Review: Finding Summer Happiness, by Chris Penhall

Finding Summer Happiness

 

About the book, Finding Summer Happiness

Finding Summer Happiness by Chris PenhallYou won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?

Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realizes her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (USA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Chris Penhall

Chris PenhallChris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Her short story, Lily McKee’s Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction’s Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSomething I’ve learned in the last few years is that if a book has Chris Penhall as the author, it’s going to be a fabulous read. Finding Summer Happiness, the author’s most recent title completely supports my initial statement. Charming, with a bit of romance and a bit of intrigue, it came into my life when I really needed it, and put a smile on my face.

Protagonist Miriam is quite possibly my favorite Penhall lead so far. Savvy and smart, she’s burnt out with her business, and finally agrees to have her personal assistant arrange a break for her. Six months in a cottage by the sea. When she learns the actual terms of said break, I felt her disappointment, displeasure, and confusion, and wanted to rush in and help her out. Her work ethic and sense of honor merge with her attorney’s advice, and the story really takes off

A former business-owner myself, although not professionally, I really resonated with Miriam, especially since I’ve been through the experience of leaving the corporate world, but I enjoyed the characters of Jim the pub owner, Rhiannon the realtor (sorry, letting agent) and Alan the unwanted sort-of guest, and the largely offscreen Justin. These characters were all funny and interesting and felt the like odd assortment of friends and cohorts many of us tend to collect.

I also appreciated the various guests and villagers who rounded out the story. Penhall has a knack for creating vivid and dimensional characters and communities, and in this book she excels at both. I wanted to knock on the door of Miriam’s rented cottage and demand a seat in her supper club.

This is a light read that is grounded in serious topics, like how to change your life and when to make the leap and follow your dreams.

Goes well with: A rainy day, a glass of wine, and a bowl of onion soup.

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Spotlight with Giveaway: 70% Dark Intentions, by Amber Royer

BNR 70% Dark Intentions

 

About the book, 70% Dark Intentions

  • Series: Bean to Bar Mysteries
  • Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 260 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover 70% DarkAn Idyllic Chocolate Shop. An island with endangered species. And a murder.

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is bringing in plenty of customers – in part due to the notoriety of the recent murder of one of her assistants, which she managed to solve. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Her new assistant, Mateo, even gets along with Carmen, the shop’s barista turned pastry chef. Felicity thinks she’s learning to cope with change – right up until one of her friends gets engaged. Everyone’s expecting her to ask Logan, her former bodyguard, to be her plus one. But even the thought of asking out someone else still makes her feel disloyal to her late husband’s memory — so maybe she hasn’t moved on from her husband’s death as much as she thought.

Felicity isn’t planning to contact Logan any time soon. Only, Felicity finds ANOTHER body right outside her shop – making it two murders at Greetings and Felicitations in as many months. That night, Mateo disappears, leaving Felicity to take care of his pet octopus. The police believe that Mateo committed the murder, but Felicity is convinced that, despite the mounting evidence, something more is going on, and Mateo may actually be in trouble.

When Logan assumes that he’s going to help Felicity investigate, she realizes she’s going to have to spend time with him – whether she’s ready to really talk to him or not. Can Felicity find out what happened to Mateo, unmask a killer, and throw an engagement party all at the same time?

Praise for this book:

“Royer has concocted a sweetly dark confection with 70% DARK INTENTIONS, the second serving in her Bean to Bar Mysteries series…You’ll read this yummy treat late into the night.” –Amy Shojai, author of September Day & Shadow pet-centric thrillers.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.

Connect with Amber:

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Autographed copy of 70% DARK INTENTIONS

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Review & Giveaway: Deadly Business by Anita Dickason

Deadly Business Blog Tour

 

About the book, Deadly Business

  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Publication Date: July 4, 2021
  • Genre: Suspense / Thriller / Crime Thriller
  • Scroll for Giveaway!

Cover Deadly Business by Anita DickasonA Texas Multi-Billion Dollar Lure!

Following a tactical raid at an Oklahoma farm, a phone call sends U.S. Deputy Marshal Piper McKay rushing back to the East Texas cattle ranch where she grew up. Her grandmother, Jennie Layton, is near death from a crushed skull. When local authorities claim the cause of the injury was an accident, Piper isn’t convinced.

