Friday, May 25, 2018

G1018 Book Review of The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart

Name of Book: The Sugarhouse Blues

Author: Mariah Stewart

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4492-9

Publisher: Gallery Books

Part of a Series: Hudson Sisters Series

Type of book: Pennsylvania Hidden Falls, renovation, roles, sisterhood, healing, secrets, abuse, appearances, art, plans, relationships between women, slow romance, dogs, mayor, popularity, small town summer celebrations

Year it was published: 2018


Mariah Stewart's second novel in the Hudson Sisters series...

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father's estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz's challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.


The main characters include Desdemona "Des" Hudson, who happens to be passionate about rescuing doggies (even establishing a rescue shelter for dogs back in her state of Montana) and who also is determined to do what she can towards the theater's renovation. She and Allie and have a very distant relationship, and very often Des is hesistant and doesn't really trust Allie's ideas. Des also tends to keep things to herself and hasn't really shared a positive sisterhood with Allie when growing up. Des is in charge of finances for the theater. Unfortunately the reader learns very little about Cara in this book, although she is frequently seen. For me Allie is probably the more fascinating sister. Allie continues to be prickly and seems to take enjoyment in tormenting a local "sheriff". Allie also suffers from uncertainty and low self esteem and is a mother to a daughter named Nikki. There is of course Bonnie "Aunt Barney," the sisters' aunt who is passionate about her car and is also slowly making changes in her house and life. Male main characters include Seth Macleod who is extremely popular and isn't someone Des would like to be with due to him being bald, a mayor, and tattooed as well as having a motorbike. Despite his appearance, Seth is extremely dedicated to the town and to his friends and family. There is also Ben, the local law enforcement that Allie seems to enjoy tormenting. He is not very creative with pet names and is very dedicated to his job. Cara's beau, Joe, is there but he didn't take up the limelight that Des and Seth have shared.


It's possible to heal and find a place to belong


The story is in third person narrative from Des's point of view, although from time to time Allie also jumps in. While reading THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE will make THE SUGARHOUSE BLUES richer, it's not required, and the book stands wonderfully on its own. The characters are multifaceted and become very easy to fall in love with, especially the doggies that dare to steal mine heart. The romance is built slowly through actions and time and isn't forced; the chemistry is believable, and I found myself rooting for the hero. There is also human aspect to the characters in that they are more than just women and their multiple roles and personalities are deftly explored throughout the pages be it motherhood or sisterhood. There is also a lot of focus on the relationships the sisters have one with one another, especially the focus is on Allie and Des, which is what I liked, and how each sister has to make peace with herself and one another.

Author Information:
(From the back of the book)

Mariah Stewart is an award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her website at, like her on Facebook at, and follow her on Instagram @Mariah_Stewart_Books.


This is my 7th Mariah Stewart novel, and I still have trouble figuring out how she writes one winner after another! Ever since my reading of her previous Hudson Sisters Novel, THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE, which introduces the reader to the three sisters, I have been counting down the days to dive once more into the beautiful and complex world of Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania. THE SUGARHOUSE BLUES focuses on Desdemona "Des" Hudson, a loner who is more passionate about rescuing dogs and who has trouble opening herself up to other people. In a true Mariah Stewart style, the focus is far more on activities and relationships between the sisters and their aunt, and the romance builds slowly and is focused more on dating and getting to know one another rather than anything sexual. (There aren't any sexual scenes in the book by the way.) Unfortunately some of the mysteries from the previous books aren't really resolved in my opinion, but that's okay. The beauty of Mariah Stewart's books is that each mystery and interaction is like finding a decadent and perfect dessert where its safe to indulge without worrying about the bathroom scales.

This was given for a review

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

G1002 belief; what it means to believe and why our convictions are so compelling

Title of the book: belief; what it means to believe and why our convictions are so compelling

Author: James e Alcock

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Publishing Date: 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63388-403-8


An expert on the psychology of belief examines how our thoughts and feelings, actions and reactions, respond not to the world as it actually is but to the world as we believe it to be.

This book explores the psychology of belief - how beliefs are formed, how they are influenced both by internal factors, such as perception, memory, reason, emotion, and prior beliefs, as well as external factors, such as experience, identification with a group, social pressure, and manipulation. It also reveals how vulnerable beliefs are to error, and how they can be held with great confidence even when factually false.

