Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Book Synopsis
Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.



 

Purchase Links


Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


My Review
Amy Byler is a single mom in a small town in Pennsylvania.  She works as a teacher and librarian at a prestigious prep school.  Her time and energy is stretched very thin.  When her ex-husband reappears and wants to take the kids for the summer, Amy has the opportunity to go stay with her best friend from college in New York City.  She has a chance to rediscover the person she was when she was young and single.  This summer away changes her life.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is such a fun book.  There are elements of The Devil Wears Prada (a best friend who is a powerful editor of a fashion magazine), Sex and the City (single life in New York City), and also a really good rom-com (hot male librarian with a meet cute story).

Amy ends up being profiled by her friend's magazine as being on a Momspringa -- like the Amish Rumspringa, where young Amish people go off into the "English" world for a while to decide if they want to be Amish or not.  The Momspringa storyline is a hoot!  It includes a makeover, a popular spinning class, and blind dates in the city arranged by the magazine.  

The heart of the story, though, is the conflict Amy feels about her love for her children (and how much she misses them) vs. her new romance with Daniel (the hot male librarian) in NYC.   Amy wants to have it all but doesn't know how that can happen.

The writing is lots of fun!  It includes excerpts of her daughter's summer journal, Amy's first person telling of her summer adventure, and texts back and forth between Amy and her friends.  This is a lively book -- I read it over the course of a few days (in every spare moment because I wanted to get back to it!) but it would be a great vacation read.

There is an innate intelligence to the book because Amy is a librarian, her love interest is also a librarian, and there is a lot of book chat.  For instance, Amy describes her need to clear the air:  "I prefer the air a bit hazier. ... Not as thick as a Bleak House fog, but more like a Great Expectations mist" (p. 211).

Did I mention the humor in this book?  There are whole chapters that are just laugh out loud funny -- and I am not someone who usually laughs out loud!

I highly recommend The Overdue Life of Amy Byler for a beach read, a weekend read, or a perfect literary pick me up.  Five stars for summer fun!


Author Bio
Kelly Harms is an author, a mother, and a big dreamer. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her sparkling son, Griffin; her fluffy dog, Scout; and her beloved Irishman, Chris. Before this midwestern life, she lived in New York, New York, and worked with many of her author-heroes as an editor at HarperCollins and then as a literary agent. When she’s not lost in a book that she’s either writing or reading, you can find her on the water, in the water, or near the water. Say hello anytime at www.kellyharms.com.

 

Connect with Kelly


Website | Facebook | Instagram


Giveaway
Win a copy of this book.  Entry through Rafflecopter below.   U.S. only.  Giveaway ends at midnight 5/30.  Winner will be contacted by email and needs to respond within 48 hours, or a new winner will be contacted.

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Book Review - The Wonder of Lost Causes by Nick Trout

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

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

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

 

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

My Review

The Wonder of Lost Causes is the story of Kate Blunt, a veterinarian at a small animal shelter and a single mom, her son Jasper, and a special dog named Whistler who changes their lives.  Jasper has cystic fibrosis and Whistler is an abused stray dog who shows up at the shelter where Kate works.  Jasper and Whistler develop a remarkable connection.  The catch?  Kate opposes adopting a dog  because she wants their home to be allergen free for the sake of Jasper's lungs.

 

I wanted to read this novel from the moment I read the description and saw the cover photo.  I am a lifelong dog person, and could not resist this story.

 

The book is told in alternating chapters by Kate and Jasper.  Kate is a real type-A personality, so highly stressed that she has started taking Adderall secretly to feel better.  She is protective of Jasper to an extreme extent.  Jasper just wants to be a kid, to go camping, to play soccer, to have a dog.  I have to admit that I liked Jasper from his first appearance and was really pulling for him to have a dog of his own.

 

What was especially remarkable about this novel was the connection between Jasper and Whistler.  Jasper believes he actually can hear what Whistler is thinking, and Whistler seems to have picked out Jasper as his special person.  Whistler is what many dog people would call his soulmate dog.

