A Gilded Death by Cecelia Tichi

source: free review copy from Stress Free Book Marketing
title: A Gilded Death
author: Cecelia Tichi
published: ‎ August 1, 2021
pages: 354
genre: historical mystery
first line: The air was sharp, and I drew my cloak tighter around my shoulders and peered down at the Newport harbor.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

A formal dinner in palatial, Gilded Age Newport stuns Val DeVere when her closest friend whispers a terrifying rumor. The friend’s ultra-rich auntie’s fatal heart attack at Mrs. Astor’s annual ball last winter was murder.
When the aunt’s reclusive daughter—and heir—succumbs to “heart failure,” Val and husband Roddy probe the deaths to shield their dear friend who is next in line to inherit the family fortune—and sudden death.
Society’s “odd couple,” Val and Roddy, a.k.a. Valentine and Roderick DeVere, blend his Old New York savvy and her mountain West vision to ask: Is Newport truly Society’s “place to take root in,” or a dear friend’s place to die?

my thoughts:
A Gilded Death is the first in Cecelia Tichi’s Gilded Age series. The story begins in 1898 Newport RI and revolves around married couple Val and Roddy as they try to figure out whether or not a string of deaths and accidents involving a family of socialites is part of a larger plan.

Val’s good friend and socialite Cassie confides in her that her aunt who passed away last Winter at Mr. Astor’s ball was actually murdered. When Cassie’s cousin and next in line to the fortune dies next, it’s super suspicious especially because it seems like she was poisoned. Cassie is next in line to the Brush fortune and she now fears for her and her children’s lives. Val and Roddy, who is a lawyer, start to investigate further and end up hiring the Pinkertons to work incognito for Cassie so they can guard her.

Although the book started off a little slow for me, I still enjoyed it. Roddy and Val are likeable characters and I was interested in what they would discover about these deaths and accidents. Roddy makes drinks here and there such as The Tuxedo made with gin and sherry and a Hawaii cocktail made with whiskey and orange juice. As you read the ingredients are listed which was a nice touch should you want to make a drink featured in the book. Someone bakes a Robert E. Lee cake at one point which I found interesting. I have the recipe to that cake in civil war era recipes book I purchased, so it was a nice surprise seeing it mentioned in the story.

While I liked Val and Roddy and I enjoyed the storyline overall, I would have liked to have seen a little more character development with these two. I wanted to know more about them and their backgrounds, maybe that happens as the series continues. Aside from that small qualm, it was evident that the author did her research with her vivid descriptions of the time and location. I could envision the sights and sounds of 1890’s Rhode Island society with its dinners and clam bakes and walks by the beach as Roddy and Val try to figure out the mystery. I didn’t know who the culprit was until the author revealed it and it made sense.

The story all wraps up nicely while leaving it open for the next book in the series which takes place in New York. The author’s style of writing made this a cozy read for me as well. I enjoyed this one.

“The tide was changing, but the water was calm when Roddy and I set out in a dinghy from the yacht club landing. It was midmorning, and the sun shone behind fleecy clouds. The air was crisp. Once again, we sought the absolute privacy that ruled out the cottage where the walls had ears, and the Casino, Bailey’s Beach, the village, or a public park.”
P. 221, A Gilded Death by Cecelia Tichi

Special thanks to Stress Free Book Marketing for my review copy!

Author bio:
A fresh start for every new book, and author Tichi’s zest for America’s Gilded Age and its boldface names draws this seasoned writer to a crime fiction series while uncorking the country’s cocktail cultures on the printed (and ebook) page. Tichi digs deep into the Vanderbilt University research library to mine the late 1800-1900s history and customs of Society’s “Four Hundred,” its drinks, and the ways high-stakes crimes in its midst make for a gripping “Gilded” mystery series that rings true to the tumultuous era. The decades of America’s industrial titans and “Queens” of Society have loomed large in Tichi’s books for several years, and the titles track her recent projects:

1. Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (and What They Teach Us)
2. Jack London: A Writer’s Fight for a Better America
3. What Would Mrs. Astor Do? A Complete Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age
4. Gilded Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from the Golden Age
5. A Gilded Death (crime fiction)
6.. Jazz Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from the Roaring Twenties.