The author, a social psychologist who specializes in the psychology of belief, elucidates how the brain and nervous system function to create the perceptions, memories, and emotions that shape belief. He explains how and why distorted perceptions, false memories, and inappropriate emotional reactions that sometimes lead us to embrace false beliefs are natural products of mental functioning. He also shows why it is so difficult to change our beliefs when they collide with contradictions.

Covering a wide range -- from self-perception and the perceived validity of everyday experience to paranormal, religious, and even fatal beliefs--the book demonstrates how crucial beliefs are to molding our experience and why they have such a powerful hold on our behavior.

Author Info:
(From the book)

James E. Alcock, PhD, is professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and the author of many books, book chapters, and articles on social psychology and the psychology of belief, most recently An Introduction to Social Psychology (With Stan Sadava.) He is also a registered clinical psychologist who works in private practice. He is on the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and on the editorial board of Skeptical Inquirer. His previous work includes a special research project on paraspsychology for the National Academy of Sciences.

Personal Opinion:

Awhile ago, I attempted to read Plato's The Republic, which I enjoyed a little, but because at the time I didn't feel ready, I decided not to keep reading the story. The Republic covered justice and how justice became entangled in small as well as major details. This book is a bit similar in that; the author takes a simple word, belief, but he stretches out into a 500 page topic that dares to leave no stone un-turned in the quest of trying to understand why we are the way we are. While highly informative and entertaining, I will mention that the author does tend to dismiss the idea of supernatural/paranormal occurrences, that is he does explain what they are as well as the beliefs, but if they happen supernaturally is often dismissed. The writing is tailored to an everyday reader rather than an academic and if one finds psychology fascinating or is looking for a quick refresher of how minds work or is curious about various beliefs that human beings hold, then this is an excellent book to get.

This was given for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Spotlight for Eyes Don't lie by Crystal Dawn Mason

Book Details:

Book Title: Eyes Don't Lie: You Can't Hide by Crystal Dawn Mason

Category: Adult Fiction, 142 pages

Genre: Suspense / Thriller

Publisher: self-published

Release date: Oct 11, 2017

Tour dates: April 30 to May 18, 2018

Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

Curly-haired brunettes with blue eyes are the only women that seem to capture Keith’s attention. But is it really their appearance that attracts him or something sinister? Keith, a broken soul, who’s battling between good and evil, goes about his days trying to fight his evil urges. But because of a demonic stronghold, in most instances good loses the battle to evil.

Affected by the pain and hurt of his childhood, he now seeks out the love he didn’t receive as a child. But when he doesn’t get it, there’s retribution to pay…and what a sad day it is for those curly-haired brunettes with blue eyes who fail to make the mark. But things take a turn when he meets a grocery store cashier who has the ability to see evil through his eyes. McKenzie is able to connect dots, interfering with Keith’s destructive path – a path that could lead him to prison or even the grave.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Crystal Dawn Mason started writing books of poetry, then transitioned into narrative writing. Becoming a writer was not a goal as she began her studies as a psychology major at Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis. It wasn't until she had a bad experience that she stumbled upon her natural ability to create stories. And this discovery started her down a newfound path of purpose. While working, she found another niche in the education field, which led her to pursue a teaching degree. Thus, she is now pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies to become an elementary teacher. She enjoys working with children, and her goal, outside of teaching, is to continue writing stories that are inspiring and entertaining for her readers.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest 

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 26, 2018
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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Spotlight Degrees of Love by Lisa Slabach

Book Details:

Book Title: Degrees of Love: A Novel by Lisa Slabach

Category: Adult Fiction, 344 pages

Genre: Women's Fiction

Publisher: Bookbaby

Release date: Dec 1, 2017

Tour dates: May 1 to 18, 2018

Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Adult themes including infidelity, occasional F-word, non-explicit sex scenes)

​Book Description:

At thirty-six, Susan Sinclair has it all. She's just been promoted to Senior Vice President of Mobile Banking at her firm, a prestigious position bringing fresh creative challenges and a hefty salary increase. Like the shiny new BMW in the driveway of the Silicon Valley home she shares with her husband, Matt, and their two beautiful boys, Susan exudes confidence and style.

Yet despite her success in juggling the roles of wife, mother, and businesswoman, Susan struggles with a secret dissatisfaction. Matt's work in cutting-edge computer research pays less than her job, and with each advance in her career, he has grown more distant. But Matt refuses to admit there is a problem, and Susan forces herself to play along, determined to give her boys the close-knit family life she never had.

