Review: The Blue Zones Challenge, by Dan Buettner

About the Book, The Blue Zones Challenge

• National Geographic (December 7, 2021)
• Hardcover (240 pages)

Blue Zones ChallengeIn this companion to the number one New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones Kitchen, Dan Buettner offers a four-week guide and year-long sustainability program to jump-start your journey to better health, happiness, less stress, and a longer life.
Get started on the path to a longer, healthier, happier life with this quick start to building your own Blue Zones lifestyle. Dan Buettner, founder of the Blue Zones and author of the New York Times number one best-selling Blue Zones Kitchen, offers the challenge of a lifetime: Build a foundation for better nutrition, more exercise, and a stronger social life that will extend your lifetime by years.
In this easy-to-implement guide, you’ll start with the rules of the Blue Zones Challenge, including tips and tricks from the five Blue Zones–locations around the world where people consistently live to 100–advice for setting up a successful kitchen and pantry, and resources for expanding you support network. Then, follow week-by-week prompts to
• Change your diet
• Increase your activity
• Update your living spaces
• Build your social life.

After four weeks–and with the help of easy-to-use worksheets and recipes–you’ll see results in your weight, your well-being, and your general health. From there, follow the Blue Zones challenge through the rest of the year with an 11-month sustainability calendar that will continue to encourage you and build upon the foundation you’ve already started.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Dan BuettnerAbout the author, Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner is the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story “Secrets of Living Longer” and two national bestsellers, The Blue Zones and Thrive. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Connect with Dan:

Visit him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and at his website bluezones.com.


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2021In March, 2020, I had the privilege of reviewing Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones Kitchen, which I loved so much, I bought copies for friends and family, so I was excited about this book, The Blue Zones Challenge, not the least because we’ve all developed some Pandemic Pudge.

What I love about Buettner’s work is that he’s passionate about his subject. The Blue Zones represent parts of the world where people practice clean eating as a way of life, and live longer, healthier lives because of it. Dan Buettner suggests that if we alter our diets to emulate those found in those zones, we, too, will live longer, healthier lives.

My familiarity with Buettner’s previous work meant that I was expecting these recipes to be mainly vegetarian, with seafood as the dominant animal protein. But this book isn’t just a cookbook. It has some recipe suggestions, but it’s really a holistic approach to a better lifestyle overall.

The best part is, the suggestions in the book aren’t difficult, and there’s no judgement in the author’s tone. Rather, there are guidelines on how to do small things to improve your overall health. Move more. Eat mindfully. Choose foods that aren’t processed. Make sure your social needs are met as well.

With the new year and “resolution” season approaching, this book could not be better timed. The Blue Zones Challenge is the perfect way to begin 2022 as you mean to go on.

Goes well with: Pumpkin Pancakes.


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Cover Reveal: Perfect Payback by Bill Briscoe

BNR Revealed Perfect Payback

 

About the book, Perfect Payback

(Book 3 of the Pepperman Mystery Series)

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Categories: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Expected Publication: February, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 250 pages

Cover Perfect Payback_final

 

When Jim and Laura Pepperman find a musty German Olympic jacket and an old journal in their attic, they stumble onto a gripping pre-World War II story of a cousin Jim knows nothing about.

After a career-ending injury forces Hans Pepperman to lose his spot on the 1936 Olympic boxing team, he trades his athletic aspirations for a degree in mechanical engineering and secures his dream job working for the famous Willy Messerschmitt. Tasked to solve the stalling issues of the BF109 fighter plane engine, Hans finds himself smack in the middle of the Abwher Intelligence Service’s radar. Pro-Germany but anti-Nazi, he reluctantly agrees to help flush out the spy leaking secret information on the BF109 engine to foreign agencies . . . and finds himself a suspect of espionage and murder. Unsure who to trust, he must unravel the tangle of lies he’s caught in before he falls prey to the Nazi agenda slowly and stealthily taking over the country he loves.

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AVAILABLE NOW IN THE  PEPPERMAN MYSTERY SERIES

Prequel—Pepperman’s Promise

Book One-Perplexity

Book Two-Panic Point


About the author, Bill Briscoe

Author photo BriscoeAward-winning author Bill Briscoe grew up in the oil and gas refinery town of Phillips in the Texas Panhandle. As his retirement was on the horizon, he had an idea about a book. That idea became Pepperman’s Promise, the prequel to The Pepperman Mystery Series, leading to Perplexity, Panic Point, and now Perfect Payback, books one, two, and three of the series. Bill and his wife of over fifty years live in West Texas.

