Christine Nolfi made me an instant fan of her writing with her 2011 debut, Treasure Me, and I continue to look forward to her books with anticipation. Her fourth release, The Dream You Make, is the story of Annie McDaniel, a determined woman trying to stay positive in the face of troubling situations. Annie’s family life has been no walk in the park: her mother gone too soon, her father recently deceased, and her sister Toria a victim of a tragic crime. In the midst of her loss, Annie has been made the beneficiary of two most unexpected treasures: Green Interiors, the greenhouse that was her father’s life work – and Dillon, Toria’s five year-old son. Annie falls head-over-heels for Dillon as she gets to know him for the first time, but she’ll have to fight a draining custody battle against a well-off couple from Dillon’s past before she can truly call him her own. In her efforts to keep Dillon, Annie takes on a second job at Rowe Marketing where she finds an entirely new complication in the attractive and stubborn Michael Rowe. If she pursues her attraction to her new boss it could hinder her chances of adopting Dillon, but Michael could also prove to be a sound and stable port in the storm of her life.

The Dream You Make is a honeyed combination of love, humor and real-world poignancy that fills the reader with the butterfly-inducing beauty of life. Those of us who’ve been reading Nolfi’s books from the beginning feel an unspoken guarantee that we’ll find a world of charm, humor and joy between the pages and this novel follows through on that promise solidly. Books don’t often grab me from the literal beginning, the very first scene, but The Dream You Make felt familiar and comfortable as soon as I fell into its world. The story deals with adoption, a topic Nolfi exposed deep passion for and talent with in her second book, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge, and she handles it here with the same very real finesse, but with less heaviness. It keeps the novel feeling light and makes it a great counterpart to Tree, showing the same expanse of Nolfi’s talent for writing about the heart of family in an entirely different way.

Another of the novel’s great accomplishments is the lively cast of characters; Nolfi is a definite master at crafting a host of memorable characters to color the reader’s world, and she exercises that ability very well in The Dream You Make. Some, like the adorable Dillon, are studies in sensitivity and hope. An altogether shattered boy, seeing him come to life under Annie’s guardianship – and in his interactions with best friend Chip and kindly neighbor Mariam – is perfectly heartwarming. Other characters, such as Rowe Marketing’s flamboyant and temperamental artist Terence, are a canvas for hilarity and theatrics. Annie and Michael, the grown-up portion of the novel’s primary focus, have an instant chemistry that captured my interest from the beginning. Their faults – one’s inability to open up, another’s hot impatience – set them on a long journey toward ironing out their budding romance, but their utterly human imperfections kept me rooting for them.

This novel felt more simplistic in story than Nolfi’s previous works, which have included books that interweave dark tragedy, cozy mystery, and treasure hunts woven through American history. All the same, there was nothing lacking in this story. Nolfi’s books have a way of evading definition; she writes so broadly across the genres that her books have created a niche all their own, and The Dream You Make fits in perfectly. It’s a life-affirming story that bursts with hope and dares the reader to relentlessly pursue their own dreams.

Title: The Dream You Make
Author: Christine Nolfi
Genre: romance, drama
Publisher: Christine Nolfi
Available Formats: e-book, paperback
Release date: June 13, 2013
Provided by: Christine Nolfi (c/o)
Buy the book: Kindle | Nook (paperback coming soon)
Connect with the author: Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads

[click to continue…]


Review: Triceratops by Marcus Gorman

by Casee Marie on May 7, 2013 · 2 comments

in Fiction, Reviews

Marcus Gorman’s Triceratops tells the story of two remarkable twentysomethings from the West Coast set adrift in the madness of New York City: Charlotte, roaming the streets armed only with a liquor addiction, a mouth like a sailor, and her artist ex-lover’s disturbing final work; and Henry, a guy whose primary life concerns involve Beat generation poets and a dedicated knowledge of jazz music. After spending a hazardous night together back in Seattle Henry and Charlotte never expected to see one another again – and definitely not on the other side of the country, in the middle of the night, in the middle of an empty New York street. But as their lives work their perverse magic the two are thrown together for three weeks filled with the sort of insanity that only New York City is capable of. Swallowed up in a scene filled with art, music, sexuality, liquor, drugs, and madness, the two find friends, lovers, and enemies amid New York’s wildest array of characters: its musicians and artists.