Who wants Jennie dead and why? Is the reason connected to a dubious contract Piper finds in Jennie’s desk?

Piper realizes her grandmother isn’t the only one in danger when she barely escapes a deadly attack. Thrust into the middle of a high-stakes, high-risk shell game, Piper’s become the target. The case takes a bizarre turn when Piper unknowingly crosses paths with a Special Ranger. If he can’t derail her investigation, it could cost him his life.

With millions of dollars on the line, nothing will stop a ring of cold-blooded killers, including the murders of a U.S. Marshal and a Special Ranger.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


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About the author, Anita Dickason

Author Pic DickasonAward-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo. The novels are not a series and can be read in any order.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

Connect with Anita:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Linkedin | Vimeo | Amazon | Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI was privileged to participate in a cover reveal for this novel, Deadly Business, last month, and I was so intrigued by the premise that I begged to review it. I’m glad I did, because this book was literally “unputdownable,” keeping me enthralled from the first page to the last.

Dropping the reader into the middle of a high-stakes action sequence at the very beginning, Anita Dickason could very easily have kept up an unrelenting pace, and this still would have been an entertaining read. Instead, she shows off her range and skill by resolving the initial situation, and then radically changing the tone, sending lead character Piper McKay home to her grandmother’s Texas ranch, where the old woman was found thrown from a horse.

From there, the author interweaves some quintessentially Texan elements like the modern version of cattle rustling, with the universal experiences of worrying about a beloved family member in the hospital, and the intricacies of what happens when U.S. marshals and Special Rangers (which are another Texas-specific element) are not the hunters, but the hunted.

Main character Piper is so vividly drawn that I had to wonder how much of the author herself was in the character. After all, Dickason was the first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team, and “write what you know” seems to be her oeuvre. But even if she’s purely fictional, it doesn’t matter, because she feels real. She’s the kind of person I’d love to sit around a fire pit with and share a drink and trade stories, though admittedly, my stories are far less action packed.

The somewhat elusive Special Agent Cade Tanner is equally vividly drawn, as is Piper’s grandmother, Jen, who is the heartstring that connects everything and everyone. (I would read a whole novel just about Jen. Just saying.) Some of my favorite scenes were between Piper and Cade, and I’d love to see more of their interactions.

Overall, this novel is a suspense-filled adventure grounded by human stories (with a special nod to Leopold the Bull) crafted with great care and is b. oth gripping and satisfying.

A word to the wise: don’t skip the “story after the story” at the end of the book, where author Dickason gives a short history of cattle thievery and special rangers. It’s not crucial to the plot, but makes a richer experience.

Goes well with: smoked brisket and Shiner bock.


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7/20/21 Review Bibliotica
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7/22/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
7/23/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
7/24/21 Video Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
7/25/21 Video Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/26/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
7/27/21 Guest Post The Plain-Spoken Pen
7/28/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/29/21 Review Forgotten Winds
7/29/21 BONUS Review Jennie Reads

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Mini Review: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

About the book, Beach House Reunion

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery Books (May 22, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 22, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 401 pages

Beach House ReunionThe New York Times bestselling author and “skilled storyteller who never lets her readers down” (Huffington Post) returns to her beloved Beach House series with this “authentic, generous, and heartfelt” (Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author) tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Comforting in its familiarity, it is still rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara let go of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new career and love.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate with an uncertain future, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is free to join the turtle team, learn to surf, and fall in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In “this tender and openhearted novel of familial expectations, new boundaries, and the power of forgiveness” (Booklist), three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts:

The Beach House series has long been a favorite of mine, and this is no exception. Well written with dynamic characters and vivid descriptions of both people and places, this novel is a satisfying read for anyone who loves family stories and beachy settings.

One of the things I love about Mary Alice Monroe is that her books often weave together similar experiences from different generations of the same family. In this case the through-line is sea turtles, and their conservation, and I liked the way the protection of the turtles echoed the maternal protection between the characters.

If you’ve seen the Hallmark movie “The Beach House,” this is the book it was based on. The movie was cozy and entertaining. The book is rich and rewarding.

You will not be disappointed.