Connect with Bill:

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Review & Giveaway – Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy, by Marlene M. Bell

Scattered Legacy

 

About the book, Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy

  • Genre: Mystery / Romance
  • Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 4, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 352 pages
  • Series: Annalisse (Book 3)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Scattered LegacyTo outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, high adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules a getaway trip to show Annalisse his mother’s Italian birthplace, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The key to it all might be a gifted set of rosary beads where Annalisse can use her skills for appraising artifacts to uncover the truth. She leads Alec toward answers that are unthinkable—and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Watch the trailer for this book:

 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Marlene M. Bell

Marlene M. BellMarlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

Connect with Marlene:

WEBSITE  ◆  BLOG ◆ FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS  ◆ BOOKBUB


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMurder. Intrigue. Scandal. Romance. Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy has it all.

While this is the third book in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series, it’s my introduction to the series (though I did feature a guest post from the author when book one was published several years ago). Nevertheless, I had no trouble recognizing the relationships between Anna and Alec, and Anna and Gen (both of which are central to the story) or following any of the through-plots that were obviously set up in previous installments. Rather, I found this to be a richly developed, if slightly heightened, version of reality. Bell’s opening scene captured my attention from the first paragraph. The juxtaposition of impending doom, family drama, and a shoplifting attempt (that clearly meant something more) was instantly intriguing.

As a second-generation Italian-American myself, I really appreciated the way Italian words and slang were dropped into the dialogue by some of the characters (Gen, especially) and how naturally ALL the dialogue sounded. I loved the way the family drama was both sweeping, involving an antique rosary, and intimate at the same time. The interactions between all the core characters felt believable. In many ways, I felt as if I’d met them before.

I also appreciated the pacing of the novel, which had a contemporary feel complimented by a neo-noire undertone that worked perfectly. Exposition unrolled organically, and I never felt like any scene was just a gratuitous info-dump. Of course, when the action moved to Italy, everything became even more heightened. The Italian characters really stood out here, but Anna and the rest of the non-Italians, Bill Drake most prominently, were equally dynamic. (In truth, I’d read a whole series about Bill.)

But it was the story that stayed front-and-center, and Bell did not let me down. Passion, scandal, blackmail, murder, intrigue, and even history are woven into a intricate plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing without causing confusion. I’m definitely going to go back and read the first two novels – I’m hooked on Anna and her story. This book was a satisfying read as a stand-alone, but I want more.

Goes well with: Sicilian blood oranges and a glass of chilled Prosecco.

Scattered Legacy


Giveaway

 THREE WINNERS (US ONLY):

1st SUPER GRANDPRIZE ($425 VALUE):
Patricia Nash leather bag; Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Puglia Region of Italy; Orecchiette Pasta from the Puglia Region; Weekly 2022 Engagement Spiral Calendar; Silver/Gold Italy Coin necklace on 18” silver chain; autographed copy of Scattered Legacy; $50 VISA gift card.

2ND PRIZE & 3rd PRIZE – Signed copies of Scattered Legacy.

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/10/21)

Giveaway Scattered Legacy

 

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11/30/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
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12/2/21 Review The Book’s Delight
12/3/21 Review Forgotten Winds
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12/4/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/5/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood
12/6/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
12/6/21 Review Book Fidelity
12/7/21 Review Bibliotica
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12/8/21 Review The Clueless Gent
12/8/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
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Review: I Am Beauty: Timeless Skincare and Beauty for Women 40 and Over, by Riku Campo

About the Book, I Am Beauty: Timeless Skincare and Beauty for Women 40 and Over

• Publisher: HarperOne (September 15, 2020)
• Hardcover: 240 pages

I Am Beauty-CoverA groundbreaking celebration of ageless beauty, providing the ultimate skincare and makeup guide for women in their forties and beyond from celebrity makeup artist Riku Campo.

The first makeup guide to celebrate and support women forty and over, I Am Beauty is Riku Campo’s labor of love. Riku has worked with some of the most beautiful and recognized faces in the world, like Cindy Crawford, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Anne Hathaway. But he has always wanted to create a book honoring those women we don’t always see on the runaways and in magazines—women like his mother, whose beauty is everlasting.

