Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (February 12, 2021)
  • Publication date : February 12, 2021
  • Language : English
  • File size : 2794 KB

A Brush with Death coverJodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is back!

When a body turned up at her last catering gig it certainly put people off the hor d’oeuvres. So with a reputation to salvage, Jodie’s determined that her next job for the village’s festival will go without a hitch.

But when chaos breaks out, Jodie Parker somehow always finds herself in the picture.

The body of a writer from the festival is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, and the prime suspect is the guest of honour, the esteemed painter Duncan Stovall. With her background in the Met police, Jodie has got solving cases down to a fine art and she knows things are rarely as they seem.

Can she find the killer before the village faces another brush with death?

The second book in the Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe second novel in Fiona Leitch’s delightful Nosey Parker mystery series can be read and enjoyed as a standalone story, but leaping into it immediately after finishing the first provides a richer experience because it becomes evident that these wonderfully rich characters have further developed.

Opening a few weeks after the original story, A Brush with Death focuses on an arts festival with all of the quirky personalities such events inevitably draw. These include the familiar characters of Jodie “Nosey” Parker, her mother and daughter, her friend Tony, DCI Nathan Withers, and Germaine the dog. All of them seem a bit more developed than they were in Murder on the Menu, but the differences are subtle. Nathan seems a little less officious. Tony feels more grounded. And Jodie “Nosey” Parker herself has reached the point in her post-London life where she’s open to romance again.

Of course, there’s a murder early in the festival activities, and Jodie is in the thick of it, trying to prove the truth of what happened even when it takes her away from other things. While her relationship with the one of the figures at the center of the investigation, famous painter Duncan Stoval, calls her judgement into  question, her choices are understandable for a woman in her position. Similarly, she gives real consideration to her flirtatious friendship with Withers, even as she’s inserting herself into his attempt to solve the murder.

As before, the backdrop of the Cornish seaside is as much a character as any of the humans (or dogs), but this time the action moves further afield from Penstowan than before.

Fiona Leitch has given readers a compelling mystery and an accurate look at dating after a divorce, lacing it with her usual humor and deftness at writing dialect. Whether or not you’ve read the first Nosey Parker novel, A Brush with Death is not a book to be brushed aside.

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Review: Murder on the Menu, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Mysteries

 

About the book, Murder on the Menu

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (January 15, 2021)
  • Publication date : January 15, 2021
  • Language : English
  • Series: Nosey Parker Cozy Mysteries

Murder on the Menu coverThe first book in a NEW cozy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realizing that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cozy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cozy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | My Book | Goodreads


About the Author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFiona Leitch’s Murder on the Menu, the first of her Nosey Parker novels, is one of those books that feels like it should be something you see on television. Here in the U.S. it would be a perfect member of the PBS “Mystery” series, or for more contemporary viewers something you stream on BritBox.

Labeled as a cozy mystery, this novel certainly lives up to it’s niche. The main character, Jodie “Nosey” Parker is a former cop and a single mother who moves back to her hometown to give her daughter a life free from worry over her mother’s job. She’s smart, funny, engaging, and I really loved watching her code-switch, speaking proper English to people like the (hot) DCI Nathan Withers but switching into the local vernacular when speaking to people like the local cops her father (a former Chief Inspector) recruited to the small-town force, or the townsfolk, many of which have known her since birth. The use of dialect in this book is one of the things I really appreciated because it’s used both sparingly and organically.

Jodie Parker’s choice to become a caterer after leaving the police behind is something I identified with because I always find catharsis in cooking. (Spoiler alert: there’s a recipe at the end of the book, and I plan to try it!), but it was also amusing to watch her reactions to DCI Withers, first annoyance at his handling of the case (a death at her childhood’s friend wedding which she is catering, and later the recognition that he’s attractive in general, finally, getting a bit flirty.

Jodie is more than flirty though, she’s still got being a cop (though not a detective) in her blood, and it’s hard to stifle a lifelong need to know things.

While the murder mystery is gripping and fast paced, the character interactions are just as fascinating. Jodie’s mother and daughter often act as a sort of Greek chorus for her, while her friend Tony (the groom in the wedding) and their other childhood friends are equally dimensional.

