tale, and while everything was wrapped up by the end – romance, mystery, self-fulfillment, I found myself wondering if this was the first novel in a series, because I want more, More, MORE!

Goes well with A burger, a beer, and the clam chowder sampler from the Blue Mermaid in San Francisco.

This post is part of a blog tour sponsored by Wow: Women on Writing. Visit their blog, The Muffin for more information.

Review: Danger in her Words, by Barbara Barth

About the book, Danger in Her Words Danger in her Words

Genre: Romance/Suspense

Publisher: Gilbert Street Press

Publication Date: February 19, 2014

Paperback: 238 pages

A TV sitcom pitch gone wrong turns dog-column writer Susan Meyers in a tailspin. Sex Sells was the topic of the day at the writers’ convention. Susan decided to try something new and a steamy romantic novel seemed just the answer. A widow who hadn’t dated in three years, Susan was out of practice with men and sex. She turned to an online dating site to find inspiration for her book and unleashed a predator with the words she wrote. Tucked an hour away from her friends in a small town where she kept to herself, with only her tiny dog for company, Susan felt safe from the world. Little did she know her life was about to change.

A romp of a story about writing and finding yourself in this book within a book. If you love girl-talk, farmhouses, antiques, country towns, a touch of murder, a sprinkle of suspense, and a bit of naughty fun, come join Susan as she learns about life from her character Jamie. Two widows looking for love in all the wrong places might still get it right if they live long enough.

Buy, read, discuss.

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About the author, Barbara Barth Barbara Barth

Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the ‘net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! This Georgia antique dealer and jewelry maker published a hobby newsletter for 13 years. After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays. When she isn’t writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can’t resist. She published a memoir The Unfaithful Widow and Danger in her Words is her debut novel.

Connect with Barbara

Website | Blog | Blogspot Blog | Facebook Author Page | Facebook Discussion Page | Twitter

My Thoughts

When I was offered the chance to read and review Barbara Barth’s first novel Danger in Her Words, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because someday I’m going to be hawking my own first novel, and supporting other women writers is just good karma. Also, I’d just read a bunch of heavy novels, many of which took place in the Interwar period – the span of years between World War I and World War II. I wanted something light, and fun, and if it was a little bit salacious, so much the better.

What I got was a wonderful novel that’s really two stories in one. In one story, author Susan is settling into her life in huge farmhouse in a quiet village, and starting a new career as a fiction writer, while also opening herself to the possibility of a new relationship. She’s funny, and smart, and what I love about her is that she’s not twenty. (As someone who is also a couple of decades beyond twenty, reading about protagonists who are closer to my age, even if we don’t share the same experiences, is immensely gratifying.)

I also love that she has a dog. I work in dog rescue, and have three of my own (plus a foster-dog, most of the time) so if there’s a dog in a story, I’m much more likely to find that story relevant. Daisy is an adorable addition to an already great novel.

The second story is the novel Susan is writing, about a woman named Jamie who is obviously based in part on Susan. Jamie, too, is looking for love, or at least really good sex. Preferably both.

Both the actual novel, Danger in her Words, and the novel-within-the-novel are technically romantic suspense, and author Barth handled both the romance and the suspense well in both cases. A creepy stalker who trawls the internet for victims is incredibly plausible, but Barth never makes her novel preachy, though her characters are all self-aware, making internal observations when they engage in behavior that’s less than safe.

Similarly, the sex scenes are delicious, keeping the reader in the mood and never straying too far into silliness or too far the other direction into tab-A/slot-B clinicality. (Is that a word? It is now.)

I loved reading this book. I found the characters to be bright, realistic, and appealing, and it made me want to go live in a farmhouse (though, mine would have to be in a town where there actually is a Starbucks).

In fact, there’s only one thing I disliked about this novel, and I’m hesitant to write it, because it’s a personal thing, but I’m going to in the interest of honesty. In some of the sex scenes, the author uses the word ‘dick’ in reference to male anatomy. Now, this is a perfectly appropriate use of the word; it’s just that for me the word ‘dick’ isn’t at all sexy. When I use it, it’s a pejorative, as in Wil Wheaton’s go-to admonishment, “Don’t be a dick.” (For the record, I prefer ‘cock.’ Now you know.)

But that’s a minor thing, and, as I said, it’s my issue, and should in no way imply that Barbara Barth wrote anything other than a wonderful sexy novel that you should all go buy and read right now.

Goes well with homemade fried chicken and sweet tea from a local diner.

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by WOW – Women on Writing via their blog The Muffin. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.