Book Review & Giveaway: The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy

Thumbnail of book cover for The Aquamarine Surfboard - a dark-haired girl in a pink and black wetsuit straddling a surfboard, looking back to shore, on a dark teal background with the title of the book and the words Pop-Up Blog Tour.

About the book, The Aquamarine Surfboard

  • Middle Grade / Magical Realism / Fantasy
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Page Count: 290 pages
  • Publication Date: November 22, 2021
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

“Age never matters; these things are about bravery and heart.”

Thirteen-year-old Condi Bloom’s dream is to learn to surf, but her laid-back beach town isn’t what it used to be. Big resort owners are taking over the cove. Worse, someone’s harassing the Beachlings, the mysterious old women living in the cliffs off Windy Hollow, a lonely tower of rock that people say is haunted. When a new surfer boy named Trustin shows up in town and invites Condi to a forbidden surfing spot, she’s swept into an extraordinary underwater adventure, where a surprising encounter with Koan, the Riddlemaster of the Sea, changes her life. Along with Trustin, his quirky twin and a mystical aquamarine surfboard, Condi learns the untold stories of the Beachlings, uncovering the timeless secrets of Windy Hollow.Ebbing and flowing between reality and magic, times past and present, The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy is a riveting beach tale about opening up to mystery, building community when and where you can — and discovering the ocean is filled with magic—the really BIG kind—the kind that changes the world.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon  *  Barnes and Noble * IndieBound  *  Bookshop.orgBooks-A-Million * Goodreads


 

About the author, Kellye Abernathy

Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

Connect with Kellye:

Website * Instagram * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Amazon

 

 


My Thoughts MissMeliss

As someone who was almost born on the beach and was swimming before I was walking, this book, The Aquamarine Surfboard, felt like it was written for my childhood self. From the opening chapter, where the protagonist, Condi, meets the mysterious Trustin, and tells him about the Beachlings, a group of free-spirited old women who are unhoused, but make their home in the caves by the sea, I was drawn into the world that author Kellye Abernathy created – a beachfront town that could be almost anywhere in the world – Hawaii or New Zealand feel most likely – that has cliffs overlooking the sea.

Thirteen-year-old Condi is a fabulous character, very much a real girl, who is living with the tragic loss of her parents.  Despite this, she’s reasonably happy, finding pleasure in salt, sand, sea, and surfing – well, in the idea of surfing – because when we first meet her she’s just voicing her determination to learn. While she doesn’t have a ton of friends, those she does have are loyal, and the boys they share space with are written like real young teenagers – eager, oblivious, exuberant – sometimes all at once.

This book isn’t just a surfing story, although it would be a satisfying read if that’s all it was. Rather, it’s a magical trip from childhood to the cusp of young womanhood, filled with sea beings who aren’t necessarily mermaids (Koan, their leader, seems like a combination of Poseidon and Gandalf, and completely works as the Voice of Reason who never gives you the answers, just the clues you need in order to find them. There’s also local history woven throughout the novel, and rumors of hauntings.

Like the best adult books with the magical realism tag, this book rides the line between pure fantasy and purely realistic events, with dimensional characters, settings one would love to visit (well, I would, anyway) and a plot that’s easy enough for middle-grade readers to comprehend, while also bring complex enough for adult readers.

I especially liked the author’s use of simple, but evocative, language. I felt like I could hear the waves between each line of text. The way she dropped in snippets of Robert Frost’s work (and other poets) was perfect for the tone of the book, and felt very organic.

Overall, The Aquamarine Surfboard is an enchanting story that leaves you feeling like there’s sand between your toes and saltwater drying in your hair – in the most wonderful way, of course.

Goes well with: Italian ice treats in lemon or watermelon. Preferably purchased from a food truck or beachside snack bar.

 

 


Giveaway

Three winners receive signed copies!

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/16/22)

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Review: Dangerous Blues, by Stephen Policoff

About the book, Dangerous Blues: Kind of a Ghost Story DangerousBlues

• Publisher: Flexible Press (October 3, 2022)
• Paperback: 257 pages

Dangerous Blues explores a dark yet comic storm of family relationships laced with a buzz of the supernatural, where the fleeting light of the present must constantly contend with the shadows of the past.

Paul Brickner and his 12-year-old daughter Spring are subletting an apartment in New York City. They came to escape the sorrow of their empty house in upstate New York after Nadia, Paul’s wife and Spring’s mother, dies.

Spring quickly takes to her new Manhattan middle school life, including making a new friend, Irina. Through that connection, Paul meets Irina’s mother, Tara White, a blues singer, and perhaps just the spark Paul has been missing.
But Paul begins to fear that he is being haunted by Nadia, who appears to him in fleeting images. Is he imagining it, or is she real? Tara, who grew up in the inscrutable New England cult known as the Dream People, is haunted, too, hounded by her very real brothers to return to the family, and to give back the magical object—a shamanic Tibetan vessel—which they claim she stole from them.