The Cornish coast is also a character in this novel, with its beaches and meadows – Jodie’s back yard has a wall just high enough to keep the cows from visiting – and the setting, here, is important because it sets a tone, not just of cozy small-town life, but also of a very specific culture.

Leitch’s writing is compelling, and she balances humor and gravity very well.

I leapt into reading book two as soon as I finished Murder on the Menu and I fear this series may be my new addiction. It may well be yours, too. Highly recommend.

Goes well with: organic sausages and mashed potatoes.


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Review: The Black-Marketer’s Daughter, by Suman Mallick

BNR Black-Marketer's Daughter

 

About the book, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

  • Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 166 pages

Cover Black-Marketer's Daughter, TheZuleikha arrives in the US from Lahore, Pakistan, by marriage, having trained as a pianist without ever owning a real piano. Now she finally has one-a wedding present from her husband-but nevertheless finds it difficult to get used to her new role of a suburban middle-class housewife who has an abundance of time to play it.

Haunted by the imaginary worlds of the confiscated contraband books and movies that her father trafficked in to pay for her education and her dowry, and unable to reconcile them with the expectations of the real world of her present, she ends up as the central figure in a scandal that catapults her into the public eye and plays out in equal measures in the local news and in backroom deliberations, all fueled by winds of anti-Muslim hysteria.

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter was a finalist for the Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize, and praised by the jury as a “complicated and compelling story” of our times, with two key cornerstones of the novel being the unsympathetic voice with which Mallick, almost objectively, relays catastrophic and deeply emotional events, and the unsparing eye with which he illuminates the different angles and conflicting interests at work in a complex situation. The cumulative effects, while deliberately unsettling to readers, nevertheless keeps them glued to the pages out of sheer curiosity about what will happen next.

Praise for this book:

  • “Mallick offers an impressively realistic depiction of a woman caught between tradition, family, and her own sense of empowerment.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is a key-hole look at a few things: a mismatched marriage, the plight of immigrants in the U.S., the emotional toll of culture shock, and the brutal way Muslim women are treated, especially by men within their own community. Titling it—defining the heroine by her relationship to a man rather than as a woman in her own right—suggests how deeply ingrained that inequality can be.” ~ IndieReader Reviews 
  • “The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is the portrait of a woman who endures violence, intimidation, xenophobia and grief, and yet refuses to be called a victim. In this slender novel, Suman Mallick deftly navigates the funhouse maze of immigrant life in contemporary America—around each corner the possibility of a delight, a terror, or a distorted reflection of oneself.” ~ Matthew Valentine, Winner, Montana Prize for Fiction; Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

 


Author Pic MallickAbout the author, Suman Mallick

Suman Mallick received his MFA from Portland State University and is the assistant managing editor of the quarterly literary magazine Under the Gum Tree. He lives in Texas.

Connect with Suman:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | AMAZON | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellSuman Mallick’s debut novel The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is more than just a story. It’s a sonata that unfolds one movement at a time, in lyrical language that compels, frustrates, infuriates, and finally delights the reader. It’s a portrait of the culture-within-a-culture of Muslim Pakistani immigrants to the United States, and specifically North Texas (where I also live) that exposes the harsh reality of assimilating into American society, of being a modern immigrant, and, yes, of the status of women in general, and abused women in particular. It’s also a celebration of diversity, of identity, and of personal strength and growth.

And all that in less than two hundred pages!

Zuleikha, our heroine, is a musician and a dreamer. She wants love, and wants to be in love. At one point, she even explains to someone that the books and DVDs her father sold on the black market to fund her piano lessons and her dowry taught her to fall in love with the idea of falling in love. It is her point of view through which this story unfolds, and that view is rich and complex. She’s intellectually curious, but has never really bothered to expose herself to current affairs, choosing the focus on the arts section of newspapers.

Iskander, her husband via an arranged marriage is not a villain, though parts of this story attempt to paint him as one, but is reserved, stoic to the point where I felt like I was reading about some of my husband’s midwestern relatives who are much the same. For the first half of the novel, he is simply there. An unremarkable presence in the life of a woman who is meant to be remarkable, and clearly a poor match for Zuleikha.

