It’s Raining Books: A Ring of Truth by Michelle Cox (spotlight, giveaway)

 

 

A Ring of Truth (A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel, #2)A Ring of Truth
written by Michelle Cox
published by She Writes Press, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, iBooksBook Depository, TargetGoodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Newly engaged, Clive and Henrietta now begin the difficult task of meeting each other’s family. Difficult because Clive has neglected to tell Henrietta that he is in fact the heir to the Howard estate and fortune, and Henrietta has just discovered that her mother has been hiding secrets about her past as well. When Clive brings Henrietta to the family estate to meet his parents, they are less than enthused about his impoverished intended. Left alone in this extravagant new world when Clive returns to the city, Henrietta finds herself more at home with the servants than his family, much to the disapproval of Mrs. Howard and soon gets caught up in the disappearance of an elderly servant’s ring, not realizing that in doing so she has become part of a bigger, darker plot. As Clive and Henrietta attempt to discover the truth in the two very different worlds unraveling around them, they both begin to wonder: Are they meant for each other after all?

 

 

 

Michelle CoxAbout the author: Michelle Cox holds a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago, and is the author of the award-winning, A Girl Like You, the first in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series. She is known for her wildly popular blog, “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps—A Practical Guide” as well as her charming “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. Michelle lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.

Find Ms. Cox here: webblog, FacebookTwitter, Goodreads

 

 

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It’s Raining Books: Jumping Over Shadows by Annette Gendler (spotlight)

 

Jumping Over Shadows: A MemoirJumping Over Shadows
written by Annette Gendler
published by expected publication April 2017, She Writes Press

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazoniBooks, TargetBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: History was repeating itself when Annette Gendler fell in love with a Jewish man in Germany in 1985. Her Great-Aunt Resi had been married to a Jew in Czechoslovakia before World War II–a marriage that, while happy, created tremendous difficulties for the extended family once the Nazis took over their hometown in 1938, and ultimately did not survive the pressures of the time. Annette and Harry’s love, meanwhile, was the ultimate nightmare for Harry’s family of Holocaust survivors.
Weighed down by the burdens of their family histories, Annette and Harry kept their relationship secret for three years, until they could forge a path into the future and create a new life in Chicago. As time went on, however, Annette found a spiritual home in Judaism–a choice that paved the way toward acceptance by Harry’s family, and redemption for some of the wounds of her own family’s past.

 

 

Annette GendlerAbout the author: I am a writer, photographer and blogger. I write literary nonfiction and focus on the photography of place. In 2014-15 I had the privilege of serving as writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois.

My memoir Jumping Over Shadows, the story of a German-Jewish love that overcame the baggage of the past, is forthcoming in spring 2017 from She Writes Press. One essay excerpted from the manuscript, ‘Thrown Out’ of the Family Home, was published in the Wall Street Journal; another, Giving Up Christmas, was published in Tablet Magazine.

My essays have appeared in many literary journals, and links can be found under Writing. I regularly write for the Washington Independent Review of Books and the Jewish Book Council. My photography has been featured in Bella Grace Magazine and is forthcoming in the November 2016 issue of Artful Blogging.

I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. After 15 years of working in consulting, I left the corporate world a few years ago. I teach memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago and handle communications for my children’s former school. I live in Chicago with my husband and three children.

Find Ms. Gendler here: web, blogGoodreads, Facebook, Twitter

 

 

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Chrissy’s Review: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The HousekeeperThe Housekeeper
written by Suellen Dainty
published by Atria Books, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Target, WalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
It is a well-written story with a bit of a twist at the end. But . . . I had to make myself finish it.

The back of the book says this is a “nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller,” but I just didn’t get that at all. My nails are intact, and I wasn’t that shocked or gripped or thrilled by the story. I was expecting a book that was going to grab me, hold on to me, and not let me go until the very end. This book barely held on to me. I kept hoping for something exciting, some kind of major revelation, some unforeseen event to occur. It just didn’t deliver.

The characters weren’t worth rooting for either. Anne made no sense to me at all. I just didn’t understand why she left her career as a chef (I understand why she left her current job at the beginning of the book) to become a housekeeper. While she was working, I did understand her peace with it, the methodical aspect, and the family that she so desperately wanted to have. But I just couldn’t get on her side with it. I wanted her to show her ex-boyfriend that she could make it without him, be stronger. With regards to the whole family issue, I understand where she was with that. I really do. BUT . . . I wanted something more to come out of it. And the other characters just aren’t worth mentioning. They weren’t nice. They weren’t supportive. They weren’t who they thought they were or who the public thought they were. They had secrets, but they weren’t that surprising.

I felt let down after I finally finished this book.

 

Would I recommend it: Probably not.

