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Review: To the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman

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Title:  To the Stars Through Difficulties 
Author: Romalyn Tilghman
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
My Review:
In celebration of National Library Week, beginning April 9, 2017, author Romalyn Tilghman is releasing her novel, To the Stars Through Difficulties. The novel features a group of women in rural Kansas trying to save their local arts center, which was converted from the town's Carnegie library. As the women struggle to fund the center (making 1,000 potholders, etc!), they take inspiration from their foremothers (ice cream social which netted $11.25!), who more than a century before applied for one of the Carnegie grants (Andrew Carnegie funded 1500+ libraries across America) in order to grow a library on the Plains. This novel is perfect for book lovers who love books about books and libraries. It also gives a great glimpse into the struggles that past generations of women faced on the Plains. A great follow-up read if you loved Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

About the author: 
Straight out of graduate school, Romalyn Tilghman was hired as Executive Director of the Association of Community Arts Councils of Kansas. From there, she went on to work for the National Endowment for the Arts as Regional Representative. For more than twenty years, she has worked as a freelance consultant in the arts. She has served on the boards of Americans for the Arts, Association of California Symphony Orchestras, and Western Arts Alliance, as well as on numerous national panels. She lives in Long Beach, California.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Dead Letters by Claire Dolan-Leach

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Title: Dead Letters 
Author: Caite Dolan-Leach
Publisher: Random House 
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
My Review:
I had my eye on this release when it first popped on Netgalley at the end of 2016. I was excited to get to it in my TBR, but wasn't able to read it until after it had released. I was seeing it all over social media due to it being a Book of the Month selection and was chomping at the bit to get to it. Then I read it and loved it so much that I wanted to take time to write a thorough review. Then you know....life happens. Now after that long backstory, here's my thoughts, beyond "I loved it!" First of all, the book features twins (I am utterly fascinated with twins and love reading about them) and the setting is a family winery (hello, wine lover here) so I knew I was going to enjoy the story. But these twins are like no others I've read about and the setting is straight out of a Southern gothic novel, (return of a father who abandoned the family, mother sliding into dementia, family of alcoholics, decaying palatial home, etc.) The possible death of one twin brings the other home from Paris (another dreamy sigh) and sets her on a strange alphabet focused scavenger hunt to solve the mystery. Zelda's 1st letter greets Ava with “Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my ‘death’ hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.” The game teases out stories of the twins' combined and individual pasts to make you wonder what point Zelda is trying to make and if she is or is not actually dead!

I'm always giving reading suggestions, but I'm pushing this one pretty hard because I loved it so much!

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan

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Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: April 1, 2017
Netgalley Description: 
After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they’re given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away. Through Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and beyond, Kim and Brian face obstacles, including major challenges to their relationship. As she distributes the gift to people she encounters along the way she learns that money does not have a thing to do with the capacity to give, but that giving—of ourselves—is transformational.

My Review:
I received an email from Kim Dinan at the beginning of the month about her travel memoir and thought #1: hmmm, this sounds interesting and #2: I would love to do something like this. The memoir is not focused only on the "ups" of Kim's travels, she invites the reader right in and holds nothing back about her feelings. She is raw in her emotions and her stream of consciousness writing was very relatable to me and how my thoughts wander in situations as well. Even though Kim and her husband sell all their belongings and travel the world, they're still a married couple and that means there are always issues/problems. It was lovely to read about a woman who was working on "finding herself" both individually and as a half of a partnership. While the "yellow envelope money" guides the story, I found the story of Kim's personal growth the storyline I most identified with. If you loved Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, and Pay It Forward, this is the book for you!

About the Author:
Kim Dinan is a freelance writers and blogger, whose travel blog, So Many Places, receives over 200,000 unique visitors per year and was selected by USA Today as one of the 2014 Best Hiking and Outdoor Travel blogs. Her writing has appeared in OnTrak Magazine and Northwest Travel Magazine, among others, and she was on a speaking tour for Backpacker Magazine. 