Mallick’s tale isn’t one of happy families, though. Rather it’s about what we do when we are desperate for love, and cannot find it. He writes about the darker events in this novel with the same craft he used to describe music, motorcycles, and a Ferris wheel ride at the state fair. There is only one violent scene, and it’s written so that you cannot look away, but must bear witness, because it represents many, many violent scenes that happen outside the pages of novels.

What I loved about this book was the language. Mallick’s writing is music The high points sing in lofty trills and glorious crescendos. The heavier moments thud like the bass notes on a piano keyboard, dark and thunderous, but still gripping. Even the parts of the story that were dark and disturbing were so carefully phrased that I couldn’t skip through them, but had to drink in every delicious word.

I also appreciated that Mallick didn’t pause his narrative to explain Muslim or Pakistani terms for white readers. Articles of clothing, items of food – these were referred to as Zuleikha and Iskander would have grown up calling them, and that made the story more real. He trusted us to either figure things out from context or look them up. It takes a confident author to trust his readers to meet him where he stands.

If I had one problem with this novel it was only that it was relatively short. 166 pages may have completed the story, but I wanted more.

If you want a novel that you can read in a day, but may also choose to savor, with dynamic characters and amazing language, read The Black-Marketer’s Daughter. You will be richer for the experience.

Goes well with: chicken biryani, lamb kebabs, and Murree’s classic lager.


Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

(or check out the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for direct links to each post.)

1/6/21 Promo Hall Ways Blog
1/7/21 Review The Clueless Gent
1/7/21 Guest Post Momma on the Rocks
1/8/21 Review Forgotten Winds
1/8/21 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
1/9/21 Review Bibliotica
1/10/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
1/11/21 Author Interview That’s What She’s Reading
1/11/21 Review It’s Not All Gravy
1/12/21 Playlist Chapter Break Book Blog
1/13/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
1/13/21 Scrapbook Page The Page Unbound
1/14/21 Author Interview KayBee’s Book Shelf
1/15/21 Review Reading by Moonlight
1/15/21 Review Missus Gonzo

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Review: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Christmas at Cockleberry Bay FINAL FRONTAbout the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

  • Publication date : November 13, 2020
  • Print length : 237 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Nowell Publishing (November 13, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback | Goodreads


About the author, Nicola May Nicola May

Nicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Dropping into Nicola May’s Cockleberry Bay again was a delightful experience, made even more so by the fact that this visit happened at Christmas time. This fictional seaside community with it’s cast of lovable, funny, dramatic, and irascible characters is fast becoming a second home to me, and this visit was probably one of my favorites.

Like any good family reunion, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is replete with babies, both new and soon-to-come, dogs, couples having typical couplish dramas, eccentric relatives, and small business owners trying to improve their lots by earning new rating stars from the coastal rating group. Oh, and Christmas cookies (sorry, biscuits) – we mustn’t forget those.

As always the Corner Store and Rosa’s Cafe are the cornerstones of a trip to the Bay, though this story has us spending a significant time at the Ship Hotel and Lobster Pot as well.

What I love about Nicola May’s writing is that she’s equally adept at writing one-on-one scenes, like the ones with Rosa and Titch comparing the joys and woes of young motherhood, and massive chaotic ensemble bits with people talking over each other and having side conversations, which latter is extraordinarily difficult to convey in writing.

What I love about this series is that while the focus characters change, everyone we’ve met so far, plus the new additions, get their moment in the spotlight.

Some details I really appreciated were Tina trying to hide her natural accent when she’s answering the hotel phone, and Nate being concerned – unnecessarily – when he introduces his Christmas “plus one” to his sister. (I’m being intentionally vague because I don’t want to spoil the reveal.)

Any visit to Cockleberry Bay is worth the time spent, but spending Christmas in Cockleberry Bay might just be the perfect antidote for the socially distanced, largely separate holidays we’re all facing this year. Or at least, it’s a warm and wonderful story seasoned with love and salt air, that makes this very atypical December feel a bit brighter.

Goes well with mulled wine, sharp cheddar, a crackling fire, and a (non-lethal) coastal storm.