Paul’s cousin Hank, a disreputable art dealer, becomes obsessed with this object. Meanwhile, Paul’s father-in-law, an expert on occult lore, tries to steer Paul toward resolution with Nadia’s ghost.

Driven by Paul’s new circle of odd and free spirited iconoclasts, Dangerous Blues asks the question: when do you let go, and what are you willing to let go of?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Policoff Stephen Policoff

Stephen Policoff’s 1st novel, BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE ELSE, won the James Jones Award, and was published by Carroll & Graf in 2004. His essay about his disabled daughter’s experience in music therapy, “Music Today?” won the Fish Short Memoir Award and was published in FISH ANTHOLOGY 2012 (West Cork University Press, Ireland). It subsequently appeared in KINDLING QUARTERLY and has been widely republished on music therapy sites all over the world. His memoir, SIXTEEN SCENES FROM A FILM I NEVER WANTED TO SEE, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in January 2014. His 2nd novel, COME AWAY, won the Mid-Career Author Award, and was published by Dzanc Books in November 2014. He teaches writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissI love a good ghost story, and I love music, so Dangerous Blues was a great match for me. Going in, I didn’t realize this was a sequel to author Stephen Policoff’s earlier works, but it reads very well as a stand-alone novel. I didn’t feel like I had to play catch-up to understand what was going on because it was quite simple: Paul and his daughter Spring need to get away from the house where Nadia (his wife, her mother) died, so they sublet an apartment in New York. I loved the opening scenes showing their arrival in the apartment, and the mix of the owner’s be;longings and the emptiness, as well as the fact that said owner (Rose, Spring’s aunt) left them plates of food for their first night.

What really hooked me on this novel, though, were the details. Paul walks into Spring’s room to find that instead of choosing between two not-very-appealing bunks, she’s bundled up on the floor, early in the novel, and its the sort of scene only a parent would think to write. I also liked that Nadia’s ghost may or may not merely be a dream, a manifestation of Paul’s sadness, though her reality does not change the fact that both father and daughter must grieve and move on.

The entire novel had a very bluesy feeling to it, which tied nicely to the presence of Tara, blues singer, and mother to Spring’s best friend in New York. I felt like each character had a motif – Spring’s was bright and somewhat staccato, Paul’s was slow, told in long saxophone riffs, Irina was almost bop, Tara was the bass line, tying it all together. All four themes were distinct, but blended into something harmonious both with and without Nadia’s quiet melody weaving through it all, and eventually fading. It was this musicality that made me enjoy the book so much – the language, too, was very specific and evocative.

I was expecting a novel about grief to be relentlessly dark, but Policoff is more nuanced that that, and while there is sadness, there are also moments of joy and hope.

Overall, I felt the author’s storytelling was very organic and his characters were interesting and dimensional. I liked this book enough that I want to read the stories that came before it.

Goes well with a proper New York style hotdog, purchased from a sidewalk cart.


Visit the Other Participants on this Tour

Tuesday, November 1st: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 2nd: Instagram: @on_a_sandbar

Thursday, November 3rd: Instagram: @feliciaisbooked

Tuesday, November 8th: Instagram: @readergirlie

Wednesday, November 9th: Instagram: @meghans_library

Thursday, November 10th: Instagram: @turnxthexpage

Friday, November 11th: Instagram: @pazthebookaholic

Monday, November 14th: Instagram: @abduliacoffeebookaddict23

Wednesday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 17th: Instagram: @enthuse_reader

TBD: Monday, November 7th: Instagram: @books_and_biewers

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Review: National Geographic’s Stargazer’s Atlas

About the book, Stargazer’s Atlas National Geographic Stargazer's Atlas

• Publisher: National Geographic (October 25, 2022)
• Hardcover: 432 pages

Richly illustrated with luminous photographs and informative maps and graphics, this expansive book is the perfect guide for everyone discovering the wonders of the night sky, from those just learning the constellations to dedicated telescope observers.

Combining science, exploration, and storytelling, National Geographic Stargazer’s Atlas invites readers to roam the night sky for constellations, planets and moons, eclipses, comets and meteor showers, auroras, and deep-sky treasures including nebulae and galaxies—many visible to the naked eye and all with binoculars or a backyard telescope.

Beginning with basic space science and including a complete set of night sky maps for all four seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, this fascinating book guides the reader toward the most rewarding observations. A unique chapter on astrotourism highlights ancient observatories, dark-sky preserves, and other global destinations for the sky-seeking traveler; a final chapter details current and future space missions and what they might discover.

Richly illustrated with awe-inspiring imagery—including photos from space missions and telescopes, science-based artists’ interpretations, and explanatory graphics—the book also contains 170 maps and charts of planets, moons, and constellations, from Earth’s moon to moons of Saturn. Practical advice throughout helps readers see what they have been reading about, building key observational skills such as “star hopping” from easy-to-find stars to fainter deep-sky objects and focusing on “deep sky treasures:” areas rich in observable phenomena.