 

Dog people will love this book.  For instance, this description by Jasper about a trip to the beach:

 

"As soon as all the dogs got off leash they went crazy, running around like their butts were on fire.  They didn't stretch or warm up or pace themselves or worry who sees their white legs.  They just do it, all or nothing, because they want to have fun.  They're all about fun.  I mean, when was the last time you saw a dog do grumpy or whiny or embarrassed?  If we ate the exact same meal, day in, day out, we'd go nuts, we'd go on a hunger strike.  Not dogs.  They jump up and down, tail set to crazy time, snarfing down their kibble like it's prime rib.  And and, and even when they sleep, they give it everything, out for the count, able to flop down anywhere.  I mean, when was the last time you saw a dog chugging on a bottle of NyQuil?" (p. 321).

 

Although The Wonder of Lost Causes is over 400 pages, it was a very quick read, told engagingly with lots of conversation and great descriptions.  It is a heartwarming book and the final chapter is sure to require a Kleenex or two.   Recommended for dog lovers.

Author Bio

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

Find out more about him at his website.

 

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Book Spotlight and Pre-Order Giveaway - Southern Sass and Killer Cravings (Marygene Brown Mysteries) by Kate Young

Book Synopsis
Life has always been sweet on Georgia’s Peach Cove Island, but a case of murder has Marygene Brown down in the pits . . .

For generations, the women of the Brown family on Peach Cove Island have been known for their Southern sass and sweet homemade desserts at their beloved Peach Diner. Since their mother’s passing two years ago, Marygene has been stuck in Atlanta while her sister Jena Lynn has been running the family business. Now Marygene has left her husband and returned to her hometown, where she can almost feel Mama’s presence.

But all is not peachy back home. Marygene has barely tied on an apron when a diner regular drops dead at the counter. When it turns out the old man’s been poisoned, Jena Lynn is led away in handcuffs and the family eatery is closed. Now, to save her sister and the diner, Marygene must find the real killer. With some startling assistance from her Mama’s spirit, Marygene will be serving up a special order of just desserts . . .

Includes Seven Recipes from Marygene’s Kitchen!


Author Bio
 

Kate Young writes humorous southern mystery novels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppy Chapter. Kate lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband, three kids, and Shih Tzu. When she is not writing her own books, she’s reading or cooking.
 

Author Links 

Website - https://www.kateyoungbooks.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateYoung/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KAYoungBooks
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6527572.Kate_Young
BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kate-young-b3339e9c-d2e4-482d-a637-5afd7b064d73

 

Purchase Links — Amazon  B&N  Kobo Indie Bound  ibooks  BAM 

 

Giveaway

A PRE-ORDER CONTEST with fabulous prizes! A Coach Bag with matching wristlet and $120 in gift cards plus autographed copies of the book!

https://www.kateyoungbooks.com/pre-order-contest.html

* Grand Prize Winner receives a gorgeous Coach Avenue Tote and Coach wristlet pictured below (value $450) and a $100 gift card to either Amazon or B&N.

​​* 2 Runners up will receive a $10 gift card to either Amazon or B&N and an autographed paperback copy of  Southern Sass and Killer Cravings.

 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Dear Abby - Silly Things People Say

Dear Friends,

I'm so glad to be back!  I've been eager to return and visit with you.  I kept thinking of things I wanted to tell you, but I have to depend on my Momma to help me post here.  Unfortunately, she kept saying she had too much on her plate.  I don't understand that at all -- I don't even see a plate (and believe me, I looked!).   We made a deal that for right now I will post every few weeks but I will post more regularly in Fall.   It will be nice to have a lighter blogging schedule for summer.  More time to nap and enjoy the sunshine!

I'll share a couple of new pictures with you.   I am waving in this picture.  Momma says it looks like I am smiling a bit too.  I actually do smile when I am happy.

Here is another recent picture -- this was taken on Easter.  I had company and lots of excitement, and I spent a lot of time looking hopefully for treats.