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Review: Blue Skies, by Alana Oxford

Blue Skies

 

About the book, Blue Skies

  • Publication date : August 31, 2020
  • Print length : 106 pages
  • Publisher : 8N Publishing, LLC (August 31, 2020)

BlueSkiesLife isn’t always a walk in the park, but when Patrice takes her Pomeranians to the park after a rough day at the office, fate steps in. An unlikely h

ero comes to the rescue when one of her dogs gets loose. Short, pale, and kind of cute, Seth doesn’t have a lot of confidence with the ladies, but he hits it off with Patrice.

But some things might be too good to be true. While Patrice wonders if Seth could possibly be “the one”, fate steps in again with a horrible twist. Will it be a deal breaker or just a storm before bright blue skies?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


Blue Skies - AlanaOxfordAuthorPhotoAbout the author, Alana Oxford

Alana Oxford is a Michigan author of romcoms, sweet romance, and humorous women’s fiction. She wants her stories to bring sunshine and smiles to her readers. She enjoys improv comedy, moody music, everything book related, and has an ongoing love affair with the United Kingdom.

Connect with Alana:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAt only 106 pages, Alana Oxford’s Blue Skies is technically a novella, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a complete story. In fact, it’s a very sweet and satisfying romance and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As a dog lover (though I have four to the main character’s two), I immediately connected with Patrice. I know what it’s like to wrangle multiple pets on multiple leashes. As a woman, I also identified with her struggle to defend her work to her boss. When you work in a field that’s both creative and corporate artist tendencies can be hard to overcome. I appreciated that Oxford included this thread in the story, as it gave Patrice more depth, and also let us get to see more sides of her.

I also liked that Seth, the IT-guy-cum-dog-rescuer whom Patrice meets for the first time in the local park wasn’t your typical hard-bodied romance novel specimen, but more a representative of ordinary guys. Quirky, sweet, and a bit of a geek, he reminded me a little of my husband, who also comes from the midwest. (Midwestern guys are the best.)

All of the supporting characters felt like real people also, and I liked that Oxford broke out of straight narrative to include text conversations between Patrice and her friends.

I liked the way Patrice and Seth’s relationship unfolded with a series of obstacles on each of their first few meetings. It added an element of the kind of humor that comes from life, rather than forced jokes. This is a brand of humor that not all authors can sell, but felt very organic: a testament to Oxford’s craft.

Blue Skies is a short but quite engaging read. Charming, funny, and sweet, it’s the perfect story to put a smile on your face, and make you want to dance in the rain.

Goes well with apples, cheese, crackers, and cold lemonade.


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Review: Strong from the Heart, by Jon Land – with Giveaway

Strong from the Heart

About the book, Strong from the Heart

  • Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Date of Publication: July 28, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 368 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover-Strong from the HeartCaitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against―comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors―has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

Praise for this book:

“A time-jumping, savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller.”―Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author

“A mind-blowing tale that takes a flamethrower to our psyches to warm the chill it leaves up our spines. Seething with energy and replete with wondrously staged set pieces, this is thriller writing that defies genre even as it reminds us why we love to read.”―NYK Daily

“Exceptional…. Snappy one-liners, plausible dialogue, and lots of nonstop action, Land delivers another riveting, believable thriller.”―Press-Republican

“Caitlin Strong is one of the strongest female characters ever to hit the page, and Jon Land is the king of the intelligent thriller, continually pushing his own writing to new levels.”―New York Journal of Books

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Jon Land

John LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, eleven of which feature Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel and the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller. He has also authored six books in the MURDER, SHE WROTE series and has recently taken over writing Margaret Truman’s CAPITAL CRIMES series. A 1979 graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements.

Connect with Jon:

FACEBOOK    TWITTER AMAZON    GOODREADS  ◆  BOOKBUB ◆ WEBSITE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellStrong from the Heart is book number 11 in the Caitlin Strong series, but the first of these that I’ve read, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m hooked, but then, I’d be hooked on any story that starts (well, after a prologue featuring a traumatized mailman wandering in the desert) with a woman facing down ICE, Texas Ranger or not.

Still Caitlin Strong is a breathtaking character: competent, compassionate, and evidently the kind of person who seems to get caught up in trouble. As she points out more than once, “I haven’t shot anyone today,” and that last word tells us everything about her.