Approachable and authoritative, gorgeous and fascinating, National Geographic Stargazer’s Atlas will intrigue all who love to gaze up in wonder at the night sky—and find themselves wanting to know more.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Disney Publishing | Goodreads


My Thoughts MissMeliss

As with all National Geographic books, this coffee table-sized tome is a work of art, with gorgeous photographs and artist’s renderings. This book also includes one of my favorite features from the magazine: maps. In this case, they are maps of the night sky for each hemisphere in each season, so it’s really easy to go outside and compare your own starry night to the information provided.

The information in this book is well organized, and has tidbits of data that lead down wonderful rabbit holes of exploration. The astrotourism section was one of my favorites, but as a new telescope owner, I really loved being told where to go and how to point my device for the best results.

A young friend of mine leads star parties at his university, and I feel like this is a book he’d love to have in his personal library, but it’s by no means only for academics. Rather, it’s an easily accessible guide to the night sky, that presents science fact but leaves from for pure, unadulterated wonder. However, it should be noted that it’s sheer size makes it impractical as a field guide.

Goes well with: a clear night, an elevated location, and hard cider to toast with.


Check Out the Other Participants on This Tour TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, October 25th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Wednesday, October 26th: Instagram: @addictedtobooks86

Sunday, October 30th: Instagram: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Tuesday, November 1st: Instagram: @mariasbookshelves

Wednesday, November 2nd: Instagram: @nurse_bookie

Thursday, November 3rd: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, November 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Saturday, November 5th: Instagram: @thereadingchemist

Monday, November 7th: Instagram: @thebookend.diner

Tuesday, November 8th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Friday, November 11th: Instagram: @bookbruin

Monday, November 14th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 17th: Instagram: @pattyisbooked

Friday, November 18th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, November 21st: Write – Read – Life

TBD: Friday, October 28th: Instagram: @gracesbookblog2

TBD: Wednesday, November 9th: Instagram: @readinggirlreviews

 

Multi-Book Spotlight with Giveaway – 3 Novels by Joanne Kukanza Easley

Banner: Three by Easley

 

Three Novels by Joanne Easley

SWEET JANE, JUST ONE LOOK, & I’LL BE SEEING YOU

Scroll down for Giveaway

 

About the book Sweet Jane Cover - Sweet Jane

  • Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Red Boots Press
  • Pages: 279 pages
  • Publication Date: September 17, 2022

Joanne Kukanza Easley’s debut novel

  • 2019 Wisdom-Faulkner Award finalist
  • 2020 Adult Fiction winner Texas Author Project
  • 2020 Sarton Award Finalist
  • 2020 Eric Hoffer Award Short List

A drunken mother makes childhood ugly. Jane runs away at sixteen, determined to leave her fraught upbringing in the rearview. Vowing never to return, she hitchhikes to California, right on time for the Summer of Love. Seventeen years later, she looks good on paper: married, grad school, sober, but her carefully constructed life is crumbling. When Mama dies, Jane returns for the funeral, leaving her husband in the dark about her history. Seeing her childhood home and significant people from her youth catapults Jane back to the events that made her the woman she is. She faces down her past and the ghosts that shaped her family. A stunning discovery helps Jane see her problems through a new lens.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


About the book Just One Look Cover - Just One Look

  • Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Red Boots Press
  • Pages: 293 pages
  • Publication Date: September 17, 2022
  • May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick
  • Shelf Unbound 2021 Notable 100 Best Indie Books
  • Recommended by the US Review of Books

In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost—make that two. Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


About the book I’ll Be Seeing You Cover - I'll Be Seeing You

  • Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Addiction & Recovery / Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Red Boots Press
  • Pages: 227 pages
  • Publication Date: August 28, 2022

The new release from Joanne Kukanza Easley, the multi-award-winning author of Sweet Jane and Just One Look

A saga spanning five decades, I’ll Be Seeing You, explores one woman’s life, with and without alcohol to numb the pain.

Young Lauren knows she doesn’t want to be a ranch wife in Palo Pinto County, Texas. After she’s discovered by a modeling scout at the 1940 Fort Worth Stock Show Parade, she moves to Manhattan to begin her glamourous career. A setback ends her dream, and she drifts into alcohol dependence and promiscuity. By twenty-four, she’s been widowed and divorced, and has developed a pattern of fleeing her problems with geographical cures. Lauren’s last escape lands her in Austin, where, after ten chaotic years, she achieves lasting sobriety and starts a successful business, but happiness eludes her.

Fast forward to 1985. With a history of burning bridges and never looking back, Lauren is stunned when Brett, her third husband, resurfaces, wanting to reconcile after thirty-three years. The losses and regrets of the past engulf her, and she seeks the counsel of Jane, a long-time friend from AA. In the end, the choice is Lauren’s. What will she decide?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Joanne Kukanza Easley Author Photo Easley

A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, Joanne lives on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes fiction about complicated, twentieth-century women.

Her multi-award-winning debut, Sweet Jane, was named the adult fiction winner at the Texas Author Project and shortlisted for the Sarton Award and Eric Hoffer Award, among others. Just One Look, Joanne’s second novel was a May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick. I’ll Be Seeing You, her third novel, features characters from Sweet Jane. Her prize-winning short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies.