Murder, Murder, Murder in Gilded Central Park
A Fatal Gilded High Note

Cecelia is at work on a fourth in the series, “A Gilded Free Fall.” She enjoys membership and posting in Facebook’s The Gilded Age Society. You can read more about Cecelia by visiting https://cecebooks.com

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My copy of A Gilded Death by Cecelia Tichi came via Stress Free Book Marketing in exchange for my honest thoughts.

Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of by Donovan Hufnagle

source: free review copy via Poetic Book Tours
title: Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of (Goodreads)
author: Donovan Hufnagle
genre: non fiction/poetry
pages: 84
published: October 2022

Book Synopsis:

Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of is “a careful poetic ethnography of tattooed bodies and the stories that they tell. Just as the tattoo inscribes meaning on the body, this book elegantly reveals the stories that only the body can tell. It is a book that connects tattoo adorned bodies to a profound human truth: we are each other’s mirrors, and the artful inscriptions of our bodies connect us to each other in ways that transcend political and social divides.” Kristen Prevallet

In poetry that draws on memoir, interviews, customer questionnaires, Havelock Ellis, descriptions of prison tats, and local legal codes, Donovan Hufnagle shows us how tattoos are life stories in the flesh. Using language that is always interesting, even astounding, he demonstrates the ways tattoos function as metaphor and metonym: we want to make our plans indelible, later to find them in need of revision, deletion, or acceptance. -Joseph Harrington, author of Of Some Sky and Things Come On (an amneoir)

my thoughts:

Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of is part memoir, part poetry and what intrigued me right away is that it is centered around the art of tattoos. I enjoyed dipping in and out of this collection over the course of a week or so. I liked the way the author compared getting tattooed to being reborn in a way. These poems are about the stories tattoos tell and the meaning they hold for many. I especially liked these lines below.

“And I tell him that this tattoo defines my rebirth,
while the needle’s vibrato plays over my
weeps and whispers.”-
p. 17, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of by Donovan Hufnagle

“Which is greater, the number of sand grains on earth or stars
in the sky? Was it some dreamer who stopped
and stared too long? At the sunset?
Lost in the horizon?
Do you ever wonder the what— when tattoos pass by,
what truth they mask?”-
p. 53, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of

With themes of life and loss and poems about everyday people, I found Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of to be an interesting collection of thoughtful and beautifully written poetry. These poems delve into the meaning of life as poetry so often does.

About the Author:

Donovan Hufnagle is a husband, a father of three, and a professor of English and Humanities. He moved from Southern California to Prescott, Arizona to Fort Worth, Texas. His new poetry collection, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Of, is a poetic scrapbook of interviews, poetry, and documents about the universal narrative of tattoos He also has three other poetry collections: The Sunshine Special, a “part personal narrative, epic poem, and historical artifact;” Shoebox, an epistolary, poetic narrative about Juliana’s “past and present, love and lack, in language that startles;” and 30 Days of 19, inverted Haiku poems juxtaposed to Trump tweets, capturing the first thirty days of the Covid 19 quarantine. Other recent writings have appeared in The Closed Eye Open, Tempered Runes Press, Solum Literary Press, Poetry Box, Beyond Words, Wingless Dreamer, Subprimal Poetry Art, Americana Popular Culture Magazine, Shufpoetry, Kitty Litter Press, Carbon Culture, Amarillo Bay, Borderlands, Tattoo Highway, The New York Quarterly, Rougarou, and others.

Special thanks to Poetic Book Tours for making this possible.