In this story, Caitlin is both solving the mystery of the death of the entire population of a small town, while also juggling with the fact that her lover’s son has overdosed on opioids obtained illegally at school. As the story expands, she tries to remain a Texas Ranger first, and a woman second, and it’s that dichotomy that really made me fall in love with the character.

Jon Land’s talent for believable dialogue only made this entire novel seem more vivid, and I love the fact that so many of his characters are just a little bit bigger than life. This book takes place in a heightened version of our own reality – different enough to clearly be fiction, but similar enough to make it seem plausible. Riding that line takes a special talent, and Land’s balance work is impeccable.

As someone who really isn’t a fan of westerns, I was a little leery when I realized this was a double-timeline story, half of it an incident from 125 years before, that had been related to Caitlin by her great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger. That part of the story involves some very famous figures from American and Mexican history – western history – and even I was familiar with the names, grinning when the first was revealed.

Part mystery, part western, part action-adventure, this novel has something for everyone. It’s a decent length at 368 pages, but it’s well-paced, and reads much faster than you might expect. Familiarity with earlier installments of Caitlin’s story might have given me a slightly deeper meaning, but it works as a standalone as well – I never felt lost, or like I was missing connections.

I’m eager to read more of Caitlin’s adventures, and plan to go back and read the first ten novels in this series, but I also hope there’s more to come.

Goes well with carne asada street tacos and Mexican beer – I recommend Indio  or Bohemia.


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GRANDPRIZE (US only):

5 Autographed copies

Ends midnight, CST, November 8, 2020

 

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Visit the other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or find them on the Lone Star Literary Life tour page)

10/29/2020 Character Spotlight Chapter Break Book Blog
10/29/2020 Review Bibliotica
10/30/2020 Top 5 List Hall Ways Blog
10/30/2020 Review Tangled in Text
10/31/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
11/1/2020 Top 9 List Missus Gonzo
11/2/2020 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
11/3/2020 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
11/4/2020 Top 10 List Texas Book Lover
11/5/2020 Guest Post Forgotten Winds
11/5/2020 Review The Clueless Gent
11/6/2020 Top 10 List KayBee’s Book Shelf
11/7/2020 Review That’s What She’s Reading
11/7/2020 Review Book Bustle

 

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Cover Reveal: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay - Cover Reveal

About the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

(Available December 4, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Pre-order this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback


About the author, Nicola May

Nicola MayNicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


And here’s the cover…

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Review: The Secret of You and Me, by Melissa Lenhardt – with Giveaway

Secret of You and Me - BNR

About the book, The Secret of You and Me

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
  • Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
  • Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Secret of You and Me - CoverTrue love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

Praise for this book:

  • “A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
    Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love
  • “Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Interabang Books

(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)
Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop | Goodreads

A portion of royalties from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project.

(Click for more details.)


About the author, Melissa Lenhardt

Melissa LenhardtMelissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

Connect with Melissa:

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


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATSet in the recent history of Texas, just a few years before gay marriage became a national right, Melissa Lenhardt’s novel  The Secret of You and Me is not so much a coming of age story, as the lead characters are adults, as a coming of identity story. It’s a wonderful novel, a candid lesbian romance, wrapped around a host of difficult subjects: death, loss, desire, (in)fidelity, parenthood, childhood, the lens of nostalgia, and coming out. More than that, though, it’s a compelling drama rooted in family, both chosen and blood, and how we define it and ourselves.

The structure of the novel is in (mostly) alternating chapters from Nora (the central character) and Sophie’s (Nora’s best friend/first love) points of view. Lenhardt’s choice to shift between these equally dimensional women gives us greater insight into both, as well as their perspectives on the various supporting characters, most importantly Nora’s aunt, Emmadean, and Sophie’s, husband, daughter, and AA sponsor Charlie, Logan, and Todd, respectively. By doing this we get to see each woman’s view of herself, as well as of the other, and I think the novel is richer for the split POV.

I also felt that Lenhardt has an excellent ear for dialogue and a flair for family dynamics. From the earliest chapter, where Nora, newly arrived “home” is eating enchilada casserole, to the last I felt like I was in that small town, hearing the gossip from the locals, and watching everything unfold. So cinematic is the author’s writing, that I told a friend, “I could easily see this novel as movie on Amazon Prime or a Hulu original.”