I Am Beauty includes step-by-step tutorials, advice from skincare experts, and Riku’s best behind-the-chair tips every woman needs to revitalize her routine, including:

  • Day and night skincare routines that keep you fresh and beautiful, whether you’re in your forties, fifties, sixties, or beyond
  • At-home facial massages to stimulate collagen production and optimal skin health
  • Must-have everyday makeup tools
  • Choosing the right foundation for all skin tones, types, and textures
  • Tricks for modern, elegant eyebrows and keeping lipstick fresh all day
  • Eyeshadow colors and types that work best on mature skin
  • Finding the eyeglass designs that best complement your style and daily makeup

Riku also has one-on-one conversations and day-and-night makeovers with sixteen incredible women—each with her own unique style—and shares their secrets for finding beauty in all parts of life.

Comprehensive, practical, and inspiring, packed with more than 100 full-color photos, I Am Beauty is the ultimate resource for women to maintain their glow and live their most joyful, beautiful lives.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Riku Campo

Riku CampoFinnish-born international skincare expert, makeup artist, and beauty director Riku Campo has worked as a makeup artist since 1988 and has lived in the United States since 2003. His work has been featured in major fashion and beauty magazines and ad campaigns for L’oreal, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Smashbox, Guess, and others, and he has worked with some of Hollywood’s most renowned actresses. Riku is passionate about bringing out the beauty of many different women by highlighting their own personal style. Instead of following strict rules, he believes in using makeup to bring out joy and confidence.

Connect with Riku:

Find our more about Riku on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellEven if you work from home and only wear makeup if you have to go out, or be on a Zoom call – like me – Riku Campo’s I Am Beauty is an essential read. As we age (I turned 51 a few months ago) our skin changes. If we were oily as teenagers, chances are we’re dryer (but with fewer wrinkles) and we don’t know how to deal with dry skin. If we have always been dry, we might not have been moisturizing correctly. Campo covers all of that, and more.

Aided by the work of photographer Samantha Rapp, Campo talks about what makeup to choose, not so much specific brands, but types – water based vs. oil, powder vs. cream – and what eyeshadow colors give us the most natural look. All of this advice is offered with sensitivity and tact. You never feel pandered to or like a face without a person behind it.

What I really loved, though, were the day-to-night makeovers featured in the book. While still respecting each woman’s own style, Campo demonstrated transformations that ranged from the subtle to the sublime and explained how he achieved each look. It was incredibly informative.

I loved everything about this book.

It should be required reading for every woman who wants to look her best at any age.

Goes well with: a glass of cucumber water, some grilled shrimp, avocado, and cherry tomatoes.

 


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Review & Giveaway: The Big Empty, by Loren C. Steffy

BNR The Big Empty

 

About the book, The Big Empty

  • Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
  • Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Big Empty, TheWhen Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.  

Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.

Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.

What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.

Praise for this book:

“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”   The Epoch Times 

 “Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”  — Southern Review of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off) │TAMU PRESS │Bookshop.org│ AmazonGoodreads

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About the author, Loren C. Steffy

author pic steffyLoren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.

Connect with Loren:

WEBSITE  | FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS  |  INSTAGRAM | LINKEDIN |

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | LINKEDIN | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellLoren C. Steffy’s debut novel is the perfect blend of his journalistic experience and a flair for good storytelling.

Set in the West Texas of the recent past, The Big Empty is a contemporary western, pitting modern cowboys against big technology, with a two-prong through line that addresses water access and the inevitability of modern development.

It’s a story Steffy tells well. The main characters literally crash into each other in the preface, and it’s obvious that these two men, cowboy Trace Malloy and techie Blaine Witherspoon will be confronting each other throughout the book.

What I found compelling about this story was that each man wants a better future for his family – Witherspoon wants to be settled in once place for a while, something he promised his wife – with a stable life for his family. Malloy wants a future for his son that isn’t tied to ranching, and includes college.

Each of these men also has different beliefs in how these things should be achieved, however. Malloy loves his West Texas home – the titular Big Empty – a flat stretch of land that’s home to cows, of course, but also to host of resident wildlife, including rattlesnakes and scorpions. Witherspoon, on the other hand, thinks technological progress is automatically good and right. In a way, he believes he’s bringing economic water to this proverbial desert.

Steffy has a good ear for dialogue, and that really helped to define the setting, as well as illustrating who was a native Texan and who was newcomer – a ‘homie’ in Malloy’s vernacular. He’s also presented, through this novel, an issue that is still very present in today’s world where we have corporations buying up small towns’ water supplies, and climate change has storms and droughts both increasing in strength and extremity.