Review: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley

Blooming Murder

About the book, Blooming Murder

Blooming Murder ebook coverMURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Simon Whaley

Blooming Simon Whaley squareSimon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI love getting into a series when it’s brand new. I get to meet all the main characters and then look forward to their returns in future novels. I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you, I’m really looking forward to seeing where Simon Whaley’s new “Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries” go from here.

But let’s talk about the beginning. Blooming Murder is the opening novel of what I hope will be a series of many books. Whaley’s writing style is straight-forward and hooks you instantly, and his plot builds steadily from there. Aldermaston, the Marquess, is one of the first characters we meet, of course, and it’s clear that he’s going to be our POV character, after all, it’s “his” series.

Characters abound in this novel, many of whom are involved either in local (village) politics, or in the politics of a gardening club, or both, and Whaley describes them vividly (dainty feet stuck in my head) and writes them with just as much care. This novel takes place in Wales, and the author doesn’t write in dialect, but he still manages to convey where each character hails from and how they sound, as much as how they look.

What I really loved about Blooming Murder is that the murder in question felt really organic, not just shoved in as a plot contrivance. I also appreciated that there are touches of humor throughout the book, lightening some of the more serious moments. (A character hoping the body won’t be in frame for a photo opp is just one example.)

Overall, Blooming Murder is a charming, engaging novel, and I am looking forward to the series continuing.

Goes well with: a glass of Prosecco and a salad that includes edible flowers.


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Cover Reveal: The Road from Cromer Pier, by Martin Gore

The Road From Cromer Pier - Cover Reveal

About the book The Road from Cromer Pier

Coming July 17, 2021

It’s ten years on from The Road to Cromer Pierand Summertime Special Show Director Karen Wells has two potential headliners, but both have issues. Dare she take the risk? And Karen herself is at a crossroads. Will her mother Janet ever retire and allow her to run the pier theatre?

Meanwhile Janet’s nemesis, businessman Lionel Pemrose still has designs on the pier theatre, but he is facing growing financial problems. Bank manager Peter Hodson is haunted by a past indiscretion, and calls in recently widowed turnaround expert Tom Stanley. Can he keep the indiscretion a secret?

Tom is bereaved and has recently been made redundant from his own firm. He is too young to retire, and after years of long hours, suddenly finds himself unemployed. He pours his energies into the assignment, which could be his last hurrah.
Old enmities, loyalties and past mistakes surface as the future of the pier theatre is once again under threat, and those involved must deal with unresolved issues in their lives.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Martin Gore

The Road From Cromer Pier Author PhotoI am a 63 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on: https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, and a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, is now available in all three formats. It was. officially launched on Cromer Pier itself, coinciding with the new season of the Summertime Special Show.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

Connect with Martin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


The Cover: The Road from Cromer Pier

The Road from Cromer Pier12

 

Series Review with Giveaway: El Paso Sunrise & El Paso Sunset by Louis Bodnar

BNR El Paso

 

About These Books, El Paso Sunrise & El Paso Sunset

  • Publisher: Morgan James Fiction
  • Pub Date: September 24th, 2019 | January 5th, 2021
  • Pages: 292 | 238
  • Categories: Thriller / Terrorism / Conspiracy
  • Scroll down for giveaway

Cover Book 1 El Paso SunriseEl Paso Sunrise

From a Constitutional Republic to a Marxist Dictatorship led by a Muslim President in a Second American Civil War 

“Kill him,” the gravelly voice said on the speaker to the cream of the Russian and Muslim terrorist assassination squad infiltrating America from Canada and on their way to El Paso to kill lawyer Steven Vandorol.  Steven was leading the Texas prosecution of Federal government corruption and with national implications before the fall presidential election.

El Paso Sunrise is the first of two stand-alone novels that together tell a grand story of love, passion, intense hate, violence and horror all brought keenly alive against the intentional radical transformation of America in a Second American Civil War by progressives, Muslim radicals and the American Left from a Constitutional Republic.  It is also a portrayal of a future with the literal choking of Canada, Great Britain, Europe, the Middle East, particularly the sovereign State of Israel by Islamist radicals, ISIL, Hezbollah, Hamas and the spreading cancerous malignancy of a worldwide Muslim Caliphate.

Steven Vandorol had it all but lost everything when he fell hard from grace in the ultra-rich Sunbelt.  Escaping to Washington, D.C., he found himself embroiled in evil, corruption, sexual obsession and addiction but, confronting his own demons, found peace and serenity in El Paso.