As the person many of my friends have chosen to come out to, to reveal that they were trans to, to share their marital issues with, this novel really resonated with me. While I do not support infidelity, even in fiction, I certainly understand it as a symptom – an expression – of deep unhappiness. Lenhardt handled all of these revelations with grace and poise, and at times I felt as though I were watching friends share their stories.

While some of the subjects within this novel are serious, the story itself is not uncomfortably heavy. It’s a romance, just not a conventional one, and definitely worth the read.

Goes well with enchilada casserole and cold Shiner Bock, right from the bottle.

(As noted above, a portion of royalties  from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project. Click for more details.)


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of
either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.

 August 11-21, 2020

(U.S. Only)

Secret of You and Me - Giveaway

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Visit the Other Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the  LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

8/11/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
8/11/20 Review Tangled in Text
8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
8/12/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
8/15/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
8/16/20 Guest Post The Page Unbound
8/17/20 Review Missus Gonzo
8/17/20 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
8/18/20 Audio Spotlight Book Bustle
8/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/19/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
8/20/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

 

 

Review: The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, by Preston Lewis, with Giveaway

Gulag P-Pa-Diaries-BNR

 

About the book, The Gulag P-Pa Diaries Gulag P-Pa-Cover

  • Genre: Memoir / Christian / Humor / Grandparenting / Family
  • Publisher: CKN Christian Publishing
  • Date of Publication: April 22, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 268
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

As new empty-nesters, Harriet and Preston next looked forward to becoming grandparents. Their journey to assuming the names of Mema and P-Pa, however, took a tragic and unexpected turn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Preston Lewis Preston Lewis

Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

Connect with Preston:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads  | Amazon author page


My ThoughtsMissMelissHAT

Part conventional memoir, part Condamant’s (sic) Log from the eponymous Gulag P-Pa, Preston Lewis’s latest offering is both hilarious and heartfelt.

It’s a year-by-year recounting of his life as a temporary caregiver (with his wife Harriet) of his grandchildren – four girls and one boy when the story opens, though as a three-month-old, the boy really isn’t a true “inmate” of the gulag, and it masters the emotional combination of laughter-through-tears from the very first page.

(“Condamant,” by the way, is one of the granddaughter’s malapropism; she meant “Commandant.”)

But, this book, The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, is more than just a reminiscence of life with growing grandchildren. It’s also a reflection on the nature of parenthood. “The first step toward becoming a grandparent is having a family of your own, of course,” Lewis writes in chapter three, one of the traditional memoir chapters, and then goes on to describe his courtship of his wife.

Written in alternating chapters of memoir and diary, this book is a look at the very real lives of a typical American family, and while some of the events and family jokes (like the “poople heart” earned for dealing with dramatic diaper incidents) are often silly, the real thread holding everything together is love.

We are given a glimpse of a sweet man who is literally lovesick as he gets to know his eventual wife, and we are shown how even the most contrary three-and-a-half year old can be incredibly charming.  We see the expected difference between how woman (Camp Mema) and men (Gulag P-Pa) handle discipline and structure, and we cry (or I did) when the author mentions his first grandchild who died before he ever got to hold or know him.

If your grandparents are still alive, this book will make you pick up the phone to call or Facetime with them. If they have left this world, this book will leave you wistful, and perhaps a little weepy. Either way, this is a charming, funny, very real story, made even better by being true.

Goes well with: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk.


Giveaway

1ST PRIZE

Book signed by P-Pa (the author), Mema, and The Grands
2ND PRIZE

Book signed by the author
AUGUST 4-14, 2020
(US ONLY)

Gulag P-Pa SMALL-Giveaway

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Check Out the Whole Blog Tour at THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE  or Visit Them Directly:

8/4/20 Review Bibliotica
8/5/20 Author Interview Forgotten Winds
8/6/20 Notable Quotables Texas Book Lover
8/7/20 Review Book Fidelity
8/8/20 Top Tips & Fails That’s What She’s Reading
8/9/20 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
8/10/20 Review Hall Ways Blog
8/11/20 Scrapbook Page The Clueless Gent
8/12/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/13/20 Review Reading by Moonlight

 

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

LoneStarLitLife

Review: Gates of Mars by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays – with Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Banner

About the Book, Gates of Mars

  • Series: The Halo Trilogy (Book1)
  • Genre: Science Fiction / Detective (hard-boiled)
  • Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
  • Date of Publication: June 16, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Gates of Mars - CoverIN THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE, HOW CAN A PERSON GO MISSING? 