That makes me think of something I have been wanting to mention -- people say some silly things!    For instance:

"Don't lick my nostrils."   I don't understand this at all.  I can lick a doggie friend anytime I like.   People have some silly rules.

(This one happens sometimes when it is time to wake up in the morning.)  "Don't stand on my kidneys."  Another one that makes no sense to me.   It's very comfortable to stand on a sleeping person.

"Please don't lick the floor."   But the floor smells so interesting!   I have to explore it. 

"You don't need another treat."   What?!   This is beyond ridiculous.  Of course I do.  I need ALL the treats.

Can you think of any other silly things that people say to dogs?  (Please feel free to ask your own pets if you need ideas.)   I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

I am so glad to be back in touch, and look forward to talking more here.

Love,

Abby xoxoxo 
 

Book Review and Giveaway - Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg

Book Synopsis
One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she’d be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn’t stop her!

She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society.

Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining.

 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

 

My Review

Gold Digger tells the story of Lizzie "Baby" Doe, who travels to Colorado with her husband Harvey because he wants to try his hand at gold mining.  Life is far different than either of them expects, and her husband leaves Baby Doe when she is pregnant and struggling to make a living on her own.  She meets the charming Horace Tabor, a wealthy man who is involved in mining and eventually politics as well.  Unfortunately, he is married.   They fall in love and life changes once again for Baby Doe.

 

I wanted to read this book because I was interested in the the western frontier and the California Gold Rush as a young girl.  I had never read about gold prospecting in Colorado, and both the subject matter and time period really interested me.

 

This was what I would call a rollicking read.  It is really fun and lively, and would make a great movie.  I have been trying to cast the movie in my head and have regretfully decided that Sam Elliott is a bit too old to play Horace Tabor.  Perhaps Dennis Quaid would be good in that role.  I am still thinking about who could play Baby Doe.

 

Baby Doe's fortunes go from rags to riches and back to rags -- it is a real roller coaster ride.  There is another book coming up as a sequel, Silver Dollar, and I already look forward to reading it as well.

 

The author evokes the 1870's to 1890's with period details.  I had no idea how rough mining conditions were for both miners and for the poor donkeys who worked in the mines.  The frontier days of Colorado are vividly captured, including an appearance by Doc Holliday, who helps Baby Doe when she injures her ankle.

 

I particularly enjoyed the novel after Baby Doe and Horace met.  The details of the grand opera house that Horace built were fascinating.  I especially loved the visit to the opera house by Oscar Wilde!

 

Baby Doe later meets other historic figures in her travels, including Lillian Russell, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and President Arthur.  

 

Baby Doe was a complex character -- involved with a married man but interested in helping others, unafraid of hard work and eager to be a participant and not just a spectator in her own life.

 

I recommend Gold Digger for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who is interested in the American west.  You have a fun and lively read ahead of you!

Author Bio

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Giveaway
During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of Gold Digger, a gold facial mask & soap set, and recipe brochure to five winners. Three winners will receive an ebook of Gold Digger. To enter, please use the Gleam form below. 

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  
Gold Digger
 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Spotlight - A Deadly Feast: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette

Book Synopsis
National bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s intrepid food critic Hayley Snow must sniff out a killer in the ninth Key West Food Critic mystery. 

Key West food critic Hayley Snow scents-es something fishy when a customer falls stone-crab cold dead on a seafood tasting tour. 

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and Key West food critic Hayley Snow has just one more assignment to put to bed for Key Zest magazine before she gets to celebrate with her family and her police officer fiancé, Nathan Bransford. Then, just days later, wedding bells will ring—if death doesn’t toll first. 

The sweet potatoes and stuffing will have to wait when Hayley picks up a distraught phone call from her friend, Analise Smith. On the last stop of a seafood tasting tour run by Analise, one of the customers collapsed—dead. With the police on the verge of shutting down the tour—and ruining Analise’s business—Hayley can hardly refuse her friend’s entreaties to investigate. 