Connect with Joanne:

Website | Amazon | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS!

Each receives an eBook of

SWEET JANE or

JUST ONE LOOK or

I’LL BE SEEING YOU

(U.S. only; ends midnight, CDT, 11/17/22.)

 

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Review & Giveaway: The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch, by Julia Brewer Daily

BNR 5th Daughter of TR

 

About the book, The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Western / Family Saga
  • Publisher: Admission Press
  • Pages: 322 pages
  • Publication Date: November 1, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

cover 5th DaughterEmma Rosales is the heiress of the largest ranch in Texas—The Thorn. All the responsibilities of managing a million acres now fall into her fifth-generation hands.

A task Emma could handle with her eyes closed…if The Thorn were any ordinary property.

The Thorn is home to many things. Clear, cloudless skies. Miles of desert scrub and craggy mountains. A quiet disrupted only by whispers of the wind. And an ancient web of secrets won’t let Emma out alive without a fight.

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas.

Praise for this book:

  • “A delight to read.” Theresa Kadair, Seattle Book Review
  • “Julia Daily builds a captivating world by letting her imagination lead the way. The result? A unique story that’s a little Wild West, a little old Mexico, a little ancient history, and a lot rebellious.” –Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
  • “A novel that combines mystery, suspense, adventure, and a romance that neither hardships nor time can erase between the main characters.” –Debra Holt, award-winning, multi-published Texas author of series such as The Tremaynes of Texas and The Lawmen Series.
  • “A dignified, passionate, and layered tale in a rugged yet picturesque landscape… This book testifies to the rewards of fighting for enduring connections between family members and home.” –RECOMMENDED, The US Review of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Watch the Trailer for this Book:

 

 


About the author, Julia Brewer Daily Author Photo Fifth Daughter

Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi.

She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS.

She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart.

As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public.

She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, Women Writing the West, and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

Connect with Julia:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Goodreads | Amazon

XTRA RecAd1-Fifth Daughter


My Thoughts

MissMelissMy previous experience with Julia Daily’s powerful prose was in the intimate and very serious novel, No Names to Be Given, which I also reviewed. This book, The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a departure from the other work in tone, and in setting. While it still deals with serious issues – land ownership, animal care, medicine, and culture – it does so by wrapping them in a family saga as vast as the Southwest Texas ranch at the center of the story, then adding in a touch of magical realism and spicing it with a romance.

At the heart of this story is Emma, recently returned from college, where she studied veterinary medicine, and ready (or nearly so) to take on her role as the latest Rosales daughter to become matriarch of Thorn Ranch.  Her parents, Josie and John, are also present in the novel, as are several ranch staff, like Flora and Pedro, and a would-be-suitor, Jeff, all of whom form a tight community, though not everyone sees eye-to-eye about everything. There is a second community that Emma discovers quite by accident, centered around the elderly Chatpa and his adult grandson Kai, but to say more would be to reveal too much about the secrets in this novel – secrets that must be read to be understood.

And of course, the land – Thorn Ranch and the mountains beyond – are as much characters as places, for without Daily’s vividly described landscapes and dwelling spaces, this book would not feel rooted.

Several reviewers have compared this novel to Outlander and Yellowstone, two disparate properties that do bear superficial resemblances to some of the details in this book, but The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is really its own genre-defying tale, mixing a western adventure, Mexican-American and Indigenous People’s history, family drama, and romance into a cohesive whole that draws you in and keeps you enchanted by excellent storytelling and perfect pacing. The author has left the story open-ended enough that a sequel would be possible, should she choose to write it, but it also has a satisfying – and even happy – resolution.

I really loved the way the Rosales family had Spanish words peppered into their mostly-English language, and the subtle nuance that it was the women’s family name that was associated with Thorn Ranch.

I would saddle up a horse and take a ride through another of Daily’s creations any day, and I’m looking forward to learning what she writes next.

Goes well with:  Arrachera tacos and Indio beer.


Giveaway

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

ONE WINNER:

Receives a $100 Amazon or Bookshop Gift Card

(U.S. only; ends midnight, CDT, 11/11/22.)

 

Giveaway Fifth Daughter

 

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Check Out the Other Participants on This Tour

Click to visit THE LONESTAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly:

11/01/22 Hall Ways Blog Bonus Promo
11/01/22 Julia Picks 1 Review
11/02/22 Sybrina’s Book Blog Notable Quotables
11/02/22 The Book’s Delight Review
11/03/22 Jennifer Silverwood Review
11/04/22 The Clueless Gent Author Video
11/04/22 It’s Not All Gravy Review
11/05/22 Jennie Reads Review
11/06/22 All the Ups and Downs Scrapbook Page
11/07/22 Shelf Life Blog Excerpt
11/07/22 Bibliotica Review
11/08/22 Rox Burkey Blog Character Interview
11/09/22 StoreyBook Reviews Review
11/09/22 Reading by Moonlight Review
11/10/22 Rainy Days with Amanda Review
11/10/22 Boys’ Mom Reads! Review