Then stunning Vanessa Carson, Steven’s attorney friend and confidant amid the evil of D.C. brings her sunshine smile back into his life in El Paso and together as one, face their worst nightmares or rape, kidnapping and murder during the ultimate crises of a second American civil war started by powerful forces and only Steven and Vanessa stand in their way . . .

While El Paso Sunrise is a graphic story of evil in this world, it is also a timeless love story about goodness, faith, grace and friendship blossoming during a national emergency — a clarion call to the world to remember what truly matters — asking the question . . .

Can Steven force his own country and government to face their own demons before it’s too late?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

*Louis Bodnar | AmazonBarnes and Noble | Goodreads

Cover Book 2 El Paso SunsetEl Paso Sunset

Within El Paso Sunset, Steven and his friend, Vanessa Carson, face their worst nightmare of rape, kidnapping, and murder during the ultimate crisis of a Second American Civil War started by dark, sinister, and shadowy forces and only Steven and Vanessa stand in the way. El Paso Sunset is the second and continuation of two stand-alone novels that together make a story of love, passion, obsession, intense hate, pure evil, violence, and horror, all brought keenly alive against the panorama of the radical transformation of the great American Constitutional Republic.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

*Louis Bodnar | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

*Note: There is a special discount if you buy both books from Louis Bodnar’s site.

 


About the author, Louis Bodnar

Author Pic BodnarLouis Bodnar is a retired attorney currently living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with his wife Joan.  As a naturalized American citizen, he was born in Vilshofen, Germany, immigrated to Brazil with his mother and brother, and came to America in 1958.

He was educated in the United States in Oklahoma, receiving an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, and was a candidate for an LLM in International and Comparative Law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Connect with Louis:

Website Amazon | Facebook | Twitter  | BookBub | Instagram


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellAs the characters in these books share a political ideology that does not mesh with mine, I read Louis Bodnar’s pair of books, El Paso Sunrise, and El Paso Sunset, with an even more critical eye than usual. But the thing is, a good story is a good story – I don’t share the same worldview as the characters in Tom Clancy’s work, either, but I’m a massive fan of his writing – and Louis Bodnar wrote not one, but two, really good stories.

Each of the El Paso books can be read as a stand-alone novel without the reader feeling confused or ill-informed. (I actually read the opening chapters of book two first, just so I could confirm that.) Reading them in order, however, is a much richer experience because you get to watch Steven and Vanessa develop individually and as friends. As well, you get to watch the way the events of book two result from some of the events in book one.

What I loved about these books was that Bodnar has an ear for dialogue. Lawyers sound like actual lawyers, rather than television approximations, and when dark characters are represented (heavies) the sense of malice and danger are strong. As well, Bodnar’s use of structure, and particularly the device of having another character talk about the main character, is both intricate and deftly crafted. The plots of both novels were well-paced, and the attention to detail was impeccable.

Of course, the El Paso setting of the stories was also a selling point. Bodnar is a man who clearly knows and loves the city, and that region of Texas, and he really does make it another character in both novels, in much the way the Dallas and Red October submarines were characters, as much as places, in Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October which I’ve recently re-read. In fact, I found Bodnar’s writing style to be reminiscent of Clancy’s at times – I think because they both rely on deep research and have analytical brains.

What struck me about El Paso Sunrise, specifically was the opening line. “Kill him,” the hushed, gravelly, almost hoarse voice said on the speaker to the four assassins slouched around the rough-hewn oak table, three of them sipping Stolichnaya vodka straight, while the fourth drank hot tea.” Not only did this sentence set the tone for the entire story to follow, but it also dropped me right into the scene. I could feel the table-top, smell the tea, hear the click of glasses being put down and picked up. It’s an extremely catchy opening, and the rest of the story is equally compelling.

What struck me about El Paso Sunset is that it didn’t feel like a sequel, so much as another story in the same universe. It opened with a rather grim scene, that involved a deliciously creepy rendition of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” that made me shiver and squirm. Immersive storytelling at its finest!

Overall, this pair of novels is jam-packed with espionage, terrorism, and conspiracy theories in a fast-paced format full of bigger-than-life characters and situations. Definitely worth the read.

Goes well with:  a vodka martini and a grilled t-bone steak. 