It’s this combination of fiction and reality, as well as the conflict that comes between the characters, and how that conflict changes when they must unite – to a point – to fight a common enemy in the final third of the novel – that makes The Big Empty both full of literary craft, and as satisfying as a West Texas sunset.

Goes well with: Chicken fried steak, home fries, and a cold beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway The Big Empty

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

 THREE WINNERS:
Signed copy of The Big Empty and logo hat.
(US only; ends midnight CST 11/25/21)

 

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11/15/21 Author Video Chapter Break Book Blog
11/15/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
11/15/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
11/16/21 Review The Book’s Delight
11/16/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
11/17/21 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/17/21 Guest Post The Page Unbound
11/18/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
11/19/21 Review Jennie Reads
11/19/21 Excerpt Book Fidelity
11/20/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
11/21/21 Deleted Scene Forgotten Winds
11/22/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
11/22/21 Guest Post Missus Gonzo
11/23/21 Playlist The Clueless Gent
11/24/21 Review Bibliotica
11/24/21 Review Reading by Moonlight

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Spotlight: The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens by Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy

BNR T Boone Pickens

 

About the book, The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens

  • Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Courtroom Drama
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
  • Date of Paperback Publication: September 15, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 300 Pages

Cover Last Trial of T Boone Pickens 1Finalist, 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award

T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oilman and infamous corporate raider from the 1980s, climbed the steps of the Reeves County courthouse in Pecos, Texas in early November 2016. He entered the solitary courtroom and settled into the witness stand for two days of testimony in what would be the final trial of his life.

Pickens, who was 88 by then, had made and lost billions over his long career, but he’d come to Pecos seeking justice from several other oil companies. He claimed they cut him out of what became the biggest oil play he’d ever invested in—in an oil-rich section of far West Texas that was primed for an unprecedented boom. After years of dealing with the media, shareholders and politicians, Pickens would need to win over a dozen West Texas jurors in one last battle.

To lead his legal fight, he chose an unlikely advocate—Chrysta Castañeda, a Dallas solo practitioner who had only recently returned to the practice of law after a hiatus borne of disillusionment with big firms. Pickens was a hardline Republican, while Castañeda had run for public office as a Democrat. But they shared an unwavering determination to win and formed a friendship that spanned their differences in age, politics, and gender.

In a town where frontier justice was once meted out by Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos”—Pickens would gird for one final courtroom showdown. Sitting through trial every day, he was determined to prevail, even at the cost of his health.

The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens is a high-stakes courtroom drama told through the eyes of Castañeda. It’s the story of an American business legend still fighting in the twilight of his long career, and the lawyer determined to help him make one final stand for justice.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Praise for this book:

“Think you know T. Boone Pickens, the larger-than-life business titan, energy trader, and corporate raider? Think again. The attorney representing Pickens in his final major court battle and the business writer who covered him most over the decades reveal a whole other T. Boone that few people outside his bubble could have ever imagined.” —     Joe Nick Patoski, author of Austin to ATX and host of the Texas Music Hour of Power 

“Chrysta Castañeda and Loren Steffy have accomplished the remarkable. They’ve taken issues most familiar to lawyers and judges, woven them into an incredible story and presented to all an enjoyable journey through The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens.” —    Craig Enoch, Former Texas Supreme Court Justice and founder of the Enoch Kever law firm 

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About the authors, Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy

Author Pic CastanedaCHRYSTA CASTAÑEDA

… is a Texas trial attorney specializing in oil and gas disputes. She formed her own boutique law firm in 2014 after more than twenty years as a partner and associate in some of the world’s top law firms.

Connect with Chrysta:

TWITTER ◆ FACEBOOK ◆  AMAZON ◆  BOOKBUB

Author Pic SteffyLOREN STEFFY

… is a journalist and author of four other nonfiction books: Deconstructed: An Insider’s View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek) (Stoney Creek Publishing, 2020), George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet (Texas A&M University Press, 2019), Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (McGraw-Hill, 2010) and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship (Texas A&M University Press, 2012). His first novel, The Big Empty, was published in April 2021.

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Review & Giveaway: No Names to Be Given, by Julia Brewer Daily

Tour Banner: No Names to be Given

About the book, No Names to Be Given

  • Categories: Women’s Fiction / Vintage Fiction / Adoption / 1960s
  • Publisher: Admission Press Inc.
  • Pub Date: August 3, 2021
  • Pages: 334 pages
  • Scroll for the Giveaway

Cover Hi Res No Names to be Given1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.