 

 

 

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Review: National Geographic’s Food Journeys of a Lifetime, 2nd edition

About the book, Food Journeys of a Lifetime, 2nd Edition Food Journeys of a Lifetime

• Publisher: National Geographic (October 18, 2022)
• Hardcover: 320 pages

Few experiences are as satisfying as a chance to explore the world through food. Compiled from the expert travel writers at National Geographic, Food Journeys of a Lifetime scours the globe for the world’s best dishes, markets, and restaurants that are worth traveling far and wide to savor.
In this fully revised and updated edition, find the best of the best, including:

• Tokyo’s famed fish market and its 226 Michelin-starred restaurants–the most of any city in the world
• The ultimate Philly cheesesteak from the city of brotherly love
• The perfect cup of tea in China
• The spice markets of Marrakech
• The juiciest cuts of beef in Argentina
• The freshest pasta in Italy
• And the ultimate Swiss wine route

Featuring more than 60 new bites and destinations, this book is the key to building a foodie traveler’s ultimate bucket list. Within the flavors and tastes of every cuisine, you’ll find unique stories about the places, cultures, climates, and chefs that produce these extraordinary dishes. A wide selection of recipes invite you to try new cooking techniques and obtain flavors from abroad at home; top 10 lists offer side trips from chocolate factories to champagne bars.

Filled with a dazzling array of diverse recommendations, each page of this inspiring book will make your mouth water–and spur your next gourmet vacation.

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Disney Books | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissI love these “coffee table” books from National Geographic, because they’re not only incredibly informative they’re also just beautiful. After all, they feature photographs from some of National Geographic’s best photographers, and articles from some of their best writers. This book, the second edition of Food Journeys of a Lifetime, is no exception. The photographs are not just of food – although many of them are – but also of fabulous food markets and unique restaurants. All are eye-catching. Some are mouth-watering.

But this book is more than just pictures. It has pages that describe the best-know foods from individual U.S. states, and various countries around the world and has fascinating supportive text. Did you know that real wasabi (not the fake stuff we Americans get most of the time) has antibacterial benefits? I didn’t until I read this book. No, it won’t kill all the parasites in raw fish, but sashimi fish isn’t truly raw in the sense that it’s untouched. It’s just not cooked. (Also parasite-ridden fish isn’t served.)

The other thing I loved about this book is that, as much as it’s a work of art, it’s also a reference guide. I would rank it right next to one of my favorite foodie resources, The Flavor Bible, in its usefulness to anyone who wants to improve their home cooking. Health experts tell us to “eat the rainbow.” With Food Journeys of a Lifetime you can broaden the number of colors, and enjoy vicarious travels at the same time.

This book is great if you read it from cover to cover, but perfectly suited to pick up now and then, or skip around in.

Goes well with: eggplant caponata and crusty sourdough baguette.


Visit the Other Great Stops on this Tour TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, October 18th: Instagram: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Wednesday, October 19th: Instagram: @jessicareadsrunbooks

Thursday, October 20th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 24th: Instagram: @nurse_bookie

Tuesday, October 25th: Instagram: @readingfortheseasons

Wednesday, October 26th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Thursday, October 27th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Friday, October 28th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 3rd: Instagram: @itsbibliotherapy

Friday, November 4th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, November 4th: Instagram: @thereadingchemist

Sunday, November 6th: Instagram: @addictedtobooks86

Sunday, November 6th: Instagram: @thebookend.diner

TBD: Friday, October 21st: Instagram: @mariasbookshelves

Review & Giveaway: Liberty Bell and the Last American by James Stoddard

BNR Liberty Bell

 

About the book, Liberty Bell and the Last American Cover Liberty Bell

  • Alternative History / Science Fiction
  • Pages: 347 pages
  • Publication Date: April 4, 2021
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR A GIVEAWAY!

Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.

Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.

Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.

The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.

Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”

Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Paperback | Kindle | Goodreads


About the author, James Stoddard Author Photo James Stoddard

James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.

Connect with James:

Website | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

XTRA Liberty Bell


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The blurb for Liberty Bell and the Last American calls it “a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution,” and there is no more accurate description. Part speculative fiction, part romance, part action-adventure, part coming-of-age novel, and all heart, this book is a pun-filled romp through a version of American History that might be seen through a fun-house mirror from a thousand years in the future, and I loved it.  Sure, the puns (Liberty Bell, the young protagonist, is from the Southern Bells, and her siblings include her sister Tink, short for Tinker) and pop-culture references (going to hell in a walmart cart) fly freely, but consider: if someone from that far in the future peered at us, then added a global Black Out and took away all context, they’d probably come up with similar references and turns of phrase. It’s important to note: this novel is much closer to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than it is to Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, but could be considered a descendant of both.

In Liberty Bell, author James Stoddard has given us a vibrant young woman, traveling away from home for the first time and getting thrown into a series of adventures that include plummeting from a moving train, showing off the kind of survival skills that would impress any Girl or Boy Scout, and holding her own in both political and philosophical dialogue with characters who are all her elders, though some are older than others. (There’s really no way to give any level of detail without risking spoilers.)

Stoddard, like Adams, has also made this novel, in part, a book about another book. In this case that’s The Americana, which seems to be a combination of commonplace (though many of the quotations are mis-attributed, out of context, or just altered) and historical commentary about the (fictional) world these people inhabit. (Note to the author: Publishing that as a companion to this story would be awesome.) Some of the quotes and comments are hilarious, others are provocative: where did the author of The Americana get that story or piece of data?

What I really loved about this book is that beneath all the puns and preposterous situations, there’s a close look at the true meaning of patriotism and what it means to be an American, and what the constitution really says. The author notes that this was written before the 2016 election and is not meant to endorse or criticize any party,  which is true, but it’s also true that the real love story isn’t Liberty Bell and her accidental partner in crimes and misdemeanors with a cause, but the author, the reader, and their love of country.

This book is written in an easily accessible style, the story is well-paced and the plot makes sense, but I feel the best audience for this novel will be those who have a better-than-average knowledge of American history, because the references are much more enjoyable if you are familiar with the source material.

Goes well with: grilled freshly-caught fish and clear spring water.


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THREE WINNERS:

2 winners each receive a Signed Paperback copy of

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1 winner receives a $25 B&N eGift card

(U.S. only; ends at midnight, 11/4/22.)

 

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Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for direct links to each post for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily,  Or visit the participating blogs directly.

 

10/25/22 Hall Ways Blog Author Audio
10/25/22 The Page Unbound Notable Quotables
10/26/22 Bibliotica Review
10/26/22 LSBBT Blog BONUS Promo
10/27/22 It’s Not All Gravy Guest Post
10/27/22 Boys’ Mom Reads! Review
10/28/22 The Book’s Delight Excerpt
10/28/22 Reading by Moonlight Review
10/29/22 StoreyBook Reviews Review
10/30/22 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
10/31/22 Shelf Life Blog Review
11/01/22 Forgotten Winds Author Interview
11/01/22 Jennie Reads Review
11/02/22 Rox Burkey Blog Review
11/03/22 Chapter Break Book Blog Review
11/03/22 Book Fidelity Review

 

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Review: An Open Door, by Anne Leigh Parrish

An Open DoorAbout the book, An Open Door

  • Paperback: 270 Pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (October 4, 2022)

It’s 1948 and the freedom granted women by the Second World War is gone. Edith Sloan, earning her doctorate, is told by her law student husband to cancel her academic plans. His bright future requires a certain kind of wife: one in the kitchen making dinner for important guests. Frustrated and defiant, Edith leaves him but returns when his begging letters become too much. Trapped by marriage and her husband’s ambition, Edith struggles to find her footing and the means to her own survival.

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Anne Leigh ParrishAbout the author, Anne Leigh Parrish

Anne Leigh Parrish lives in a forest in the South Sound Region of Washington State. She is the author of the moon won’t be dared; a winter night; what nell dreams; maggie’s ruse; the amendment; women within; by the wayside; what is found, what is lost; our love could light the world; and all the roads that lead from home.

Connect with Anne:

Find her online at anneleighparrish.com.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I haven’t read an Anne Leigh Parrish book since I read By the Wayside in 2017, I’ve been reading a lot of novels set during World War II, lately so the first thing that I really appreciated about Anne Leigh Parrish’s most recent novel, An Open Door, is that it’s set in 1948 – after the war but before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. This is a period that isn’t tackled a lot in fiction, and it should be, because it’s such a complex period.

Also complex is the main character of this novel. Edith is another of author Parrish’s strong female characters, and this novel is very much about her awakening. It’s not a coming-of-age story – Edith is an adult when we meet her – but she’s working in a government office, and has a boyfriend studying law at Harvard on the G.I. bill, and, like many young women, she’s caught between what society (and Walter) expect from her, and what she wants for herself.

Parrish’s characters are her strong point. Every one of them is dynamic and dimensional, but what I really loved about this book is that her prose – whether dialogue or description – is very graceful. Fluid, even. At 270 pages, this isn’t particularly short, nor is it overlong, but the language sings on the page, and that made the story really enjoyable. Also brilliant are the little nuances she puts in every scene, making the simple act of turning off a hot plate and forgoing a cup of tea an expression of Edith’s dissatisfaction. “Well-crafted” does not begin to describe this story.

Overall, I feel An Open Door is just that. This novel opens the door, for Edith, and for us as readers,  to feminism, to self-worth, and to what one really desires out of life. I recommend this to anyone who was raised on novels like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which the author has Edith considering in the opening chapter. It’s the perfect blend of social commentary, gentle sarcasm, and a compelling and interesting story.

Goes well with: a standing rib roast, creamed spinach, and potatoes au gratin, which Walter didn’t get to eat.