Chrissy

 

About the book – from Goodreads: “[The Housekeeper] will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.” —Buzzfeed

“I am the housekeeper, the hired help with a messy past who cleans up other people’s messy lives, the one who protects their messy little secrets.”

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide and Anne’s own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything.

For fans of Notes on a Scandal and The Woman Upstairs, The Housekeeper is a nuanced and psychological drama about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.

 

 

 

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Winter Reading Challenge: Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi (spotlight, giveaway)

 

 

Sweet Lake: A Novel (Sweet Lake, #1)Sweet Lake
written by Christine Nolfi
published by Lake Union Publishing, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along.

 

 

 

About the author: Christine NolfiSome writers are gifted with an unusual life and I’m certainly one of those. I’ve lived in Ohio, Virginia, California, Utah and now South Carolina. In college I was featured on the front page of the Houston Post for a lark that erased all my debt. I met my four adopted children for the first time in the sweltering heat of the tropics. I helped build several companies and was lucky enough to earn a living doing what I love best–writing–in a PR firm I owned.

In 2004 I made the wisest and most irrational decision of my life–I began writing fiction full-time. All those years of hard work pay off daily in sweet notes and comments by readers. Please continue the mail, tweets and comments on FaceBook, GoodReads and other sites. I cherish your support and love chatting with readers.

Find Ms. Nolfi here: webFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

 

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DNF: Theo and the Forbidden Language by Melanie Ansley

Theo and the Forbidden Language (The Book of Theo #1)

Theo and the Forbidden Language
written by Melanie Ansley
published by Melanie Ansley, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Where I stopped reading: location 1016 of 3723 (27%) on my Kindle

Why I stopped reading: I thought the gory murder scenes contrasted a bit too much with the fluffy bunny characters, but when a human announced his plan to forcibly create an heir via a rabbit I slowly closed the book and backed away.

 

Melissa

What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for this book is 4.16 stars. It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 5 stars. 63% of the 38 reviews on Amazon were five-star ratings. There are no reviews posted at Barnes & Noble. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: In the isolated rabbit village of Willago, introverted Theo has a secret. Even though reading and writing were long ago outlawed as sorcery, Theo can’t resist the books hidden in the family cupboard. When a mysterious owl arrives with a priceless collar, all the rabbits try to unlock it, but fail. Theo is the only one to realize it’s a word puzzle, and rearranges the collar’s stones to form a sentence. When the village elders learn that Theo has broken the law yet again, they imprison him.

In the dead of night he is freed by Brune, an axe-wielding bear who believes Theo has a different destiny. They escape to Mankahar, a land where the human empire is robbing animals of speech using a poison called “pacification.” The empire will march to the furthest corners of the land, enslaving all animals to use on their farms, including the rabbits of Willago. The only thing standing in the empire’s way is the Order, a society of free animals determined to defend their way of life. Brune, a member of the Order, convinces Theo to join him in their fight.

But Brune’s cause proves dangerous. Whom can Theo trust, when the empire punishes those who read or write with death? Worse, his fellow animals view the written word as sacrilegious. As the battle for Mankahar’s fate looms, Theo must risk everything—including love—to learn the full power of the forbidden language, or be silenced forever.

 

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Winter Reading Challenge: Navigating Life by Margaux Bergen (spotlight)

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told MeNavigating Life
written by Margaux Bergen
published by Penguin Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, TargetBook DepositoryGoodreads

About the book – from Amazon: An inspiring, piercingly honest user’s guide to life, written for the author’s daughter and given to her on her first day of college, reflecting tough lessons about family, work, and marriage.

You learn a few useful things at school–the three Rs come in handy, and it’s good to know how to perform under pressure and wait your turn–but most of what matters, what makes you into a functioning human being, able to hold your own in conversation, find your path, know what to avoid in relationships and secure a meaningful job, no teacher will ever tell you. This diamond-sharp, gut-punchingly honest book of hard-earned wisdom is one mother’s effort to equip her daughter for survival in the real world.

Margaux Bergen began writing this book when her daughter Charlotte turned nine and gave it to her right after graduation from high school, when she was setting off for her first day of college. “I am not writing this to groom or guide you to professional or academic success,” she writes. “My goal is rather to give you tools that might help you engage with the world and flourish. . . . Think of this as a kind of developing bath-time wisdom.”

Wise, heartbreakingly funny, and resonantly true, Navigating Life has invaluable lessons for students of life of all ages. It will challenge you to lead a more meaningful life and to tackle the bumps along the way with grace, grit, style, and ingenuity. What The Blessings of a Skinned Knee did for the early years of parenting, Navigating Life does for the next, far more perilous chapter, when new graduates are cast out on the high seas and have to learn to swim and find their way by themselves.

 

Margaux Bergen

About the author: Born in Paris and raised in London, educated at Edinburgh University and living in Washington D.C., Margaux Bergen is the mother of three Millennials. She has worked in international development and women’s leadership. And is still learning the extreme sports of raising three children.