But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.

Told from the three women’s perspectives in alternating chapters, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make horrific decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.

Praise for this book:

A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart. Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas.

An insightful and sympathetic view offered into the lives of those who were adopted and those who adopted them. Pam Johnson, author of Justice for Ella.

A novel worthy of a Lifetime movie adaptation. Jess Hagemann, author of Headcheese.

Readers can expect deep knowledge of the world the characters inhabitSara Kocek, author of Promise Me Something.

This book is a relevant read and one that will keep readers guessing page after page until the very end. The US Review of Books

Today’s young women, especially, need to absorb No Names to Be Given. Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


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About the author, Julia Brewer Daily

Author photo Daily

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. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well.  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:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellNo Names to Be Given is a beautiful, haunting novel about three very different women who find themselves in the same maternity home in New Orleans in the mid-1960s. Sandy, Faith, and Becca couldn’t be more different – one is escaping an abusive home, one suffers a horrible attack, and one falls in love with someone that society says she shouldn’t, but all find themselves alone and pregnant at a time when women were pressured to make horrible sacrifices in order to maintain the expectations of American culture in a time that is both bordering on free, and still holding onto the even deeper social structures of earlier times.

Julia Brewer Daily chose to write this book so that the point of view alternates between these women a chapter at a time, and in doing so, she first lets readers learn who they are and where they come from. In another author’s hands the story might have ended when they met, but Daily’s tale is far from over at that point. Rather, we get to see the devastation each experiences, and then we get to jump into the future and meet the older versions of the the women’s babies, and see how they grew up, and how (or if) they reconnect with their birth mothers.

Daily does a great job of setting the time period. Her scenes in the 60s are full of the social issues of the day, including racism and the civil rights movement, and as she moves into later times, she enhances her storytelling by mentioning  then-newly-developed DNA testing as a means of connecting mothers and the children they were forced to part with.

Issues of adoption and single motherhood run through the entire novel, of course. As the daughter of a single mother, who nearly faced the same ultimatum, but ultimately chose to keep me, it’s a story that really resonated with me. It was obviously a very personal story for the author, as well, for she was adopted from a maternity home.

It’s this personal connection that makes this story sing. Each of the women is compelling and interesting. It’s easy to like them, to be concerned when they make poor choices, and to root for them when they find success in any aspect of life. While the stigma of unwed motherhood has lessened somewhat today, echoes of it do remain, and this book made it clear how it felt to be in that position.

Well-written and well-paced, I feel this novel is more  than entertaining. It’s a gripping story that is as much social commentary as compelling fiction. It is intensely female, but deals with universal subjects. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the culture of America in the 1960’s, as a counterpoint to all the stories about free love and wild adventures (not to invalidate those stories), and make it required reading for anyone in a women’s studies program.

Goes well with: a shrimp po’boy and sweet tea.


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8/17/21 Book Trailer Chapter Break Book Blog
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8/23/21 Review The Clueless Gent
8/24/21 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
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Review: There Will Be Lobster, by Sara Arnell

About the book, There Will Be Lobster

• Publisher: Savio Republic (July 20, 2021)
• Hardcover: 176 pages

There-Will-Be-Lobster-coverYou know her. You’ve seen her. You may even see yourself in her.

If you’re arriving to the midlife crisis party—the one that’s serving low self-esteem, desperation, unreliable behavior, forgetfulness, carelessness, and the loneliness of loss—the stories and anecdotes in this memoir will assure you that you are not alone.

For Sara Arnell, it took a rogue lobster, a dying rock star, an eighteen-pound tumor, a meditation guru, a famous medium, and a former monk to put her on a path toward light, hope, and healing. If reading this book helps even one person, according to Sara, then telling this story is all worth it.

Praise for this book:

“Sara Arnell is the only writer I know who can make self-deprecation and wisdom look like the same thing. There Will Be Lobster is a darkly funny memoir with a big heart, and it’s the exact comeback story we all need right now.” —David Hollander, author of Anthropica and L.I.E.

“This book is a deeply personal story that’s not afraid to show you the crazy moments that we all have, but often don’t admit to. Read this memoir if you want to learn how honesty, vulnerability, and sheer perseverance can help you step into your light and illuminate a new path—one that is happy, healthy, and full of hope.” —André Leon Talley, author of New York Times bestseller The Chiffon Trenches and former Vogue editor-at-large

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Simon & Schuster | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Sara Arnell

Sara-Arnell-AP-713x1024While working alongside acclaimed fashion icon Andre Leon Talley at Vanity Fair magazine in her mid-20’s, Sara was offered an opportunity to write a press release for fashion designer, Donna Karan, who was about to launch one of her acclaimed collections. This moment marked the beginning of Sara’s impressive thirty-year career in fashion, writing and advertising.

