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HOW TO CHANGE A LIFE: A Foodie Fiction Novel ~Stacy Ballis

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

I want to start by saying I loved reading HOW TO CHANGE A LIFE every single page!  Perfect timing, fabulously written and not the least bit insulting, as the emotions were real and appropriate and they were not acted out in petty, small or mean actions.  This is how folks can best make change and it is also very fun – very fun.

The food is amazing and I can also state that I did not gain weight while reading even though there are some of the top recipes at the end of the book and a reading group guide!   I did make the quick Lemon Chicken pasta dish for two that was made for one of the characters for a lonely Friday night and even without a recipe spelled out, it was yummy.

Stacey Ballis is the author of ten foodie novels: INAPPROPRIATE MEN, SLEEPING OVER, ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, THE SPINSTER SISTERS, GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT, OFF THE MENU, OUT TO LUNCH, RECIPE FOR DISASTER, WEDDING GIRL, and HOW TO CHANGE A LIFE.  She is a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: GIRLS WHO LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS, EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, and LIVING JEWISHLY.

Author page at Amazon

Three 39 year old friends meet at their favorite teacher’s memorial service and renew their friendship.  They found each other when their birthdays were all the same week in May and those dates were used as a sorting tool for group work in high school. They have not kept in touch as well as they would have liked and now are working on revitalizing their friendship.  They all share their thoughts and one suggests that they pick out something they wish to change and accomplish before their 40th birthday celebration.  Theresa is an Italian Mother who wishes to broaden her horizons and work on finding a part time job, Lynne is a successful entrepreneur who wants to purchase a house and land a 7-figure contract, and Eloise a chef, would like to start dating after a break up and enlarge her social connections.  Each one adds a dynamic to the other’s change list and they check in on progress regularly.   They add a bet that the loser must pay $5,000 to their former teacher’s foundation funds.  The tension mounts as they work on their lists and expand their horizons.

Theresa is the negotiator who keeps the friends connected; they all speak kindly to each other and recognize their emotions readily.  They are for the most part happy to have suggestions and to help discover other options or change their thinking on most problems.  This was so encouraging to read.  None of this current “mean girls” nastiness; the three women were mature and thoughtful and recognized how their differences enhanced their relationship.   Refreshing and yet made the read dynamic and optimistic. I was encouraged and I found lots of chuckles and clever moments to capture my attention. I am giving this book to at least 3 young women for holiday and birthday gifts this year. With a little help from our true friends we can certainly change and enjoy our life more.

Roxanne-Jones, Associate Publicist at Penguin Random House

“With the perfect blend of humor and heart, Ballis’s writing is powerfully honest and genuinely hilarious”  -Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author of BY THE NUMBERS

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MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN: A Novel ~Suzanne Kamata

Monday, March 20th, 2017

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I have ever read.  Perfect for young adult readers and people who have lived a full life.  The writing is like a lovely tea party and the characters are so full and well imaged.  The problems were real and inviting even though there was sadness, which rested in the heart.

Who are you like in your family tree?  Will you manifest a life like that or will you be the mystery person on the tree; always doing your very own “thing”?  Or do you have no family and must truly make your way in many situations and are you invested or maybe indifferent?  What does you lifeline say?

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is about a family who is with the Coast Guard attached to the Lake.   Mom was the Coast Guard Princess of the parade and now has two daughters, one traditional and one wondering about what will come next.  Elise is fascinated by the water, her town and reading all she can.  She is not a social butterfly but does find a friend in the young woman who comes to live with Grandmother a few doors down.   They have adventures and fall into love and ride the merry-go-round at the Carnival.   Music draws them together.

Elise has a Great Grandmother too who seems to be apart of her that wants to share in her adventures.   Great Grandmother was a wreck diver on Lake Michigan, she saw a mermaid, and truly her own spirit.

The story unwraps the mysteries of growing in a smooth language that draws one into the situation until you can feel as embarrassed as Elise or as concerned.  The characters questioning brings us right to the “Aha” moment and then lets us in without saying a word.  There is hope for the joy, which might just come with the realization. Secrets are exposed, are intimated, and revealed without saying a word.

There is definitely magic.

There is the tension found in the teenage life and tension of road trips that might now answer the questions.  There is love, lots of love and not true abandonment.

This story is a lovely capsule of life and living and tells a story that might just lead you there-you know to see a mermaid!    I just enjoyed every page.

TLC Book Tours sent me MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN for review.