Blog Tour Schedule:

May 6: the bookworm (review)

May 11:Pages For Sanity (review)

May 16: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (interview)

May 18: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (review)

May 22: CelticLady’s Reviews (Guest Post)

June 2: Anthony Avina’s blog (Guest Post)

June 6: Anthony Avina’s blog (review)

Follow the blog tour with the hashtag #RawFleshFlash

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My copy of Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of by Donovan Hufnagle came via Poetic Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts.

portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James C. Morehead

source: Poetic Book Tours
title: portraits of red and gray: memoir poems
author: James C. Morehead
genre: poetry/non-fiction

Book Synopsis:

Take an unforgettable journey from the Cold War USSR to Savery, Wyoming, from the mountains of Tuscany to the peak of Yosemite’s Half Dome, from the Canadian wilderness to the beaches of Normandy. James Morehead’s (Poet Laureate – Dublin, California) acclaimed collection is built around a series of memoir poems that takes readers into pre-perestroika Soviet Union through the eyes of a teenager, from Moscow to Tbilisi to Leningrad (and many stops in-between). The striking cover, designed by Zoe Norvell, is based on a 1982 lithograph by Igor Prilutsky.

Advance Praise:

“In this second collection of poems, James Morehead’s imagery is vivid, spare and elemental, and it is consistently chosen and arranged to achieve intensely poetic effects. The rhythmic control is impeccable. The centerpiece of this collection, a long series of poems that chronicle a trip through the former Soviet Union, is a fast moving, impressionistic feast of imagery. Sunglasses, denim shirts, vodka debauches, dollars, rubles, steely-eyed Russian authorities ever on the lookout for forbidden deals – all of it is transparent and engaging.” – Carmine Di Biase, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus – Jacksonville State University

“In portraits of red and gray by James C. Morehead we travel with him through boyhood and manhood: camping with his dad, working in his high school years far away from home every summer, his time as a teen in Russia traveling during spring break with his school. The vulnerability and humanity expressed in these poems is moving. Morehead writes, ‘…I had to wait / for my tears to dry before dropping in quarters to call home.’” – Angie Trudell Vasquez, Author and Madison, WI, Poet Laureate

my thoughts:

“Poetry is crafted using many sources of inspiration. Some poems start with an image, sound, scent, or emotion. Some poems are pure invention. This book is built on my memories, a collection of memoir poems that, despite being personal, capture universal experiences.”-from the introduction, portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James C. Morehead

portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James C. Morehead is a collection of memoir travel poetry from when the author was a teen in the 1980’s through current day. “into the heart of temagami” contains vivid descriptions about camping and the lake. Another poem is about a soccer game between Georgia and Moscow in Tbilisi. As the poems flowed I could easily envision the different settings.

“the darkness pinpointed by a thousand stars
freed from the city’s blazing light
i follow satellites
arcs from meteor trails
and connect the dots of ancient figures”
-p.29, portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James C. Morehead, p. 29

The author takes the reader down memory lane with his poetry and at times these memories read like a novella. “Four Summers in Florida” is about his working as a computer programmer in Florida from when he was 15 years old, the Pac-Man cake his co-workers got him for his birthday and his watching Live-Aid on the tv. I enjoyed weaving in and out of these poems by James C. Morehead and the nostalgia was a plus.

About the Poet:

James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, CA. portraits of red and gray is his second collection, and he hosts the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast. James’ poem “tethered” was transformed into an award-winning animated short film, “gallery” was set to music for baritone and piano, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Special thanks to Poetic Book Tours.

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 18: the bookworm (review)

April 27: A Bookish Way of Life (review)

May 6: Anthony Avina’s blog (review)

May 9: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (review)

May 11: Impressions in Ink (review)

May 15: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (interview)

May 23: CelticLady’s Reviews (guest post)

May 25: Books Parlour (review)

May 29: True Book Addict (review)

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My copy of portraits of red and gray: memoir poems by James C. Morehead came via Poetic Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts.

Mermaid Beach by Sheila Roberts

source: review copy via Pump Up Your Book Promotions
Title: Mermaid Beach (Moonlight Harbor Series Book 7)
Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
rated: 4 out of 5


Bonnie Brinks and her all-woman band, The Mermaids, are the pride of Moonlight Harbor. They’re the house band at The Drunken Sailor, and that’s just the right amount of fame for Bonnie. A lifetime ago, she went to Nashville to make it big, but she returned home with a broken heart and broken dreams. Now she’s got a comfortable life and a brilliant daughter, Avril, who plays for The Mermaids alongside Bonnie and Bonnie’s mother, Loretta.

Avril has big dreams of her own. Her life in Moonlight Harbor is good–she loves singing and playing guitar with The Mermaids, and she has the sweetest, most loyal boyfriend a girl could ask for–but it all feels so…small. She can’t help wondering if there’s something more out there for her. And she doesn’t understand why her mom won’t support her going to Nashville to find out.

Meanwhile, Bonnie threw in the towel on her love life long ago, but Loretta sure hasn’t. She’s determined to be swept off her feet, and she wants the same for her daughter. When the hunky new owner of The Drunken Sailor turns the tables on the band and Avril announces she’s leaving Moonlight Harbor, Bonnie’s comfortable life seems to be drifting away. Will these three generations of Mermaids find their happy endings on the Washington coast? Or will the change in the winds leave them all shipwrecked?

“Blooming with heartfelt charm and swoon-worthy moments…” Woman’s World Magazine

Release Date: April 25, 2023

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3D61pi2 

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3J0dGs0

Target: https://bit.ly/3wlLGaS 

Walmart: https://bit.ly/3XFUB2c

Apple: https://apple.co/3kvheIu  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61214883-mermaid-beach 


my thoughts:

Mermaid Beach is the 7th installment in author Sheila Roberts Moonlight Harbor series but reads perfectly fine as a stand-alone. As the story begins, Bonnie Brinks is a single mom, an artist and musician living in Moonlight Harbor. She works part time in her friend’s real estate office. Bonnie’s daughter Avril is a high school music teacher. Her mom Loretta a.k.a. Glamma is a widow and the book starts on the brink of her 65th birthday. All three women are musicians and they formed a band called The Mermaids and they play regularly at the local restaurant/bar The Drunken Sailor. Bonnie and Avril both write songs, sing and play the guitar while Loretta plays the drums. In the past Bonnie has sold some of the songs she wrote so she still earns royalties but has settled into small town life rather than continuing to pursue her music career. Bonnie has a big secret about her past she’s been hiding from her daughter.

Also in the band is Avril’s best friend Gina but she has just announced she’s leaving to Nashville to follow her country music dreams. Avril has always wanted to go to Nasville and become a big country music star herself, but her levelheaded mom Bonnie has advised her to stay home and play it safe since she already has a band and a good career for herself. Much of the issues that arise between Avril and Bonnie are because of this, that Bonnie wants her daughter to stay close to home rather than leave for Nashville.

I loved this story, the small-town setting, the country music vibe and that the book is centered around strong, talented women. I was impressed with Bonnie and Avril’s song writing and lyrics. I enjoy reading books about family dynamics, especially mothers and daughters and that is what the heart of this story revolves around as the plot follows these three tight knit ladies. Bonnie decides she won’t give love another chance after having her heart broken in the past, Avril wants to spread her wings and finally fly and Loretta is dating a man who is exhibiting some shady behavior.

The story flowed smoothly and as I read I didn’t find a dull moment. The small-town setting was cozy, the supporting cast of characters weaved in and out of the storyline nicely and I liked Bonnie, Avril and Loretta right away.

Author Sheila Roberts hooked me in with her writing and I nearly finished this book in one sitting, I just had to know what was coming next. I was totally entertained.
Lastly, this pretty vibrant cover screams summer, I really like it. This was my first-time reading Sheila Roberts and I would definitely read her work again.

“Bonnie poured them each a glass, then stood at the kitchen counter and looked out. It was always windy at the beach, especially in late fall and winter. The canal could look like a glass on a lovely summer morning. This November evening the wind was whipping along the water, pushing it forward, stirring it up.”- Mermaid Beach by Sheila Roberts, 8% kindle version.

“At some point that was what she was going to have to do, step off the ledge she kept clinging to, step out and believe that, this time love would provide the net to catch her.” – Mermaid Beach by Sheila Roberts, 68% kindle version.

about the author:
With fifty books to her credit, both fiction and non-fiction, Sheila Roberts is a frequent USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller – and a fan favorite. Her books have sold over three million copies and have been turned into movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. Before settling into her writing career, Sheila owned a singing telegram company and played in band. When she’s not traveling, Sheila can be found hanging out with friends, playing tennis, and, of course, writing.- quoted from Goodreads

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My copy of Mermaid Beach by Sheila Roberts came via Pump Up Your Book Promotions in exchange for my honest thoughts .

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle

source: review copy courtesy of Poetic Book Tours
title: Our Wolves
author: Luanne Castle (Twitter)
genre: poetry/nonfiction
published: 2023
pages: 37
first line: Inside the cabin it’s woodsy and warm near the woodstove.

In Our Wolves, poet Luanne Castle navigates the timeless story of “Little Red Riding Hood” in a compelling collection of sharp, memorable poetry. Familiar tales are ageless for a reason. Their magic is that they can easily be transformed to explore subjects of abuse, danger, sexuality, self-sufficiency, and interpersonal relationships in a way that makes these challenging topics palatable to readers. Trying to find the reasoning behind Red’s traumatic adventure, as well as using it to comment on contemporary events, Castle creates taut narratives and sympathetic monologues to show how the story shapeshifts with the teller. Here, we hear from the wolf, the huntsman/woodcutter, Grandmother, townspeople, and Red herself. Not just a victimized or innocent child, Castle’s Red also appears in wiser (and sometimes older) incarnations that are knowing, rebellious, resilient, and clever. This technique subverts stereotypical conventions and shows that Red’s story “is not so very different from yours / and yours and yours and yours and yours.” Filled with atmospheric power, dynamic portrayals, and bright imagery, Our Wolves will haunt you long after you’ve returned from its woods. -Christine Butterworth-McDermott, author of The Spellbook of Fruit & Flowers

my thoughts:

I love reading poetry and when I heard about Our Wolves by Luanne Castle it sounded like an interesting collection to enjoy. These poems tell the story of Little Red Riding hood and the characters from the children’s fairy tale. The story told through this set is a coming-of-age story for Red and the lessons she learns in life.

“Fools need classes. So do the so-called smart
girls who answer long equations on the board.
How do they know not to trust their hearts
if they aren’t warned by books and teachers?”- from School for Girls Who Shouldn’t Trust

I enjoyed reading Our Wolves very much. As usual when reading poetry, I read the poems twice and out loud to get a feel for them. I recommend this collection, I especially like the imagery Luanne Castle creates and I could easily envision Red, the wolf and her grandmother as I read. I also like that Red Riding Hood is portrayed as a strong female lead here, the quote below was my favorite.

“What is a wolf if not
the hungry wildness in the heart?
That feeling inborn to the girl, visceral and unexplored.”- Human Origin

Special thanks to Poetic Book Tours and Luanne Castle for making this possible! Click here for the rest of the tour stops.

Blog Tour Schedule:

March 7: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (review)

March 9: the bookworm (review)

March 13: Books Parlour (review)

March 16: Anthony Avina’s blog (review)

March 20: True Book Addict (review)

March 23: A Bookish Way of Life (review)

April 14: Impressions in Ink (review)

About the Author:
Luanne Castle lives in Arizona, next to a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. She has published two full-length poetry collections, Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press 2022) and Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay 2015), which won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Kin Types (Finishing Line Press 2017), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Our Wolves (Alien Buddha Press 2023) is her second chapbook. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My copy of Our Wolves by Luanne Castle came via Poetic Book tours.