Sara worked as Chief Strategy Officer at one of New York’s most renowned and successful advertising agencies, eventually rising to CEO. Under her long tenure, she broke new ground, winning awards and global recognition for her agency and its clients. She traveled the world, working with some of the best known and most beloved consumer brands such as Pepsi, Samsung, McDonalds and Goop.

Today, Sara is a Professor at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and continues to consult with the world’s top brands on marketing strategy and brand design. She regularly advises start-ups and entrepreneurs and has served on several boards for educational institutions. She is a sought after speaker and founder of Karmic, a platform for ‘what-you-do-comes-back-to-you’ ideas and advice. Sara has a BA from Skidmore College and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the mother of three children and one small poodle.

Connect with Sara:

Find out more about Sara at her website, and follow her on Instagram.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe thing that struck me most about Sara Arnell’s serio-comic memoir, There Will Be Lobster, is that her conversational style immediately makes the reader feel like a friend, rather than an outsider peeking into someone’s life. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Arnell breezy, as that implies a level of fluffiness that this book does not have, but her written words flow as easily as spoken ones do.

The second thing that struck me about this book is that it’s so relatable. I don’t have children, adult or otherwise, but I know what it is to want to reconnect with family, and I know that sometimes a good buzz can cloud the recollection of a bad night, or enhance the memory of a good one. Which is not to imply that Arnell is drunk throughout this memoir. The book simply opens with the memory of a drunken experience.

Written as a series of anecdotal essays, this book doesn’t really have a plot – it’s a memoir, after all – but there is a theme of aging, of self-awareness, and of wanting to restore severed ties to people and places once beloved.

This book isn’t for every woman, but it’s for a broad spectrum of women of all ages, who need a nudge toward being honest with themselves about who they are and what they really want out of life.

Less self-help than simply setting an example, There Will Be Lobster is both witty and engaging, and I highly recommend it, especially to women my age (I’ll be 51 next Tuesday.)

Goes well with: A lobster roll and a bottle of your favorite microbrew, but nothing too hoppy.


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Spotlight: The Forgotten Worlds, by Nick Courtright

The Forgotten World

 

About the book, The Forgotten World

  • Genre: Poetry / Travel / Fatherhood 
  • Publisher: Gold Wake Press 
  • Date of Publication: August 1, 2021 
  • Number of Pages: 88 Pages 

Cover HI RES Forgotten WorldIn his third collection, poet Nick Courtright explores the world at large in an effort to reconcile selfhood as an American in the international community, while also seeking anchors for remembering a wider world often lost to view in our shared though increasingly isolated experience of reality.

Beginning in Africa with investigations of religion and love, The Forgotten World then moves to Latin America to tackle colonialism and whiteness. From there it travels to Asia to discuss economic stratification and Europe to explore art and mental health, culminating in a stirring homecoming to troubled America, where family, the future, and what matters most rise to the forefront of consideration.

Through all of it, Courtright displays a deft hand, at once pained, at once bright, to discover that although the wider world seems farther away than before, the lessons it offers are more needed than ever.

Comments on this book:

“InThe Forgotten World, Nick Courtright explores the intersections of being a citizen of one country and the desire to live as a citizen of the world…” – Octavio Quintanilla, author ofIf I Go Missingand 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio. 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the author, Nick Courtright

Author Photo Courtright hi resNick Courtright is the author of The Forgotten World (2021), Let There Be Light (2014) and Punchline (2012), and is the Executive Editor of Atmosphere Press. His work has appeared in The Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review among dozens of others. With a Doctorate in Literature from the University of Texas, Nick lives in Austin with the poet Lisa Mottolo and their children, William and Samuel. Find him online and watching birds on his porch.

Connect with Nick:

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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


Watch the trailer for Deadly Business


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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FOUR WINNERS:
1st: Autographed hardcover copy + tote back, mousepad, pen, & bookmark;
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3rd & 4th: eBook copy.

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Click to visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each tour stop, updated daily. Or visit the blogs directly:

7/20/21 Review Bibliotica
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7/21/21 Notable Quotable Missus Gonzo
7/21/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
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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