Find Ms. Bergen here: webFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

 

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In the Kitchen: Blue Apron: Indonesian Spiced Salmon

In theKitchen

 

Hi, Everyone!

In an effort to spend less time meal planning and more time reading, I decided to give Blue Apron a try. It costs less than taking the whole family to a restaurant, and it seemed like a fun way to add some new recipes to my repertoire.

Tonight: Indonesian Spiced Salmon with Freekeh & Marinated Radishes

 

 

Okay. I made this on a weeknight, so instead of spending the time to peel, mince, chop, etc while my children volunteered to clean their rooms and my husband encouraged me to take a long nap while he looked after the kids, I did this:

Delicately chop? Nah. We scissored the scallions quick and dirty like.

Marinade for sixteen hours? Nope. Toss those onions in a bag and let the 4-year-old shake the heck out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to peel and mince garlic: Step 1: Use a squeezy bottle instead. 2. Take a bath with the time you just saved yourself. Laugh at the haters.

 

If I make it again: So this dish was actually quite good. My favorite part was the radish and onion slaw, which I unceremoniously dumped on top of the salmon because wow. So. Good. I don’t think the salmon spices were make-or-break, nor was the freekeh (rice would’ve been just fine), but overall it was a decent meal. It’s not something I’ll be adding to the regular rotation, but I AM going to store that onion slaw in my memory banks. DELICIOUS side. Really. YUM.

Did my kids eat it: I mean, they really WANTED to, what with the weirdly named grains and six kinds of onions, but I forced them to eat peanut butter sandwiches and strawberries instead. They may never forgive me.

Melissa kitchen

 

 

 

Gina’s Review: The Nix by Nathan Hill

The NixThe Nix 
written by Nathan Hill
published by Knopf, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazoniBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads


Did I enjoy this book: 
This book is an EXPERIENCE. It’s a slow start, but as it progresses it gets better and better. There are a lot of details you have to keep straight, and the cast of characters is a mix of ones you’ll love and ones you won’t. There’s some mystery, and as you uncover more and more of the story, you’ll be excited to piece it together. You’ll get a look into the world of a protesting hippie–it isn’t always pretty, but it feels real. The way Nathan Hill mirrors some of today’s political climate with that of years ago is eerie. It’s truly an awesome book, although it is over six hundred pages, so prepare yourself for a long read.

GOLDEN LINE

“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.”

 

 

Would I recommend it: Yes! This is definitely a book I think everyone should try and read.

 

Gina

About the book – from Goodreads: It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother and himself.

 

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DNF: Dreams of Youth by Christopher Abraham

Dreams of Youth: The Vindicated

Dreams of Youth 
written by Christopher Abraham
published by Christopher Abraham, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links)  Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Where I stopped reading: page 132

Why I stopped reading: I tried. I really did. I tried to get past the grammar issues and enjoy the What Dreams May Come vibe, but then I got to chapter 13, where Abraham introduces a third set of unrelated characters, bringing the total character count up to what seemed like seventy zillion. I felt like I was starting all over at the beginning of an entirely different book, and I’ll be honest, the plot lines of the first two sets of characters are so weird I just couldn’t take anymore.

 

Melissa

 

What others have rated this book: There are no ratings and no reviews on Goodreads.  There was one 4-star review and one 3-star review on Amazon. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: The first novel in the Dreams of Youth Series.

“From vindicated actions to twisted hearts, the shooting stars form our destiny.”

It’s a sickening feeling in ones core when ones life cannot be defined. Dusk Hollow, a young man living on the planet known as Eryu, experiences this first hand. When someone precious to him is taken, Dusk must face the trials and tribulations of that undeniable truth. He will do all that he can to get her back. He will journey through landscapes he could only picture in his head. He will defy the odds against those who wish to crush him. He will deny death.

——-

There sits a girl who always gazes at the stars, wishing they would take her someplace far away. Her mother disappears one afternoon and her story unfolds thereafter. Through blank pages and close friends, Essa Starlight begins to understand who she is. She learns sometimes that harsh words are said with good intentions.

This is a story where a dream can shape everything.

This is a story, where what’s inside matters most.

 

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Winter Reading Challenge: It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany (spotlight)

It Happens All the TimeIt Happens All the Time
written by Amy Hatvany
published by Atria Books, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, TargetBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

Amy HatvanyAbout the author: Amy Hatvany was born in Seattle, WA in 1972, the youngest of three children. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1994 with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on writing books.

The literary gods took kindly to her aspirations and THE KIND OF LOVE THAT SAVES YOU was published in 2000 by Bantam Doubleday. THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS was picked up by NAL in 2002. (Both titles published under “Yurk.”)

Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé. When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)

Find Ms. Hatvany here: web, FacebookTwitter, Goodreads

 

 

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