Then she meets her new boss, Reese Kirkpatrick. Working and traveling together, she and Reese become a crackerjack team, but little by little, pleasure mixes with business. For the first time in a long time—maybe ever—Susan feels seen and appreciated for who she is. Certain she would never allow their friendship to cross the line, Susan lets herself stray dangerously close to the edge.

​A moment of weakness changes everything. Now, unable to stomach the façade her marriage has become yet unwilling to decimate her family by moving forward with Reese, Susan faces a choice that could cost her everything—including her children . . . but possibly bring her more than she can dream.

Praise for Degrees of Love:

​"Slabach crafts a relatable, heartbreakingly real story that will no doubt resonate with those at a similar station in life: women who love their families yet yearn for just a little more—to feel wanted rather than needed, to feel passion rather than complacency. In engaging prose and through skillful storytelling, Slabach captivates with an all-too-familiar story that raises questions with no easy answers."

- Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"This does not read like a debut author’s book. Slabach shows herself to be adept at portraying the complex emotions of the human condition. Her characters live and breathe on the page in a way that every author strives for, but few actually manage. Susan’s struggles ring true, and the way she handles everything makes her a very likable and relatable character."

- Sarah Perry, San Francisco Book Review, 5 Stars

"Profound, heart wrenching and very emotional, it is hard to believe that Degrees of Love is a debut novel by Lisa Slabach. This is one of the best novels I have read this year."

- Rabia Tanveer, Readers' Favorite

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Degrees of Love is Lisa Slabach’s debut novel. She is currently working on her third full-length manuscript and a collection of short stories inspired by her experiences growing up in a small farm community in Washington’s Yakima Valley. In addition to writing, Lisa works for a Fortune 500 Company, leading a sales team in the financial industry. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and has two daughters, who are both pursuing careers in film. In her free time, she enjoys drinking wine with friends and cooking in her pink kitchen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 24, 2018

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

FF6. Book Review of The samurai of Seville by John J Healey

Name of Book: The samurai of Seville

Author: John J Healey

ISBN:  9781628727845

Publisher: Arcade

Year it was published: 2017


A sumptuous novel inspired by one of history’s most intriguing forgotten chapters—the arrival of Japanese Samurai on the shores of Europe.

In 1614, twenty-two Samurai warriors and a group of tradesmen from Japan sailed to Spain, where they initiated one of the most intriguing cultural exchanges in history. They were received with pomp and circumstance, first by King Philip III and later by Pope Paul V. They were the first Japanese to visit Europe and they caused a sensation. They remained for two years and then most of the party returned to Japan; however, six of the Samurai stayed behind, settling in a small fishing village close to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where their descendants live to this day.

Healey imbues this tale of the meeting of East and West with uncommon emotional and intellectual intensity and a rich sense of place. He explores the dueling mentalities of two cultures through a singular romance; the sophisticated, restrained warrior culture of Japan and the baroque sensibilities of Renaissance Spain, dark and obsessed with ethnic cleansing. What one culture lives with absolute normality is experienced as exotic from the outsider’s eye. Everyone is seen as strange at first and then—with growing familiarity—is revealed as being more similar than originally perceived, but with the added value of enduring idiosyncrasies.

The story told in this novel is an essential and timeless one about the discoveries and conflicts that arise from the forging of relationships across borders, both geographical and cultural.

Link for Review

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

G976 Book Review of Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt

Name of Book: Ecstasy

Author: Mary Sharratt

ISBN: 978-0-544-80089-2

Publisher: HMH Books

Type of book: Gustav Mahler, Alma Schindler-Mahler, affairs, passion, ecstasy, music, composing, motherhood, marriage, older male/younger female pairing, 1899-1900s, denying talent and gifts, travel, genius husband, survival

Year it was published: 2018


In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time the center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.


Main characters include Alma Schindler Mahler, a beautiful and talented young woman who desires to become a composer in a time when few occupations are open to women. She is best described as beautiful, passionate and loyal to those she loves, whether or not they deserve it. She is also very passionate about sharing her own gift with the world. Gustav Mahler ultimately wins Alma's heart and he is far older than she, a Jew who became a Catholic as well as someone who is talented with composing but at the same time extremely clueless when it comes to Alma's needs and human relationships. There are other characters in the story such as Alma's mother and her sister, as well as various friends that flit in and out of  their lives, but I feel that they are not as visible as Alma and Gustav are.