Pre-order The Yellow Envelope here or here

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

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Title: Never Let You Go
Author: Chevy Stevens
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Goodreads Summary: Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

My Review: Tamara and I featured Chevy Stevens' previous release That Night as a Book Talk with R and T selection. (Read my review here). I already knew what I was getting myself into when I sat down to read Never Let You Go, but I almost stopped after the first couple chapters. To put it lightly, it's intense. I wasn't sure if I could handle it. But I kept at it and of course, I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I wanted to throttle teenaged Sophie a few times but that just made the book more realistic 😉. I especially loved that I didn't have it all figured out. I hate when that happens! I was guessing right to the end! Grab this new release right up but be prepared to not be able to put it down.  

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Foodie Friday: Review of Taste & Technique by Naomi Pomeroy

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Title: Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking
Author: Naomi Pomeroy
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
My Review:
 The introduction to this cookbook was especially fascinating to me. James Beard Award-winning and self-made chef Naomi Pomeroy's personal story had me reminiscing to reading Kitchens of the Great Midwest. By sharing her ups and downs in her journey as a chef, she connects with home cooks in a way some more famous "celebrity chefs" simply cannot. As a home chef myself, I was looking to learn a few things from Pomeroy's debut cookbook. However, as the title states, these techniques are a bit elevated and not necessarily something I will be doing in my kitchen on a random Tuesday night. I will reference the cookbook if I ever need to make something a bit fancier and I someday I will try her Classic French Onion Soup recipe. The photos are minimalist Instagram perfection and I found myself wishing for the physical version of this cookbook rather than the e-version I was reading from, but I think that about most cookbooks. Taste & Technique is divided into sections by meal course (salads, vegetables, fish, desserts, etc.) and would be a perfect addition to a home chef's bookshelf when they have advanced past kitchen basics.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Welcome to a stop on the amazing Girl in Disguise blog tour! 

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I loved Greer Macallister's previous release,The Magician’s Lie (my review here). My book BFF, Tamara and I even chose it as one of our Book Talk with R & T selections and I was so happy to see it become a USA Today Bestseller. So when I was contacted to review Girl in Disguise I was thrilled!

Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country. With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective. Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency's toughest investigations. But is the woman she's becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My review: 
When I read the second book by an author I love, I always hold my breath, but I wasn't let down with Girl in Disguise! I am a person who writes in my books (among us book lovers I know that people are very divided on that!) and I underlined so many witty quips and comebacks by the main character. Just like with The Magician's Lie, Macallister hooks the end of every chapter to keep you reading well after when you thought you'd stop. Not only was this a great detective story, the novel also turns the reader to reflect on themselves, asking questions about character and the characters we play in our lives. This is a five star read and although it is only March, I am expecting this to be on my best of 2017 list in December. 

Read an exclusive excerpt from Girl in Disguise, add it to your Goodreads and buy it hereAmazonBarnes & NobleTargetBooks a Million, and Indiebound.  
Connect with the author on Twitter and Facebook 

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for 3 finished copies of Girl in Disguise + Macallister's bestseller The Magician's Lie!

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5 Mini Reviews: 2 Passes and 3 You Should Read

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Ok, not every book is a slam dunk winner. So I would say to pass on these 2:

  • Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino was a fun look at an "alternate lifestyle". Three families pooling their resources and altering their physical homes to accommodate their adventure was interesting but there is going to be obvious problems.  I loved the setting but didn't enjoy the predictable downfalls. 
  • A Simple Favor by Darcy Bell is being touted as "the next Gone Girl" but c'mon, what book isn't anymore? I was really invested and actually read the first half on a flight but the ending was a jumbled mess. It needed to be longer or edited in the middle to give the ending more attention. 


I did love these three:

  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney was fabulous. I loved that the female main character was "of a particular age" and reflecting on her life and work success. 
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay was stellar because...well it was written by Roxane Gay! This collection of short stories features female main characters who don't fit into boxes. After reading this, you'll see how scripted most novels featuring women are. 
  • The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown is a great read for anyone who loves historical novels highlighting the witch hysterias of Salem, etc.