00-tlc-tour-hostVisit the Other Great Stops on This Tour:

Monday, October 3rd: @spaceonthebookcase

Wednesday, October 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 6th: @thebphiles

Monday, October 10th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, October 11th: @mom_loves_reading

Wednesday, October 12th: @suzylew_bookreview

Thursday, October 13th: @fashionablyfifty

Monday, October 17th: @lindahamiltonwriter on TikTok

Tuesday, October 18th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, October 19th: @nurse_bookie

Wednesday, October 19th: Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, October 20th: @pickagoodbook

Friday, October 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 24th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 25th: @cmtloveswineandbooks

Wednesday, October 26th: @wovenfromwords

Thursday, October 27th: Run Wright

TBD: Monday, October 3rd: @whatlizziereads

TBD: Thursday, October 20th: @tammyreads62

Review: Where the Echo Calls by Steve N. Lee

Where the Echo CallsAbout the book, Where the Echo Calls (Books for Dog Lovers #3)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Blue Zoo (October 14, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 283 pages
  • Series: Books for Dog Lovers

He’d lost so much he wanted to die. But a stray dog changed everything.

Left for dead in the gutter, Rio struggles to his feet and lurches into the shadows for a place to hide. Life has always been brutal, thanks to a monster of an owner, but at least he’d had food, a bed, a place to call home. Now…?

Ben’s life ended when he lost his family. Drink no longer dulls the pain; therapy is a joke; friends have moved on. He’d had everything, yet now…?

But when the broken man meets the broken dog, they discover something neither had ever dreamed could exist… a reason to go on.

In a story as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, Where the Echo Calls explores how hope can be found in the most unexpected of places if only we have the courage to look for it.

Praise for the Books for Dog Lovers series:

  • “Emotional, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I was lost in this story from the very beginning. It’s beautifully written and will stay with me for a long long time.” Curled Up With A Good Book (book blog)
  • “So Tear Jerkingly Beautiful” Janice Kujawa, Amazon
  • “A great story with a beautiful, heartwarming ending.” Tom Kiker, Amazon
  • “Thought provoking and well written. [I] loved it so much I’ve bought 2 paperbacks to give as Christmas presents! It’ll break your heart and rebuild it again.” C. Johnson, Amazon
  • “A story that is equal parts intense beauty and heart wrenching agony… I know I’ll still think of this story years down the road.” Insatiable Readers book blog
  • “A heartwarming, touching, and poignant novel about the love between a dog and a young girl.” Paula, Amazon
  • “A perfect book for dog lovers. It is a story of courage, determination and love.” Library Lady, Amazon
  • “I almost laughed myself into an asthma attack during certain scenes and cried at the end of this book, all the while wondering if this is how my own dog perceives me.” Kathy Banfield, Goodreads
  • “[I] highly recommend it especially if you like books like Marley and Me, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and similar stories.” Storeybook Reviews book blog

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Steve LeeAbout the author, Steve N. Lee

Steve has three passions: anti-heroes, animals, and travel. To date, he’s visited 60 countries and has adopted five homeless cats, but he’s yet to prowl the streets in the dead of night to beat up bad guys (though he still daydreams about doing so, but who doesn’t?).

In pursuit of adventure, he’s cage-dived with great white sharks, sparred with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and explored exotic locales such as Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China.

Fortunately, his passions fuel his fiction. He loves to pepper his action-packed thrillers with the exotic places he’s explored and the unusual encounters he’s experienced, while his dog stories glow with the love and companionship that will warm the heart of any animal lover.

More recently, while on his travels, Steve came across two true stories from the Holocaust which moved him so deeply, he has based two novels on them, both of which will be released in 2023.

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, the great-granddaughter of the 1924 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and two stray black cats who visited their garden one day and liked it so much, they moved into the house. Luckily, they graciously allowed Steve and Ania to carry on living there, even allowing Steve to continue paying the mortgage to give him a sense of purpose.

If you love stories of four-legged heroes, tales from histories darkest hour, or books with pulse-pounding action, you’ll love Steve’s three series. He wrote them for book lovers just like you!

Connect with Steve:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’ve been a foster-mom to more than twenty-five dogs, and all the dogs I’ve ever kept have been rescues, so it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for a good dog story. Where the Echo Calls is not merely a good dog story, though; it’s a fantastic dog story that really puts you inside the head of the dog at the center of the book. Rio (nee  Razor) is a shepherd mix used as a fighting dog. When we meet him his owner is abandoning him on the streets. We travel with him through his confusion, heartbreak, and steadfast determination. We get to learn about the “messages” dogs leave in their p-mail. Hope finally comes when he’s brought to an animal shelter, only to have his first adopter betray him. Back at the shelter, Rio, like many dogs in similar situations – and I’ve seen this first-hand – Rio begins to shut down.

Finally Ben comes into the story and Rio is safe, but it’s not that simple. Like Rio, Ben has a tragic history. Not only does he have to learn to trust Rio, but Rio must learn to trust him.

I really loved seeing the inner workings of Rio’s brain. I’ve heard that well-trained, well-socialized dogs have an understanding of human vocabulary roughly equivalent to a human five-year-old, but we really never think about the fact that our pets are bilingual, in a sense, because their first language is one that combines scent, body language, and vocalizations (barks, growls, yips – my bigger dog is part Catahoula, and he sings.). They learn our language, and adapt to our lives. We don’t do the same.  But Steve Lee gets it. And he writes the path to doggy comprehension amazingly well. Rio learns that “pocket-meat” (bacon) is for treats, and then he learns how to get it.