A woman has dozens of roles, its impossible to disobey the call of the gift


The story is written in third person narrative from Alma's point of view and it covers 1899 up to 1910 or so, basically the time that Alma becomes (briefly) enamored with Gustav Klimt to the time her marriage to Gustav Mahler is over, and it takes place in Vienna. I knew very little about Vienna at the turn of the century and was delighted to see it prior to WWII. The story is also linear and doesn't begin in media res. (Start at the beginning.) The characters, the plot are all well done and well covered and the author has a good balance between getting a reader curious to know what will happen next to Alma and doesn't overshare on the details. For those who are new to historical fiction and are looking something different from WWII novels, but are too afraid of being overwhelmed this will be an ideal read.

Author Information:
(From HFVBT)

About the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


In a good way, I don't know where to start in praising the book. I have previously read the author's other novel, THE DARK LADY'S MASK, which is about Shakespeare's muse, and her life, where the author teased between a respectable life versus affair, and life of passions versus boredom. In ECSTASY, she delves much deeper into that line, invoking and sculpting a woman so lifelike to people of today as she struggles with all too daily life of  child-rearing, having a husband who is clueless to her needs and understanding her as both a person and a woman. As I found myself reading the novel, I found myself becoming enamored of Alma and of her predicament, as well as how close her predicament hits too close to home in some instances. I also admired Alma for her restraint in life and how much she has sacrificed to help her husband, Gustav, become great. As sad as it sounds, while a lot has changed when it comes to women and their position, one main aspect that hasn't changed is marriage and childbirth and how beyond that women are rarely seen as anything but mothers and wives in even today's society. Also, I love the cover and find it extremely gorgeous. 

This is for HFVBT

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 10
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, April 11
Feature at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 12
Review at Bookfever
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, April 13
Interview at Unabridged Chick
Review at View From the Birdhouse

Saturday, April 14
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, April 16
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, April 17
Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, April 19
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, April 20
Review at Linda’s Book Obsession

Sunday, April 22
Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, April 23
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, April 24
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 25
Review at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 26
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Friday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, April 30
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, May 1
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, May 3
Interview at The Writing Desk

Monday, May 7
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, May 9
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 10
Review at Writing the Renaissance

Friday, May 11
Interview at Writing the Renaissance

Monday, May 14
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, May 17
Review at Nicole Evelina

Friday, May 18
Interview at Nicole Evelina

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, May 7, 2018

G999. Sass, Smarts and Stilettos; how Italian women make the ordinary, extraordinary

Title of the book: Sass, Smarts and Stilettos; how Italian women make the ordinary, extraordinary

Author: Gabriella Contestabile

Publisher: Sumisura Publications

Publishing Date: 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9960585-2-0


How do Italian women turn the ordinary into extraordinary? Why do their lives seem less complicated, but more complete and alluring?

Discover what's behind this seductive ethos of effortless chic, and how to live an extraordinary and stylish life, 'all' italiana'.

Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos is not just a celebration of Italian women, but of all women; of their innate ability to think outside the box, to make magic from mayhem, and to have a wild good time doing it.

Author Info:
(From Italy Book Tours)

Buy the Book:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Chapters Indigo ~ Kobo
Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author:

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

​The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

Personal Opinion:

Part guide, part autobiography, this is a good read for readers who are seeking to know the secret of why Italian women know how to have it together. Along the read, the book weaves a fascinating and immediate history of why Italy is a force to be reckoned with be it food to fashion. Although my ancestry is Eastern European, I found myself impressed with how she portrays Italian women and I imagine that the book has very important messages, especially for these times when connections are encouraged.

This is for Italy Book Tours


April 23 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
April 23 - Writers and Authors - book spotlight / guest post
​April 24 - Essentially Italian - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
April 24 - Olio by Marilyn - review / author interview / giveaway
April 25 - Two Points of Interest - review / giveaway
April 26 - Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
April 27 - Cheryl's Book Nook - review / giveaway
April 30 - - review / giveaway
May 2 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / guest post / giveaway
May 2 - The Book Maiden - review
May 3 - Suko's Notebook - review
May 4 - Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - review
May 7 - Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - author interview
May 7 - Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
May 8 - Thoughts on This 'n That - review / author interview
May 9 - Ishiee's Book Blog - review / author interview / giveaway
May 10 - Teabags and Happenstance - review / author interview
May 11 - Jessica Cassidy - review / author interview / giveaway
May 11 - 30-something Travel - review / giveaway
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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