As if wedding jitters and family strife weren’t enough for Hayley to worry about, there’s crusty pastry chef Martha Hubbard, whose key lime pie may have been the murder weapon—but did she poison her own pie or was she framed? As the hours to Turkey Day tick away, the pressure cooker is on for Hayley to serve up the culprit on a silver platter in A Deadly Feast, national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s taste-tempting ninth Key West Food Critic mystery. 

Author Bio 
Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) has published 16 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, DEATH ON THE MENU (Crooked Lane Books, August 2018.) Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writersand shares her love for food with the culinary writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen She lives in Madison CT and Key West FL. Read more at www.lucyburdette.com.

Author Links
Facebook: WWW.facebook.com/lucyburdette
Twitter: www.twitter.com/lucyburdette
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lucyburdette
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/robertaisleib
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4781149.Lucy_Burdette
Purchase Links: – AmazonB&NIndieBound


Friday, May 10, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

Book Synopsis

Myscowa, Poland—1910

Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910

Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.

Available on Amazon


My Review
The Strongman and the Mermaid is a historical novel that begins in 1910.  Lukasz Musial lives in Poland, but wants to immigrate to America.   Mary Lancos lives in Donora, Pennsylvania.  Her family is struggling and she has left school to work as a maid.  This is the story of how these two surprisingly similar people meet and come together.

First, I have to say this book has an absolutely beautiful, evocative cover.  I was interested to read it initially because of the cover art and because it sounded like an unusual historical novel - part family saga, part love story, part fairytale.

This is a big book -- 565 pages.  It moves at a leisurely pace.  However, I could not put it down.  I stayed up reading until 2:00 AM, then 1:00 AM the next night because the author has a gift of creating characters who I cared about.

The novel begins with Lukasz in Poland, and Mary in Pennsylvania.  Lukasz loses his chance at a ticket to America, but then improbably wins a ticket after all.  That changes his life, and the life of Mary as well.  I really became involved in the book more when the characters were both in Pennsylvania;  that is when the book really seemed to begin for me.  They meet casually but are involved in their own lives.  Lukasz is set up with a beautiful Polish girl and Mary is interested n a young man from a wealthy family. 

I loved the fairy tale quality of this storytelling.  Lukasz is a strongman, not big but very powerful.  He is gentle, though, and has an artist's eye for creating beautiful figures of metal and wire.  At night he dreams about a legendary mermaid.  Mary longs to change her life, like Cinderella in the fairy tale.  One magical night a pink moon changes everything for them both.

The writing in this book - most especially the descriptions - is absolutely lovely.  I loved all the details of Catholic holidays and rituals, of food and baking (although I sometimes wished for recipes to try some of the dishes!), and day to day descriptions.  For instance, there is a ritual where young single women in the community make unique flower wreaths that they wear.  Then they toss them in the river and suitors dive in for the wreaths.  There was such an evocative image of the wreaths bobbing in the river.  

And when Lukasz spies the pink moon:

"He looked upward.  A full moon, pink and blazing through the clouds, shocked him.  Its rays reflected off the newly fallen snow as if the heavens had laid down a winter blanket over the dark, barren ground.  Blue light reflected off the snow, a pink haze circled the moon, and he felt as if he'd been dropped off into another world" (p. 423).


The framework of the novel is a very elderly man named Patryk in the present day.  He shares a special book with his daughter and grandson.  It is a book about "mermaids, red birds, baseball gloves, and bats, circus animals and performers, and cemetery headstones. of all things" (p. 9).  Although I found these characters very likable, they took me out of the action of 1910 in a way that distracted me a bit.  I was eager to return to the original story.

The name of Stan Musial is mentioned several times in the book. I will admit that I'm not a sports fan and was not familiar with him until I looked him up.  He was a famous baseball player and it appears this novel was inspired by his family's story.  That makes the story even more interesting!