Combining dark comedy with astonishing real-life insight, Triceratops works itself into a spectacle of the bizarre, and the result is rather brilliant. Gorman’s ability to handle scenes that alter between being utterly brazen and entirely relatable is a remarkable talent, and he executes it wonderfully. Woven within the fascinating mayhem of their setting, his characters offer transformative reflections on life and human nature that not only build their own perceptions, but reach out and cause the reader to reflect on them as well. It makes for a mesmerizing experience, while other elements of the book entertain on a lighter level. The combination was enough to leave me speechless after the novel’s final pages, and exhausted in that way that great books often leave us.

I loved that the story was told from the alternating perspectives of Charlotte and Henry, the transition between which was, for the most part, indicated only by the narrative’s change of tone. While I found the book comfortable to navigate, giving the narration decidedly more attention also allowed me to best appreciate the artistry of Gorman’s prose. This style of writing will keep the reader on their toes, much as the story itself does. It contributed, I thought, to the artfully woven sense of disarray that the story often provoked; a metaphor, perhaps, for the haphazard situations the characters find themselves in, but underneath the surface it always manages, fantastically, to make sense. While perhaps the subject matter may not be for every audience, beneath the bold exterior of many scenes is a profound intelligence that will be deeply felt by its audience. Gorman’s selection of characters through which these insights are carried connect the reader especially with the uniqueness of humanity and the natural differences we all possess. Never without substance, Triceratops is at once powerful and amusing, offering readers an experience unlike any other.

Title: Triceratops
Author: Marcus Gorman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Marcus Gorman
Available Formats: paperback, e-book
Release date: October 25, 2012
Provided by: Marcus Gorman (c/o)
Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble
Connect with the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

[click to continue…]


Christine Bacon lives a normal life; a high school English teacher, she’s married to her high school sweetheart with two children and a duo of pets. The abnormality of her life comes from her penchant for death: Christine is a hypochondriac, and a committed one. In the age of technology Christine’s fearful conclusion-jumping is given a satisfyingly in-depth boost, allowing her to uncover the worst case scenarios behind every bump and tingle she experiences in her day-to-day with just the click of a mouse. But Christine’s life gets a little more complicated when her husband proposes a threesome with his British masseuse. Christine’s desire to please her husband dissolves as she’s met with humiliating circumstances, and before long she finds herself on the receiving end of a divorce. Now she must survive the heartbreak of her broken marriage as well as the numerous maladies she concocts for herself – while maintaining her job, raising her children, and finally getting back into the dating pool. But Christine soon realizes that what started as a hellish reality may be just what the doctor ordered.

I Kill Me: Tales of a Jilted Hypochondriac is a charming, life-affirming story wrapped in a delightfully acerbic comedy. Author Tracy H. Tucker displays an impressive variety of abilities as she weaves Christine’s story through moments of caustic wit and heart-rending sadness as the heroine faces life’s biggest fears, from death to divorce. What results is a boldly funny and deeply poignant novel that illuminates the power of good friends and the necessity of self-realization in overcoming any of life’s obstacles. Christine’s fears, while exaggerated beyond what’s considered normal, are still entirely relatable in some way to the reader, endearing her to them with every turn of the page. Her journey to ultimately help herself out of her own self-doubt is peppered with emotional difficulties and cruel realities, but Christine’s pluck resonates with her audience throughout. Tucker’s wit spans the extremeness of Christine’s hypochondria to poke hilarious fun at the dating scene, add light to challenging realities, and sparkle with warmth on the subject of raising children as a single parent.

I felt instantly at home with I Kill Me and I connected to Christine in her many plights; it was easy to be drawn into her story. The way Tucker sparked Christine’s neurotic narrative with intellect and speed grabbed my attention from the first page and contributed to my overall enjoyment of the novel. As a writer she’s well aware of her territory, allowing Christine to be absorbed in her disease-seeking disorder without inflicting a moment’s frustration on the reader. She measures the themes of the book wonderfully, crafting a novel that steadily entertains and engages its reader. Comedy as a genre isn’t something I’m particularly practiced in – there have been so many times in the past when I’ve felt like an unsuited audience for humor – but something in I Kill Me manages to transcend its classification and invites even stoic readers to loosen up and enjoy. Perhaps it was due to the likability of the characters, the many layers of the novel, or the author’s talent for handling comedy, but I was able to ease myself comfortably into what is usually somewhat foreign territory. I delighted in Tucker’s wit, in her larger-than-life characters, and I cheered for Christine through thick and thin. In short, I Kill Me struck a friendly cord on my heartstrings.

I Kill Me is intended for an adult audience.