A CHARMINGLY BEAUTIFUL STORY

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Suzanne Kamata Website
Suzanne Kamata Twitter

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LIFE AND OTHER NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES: A Novel ~Camille Pagán

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

LIFE AND OTHER NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES starts with a double whammy of problems for Libby; we are right at the first paragraphs when the Doctor uses the word malignant and cancer right together and Libby retreats into the Kubler-Ross steps of death defying stages in her mind. If this were not enough Libby goes home to tell her husband, Tom, and he guesses she has “found out” his problem and blurts out that he is GAY never hearing her tough news.  Libby quietly packs a suitcase for her partner and sends him away, she curls up to think about her mother’s death, when she was 9 from cancer; then begins sorting what she will do next.

The story is a full gambit of emotions and we should not leave out humor at all.  Libby is very clever and sarcastic and decides not to treat her cancerous growth and begins planning for her death.  Right away she decides to quit her job and to tell her twin brother Paul and her father about Tom’s reveal not about the cancer.  Libby also wants to do something that will make a difference such as starting a foundation and leaving her money there; after all she has been supporting her husband and purchased their condo while he was in school, getting his degree and a job.  A month long vacation sounds like just the thing to give her space to find acceptance and determine how to proceed.  Puerto Rico becomes her destination, which adds another near death experience or two to her life.

The book is cleverly written and of course, full of communication glitches and bad thinking which actually turn out all right in the end.  There is a great deal of thinking about her mother’s death and how that affected her life and her future decisions.  Because she was deciding not to get treatment, she waited a long time to tell her family but then there are pesky folks on the island and beach, who are antagonistic to her decision.  Throw into the mix a little love story and self-awareness emerges, which opens up new possibilities and lets her know Tom truly is gay.

LIFE AND OTHER NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES was sent to me by TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/2015/09/camille-pagan-author-of-life-and-other-near-death-experiences-on-tour-november-2015/ for review and I appreciated the interesting read.  I think you will also.

About the author (from TLC page)

Camille Pagán’s work has appeared in dozens of publications and on websites including Forbes, Glamour, Men’s Health, Parade, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, WebMD.com, and Women’s Health. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children.

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THE RAVEN ROOM: A Trilogy Mystery (Book 1) ~Ana Medeiros

Monday, November 16th, 2015

“Anything you can imagine. Everything you crave.”

“The Raven Room will have everything you could possibly want and more.” (The San Francisco Book Review – cover)<‘blockquote>

You need to be in Chicago to find the RAVEN ROOM finely tuned into Chinatown and the underground levels under traditional storefronts.  It is a Sex Club and offers its membership every delight they could possibly imagine and now there is a murder involved with the club; the press and police would like access.

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this book for review and I have mixed emotions about this request.  I was only offered Book One, which has a very unsettling ending and no book two or three in the offering.  The book is very well written and finds a hold on the reader very quickly and the sex keeps coming full throttle and does not let up page after page after page.   The characters are well developed and disturbing at times and have numerous psychological attributes, which can be overwhelming.  Even though I would rather not know about this kind of club and it’s activities the story is believable.

Meredith is a young journalism student and has discovered an older fellow who arouses many new feelings in her.  She wants to write an expose’ about THE RAVEN ROOM club and Julian is her point of entry member.  Julian is self-destructive, because of his abandonment as a child and his trials within the foster care system, and yet he is working on healing himself and has developed a fine reputation as a child psychologist and caregiver.  Meredith wants to keep him from self-destruction and yet will she be pulled into his controlling side life situations?

The book is about sexual deviations and I know I should not feel like there was too much sex, but I did feel there was just too much.  A loving encounter would turn into beatings and cutting and choking….  I just had to set the book aside and go do something else.  The who-done-it part of the story was wonderful and the development of the backstories was very good and kept me proceeding until the very rude, abrupt last page.  Yikes!  I kept trying to figure out where the story was headed and could not get it out of my mind.

I would offer a warning for those who are not wanting to read about such violence and so much sex – The RAVEN ROOM has it all and will take the purchase of 3 books to get the whole story.

About the Author

“Before THE RAVEN ROOM there was Paris, books, coffee, chocolate and zombies. Ana Medeiros lives in Toronto, Canada, with her boyfriend and two cats. THE RAVEN ROOM is her first novel.” (From Amazon’s page)

“Readers who enjoy complex stories with strong characterization and psychological depth will find The Raven Room a satisfyingly story of emotional turbulence…” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review