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ONE WINNER receives autographed copies of the two-volume set of the El Paso books.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, July 2, 2021)   

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6/22/21 Excerpt Book One Texas Book Lover
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6/23/21 Review Book One Forgotten Winds
6/24/21 Guest Post It’s Not All Gravy
6/25/21 Dual Review Bibliotica
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Review: Finding Jo, by Frances Ive

Finding Jo

 

About the book, Finding Jo

Finding Jo Front CoverAt breaking point Jo deserts her dysfunctional family and possessive boyfriend, making an uncharacteristic escape to the Himalayas in a bid for freedom and self-knowledge. The peace she finds there helps her to unravel her turmoil, but unexpected challenges test her new-found equilibrium to the limit.

Finding Jo focuses on relationships between families, lovers and friends, and the resentment and long-held grievances that threaten to destroy them. Jo’s quest for a deeper purpose in life acts as a catalyst to her family, indicating that willingness to change and grow enables people to find happiness.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Frances Ive

Finding FrancesA career as a journalist/PR led to health writing for UK nationals newspapers and consumer magazines. Out of the blue I was inspired to write a novel, Finding Jo, which has taken some years to come to fruition, self-publishing in January 2021. I travelled a lot in my 20s and I have drawn on my three months’ trip to India in Finding Jo.

Connect with Frances:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMany times during my read of Frances Ive’s Finding Jo, I felt like I was reading a real-life travelogue and not a novel. This is not a bad thing, as it only makes Jo and the rest of the characters feel more dynamic.

At the same time, Ive’s writing puts you smack in the center of every scene. From Jo’s first steps in India as she’s realizing no one is there to meet her,  to her purchase of a train ticket and beyond, I could feel the heat and hear the noise of begging children, rickshaw drivers seeking clients, and vendors offering their wares (do not drink the green juice!),  and at one point I even checked to make sure my own purse was still on the chair in my mother’s guest room. That’s how vivid the writing is in this novel.

But the dialogue is equally well-crafted. Perhaps it’s the author’s experience as a journalist that has helped her recreate dialogue that gives the essence of different languages without resorting to writing in dialect, or maybe it’s just natural talent, but at no time did I have trouble keeping track of who people were or where they were from.

India is a place of extremes… major cities teeming with people, and then the Himalayas, which are unrelenting and unforgiving. Life, itself, can also be full of extremes. In Finding Jo, highs and lows in both landscape and emotion are represented with care and skill, making a compelling novel that lingers with you long after you’ve finished it.

Goes well with: Chicken tikka masala and garlic naan.


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Cover Reveal & Pre-Order Giveaway: Deadly Business, by Anita Dickason

BNR Deadly Business Blitz

 

About the book, Deadly Business

  • Anticipated Publication Date: July 3, 2021
  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Categories: Suspense | Thriller | Crime Thriller

Cover 3D 2 Deadly Business-a-5-3-21A Texas Multi-Billion Dollar Lure!

Following a tactical raid at an Oklahoma farm, a phone call sends U.S. Deputy Marshal Piper McKay rushing back to the East Texas cattle ranch where she grew up.

Her grandmother, Jennie Layton, is near death from a crushed skull. When local authorities claim the cause of the injury was an accident, Piper isn’t convinced.

Who wants Jennie dead and why? Is the reason connected to a dubious contract Piper finds in Jennie’s desk?

Piper realizes her grandmother isn’t the only one in danger when she barely escapes a deadly attack. Thrust into the middle of a high-stakes, high-risk shell game, Piper’s become the target.

The case takes a bizarre turn when Piper unknowingly crosses paths with a Special Ranger. If he can’t derail her investigation, it could cost him his life.

With millions of dollars on the line, nothing will stop a ring of cold-blooded killers, including the murders of a U.S. Marshal and a Special Ranger.

Pre-Order this book:

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About the author, Anita Dickason

Anita Dickason

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Award-winning author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo. The novels are not a series and can be read in any order.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.

Connect with Anita:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn | VimeoAmazon Author PageGoodreads Author Page


Giveaway on Anita Dickason’s Website!

Pre-order Deadly Business, and you could win one of three prize packages (value $40 each) containing a tote bag, mousepad, coaster, pen, & bookmarks!

Visit www.anitadickason.com/ for details!