The year is 2187. Crucial Larsen, a veteran of the brutal Consolidation Wars, is working as a labor cop on Earth. The planet is a toxic dump and billions of people are miserable, but so what? It’s none of his business. He’s finally living a good life, or good enough. But then Essential, his beloved kid sister, disappears on Mars. When Halo—the all-powerful artificial-intelligence overseeing Earth and Mars on behalf of the ruling Five Families—can’t (or won’t) locate his sister, Crucial races up-universe to find her.

In the Choke, the frigid, airless expanse outside the luxury domes, Crucial uncovers a deadly secret from Essential’s past that threatens to shatter his apathetic existence … and both planets. Blending science fiction with the classic, hard-boiled detective story, Gates of Mars is a page-turning, futuristic thrill-ride featuring a gritty, irreverent anti-hero, Crucial Larsen. The first book of the Halo Trilogy, Gates of Mars is the eighth novel by award-winning authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.

Praise for this book:

“An indelible introduction to an interplanetary saga and its sublime characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The authors’ imaginations again run wild, this time a science fiction/detective series looking at what our lives may hold in the not too distant future if everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And they’ve done it with their trademark undercurrent of humor that lifts an otherwise dreary future into something resembling—do I dare say?—hope. Their best work to date. And the giraffes? You’ll have to read Gates of Mars to find out. I’m already wishing they could write faster.” —Renee Struthers, East Oregonian newspaper

“With twists and turns true to some of the best noir detective pieces—but with an other-world setting and futuristic society—along with psychological insights and connections, Gates of Mars is a riveting, unexpected story, filled with intrigue and change. Sci-fi and detective story readers alike with find Gates of Mars one of a kind, worthy of avid pursuit.” —Midwest Book Review

Buy, read and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Gates Of Mars - AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.

Gates of Mars is their eighth co-authored book.

Connect with Clark and Kathleen:

Facebook ║ Instagram

Connect with Kathleen:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter

Connect with Clark:

Goodreads ║ Amazon ║ Facebook ║ Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember, and I have a special fascination with Mars, so this novel, the first in a new trilogy, was a perfect fit for me.

In Gates of Mars authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays give us dystopian future for Earth, with the additional information that anyone who’s anyone has packed up and relocated to our reddish neighbor. This basic premise is the center of everything that happens, but it’s also the start of some serious world building, for the future which Crucial Larsen inhabits is both grim – a significant portion of the population is unemployed and lives in portable pods – and fascinating – you can buy immersive scenarios to sleep in, but they can be interrupted by work, or family, calling you.

Because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, it would have been easy to make the plot secondary, to let the world building dominate the story, but McFall and Hays didn’t do that. Rather, the intricacies and details of Crucial’s world came from the plot, so we, as readers, are never flooded with backstory or exposition, rather, we discover it as Crucial lives it.

But fantastic details (like cloned giraffes on Mars!) aside, this is also a detective story. War veteran-cum-labor cop Crucial must track down his missing sister, while staying off the grid as much as possible, because HALO is watching everything (think of HALO as a cross between Orwell’s Big Brother and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Control).

It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.

If you want a gritty space saga that’s also a compelling neo-noir mystery, look no further than Gates of Mars. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be left wondering: how long must we wait for book two?

Goes well with any food that doesn’t come in tube. (I recommend a BLT on multigrain bread and a tall glass of sweet tea.)


Giveaway

Gates of Mars - Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: One Winner: First edition copy of A Very Unusual Romance 

One Winner: All four books in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection 

June 29-July 8, 2020

(U.S. Only)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Click to Visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE

Or, visit the blogs directly:

6/29/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
6/29/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/29/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
6/30/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
6/30/20 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
7/1/20 Author Interview StoreyBook Reviews
7/1/20 Review Book Bustle
7/2/20 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/2/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
7/3/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
7/3/20 Review Bibliotica

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW