Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 304 pgs.
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Dodgers by Bill Beverly is not a feel-good coming-of-age story. East is 16 and has been standing watch outside drug houses in Los Angeles’ The Boxes neighborhood for two years. When the heat turns up, he finds himself adrift. But Fin, the big man, asks him to step in and do something he’s never trained for or even thought about — kill a key witness who’s hiding in Wisconsin. East is just one of four set out on the road in a minivan to get the job done and with little contact to the players-that-be at home. These boys will have to make grown-up decisions and decisions that they will have to live with forever.

“He had been at the old house before them, and he had seen things they had never seen. He had seen a reverend shot on the walk, a woman jump off a roof. He had seen a helicopter crash into trees and a man, out of his mind, pick up a downed power cable and stand, illuminated. He had seen the police come down, and still the house continued on.” (pg. 5 ARC)

“East looked up and tried to swallow the bad taste in his mouth. Above them, a big plastic dinosaur spun on a wire. Cars rushed by out on the highway, and East had to keep himself from staring down each one. Things moving. At first, the ride had felt like getting out, like being set free. Into nothing. But since Vegas, this felt like being stuck back in it. Like every headlight that rolled past was pointed at him.” (pg. 67 ARC)

East has been the big brother to half-brother Ty, but Ty has left home and disappeared into the network until this trip north. They don’t communicate at all, and when they do it’s strained at best. Their relationship is the backbone of the crew and how it operates. Will these four boys reach their destination in one piece, will they kill each other, and will the mission be accomplished? Beverly has created a tension-filled story that journeys across country, and readers are worried that the mission will be accomplished even as they want East to find peace and redeem himself.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly is a harsh look at gang life, but it also is a look at the boys caught up in it. The young men who feel trapped by their lives, who set boundaries for themselves, but then must break them or face harsh consequences. Even when they feel that they are free from it all, it comes back around, like shadows waiting behind the trees ready to snatch them back into the black hole.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Bill Beverly grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and studied at Oberlin College and the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds

Source: the author
ebook, 293 pgs.
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Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds is a wildly imaginative variation that takes place during the Sheffield food riot of 1812 when the Luddites begin to rail against those aristocrats in power, as their food sources and funds grew scarcer as machines began to show up in mills across the northern parts of Britain. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet become swept up in the chaos even as they struggle with their own feelings for one another and the multiple misunderstandings that happen between them.

“He crumpled up his first attempt and tossed it in the fireplace. He never had to rewrite letters; it was something he prided himself upon. But Elizabeth would hold this note, her elegant fingers touching the same paper he touched now, and she would think of him. It must be perfect.”

Unlike many other variations, the Fitzwilliam clan (Lord and Lady Matlock and their children) take center stage, and Colonel Fitzwilliam has a surprise in store for his parents that could rock the family to the core. His sister Frederica needs Darcy’s shielding as the ton has begun to shun her after being jilted, while Elizabeth tends to her sister at Gracechurch street following Bingley’s abandonment. These parallel story lines reinforce one another, showcasing how little recourse women had during that time should a man choose to abandon a lady without explanation, even if they are wealthy. In line with that, the cause for the Rights of Man taken up by Darcy’s friend from Cambridge, Sir Anthony Duxbury, who somehow knows Elizabeth — his Elizabeth.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds provides an excellent glimpse into the politics of the time, and it also exposes Darcy to concerns beyond Pemberley and how those concerns can impact the nation. While the journey North is dangerous, Elizabeth and Darcy prove to be strong enough to withstand the riots, but can they withstand the machinations of the Fitzwilliam clan and overcome their own prejudices to find their way into each other’s arms? Reynolds has taken on a lot in this variation, and readers may wish it had been longer.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Abigail Reynolds has spent the last fifty years asking herself what she wants to be when she grows up. This month she is a writer, a mother and a physician in a part-time private practice. Next month is anybody’s guess. Originally from upstate New York, she indecisively studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school, a choice which allowed her to avoid any decisions at all for four years.

She began writing Pride & Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her very favorite characters. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to seven other Pemberley Variations and two modern novels set on Cape Cod.

Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax

Source: Penguin Random House
Paperback, 420 pgs.
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Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax is the fourth in a series of books in which ladies taken for all their worth in a Ponzi scheme work together to renovate homes on reality TV. I would recommend reading these books in order because there are some spoilers in this one for previous books.

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki are struggling after the end of their last Do Over season ended with the renovation at Mermaid Point in the Florida Keys. Maddie is still seeing former rocker William Hightower, and she’s trying to reconcile her former wife and homemaker status with that of groupie turned girlfriend of a rockstar who is regaining his footing in the music business. Meanwhile, Avery is struggling to regain her confidence as the skilled contractor everyone knows her to be, and Nikki continues to deal with trust issues and learning to lean on others for support.

“But there was far more wishful thinking wrapped up in her pronouncement than she wanted to examine. The last time they’d had this conversation she’d insisted the future looked so bright it would require sunglasses. But at that moment she’d settle for a flashlight and a really good road map.” (pg. 32 ARC)

“‘It’s not a matter of trying, Avery. You believe or you don’t.’ Chase slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. ‘You need to get all the way on board, or I’m going to have to give you some serious noogies.’ He knuckled his fist in her hair.” (pg. 247 ARC)

After quitting at the end of the last season on camera, the ladies are determined to find their own renovation project and re-create their show from scratch. There’s a little bit of sun on the horizon when Maddie’s daughter, Kyra, stumbles upon a forgotten hotel in the dunes. Lucky for the team, they just happen to know the owners, and all they need to do is convince them that even the darkest memories can be shined up.

Wax has become a go-to author for me for summer reads and for read that help me escape when I need it. Her female characters are strong, but they also need support to — from one another and from the men in their lives. This series of books also combines these wonderful elements with beaches and renovation shows — my secret addiction (looks like the secret is out)! Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax was a wonderful read and it was like a visit with old friends. I can’t wait to catch up with them again on the beach!

RATING: Quatrain

Also Reviewed:

About the Author:

Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a series of connected stories that read like a novel. Four generations of a Jewish family are touched by the secrets held as one generation copes with the Nazi occupation and, ultimately, flees France to safety. What are the heirlooms this family carries into their new lives? Is it a baby carriage? A beloved wedding band? Or is it simply the memories that flood their minds when they refuse to speak of the past?

From “The War Ends Many Times” (pg. 53)
“Of course, one second-guesses, grasps at the many missed opportunities for escape–that lovely word, that flowing cape of an idea! Why did they not attach themselves to it when it flapped and hovered close? Why?”

Beyond loyalty and duty, each generation is tethered by the ghosts of the past — a father who dies a revolutionary at the hands of Nazis and a mother dying in bed calling for her mother even as her own baby waits in the next room. Peeling back each layer, readers peer into the lives of the Latour family, seeing echoes of the past and reverberations into the future. Even the smallest decision of a stranger desperate for a child she can never have is felt through the generations, forcing one member to make a decision that affects many more and another to accept responsibility for a casual moment.

From “En Voyage” (pg. 89)
“When Jean takes the film to be developed, he is given doubles of this roll. He puts one set of the photos in an album, labels them carefully. He can’t bear to throw the extras away, though there is no one to whom he can safely send them. This makes him feel as if that time is lost, irretrievable, though he knows certainly he does, that time is like that, moving only forward despite our wishes.”

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a deeply moving collection of stories about survivors of WWII and how they coped with their own survival. Fears and protecting their children were forever at the top of their mind, making them hide the past. Despite their efforts, the past can re-emerge in the most unpredictable ways — the effect of heat-stroke leaving you exposed to those you sought to keep from prying too much, from getting too close.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

About the Author:

Rachel Hall’s collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, was awarded the BkMk Press 2015 G.S. Sharat Chandra prize, selected by Marge Piercy.

Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.

She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Source: Moon City Press
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is nothing short of phenomenal. While Gailey often puts herself in her poems, there are times when she adopts personas to create poems of female empowerment. This collection has a similar fantasy style (including a moment with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius) to it with a post-apocalyptic setting, but it also is vastly more personal. While some of the poems may be a bit tongue-in-cheek about death (see “In Case”) and the end of the world and how duct tape is a miracle survival tool, underneath those quips is the seriousness that imminent danger and possible death bring.

She hints in “Introduction to Mutagenesis” that these genetic missteps could be changes we do not understand and that we may need them to survive in the evolving world. It is this kind of hope in the face of despair that is unexpected and inspiring.

Errors in replication — beyond our control — and yet sometimes the systemic destruction
of a certain cell might lead to a breakthrough, a land mass not yet discovered inside us,

clever adaptations that let us survive genetic drift in cases of plague or flood,
carriers of one disease not susceptible to another, …

In our own “black boxes”, our cells tell our history, the lives we’ve led, the deaths we’ve faced, and what finally takes us to the grave, she says in “Every Human Is a Black Box.” None of us have “turnkey solutions” and would we want to — would we want that kind of predictability? Even if the prospect of death or battling cancer is frightening, even paralyzing, would we want the solution to be simple? It would seem that kind of world would be less precious, less of a marvel.

From “Introduction to Spy Narrative as Love Story” (pg. 21)

When I look in a mirror all I see is you
written across my body like the shadow of a blackbird

Gailey’s verse is unique, haunting, and cheeky, but at its heart, her poems teach us that to live is to take the good and bad together and laugh, enjoy life, savor it. Even if the apocalypse is upon you, it is not the time for wallowing in sadness and self-pity, but a time for you to rise up beyond your circumstances and find a way to survive. From “Shorting Out” (which is just gorgeous in its use of white space) to “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”, readers are reminded of the fragility of the mind, of memory, especially when “40 years of learning were leaking through the lesions.” (from “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”).

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is a guidebook for living, for more than survival in a world about to end. She asks us to remember not to be lonely in the woods, not to be frightened of bears because “There’s the comfort of the knocking on hollow/branches, the scratching song of insects, and those tubes/of sunlight that show up on the path, lighting the way.” (from “Remnant”).

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of four previous books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, and included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.

Anticipating: Without a Conscience and Guilty Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Since reading Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner on vacation this month, I’ve been dying to know what will happen to the Iceman and his Lizzy, modernized characters from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Gardiner thoughtfully sent me a teaser to her new book, Without a Conscience, and her epilogue/prologue novelette, Guilty Conscience, both due out in the fall. The latter coming out a month before. In the novelette, which begs the question “Will Iceman and Liz Macarena?”, Gardiner gives readers a little tease as to what married life is like for Liz and Darcy after their whirlwind romance in Denial of Conscience. When Darcy takes off for a few days on a camping trip he planned before meeting Liz, she feels his absence strongly. Like many newlyweds, Liz and Darcy have had a passionate honeymoon and first few months of marriage. Gardiner captures this feeling really well.

“For the last three days, she’d walked around Pemberley in a fog, feeling depressed, his absence gutting her soul. The scent of him lingered on bed linen, which she refused to change until his return. … Only two more days, just two more days.”

Can the very controlled Darcy, who holds his emotions close to the vest, let her in completely? Can the newly freed Liz learn to compromise after being essentially imprisoned at Longbourn? You get a taste of not only what married life is like for this couple — not all roses and sunshine — but also the danger that is around the corner. While Iceman has changed his ways and trains horses, could he be drawn back into black ops?

You’ll have to stay tuned for the next book in the series. I’m waiting on the edge of my seat!

Other Reviews:

Guest Posts:

***Cat Gardiner’s new WWII romance, A Moment Forever, is touring with Poetic Book Tours.***

About the Author:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

For more on her book, visit A Moment Forever.

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The Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 416 pgs.
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Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is an epic debut in the historical fiction genre in which both strong women — Lady Katherine Trenowyth and Anna Trenowyth — are challenged. Katherine, a budding artist, bucks societal expectations to follow her heart, but her actions have ramifications. Nurse Anna closes herself off from others following a tragic sinking of a ship and deaths that rock her world. These women choose hard, lonely paths, but their strength carries them through the good and bad. While Katherine knows when to accept help, Anna must learn this lesson on her own, which can be tough during a WWII when many things are uncertain and tragedy can strike at any moment.

Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp. (pg. 293 ARC)

As Rickloff shifts between the points of view and the time periods, readers may expect to lose their place in these stories, but she does such a wonderful job integrating them, readers are bound to fall in love with both characters. Although we may want the best for them, the realities of war and circumstance will intervene. When Anna shows up to tend to the patients at Nanreath Hall, an ancestral home she’s never seen, her curiosity takes over, forcing her to uncover the secrets of her mother, where she comes from, and the family she never knew as a child.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is a carefully woven tapestry of generations of Trenowyths, whose lives are upended by the decisions they make, the passions they follow, and the wars they cannot control. This is historical fiction at its best with elements of romance, artistry, romance, and mystery. Get swept away by the mysterious ruins of lives past and learn to make a new path from the old.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.  Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose & Giveaway

Source: France Book Tours
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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M.J. Rose is an author who can transport you into any time and place, weaving in the occult and the mysterious along with history. It is utterly believable. Opaline Duplessi is one of the descendants of La Lune, a famous witch, and whose mother is featured in The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which I loved. In The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose, Opaline has fled her parents and returned to the former home of La Lune — Paris. Rather than live with her great-grandmother, who also prefers to avoid the occult, she lives beneath the jewelry shop where she works for a family of Russian emigres, the Orloffs, who long for tsarist Russia to return from the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Her work with stones in the shop leads her to use her gifts from La Lune to help the mothers, daughters, and wives left behind by the deceased soldiers of WWI. These soldiers have fallen while protecting Paris and others from the Germans, many lying in the trenches alone. Through her gifts, the crushed stones, and other engravings, Opaline is able to reach through the ether and provide these women with a bit of solace in their despair. Motivated by her own loss, and her inability to provide hope to a fallen soldier of her own, Opaline sees it as her duty to help these women with their grief.

Rose has created an entire mythology with the Daughters of La Lune, but readers can read these books individually, though they’d have a richer experience reading them together. Her characters are dynamic and strong-willed women who navigate the unknown and often dark mysteries of the worlds beyond reality. Rose packs her narrative with history and artistry in a way that will fully absorb readers from page one. The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose is captivating, feel yourself being drawn into the netherworld page by page, moment by moment, and uncover the mystery alongside Opaline.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park — and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.  She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com.

She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries.  Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads, contests, excerpts and more. Or send an email to TheFictionofMJRose-subscribe at yahoogroups dot com

To send M.J. a message and/or request a signed bookplate, send an email to mjroseauthor at gmail dot com

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 464 pgs.
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The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews is a summer beach read in which the Belle Isle residents view the vacationers as “weekenders” and pay them as little attention as possible, but Riley Nolan’s family has been on the island since it’s inception.  Her marriage to Wendell Griggs may be rocky, but her family’s business has kept the destination raking in the tourists, even if Wendell has grander plans for the place than she or her family imagined.  Andrews’ books are usually fast-paced, romantic reads that are perfect for the beach bag and summer, but this one seemed too jammed packed with too many subplots and mysteries.

Riley uncovers a great many misdeeds by her husband after his death, and she’s forced to rethink her cushy life as a stay-at-home mom to a diabetic daughter, Maggy, who worshiped her father.  Much of the book is spent on the mystery involving her husband’s death, but there are also mysteries and reveals that seemingly come from no where.  They’re woven in so quickly to provide a new suspect that some are just not believable.  Maggy also is a pre-teen and she acts more like a teenager, sneaking out and hanging with the wrong crowd.  Her attitude is reprehensible, and while it might be believable to a certain extent given the sudden death of her father, readers may tire of it.

The quick reunion of Riley and her college crush at the end is sweet, but it’s the initial meeting and build up of their relationship that will leave readers breathless.  It’s clear that they are right for one another, and they want the same things, but will a broken-hearted child break them up for good?  The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews is a good read, and it’s entertaining with all the twists and turns in the mystery, but it seems as though some aspects could have been tightened up to keep the pace on track.

RATING: Tercet

Other Books Reviewed:

About the Author:

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling SAVANNAH BREEZE and BLUE CHRISTMAS, (HarperCollins) as well as HISSY FIT, LITTLE BITTY LIES and SAVANNAH BLUES, all HarperPerennial.

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her “real” name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia’s Harriet Austin Writer’s Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Workshop and the Antioch Writer’s Workshop. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 432 pgs.
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The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is everything readers will want in a sequel and more.  I would recommend reading this after reading The Vintner’s Daughter.

***Spoilers for previous book below***

The Lemieux family has a wide open future ahead of them as their California vineyard seeks to become one of the best. Sara continues to be independent and strive for the revival of her family’s vineyard in France, while her husband continues to perceive himself as the lone captain of the family ship. He’s as hard-headed as she is, but when it comes to the wine business, they both know their stuff. Unfortunately for him, his wife has a mind of her own and will not back down when she sets her sights on something she wants for herself and their future. As they navigate their new marriage, their family faces threats from within their neighborhood and from outside — competing vineyards plagued by phylloxera and the price wars and prohibition. Although their love has been tested in the previous book, it remains to be seen if that love can overcome their headstrong notions about winemaking and their roles in that business.

Harnisch’s characters are wonderfully drawn, and while Sara is independent and a bit childish at times when she wants her way, it’s not surprising given the age difference between herself and her husband. She’s a bit more emotional given the tragedies she’s dealt with beginning in early adolescence, while he’s a bit more practical, working through all the facts and figures to find the best solution to their business problems. Aurora remains the mother Sara doesn’t have in California, guiding her through grief and disagreements, but she’s also a mother to her husband, helping him realize his dreams and steering him to less volatile waters where his wife is concerned. She’s an excellent sounding board.

Even though readers may want to see more of the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Harnisch provides enough of a glimpse to understand the role American winemakers played in the competition and how they were viewed by the rest of the world. As the Lemieux family navigates the world stage, some of their old friends come back into their lives, including midwife Marie Chevreau, who embarks on a struggle of her own against patriarchy. The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is a saga you’ll want to read over the summer with a glass of white or red wine, most likely from Napa Valley, and soak in the tannins and ferment.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Kristen Harnisch’s ancestors emigrated from Normandy, France, to Canada in the 1600s. She is a descendant of Louis Hebert, who came to New France from Paris with Samuel de Champlain and is considered the first Canadian apothecary. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and now lives in Connecticut. The Vintner’s Daughter, her debut novel, is the first in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the century.

Treasure Hunt Giveaway: Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Source: Janel Gradowski
EBook, 195 pgs.
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Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is the fifth book in the Culinary Competition Mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone mystery, though some things change in the characters’ personal lives that you might prefer to unwind in order.

Amy Ridley is still wrestling with the idea of having her own children after her best friend Carla gave birth to Macy.  While that debate wages on in the back of her mind, that doesn’t stop Amy from entering culinary contests of every sort, and it certainly doesn’t stop killers from striking fear into the residents of Kellerton, Michigan.  During the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event, DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, winds up on someone’s naughty list after her sour attitude leaves many of the culinary and home improvement crowd cold.

“Every recipe for the competition had to be made in a muffin tin, but that didn’t limit the entries to just sweets.”

“Both of the police officers and Alex still towered over her — she was always the short tulip in the bouquet of life.”

“But that was a tall order when her thoughts were reproducing like furry little Star Trek tribbles.”

Following a few near misses in the last book, Amy’s learned to be a bit more cautious, but her new mystery-solving sidekicks are less so.  She and the team begin their work independently to uncover the mystery behind Plymouth’s death and the real reason why the show’s producers are still in town even though little to no progress has been made on the case by newbie Homicide Detective Lauren Foster. When her husband Alex and his business begin receiving threats, Amy deduces that there is more to the murder than meets the eye and she’s more determined than ever to get the case solved.

Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is a delightful treat to read on a summer’s afternoon with some ice tea or coffee — your preference — and settle into the chair with some Malted Chocolate Banana Muffins (recipe included).  Gradowski has cornered the market on creating fun cozy mysteries with delicious recipes and quick quips.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author has been littered with odd jobs such as renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and sign up for the Newsletter.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

The Treasure Hunt letter for Savvy Verse & Wit is: A

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at www.janelgradowski.com.


6/14 – My Cozy Book Nook has Letter #3

6/15 – Book Babble has Letter #5

6/16 – Life’s A Stage has Letter #8

6/17 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews has Letter #1

6/18 – Joy’s Book Blog has Letter #4

6/20 – Knyttwytch’s Crafts and Stuff has Letter #7

6/22 – Savvy Verse & Wit has Letter #2

6/24 – Romancing The Books has Letter #6

The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

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Paperback, 448 pgs.
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The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor is a dazzling dream of a young maid who worships the starlight in the dresses of London actresses on stage and loves to dance.  Dolly Lane has started from a small town and when her childhood love returns from WWI a broken man who no longer remembers her, she makes a tough choice to follow her own dreams.  Told from three points of view — Dolly, Teddy, and Loretta — readers are given a wide view of how lives were changed by war.  Gaynor’s leading ladies are different but similar.  Dolly wants to be in the limelight and Loretta has achieved that dream, and how these ladies lives become entwined is a stroke of chance.

“He pours milk into his tea. ‘I’m not that bad.  Am I?’
‘Yes, you are. Honestly, darling, sometimes it’s like spending time with a dead trout.  And you used to be such tremendous fun.'” (pg. 35 ARC)

Loretta is a brave woman who takes her life and makes something of it, living her life as she chooses. She becomes a famous actress and spurns the trappings of her family’s expectations. Dolly, on the other hand, has dreams but is waffling as to how to achieve them. She leaves the employment of a rich household to become a maid at The Savoy in the hope that she will meet someone to change her course, but what she doesn’t realize is that she must muster up the courage to make the most of even innocuous meetings.

“Instead, I tug at the counterpane on my bed, straightening the creases I’ve made by sitting on it.  A habit of mine.  If I can’t untangle the knots in my heart, it seems that my life must be spent untangling everything else, setting things straight, making neat all that has been messed up.'” (pg. 44 ARC)

War is hammer that shatters the lives of those soldiers directly involved, but the reverberations travel far beyond the front lines, crippling families thousands of miles away and showing those inspired to help the wounded and others that their selfish concerns are shallow.  Gaynor has meted out the historical details so well, readers will become immersed in this glamorous and mundane world — the two sides of the coin between the dreamers and those who live in the spotlight.  The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor reminds us that dreaming is not enough; we must learn to reach for those dreams and bring them to life.


About the Author:

Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanicwas a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A Memory of Violets is her second novel.

Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.

Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

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