(US only. Contest ends at midnight, CDT, July 2, 2021.)

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Review & Giveaway: A Witch’s Brew, by Michael Scott Clifton

BNR Witch's Brew

 

About the book, A Witch’s Brew

  • Series: Conquest of the Veil
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff, April 14, 2021
  • Categories: Sword & Sorcery / Magical Realism / Fantasy / Paranormal
  • Giveaway: Scroll for entry information

Cover Hi Res A Witch's BrewIntent on defeating the Dark Queen and destroying the Veil, Prince Tal and Alexandria arrive at Markingham to discover a city on the verge of collapse, its people starving, and children vanishing without a trace. Hopes of launching attacks from the city against the Dark Queen evaporate. To make matters worse, the tiny breach in the Veil allows only a trickle of soldiers and supplies to pass through.

Before the city’s defenses can be restored, the Baleful, a vast army composed of melded humans and animals led by a giant centaur, sweeps across the land like locusts, leaving nothing behind.

In the midst of turmoil and conflict, the love between Tal and Alex reaches white-hot intensity. But the leader of a ragtag militia group wants Tal for herself and will do anything to get him…even strike a bargain with a child-killing witch for a potion to make her irresistible.

But every witch’s brew comes with a price.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Goodreads


About the author, Michael Scott Clifton

Author CliftonMulti Award-Winning Author Michael Scott Clifton, a longtime public educator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, his books contain facets of all the genres he enjoys—action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch, The Open Portal (Book I in the Conquest of the Veil series), and Escape from Wheel (Book II), all received 5-Star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews. The Open Portal has also been honored with a Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award. In addition, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator earned a 2021 Feathered Quill Book Award Bronze Medal in the Teen Readers category. Two of his short stories have won Gold Medals, with Edges of Gray winning the Texas Authors Contest, and The End Game, winning the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary EducationMagazine.

Connect with Michael:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | Bookbub

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My Thoughts:

I jumped into A Witch’s Brew the third installment in Michael Scott Clifton’s Conquest of the Veil series having only read brief synopses of the previous two novels, but so good is the author’s storytelling that I never felt out of the loop, or like I’d missed a ton of crucial backstory. More importantly, I felt completely comfortable in the world Clifton built, which felt like a real place.

While I loved the story over all I really appreciated that both the protagonist, Alex, and the antagonist (I felt too much sympathy for her to label her an outright villain), Maggie, were both strong, self-possessed women. I was rooting for Alex, of course, but both characters were well drawn, dynamic women, and leapt off the page and into my imagination, where they’ll linger for a while.

I also loved Clifton’s use of language. So many fantasy authors conflate fantasy with medieval, and use antiquated language where it really isn’t necessary. Clifton understands the difference, and I enjoyed reading this genre-blending story of witches and potions, sword fights and romance, all the more because the author used contemporary language.

While I am a new reader of this series, I’m not entirely new to Clifton’s work, having reviewed his novel The Janus Witch in 2018. Then, I was impressed by his deftness at handling time travel. With A Witch’s Brew, I was struck by his prowess with both parallel world structures, and with writing romance that is poignant but never sappy. I’m also excited to know that there are more stories planned in this world. I’m completely hooked and I think anyone who is a fan of series like Shadow and Bone will be, as well.

This novel is a fantastic (no pun intended), immersive story that has something for everyone, wrapped in a perfect plot and enhanced by compelling characters and a truly original take on magic and its uses.

Goes well with: A grilled grouper sandwich, sweet potato fries,  and a craft-brewed beer, nothing too hoppy.


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS!

Grand Prize:
Signed Copies of all three books in the Conquest of the Veil series
+ $15 Amazon Gift Card:
2nd & 3rd Winners: eBooks of A Witch’s Brew.
Ends midnight, CDT, May 28, 2021.

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

For direct links, updated daily, check out the tour page at Lone Star Literary Life

5/18/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
5/18/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
5/19/21 Review Missus Gonzo
5/19/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
5/20/21 Review Book Fidelity
5/21/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
5/22/21 Review Bibliotica
5/23/21 Review The Clueless Gent
5/24/21 Review The Page Unbound
5/25/21 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
5/26/21 Review Forgotten Winds
5/27/21 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
5/27/21 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs

 

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