While much of this novel deals with serious things – depression and loss for both man and dog – there are some fantastic light moments that not only break the tension, but also warm the heart. Rio loves chin-tickles but pretends to only “allow” them in order to protect his tough-dog persona, and the bit with him eschewing, then secretly using, his “princess” bed is just hilarious.

I should note that though this is the third novel in a series, and characters from previous stories have cameo appearances, it’s absolutely self-contained, and readers should not worry if they haven’t read the first two. (That said, go read the first two, as they’re equally wonderful.)

Overall, this is a totally plausible, thoroughly engaging story told (mostly) from the dog’s perspective, and a copy of this novel should appear on every dog-lover’s bookshelf or e-reader. I laughed and cried and had to stop reading more than once to cuddle my own dogs. You will, too.

Goes well with: Bacon! And cool drink of water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review and Giveaway: The Covey Jencks Mysteries Omnibus Audiobook by Shelton L. Williams

BNR Covey Jencks Audio Omnibus

 

About the book: The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas Cover Audio Love and Murder

  • Narrated by Stephen E. Lookadoo, Jr.
  • Mystery / Amateur Sleuths / West Texas
  • Listening Length: 17hrs, 44 minutes
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2022
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Shelton Williams’s book The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas is more than a collection of mysterious tales of murder and investigation. By bringing to life these characters, the author has highlighted the global issues of racism, drug abuse, political extremism, and women trafficking.

In the midst of it all is our protagonist, hell-bent on finding out what secrets he may find out if he stepped into the dark shadow of Odessa.

This omnibus edition of the Covey Jencks Mysteries includes newly edited versions of Covey Jencks, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, and The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts. It also includes a new preface from the author and foreword by Charles E. Morrison.

Buy, listen to and/or read, and discuss this book:

Audible | Amazon Audiobook | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Author’s Website | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the three books in the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelly:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss

Having read the original Covey Jencks novel, which I did not review, and the second, Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated, which I did, I was curious to hear the audiobook, with all three books narrated by the same person, and presented in one, neat, bundle. I was not disappointed. While I’m a rare audiobook-listener and generally only listen to books I’ve read in print, I’m falling more in love with the medium. As I had not read the third book in this collection, The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts, I was a bit concerned about following the plot, but these books are so perfectly paced and well plotted, and balance humor and more serious scenes so well, that I had no issues.

As a refresher, the first book introduces us to Covey Jencks and his partner in solving crime (among other things), JayJay Qualls and sees them solving a case in Jencks’s hometown of Odessa, Texas where he recently returned. It involved Mexican gangs and a Boston mobster, and set the tone for the sarcasm-laced, deeply respectful and affectionate relationship between the two leads. The second book sees Covey and JayJay  finding the truth behind the death of one of Covey’s friends as well as other mayhem on a college campus, and the third involves a trip to China to solve a murder that involves characters there and in the USA, including a group of Chinese gangsters.

What all three novels have in common, aside from Covey and JayJay, are the deft uses of language, and the way author Williams imbues his stories with social consciousness and uses them to discuss everything from immigration and racism to sexism and sex trafficking. He does this while never making the reader – or listener – feel hammered to death by a cause, or overdoing the darker aspect of these subjects, but wrapping them in mysteries laced with humor and wry turns of phrase that are completely engaging.

As audio books, each of these has been released on its own, albeit with diffrerent narrators. What makes this omnibus audiobook edition so special is that the same narrator is with us all the way through. A good narrator can make or break and audiobook. In this case, Stephen E. Lookadoo’s folksy warmth only enhances the source material. He sounds like someone Covey Jencks would know; he sounds like someone the author would know. He has that kind of familiar voice that makes you think you’ve heard him before – and maybe you have – but even when he’s playing a down-home hick he never seems uneducated. He also used just enough accent and pitch change to evoke the different characters without sounding forced or fake. A lot of male narrators turn female characters into caricatures; Lookadoo does not.

The combination of Williams’s vivd storytelling and Lookadoo’s narration gives the listener the perfect blend of substance and style. The vocal performance is perfectly matched to the relatively quick pace of these novels, and you never feel breathless from trying to keep up, or bored because things are too slow.

At nearly eighteen hours, this omnibus is a meaty undertaking. Personally, I prefer longer audiobooks because I can live with them for several evenings and really absorb the story. In this case, that time gives us three distinct, yet still connected, mysteries that were fantastic in print, an even better in this format.

Goes well with: cold beer – Shiner is good – and a plate of ribs, cole slaw and mac-n-cheese.


Giveaway

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THREE WINNERS:

Each receives an audiobook edition of

THE COVEY JENCKS MYSTERIES:

LOVE AND MURDER DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/31/22.)

 

Giveaway Covey Jencks Audiobook

 

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