There will be another book in this series about Stan Musial, and I look forward to revisiting these characters and this world again.   I recommend The Strongman and the Mermaid for fans of historical fiction, love stories, family sagas.  It is a totally unique book and I found it a very rewarding read.  I think you will too.

Author Bio
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Giveaway
During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of The Strongman and the Mermaid and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  
Strongman and Mermaid
 

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Book Synopsis
He Needed Peace…

Attorney Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunesKobo



Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.


Giveaway
During the Blog Tour, we have two signed copies of A Modest Independence up for grabs! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

A Modest Independence
 

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas

Book Synopsis
Would you sell your secrets?

Catherine Carlisle is trapped in a loveless marriage and the threat of World War Two is looming. She sees no way out… that is until a trusted friend asks her to switch her husband’s papers in a desperate bid to confuse the Germans.

Soon Catherine finds herself caught up in a deadly mixture of espionage and murder. Someone is selling secrets to the other side, and the evidence seems to point right at her.

Can she clear her name before it’s too late?

 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | Kobo

Author Bio
TERRY LYNN THOMAS grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.

Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. The Drowned Woman is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, came out in April 2018 and has since become a USA TODAY bestseller. The Family Secret is slated for release in March 2019. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Giveaway
During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Silent Woman
 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Book Review - By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

Book Synopsis
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.

Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.

By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.

Dorothea Benton Frank offers a funny, sharp, and deeply empathetic novel of two very different worlds—of limousines and pickup trucks, caviars and pigs, skyscrapers and ocean spray—filled with a delightful cast of characters who all have something to hide and a lot to learn. A difference in legal opinions, a headlong dive from grace, and an abrupt twist will reveal the truth of who they are and demonstrate, when it truly counts, what kind of grit they have. Are they living the life they want, what regrets do they hold, and how would they remake their lives if they were given the invitation to do so?

By Invitation Only is classic Dorothea Benton Frank—a mesmerizing Lowcountry Tale that roars with spirit, humor, and truth, and forces us to reconsider our notions of what it means to be a Have or a Have Not.


 

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My Review
By Invitation Only is the story of two very different families coming together for the wedding of their children.  Diane English Stiftel is a divorced single mother who lives on the peach farm in South Carolina where she grew up, along with her aging parents and her brother.  Diane is the mother of the groom, Fred.  Susan and Alejandro Cambria are wealthy socialites from Chicago.  They are the parents of the bride, Shelby.  Although most of the novel is told from Diane's perspective, there are chapters from Susan's perspective as well.  It is heartwarming and sometimes humorous seeing the adventures of this new extended family over the space of a couple of years (August 2016 to Spring 2018).

I wanted to read this book because I love southern fiction and always enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's storytelling.  This novel was no exception!   It is told with great warmth and humor.  By Invitation Only was a quick read for me because I read in any spare time I had over a weekend -- just because I did not want to put the book down.

Shelby and Fred, the bride and groom, were sweet characters but the novel really focuses more on their families. 

I loved the character of Diane.  I related to her in many ways, and she is a character I would choose as a friend.  She is kind and empathetic and really cares about others;  she's also very down to earth.  I enjoyed reading the passages of the book about the peach farm and the farm stand business that the family runs, where they sell peach jam, baked goods, and fresh produce.

Susan is initially not an empathetic character;  she presents as materialistic and shallow.  However, as the characters' lives change over the course of time, she also evolves as a person.  I especially enjoyed her changing relationship - and friendship - with Diane.

There are some great secondary characters in this novel as well, like Diane's delightfully outspoken mother, Virnell, her brother Floyd, who always livens up a party, and her long time suitor, Alden.

There are many twists and turns in this novel, as fortunes change and unexpected romances develop, and things change over time - as they do in real life.   I found the lively nature of the storytelling, along with these twists and turns, particularly engaging.

I recommend By Invitation Only as a weekend or vacation read.   You will get to spend some time in both small town South Carolina and with the glamorous set in Chicago, and meet some characters that you will not soon forget! 

Author Bio
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Find her on the web at www.dotfrank.com, or like her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.
I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.