Title: I Kill Me: Tales of a Jilted Hypochondriac
Author: Tracy H. Tucker
Genre: comedy, contemporary romance
Publisher: Tracy H. Tucker
Release date: July 26, 2012
Source: Tracy H. Tucker (C/O)
Buy the book: Paperback | Kindle
Connect with the author: Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

[click to continue…]


Review: Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi

by Casee Marie on October 30, 2012 · 9 comments

in Fiction, Reviews

When Dr. Mary Chance arrives from Cincinnati, the residents of Liberty, Ohio treat her with some trepidation. Possessing all the stubborn gumption of a self-sustaining small town, Liberty isn’t used to newcomers – especially when the newcomer in question has inherited the town’s only restaurant. Mary isn’t exactly keen on her new role as manager of the Second Chance Grill either, having taken the opportunity to escape Cincinnati after the death of her closest friend and colleague. She intended to grieve in peace, but she soon realizes that the spunky little town has other plans for her. Bubbly and quick-witted Blossom Perini, a local preteen valiantly fighting through a cancer remission, quickly grabs hold of Mary’s heartstrings. And so does Blossom’s father, resident fix-it man and handsome mechanic Anthony. As a romance unfolds between Mary and Anthony, smoothly directed by the adolescent wisdom of Blossom, dilemmas and delights emerge to guide the trio on a journey of heartbreak and unexpected happiness. When Blossom’s fight with cancer escalates, Mary and the town are forced to put aside their differences for the sake of a child’s life.

Second Chance Grill is the second book in Christine Nolfi’s “Liberty” series, serving as a prequel to her debut novel Treasure Me. An indie sensation and one of my favorite books of 2011, Treasure Me marked a spectacular beginning for Nolfi both in its reception with readers and its literary achievement. The debut introduced readers to the heartwarming and ecstatically charming residents of Liberty with a certain memorable pull that launched the story of petty thief Birdie Kaminski into our hearts. Second Chance Grill takes a look back to before Birdie’s tale, focusing on Mary Chance and Blossom, whose fight with leukemia is discussed in the first book of the series. In this way, Second Chance Grill feels like a homecoming, a journey back into a world we love in order to fully experience an earlier chapter of the beloved town’s history of kinship, dispute, and loyalty. But Second Chance Grill is very much a standalone prequel as well as a companionable edition to Treasure Me, allowing it to adapt to the reader’s experience (or lack thereof) with the feisty folks of Liberty. When you’ve read Nolfi’s previous work you realize that with a book as wonderful as Treasure Me to compete with, Second Chance Grill has a tough job ahead of it. To say it passes the test is an understatement. Second Chance Grill contributes yet more joy and more heart to a series that deserves a place on every reader’s shelf.

Nolfi’s delightful concoction of Liberty, Ohio, with its small town feel and larger-than-life characters, is literary escapism at its finest. The story of Second Chance Grill is a whirlwind of love and loss, joy and sorrow, honoring time-tested concepts through the art of fiction, in which Nolfi is especially gifted. It takes no time at all when the reader journeys into its pages to realize that this novel is all heart and all love. It isn’t always easy – from romantic hardships to life-threatening diseases, the characters all face strong challenges – but it’s beautiful; such is true love and real life. Countering the weight of some of the sorrows, though, is Nolfi’s unique ability with both character development and chemistry. The romance between Mary and Anthony leaps off the page and into the reader’s heart, sparking a goosebump-inducing storyline of its own. Meanwhile, at eleven years old, Blossom contributes a darling wit and supreme wisdom that leaves a mark on her audience. Also appearing are the delightfully stubborn, razor-sharp tongued, and utterly endearing women of Liberty: eighty year-old, rifle-wielding Theodora; spirited young waitress Delia; and poodle-toting cosmetics maven Meade, among others. I’m reminded of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 19th century stories of Cranford, a town dominated by its women. Like Gaskell’s women, Nolfi’s characters stand their ground and show their grit in order to sustain their town and bolster their residents. There’s a sense that these women, these Amazons, are a breed all their own, and their birthplace is the indomitable shelter of the female spirit. This fiery and wonderful element combines with Nolfi’s beautiful use of language and her ability to tell a truly engaging story, making Second Chance Grill a vastly enjoyable read and a triumphant celebration of love in all its forms.

Title: Second Chance Grill (Liberty #2)
Author: Christine Nolfi
Genre: romance, contemporary fiction
Publisher: Christine Nolfi
Release date: October 30, 2012
Source: Christine Nolfi (C/O)
Buy the book: Amazon

Second Chance Grill (Liberty, #2)